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Post Climate Change and Human Excess
Created by John Eipper on 07/07/19 4:54 AM

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Climate Change and Human Excess (Timothy Brown, USA, 07/07/19 4:54 am)

I'm confused on climate change and what must be done immediately to save the human race, due to air pollution.

But I've yet to read anywhere that population growth (from 2 billion to 8 billion during the last few decades), better housing in general (bigger, more comfortable), the resulting far greater demand of electricity for lighting, cooling, heating or communications are causally connected, much less what we should do about such massively increased demand.

An example: One of my friends, EB (Elbegdorj Tsakia) was born in a primitive yurt in the Mongolian heartland but raised in one with heating, cooling, TV and a radio-telephone, not exactly the historic norm for a Mongolian herder.

The person-by-person demand (from zero to a few hundred billion cell phones, Internet, better food, education, health, housing, etc.) have an impact. But everyone seems to be talking supply while ignoring demand as if it has no impact on supply. (I've met people that actively demand action on climate change NOW, NOW, NOW, lest the world be destroyed--while living in 6-8,000 square foot homes on ten acre estates with warmed indoor swimming pools or in one full floor apartments on the top floor of a skyscraper with great views of the ocean.)

More realism, please.

JE comments:  That's a "sic" on the few hundred billion cell phones.  But Tim Brown is not too far off:  I found the figure of nearly 9 billion "cell phone connections" worldwide, which is more phones than humans.

There has been much discussion about reducing our carbon footprint, but for the modern bourgeois lifestyle, "living simply" is often what other people should do.  (Full confession: my footprint is massive, but I did stop using drinking straws.)

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  • Overpopulation, and Dan Brown's "Inferno" (Enrique Torner, USA 07/08/19 7:16 PM)
    I found the discussion of world population very interesting, and it reminded me of a fascinating thriller by Dan Brown that I recommend: Inferno (2013).

    This novel combines the impending doom of the world with a fascinating trip to Dante's Florence and Inferno. There's a group of scientists that are trying to save the world from destroying itself because of overgrowth by causing a plague to compensate for that. In the novel, a character states that "any environmental biologist or statistician will tell you that humankind's best chance of long-term survival occurs with a global population of around four billion."

    "Four billion?" Elizabeth fired back. "We're at seven billion now, so it's a little late for that."

    The tall man's green eyes flashed fire. "Is it?" (136)

    Are you hooked already? It's a spellbinding novel. I wonder if Eugenio Battaglia has read it. You learn lots about Florence and Dante, besides the scientific side of the novel.

    Regarding the world's population growth dangers, this is one I don't lose sleep over: I am very confident we'll handle it. With today's scientific advances, and Tor Guimaraes in charge, I wouldn't worry about it!

    Scientists seem to be on different sides regarding world's population: some think world's population will eventually start decreasing, even come to a stop. I found a great website with lots of good information, that even includes world population from ancient times to the future (200 million in year 1-8 billion in 2025). This site has an interesting piece of data: "The United States Census Bureau estimates there is one birth every 7 seconds and one death every 13 seconds, with a net gain of one person on earth every 11 seconds." However, family size is decreasing, especially in Spain: they are trying to save the world! Here is the link:


    JE comments:  Professor Hilton closely followed the population "problem."  He even hosted a conference in the 1950s or '60s on Latin America's demographic explosion.  I'll see if I can scare up the conference program from my research in the RH archives at the Hoover Institution.

    Here's a surprising question from the above link.  Name the world's second-largest city (after Shanghai).  Click and find out.  I never would have guessed.

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  • Climate Change: The Clock is Running Out (Tor Guimaraes, USA 07/09/19 6:53 AM)
    Timothy Brown (July 7th) stated that he is "confused on climate change and what must be done immediately to save the human race." Apparently, Tim is not the only one confused.

    The problem has been noticed by scientists for decades but as should be expected, at first the scientists were arguing over whether or not the problem was real and needed to be addressed. A few years ago the much-maligned UN recruited a large multinational scientific group (1300 I believe) to answer such questions. The consensus was that it is real and quite serious; however, in practice the bad results from climate change were barely beginning to show and the related industries were just too powerful for any preventive government action.

    Today it has become obvious that the climate change related industries (coal, oil, gas, etc.), similar to what the tobacco industry did for cancer and lung disease, remain careless mankind-destroyers just to gain short-term profits. They have even persuaded the Trump administration to attack science itself and fire scientists providing evidence about climate change. Indeed, it is very confusing not to be able to trust your own government on a critical issue.

    To add to the confusion, the climate change problem is multidimensional and very complex. Today the results from climate change are very clear and getting worse: weather patterns have changed, producing widespread drought and flooding, bigger storms, sea rising with many millions permanently dislocated from sea shores all over the world. These problems have become serious enough that many states, counties, and local communities have taken matter into their own hands. With severe costs and turmoil, we can survive these problems in the short term but not in the long term, even after we are willing to take serious action.

    Thus, today the most serious problem (which required action decades ago) and now might already have become too late, comes from some positive feedback loops. For example, as the average temperature rises because of increased CO2, methane, etc. other natural, uncontrollable and massive sources of such gases (melting Arctic tundra, the oceans, etc.) of these gases will participate in further warming the climate. That is why we are late or quickly running out of time as our leaders continue to suffer from paralysis by greed, ignorance, and pure stupidity. Last, this is a world problem, thus we must have a worldwide solution.

    JE comments:   What strategies would help to remove climate change from politics?  At present, at least in the US, one's position on climate change is a political litmus test.

    Can you imagine a "position," say, on heart disease?  Exactly.  As a society, how do we get to the same point with climate change? 

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    • How Do We Take Politics Out of the Climate-Change Crisis? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 07/11/19 4:12 AM)
      John Eipper astutely noticed that US culture equates one's position on climate change with one's politics.  He asked me off-Forum, "how can the CC debate be 'elevated' to something separate from politics?"

      Unfortunately, today the evidence of the results from climate change (widespread drought and flooding, bigger storms, sea rising with many millions permanently dislocated from seashores all over the world) has become increasingly obvious.

      Thus it will take a very special leader and group of followers to continue to deny the obvious. Amazingly, the last G20 meeting showed that under Trump our beloved nation has become the only (denying) voice in the wilderness. However, by firing scientists warning about CC, or perhaps hiring "alternative facts scientists," or possibly even cooking the data, the deniers can try to delay the inevitable. Yet you cannot fight the truth effectively for very long and the evidence is everywhere. Soon, but very likely too late, politics will shift from denying CC to what emergency measures we should take to mitigate the disasters from CC. Soon the Republican Party will realize that letting Trump be himself will cost them dearly in terms of credibility, and will cost our nation a heavy price.

      JE comments:  But Tor, such arguments will only further entrench the position of the deniers.  Perhaps climate change (CC) could be packaged/spun as a matter of national security?  Or as a theological imperative?

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      • Climate Change Crisis and Theology (Tor Guimaraes, USA 07/14/19 4:44 AM)
        Commenting on my post of July 11th, John Eipper raised some relevant questions: "But Tor, such arguments will only further entrench the position of the Climate Change deniers. Perhaps CC could be packaged/spun as a matter of national security? Or as a theological imperative?"

        It is true that religious fundamentalists (CC deniers in this case) do not listen to reason. Historically they never did and probably never will. However, today you don't hear too many people believing that the Earth is flat or the center of the solar system, etc. Similarly, when too many people get hit by rising seas, forcing them to relocate from their homes to emergency places, even these religious people will start changing their minds. Even if they don't, we all have to live with the results anyway.

        Regarding "Perhaps climate change (CC) could be packaged/spun as a matter of national security?" That is a tough sell, since the whole world including our rivals are in this CC together. In a way the scientists have been warning us for years that the climate might turn out to be our worst enemy, but we don't perceive the national security threat.

        Framing the CC issue "as a theological imperative" could be a powerful motivation, but has some major counter-indicators for success. Historically we have had a few groups whose religions view the Earth as their mother, to be respected and kept free from pollution. However, all the major religions to a great extent have ignored the CC issue altogether and I see no sign of re-direction. On the contrary, many religious people seem to thrive on the concept of Armageddon and seem to welcome the end of the world.

        JE comments:  We've never explored the Armageddon angle of climate change.  "End of world" scenarios typically involve human warfare or divine wrath.  Is anyone aware of doomsday theologies that specifically touch on climate change?  What was the Flood of Noah's time other than a dramatic example of CC?

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        • Climate Change, Doomsdayers, and "Florida is Drowning" (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 07/16/19 4:04 AM)

          Gary Moore writes:

          Concerned by Tor Guimaraes's (July 14) impassioned call to arms on climate change,
          but, from practical experience sympathizing (once again) with Timothy Brown's unfashionably
          skeptical demurer (July 7), I turned to the Web for signs of the crisis.

          The logical keywords
          seemed to be "Florida climate change"--for sensitivity to future sea-level rise in Florida is so
          great that six major newspapers there (two I used to work for, with contributions to others)
          have put aside their customary jockeying and joined in an informational mega-project,
          the Climate Change News Network. Knowing already that some subtropical flooding
          in Miami Beach has raised concerns that this is only a foretaste, I expected to see
          hard-hitting examples of how property lines are now an inch or two underwater,
          and other markers. The opening list on Google certainly seemed to promise this:
          "Florida's Climate Threats," "Florida is Drowning"--and there, too, was a CNN
          story on the newspaper project, with an interestingly truncated teaser blurb,
          as a tiny hint of excited haste: "How six Florida newsrooms are working together
          to strengthen climate change" (Yup, that's what it says).

          So I opened these entries,
          each forming a blizzard of many words. But where were the present-day signs? If
          one could wade (apologies) through the browbeating and hair-rending, the claims
          were all about the future. Well, certainly valid. Planning has to look ahead. But the
          way the alarms were worded was arresting, almost a deceptional bait-and-switch.
          Worst was our old friend, The Guardian (was it John Heelan or Nigel Jones who from
          British perspective called it a lying rag--a reputation its newsroom somehow keeps
          earnestly trying to live up to). The "Florida is Drowning" headline was The Guardian's
          --and you have to slog through 1,750 words of screaming to find out the headline should
          have been: "Florida Is Going to Drown--And We Told You So." There seemed to be no interest
          in present proofs--that is, in actual facts--though there was a shocking photo of Miami
          highrises looming like chastened tombstones out of apocalyptic new blue--a requisitely
          Photoshopped imagining--required, you see, because people are so blind. The Guardian,
          which in its wrestling with its soul has many skilled reporters and sometimes valuable
          information. may of course be right on this. But the presentation is not reassuring, working
          like that Google-botched CNN headline to actually impugn the case.

          Unfortunately, reactionism in crises (that is, waiting until it actually does something to hurt
          before you rush out and do something back) is not just public passivity but the mode implicitly
          decreed by a factor that is not the warners' fault: the incredible abundance of false warnings
          there have always been in the world from people who just know that what gives them excitement
          and purpose is right. Of course, for all those sunken highrises in Miami, such stubborn reactionism
          will be sadly too late.

          The prescience of those who see future doom (whether all too real, as with Churchill's Gathering Storm,
          or not so cooperative, as with the new Ice Age predicted in the 1970s, or when thousands of Millerites
          braced, on October 22, 1844, for the End of the World, producing the Seventh Day Adventists)--whichever
          way it goes, the warners have a tough job cut out for them.

          JE comments:  So far the Doomsdayers have a 100% track record of being wrong--although sometimes it seems like the End of the World is Nigh.  (Ever attended a faculty meeting?)

          Gary Moore puts his finger on the problem.  The "deniers" have two enormous advantages:  1) It's always easier to do nothing, and 2) As of today, science to the contrary, we're still here.

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          • Climate Change: Greenland, Indonesia, Florida (Tor Guimaraes, USA 07/17/19 12:14 PM)
            Doom-saying is indeed a difficult business, so I always look for reasons to discount he bad news. Regarding Antarctica and Greenland, the two primary sources for future sea rising another 80+ centimeters by 2050, the kids love global warming in Greenland. The farmers get another three weeks of potential productivity (except for some apparently associated drought). The fishing industry is also super happy in Greenland.  Some species have now moved North to fishing areas too cold before, and even tuna followed behind. Great silver lining to global warming.

            Another silver lining from global warming is that some counties in Florida are working together to redesign their sewer systems higher off the ground, as well as other defenses. The cooperation is great even though the cost for temporary relief is quite high.

            The Pacific islands are already in serious trouble with seas rising. Indonesia's capital is in big trouble. The wealthy people have raised their area to avoid the floods but now when it rains the rest of the residents can see the water draining to their own residential areas, creating a PR problem for class differences and the government. On the US coasts, some media outlets may be scaremongering as Gary Moore suggested (July 16), but most are under pressure to avoid the topic. Smart seashore home owners are slowly selling but someone seems to be buying. Let's see how many disasters and how long it will take for the buyers to disappear completely.

            JE comments:  On the downside in Greenland, ice melt has made some hunting areas impassible for dogsleds.  WAISer Cameron Sawyer recently sailed to Greenland.  Has anyone else in WAISworld visited?  It's always been on my bucket list.  Today's high temperature in Nuuk is a balmy 52 F.

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