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fred

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #100 on: April 11, 2013, 10:10:11 AM »
Most of what has been said in this thread is not supportable by rational argument or peer-reviewed literature. The tendency of posters on this forum to throw peer-reviewed literature out the window because scientists are too "conservative" is unfortunate.

Potential food production on earth is FAR greater than actual food production. Market-based national food-exporting economies will never issue blanket bans on exports. Russia's grain yields that year were not large enough to export grain regardless of the ban. Food is an international commodity. Say a major food exporter, like the U.S. has a bad year. So we export less food than normal. We don't ban exporters unless the yield is so bad that we cannot meet domestic demand (we wouldn't even issue a ban in such a case, market forces would simply lead to zero exports). Breaking things down on a country by country basis is irrelevant. As long as global food production approximately equals global caloric demand in any given year, market forces will distribute the food. Given global food production is not even close to its potential, there is little need for concern. There is unused and under-utilized land. In addition, the use of land for feeding and raising meat is incredibly wasteful calorically. This land will gradually be converted to feeding people directly, as prices rise.

The real issue is that portions of the world (primarily Africa) currently and will likely continue to have economies that are unable of producing enough food to meet domestic demand, or producing enough value to import sufficient quantities of food. This situation may gradually and slightly exacerbated by any negative effects of climate change on global food production.

And yet your entire post is not supported by rational argument, science or peer review. I defy you to find one peer reviewed publication that says, "oh don't worry about it". You will find lots that project a trend within 95% certainty, etc.. When was the last time you let you kid play on a train track based on 95% certainty schedules of a train coming? I'll bet even a few percent is too much for you.

The rest of your post shows a stunning lack of understanding about anything outside a nice cozy little first world market. For example, no one is starving right now in Africa, yeah? Or ever have? Because the magical market fairy supplies food to them under cost.

Jesus effing Christ.

Jim Williams

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #101 on: April 11, 2013, 01:49:34 PM »
There is good reason to mistrust those who are certain something will happen, and equal reason to mistrust those who are certain something will not happen.

I will admit that I am more disturbed by those who worship the Scientist as a God than by those who deride the Scientist as a Sinner -- though both viewpoints must be considered simple stupidity.

JimD

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #102 on: April 11, 2013, 06:50:51 PM »
Jim D, you talk a lot of sense. But there are some points where I take issue. While the prosperous west will be insulated from fluctuations in land fertility and food prices, that won't be the case everywhere.  In the rich west we can afford to import food to make up for a poor harvest. But bad weather and poor harvests have the power to impoverish people on marginal lands, and they will either migrate or starve. We neglect them at their peril, and ours.

Hi Anne.  This is my 3rd attempt to respond (my responses keep getting eaten).  This one will be shorter as I am running out of time.  Sorry if it seems a little rushed and incomplete.


The peril you speak of is a common concern and definitely something that will occur.  Before I start let me say that I am not trying to justify or support what I think the human response to this peril will be.  I am just trying to describe what I think the human response is likely to be.  Humans are hardwired in our DNA to respond to threats and countless times our ancestors came into conflict with other humans (and animals) over scare resources.  Our response has always been violence and not reasoned cooperation.  Since the global "we" are by definition the survivors of these conflicts we are programed to respond to threats in this way. It is not hard to see that a large percentage of the population thinks this way today and I think we all know that such responses lurk very close to the surface even in those who would like to behave differently.  The rich and powerful will not share equitably nor will they give up their advantages except in death.  It is how we are constructed.  We deal very effectively with short-term threats and very poorly with long-term ones.  We evolved this way because it was what facilitated survival.  We discount the future for the present because we always have and it worked before so why won't it work now?  (it won't of course.  but we are going to try it anyway).  So what is most likely to happen when the poor and downtrodden run out of resources and want us to share ours?  Violence, both overt and by neglect.  The rich and powerful (whether countries, corporations or individuals) are already locking down essential resources pending this coming conflict.  Look for example to the world wide rush to control arable land.  China and India are locking up land in Africa by leveraging corrupt local governments to cede them control of land currently in the hands of the poor citizens of those countries.  They will not give it back unless they lose control by violence.  The wealthy and corporations are buying large amounts of farmland all over the world as well.  Especially in the Americas.  they do not intend to relinquish this control and will take steps to protect their interests. I don't know where you are from but look at your fellow citizens where you live and think about what is in their cultural history.  Are they going to give up what they have to people they do not know?  Are they going to give up (in the case of the USA) 80% of their lifestyle for someone in Africa? I have lived in many parts of the world and traveled a large part of the rest of it.  People are fundamentally the same everywhere.  As the old quote goes, "Civilization is 3 meals deep."


While I do not see any rational way to come to the conclusion that serious collapse is likely before mid-century (and certainly not in the next 20 years) I do think it inevitable in the medium to long-term.  But the scenario you describe will not precipitate general collapse in any case as you are talking about the poorest and least powerful in our global community.  It sounds cruel, but these areas are largely places where the rich and powerful come to obtain resources as needed.  And they will continue to take what they need until it is gone.  The local inhabitants are not one of their concerns.  Mass starvation in many parts of the world would have no substantial impact on how the rest of the world functioned.  Civilizational collapse comes when the rich and powerful can no longer obtain the resources to maintain themselves.  At this point the global economic, technical and industrial ties fall apart and everyone goes their own way.  A big drop off will happen then.  But let us be frank for a second.  The number one problem we have is not climate change.  It is over population.  There is no possible solution to climate change unless and until we dramatically reduce world population.  We are probably going to top out near 9 billion and one can make an a pretty sound argument that 1 billion is a better approximation of the carrying capacity.  One way or another we are going to get there and anguishing over the process is pointless pain.  We are part of nature and nature has no conscience or feelings.  We deal with reality or reality deals with us. We seem unable to use our ability to think to  overcome our basic nature and save ourselves.  It is a pity.


In any case.  My basic point before is that the world is not ending tomorrow and that the proper response is to first do the right thing yourself and then try and influence others to make a difference.  Who knows, we might surprise ourselves and overcome our past and end up mitigating/adapting enough to not toast the whole enchilada.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #103 on: April 11, 2013, 07:14:09 PM »
Fred,

There is a big difference between Neven's Arctic Sea Ice blog and AMEG.

Neither of these blogs is populated by the leading PhD (researcher) experts in these subjects.  Neven's blog is one of those rarities who posters have largely managed to investigate their subject area in a well reasoned manner.  While they go out on speculative limbs far more than a published expert would be willing to do they control themselves with reasoned polite feedback.  The are not  top of the line experts and do not sell themselves as such.  However they do good enough work that they are paid attention to by those who are doing the leading edge work.  They have earned respect and some credibility.

AMEG however is held in some distain and contempt by the leading researchers in that subject area.  That should tell you something.  I, who an no great shakes as a scientist or mathematician, have looked at postings there and found serious flaws.  I find the site to have little value in adding to my understanding of the subject.

As to who is correct on when real collapse kicks in time will tell.  If I am right I will be long gone by then so you won't have to hear me tell you I told you so.  If your right I'll be around and you can have what satisfaction it gives you.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Shared Humanity

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #104 on: April 11, 2013, 07:20:38 PM »
It is certainly valid to criticize opinions that are not backed up with research. I thought a link to the most recent (2012) research by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) might help inform this discussion.

http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/161819/icode/

It estimates that 870 million people or 12.3 % of the world population are "food insecure". The U.N. definition of food insecurity is when a person suffers from "chronic undernourishment". An estimated 66 million died from malnutrition in 2012. These current numbers are occurring in the face of fully functioning markets, substantial efforts on the part of wealthy nations to eliminate hunger and minimal impact on global agriculture by AGW.

While I would prefer to maintain an optimistic outlook (I sleep better when I can do this), it is difficult for me to imagine that these numbers won't get worse when the impacts of AGW really start to kick in.

I know there are those who argue that global agriculture will benefit from AGW. I do not count myself among those who subscribe to this. I think they are whistling past the graveyard.

As a businessman, I would like to believe that the markets (the invisible hand of Adam Smith) will overcome the challenges presented by AGW but markets are often inefficient and always amoral. After all, where is the profit in providing food to those who cannot afford it.

Well, certainly the wealthy nations will step in to prevent the approaching calamity. As was clearly demonstrated by Russia's response to a poor harvest, wealthy nations will lose the will to help others when it imposes a hardship on its citizens.

But science has always found a way. Our brightest scientists who are doing breakthrough research will certainly mitigate or eliminate entirely this problem. Hell, it's science that has gotten us in this dilemma in the first place.

Since I would like to remain gleefully optimistic, for those on this thread who are, could you please direct me to the research to support such optimism?
« Last Edit: April 12, 2013, 01:52:55 AM by Shared Humanity »

Shared Humanity

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #105 on: April 11, 2013, 08:04:55 PM »
Jim D, you talk a lot of sense. But there are some points where I take issue. While the prosperous west will be insulated from fluctuations in land fertility and food prices, that won't be the case everywhere.  In the rich west we can afford to import food to make up for a poor harvest. But bad weather and poor harvests have the power to impoverish people on marginal lands, and they will either migrate or starve. We neglect them at their peril, and ours.

The peril you speak of is a common concern and definitely something that will occur. Humans are hardwired in our DNA to respond to threats and countless times our ancestors came into conflict with other humans (and animals) over scare resources.  Our response has always been violence and not reasoned cooperation.

The rich and powerful will not share equitably nor will they give up their advantages except in death. So what is most likely to happen when the poor and downtrodden run out of resources and want us to share ours?  Violence, both overt and by neglect.  The rich and powerful (whether countries, corporations or individuals) are already locking down essential resources pending this coming conflict.  Look for example to the world wide rush to control arable land.  China and India are locking up land in Africa by leveraging corrupt local governments to cede them control of land currently in the hands of the poor citizens of those countries.  They will not give it back unless they lose control by violence.  The wealthy and corporations are buying large amounts of farmland all over the world as well.  Especially in the Americas.  they do not intend to relinquish this control and will take steps to protect their interests. Are they going to give up what they have to people they do not know?  Are they going to give up (in the case of the USA) 80% of their lifestyle for someone in Africa? As the old quote goes, "Civilization is 3 meals deep."


But the scenario you describe will not precipitate general collapse in any case as you are talking about the poorest and least powerful in our global community.  It sounds cruel, but these areas are largely places where the rich and powerful come to obtain resources as needed.  And they will continue to take what they need until it is gone.  The local inhabitants are not one of their concerns.  Mass starvation in many parts of the world would have no substantial impact on how the rest of the world functioned.  Civilizational collapse comes when the rich and powerful can no longer obtain the resources to maintain themselves.

Jim....I really appreciate your description regarding human behavior. I think it a plausible argument for why conflict is such a resilient feature in human history. I believe that all modern wars are essentially economic in nature, a battle for resources.

Having said this, your description of how you believe it will play out seems naive and replete with cognitive dissonance.

"Civilization is 3 meals deep."

It certainly is. Why, then, would you think that a people faced with mass starvation will honor the rules of civilization and respect a deed of ownership of agricultural land in their nation? Any nation that thinks they will be able to import food stuffs from a nation that is starving because they own the land or have some useless currency (an artifact of civilization) is foolish. In fact, don't expect to import anything from such a nation, including oil. Attempts to do this will get you killed. While a wealthy nation may have an impressive military, there is no force, short of total genocide that will keep those exports flowing.

As for the wealthy individual...they will discover they can be brought down by a single bullet, just like any of the hundreds of millions of starving people. The only difference will be they may find themselves on the menu.

"Mass starvation in many parts of the world would have no substantial impact on how the rest of the world functioned."

Ludicrous! Mass starvation in any part of the world will create a space where no assumptions held by civilization will be tenable. The U.S. or any other wealthy nation cannot reasonably expect to have access to any of the resources in any area of the world where mass starvation is a reality, not simply foodstuffs but any resource.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2013, 05:45:08 PM by Shared Humanity »

SteveMDFP

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #106 on: April 12, 2013, 02:49:40 AM »
As I've said upthread, I'm with the more optimistic few on this thread.  There is a high likelihood of significant starvation events in countries that are already poor and net food importers.  But not mass starvation in developed nations unless we really screw the pooch and go to a +6C world.

I'm a little skeptical about that graphene desalination filter - I'll have to do more reading to see how that's really supposed to work, but the news article must have something wrong.   Taken at face value, it's saying that water molecules are smaller than salt ... but salt dissolved in water is separate Na+ and Cl- ions.  I looked up the ionic radii of those and they're 116 and 167 respectively.  Water has a molecular diameter of 275 or 320, depending on how you weight the charge distribution.  (All of those in picometers.)  So while there may be some way for graphene to act as a salt filter, there's more to it than the news article explains.

Well, the graphene membrane for reverse osmosis may well be a major advance.  You're right, I think, about ionic radii--in a vacuum.  In water, each ion is surrounded by a spherical arrangement of polar H2O molecules.  Confronted with a sufficiently small pore, solo water molecules will get through and ions will stay on the salty side.

So far, nothing new in this.  Reverse osmosis has been around for a long time for desalination.  It seems the energy and pressures needed depend on the *thickness* of the membrane.  Graphene, being at about the theoretical limit for a membrane, would seem to be ideal.  This *might* be a just-in-the-nick-of-time advance, to make water for agriculture cheap/plentiful around the world.  Let's hope, anyway.

ggelsrinc

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #107 on: April 12, 2013, 04:23:22 AM »
JimD-

Quote
Hi Anne.  This is my 3rd attempt to respond (my responses keep getting eaten).  This one will be shorter as I am running out of time.  Sorry if it seems a little rushed and incomplete.

If you make a long response on a forum and don't set yourself to stay logged in, your responses can find themselves floating alone in cyberspace and won't be posted. It's happened to me so often, particularly if I've just started with a site that I have a habit of copying my long responses to safeguard them from being lost. I don't think you would have a problem here if you set it up to remain logged in and you only have to search the options when you log in to find out how. This site will keep you logged in even if you are off of it for awhile, but some sites will time you off if you are away long enough. I would check how you are logged in if you dump your cookies, though. It is frustrating to lose a long detailed post. It's also possible to lose a post in cyberspace with an interruption of internet connectivity, so I'll copy the long ones and blame myself if I lose them, like when my service provider is doing maintenance or the server is backing up. It's safe stored as long as your computer is on, if it's copied, even if you lose connectivity and have to log back into a site. Always copying a first post for a site is a good rule.

I hope that helps.

I had a hard time posting this, so something could be happening. Luckily, I copied it.

ccgwebmaster

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #108 on: April 12, 2013, 05:22:38 AM »
In any case.  My basic point before is that the world is not ending tomorrow and that the proper response is to first do the right thing yourself and then try and influence others to make a difference.  Who knows, we might surprise ourselves and overcome our past and end up mitigating/adapting enough to not toast the whole enchilada.
I don't think I (even as an outlier on the doom mongering end of the spectrum) made any claims for the "world" to end tomorrow.

I don't think you entirely addressed my arguments in your analysis though - particularly the positive feedback dynamics likely to exist in the human world - and in relation to the fundamentally serious nature of the Arctic change.

I can't take anyone seriously who says "decades" until collapse unless they can explain precisely what effects they expect from the Arctic positive feedback over only coming years (never mind decades!). It is very tempting to assume a linear world view extrapolating from the experience you have of life and history - and I consider that to be a very flawed approach given the changes now occurring in the earth system.

It is easy to examine single connections within the system - and say - no immediate serious threat - but one must try to consider all the interconnections and potentials for unhelpful synergies within the system, is my feeling.

Let's at least be clear, I'm only sticking with a worldview that says it is possible for a near future collapse of civilisation. That isn't the same thing as extinction for our species or mass extinction across all species (though I suspect we may see these threat grow as the century unfolds inasmuch as there is plenty of running in this process yet to do).

Additionally, it's a probable worst case scenario. I argue for the precautionary principle. I don't smoke, because I know there is a risk of getting lung cancer (actually, also because it's expensive and I can't waste money like that). In other words - I believe in proactively trying to avoid threat even before it necessarily becomes reality. Alternatively you can assume that you probably won't get lung cancer, at least not for however many decades - and smoke anyway.

Which is more prudent? And even if the threat were decades away and not years what does it change? Does it make it OK for you to settle back into a comfortable slumber telling younger people "at least it won't be in my lifetime"? Easier to justify inaction by telling people you're sure those smart scientists will work out some miracle answer? How many decades has this already happened over!?

It's also clear to me that the rate of change that has already occurred in the earth system is already pretty dramatic. I remember only 5 years ago, people were talking almost entirely about late century dates for loss of Arctic ice. Now we can have debates about less than half a decade without being classified insane. Do we realise how much has changed even in just 5 years? And the magic words: positive feedback.

My most basic argument is that civilisation is set to face an imminent shock that it hasn't been presented with since at least the Younger Dryas, and that far milder climatic shocks were sufficient to topple numerous ancient civilisations of much greater longevity and self sufficiency (no - or much less - global interconnections).

Where is the room for complacency? I'm sure the Mayans stood around telling each other the rain would be back soon...

fred

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #109 on: April 12, 2013, 11:01:43 AM »
Fred,

There is a big difference between Neven's Arctic Sea Ice blog and AMEG.

Neither of these blogs is populated by the leading PhD (researcher) experts in these subjects.  Neven's blog is one of those rarities who posters have largely managed to investigate their subject area in a well reasoned manner.  While they go out on speculative limbs far more than a published expert would be willing to do they control themselves with reasoned polite feedback.  The are not  top of the line experts and do not sell themselves as such.  However they do good enough work that they are paid attention to by those who are doing the leading edge work.  They have earned respect and some credibility.

AMEG however is held in some distain and contempt by the leading researchers in that subject area.  That should tell you something.  I, who an no great shakes as a scientist or mathematician, have looked at postings there and found serious flaws.  I find the site to have little value in adding to my understanding of the subject.

As to who is correct on when real collapse kicks in time will tell.  If I am right I will be long gone by then so you won't have to hear me tell you I told you so.  If your right I'll be around and you can have what satisfaction it gives you.

I would have no satisfaction for any bad result so that whole paragraph wasn't even worth writing.

My point was that there are NO scientists who are willing to come out and say that collapse, etc won't happen in the next 10 years. You were wrong to imply that there were. You were doubly wrong to take the superior tone of voice about people who think imminent danger is here.

Scientists in this field, of whom I am not (at least in this field), write papers that are about 95% certainty. Thus: we can say within 95% certainty that the oceans will rise one meter in the next 100 years.

That is an essentially useless statement and the lack of data doesn't imply that the oceans won't rise 1 meter within 20 years. I realize there is a statistical way to get the likelyhood within 20 years from the same dataset. And I am sure that any scientist who calculates 95% also calculates 10, 20 50, etc percent even if they don't publish those figures. So maybe it is possible to extrapolate that scientists are not alarmed based on this fact. However that line of reasoning has any number of weak spots.

Maybe you are right about AMEG, I don't know anything about them. They sprang to mind because they are in the news, one of the few bright spots in public awareness. But your whole post about the blogs makes no sense. You said nothing except that the average blogger on Nevin's site and here are polite.

So I repeat, find a single scientist who is willing to state on record that we are not in deep emergency doo doo, to express it scientifically. Otherwise, concede that your whole 'tone of reason' post is hypocritical.

fred

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #110 on: April 12, 2013, 11:06:20 AM »
As I've said upthread, I'm with the more optimistic few on this thread.  There is a high likelihood of significant starvation events in countries that are already poor and net food importers.  But not mass starvation in developed nations unless we really screw the pooch and go to a +6C world.

I'm a little skeptical about that graphene desalination filter - I'll have to do more reading to see how that's really supposed to work, but the news article must have something wrong.   Taken at face value, it's saying that water molecules are smaller than salt ... but salt dissolved in water is separate Na+ and Cl- ions.  I looked up the ionic radii of those and they're 116 and 167 respectively.  Water has a molecular diameter of 275 or 320, depending on how you weight the charge distribution.  (All of those in picometers.)  So while there may be some way for graphene to act as a salt filter, there's more to it than the news article explains.

Well, the graphene membrane for reverse osmosis may well be a major advance.  You're right, I think, about ionic radii--in a vacuum.  In water, each ion is surrounded by a spherical arrangement of polar H2O molecules.  Confronted with a sufficiently small pore, solo water molecules will get through and ions will stay on the salty side.

So far, nothing new in this.  Reverse osmosis has been around for a long time for desalination.  It seems the energy and pressures needed depend on the *thickness* of the membrane.  Graphene, being at about the theoretical limit for a membrane, would seem to be ideal.  This *might* be a just-in-the-nick-of-time advance, to make water for agriculture cheap/plentiful around the world.  Let's hope, anyway.

Have they actually produced graphene sheets in any useable dimension? Serious question, I mean useable in the very subjective sense of finding a way to make graphene useable commercially even if that useable dimension is very very small.

JimD

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #111 on: April 13, 2013, 09:42:09 PM »
My point about being polite in discourse is that it facilitates discussion and raises the chance of someone listening to what you are trying to say.  It is very difficult in blog settings to write in a manner that makes what one is saying perfectly clear.  There is a tendency when folks are not face to face to draw the wrong conclusions about what the intent of a comment is or whether the commenter is being arrogant, condescending, insulting or whatever.  This, of course, happens all the time in face to face conversations as well, but with somewhat less frequency.  And misunderstandings are easier to fix in a personal setting.  Going negative by insulting someone, questioning their motivations, etc. can never solve an argument and usually forces the participants into a mind set that makes it impossible to communicate further.  I am much better at it now than I was 40 years ago and I am sure I can improve further.  Let me try again.


I have not called anyone out by name for their opinions on purpose as an attempt to avoid ruffled feathers.  When one makes a extraordinary claim, or supports someone else's claim, the burden of proof or evidence is not on the person who questions the claim.  It is on the person who makes the claim.  Those in the blogosphere who are making statements about significant climate, ecosystem or civilizational collapse in the next 20 years need, IMHO, to provide a much more logical, reasoned, fact based argument.  The reason I say this is that (like many others) I spend a lot of time studying these issues with all the rigor that I am capable of.  It seems out of fashion, but I actually take people like Gavin Schmidt at their word when they provide their professional opinion.  The near 100% of the physicists who are the professional experts on the subject of climate change are not making claims or indicating that the kind of collapse we are talking about is at all likely in the next generation. Likelyhood increases dramatically looking out towards mid-century and seems pretty likely circa 2100.  Now I know that we are talking about their professional public opinions and that many of them feel a strong responsibility not to exaggerate and maybe even to error on the conservative side.  This concerns many and they immediately assume things are worse than is being stated.  But I question the validity of this kind of skepticism.  Many of the gifted amateurs working these issues are on personal relation terms with many of those professional experts.  They have private conversations with them and I am pretty certain that if those professional experts were privately convinced that we are on the cusp of collapse inside of 20 years the existence of those opinions would have been leaking out all over the place.  The seeming consensus of their opinions at this time could be stated that they believe that serious events will start unfolding 20+ years out and we will be up the proverbial creek by the end of the century.  And that they are not optimistic that the global 'we' will get our act together and try and mitigate the damage we are doing for many years yet and that by the time we do we will not be able to avert most of the consequences of our actions. 


Trust is always a tough issue at any time.  In our current global and economic circumstances achieving it will be especially difficult.  If we cannot trust the experts and take action based upon their recommendations we will fail.  In my professional career I many times put my life in the hands of experts who knew more than I did and, on occasion, folks put their lives in my hands.  But we knew each other and had built a level of trust in each others ability and commitment.  I do not believe it is within the scope of human nature to give that kind of trust to strangers.  Therefore I do not believe that civilization will act in the interests of what is best for everyone, but rather various actors will take actions that seem best suited to take care of what they personally value.  This, in our present situation, is a recipe for disaster.  I fully expect disaster.


Another point related to one of the above comments.  I see blowback in relation to my comments about what the rich and powerful (whether they be states, corporations or individuals) will do when the effects of collapse progress to the point that the poor and weak can no longer be accommodated.  Having witnessed first hand the effects of power and being somewhat of a student of history I just come to a different conclusion on what will happen.  I have no doubt that, when the time comes that there is not enough to go around, that the weak and defenseless will be cut off.  And I think it is delusional to think that they will be able to do much about it.  We live in a nice civilized world right now (generally) and most of us commenting on these blogs are members of states who are in general pretty well off and have no knowledge or experience with the worst capabilities of human nature.  Our countries have done a lot over the years to superficially help those in need but we have never worried about their real welfare unless there was profit motive in it.  Most of our actions over the last 200 years have been oriented towards draining as much of their natural wealth out of their hands into ours.  This is what empires do to colonies.  They support themselves by draining the resources from the periphery to the center.  I see no reason why that will not continue.  China and India will not give back the farm land they are putting under their control in Africa and they will be more than capable of doing what it takes to keep control.  Those displaced by such practices will just not have the wealth and power to oppose them.  The leaders of the various countries who have ceded control of these lands are in bed with those who have the money and are looking out for themselves.  They will help control their own populace.  And so on for any kind of natural resources all over the world.  Some commenters think that when it gets really tough in the poor areas that the locals will pick up their guns and chase off the colonial powers.  I think not.  First they do not actually have any significant amount of military hardware to challenge state level interests, they can be played off against each other, they will be progressively weakened over time by all of the effects of collapse so when they do start to resist they will be doing so from a much weaker position.  And most importantly, the situation coming is going to be a zero sum game.  There seems to be general agreement that a global reduction in population to around 1-2 billion is a likely occurrence.  The powerful are not ignorant of this and they will not be short of those wanting to join them to be on the side of the survivors.  Because most of us have grown up in such a benign world we are not able to visualize what 'we' are actually capable of doing.  The weak will not stand a chance.  Those left standing when the dust settles from this giant population reduction are going to be the surviving powerful entities and those who threw their lot in with them.  This is the way it has always worked in the past.  And with the technology we have today and the motivation we will likely have in the future I see no moral limit that will not be exceeded should it be deemed necessary.    'We' are capable of unspeakable crimes.



One of the ways I look at the above situation is to examine my fellow citizens (I am an American).  Would they give up at least 80% of their lifestyle and our vast control of resources in order to allow others to have a much higher standard of living?  (the US has approx. 4% of the worlds population and uses over 20% of the worlds resources).  Would the Europeans give up what they have and control?  Even if the entire populations of the rich countries fully understood the level of collapse we are talking about here is there any chance that they would willingly relinquish the advantage they currently have in order to give everyone an equal chance?   In the face of such a threat would any of you willingly give up the advantage you currently have?  Honestly?  Almost no one will when it comes down to it.     


I don't intend to give the impression that I think we should just sit back and do nothing.  I think 'we' should be well into the process of a total overhaul of global civilization.  But we are not and are not going to any time soon no matter how much I would like it to be the case.  If you know how to make it happen then you have a moral obligation and duty to take action.  Let me know what your solution is and if I think it has promise I will help you.  I just have no idea how to fix things.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #113 on: April 14, 2013, 11:05:01 AM »
@JimD

Long post, let me condense:

"I don't trust people who think disaster is right around the corner (w/i 10 years) because some experts may have privately not said anything to amateurs."

I think if you were to start doing an article analysis on experts publicly stated opinions, you would find that as the effects have accelerated, there has been a huge shift in recent years about how bad and how quick the situation will change. Until you can find some scientist saying that the short term isn't a problem, I would have to say you are blowing smoke. I find many more amateur comments of the ilk: "I spoke to so and so and their fear is causing auto-defecation."

However, I leave it to you find contrary comments since those seem to have registered with you while the reverse registers with me.

I didn't read the rest of your post since i assumed it was pointless.


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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #114 on: April 14, 2013, 08:03:19 PM »
@JimD

Long post, let me condense:

"I don't trust people who think disaster is right around the corner (w/i 10 years) because some experts may have privately not said anything to amateurs."

I think if you were to start doing an article analysis on experts publicly stated opinions, you would find that as the effects have accelerated, there has been a huge shift in recent years about how bad and how quick the situation will change. Until you can find some scientist saying that the short term isn't a problem, I would have to say you are blowing smoke. I find many more amateur comments of the ilk: "I spoke to so and so and their fear is causing auto-defecation."

However, I leave it to you find contrary comments since those seem to have registered with you while the reverse registers with me.

I didn't read the rest of your post since i assumed it was pointless.
Way I see it, Pascal's wager applies somewhat too.

If it were imminent, preparing now is the only prudent course of action.

If it were imminent, failing to plan for decades is guaranteed failure.

If collapse were in fact decades away, you just waste a bit of time and effort preparing now (and can prepare a lot better ultimately!).

If it were decades away and you want to wait decades to do something about it, fine. Clearly one doesn't value the future or those who must inhabit it enough to do something today in that case? (since most of these events are now likely inevitable at some point)

To reiterate, my basic arguments, greatly condensed:
- the changes in the Arctic represent an absolutely fundamental change in the way the earth system operates in terms of human experience, I would argue the worst climatic shock for at least since the Younger Dryas, and these changes are proceeding rapidly now on a timescale of years
- multiple ancient civilisations of much greater longevity and self sufficiency were wiped out by much milder climatic shocks
- modern civilisation is fundamentally predicated upon the coherent operation of the globalised economy, supply chains are international and almost every region depends upon a significant proportion of the rest of the world to continue to operate, I argue that this introduces a substantial vulnerability (notwithstanding the theoretical ability of said system to move commodities and resources around to buffer smaller shocks, at least when money is involved)

Even to explain why it is so certain civilisation can continue to operate just for the next five years requires a certain amount of accounting for why we can rule out significant impacts on agriculture from the changes in the Arctic that I can see (I would again emphasise both the positive feedback aspect, and also the significance of the changes as I see them).

Explaining how it can continue to operate for decades I would argue requires a whole host of other issues to also be addressed!

The precautionary principle alone demands action now, not "in decades" - we've had that f-ing refrain circulating for decades already, thank you very much. "We have decades" is a clarion call to inaction; expect no respect from younger people for voicing it - and no sympathy if wrong.
</rant>

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #115 on: April 14, 2013, 08:22:12 PM »
I don't intend to give the impression that I think we should just sit back and do nothing.  I think 'we' should be well into the process of a total overhaul of global civilization.  But we are not and are not going to any time soon no matter how much I would like it to be the case.  If you know how to make it happen then you have a moral obligation and duty to take action.  Let me know what your solution is and if I think it has promise I will help you.  I just have no idea how to fix things.
In the absence of any clear plan or strategy likely to fix the existing system I argue in favour of preparing for collapse. If the widespread inaction of today persists right to the end - we create virtually no safety net at all for children, grandchildren and an arbitrary number of generations into the future to collapse down to. If there are only a few individuals and tiny groups working on this safety net - we'll be lucky to end up living back in the stone ages (and I do mean lucky, even stone age peoples knew more and could do more than most people realise today).

If more people took this concept seriously - there would be more manpower, resources, skills, experience - and opportunity for some individuals to retain more specialised knowledge secure in the knowledge a wider community meets their other needs. We could try and build a safety net with a somewhat higher bar than the stone age, perhaps.

The haphazard way human discovery and invention has proceeded for most of our history means that if we lose basic technologies and crash down a long way it could take millenia to rediscover even a fraction of them. That's before you even consider that we probably can't be entirely sure of our ability to construct any stable civilisation once we're so far removed from the nice stable Holocene period that (mostly) nurtured them. I'd like to see a better future for our species than little groups of hunter gatherers roaming around for tens of thousands of years and more as our ancestors largely appear to have (one hopes retaining agriculture is at least doable, as it is arguably the foundation of being able to construct settlements and all the attendant benefits thereof). Ancient civilisations at least had the benefit of a planet with a favourable climate.

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #116 on: April 14, 2013, 10:14:43 PM »
ccg

re: Pascal's Wager.  I agree on a personal level and have done much along those lines myself.   I have been an environmentalist for over 40 years, I have produced many hundreds of man-years of organically grown food, I have always lived an austere lifestyle (by American standards I admit) and I fit the definition of a prep'er to a great extent.  I annoy almost everyone I know with endless conversation about how bad we are screwing things up and that we desperately need to do something about stopping the insanity. I have been oriented towards developing many old fashioned hand skills all my life as has my wife of 30+ years.  Long before I ever heard of global warming or peak oil or read the writings of those like John Geer I had come to the conclusion that we were going to have a civilizational  collapse sometime in the future.  I must admit that when I first came to this conclusion I thought it would take about 20 years to happen.  That time passed us by about 20 years ago.  I have thought about that a lot and it definitely colors how I look at things.  The system is far less fragile than I and many others thought.  I still think it is mush more resilient than many assume (further comments on that below).  So I do agree with what you are saying on a personal level.

Where we diverge (and perhaps we do not) is when we start taking about the global 'we'.  I do not believe that mankind, as a group, is capable of acting on a long-term threat.  Especially one of this magnitude.  I don't see evidence in history of such an ability nor does that ability seem to exist in our nature as I spoke about before.  Hopefully I am wrong and time will definitely answer that question.  Civilization is like a large supertanker.  It can turn but not quickly or gracefully and unlike a ship it has no captain steering it.  So no pirouettes or backflips are going to happen.  When the population starts to panic is when real change will happen and we will try and deal with AGW.  Only then.

Some thoughts on why I think serious collapse is some time off (accepting as a given that we are already in the decline mode and that there is obvious deterioration occurring).


Food production.  This is something that I know a fair amount about to include the production, biological and industrial aspects.  The bottom line is that as long as there is access to vast amounts of fossil fuel we will be able to maintain vast amounts of food production.  Now I agree that as the climate destabilizes there will come a time when food production will fall below levels needed to support 8-9 billion people.  But there will be a winnowing of consumers triggered by their lack of ability to afford food long before we lose the capability to grow enough food for everyone actually occurs (a totally different issue).  Even with an ice free arctic in the summer, and the resulting impacts on global weather, we will be able to maintain production due to that access to fossil fuel and our industrial capabilities.  In North America alone there are tens of millions of acres that are arable that are not being used for human food production that can be pressed into service.  There are huge tracts of land in the process of being put into production around the world right now (and yes we will pay a steep price for having taken that approach later this century).  We always have the option of converting the acreage devoted to growing feed for the CAFO operations back to direct human food production. As always people can also take up personal gardening in their yards (contrary to what Jim Kunstler says, this offsets much of the disadvantages of living in suburbia for many tens of millions). The industrial ag machine is not resting and, as much as many of us hate it, they are going to continue to develop technologies, GMO and new chemicals to maintain BAU.  This subject is endless and I won't continue further unless you have specific items you want to discuss.

Energy:  Even giving that we are plateaued on crude oil production (that is we have already reached Peak Oil) our industrial capabilities have managed to substitute fuels derived from shale gas/oil formations and the tar sands of Canada to actually increase global production beyond the peak of crude production.  There are limits to the production of these additional supplies as well and a significant drop-off in production of liquid fuels is inevitable.  But, as with food production, there is such huge slack in the system that collapse will not be precipitated for a long time.  If the US alone proceeded to focus on fuel efficiency as a primary goal that would extend out many years the day of reckoning.  It is a certainty that we have no need at all for further fossil fuel exploration as we already know where there is far more fossil fuel than we ever dare burn.  So we are not going to run out of them before climate change rolls over us.

Between the ability to produce vast amounts of food and the continuing access to vast amounts of fossil fuel there is a continuing opportunity for civilization to try and maintain some significant version of BAU for a long time.  My reading and understanding of the climate change situation leads me to the conclusion that it will not overcome food production capability until near mid-century.  Population and food production are inextricably intertwined.  Major collapse starts when food production fails and population starts to decline fast.  Just my opinion.  This does not mean that any kind of collapse starts then.  It has already started by any meaningful measure, but rather that timeframe is about when I think there will no longer be any way not to have one of those big stair step downs that Geer talks about in his books.  A difference I have with him is that I think when that happens we drop a long ways for a large majority of the people (most of whom will not survive) and much less for the rich and powerful who have prepared ahead of time.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

gfwellman

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #117 on: April 15, 2013, 01:18:15 AM »
Jim - a very cogent analysis.  I agree that mid-century is roughly when we start to have a serious population vs food problem.  Not coincidentally, the updated "Limits to Growth" (and for that matter, the original from the early 70s) also predict mid-century as when something "collapse-like" becomes obvious.

I assume by John Geer you mean John Michael Greer?  I think he's a brilliant guy who's really got his finger on the pulse of the world, but I have quibbles with some of the details, as it sounds you do too.

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #118 on: April 15, 2013, 05:15:32 AM »
To me it's a matter of personal opinion and science. My assessment is the world isn't going to fall apart and that assessment is based on science. I don't see civilizations as fragile as others do and I've studied enough economics to know it's an advantage for a country to export resources and everything is a resource. I see how the Earth has heated before during interglacials and there weren't massive methane clathrate leaks. It looks to me like there were times of rapid methane increases in the past interglacials, but it isn't near as bad as what we have already done by drilling. If there is massive amounts of carbon stored under permafrost, it would have to have come from peat growing when the permafrost melted around the latest thermal maximum. Instead of letting it rot and form methane, put some acid on it and get the peat growing again to make it's own acid that prohibits bacteria growth.

The problem I see is there is a risk to the Earth involved because this rate of change is more rapid than the past. My opinion is why take any risk to the Earth, even if it's a very small risk.

Getting energy from Thorium MSRs is not some pie in the sky idea. It isn't some wild idea like fusion is going to come along and solve all our energy problems. Several countries have shown interest and if a program involved an intensive world effort, it could be done rather quickly. We have nuclear reactors using reverse osmosis for cooling water and there are nuclear reactors to desalinate water in the Middle East. It takes a few years of development to commercialized production from the lab to the market, so graphene is a way to increase energy efficiency. Wind and solar are limited to certain areas. I think grid storage using sodium sulfur batteries is a good idea and they've been built for mass storage of wind turbines. They could set up areas with many units and rebuild the batteries on site as they lose their efficiency. The cheapest solar presently uses cadmium telluride panels, but tellurium is just a metal byproduct that never had a use, so it's cheap. No one has ever intentionally tried to mine it, so how much can that change the cost?  We may have to develop some other type of solar panels like thin film silicon from materials that are more abundant and we need to find large sources of lithium to supply the world for electric transportation. There are problems that need to be solved, so why pissy-foot around about it? That kind of development needs governments to take the chances to develop those markets, because why would a business risk so much money without some insurances that it will be profitable? The free market didn't develop commercial nuclear reactors. The first two types of commercial nuclear reactor designs were developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) with Alvin Weinberg as director.

Quote
TWO-FLUID MOLTEN-SALT BREEDER REACTOR DESIGN STUDY (STATUS AS OF JANUARY 1, 1968)

Source: http://www.osti.gov/energycitations/purl.cover.jsp?purl=/4093364-qQG01M/4093364.pdf

When the world has problems, it's time for the people of the world to work together and solve those problems. The design problems in that report are small and just require a few bugs to be worked out. The biggest problem in the design of thorium MSRs, from a government's point of view, is the reactors aren't good for making nuclear weapons.

Global warming is a very popular topic on political sites and I've never seen people proposing doomsday as a reality, so no one except Denialistas get bent out of shape by considering the potential for severe consequences a risk. I've heard Denialistas accuse Warmists of claiming the sky is falling, but just considered it more of their lies. 
 

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #119 on: April 15, 2013, 07:08:40 AM »
JimD


You've obviously put a lot more thought & effort into this than I, but I still have visions not so much of an imminent global food shortage, but rather of region specific food shortages due to transportation problems.


The Somali pirates have managed to disrupt a very important transportation route at a time of global plenty. When things get a little further out of kilter, and local governments fail, isn't it possible that similar groups may disrupt other areas, at least to the point where transportation costs increase dramatically?


Locally we have large farms growing ginseng for Chinese consumption while we import Chinese grown garlic. I don't understand the economics, but can see that without cheap transportation  we could end up huge warehouses full of unwanted ginseng, while our pizza's lacked a certain flavor & aroma.


I realize that garlic and ginseng aren't terribly important, but so much of our food is now reliant on global markets that any disruption of these markets will result in foods rotting on the docks while others starve.


Terry

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #120 on: April 15, 2013, 07:56:51 AM »
You've obviously put a lot more thought & effort into this than I, but I still have visions not so much of an imminent global food shortage, but rather of region specific food shortages due to transportation problems.
I feel it's worth noting food is a relatively inelastic commodity (people literally have to have it) so prices rise rather rapidly even in a fairly mild shortage scenario. The Arab spring gave us a gentle foretaste of the potential for social disruption at the regional level in relation to rising prices. It also brought us pretty close to not having enough oil flowing at one point - another inelastic commodity and precious little margin to play with there too.

Regarding import and export some crazy stuff goes on. I seem to recall reading once that the UK imports and exports roughly equal amounts of gingerbread...

Plus global trade moves a lot more than food around - raw materials and manufactured output for instance. Different raw materials tend to be predominantly sourced from specific regions, depending how relatively abundant and widely distributed they are.

I'm at risk of just restating my previous arguments now though, so I should shut up and get on with making my bet (so to speak).

It isn't so many years before everyone can tell me they told me so, eh?

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #121 on: April 15, 2013, 03:36:33 PM »
@JimD

Do you hear yourself?: "But there will be a winnowing of consumers triggered by their lack of ability to afford food long before we lose the capability to grow enough food for everyone actually occurs (a totally different issue). "

Uh, so it isn't a disaster for you, short term, nice to know. Sad about the rest of effing us.

Freak.

fishmahboi

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #122 on: April 15, 2013, 05:06:24 PM »
Just to put another doomsday theory on the table with, at least I think, regards global warming.

http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?134268-When-and-how-bad&p=3061003#post3061003

Quote
In my last post, I mentioned the large pool of mantle water, about the size of the arctic ocean, that was found under Asia. It is interesting to paint a doom and gloom scenario, as to what would happen if the crust was suddenly breached and this huge volume of high pressure and high temperature water begins to enter the surface of the earth.

Water, at the conditions of the mantle, would be something between super critical water (suer dense fluid) and super ionic water (solid). Super ionic water is especially nasty, if subject to a pressure drop. It will explode like TNT, changing phase into super critical water. If a leak started, and super ionic water gets entrained and depressurized, it could blow a hole in the crust. While super critical water would dissolve the remaining crust until geysers of super heat water appears.

Picture that Arctic ocean volume of super critical mantle water, leaking up from the ocean floor. As the billions and billions of gallons of super critical water head toward the surface, it will cool and pressure drop and then phase change into high pressure steam. The ocean near the breach, would bubble up with pulses of steam/water causing the ocean to heat up quickly. This massive bubbling action would become something similar to a massive tidal wave generator. There would be one tidal wave after another, as mantle water and steam displace the ocean water. Picture blowing air into a glass of water and the water lifting and falling in a cycle fashion. As it rises and falls, huge waves flow in all directions.

As the breach grows, due to supercritical water eating away and dissolving the crust, the rate of steam flow will begin to super heat the local ocean and start to enter the atmosphere as huge plumes of steam. The steam would rise to levels where clouds are rarely found because of the heating of the atmosphere above the breach. Depending on who long this happens, it could cause the entire earth to be covered with high and low level clouds. The local result could be a tornado and hurricane generator. The super sonic updrafts of steam would become sheared by the jet stream spinning off huge storms.

The tidal wave generator could go on for weeks, generating one pulse of waves after another, while the addition of the all the new ocean volume of water will totally alter the world's coastlines. At the same time, huge storms will spread out flooding the continents and carving out new rivers; grand canyons. Since the mantle is loosing so much volume, there will be a need to replace this as the crustal plates slide; huge earthquakes, as crust begins to sink.

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #123 on: April 15, 2013, 06:19:00 PM »
@JimD

Do you hear yourself?: "But there will be a winnowing of consumers triggered by their lack of ability to afford food long before we lose the capability to grow enough food for everyone actually occurs (a totally different issue). "

Uh, so it isn't a disaster for you, short term, nice to know. Sad about the rest of effing us.

Freak.
It also assumes said less fortunate consumers are willing to be "winnowed", as opposed to seizing what they need from those who still have it. I for one can't say it is morally worse for one man to seize what he truly needs by force than for another man to say he can't have it simply because he is poorer. Perhaps that's because I don't have the "dollar votes"* on my side though?

*With reference to section "The Origins of 2ºC – Neoclassical Economist Bill Nordhaus" from http://thebiggestlieevertold.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/part-1-expose-the-2%C2%BA-death-dance-%E2%80%93-the-1%C2%BA-cover-up/, the quote is Nordhaus, but I encountered it in an article about the dangers of 1C vs 2C

wili

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #124 on: April 15, 2013, 07:23:00 PM »
I haven't read all posts on this thread. But I think it is important to point out that major disruptions from GW are happening already regionally, and these can have major impacts beyond the the immediate region.

Russian wheat is an obvious example. The heat wave of 2010 that crashed wheat production levels and caused Russia to restrict export had a huge effect on Egypt and neighboring countries that import most of their wheat, much of it from Russia.

So one season's impact in one location arguably sparked revolutions in many countries far from the location. It is hard to see how this kind of scenario would nor occur more and more frequently with more and more severity in more and more areas.

So at what point do you call it a global crisis?

Probably at the point that you personally feel threatened, and that will happen to different people at different stages, depending on their location, circumstances, and dumb luck.

No one knows what exactly the effect of a virtually (or even nearly virtually) ice free Arctic Ocean in September will mean for global weather patterns and longer-term climate trends.

But they are almost certain to be disruptive, probably massively so, at least for some areas in the Northern Hemisphere.

In short, I expect the disruptions we have already seen to take a fairly sharp upward trend in the coming years (since I see essentially no chance of a long-term recovery of Arctic sea ice, or a near term end to GW and it's other consequences). When this will lead to, for example, global premature deaths rising so far that they greatly exceed global birth rates...that is harder to say, but it would not surprise me at all if it happened in the next few years.
"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."

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #125 on: April 15, 2013, 08:49:59 PM »
No one knows what exactly the effect of a virtually (or even nearly virtually) ice free Arctic Ocean in September will mean for global weather patterns and longer-term climate trends.
Let's not forget that the process of the changes in the Arctic doesn't end with the first ice free September minimum. The loss of albedo can continue in time as well as space. I would argue the effects will continue to become even more profound as the albedo is lost earlier and earlier in the season - as there is a lot more insolation available in the earlier summer months to really start ramping things up.

fishmahboi

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #126 on: April 15, 2013, 08:55:31 PM »
No one knows what exactly the effect of a virtually (or even nearly virtually) ice free Arctic Ocean in September will mean for global weather patterns and longer-term climate trends.
Let's not forget that the process of the changes in the Arctic doesn't end with the first ice free September minimum. The loss of albedo can continue in time as well as space. I would argue the effects will continue to become even more profound as the albedo is lost earlier and earlier in the season - as there is a lot more insolation available in the earlier summer months to really start ramping things up.

Heck, if you take the talks on the Arctic Ice Free thread into consideration then you can see that there is a risk of the ice melting this July depending on the conditions.

We really are heading into the known unknown once the Arctic Ice has melted completely, the direct effects unknown and the extent can only be speculated, but I would assume that they would overall be negative. The extent could range from minor disruptions causing huge problems in certain areas, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere, or major disruption that could effect everyone in the whole world.

JimD

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #127 on: April 15, 2013, 11:03:48 PM »
Hi Terry,

I have learned a lot from your posts these last couple of years.

If the buggers are going to mess with our pizza ingredients then we might have to break bad on them.  Some things are just too much to put up with!

Seriously though.  I expect that as time goes on the global nature of food supply and production will trend back towards what would have been familiar to us old guys 40-50 years ago before we globalized food distribution based upon access to very cheap energy.  In other words as transportation costs rise and political/military troubles increase we switch back to shipping only bulk commodities and resume seasonal food consumption based from local and relatively nearby sources.  No more grapes from Chile in the middle of winter flown in by 747's and other such things.  Everything available all the time is just a luxury and can be dispensed with as needed.  Re: your comment on garlic.  I used to grow a fair amount of gourmet garlics as they could be sold for a premium and thus were profitable.  Standard grocery store type garlic production is dominated by the Chinese right now do to their low cost of labor and it is impossible for any farm operation in the industrial countries to compete with their pricing unless you go high end machinery and large acreage's.  Not many chose to do that.  But it is easy stuff to grow and local production can always be increased when the circumstances call for it.

Re the Somali example you mentioned.  At this time the pirates are not capable of any significant impact and the militaries of the various countries who have been managing the problem have behaved very civilly.  I have alluded in my comments to what we are capable of in dire circumstances without going into gruesome detail and this is probably the reason why you and a couple of other commenter's are not clear on why I do not see a significant threat to powerful interests by things like that.  This blog is not the place for detailed discussions about such things as such discussions entail frank and explicit descriptions of how such conflicts can be straightforwardly solved.  They are tough serious discussions and some people are just horrified even with the idea that such discussions even take place. There are blogs out there that mull over things like that and, of course, all our governments have specialists who are expected to know everything there is to know about such things. It is probably obvious that I have spent some time in such discussions and thinking about this kind of stuff is not new to me.

A quick example about the Somalis to demonstrate what is feasible should the powerful decide that they will no longer operate under the current norms of moral behavior and are going to resort to the most cost effective solution.  One can, with some thought, take the same thought process to address almost any possible situation and find a solution (however ugly it might be).  I AM NOT advocating doing these kind of things but humans are quite capable of such actions as history has shown.  If the Somali pirates became a critical impediment to the supply of crude oil from the middle east and thus were a real threat to the continued viability of the states of North America and Europe one could solve the problem in 24-48 hours.  A couple of dozen long range heavy bombers drop onto a couple of dozen coastal communities along the Somali coast where pirates have been operating from with the targeting intended to cause maximum casualties.  A quite reminder to the survivors that should there be any more pirate activity that they could expect a return visit.   By the standards of today doing something like that would be a war crime.  But any student of history can point to equivalent actions by our ancestors.  When civilization goes so goes the rules.  And there are many other ways to effect a permanent solution to such a problem.   I'll leave it to your imagination to think of them (or not).  If you think about our technological capabilities, and how they can be used for ill purpose if we so choose to do so, it is possible for the powerful to effect almost any outcome they desire if they think that survival is dependent on such actions. 

Well that is it for me with such talk on this blog.  I am sure Neven is thinking about ending it by now.

Let's talk about the arctic some more.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

ggelsrinc

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #128 on: April 16, 2013, 01:43:17 AM »
No one knows what exactly the effect of a virtually (or even nearly virtually) ice free Arctic Ocean in September will mean for global weather patterns and longer-term climate trends.
Let's not forget that the process of the changes in the Arctic doesn't end with the first ice free September minimum. The loss of albedo can continue in time as well as space. I would argue the effects will continue to become even more profound as the albedo is lost earlier and earlier in the season - as there is a lot more insolation available in the earlier summer months to really start ramping things up.

Heck, if you take the talks on the Arctic Ice Free thread into consideration then you can see that there is a risk of the ice melting this July depending on the conditions.

We really are heading into the known unknown once the Arctic Ice has melted completely, the direct effects unknown and the extent can only be speculated, but I would assume that they would overall be negative. The extent could range from minor disruptions causing huge problems in certain areas, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere, or major disruption that could effect everyone in the whole world.

I don't understand this "particularly in the Southern Hemisphere" or how someone believes ice free conditions are possible in July without some external event like bolide impact. The oceans buffer temperature changes because water has a large heat capacity. Since the two hemispheres have different land/ocean ratios, you don't see changes in temperature happening as quickly in the Southern Hemisphere, consider Younger Dryas as an example. The end of July is three and a half months away and there is just too much ice to melt by then with the North America blocking transport out of the arctic. That area also has a lot of clouds during the melt season.

The Earth already has enough radiative forcing to melt the arctic sea ice; it's just the Earth hasn't had time to do it yet. I recall an article years back that said the permafrost line in Alaska was 90 km north. Last year the June Northern Hemisphere snow cover anomaly was 6 million square kilometers less. Tundra to taiga, treelines on mountains and glaciers don't change overnight, but there is plenty of evidence that enough radiative forcing is present and has been at work for many decades. Those things were different during the last Holocene Thermal Maximum, so they should change back to that in the next thermal maximum.


wili

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #129 on: April 16, 2013, 07:45:51 AM »
I kind of assumed that ccg meant "Northern Hemisphere," but I'll let him correct it if it was a typo.

"Those things were different during the last Holocene Thermal Maximum, so they should change back to that in the next thermal maximum."

Care to elaborate for those of us not up on the latest research on HTM? Last I looked, we just passed any temp records that were set over the entire Holocene. And we're on our way to much higher temps.

Again, none of us really knows what's coming down the pike as things spiral further out of any thing remotely resembling 'whack.' (What exactly does 'whack' refer to in the phrase 'out of whack,' one wonders.)

Here  in Minnesota, we are having the latest spring in memory of all but some of the oldest coggers such as yours truly. I thoroughly expect this to be followed soon by a truly scorching summer, then an even colder and longer winter. But who knows what our new planet, one without a mostly ice-covered for the first time in probably millions of years will yield us?

As someone pointed out (probably on this blog, but I forget who), the fluctuations between El Nino and La Nina--that have major influence on weather patterns around the world--only involve a slight shift in the temperature of one part of one ocean; we now have an entire new ocean on top of the world. How could that fundamental change not have very major impacts on the world's climactic system??

We are in unexplored, uncharted, and very warm waters here, and anyone who states confidently that it will not have major, immediate impacts on essentially everything...well, their prognostications are worth about as little or as much as mine, or as much as anyone else's bloviating on the net.
"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."

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #130 on: April 16, 2013, 08:46:41 AM »
I kind of assumed that ccg meant "Northern Hemisphere," but I'll let him correct it if it was a typo.
Wasn't me who said "southern hemisphere", I think you'll find...

One thing I do find abstractly interesting is that there are a few people prepared to accept that there is a risk of collapse within years - and a lot of people who believe it is decades away. I don't recall seeing anyone much pitching into the middle ground.

At times like that, I think of this:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15214080

fishmahboi

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #131 on: April 16, 2013, 08:59:12 AM »
No one knows what exactly the effect of a virtually (or even nearly virtually) ice free Arctic Ocean in September will mean for global weather patterns and longer-term climate trends.
Let's not forget that the process of the changes in the Arctic doesn't end with the first ice free September minimum. The loss of albedo can continue in time as well as space. I would argue the effects will continue to become even more profound as the albedo is lost earlier and earlier in the season - as there is a lot more insolation available in the earlier summer months to really start ramping things up.

Heck, if you take the talks on the Arctic Ice Free thread into consideration then you can see that there is a risk of the ice melting this July depending on the conditions.

We really are heading into the known unknown once the Arctic Ice has melted completely, the direct effects unknown and the extent can only be speculated, but I would assume that they would overall be negative. The extent could range from minor disruptions causing huge problems in certain areas, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere, or major disruption that could effect everyone in the whole world.

I don't understand this "particularly in the Southern Hemisphere" or how someone believes ice free conditions are possible in July without some external event like bolide impact. The oceans buffer temperature changes because water has a large heat capacity. Since the two hemispheres have different land/ocean ratios, you don't see changes in temperature happening as quickly in the Southern Hemisphere, consider Younger Dryas as an example. The end of July is three and a half months away and there is just too much ice to melt by then with the North America blocking transport out of the arctic. That area also has a lot of clouds during the melt season.

The Earth already has enough radiative forcing to melt the arctic sea ice; it's just the Earth hasn't had time to do it yet. I recall an article years back that said the permafrost line in Alaska was 90 km north. Last year the June Northern Hemisphere snow cover anomaly was 6 million square kilometers less. Tundra to taiga, treelines on mountains and glaciers don't change overnight, but there is plenty of evidence that enough radiative forcing is present and has been at work for many decades. Those things were different during the last Holocene Thermal Maximum, so they should change back to that in the next thermal maximum.

I must apologise, but I was meaning to say those areas in Africa which are already suffering as a result of being unable to feed themselves.

ggelsrinc

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #132 on: April 16, 2013, 01:44:12 PM »
I kind of assumed that ccg meant "Northern Hemisphere," but I'll let him correct it if it was a typo.

"Those things were different during the last Holocene Thermal Maximum, so they should change back to that in the next thermal maximum."

Care to elaborate for those of us not up on the latest research on HTM? Last I looked, we just passed any temp records that were set over the entire Holocene. And we're on our way to much higher temps.

Again, none of us really knows what's coming down the pike as things spiral further out of any thing remotely resembling 'whack.' (What exactly does 'whack' refer to in the phrase 'out of whack,' one wonders.)

Here  in Minnesota, we are having the latest spring in memory of all but some of the oldest coggers such as yours truly. I thoroughly expect this to be followed soon by a truly scorching summer, then an even colder and longer winter. But who knows what our new planet, one without a mostly ice-covered for the first time in probably millions of years will yield us?

As someone pointed out (probably on this blog, but I forget who), the fluctuations between El Nino and La Nina--that have major influence on weather patterns around the world--only involve a slight shift in the temperature of one part of one ocean; we now have an entire new ocean on top of the world. How could that fundamental change not have very major impacts on the world's climactic system??

We are in unexplored, uncharted, and very warm waters here, and anyone who states confidently that it will not have major, immediate impacts on essentially everything...well, their prognostications are worth about as little or as much as mine, or as much as anyone else's bloviating on the net.

It doesn't take the latest research. The Holocene Thermal Maximum wasn't named because someone had accurate temperature proxies, it was named for a period because there was plenty of fossil evidence showing it was warmer then and the thermal maximum before that (in the Eemian) was much warmer. Temperature proxies have ranges, so you can't really know what the global temperature once was, but you can know it was warm enough for a long enough period to change things and make them different than our present. Mammoths in the HTM didn't go near the shores along the Arctic Ocean for a vacation, they went there to eat. In the Eemian, hippos were in the Thames and Rhine, while sea levels were 4 to 6 meters higher. The island of Scandinavia had oak trees and, based on DNA evidence from Dye 3, the middle of Greenland had forests.

Quote
We are in unexplored, uncharted, and very warm waters here, and anyone who states confidently that it will not have major, immediate impacts on essentially everything...well, their prognostications are worth about as little or as much as mine, or as much as anyone else's bloviating on the net.


My prognosis is the Earth isn't going to be able to tell how it was warmed, it's going to respond in the same manner as it has in the past.

fishmahboi-

I didn't understand you were talking about starvation and there's no need to apologize. Maybe someday mankind will learn what the most valuable resource on Earth is.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2013, 01:58:41 PM by ggelsrinc »

Anne

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #133 on: April 16, 2013, 01:54:42 PM »
Mammoths in the HTM didn't go near the shores along the Arctic Ocean for a vacation, they went there to eat.

Yes, and they were stranded on islands by the rising tide. Now the permafrost is thawing, some people are making a living by excavating mammoth ivory from the mud.
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/04/mammoth-tusks/larmer-text

wili

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #134 on: April 16, 2013, 06:01:10 PM »
Apologies, ccg. Yes, it was fishmaboi that brought up the Southern Hemisphere.

gge, I'm still not sure what your point was about bringing up the Holocene Thermal Maximum (unless you mean the current one). We have already blown past any reconstructed global temperatures set for much longer than the Holocene, and we're on our way toward much, much higher temperatures; and all this is happening at much, much faster rates than anything since long before humans evolved.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/the-two-epochs-of-marcott.html

There are now well over 7 billion humans living on this planet, the fundamental nature of which is changing very rapidly, far more rapidly than very many very smart folks though possible just a few years ago. Past performance is important to consider, but not any guarantee of how things will go down this time.

"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."

Whit

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #135 on: April 16, 2013, 06:24:24 PM »
My prognosis is the Earth isn't going to be able to tell how it was warmed, it's going to respond in the same manner as it has in the past.
With all due respect; I believe your prognosis is based on a faulty premise. The forcings that made HTM possible are quite different from what we see today.
Today we see the results of an increased, but relatively weak radiative forcing from the atmosphere. This forcing works 24/7 over practically the entire planet. And then there's feedbacks, like albedo-reductions etc.
The HTM was made possible by a Milankovitsj-forcing and subsequent feedbacks. The albedo-changes might have been similar, but probably not identical due to the different temporal and spatial distribution of the Milankovitsj-forcing compared to a forcing from higher concentrations of GHG's.

In Scandinavia I know that winters during the HTM were just as cold as climatology. Summers however were warmer. This goes for a lot of the Northern Hemisphere iirc.  The way I see it the situation during the HTM, with 7% more insolation the Northern hemisphere, during summer, is quite different from our current 24/7 all-over forcing.

Therefore I see no reason why the climate system in general and the cryosphere in particular, would respond similarly, considering the fact that the temporal and spatial distribution of warmth during the HTM was so different from what we see today.

Let's hope I'm wrong.
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Anne

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #136 on: April 16, 2013, 07:05:36 PM »
The thing is, even small variations can cause big effects on society. When crop yields fall, there are consequences. When there are floods, wildfires, storms and surges it all has to be paid for by someone. I came across this list today of costings in the US tax bill for the effects of extreme weather events. I expect there are similar stories for insurance companies. That's just the US.

http://qz.com/74480/no-happy-returns-for-us-taxpayers-as-climate-change-bill-comes-due/

There's an argument that the Arab Spring was precipitated by high grain prices.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/jul/17/bread-food-arab-spring
And we aint seen nothing yet. This thing is going to bite hard, long before the tide is lapping at the feet of the Statue of Liberty.

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #137 on: April 16, 2013, 07:08:28 PM »
My prognosis is the Earth isn't going to be able to tell how it was warmed, it's going to respond in the same manner as it has in the past.
With all due respect; I believe your prognosis is based on a faulty premise. The forcings that made HTM possible are quite different from what we see today.
Today we see the results of an increased, but relatively weak radiative forcing from the atmosphere. This forcing works 24/7 over practically the entire planet. And then there's feedbacks, like albedo-reductions etc.
The HTM was made possible by a Milankovitsj-forcing and subsequent feedbacks. The albedo-changes might have been similar, but probably not identical due to the different temporal and spatial distribution of the Milankovitsj-forcing compared to a forcing from higher concentrations of GHG's.

In Scandinavia I know that winters during the HTM were just as cold as climatology. Summers however were warmer. This goes for a lot of the Northern Hemisphere iirc.  The way I see it the situation during the HTM, with 7% more insolation the Northern hemisphere, during summer, is quite different from our current 24/7 all-over forcing.

Therefore I see no reason why the climate system in general and the cryosphere in particular, would respond similarly, considering the fact that the temporal and spatial distribution of warmth during the HTM was so different from what we see today.

Let's hope I'm wrong.
I actually think the study of past climates is valid, for the most part. We are all handicapped by the lack of a good analogue from the past - but we can look here for clues as to how the earth system responds, inasmuch as we understand this (and we mostly don't!)

I also think it is a mistake to assume ice transitions are necessarily always slow in paleoclimatic terms - because once you push up to the tipping point of a positive feedback - however slowly and gently you approach that threshold - it is still a positive feedback. Once it starts to ramp up - well, they go bang, to put it colloquially. I think the earth system is more dynamic and responsive than most people are prepared to contemplate. Just like once upon a time nobody would take continental drift seriously as a theory... after all, how could things as big as continents possibly move around? How can whole planets undergo rapid systemic changes in their climate? (we may be about to receive a lesson, as it were)

In my opinion paleoclimate - almost regardless of how far back you need to go to find an ultimate greenhouse analog - is valid for setting upper limits for change. To that extent I think I would agree with ggelsrinc.

Where I would tend to disagree is perhaps in terms of the severity of the threat to civilisation, rather than to that of a habitable (in some regions at least) planet. I also think focussing on the end state implied by paleoclimatic periods is to overlook the rather important matter of the transition process. If we took the Eemian - that's a different planet. Agriculture as practised by almost everyone on earth would no longer be viable in their current locations. Rate of change becomes critically important in the question of adaptation (as does the human response often favouring conflict as a way of resolving resource pressure issues, particularly in a nuclear armed world).

I'm left with a nagging feeling that the climate generally moves in sharp steps rather than nice soft slopes. Navigating those steps without losing civilisation is therefore the key problem (and if you look at dead ancient civilisations - a real one).

I feel there are altogether too many potentially abrupt positive feedbacks out there to be complacent, and too many signs that they are waking up to assume upon decades more. The image that comes to mind for our species is that of a clown juggling live hand grenades.

ccgwebmaster

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #138 on: April 16, 2013, 07:26:31 PM »
The thing is, even small variations can cause big effects on society. When crop yields fall, there are consequences. When there are floods, wildfires, storms and surges it all has to be paid for by someone. I came across this list today of costings in the US tax bill for the effects of extreme weather events. I expect there are similar stories for insurance companies. That's just the US.

http://qz.com/74480/no-happy-returns-for-us-taxpayers-as-climate-change-bill-comes-due/

There's an argument that the Arab Spring was precipitated by high grain prices.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/jul/17/bread-food-arab-spring
And we aint seen nothing yet. This thing is going to bite hard, long before the tide is lapping at the feet of the Statue of Liberty.
I think it's all too easy to underestimate the risks of even a mild dip in agricultural output if one is currently comfortable and secure oneself. It should be noted that the Arab spring happened just as a result of one regional harvest drop and export ban - globally - we didn't trend down a lot that year.

The inelasticity of food tends to substantially amplify the disruptive effects of issues in this respect.

Additionally, I think a lot of people overlook another thing. Even if we just stop increasing our food supply - we're in serious trouble. The demand for food every year (whether from population or changing affluence) rises. We must run to stand still.

There are, I believe, already papers out that suggest food production gains are being diminished by climate change (contrary to IPCC predictions for initial gains). I would hope the research into the link between prices and conflict mentioned previously in combination with inelasticity illustrates why even a deceptively mild initial shock is potentially serious. Then of course, you start to get into the rest of the arguments...

fishmahboi

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #139 on: April 16, 2013, 07:55:08 PM »
The thing is, even small variations can cause big effects on society. When crop yields fall, there are consequences. When there are floods, wildfires, storms and surges it all has to be paid for by someone. I came across this list today of costings in the US tax bill for the effects of extreme weather events. I expect there are similar stories for insurance companies. That's just the US.

http://qz.com/74480/no-happy-returns-for-us-taxpayers-as-climate-change-bill-comes-due/

There's an argument that the Arab Spring was precipitated by high grain prices.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/jul/17/bread-food-arab-spring
And we aint seen nothing yet. This thing is going to bite hard, long before the tide is lapping at the feet of the Statue of Liberty.
I think it's all too easy to underestimate the risks of even a mild dip in agricultural output if one is currently comfortable and secure oneself. It should be noted that the Arab spring happened just as a result of one regional harvest drop and export ban - globally - we didn't trend down a lot that year.

The inelasticity of food tends to substantially amplify the disruptive effects of issues in this respect.

Additionally, I think a lot of people overlook another thing. Even if we just stop increasing our food supply - we're in serious trouble. The demand for food every year (whether from population or changing affluence) rises. We must run to stand still.

There are, I believe, already papers out that suggest food production gains are being diminished by climate change (contrary to IPCC predictions for initial gains). I would hope the research into the link between prices and conflict mentioned previously in combination with inelasticity illustrates why even a deceptively mild initial shock is potentially serious. Then of course, you start to get into the rest of the arguments...

I guess the consequences of a decline in food production would vary from place to place.

Whit

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #140 on: April 16, 2013, 08:17:53 PM »
In my opinion paleoclimate - almost regardless of how far back you need to go to find an ultimate greenhouse analog - is valid for setting upper limits for change. To that extent I think I would agree with ggelsrinc.

Where I would tend to disagree is perhaps in terms of the severity of the threat to civilisation, rather than to that of a habitable (in some regions at least) planet. I also think focussing on the end state implied by paleoclimatic periods is to overlook the rather important matter of the transition process.
Not much to disagree with here. The transitions are what worries me the most as well. The Pliocene Warm Period was probably not a bad state for the world to be in for us humans. But the transition to and from such a state is a completely different beast.

My main point is that we cannot expect the transition in the cryosphere to be similar to that of the HTM, simply because the distribution of energy is so different. When it comes to permafrost in particular I fear that higher winter and spring temps, reduced snowcover on the tail-end of the freeze-season, reduced refreeze as well as a longer thawing season as we see now is fundamentally different to the orbitally induced forcing of the HTM.

The tree line in my part of Scandinavia is already where it was during during and a while after HTM, if we correct for isostatic rebound. The trees just haven't grown big enough yet, and some species are (still) missing. But we have more than enough heat in the system to make sure that the changes we have seen  so far are just the beginning. But then I probably don't need to convince anyone here about that :)
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ggelsrinc

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #141 on: April 17, 2013, 11:01:42 AM »
My prognosis is the Earth isn't going to be able to tell how it was warmed, it's going to respond in the same manner as it has in the past.
With all due respect; I believe your prognosis is based on a faulty premise. The forcings that made HTM possible are quite different from what we see today.
Today we see the results of an increased, but relatively weak radiative forcing from the atmosphere. This forcing works 24/7 over practically the entire planet. And then there's feedbacks, like albedo-reductions etc.
The HTM was made possible by a Milankovitsj-forcing and subsequent feedbacks. The albedo-changes might have been similar, but probably not identical due to the different temporal and spatial distribution of the Milankovitsj-forcing compared to a forcing from higher concentrations of GHG's.

In Scandinavia I know that winters during the HTM were just as cold as climatology. Summers however were warmer. This goes for a lot of the Northern Hemisphere iirc.  The way I see it the situation during the HTM, with 7% more insolation the Northern hemisphere, during summer, is quite different from our current 24/7 all-over forcing.

Therefore I see no reason why the climate system in general and the cryosphere in particular, would respond similarly, considering the fact that the temporal and spatial distribution of warmth during the HTM was so different from what we see today.

Let's hope I'm wrong.

I took a Physical Geography course before global warming was a concern and according to basic science every one of those feedbacks was in play during times leading up to a glacial max or an interglacial thermal max. Albedo changes are positive feedbacks in cooling and warming, just like all other feedbacks are. They all involve basic science of how the Earth behaves.

You don't see any similarities and everything that is happening has happened like this before and we know it as a fact. This is not the first time the arctic sea ice has melted, so if warming continues, the Earth will respond as it has in the past.

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In Scandinavia I know that winters during the HTM were just as cold as climatology. Summers however were warmer. This goes for a lot of the Northern Hemisphere iirc.  The way I see it the situation during the HTM, with 7% more insolation the Northern hemisphere, during summer, is quite different from our current 24/7 all-over forcing.


Here is where your logic fails you. The primary source of warming or cooling is never the only source. Warming or cooling always makes changes to all the other things that cause forcing. You can't warm or cool without changing the albedo of the Earth. You can't warm or cool without changing the greenhouse gas concentrations of the Earth. You can go down the list and all things that cause radiative forcing come into play. There is no rule that something only minorly contributing to warming or cooling today has to stay that way tomorrow. The 24/7 comment doesn't make sense, because it's always continuous radiative forcing, even if it's negative or zero.

I don't know what you mean about 7% more insolation, unless you are talking about the difference in insolation between the max and min of Milankovitch Cycles, which I thought was 6% in the HTM. We shouldn't be far from the max today, so the Northern Hemisphere insolation isn't that much different now than what it was during the HTM. Presently, less than a third of the radiation absorbed by the Earth's surface comes directly from the sun.

Adding greenhouse gases should warm the Earth, but since the Earth has so much water, adding greenhouse gases will only warm the Earth so much, until a cloud albedo negative forcing stabilizes the global temperature at around 22 degrees C. Water is the most powerful greenhouse gas, but it's physical properties cause it to gather together in the lower atmosphere in clouds that reflect sunlight. The Earth isn't Venus and is only similar to Venus in a few ways. The Earth has oxygen and ozone to filter out ultraviolet rays. The Earth has a strong magnetic field to deflect harmful radiation and Venus doesn't. The Earth has about half the solar radiation and most importantly, the Earth has water, while Venus has little more than a trace. Venus rotates so slowly that a Venusian year is only about 1.92 Venusian (solar) days long, while it rotates the sun every 224.65 of our days. When it gets dark on Venus, it stays dark for a long time. When someone is saying the Earth's seas will boil and the Earth will become like Venus, it's science fiction and not science.

It isn't science to claim the global temperatures are warmer now than they were during the HTM. You can speculate the global temperatures are warmer now and base those speculations on proxies, but it doesn't have much meaning in planetary warming. Science is based on knowledge and not belief.

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In Scandinavia I know that winters during the HTM were just as cold as climatology. Summers however were warmer. This goes for a lot of the Northern Hemisphere iirc.  The way I see it the situation during the HTM, with 7% more insolation the Northern hemisphere, during summer, is quite different from our current 24/7 all-over forcing.

The winters in Scandinavia during the HTM were mild enough to allow the treeline to be further north and that is true throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The albedo of a forested area is much different with snow cover than a tundra. The albedo of a temperate forest and the conditions to have one are different than a boreal forest, so oak trees in Scandinavia during the Eemian prove a much warmer climate. Since it's a scientific fact these things occurred during interglacials, it's also a fact it will happen again if it's warm long enough. The primary condition that allowed more radiative forcing during the Eemian was the Earth's tilt, but that condition isn't required to cause enough radiative forcing to let it happen in the near future. It's the summation of radiative forcing that matters and not an individual component. For example, aerosols have a negative radiative forcing and their effect has a large margin of error. That means that aerosol pollution is masking some of the warming from greenhouse gases and you can see how they subtract from the sum and create more uncertainty in the estimates.



The science does not support the Earth warming and giving up massive amounts of methane, it supports mankind doing it. The science supports 400 ppm of CO2 was enough to prevent ice ages in the mid-Pliocene, but there was a circum-equatorial current then. It was the isolation and cooling of the Atlantic that stated the Pleistocene with our present thermohaline circulation. We know 300 ppm CO2 won't avoid glaciation, but the CO2 levels were declining as the glaciers advanced.

Comparing past CO2 levels to present isn't very meaningful, because the Earth is responding to net radiative forcing and a very small amount of that is natural forcing. Since the past CO2 levels didn't have other anthropogenic greenhouse gases and aerosols with them, the whole picture has to be compared. Aerosols pose many health problems that prompt their reduction, but the uncertainty of their contribution to radiative forcing can mean aerosols are masking much of the potential heating from greenhouse gases. The world is witnessing rapid climate changes from past greenhouse gas emissions based on net anthropogenic radiative forcing, which means the greenhouse gases are long lived in the atmosphere and aerosols aren't. I think the major emitters of greenhouse gases aren't going to reduce them in the near future, they will reduce sulfate aerosols, like they have said, and this will contribute more to global warming. If the negative radiative forcing by aerosols was at the high end of their range and all the other estimates were the average estimate, the net anthropogenic radiative forcing would be 3.1 W per square meter instead of 1.6 or nearly double. The radiative forcing contributions of aerosols to the cloud abedo effect and troposheric ozone are not well understood.

wili

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #142 on: April 17, 2013, 02:02:03 PM »
gge, I'm afraid that the more you write, the less sense I can make out in it.

You claim that we can know for a fact that the current warming will behave exactly as past warming events. But apparently you don't think using proxies is science, which should mean that we can't know anything about past warming events. Then you admit that CO2 and aerosols are different in this warming event than in previous ones, which again would seem to undermine your original claim (or as you put it, 'fact').

Perhaps I'm missing something, or you aren't stating clearly what you intend to state, but you seem to be absolutely certain about things that we can't be absolutely certain about (that this warming will behave like every other warming), and completely dubious about things that are actually probably reasonably reliable (using various proxies to reconstruct temperature in earlier periods). And to top it off, the very things you call unreliable and "not science" are the things upon which you base the things you are absolutely certain about "facts."

Unless you have a brief (please!) response to clarify your position, I'm afraid I'll have to forgo reading any more of your posts. Life is too short to bother with long-winded, self-contradictory opinion-stated-as-absolute fact.
"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."

Whit

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #143 on: April 17, 2013, 03:15:18 PM »


I took a Physical Geography course before global warming was a concern and according to basic science every one of those feedbacks was in play during times leading up to a glacial max or an interglacial thermal max. Albedo changes are positive feedbacks in cooling and warming, just like all other feedbacks are. They all involve basic science of how the Earth behaves.

You don't see any similarities and everything that is happening has happened like this before and we know it as a fact. This is not the first time the arctic sea ice has melted, so if warming continues, the Earth will respond as it has in the past.
I must have been unusally unclear. I thought I wrote that the feedbacks are similar, although I doubt they will be identical. However, the initiating forcing is radically different, and I can't see how you've argued against that.

Quote
The primary source of warming or cooling is never the only source. Warming or cooling always makes changes to all the other things that cause forcing. You can't warm or cool without changing the albedo of the Earth. You can't warm or cool without changing the greenhouse gas concentrations of the Earth. You can go down the list and all things that cause radiative forcing come into play. There is no rule that something only minorly contributing to warming or cooling today has to stay that way tomorrow. The 24/7 comment doesn't make sense, because it's always continuous radiative forcing, even if it's negative or zero.
Have I ever stated that the primary forcing was the only source? Regarding feedbacks, see above.

The 24/7 comment is just about the difference between an orbital forcing and an atmospheric one. Maybe I should have called it something else, like a 24/7/365/360 degree forcing.

The orbital forcing in question during the HTM caused a redistribution of insolation on the planet. This to me seems like a major difference. I agree with the previous poster however - paleoclimatology can tell us  a lot about the boundaries of climate change under different forcing regimes. However, it tells us very little about the transition to such a boundary or equilibrium in our current situation. There is one other factor that means we cannot trust the HTM as a guide to equilibrium conditions under the current regime. During the period with the highest insolation, several thousand years prior to the HTM, there was still quite a lot of ice covering the planet. So the albedo-feedbacks would be very slow compared to todays situation. One thing that hints at this is the fact the HTM occurs several thousand years after the time of max insolation.

Quote
I don't know what you mean about 7% more insolation, unless you are talking about the difference in insolation between the max and min of Milankovitch Cycles, which I thought was 6% in the HTM. We shouldn't be far from the max today, so the Northern Hemisphere insolation isn't that much different now than what it was during the HTM. Presently, less than a third of the radiation absorbed by the Earth's surface comes directly from the sun.
Well, July insolation at 65N decreased by app. 50 W/m2 throughout the Holocene. If I remember correctly we are about halfway between max and min now.

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When someone is saying the Earth's seas will boil and the Earth will become like Venus, it's science fiction and not science.
I totally agree. And I if had said something even remotely like that I trust you would let me know. For the moment I don't see the relevance of neither Venus or boiling seas to our discussion.

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It isn't science to claim the global temperatures are warmer now than they were during the HTM.
Of course not. Good thing I never compared todays temperatures to those of the HTM then.  Again, you seem to be reading a bit too much into my post.

Quote
The winters in Scandinavia during the HTM were mild enough to allow the treeline to be further north and that is true throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
For the dominant species of birch and pine that are de facto at the tree lne, winter temperatures is not the main limiting factor. Snowfall, length of growing season, wind, nutrients and other factors are.

Quote
The albedo of a forested area is much different with snow cover than a tundra. The albedo of a temperate forest and the conditions to have one are different than a boreal forest, so oak trees in Scandinavia during the Eemian prove a much warmer climate. Since it's a scientific fact these things occurred during interglacials, it's also a fact it will happen again if it's warm long enough. The primary condition that allowed more radiative forcing during the Eemian was the Earth's tilt, but that condition isn't required to cause enough radiative forcing to let it happen in the near future. It's the summation of radiative forcing that matters and not an individual component. For example, aerosols have a negative radiative forcing and their effect has a large margin of error. That means that aerosol pollution is masking some of the warming from greenhouse gases and you can see how they subtract from the sum and create more uncertainty in the estimates.
I agree with most of what you're saying. However, the difference between GHG-forcing and its orbital counterpart still stands. Comparing to the HTM again, that was in fact a situation when the orbital forcing was waning, while the feedbacks we're playing catch-up and eventually became the main cause of warming. Today we have a growing GHG-forcing and the same feedbacks that you mentioned above.

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The science does not support the Earth warming and giving up massive amounts of methane, it supports mankind doing it.
Can science rule that out while we are on our current emission-trajectory? Please keep in mind that we are experiencing changes in the cryosphere that we have no analogue to. It's all unknown terrain from here. All I know is that rapid changes in the cryosphere seem to go hand in hand with major climatic upheaval for lack of a better word.

Quote
Comparing past CO2 levels to present isn't very meaningful, because the Earth is responding to net radiative forcing and a very small amount of that is natural forcing. Since the past CO2 levels didn't have other anthropogenic greenhouse gases and aerosols with them, the whole picture has to be compared.
I completely agree. That's why I think we need to accept that we are on a completely different path than the one that moved the climate between glacials and interglacials. It's just not a very comparable situation.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2013, 08:04:18 PM by Whit »
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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #144 on: April 17, 2013, 07:28:48 PM »
The orbital forcing in question during the HTM caused a redistribution of insolation on the planet. This to me seems like a major difference.
That's an interesting point that I hadn't considered - though I'd argue I don't think it will make that big a difference in the end - the albedo change from lost ice is arguably a far bigger element?

Transition really is key, and there I think we can't extrapolate too far from past events - firstly as we lack an analog (without going way back) for adding so much greenhouse gas into the system so fast (what non catastrophic natural process can transport many gigatonnes from deep underground into the atmosphere so fast?) and secondly because we simply don't understand past episodes and the earth system well enough to even be sure what happened in the past in sufficient detail.

What we do know however is that rate of change is important - and notwithstanding that the ice albedo feedback element is probably operating along similar lines to usual - that does not mean one can disregard the carbon dioxide and methane components, which are not necessarily operating along similar lines as usual. Even at maximum impact I don't believe ice albedo feedback will deliver quite as much additional energy into the overall system as carbon dioxide already is; though note previous comments about distribution of incoming energy in time and space.

Because it has such a short half life in the atmosphere, I think methane is particularly sensitive to high rates of change. The rapid removal of the methane caused by human activities when collapse reaches us might actually be a point in the favour of our species, provided the natural world isn't yet more than replacing our contributions.

Quote
So the albedo-feedbacks would be very slow compared to todays situation. One thing that hints at this is the fact the HTM occurs several thousand years after the time of max insolation.
I would argue that the ice albedo feedbacks are probably ultimately pretty fast anyway - as they are positive feedbacks - and self reinforce once past their activation threshold. I have a feeling the boundaries of ice ages are usually rather violent and turbulent times climatically - the Younger Dryas is a good example. That isn't to detract from the rate of change or uniqueness of forcing aspect today however.

Quote
Quote
Comparing past CO2 levels to present isn't very meaningful, because the Earth is responding to net radiative forcing and a very small amount of that is natural forcing. Since the past CO2 levels didn't have other anthropogenic greenhouse gases and aerosols with them, the whole picture has to be compared.
I completely agree. That's why I think we need to accept that we are on a completely different path than the one that moved the climate between glacials and interglacials. It's just not a very comparable situation.
I think it also ought to be noted that one must state where one thinks carbon dioxide levels are going to end up in terms of making ultimate predictions. Whether from continued human activity or natural processes there is scope to go much higher than 400ppm. Again rate of change - offset against the ability of the planet to take CO2 back out of the system - is key. Ironically, taking civilisation out of the equation might actually be beneficial to our long term prospects as a species! (ie the faster we collapse the less damage we do to our habitat)

Finally we know there are processes (or perhaps events is a better word) that can radically alter climate in under a year over very large regions. Examples include supervolcanic eruptions, rupture of very large glacial lakes and extraterrestial impacts.

The process happening in the Arctic now arguably is one that operates over decades - it has already been running for quite a while - and will take quite a while yet to finish (stabilise to a new norm). That doesn't alter the problem that the impacts pose on us even in the much shorter term. Just how big a dip (including "non-gain" to be precise) in agricultural output do people think it would take to start causing major problems?

I think we are vulnerable even to a deceptively mild dip in our current conditions and note also that the decline is essentially likely to be permanent and intensifying, and the effects cumulative.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2013, 10:55:25 PM by ccgwebmaster »

fishmahboi

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #145 on: April 17, 2013, 09:16:05 PM »
The orbital forcing in question during the HTM caused a redistribution of insolation on the planet. This to me seems like a major difference.
That's an interesting point that I hadn't considered - though I'd argue I don't think it will make that big a difference in the end - the albedo change from lost ice is arguably a far bigger element?

Transition really is key, and there I think we can't extrapolate too far from past events - firstly as we lack an analog (without going way back) for adding so much greenhouse gas into the system so fast (what non catastrophic natural process can transport many gigatonnes from deep underground into the atmosphere so fast?) and secondly because we simply don't understand past episodes and the earth system well enough to even be sure what happened in the past in sufficient detail.

What we do know however is that rate of change is important - and notwithstanding that the ice albedo feedback element is probably operating along similar lines to usual - that does not mean one can disregard the carbon dioxide and methane components, which are not necessarily operating along similar lines as usual. Even at maximum impact I don't believe ice albedo feedback will deliver quite as much additional energy into the overall system as carbon dioxide already is; though note previous comments about distribution of incoming energy in time and space.

Because it has such a short half life in the atmosphere, I think methane is particularly sensitive to high rates of change. The rapid removal of the methane caused by human activities when collapse reaches us might actually be a point in the favour of our species, provided the natural world isn't yet more than replacing our contributions.

Quote
So the albedo-feedbacks would be very slow compared to todays situation. One thing that hints at this is the fact the HTM occurs several thousand years after the time of max insolation.
I would argue that the ice albedo feedbacks are probably ultimately pretty fast anyway - as they are positive feedbacks - and self reinforce once past their activation threshold. I have a feeling the boundaries of ice ages are usually rather violent and turbulent times climatically - the Younger Dryas is a good example. That isn't to detract from the rate of change or uniqueness of forcing aspect today however.

Quote
Comparing past CO2 levels to present isn't very meaningful, because the Earth is responding to net radiative forcing and a very small amount of that is natural forcing. Since the past CO2 levels didn't have other anthropogenic greenhouse gases and aerosols with them, the whole picture has to be compared.
I completely agree. That's why I think we need to accept that we are on a completely different path than the one that moved the climate between glacials and interglacials. It's just not a very comparable situation.
I think it also ought to be noted that one must state where one thinks carbon dioxide levels are going to end up in terms of making ultimate predictions. Whether from continued human activity or natural processes there is scope to go much higher than 400ppm. Again rate of change - offset against the ability of the planet to take CO2 back out of the system - is key. Ironically, taking civilisation out of the equation might actually be beneficial to our long term prospects as a species! (ie the faster we collapse the less damage we do to our habitat)

Finally we know there are processes (or perhaps events is a better word) that can radically alter climate in under a year over very large regions. Examples include supervolcanic eruptions, rupture of very large glacial lakes and extraterrestial impacts.

The process happening in the Arctic now arguably is one that operates over decades - it has already been running for quite a while - and will take quite a while yet to finish (stabilise to a new norm). That doesn't alter the problem that the impacts pose on us even in the much shorter term. Just how big a dip (including "non-gain" to be precise) in agricultural output do people think it would take to start causing major problems?

I think we are vulnerable even to a deceptively mild dip in our current conditions and note also that the decline is essentially likely to be permanent and intensifying, and the effects cumulative.
[/quote]

Depending on how the Arctic acts this year, the dip in agriculture could be quite steep if the Arctic melts out as a result of its effects on the jet stream ridding the world of one of the breadbaskets.

I think its possible to say that the problems posed by food production and the consequences they entail may be able to sneak up without warning.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2013, 09:25:51 PM by fishmahboi »

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #146 on: April 17, 2013, 10:31:14 PM »
gge, I'm afraid that the more you write, the less sense I can make out in it.

You claim that we can know for a fact that the current warming will behave exactly as past warming events. But apparently you don't think using proxies is science, which should mean that we can't know anything about past warming events. Then you admit that CO2 and aerosols are different in this warming event than in previous ones, which again would seem to undermine your original claim (or as you put it, 'fact').

Perhaps I'm missing something, or you aren't stating clearly what you intend to state, but you seem to be absolutely certain about things that we can't be absolutely certain about (that this warming will behave like every other warming), and completely dubious about things that are actually probably reasonably reliable (using various proxies to reconstruct temperature in earlier periods). And to top it off, the very things you call unreliable and "not science" are the things upon which you base the things you are absolutely certain about "facts."

Unless you have a brief (please!) response to clarify your position, I'm afraid I'll have to forgo reading any more of your posts. Life is too short to bother with long-winded, self-contradictory opinion-stated-as-absolute fact.

Don't bother to respond. The fact that the Earth has warmed before with all the continents basically in the same place is something you can't comprehend. This time has to be different, only because the specific type of radiative forcing is different. The Earth can't tell who is warming it or how it's being warmed, but that concept evades you.

Find a study of proxies without ranges and post it! Find a study of global temperatures using proxies that go all the way back to the HTM! Explain how averaging proxies can prove what the global temperature was in the HTM and while you are at it explain how a global temperature is the exact representation of how warm the Earth is.

If you find a fossil of a tree or a mammoth in the tundra and determine it wasn't brought there from somewhere else, it's a fact that area was warmer then. 

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #147 on: April 17, 2013, 11:20:52 PM »
Depending on how the Arctic acts this year, the dip in agriculture could be quite steep if the Arctic melts out as a result of its effects on the jet stream ridding the world of one of the breadbaskets.

I think its possible to say that the problems posed by food production and the consequences they entail may be able to sneak up without warning.
Sorry about the mismatched quote pairs - edited my original comment to fix.

I think the earlier stages of this will manifest more as a progressively more challenging agricultural situation with more extreme weather causing more diminished (or occasionally failed) harvests in specific regions. It ought to be noted even with the drought last year - the US still produced a fair amount of food (although the prevalence of drought globally was concerning).

In that sense, I think the effects are already with us today - that they started to sneak in from 2010 onwards (that one can tell), with the Russian drought (and floods in Pakistan). The point here is really that we can look to what is already happening for clues as to the nearest future (extrapolation obviously increasingly invalid further into the future).

Interestingly a recent study concluded that the ongoing US drought was not caused by climate change, but by an unusual shift in the jet stream. I disagree vehemently with the first part of that assessment (not due to climate change part) as I think the second points to arctic amplification.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/12/climate-change-not-2012-drought

To that extent the consequences are already here and already sneaking up on us - the immediate questions are really:
1. How fast things get worse?
2. How big the rapid impacts on agriculture are? (noting the presence of a whole host of other longer term issues facing it)
3. How resilient is global civilisation to deal with the shock?

I think most people can agree one 1. that the Arctic sea ice is changing over a timescale of only years. 2 and especially 3 are far more contentious issues, and without solid scientific research supporting different views - really - the only way I can see that this discussion can move forwards much more is:

1. Proof by demonstration from the earth system
2. More scientific research

I prefer not to wait for 1 and not sure I have the time (and most likely the expertise and connections to academia) to attempt 2.

On that note, I'm not sure how the general discussion in this thread can really move forwards without just restating previously stated points of view? I think we can reach a reasonable consensus that:

1. Civilisation is potentially in serious trouble at some point in the future, whether years or decades away (and this surely demands action of some sort!)
2. We can constrain to some extent the range of probable scenarios, both near future and longer term (while leaving large amounts of uncertainty)

Is anyone aware offhand of good research showing the effects upon food prices of various yield loss or supply shortfall scenarios? If so, we could attempt to extrapolate a range of scenarios a bit more scientifically - taking that and trying to determine the instability of various nations and regions taking the research linking food prices and conflicts into account (ie macroscopically conflict is a predictable consequence of high food prices).

Theoretically I suppose one could construct a model of the world - and by model - I mean more a human model than a climate model, to try to predict the general impacts. For example, if one identified at the macroscopic level particular resource dependencies (oil for instance) one could try to work out the amount of risk posed to production regions, in a model linking things together appropriately (to try to capture knock on effects).

Certainly not an exact science as the human factor is anything but predictable, but one might arrive at something useful as a statistically averaged view of the whole bag of wool is my thinking? (given we are discussing the big picture, not just for specific regions)

In summary it's hard to see how this discussion can advance beyond reiterated opinions at this stage without more scientific rigour being brought to bear? (which actually I'd like try to do, but I'm going to let the idea sit for some time to mull over)

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #148 on: April 18, 2013, 11:00:39 AM »
Is anyone aware offhand of good research showing the effects upon food prices of various yield loss or supply shortfall scenarios? If so, we could attempt to extrapolate a range of scenarios a bit more scientifically - taking that and trying to determine the instability of various nations and regions taking the research linking food prices and conflicts into account (ie macroscopically conflict is a predictable consequence of high food prices).

Theoretically I suppose one could construct a model of the world - and by model - I mean more a human model than a climate model, to try to predict the general impacts. For example, if one identified at the macroscopic level particular resource dependencies (oil for instance) one could try to work out the amount of risk posed to production regions, in a model linking things together appropriately (to try to capture knock on effects).

Certainly not an exact science as the human factor is anything but predictable, but one might arrive at something useful as a statistically averaged view of the whole bag of wool is my thinking? (given we are discussing the big picture, not just for specific regions)

In summary it's hard to see how this discussion can advance beyond reiterated opinions at this stage without more scientific rigour being brought to bear? (which actually I'd like try to do, but I'm going to let the idea sit for some time to mull over)

Well, I wasn't aware of it until I Googled it just now, but this 2011 IMF Working Paper on Food Prices and Instability (22 pp) looks like a start.
Quote
Our first main finding is that increases in the international food prices lead to a significant deterioration of democratic institutions in the Low Income Countries. A one standard deviation increase in the international food price index significantly reduced Low Income Countries' polity score by about 0.03 standard deviations on average. We document that this result is robust to different measures of democracy, time periods, and estimation strategies.

To provide an explanation for the adverse effects of food price increases on Low Income Countries' political institutions, we document that food price increases significantly increase the incidence of intra-state conflict. In particular, we show that for the Low Income Countries increases in the international food prices significantly increase the incidence of anti-government demonstrations, riots, and civil conflict. In the High Income Countries, where the incidence of anti-government demonstrations, riots, and civil conflict is relatively low, increases in the international food prices did not have a significant effect on intra-state stability. International food price increases also did not significantly affect these countries'political institutions. Our empirical analysis therefore yields that the world's poorest countries, that arguably are the least responsible for changes in the international food prices, are strongest hit.

http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2011/wp1162.pdf

I've only just found it, so haven't formed any views yet, but throw it out here for others to mull over.

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Re: When and how bad?
« Reply #149 on: April 18, 2013, 12:31:34 PM »
I've only just found it, so haven't formed any views yet, but throw it out here for others to mull over.
Thanks for that. It looks as though it compliments the necsi research into food prices and conflict referenced earlier - by identifying which countries have which levels of risk for conflicts generated by food prices (though I'm not sure I like the lumping together into income brackets as in reality it's a more widely distributed spectrum). That's my first impressions, I haven't read it closely yet.

It strikes me this would give a guide to probability of issues in a country - but to make forward looking projections one would need a way of assessing the process by which a country would move down in development. For example - we would call Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal developed nations - and yet they are clearly at risk of regressing to a point where food prices (and employment) become a major stress factor in those societies (sound familiar?).

If you can work out the impact on food prices of additional climate stress in producing regions, one could then start to attempt predictions for number of countries that would enter conditions of significant social unrest, and hypothetically work out some sort of ensemble model type approach where you assign those effects to specific countries and try to assess the impacts on the rest of the world (ensemble because obviously you can't predict accurately what happens where - but can try to make statistical predictions overall, eg percentage of world in a "collapsed" or "high conflict" state - the two not being quite the same).

I think the question of bringing rigour might merit it's own topic.