« Take Heart! | Main | Flat Earth! »

Wednesday, 01 August 2018


This crisis will define my remaining years, and the bulk of my daughter's life. I really think it's a situation where we either work together, or die apart. Thanks for this post.

Good luck to Xander. As someone a few years older than you, Mike, all I can say is that it's good to be old and childless.

I was so hopeful back then. Now, I despair that humanity may never rid itself of its innate tendency towards tribalism that apparently was once an evolutionary positive factor for its survival.

I stumbled onto this scientists' blog this morning: https://timescavengers.blog/

Open the Climate Change topic, go to "Ocean Circulation & Stratification".

My take is that once things start moving towards chaos, the slope steepens, and the process will accelerate quite rapidly.

Sorry for the downer - but, knowledge is power, right?

Ironically, Luminous Landscape has shut down all political posts in the 'coffee corner' section of its forum because moderating got so contentious. What's positively bizarre is the assertion that any mention of climate change is 'political', and therefore off limits for discussion.

Somehow I don't think our grandchildren will see it that way in 50 years as they survey what we've done with the planet.

[No. Thirty years from now there will not be a single mentally sane "climate change denier" on the entire planet. --Mike]

I think that this post and your comments on depression may be two facets of the same underlying condition - humankind's natural optimism. When this naturally occurring optimism is missing, a (depressed) person's life becomes unbearable. On the other hand, an (over)abundance of optimism, unchecked by rational thought, can lead people to expect the best, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. On an individual basis, this often translates to `someone (else) will fix this'.

Which reminds me of a joke about an engineer, a physicist and a mathematician...

An engineer wakes up in the middle of the night, smells smoke and runs into the kitchen to discover a small fire. She quickly calculates the precise amount of water needed to extinguish the fire, fills a bucket with that much water (plus 5%) and pours it on the fire, promptly extinguishing it.

A physicist wakes up in the middle of the night, smells smoke and runs into the kitchen to discover a small fire. She quickly, fills a bucket to the brim with water and pours it on the fire, promptly extinguishing it.

A mathematician wakes up in the middle of the night, smells smoke and runs into the kitchen to discover a small fire. She quickly convinces herself that there is a solution and goes back to sleep.

(You can switch the roles as you please, depending on your preferences. For the record, I am a mathematician).


Scientists tend to be... conservative, as a general rule- I'm not talking politically here, I mean conservative by nature- you know not prone to exaggeration or hyperbole. In fact, they generally don't tend to stray far from what they either can or cannot prove with pretty direct evidence. And I mention this because I think most are really holding back on where we are actually going to avoid being called "alarmists."

Yes, the time to have started doing something serious about climate change was when a certain POTUS tore off the solar panels from the White House roof- and now that piece of real estate is in complete and absolute denial. I don't have any children, but I'd be terrified for their future if I were a parent- the planet we are leaving them will be significantly diminished by the end of this century in ways we are only starting to comprehend...



Maybe you should now re-post or link to Monday's "If You Are Depressed" post.

[It sure depresses me. And whenever I meet a denier, I just say, with conviction, "I truly hope you are right!" Because I truly do. --Mike]

George's shot of Wollman Rink in Central Park (New York Air) [at his website—Ed.] is pure magic. I love the smattering of brightly colored coats on the left side of the composition.

Yes, but we'll save a couple hundred coal mining jobs in the process!

To say that the US policies in this area are short minded is a huge understatement.

You can screw up a lot of things and go back and fix them later. Unfortunately, Earth isn't one of them.

Anyone with even a hint of intelligence would conclude that it's better to err on the side of worrying too much about climate change than taking the opposite stand.

"If You Are Depressed", "Take Heart", there is a legitimate reason for this, as our Hmbl Ed will keep us informed of the demise of mankind. On the bright side, you just saved me a lot of money. No need to continue printing and framing with archival materials, there will be no one here to see it.

Recently I've been wondering if, as the earth warms, it will start to smell. We might do something about it then.

Climate change, and other global human problems all come down to one thing: growth - explosive population growth, and our dependence on growth in all our endeavours. Population growth is slowing as economic conditions improve, but we do not know how to live successfully in conditions of flat or declining growth, especially economic growth.

I fear that unless we get a handle on how to do this, our current civilization will fall.

The Earth will be fine; just the present inhabitants won't be.

I think some blame for neglecting that "truism" must go to people like Paul Ehrlich, who in The Population Bomb (1968) warned forcefully of mass starvation of humans in the 1970s and 1980s due to overpopulation. When that didn't happen it was easy for anti-environmentalists to say "Look, the environmentalists don't know what they are talking about".
Unfortunately there seems little chance that the scientists are equally wrong now.

1491 : New Revelations ... links back to TOP, instead of Amazon.

It's very hard to comment on Climate Change without violating your no politics rule. So I'll just say that unlike the revolution, the end-of-the-world will be televised—at a profit.

Boy are you going to get comments.

When I was in elementary school our class took a field trip to the Natural History Museum where we waw four large dioramas representing the last four ice ages. The docent told us that 10,000 years earlier the place we were standing (along the south shore of Lake Erie) had been covered by ice and snow one mile deep. One Mile Deep! And the level of the Pacific Ocean was hundreds of feet lower than today -- so low that humans and animals had walked from Asia to North America on dry land.

Why? How? We simple children asked. We don't know was the response. And we still don't know.

If we don't understand the giant climate dramas of the past, how can we predict a few degrees of warming in the future? And if we have a few degrees of warming in the future, won't we clever humans figure a way to adapt?

I believe that the climate is warming and is likely to continue to warm. Just like it has for the last, very fruitful 10,000 years.

We were speaking of hope the other day, and I have to believe that human beings will solve this problem eventually.

I'm pessamistic! It's all about ROI. Will it be more profitable to destroy the world or to save it.

Some related news from Germany:

* April, May, June have been too warm. Temperatures were several degrees above the statistical average.

* Right now, we're in the middle of a heatwave; according to the forecasts, there is no end in sight.

* Many regions hardly had any rain since about easter. Farmers request € 1 billion of compensation for crop shortfall from the federal government. In my region, the last month which had average precipitation has been January. All following months were significantly below. According to the weather forecasts, rain isn't expected during the next couple of weeks.

The land in my region is brown, and the trees are already shedding their leaves. I'm 52 now, and I can't remember anything like this. I would be glad if I were able to attribute all this to normal fluctuations of the weather, but it fits into a trend we're experiencing for the last 20 years or so.

If I got this right, metereologists explained this phenomenon with the wind system in the upper atmosphere being unusually quiet this year.

Really scary.

Best, Thomas

" ... we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. ... One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy ... " —Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes Working Group III, and lead author of the IPCC’s 2007 Report

Consider the reliability of such past predictions:

• “...civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind,” biologist George Wald, Harvard University, April 19, 1970.

• By 1995, “...somewhere between 75 and 85 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.” Sen. Gaylord Nelson, quoting Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, Look magazine, April 1970.

• Because of increased dust, cloud cover and water vapor “...the planet will cool, the water vapor will fall and freeze, and a new Ice Age will be born,” Newsweek magazine, January 26, 1970.

• The world will be “...eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age,” Kenneth Watt, speaking at Swarthmore University, April 19, 1970.

• “We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation,” biologist Barry Commoner, University of Washington, writing in the journal Environment, April 1970.

• “Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from the intolerable deteriorations and possible extinction,” The New York Times editorial, April 20, 1970.

• “By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half...” Life magazine, January 1970.

• “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” Paul Ehrlich, interview in Mademoiselle magazine, April 1970.

• “...air pollution...is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone,” Paul Ehrlich, interview in Mademoiselle magazine, April 1970.

• Ehrlich also predicted that in 1973, 200,000 Americans would die from air pollution, and that by 1980 the life expectancy of Americans would be 42 years.

• “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” Earth Day organizer Denis Hayes, The Living Wilderness, Spring 1970.

• “By the year 2000...the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America and Australia, will be in famine,” Peter Gunter, North Texas State University, The Living Wilderness, Spring 1970

[Relatively little was known about the subject in 1970 (and there's still a huge amount to be learned). The current consensus is that most early predictions were too mild and that the effects of climate change are worse, and are happening faster, than most scientists expected in the '80s and '90s. --Mike]

Two thoughts from a Civil Engineer specializing in marina and beach restoration.
I have several "favorite spots" along the IC Waterway and salt marshes here in North Florida that I've been visiting, fishing from, photographing and had in my thoughts for about 40 years now. I'm 55.

One middle aged mans remembrances do not a data point make but I recall thinking about sea level rise from simple observations a decade before it all was a "thing". I watched many isolated islands, once covered with palms, lose all vegetation from salt water incursion. It was a very gradual thing but it wasn't abstract.

In terms of extinction level catastrophe, I'm a wee bit skeptical. Much can be done but it's very unlikely. I work with more than a few coastal communities doing long term (100 years plus) planning and the retreat vs fortify choices are leaning heavily towards fortify.

Futile? Perhaps. We're a lot bigger than Denmark obviously but waterfront, coastal community property owners are a stubborn bunch.

And not to pick nits but I find it tiresome to keep hearing that this is a uniquely Americam problem. The US isn't the long term scary monster it once was. First world lifestyle ambitions from Africa and Especially Asia (China and India specifically) are an enormous problem. And China is primarily a coal fired country with very little progress on cleaning their coal emissions on any scale that will help... and they continue to grow at an astounding pace

But how does the modern west tell India and the rest of the impoverished but growing world that no, you can't/shouldn't aspire to first world levels of wealth, health care, safety, transportation etc.. It's all based on energy. so do we arrogantly lecture then and say: "Sorry gang, we got ours but you're just going to have to live with second world growth rates and infant mortality rates and etc.. etc.. because Global Warming". It's a ridiculous expectation.. IMO, The answers will lie in technology or they won't come at all.

On the warming climate.

"Statewide, North Dakota's growing season since 1879 has lengthened by 12 days, says state climatologist Adnan Akyüz at North Dakota State University".

We see it here with more growing days than in decades past. Couple that with newer crop varieties that mature more quickly and you see our farmers planting Corn right up to the Canadian border. Something you did not see a couple decades ago. Add in the wet cycle of the last two decades after many of dry years and we have more ponds and sloughs - which means more cattails - which means more blackbirds. They nest in cattails. The upshot is in our area Sunflowers are no longer grown by most farmers as Blackbirds mass on them and eat the seeds. Losing 80% of a crop to blackbirds is not good farming.

Checking with the Climatologists and Weather records we still see the extremes. The winter of 1963/64 saw 63 below zero. Last three winters 34 below was the coldest we have had. Won't be cultivating Palm Trees and Avocado orchards any time soon but a longer growing season in a State dominated by Agriculture does help the bottom line for farmers and ranchers - which helps the States economy a lot.

In spite of the "Flat Earth" jokers even North Dakota isn't that flat.

Hi Mike,
A lot of this was covered by my friend Ronald Wright in his book, and the Canadian Massey lectures series entitled "A short History of Progress".
You can hear the lectures at: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/the-2004-cbc-massey-lectures-a-short-history-of-progress-1.2946872
and the best selling book is here:

In a sad coincidence, the "Coffee Corner" forum over at Luminous Landscape, which is described as "A forum for discussion of topics of a general nature, ideally related to photography but in any event NOT [my emphasis] related to politics," has just noted, by its moderator:
"my unshakeable view is that in this context at least, climate change is politics."

You are depressed!

I remember January 1963, my first winter at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, when the temperature didn't rise above 0° F. for five days in a row, and actually dropped below -30° F. at night a few times. This was typical of the '60s. Nowadays it rarely reaches -20° F. at night in wintertime, a warmup of about 10° F. in my lifetime. So I definitely believe in global warming. (Note: Rather than depend entirely on my sometimes faulty memory, I checked these figures online.)

Thirty years from now there will not be a single mentally sane "climate change denier" on the entire planet. --Mike

Thirty years from now? There's not a single one today.

Here's two from Futurity - the university R&D newsletter worth reading:
Rising sea levels are coming for the internet - Futurity: https://www.futurity.org/rising-sea-levels-internet-cables-1814052/?utm_source=Futurity+Today&utm_campaign=9ca3c671aa-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_07_18_01_50&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e34e8ee443-9ca3c671aa-203921845

This one has a strange title: How would alien civilizations deal with climate change? But its most feasible scenario says the population will decline to less than 1/3 todays size due to lack of resources: https://www.futurity.org/aliens-sustainable-civilization-climate-change-astrobiology-1776512/?utm_source=Futurity+Today&utm_campaign=6b820e0021-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_06_06_04_19&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e34e8ee443-6b820e0021-203921845

And congratulate my neighbor, Andres Pruna, for his documentary on climate change for KMEX that just won an Emmy: https://player.vimeo.com/video/256976275 (Spanish with English subtitles)

Mike, your last nine words include these six: "humanity's eventual concerted response will be". Why are you so presumptuous?

I see no basis in human nature, no evidence, no 'prior art', to assume, or even expect, that such a thing "will be".

C'mon, let's be realistic: this is going to be a global catastrophe that will threaten the very existence of the life form that created it, along with a whole plethora of innocent, bystanding life forms. And not 'one day', like when the sun will go red giant and literally swallow the Earth within its gas cloud. But soon. Really Soon.

And so what? C'est la vie: elle finit.

Mike, Thanks for bringing this topic into the TOP world. It needs all the dissemination it can get. As one who was very environmentally active in the 60's through the 80's (think globally - act locally) my main focus was preservation of landscapes so they couldn't be logged, mined, drilled or grazed. As David Brower once said, if we can't keep our hands off a certain percentage of the earth - say 10% for example - then we have little chance of surviving in the long run.

Unfortunately, the 90% we do have access to has produced enough pollutants and C02 to severely harm us and our earth in multiple ways. Our beautiful wildernesses, parks, preserves and other untouched lands are being impacted to. So preservation has not been enough. If we don't politically and economically drastically reverse course in several arenas (fossil fuels being just one) I have to agree with Tim Bradshaw's assessment. Others here have made excellent comments too. We are ALL in this mess. Soon, I feel, fresh & unpolluted water will be more valuable than any oil that's left.

My daughter is about to get her PhD in "Earth systems science and policy". She is, of course, interesting in getting involved with agencies that are interested in the environment.

So, what responses has she been getting?

Insurance companies that want her to use her modeling magic to set their risk tables so they don't take a bath the next time an unexpectedly strong hurricane or other severe weather shows up in a surprise location.

Because, you know, capitalism.

Mike, reading your posts is one of the highlights of my day (maybe this says something about my life). Your esoteric interests match my own to a scary degree. While my love for photography initially brought me to your website, it is your 'off topic' posts which I often find most interesting. As far as the appropriateness of political posts, anyone who is apolitical is not contributing much to society. I am pessimistic about the current state of our politics and have little faith, given the stranglehold big money has on congress, that things will improve. I grieve for my children and grandchildren. We are leaving them a vastly degraded planet and a country in danger of becoming another right wing dictatorship. But I continue to resist the greed and corruption of those who would trade democracy for more personal wealth and power.

An interesting counter-point to the NYT article you linked to:
Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not “Human Nature” [ https://theintercept.com/2018/08/03/climate-change-new-york-times-magazine/ ]

The comments to this entry are closed.