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Member since: Sun Jun 4, 2017, 04:46 PM
Number of posts: 1,660

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Who and what is preventing the world from addressing climate change?

Yes, we all know that climate change deniers and oily-garchs are evil that way. But the majority of the impediment is much more prosaic - and a lot closer to home.

It's you and me, him and her, us and them.

All of us - from the richest Russian to the poorest Paraguayan - with the exception of a few tiny, isolated indigenous tribes - are responsible for CO2 emissions. Americans emit on average 16.5 tonnes of CO2 per person per year from energy use. Zimbabweans emit about 1 tonne per person. The world average is about 4.4 tonnes per capita.

All 7.7 billion human lives are founded on, made possible by, fossil fuels. Virtually all CO2 emissions come from the direct and indirect use of fossil fuels; electricity & heating, manufacturing, transportation and agriculture are prime culprits.

Does anyone reading this post not partake in the fossil-fueled economy? Does anyone except those aforementioned aboriginals not partake?

In order to stop the world temperature from eventually surpassing 4 or 5C, with all the hellish consequences that would entail, the world needs to drop emissions by probably 90% within a handful of years. That means stopping 90% of all emission-generating activities. In other words, virtually all use of electricity & heating, all manufacturing, transportation and agriculture needs to stop pretty much immediately.

But, um, that's the whole world economy, isn't it?
Well yes, yes it is.
But how would people live?
Well, they wouldn't.
So we can't do that.
No, no we can't, and won't do that.
So what can we do?
Well, not that much, frankly. We will probably continue to live much as we live today until we can't any more.

Sorry, guys and gals. Our civilization and much of our species are burnt toast. Anything we do between now and the day of our individual deaths we are doing mostly to ease the burden of our own consciences.

So the next time you feel called to heap scorn and opprobrium on climate deniers and oil company executives, look down at your keyboard and around the room you're in. What you see is what's preventing the world from addressing climate change.

We now return you to the American political bunfight that is already in progress...
Posted by The_jackalope | Thu Aug 29, 2019, 09:59 PM (20 replies)

A note from 2013

I wrote this six years ago, and posted it on FB. How am I doing so far?

August 27, 2013
Here's the human story-line I'm using these days:

The potential for a human dieback beginning by 2030 is rising dramatically as the following crises all come together:

> The Arctic Amplification effect of climate change is disrupting the polar jet stream and causing weather destabilization through the Northern Hemisphere. This is already disrupting agricultural output.

> Potential for methane bursts in the Arctic is rising as the region warms. This could induce runaway warming;

> Ocean acidification will have multiple ecological impacts, from loss of biodiversity to coral and phytoplankton loss;

>Ocean acidification introduces a potential for additional warming due to decreased dimethylsulphide release from the oceans (this is a very recent finding);

> Fresh water supplies are declining;

> Soil fertility is declining;

> The oceans are almost fished out;

> Terrestrial species are going extinct at a ferocious rate, with a rising possibility that a vital keystone species might join them;

> World oil and food prices are high and still rising;

> Some oil-exporting nations like Egypt are already destabilizing politically as their exportable oil resources run out;

> Fossil fuel use is still increasing;

> Population is still growing.

IMO there is little realistic chance that the world will be able to resolve any of these problems, let alone the entire interlocking predicament their convergence represents. This is largely because of the evolutionary bequest of human risk perception, social-conformity bias, and growth orientation. All of these are a result of our evolutionary past - they have been programmed into our neural behavior circuits by natural selection over hundreds of thousands of years in response to distant past, not present, environmental and social conditions.

The main human evolutionary advantage has been our incredible analytic intellect. It has allowed us to become the undisputed, indisputable dominant species on the planet. This is possible because our intelligence operates as a limit-removal mechanism, not a limit-acceptance mechanism.

Whenever we run into a roadblock to continuing growth in any domain, our evolved response is to figure out a way around it. It is virtually impossible for humans to see a problem and not try to solve it. Unfortunately we are very good at seeing problems and opportunities, but very, very poor at seeing consequences. As a result most of our solutions end up creating worse problems a little later. As Sevareid's Law states: "The chief cause of problems is solutions."

These human qualities (poor long-term risk perception, social-conformity bias, growth orientation, problem-solving compulsion) all have an evolutionary origin and are not easily circumvented at the species level, individual examples notwithstanding.

As a result, I really don't think we're going to get out of this one. Matters have long since passed out of our ability to control them consciously, if indeed our sense of control was ever anything more than an illusion. Most of our previous problem-solving attempts have either made matters worse by enabling yet more growth, or have merely kicked the can down the road a little.

There is no reason to expect our behavior to change in the near future. That is because much of our behavior springs from evolved brain circuits of which we have little conscious awareness and over which we have very little conscious control.

Those of you who have read a bit in this field may recognize a similarity to the "Vicious Circle Principle" of problem-solving described in Craig Dilworth's recent book, "Too Smart For Our Own Good". What Dilwotrth didn't address, though, is the question of WHY we are compulsive problem-solvers in the interests of growth.

Seeing our growth-hunger as the evolutionary residue of the spontaneous self-organization that created life in the first place, as described by Stuart Kauffman. The self-organization is in turn driven by the operation of far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics (aka the Maximum Entropy Production Principle or MEPP).

I view our predicament as the result of a very long-term historical constructive process. Thermodynamics drives the creation of life with its imperatives to survive and reproduce. Those drives are encoded in DNA as the fundamental shapers of the organism's behavior. Subsequently, the elaborated, human-specific behaviour has been encoded in our evolved neural circuitry through natural selection processes over the last two million years.

This view has clarified for me exactly how insoluble the conundrum really is. Perhaps it's time we showed a little humility in the face of Mother Nature, and admit that we've painted ourselves into an evolutionary corner. Perhaps such an admission would liberate us enough to see what else we might be doing at this suspended moment in history.

I missed food supply disruptions due to jet stream disturbances, and rising wet bulb temperatures. And I hadn't found out about the Saharasia hypothesis yet, so I was still ascribing consumption growth to principles of physics and genetics rather than culture.
Posted by The_jackalope | Tue Aug 27, 2019, 10:16 AM (2 replies)

FWIW I stopped writing about the problems in 2013, after coming to much the same conclusion.

With a little help from Buddhist meditation I pulled my focus of attention out of the future (hope), out of the past (blame) and into the present reality.

Talking or writing about the problems themselves is of little help. Let the scientists do the diagnosis and prognosis, let the historians, anthropologists and sociologists examine the history and the why, and let us get on with conscious, compassionate living in the here and now.

This summer has awakened a lot of people. There are more joining this tribe every day.
Posted by The_jackalope | Sat Aug 17, 2019, 02:06 PM (0 replies)

Do what you do

Found on FB, written by a friend.

I had a discussion with a friend a couple of days ago, and tatters of it clung to my thoughts.

She said that, yes, even though she doesn't dwell on it, she knows things are falling apart.

The gist of her narrative was this: people aren't stupid, they can see the country decaying into collapse, and they know the weather is changing for the worse.

She implied that people like me talk about it all the time, but don't tell people what they can do. It's because there is nothing they can do.

Even so, yeah, they get it.

Her point was pregnant with implication. It isn't nihilism or defeatism, it is pragmatism. Things are going to tumble, no one knows how soon or how bad, but soon and bad, and there is nothing to do for it but get up and go to work. For most people, if they don't do that, then the collapse is now.

Penn Jillette once made the observation that people do what they do every day. In a crisis, they do it more. After years of sociological study, I never heard it said more succinctly. Indeed, the stones and bones of past peoples bear witness to that. When the volcano rumbles, when the sea is dark with foes, when the heat kills the wheat and floods fall the ox, people will, until the last moment, do what they do, but desperately. And when it falls apart, for a time they labor to prop up their little corner. Until the stark realities that steer the stars and turn bones to stones overpower our need and belief, and if we live we are not who we were.

It makes sense; most people have little real choice about how they live. The daily need to eat and sleep already exhaust many people. Pragmatically, the choices are few. It is a Red Queen life, and while we can't muster the time or money or energy to do more.

If they could, what would they do? Collapse isn't something you can prepare for, really. Preparations for tomorrow fall apart the day after. Grow food, to stave off starvation, but then someone steals your food. Join together for mutual support, but then some are rewarded more than others, or perhaps our numbers draw the attention of larger groups, and we all starve. Buy guns to protect yourself from raiders, but raiders will kill you for your guns. In the end, the choices are few.

Really, the reason the Green New Deal, and the Club of Rome, and for that matter, Donald Trump have any listeners at all is that they promise to somehow allow people to keep doing what they are doing.

My endurance for all things apocalyptic is spent. I'm writing less and less because I've said what there is to say. My friend's subtle admonishment tumbled the last of my voice. There is little to add.

Garden, go fishing, do what you do.

Enjoy the day.
Posted by The_jackalope | Sat Aug 17, 2019, 12:56 PM (11 replies)

Democratic vs Republican debates

Democratic debates be like:

Republican debates be like:
Posted by The_jackalope | Tue Aug 13, 2019, 01:53 PM (2 replies)

Plan B is impossible, and there is no Plan A.

Reality is often a highly uncomfortable place.


Nick Butler (at the Financial Times) writes about the charity Greenpeace’s apparent failure. But, like all charities that employ people (I know because I ran one for a decade) Greenpeace’s unwritten primary aim is to raise the funds required for Greenpeace to exist.

Extinction Rebellion’s campaigning appears to have fallen for the myth that there is a conspiracy between the fossil fuel companies and various governments around the world to obstruct the switch to an entirely viable alternative energy system. But neither states nor corporations are homogenous in this way. The state is nominally directed by politicians whose primary goal is to get re-elected.

While this may sound cynical, it is the reality of how the world actually works. When I point out that charities’ primary concern is to keep the funds flowing in, I am not suggesting that they do not also seek to fulfil their charitable aims. Rather, they are only pursuing those aims that align with the aims of their funders. In the same way, corporations will make environmental changes – even coal and oil companies use wind and solar to power their operations these days – that align with their need to continue servicing debts; provide returns to shareholders; and pay the salaries of their senior managers.

Plan B, you will remember, is that we relatively rapidly reduce our population, our activity, our production and our consumption to a level that can be supported with renewable energy alone. The last time we did this was some time in the seventeenth century, when there were less than a billion humans on Earth. I leave it to the reader’s imagination as to how quickly we might make such a transition. But I also ask readers to note that while Plan B is extremely unpalatable; Plan A doesn’t actually exist.
Posted by The_jackalope | Wed Aug 7, 2019, 08:45 AM (1 replies)

Netflix documentary :::"The Great Hack"::: Watch!It!

My brain is gonna run out of my ears any second now.

Everything we know, deduced or intuited before and right after the election about Cambridge Analytica, Bannon, Farage - the whole crew of scoundrels - is laid out with tight editing, excellent production values, and the ring of truth. David Carroll, Chris Wylie and Brittany Kaiser on camera, telling us a data story that will curdle your blood, and make you think every time you swipe a card.

Perhaps THE most important documentary about the 2016 election.
Posted by The_jackalope | Sun Jul 28, 2019, 10:31 PM (9 replies)

Crisis point in Australia's wet tropics

'I’m seeing it disappear before my eyes': crisis point in Australia's wet tropics

Last summer, in November, Queensland biologist Professor Stephen Williams was at a workshop in Vietnam when he received an urgent email from home. It was from a ranger he knew who worked for the World Heritage-listed wet tropics area around Cairns.

Something unprecedented was happening at the top of Mount Bartle Frere, North Queensland’s highest peak. At 1611 metres high, the mountain’s upper reaches are in what is meant to be a cool temperate zone.

But instead of normal summer readings at the peak, which rarely top 25, temperatures had soared past 35 degrees for six days in a row, culminating in one scorcher of 39.

In March, worried about the impact of the November heat wave, Williams carried out a spot check on one of the area’s most iconic and vulnerable creatures, the lemuroid ringtail possum, which he’d been studying for nearly two decades. These creatures are endemic, meaning they live nowhere else except in these high wet tropics pockets. The results were another shock.

At sites where he used to reliably record some 20 individuals an hour, he was now finding only three or four. It was a similar story elsewhere on the mountain slopes and on the higher sections of the tableland.

Bird species unique to the region are being similarly affected. “It’s distressing,” he says. “This is what I have spent my life working on, and I’m seeing it disappear before my eyes.”

Gaia is on her hands and knees, coughing up blood.
Posted by The_jackalope | Sun Jul 28, 2019, 04:57 PM (6 replies)

Here's a dead simple, 100% foolproof way to fight climate change

Just wait. It will all sort itself out in the blink of a geological eye.

Wait, what? You want your children's' children's children not to die in the process? Sorry, you're on the ride. Fares cannot be refunded after the gates close.
Posted by The_jackalope | Sat Jul 27, 2019, 01:33 PM (4 replies)

Icelandic memorial warns future: 'Only you know if we saved glaciers'


The first of Iceland’s 400 glaciers to be lost to the climate crisis will be remembered with a memorial plaque – and a sombre warning for the future – to be unveiled by scientists and local people next month.

The former Okjökull glacier, which a century ago covered 15 sq km (5.8 sq miles) of mountainside in western Iceland and measured 50 metres thick, has shrunk to barely 1 sq km of ice less than 15 metres deep and lost its status as a glacier.

Researchers from Rice University in Houston, Texas, a leading Icelandic author, Andri Snær Magnason, and the geologist Oddur Sigurðsson will lead the unveiling ceremony at the site in Borgarfjörður on 18 August, local media said.

“In the next 200 years, all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path,” the plaque reads, in Icelandic and English. “This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.”

The memorial is dated August 2019 and also carries the words “415ppm CO2”, referring to the record-breaking level of 415 parts per million of carbon dioxide recorded in the atmosphere in May this year.
Posted by The_jackalope | Tue Jul 23, 2019, 05:16 PM (2 replies)
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