HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Topics » Environment & Energy » Environment & Energy (Group) » 200 year long drought mig...
Introducing Discussionist: A new forum by the creators of DU

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 04:12 PM

 

200 year long drought might be "normal", even without global warming.

As bad a global warming is, and as much worse as it will get, extreme weather events have been pretty normal even in the best of times.

From the book The End of the Long Summer (Dianne Dumanoski):

...from roughly A.D. 800 to 1300 rainfall in California fell to only 25% of what has been the recent norm and stayed at that level for more than two centuries--a grim period when 50 percent of the West staggered under a megadrought. During this time, sand dunes blanketed vast areas of the Great Plains stretching all the way from Texas and Oklahoma through the heartland to Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Ed Cook, a scientist who has worked on reconstructing these droughts through tree ring records, has described the prospect as scary, adding "You take the water away, and the semiarid West just depopulates." In such a scenario, the gravity of the economic damage could far exceed the scale of the environmental insult and leave public officials without the resources to deliver emergency assistance; to provide water; to manage refugees; and to fund the permanent relocation of large populations to habitable regions. As things now stand, one of the first surprises of climate change might be how quickly global industrial civilization unravels in the face of relatively minor disruption.


The bottom line is that the interconnected and interdependent global economy is fragile enough already that even without global warming the whole house of cards could come tumbling down in the face of normal climate variation. Add global climate change to the mix and the crash of industrial civilization seems virtually certain.

12 replies, 1043 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread

Response to Speck Tater (Original post)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 04:46 PM

1. 800-1300 AD. that sounds like the Medieval Warm Period

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_Warm_Period
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/medieval.html


Basically, what seems to have cause warm weather in Europe and the North Atlantic, caused droughts in the American West.

And that period was NOT as warm as today's climate:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/02/medieval-warm-period_n_1933536.html

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to happyslug (Reply #1)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 05:11 PM

2. Those 9th century SUV's sure did a number on the global climate.

Fuckers.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink



Response to Indydem (Reply #2)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 01:24 PM

4. Hey it snowed here yesterday, so much for global warming, right?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Speck Tater (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 02:12 PM

5. These fatalistic messages rock.

They like, so take the onus off me and my consumption.

It's out of my hands!

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to wtmusic (Reply #5)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 03:20 PM

6. How much do you and your personal consumption matter to the fate of the world?

The human population as a whole is at least 60% over the line.

Take all the onus you want, but accept that that is only one seven billionth of the problem.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to GliderGuider (Reply #6)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 03:22 PM

7. About as much as my vote matters.

And if the human population as a whole is at least 60% over the line, I'd venture to guess your consumption is 150% over the line.

Your point is?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to wtmusic (Reply #7)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 04:01 PM

8. My point is that what turns realism into "fatalism"

are nothing but your own judgments.

It seems entirely likely that climate change (not to mention the rest of the anthropogenic planetary decimation) fits the definition of a one-way function. We may not like that possibility, but disliking it, even intensely, doesn't take it off the table.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to GliderGuider (Reply #8)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 04:29 PM

9. Ah, so your assessment of "planetary decimation" represents "realism".

There's some hubris, seeing as it's not shared by anyone with scientific credentials. We don't know if anyone's predictions - not mine, not yours, not James Hansen's, nor Lord Monckton's - represent "realism" until after the fact.

Unless you believe in going backward in time one-way functions don't apply here. We're not trying to put any genies back in bottles, we're trying to tame them.

Fatalism is an attitude, an unwillingness to participate in a solution. It's analogous to people who don't vote, who enjoy the fruits of living in a democracy but fail to take any responsibility for it. They attempt to mischaracterize their arrogant exceptionalism (or just laziness) as "insignificance".

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to wtmusic (Reply #9)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 05:39 PM

10. When I mention planetary decimation I'm not talking about predictions.

I'm talking about stuff we've already managed to do. The destruction of land and oceanic life, the damage to fertile soils, fresh water sources and the global climate - all of these are not predictions. They're the current state of affairs.

Where the problem arises is in my estimation that the predations that have already occurred can not be remediated to any useful extent while GlobCiv 1.0 is still rumbling across the landscape. "Taming the genie" by some amount - say by 10% in every domain of destruction - makes no difference if our aggregate demand on the planet increases by 10% in the same period.

It's important to understand that one-way functions have no dependence on the arrow of time.

In computer science, a one-way function is a function that is easy to compute on every input, but hard to invert given the image of a random input. Here, "easy" and "hard" are to be understood in the sense of computational complexity theory, specifically the theory of polynomial time problems.

In applied contexts, the terms "easy" and "hard" are usually interpreted relative to some specific computing entity; typically "cheap enough for the legitimate users".

In my opinion, reversing to totality of the damage we've caused is a "hard" problem in the sense that cryptographers use the term: a problem that is not soluble with the resources at hand in the time available.

I decided about 5 years ago that if a Solution™ to the multidimensional problem of GlobCiv is available, it will not be found within the domain of the problem as stated. That is, the Solution™ will not act to repopulate the oceans, re-fertilize the land, refill the aquifers, re-freeze the icecaps, re-stabilize the climate circa 1850 or re-manifest the species we have extirpated. Each of those alone is a "hard problem". Taken together they describe a "wicked problem", which is a hard problem on steroids.

So I started casting around for other possibilities - approaches that might be generally helpful but do not require me to believe in a definition of "solution" I feel is fundamentally unhelpful and even misguided. Not surprisingly, there aren't very many such approaches - the problem has already consumed most of the available solution space.

Most of the helpful approaches come under the rubric of "increasing resilience", and apply somewhere on a scale from individual psychology and local ecosystems to the organization of moderate-sized communities (IMO "moderate" = small multiples of Dunbar's number). Such approaches allow for the system under consideration to withstand external shocks without collapsing. I prefer to focus on the individual scale. That's where I try to foster Solutions™.

I understand how the conclusion that the definition of "solution" that most environmentalists operate under is a chimera, infuriates those who insist that is the only acceptable definition. That anger causes them to define people who choose not to work to that definition, to focus their energies on other types of responses instead, as fatalist, reactionary or obstructionist. There's not much I can say to that anger. It's not a logical argument but an emotional reaction.

I will keep on throwing out the possibility that the traditional activist approach to problem-solving will lead us down the garden path that goes over a cliff just around the bend ahead. I prefer the idea that the alternative "solutions" (which are not at all "solutions" in your terms, of course) will show us unexpected ways to build healthy human communities that are better equipped to be members of the family of life for the foreseeable future.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to GliderGuider (Reply #10)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 06:26 PM

11. You are applying one-way functions to the arrow of time

by insisting it's an issue of re-stabilizing the climate "circa 1850", re-populating the oceans, reversing the totality of the damage we've caused, etc. I haven't come across anyone who adopts this as a stated goal or a viable solution, which you claim has "already consumed most of the available solution space". That notion is a chimera, but it's one of your own creation.

Similarly, your fantasy of a world filled by small independent communities, except in the most poverty-stricken areas of the globe, hasn't existed for 15,000 years and is another attempt to put the genie back in the bottle. These are the people who are dying right now of climate-change related causes. They're also the ones who are being spared right now because of climate-change related solutions of which you want no part, and which have nothing to do with keeping them poor and isolated.

You fret that "the traditional activist approach to problem-solving will lead us down the garden path that goes over a cliff just around the bend ahead" while at the same time welcoming it. Though it hardly infuriates me, I find it mildly annoying that the supposed "solution" of yours conveniently serves as a responsibility shirk while you continue to enjoy the non-agrarian luxuries of the greater civilization you rail against.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to wtmusic (Reply #11)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 07:39 PM

12. I use the reference to 1850 to indicate an island of climate stability

We're no more going to be able to recreate that island of stability than we will be able to fix all the other problems I mentioned. Nor do I want to push mankind back 15,000 years - that's likewise impossible. What we have to do is to go forward. My preferred undertakings to do that are different than yours, and I don't see what all the fuss is about - diversity confers resilience, after all. We should be prepared for any kind of future that might unfold. Your work prepares us for one kind of future, and mine for another. Both need to be done, IMO.

You seem to have fixed in your mind that I'm some kind of anarcho-primitivist. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I've gone to some lengths in the past to explain why it's not true. If you choose not to believe me, there is nothing I can do beyond that.

I'm quite willing to take advantage of whatever minor luxuries I have access to, but I certainly don't view them as an anyone's entitlement - not yours, not mine, not our grandchildren's. By the same token, if things do go to hell in a handbasket, I've made my peace with that immiseration as well.

For example, I made a conscious choice a few years ago not to try and "save myself" by moving away to some possibly more survivable location. I've decided to ride out whatever is coming where I am, as a member of my community. What happens to my neighbours will happen to me. They are my community, and I feel I owe them that. If I can help in small ways from inside it, I will. But I have no illusions about what my choice may mean in terms of my future quality of life. You asked before if I was willing to put my own life on the line. By making this decision I am doing just that.

By all means follow your heart as you work for the future in your own way. But it would be good if you could allow a bit of room in your world for others with different goals.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread