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Michael Hauber

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Ecological disruption and human welfare
« on: November 03, 2014, 11:08:36 AM »
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My personal view is that the average and most likely case for climate change is not something to be strongly worried about - from a human welfare point of view (unless we get unlucky with a climate change induced war or something).  Very different if you hold strong natural conservation ethics as I think dramatic ecological disruption is highly likely. 

Excuse me, but how does dramatic ecological disruption not impact human welfare?

I believe that we will see dramatic ecological disruption, being a mass extinction event and serious juggling of all of earth's ecosystems.  I don't think the direct impacts on human welfare are particularly serious, in particular compared to other impacts such as food security, and in high end scenarios the possibility of the atmosphere becoming too hot to support human life without air conditioning in some parts of the world on some occasions.

This is not a particularly well research opinion.  My belief in the lack of seriousness of human impacts is based largely on the fact I've never seen anyone put together a convincing case.  But I've never really seen anyone try either, so who knows?

Food security and increase in pathogens are areas I am concerned about, and it is kind of a grey area whether this is ecological disruption, or whether it is the direct affects of climate change on human welfare.  When I say ecological disruption I'm think of a flow on effect  such as where species A goes extinct, and B which normally eats A goes extinct.  Then C which is usually eaten by B undergoes a boom, and C happens to be a major pest which causes a disease in humans or eats lots of our crops.  Heat increasing the natural range of a pathogen, or drought reducing the amount of wheat we can harvest is not what I consider ecological disruption.

I definitely do not say that such an effect is impossible.  I consider it a low probability high consequence scenario that I would gladly pay a significance insurance premium in carbon taxes to avoid if it was my choice.

Climate change:  Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, expect the middle.

Neven

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2014, 11:32:23 AM »
My obvious problem with this is the implied assumption that somehow human society is set apart from nature, as if our economy is on a par with the ecology, not a part of it. Moral issues set aside, I think that this assumption also causes physical trouble in the long run.

I'm absolutely convinced that dramatic ecological disruption - the destruction of free ecosystem services that we take for granted - has serious economic consequences and thus negatively impacts human welfare, but I can't prove that in a scientific way.

In the end it's about risk management. If only someone would step up and say: "Look, it's best if we opt for dramatic ecological disruption and the death of a couple of million people, because that way the economy will keep growing and the poor will have decent standards of living, and we all become rich."

Unfortunately, nobody is bluntly honest enough to do that (it would make it easier for me to respect the position, although I do not agree with it). And so we get the games that lobbyists and fake skeptics play.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2014, 11:57:13 AM by Neven »
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mark

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2014, 11:52:03 AM »
As a trained agriculturalist and working with soil microbiology it is hard to understand this ecological disruption being any more than an inconvenience to nature as a whole. Yes a local change in climate will cause local disruption, but globally less so. Take corals for instance, the buffering effect of the oceans is highly unlikely to lead to a significant change in overall Ph and the chance of actually becoming acidic as opposed to less alkali before the next ice age absolutely nil (IMO), so corals, which establish very quickly as the warm oceans are full of coral larvae just waiting to find the right conditions, will just start to creep in the direction of the right temperature. If the Ph is too high locally then they will not establish there. So if warming corals will start moving towards the poles, if cooling they will move towards the equator.

On land the environment is far more sensitive as global air temperatures change far more rapidly but the same is true, flora and fauna will move towards the right conditions for their existence. Where there are barriers to that migration then there will be extinctions - but that happens all the time anyhow. If the planet is so out of whack that it will continue warming at a wholly unsustainable and catastrophic rate then nothing we can do will make any difference except save a very small percentage of the increase. Carbon Dioxide and temperature have been very much higher in the past and it would appear the planet was able to sustain an incredibly diverse and fertile environment. As the planets most adaptable climate species I dont think humans will have a problem as such. Ecological disruption to the globe happened over the last millennia when the human population exploded to its current level.

I agree completely with what you say Neven. I think the reluctance to speak about it stems from the methodology of achieving the reduction. There seems to be 3 courses of action - consensus - that would be 'nice'! genocide - ie war, or 'natural causes' - starvation and/or disease (which probably will lead to genocide anyway).

Seeing as this is not addressed at global level at all yet I dont see consensus as happening any time soon. Once my second and third resolution come in to play then ultimately consensus will prevail. If you were a politician is this a topic that would be easy to raise and would any world leader want to listen?? No votes in it yet so wont happen in my opinion

Neven

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2014, 12:10:42 PM »
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Carbon Dioxide and temperature have been very much higher in the past and it would appear the planet was able to sustain an incredibly diverse and fertile environment.

Yes, but it all depends on the rate of change. If the rate is too high, many animal and plant species don't get the time to adapt.

But to return to the topic, after re-reading Michael's thread opening comment:

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a mass extinction event and serious juggling of all of earth's ecosystems.  I don't think the direct impacts on human welfare are particularly serious,

I'd really like to see you explain how a mass extinction event will not impact human welfare. Or maybe we define 'human welfare' in different ways? To me it's a functioning human society, to you it's maybe the survival of the human species.
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mark

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2014, 12:33:27 PM »
It depends on your view of mass extinction - a mass extinction is catastrophic for those organisms that are negatively impacted by that extinction, however that doesnt mean that other organisms wont benefit or at least have little or no overall effect. Other than the sadness of losing loved or cherished parts of our ecosystem the overall effect of a climate warming extinction event may actually benefit mankind by producing a more vigorous ecology that can be adapted to. Mass extinctions happened at the start of the ice ages and at the start of the intervening warm periods (think sabretooth tiger wooly mammoths to name to recent ones).

If you define 'welfare' as maintaining our environment at its current level, then yes it will have impacted on welfare, but if diversity and vigour  is maintained and the mass extinction is a response to the change in climate, 'I' would say there is every chance there may be some inconveniences caused but overall not detrimental to human existence. Global warming in fact is likely to lower the per capita energy requirement! It all depends on so many factors and exactly what organisms are affected that its almost impossible to tell what effect it would have.

viddaloo

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2014, 01:17:38 PM »
It depends on your view of mass extinction - a mass extinction is catastrophic for those organisms that are negatively impacted by that extinction, however that doesnt mean that other organisms wont benefit or at least have little or no overall effect.

Mark, I think you're being overly dramatic and alarmist here, in your view of mass extinction. A mass extinction of an organism isn't that catastrophic, even though they are — as you say — negatively impacted. Would be strange if there were *no* negative consequences of a mass extinction of your species. But you paint a very bleak picture here, Mark. We can have fun, while being mass exterminated.

[Yes, I'm being sarcastic.]

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Global warming in fact is likely to lower the per capita energy requirement! It all depends on so many factors and exactly what organisms are affected that its almost impossible to tell what effect it would have.

Absolutely! Let's say all living species go extinct, except one. And that's either ladybugs or wasps. I personally like ladybugs and hate wasps. This shows mass extinction could go either way: Good (ladybugs) or bad (wasps).

Party on, planet eaters!
« Last Edit: November 03, 2014, 01:28:00 PM by viddaloo »
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wili

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2014, 01:25:30 PM »
mark, can't tell if you're being facetious or not. If not, you might want to review the meaning of mass extinction and think some more about the functioning of ecosystems.

ETA: My apologies. I see from reviewing your posts that you are a denialist troll. I'll be careful to ignore your posts going forward. Best--wili.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2014, 01:31:23 PM by wili »
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mark

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2014, 01:33:12 PM »
Bit unnecessary Wili - I shall continue to read all with interest

mark

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2014, 02:10:01 PM »
Mass extinction is an abnormally large number of species dying out in a limited time frame unless I misunderstood, if you automatically include humans in the mass extinction thats a different argument - that wasnt stated here and I attemted to expand what Michael posted.

99% of all living things to have existed on the earth are now extinct, and yet we live in a very diverse, vigorous adaptable ecosystem (species live in temperatures from subzero to near boiling point). The earth has survived several mass extinctions, we are in the middle of one now caused by humans.

of course an increasing climate temperature may cause another mass extinction - but of what exactly - this is a conversation of pure conjecture. There is no study I know of that can predict exactly how this will pan out - even at 4 degrees C. I will be as sad as anyone to see any single plant or animal become extinct because of climate change, a mass extinction considerably more so but climate related extinctions happen all the time. My understanding of nature is there is sufficient diversity amongst all species to take advantage of another species disadvantage and humans are extremely good at taking advantage. I may be wrong but theres currently no way of proving it, I think humans will be ok with warming at this level even if more confined by sea level change and I do think that the current population level will be difficult to sustain anyway (see above).

I love the way as soon as someone doesnt agree with the alarmist consensus they automatically become a denialist or troll or both, I have set out my position regularly and am most definitely skeptical of the alarmist or CAGW point of view, but not the slightest skeptical about global warming. I strongly believe humankind is on course for catastrophe - I laid out my opinion above accordingly, the fact is though I dont believe the catastrophe for humans is going to be entirely climate based however it will probably have a part to play, we will have done it to ourselves long before the climate does.

viddaloo

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2014, 02:31:44 PM »
I have set out my position regularly and am most definitely skeptical of the alarmist or CAGW point of view, but not the slightest skeptical about global warming. I strongly believe humankind is on course for catastrophe - I laid out my opinion above accordingly, the fact is though I dont believe the catastrophe for humans is going to be entirely climate based however it will probably have a part to play, we will have done it to ourselves long before the climate does.

I put it to you that your position seems like a BS position more than anything else. Either that, or you don't know what English words mean. Or you have logic issues. Or all of the above. You strongly believe we're on course for catastrophe, and yet you're most definitely skeptical of the [catastrophic global warming] point of view, and again, you believe the catastrophe won't be 100% climate related, and on and on and on.

How can you be most definitely skeptical of something you yourself strongly believe?
« Last Edit: November 03, 2014, 02:44:57 PM by Neven »
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Neven

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2014, 02:51:44 PM »
Just a small change to your comment there, Viddaloo, to not go overboard straight away.

But I do agree with Viddaloo that mark seems to contradict himself. In the same paragraph no less.

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I will be as sad as anyone to see any single plant or animal become extinct because of climate change, a mass extinction considerably more so but climate related extinctions happen all the time.

This theme is not about sadness or morals, it's about whether a mass extinction (or dramatic ecological disruption as Michael called it) will impact human welfare. If, say, 50% of all plant and animal species go extinct, will this impact human society and current living standards for all humans, not just us westerners? If for instance, from some point on we can only eat jellyfish because all the fish are gone, can we call this an impact on human welfare?
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mark

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2014, 03:45:46 PM »
I reckon picking holes in what I say is just semantics, its clear enough what I mean. But I dont mind - I know what I mean!

When I was at college in 1976, part of my reading material was the Fundamentals  of Soil Science By Foth and Turk and one of the last chapters was 'Land and the world food supply' (pdf of the latest version herehttp://www.sciencelib.net/files/Foth%20-%20Fundamentals%20of%20Soil%20Science%208e%20(Wiley,%201990).pdf      - page 326) - the text of the book is fascinating but just that chapter is particularly relevant here. That had a profound affect on me and the way I viewed the global ecology.

Theres a few 'ifs' in your last post and certainly a few implied in mine. I wouldnt want to eat jellyfish but if it was nutritious and could be made tasty why would that necessarily impact on welfare if one is purely objective. Where does 50% of all species come from,  you may be right, it still wont necessarily impact on humans especially as high carbon dioxide, 4 degree warmer climates have been very fertile and vigorous in the past, which is why I would doubt it. Can I be the only one that tires of scare stories. I want the best for my kids and I am already working to do my bit and have that in mind every day of my life - so do they. They come back from school regularly full of doom and gloom climate stories. Making them aware is one thing but the debate is considerably weakened by scare tactics especially on such young impressionable minds, its becoming an indoctrination rather than an education.

viddaloo

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2014, 03:48:38 PM »
Impossible to say: We don't know the exact order in which species around us will go extinct, so this could go either way. When everything's dead, we can make a decision. Only then. And everyone must of course have exactly the same wealth level before we can start saving the world. Because that's rational.
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mark

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2014, 03:57:52 PM »
Oh and by the way - I said quite clearly that I am skeptical of the catastrophic point of view not the warming side of things. I strongly support the  view that Global Warming will continue, I expect the Arctic to be Ice free in summer within 25 years, and I also support the fact that carbon dioxide has a very active role in the overall greenhouse effect. What I also have, however, is 'faith' in the global ecology and that an imbalance will be balanced sooner rather than later. if I'm right - hurrah we are all saved, if I'm not we're all doomed, DOOMED I say. Sorry that I am not as pessimistic as I am obviously supposed to be!

viddaloo

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2014, 04:06:13 PM »
If there is a balancing, removing our species will be a necessary part of it, #%€$£, so that saves the planet, not us. Do read up on ecology.
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mark

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2014, 04:08:41 PM »
So Vid whos up for bumping off first then, which people are going to be told they cannot have the basics. Who is going to tell China - no more fossil fuel fired industry or India or Africa. Do you reckon they will listen.

Anyhow thats off topic. Mass extinctions happen because something abnormal happens to the environment. The more adaptable species wont necessarily be affected at all, in fact they may benefit. I would say that humans are by far the most adaptable animal on the planet, so I dont think humans will be adversly impacted for that reason alone. The fact that they pollute their own environment and expand like a plague is a far more likely limiting factor in human populations........IMO!

mark

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #16 on: November 03, 2014, 04:24:47 PM »
I dunno Vid 3 years at Agricultural College and 45+ working with animals plants and the soils biosphere qualifies me to get my hands dirty and very little else I reckon. I bow to your superior position

viddaloo

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #17 on: November 03, 2014, 08:03:54 PM »
No need to bow, and let's both calm down, be friends and take each our chill–pill  ;D

You probably know way more ecology than me, not least from the practical point of view. I just have a hard time seeing how Civilization can go on without all those plants, animals, fish etc, and not least without clean water.

Rough day, I suggest a more civic tone. I apologize for being so confrontational, however, I find it fascinating (while frustrating!) that honest people can view our world and our future so differently. But hey! That's what brings up the multitude of theories and ideas that may save us in the end.
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jbatteen

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #18 on: November 03, 2014, 08:12:19 PM »
I think that once renewable energy is cheap enough, desalination will become widespread, and sunny desert areas adjacent to oceans will become the food powerhouses of the world.  The American Southwest, the Middle East, India, Australia, parts of Africa.  Probably more I'm forgetting.  The amount of incoming solar radiation is tens of thousands of times larger than humanity's total energy consumption.  There is no shortage of energy or resources, we just have to build the technology out.

I have no doubt that the climate is warming rapidly and humans are the main if not exclusive driver.  I also don't doubt that the mass extinction currently in progress will continue.  But some species will survive, and the biodiversity will re-evolve with time.  All of the finches on the Galapagos islands are descended from one species that adapted to different niches.  When the comet hit the Gulf of Mexico 65,000,000 years ago, the climate change that occurred then was far more rapid than what is occurring now, and 3/4 of extant species went extinct.

The K–Pg extinction had a profound effect on the evolution of life on earth. The elimination of dominant Cretaceous groups allowed other organisms to take their place, spurring a remarkable series of adaptive radiations in the Paleogene. The most striking example is the replacement of dinosaurs by mammals. After the K–Pg extinction, mammals evolved rapidly to fill the niches left vacant by the dinosaurs. Within mammalian genera, new species were approximately 9.1% larger after the K–Pg boundary.

Other groups also underwent major radiations. Based on molecular sequencing and fossil dating, Neoaves appeared to radiate after the K–Pg boundary. They even produced giant, flightless forms, such as the herbivorous Gastornis and Dromornithidae, and the predatory Phorusrhacidae. The extinction of Cretaceous lizards and snakes may have led to the radiation of modern groups such as iguanas, monitor lizards, and boas. On land, giant boid and enormous madtsoiid snakes appeared, and in the seas, giant sea snakes radiated. Teleost fish diversified explosively, filling the niches left vacant by the extinction. Groups appearing in the Paleocene and Eocene include billfish, tunas, eels, and flatfish. Major changes are also seen in Paleogene insect communities. Many groups of ants were present in the Cretaceous, but in the Eocene ants became dominant and diverse, with larger colonies. Butterflies diversified as well, perhaps to take the place of leaf-eating insects wiped out by the extinction. The advanced mound-building termites, Termitidae, also rose to prominence.

When the transition is over, humans will still be alive, but our lives and the world we live in will be radically different from our world today.  There will be winners, and losers.  But, life will go on.  I'm here on this forum so I can learn about the changing climate, try to learn what might happen, so I can adapt to it and try to be a beneficiary instead of a loser.  I'm not against a radical change in the way the world works.  Hopefully the transition is dramatic enough it brings down our major power structures and lets us start over with a free and equal society.

wili

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #19 on: November 03, 2014, 08:27:58 PM »
" But some species will survive, and the biodiversity will re-evolve with time."

Maybe, but we can't know for sure how much or how fast this will happen.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

mark

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #20 on: November 03, 2014, 08:33:01 PM »
No need to bow, and let's both calm down, be friends and take each our chill–pill  ;D

You probably know way more ecology than me, not least from the practical point of view. I just have a hard time seeing how Civilization can go on without all those plants, animals, fish etc, and not least without clean water.

Rough day, I suggest a more civic tone. I apologize for being so confrontational, however, I find it fascinating (while frustrating!) that honest people can view our world and our future so differently. But hey! That's what brings up the multitude of theories and ideas that may save us in the end.

No sweat mate I'm cool.......I know now how passionate you get! As Neven says - the internets like that.

viddaloo

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #21 on: November 03, 2014, 09:09:50 PM »
" But some species will survive, and the biodiversity will re-evolve with time."

Maybe, but we can't know for sure how much or how fast this will happen.

We could be stuck with the ladybugs (or wasps) only. Who would want to eat only ladybugs for the rest of their species?
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Neven

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #22 on: November 03, 2014, 09:26:15 PM »
I believe practically everyone here agrees that a mass extinction/dramatic ecological disruption will most likely affect human welfare in a negative way.

Of course, everyone has his own definitions of what dramatic ecological disruption or human welfare is. For some it has to do with potential collapsing of human society/civilization, others focus on survival of the human species.

But on the whole everyone seems to agree that a mass extinction/dramatic ecological disruption must affect human welfare. This discussion seems to be settled then.  :P ;D

Please, speak up if this is not correct.
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viddaloo

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #23 on: November 03, 2014, 10:29:03 PM »
But on the whole everyone seems to agree that a mass extinction/dramatic ecological disruption must affect human welfare. This discussion seems to be settled then.  :P ;D

Of course. IMO, arguing against such obvious points is a natural part of the path to enlightenment. Irrational resistance --> slightly less irrational resistance --> quite reasonable resistance --> cognitive dissonance --> breakdown --> acceptance.
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TeaPotty

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #24 on: November 04, 2014, 12:11:24 AM »
This thread is almost comical, with Conservatives really trying hard to downplay how bad an extinction event is for human welfare. I would be laughing really hard if it wasn't so tragic.

Michael Hauber

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #25 on: November 04, 2014, 07:56:35 AM »
I believe practically everyone here agrees that a mass extinction/dramatic ecological disruption will most likely affect human welfare in a negative way.

Of course, everyone has his own definitions of what dramatic ecological disruption or human welfare is. For some it has to do with potential collapsing of human society/civilization, others focus on survival of the human species.

But on the whole everyone seems to agree that a mass extinction/dramatic ecological disruption must affect human welfare. This discussion seems to be settled then.  :P ;D

Please, speak up if this is not correct.

I think this conversation is rather unsettle lol.  I have no solid scientific evidence for my position, you claim to have no solid scientific proof of your position.  What good is that to anyone?

So far in this thread there has been a lot of abusive and trolling posts about how it should be obvious that there will be a serious problem.  The only actual evidence that I have seen that there will be a problem is Neven's comment about possible reductions in available fishing catch from the ocean - definitely a concern.  And then there is my speculation that maybe there is some way that ecological disruption could set of a chain that species A goes extinct, species B booms due to lack of predatory or other control via species A, and species B causes major problems for us. 

I will agree that some impact is certain.  My original point was whether this impact would be serious compared to other impacts such as food security.  Maybe a better question would be 'how much impact will ecological disruption have on human welfare?'  I don't think this thread is much help at all in answering that question.

Anyway here is the core of why I guess that ecological impact won't be too bad and is being overestimated by people who see the word 'mass extinction' and think 'OMG that has to be bad'.

The best case?
Imagine a hypothetical planet populated by two types of species - generalists that can live pretty much anywhere.  And specialists that have very specific climate requirements and can only live in a region say 100km on a side.  The generalists live everywhere, and as they compete there can only be a small number of these species.  In contrasts the specialists compete over a 100km square, but there are 100s of such squares on the planet, and each square has the same number of specialist species, so there are 100s of times more specialist species than generalist species.  Then assume a rapid climate change that is roughly equivelant to moving all climate zones 500km away from the equator, and occurs too fast for the specialists to keep up.  All the specialists go extinct as they are outside their suitable habitat.  None of the generalists are outside their suitable habitat.  And none of the generalists rely on a specialist species for survival, otherwise they could not be generalist.  So mass extinction, all of the much more numerous specialist species go extinct and none of the specialist species go extinct.

On earth we do have generalists and specialists, but we have a range of everything in between so the situation isn't as clear cut, but the same types of principals will certainly have an impact, with a larger number of local specialist species, and extinctions tending to hit these specialist species to a much greater extent than those with a wider distribution.  Man is one of the most general species out there.
Climate change:  Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, expect the middle.

Neven

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #26 on: November 04, 2014, 09:53:14 AM »
I also think that the human species is very adaptable, and it would take a lot of catastrophe to wipe it out completely.

But human society isn't as adaptable as homo sapiens as a species, and so catastrophes in the form of mass extinctions (or changing weather patterns due to AGW) would most probably severely impact economies and thus human welfare (living standards) and thus the population number.

Again, Michael, it seems our only disagreement is on definitions. You talk about the human species, I talk about human society.
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Lennart van der Linde

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #27 on: November 04, 2014, 01:53:36 PM »
It's hard to know how resilient ecosystems and human societies are in the face of strong warming this century and beyond. But I agree with Neven that our societies are adapted to current ecosystems and the many services they provide.

Stressing these ecosystems increases the risks of significant losses in ecosystem services and therefore increases the stresses on our societies. The 2005 Milliennium Ecosystems Assessment, the UN Global Biodiversity Outlooks and the TEEB-project show the current and projected stresses and risks. IPCC only focusses on the climate aspects of these broader ecosystems assessments, which is serious enough, but only part of the story.

I'm not an expert, but it seems to me mass extinction events imply strong disruptions of ecosystems and severe risks for human societies which have adapted to those systems and profit from their services. That we cannot pin point these risks precisely does not mean they're nothing to worry about. Unless of course we don't want to be worried and are willing to let others deal with the potential consequences.

Michael Hauber

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #28 on: November 05, 2014, 11:31:00 AM »
I also think that the human species is very adaptable, and it would take a lot of catastrophe to wipe it out completely.

But human society isn't as adaptable as homo sapiens as a species, and so catastrophes in the form of mass extinctions (or changing weather patterns due to AGW) would most probably severely impact economies and thus human welfare (living standards) and thus the population number.

Again, Michael, it seems our only disagreement is on definitions. You talk about the human species, I talk about human society.

I am talking about society.  The argument I posted about generalists vs specialists is really only good as an argument suggesting we will probably be ok as a species, but I draw a long bow and say that maybe we will be ok as a society as well.  That certainly does not necessarily follow, but I don't seem to have any better logic to go on.

I skimmed through the IPCC report looking at ecological consequences and it didn't really have anything.  They mentioned the issue of fish, and surprisingly to me expect an increase in fish productivity in some areas in the shorter term (and decrease in others).  The IPCC also talks about loss of unique ecosystems such as the barrier reef and the Arctic.  And also the possibility that loss of the Amazon could trigger further warming.

Another one I thought about was blue green algae - maybe not an overly serious issue in the scheme of everything else - but in some ways maybe a hint of what could happen if things go wrong and the wrong bacteria or whatnot multiplies out of control.
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viddaloo

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #29 on: November 05, 2014, 12:24:24 PM »
I skimmed through the IPCC report looking at ecological consequences and it didn't really have anything. The IPCC also talks about loss of unique ecosystems such as the barrier reef and the Arctic. And also the possibility that loss of the Amazon could trigger further warming.

Fascinating first sentence summary. We lose unique ecosystems like Barrier Reef, the Arctic and the Amazon rainforest according to IPCC, but IPCC doesn't really say anything about ecological consequences?

I put it to you, Mike: Either you're trolling our brains out and wasting everybody's time, or you don't understand the meaning of basic words like ecosystems and ecological. I'm not expecting an honest answer :)
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Neven

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #30 on: November 05, 2014, 02:27:43 PM »

I am talking about society.  The argument I posted about generalists vs specialists is really only good as an argument suggesting we will probably be ok as a species, but I draw a long bow and say that maybe we will be ok as a society as well.  That certainly does not necessarily follow, but I don't seem to have any better logic to go on.

I skimmed through the IPCC report looking at ecological consequences and it didn't really have anything.  They mentioned the issue of fish, and surprisingly to me expect an increase in fish productivity in some areas in the shorter term (and decrease in others).  The IPCC also talks about loss of unique ecosystems such as the barrier reef and the Arctic.  And also the possibility that loss of the Amazon could trigger further warming.

Another one I thought about was blue green algae - maybe not an overly serious issue in the scheme of everything else - but in some ways maybe a hint of what could happen if things go wrong and the wrong bacteria or whatnot multiplies out of control.

Okay, so you talk about society too. And you seem to agree that common sense dictates that it isn't immune to what goes on around it. Because it doesn't stand outside of Nature, but is placed well within it.

You looked through the IPCC report, but I don't seem to recall that this discussion was restricted purely to AGW induced ecological consequences on a local scale. In fact, we were talking about mass extinctions, and I would guess this is a global phenomenon.

However, at the same time we initially used the term dramatic ecological disruptions, and these could take place locally. And of course, these affect society locally. Which then amounts to the same thing.

Either way, I think that it would be best not restrict oneself to IPCC reports if one wants to investigate the impact mass extinctions/dramatic ecological disruptions would have on society and human welfare. I'm sure there is a lot of literature out there, for instance on historic examples of large civilisations coming to an end, partly because of the consequences of ecological disruptions.
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jbatteen

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #31 on: November 05, 2014, 04:58:17 PM »
For my part anyway, any confusion or disagreement seems to be over definitions and what to call what, rather than any serious disagreement about what will actually occur.

Economies crippled, large numbers of casualties, 90% reduction in population, governments collapsing, very probable if not certain.

Long-term view, once all that is over and humanity rebuilds, I think they'll be better off then than we are now.  Less population so less resource pressure, along with virtually unlimited renewable energy.

So, short-term, yes, large damage to human welfare.  Long-term, we will recover.  Many ancient religions speak of death and rebirth cycles.  I think this is one of those.  Destroy to recreate.  It's unfortunate that the choice was made for us, but here it is.

Michael Hauber

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #32 on: November 05, 2014, 08:09:15 PM »

Fascinating first sentence summary. We lose unique ecosystems like Barrier Reef, the Arctic and the Amazon rainforest according to IPCC, but IPCC doesn't really say anything about ecological consequences?

I put it to you, Mike: Either you're trolling our brains out and wasting everybody's time, or you don't understand the meaning of basic words like ecosystems and ecological. I'm not expecting an honest answer :)

But what does losing the Barrier reef, the Arctic and Amazon forest mean for human society?  Is it only that some won't care two hoots and others will be appalled because something special and beautiful has been lost, or can there be other bad side  effects?
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viddaloo

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #33 on: November 05, 2014, 08:20:13 PM »
I'm going to block you and mark now as the forum has become unreadable. Too low signal to noise.
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Lennart van der Linde

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #34 on: November 05, 2014, 08:27:32 PM »
Quote
I skimmed through the IPCC report looking at ecological consequences and it didn't really have anything.

Read paragraph 2.3.1 of the full synthesis report. There's more than enough there, especially if you follow the references to the earlier reports. Of course the exact effects of ecosystem disruption on human societies are hard to estimate, but the risks seem pretty serious to me. Again, read the Millennium Ecosystems Assessment, the TEEB-reports, the Global Biodiversity Outlooks, etc. for more info on ecosystem services and the risks of human actions, including AGW, to those services.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2014, 09:53:11 PM by Lennart van der Linde »

mark

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #35 on: November 05, 2014, 08:51:27 PM »
Fine by me Vid, fine by me. I quite like following you - so if you dont mind I'll carry on reading. To me everybodies opinion, view or comment counts unless its malicious or abusive. Sorry you must feel that I am.

Wouldnt it be easier on your blood pressure though to just ignore me rather than make an ad hominem comment about blocking me - something you claim to dislike intensely. I would prefer to like you and agree to differ. You remind me of an air traffic controller from Fornebu Airport that I used to meet in a pub in Oslo. He used to get very tense about subjects like this and just loved winding me up!! Drank far too much beer with him in the process and exchanged christmas cards for many years afterwards.

Anne

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #36 on: November 06, 2014, 01:13:15 AM »
<snip> I wouldnt want to eat jellyfish but if it was nutritious and could be made tasty why would that necessarily impact on welfare if one is purely objective. Where does 50% of all species come from,  you may be right, it still wont necessarily impact on humans especially as high carbon dioxide, 4 degree warmer climates have been very fertile and vigorous in the past, which is why I would doubt it. Can I be the only one that tires of scare stories. I want the best for my kids and I am already working to do my bit and have that in mind every day of my life - so do they. They come back from school regularly full of doom and gloom climate stories. Making them aware is one thing but the debate is considerably weakened by scare tactics especially on such young impressionable minds, its becoming an indoctrination rather than an education.
This is the thing. Jellyfish may well be nutritious, but how are you going to sell that idea to people who are used to cod, mackerel, tuna? They will riot. Of course if everyone were as rational as Dr Spock they would accept the least worst on offer and be glad to be alive, but our cultures are far more complex. And of course you know that too. The debate on this thread isn't so much about the survival of humans as a species - we are far too canny and selfish to let ourselves be wiped out by a little failure of traditional diet or unaccustomed inclemency of weather - but about the survival of complex societies, communities, and the appalling individual suffering that is the corollary of change. The French Revolution was a picnic.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2014, 01:44:34 AM by Anne »

Anne

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #37 on: November 06, 2014, 01:18:57 AM »
"unaccustomed inclemency of weather" - sorry, a bit of English litotes there. ;)

mark

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #38 on: November 06, 2014, 02:02:06 AM »
Good point Anne, it does depend on perspective and I was being objective, it centres around the phrase human welfare. I was rather looking at it from a survival perspective rather than an aesthetic one

Anne

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #39 on: November 06, 2014, 02:08:45 AM »
Good point Anne, it does depend on perspective and I was being objective, it centres around the phrase human welfare. I was rather looking at it from a survival perspective rather than an aesthetic one
Hmm, I wouldn't regard individual survival as an aesthetic issue.

ETA but certainly some societies regard aesthetic issues as basic to their survival. And religious issues, come to that.

Michael Hauber

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #40 on: November 07, 2014, 08:23:19 AM »
Someone I suggested I reread the IPCC report and look at ecological impacts.  I did, and noticed I'd missed a line about impacts to 'fish and other ecosystem services'.

So off to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecosystem_services]Wikipedia[/url] to find out about ecoystem services.  A bunch of different services are listed.  A couple ones where I can see potential issues are food (particularly seafood), pest and disease control, and carbon sequestration.  A new one which hasn't been mentioned on this thread is crop pollination by bees.

An interesting discussion in this article is the 'redundancy hypothesis' vs the 'rivet hypothesis'.  The redundancy hypothesis states that ecosystems have a large level of redundancy, and we can lose individual species with little worry, and something else will fill the gap for the missing species.  The rivet hypothesis is that the ecosystem holds together like an airplane wing and each species that is lost is like a rivet popping.  The more that pop the more stresses are multiplied until sudden failure occurs.  An experiment done in a lab simulation supported the rivet hypothesis.  Several experiments done in the field have supported the redundancy hypothesis.

Following this trail to here I notice the paper is from 1997.  So I look at the papers that cite this paper to see if there has been any interesting responses that might contest or build on the conclusion.  This leads to another interesting paper which does an experiment on grassland productivity.  In it they find that productivity (as measured by biomass production) is 2.7 times higher than the best monoculture. 

This is definitely an interesting contribution to the idea that a loss of biodiversity may have significant consequences beyond the loss of something special, and ethical considerations.  Of course the question remains on how many species are needed for maximum productivity, and whether any reasonably expected species extinction rate will push us under this threshold (locally and/or globally).

Another interesting thought is that most of our farming is currently mono-culture.  How much (if any) of this 2.7 times increase in productivity if we can switch to poly-culture farming practices?  Doubling our food productivity per acre would push back the issue of what happens when/if our population hits the sustainability limit at least a few decades....
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Lennart van der Linde

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #41 on: November 07, 2014, 09:03:33 AM »
yes, yes, yes, hypotheses, uncertainties, ecological risks and opportunities, innovation, vested interests and ethical/moral considerations having political implications

Lennart van der Linde

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #42 on: November 07, 2014, 09:27:07 AM »
Here some recent research from Stanford:
http://news.stanford.edu/pr/2014/pr-sixth-mass-extinction-072414.html

The risks for human health and agriculture seem significant according to these researchers.

Shared Humanity

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #43 on: November 23, 2014, 06:27:01 PM »
Not sure this belongs here but we certainly are fracking up the planet.

This is an actual map of fracking lines drilled in ND in order to get at the natural gas. Now how exactly are we to protect aquifers?

Sigmetnow

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #44 on: December 06, 2014, 08:41:06 PM »
Documentary of a human/polar bear experience.  Summers are lasting 50 days longer than previously in this location, and polar bears, unable to hunt seals without ice, are looking elsewhere for food.
"Sometimes, seeing more animals doesn't mean there are more animals."
http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20141206/full-video-documentary-meltdown-terror-top-world
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Sigmetnow

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #45 on: March 27, 2015, 12:36:57 AM »
"Habitat fragmentation":  human development is chopping up forests into bits that cannot sustain wildlife.
Quote
There is a consistent loss of species — birds, butterflies, plants — across every experiment, and these experiments varied widely,” Nick M. Haddad, North Carolina State University biologist and lead author of the study on habitat fragmentation, told ThinkProgress. “But they were all going downward.”

Hadded said he was “shocked” at the study’s findings on how much we’ve “sliced and diced” forest ecosystems through human development, which includes everything from building railroads to cutting down trees for cropland.
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/03/26/3638910/all-forests-not-created-equal/
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ritter

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #46 on: March 27, 2015, 07:35:13 PM »
"Habitat fragmentation":  human development is chopping up forests into bits that cannot sustain wildlife.
Quote
There is a consistent loss of species — birds, butterflies, plants — across every experiment, and these experiments varied widely,” Nick M. Haddad, North Carolina State University biologist and lead author of the study on habitat fragmentation, told ThinkProgress. “But they were all going downward.”

Hadded said he was “shocked” at the study’s findings on how much we’ve “sliced and diced” forest ecosystems through human development, which includes everything from building railroads to cutting down trees for cropland.
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/03/26/3638910/all-forests-not-created-equal/

I'm not sure why the author is shocked. This was a well known impact when I was in college 20 years ago. Habitat fragmentation and migration barriers are nothing new, just more of it.

AbruptSLR

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Re: Ecological disruption and human welfare
« Reply #47 on: April 10, 2015, 08:55:38 PM »
The linked article states: "Conventional agriculture is causing enormous environmental damage in Germany, warns a study by the country’s Federal Environment Agency, saying a transition to organic farming and stricter regulation is urgently needed.
….
According to the researchers, the use of moors and clear-cutting for agriculture, as well as fertilisers, soil cultivation and animal husbandry produce a high level of emissions that impact the climate."

http://www.euractiv.com/sections/energy/agriculture-poses-immense-threat-environment-german-study-says-313669

As the world intensifies its agricultural practices to feed about 10 billion people by, or before, 2050, we all need to recognize how much environmental damage this modern "conventional" (but highly intensive) farming will do, not just w.r.t. increasing GHG emissions, but also from: (1) pollution from nitrogen, phosphorus, heavy metals, pesticides etc; (2) groundwater demands (particularly during periodic droughts); (3) erosion; etc.
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