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opensheart

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Threat - Response Levels
« on: May 25, 2013, 06:08:57 AM »
I've been struggling with ...  I guess it is: "how much people should be afraid."
On one extreme there is the  Near-Term-Extinction view. On the other end of the spectrum, there is the "its all just cycles" or someone will figure something out and we will be OK, so I don't have to do anything.

I'm thinking the truth is somewhere in between.    That people should be concerned.  That people should take action.   But how much action is appropriate?   Don't want to tell people to quit their jobs, sell their possessions and wait for the end on a mountain top.

I've been playing with the idea of a DefCon system.   The US Military uses the system to categorize the threat level and appropriate preparedness  actions.   In the system, '5' is peace.  '1' is war.

So in climate change,  '5' would be no threat at all, and no action is necessary. (well OK, no more than the normal have some batteries and flashlight in case the power goes out)  '4' would mean something has happened, or enough has happened to justify some increase in preparedness.   '3' would mean more seriousness, etc.

I'm thinking the system would be based on things that actually happen.   Take action when something actually happens, not when it is predicted or feared to happen.

For instance if two or more of the following things actually happen, then it would justify moving to DefCon 4:

  • When the Arctic Sea Ice melts down to 1/2 it's normal size
  • When a storm floods New York Subways for the first time
  • When there is a heat wave/drought that rivals the Dust Bowl years
  • When all of Greenland experiences melting, more than what is accumulating
  • When the US average temperature is a whole degree above normal for a whole year
  • When blocking weather patterns get to be the norm
  • etc

And what steps are appropriate for DefCon 4?  How about:
  • Learn to plant and grow something,  anything, just for the skill
  • Look into getting a rain barrel, just to help water the garden/trees
  • Try canning something,  anything, just for the practice.  Perhaps have a canning party at church.  where everyone trys their hand at it while some experienced people lead.
  • Try making a candle, or mead or wine
  • Try making a quilt, or sewing something.
  • collect some how-to books
  • etc
In short, DefCon 4 is a elevated risk when one seeks to expand one's how-to knowledge.   We are not trying to totally live off the land yet.  But we are taking a refresher course on low carbon ways of doing things and seeing which ones appeal to us.   Perhaps start them as a light hobby.  But nothing where our neighbours would think we are strange.

DefCon 3 would be where these hobbies get serious.   We start investing serious time and money in skills, equipment that would help us or provide something we can barter with.

DefCon 2 is when we start taking serious action.   That's when we move out to our place in the country or what ever.

DefCon 1 is when everything falls apart and we now have to make it with what ever skills and stuff we have prepared.


A system that would control fear and provide a framework for planning and action.   Where one is not too far out in left field too early, but neither is one caught flat footed too late.

Does this sound like a usable approach?
« Last Edit: May 30, 2013, 12:43:53 AM by opensheart »

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Re: Threat Levels
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2013, 08:10:38 AM »
I've been struggling with ...  I guess it is: "how much people should be afraid."
On one extreme there is the  Near-Term-Extinction view. On the other end of the spectrum, there is the "its all just cycles" or someone will figure something out and we will be OK, so I don't have to do anything.
I don't like the "how much people should be afraid" question? I think responses grounded in rational thought are more likely to be productive, especially with a situation that requires long term thinking.

I'm thinking the truth is somewhere in between.    That people should be concerned.  That people should take action.   But how much action is appropriate?   Don't want to tell people to quit their jobs, sell their possessions and wait for the end on a mountain top.
I usually try to encourage people to think about the issues and let them determine what actions are appropriate. Unfortunately in the vast majority of cases the action they seem to think appropriate is simply to forget about the whole thing.

I'm thinking the system would be based on things that actually happen.   Take action when something actually happens, not when it is predicted or feared to happen.

Does this sound like a usable approach?
It sounds nice in theory, but you've kind of summed it up by noting the extensive spread of opinions - who would decide what "defcon" you're at and what the definitions and responses are? How can anyone decide how serious some of those threats are? (we do not know the consequences sufficiently well)

With respect to your list of things for 4 - the thing that strikes me is that some of those things are strictly symptoms of the problem (not really reflecting acceleration of it). Specific events affecting a single city I think would generally be too subject to variability to serve as good markers, especially as the speed of events accelerates.

I think if I were trying to construct such a scale you must first work out if you are aiming it at a specific region/nation or at the world (I notice a lot of US specific things in your list). The point of failure and commensurate action will not arrive simultaneously globally or even within a society (though I'd predict rapid acceleration in the later stages). On a global scale I think I would look to indicators such as:
  • Arctic sea ice
  • Atmospheric methane concentration
  • World food price index
  • Proportion of global population living in a socially collapsed environment
  • Rate of change in proportion of population in collapsed conditions

If one was trying to do it for a smaller region (ie a nation) I suppose I'd look at things like:
  • Proportion of people in food insecure conditions
  • Crime rates (effects manifest here before widespread unrest and breakdown)
  • Key import dependencies from other nations
  • The state of the national economy
  • Open challenges to law and order (riots, civil war)

Lynn Shwadchuck

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Re: Threat Levels
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2013, 04:29:07 AM »
Nice thought experiment. The idea of threat level and emotional response is I think what Lars von Trier was addressing in his recent film, Melancholia. You might be interested. It's a metaphor, not literally about climate catastrophe.

I moved to the country pretty early in my thinking (eight years ago) and instead of hunkering down with my sacks of dried beans, life has turned out to be incredibly rich in a small community where many like-minded people seem to have had the same idea – some thirty years ago, some quite recently. I started by practicing to be poor and wound up really enjoying the simple things.

It is wise to play with this for a while, learning some practical skills, being more frugal, etc. There is really no way to actually prepare for climate change in a specific area. Where I am was supposed to be just fine, but we're finding the rain just keeps passing us by. Rain barrels are better than nothing, but they do not replace rain.
Still living in the bush in eastern Ontario. Gave up on growing annual veggies. Too much drought.

opensheart

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Re: Threat Levels
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2013, 12:40:45 AM »
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I don't like the "how much people should be afraid" question? I think responses grounded in rational thought are more likely to be productive, especially with a situation that requires long term thinking.

Perhaps fear by itself is the wrong word.  Could there be a balance point where people have enough concern/fear to move them to invest in long term thinking?


I wanted to stay away from purely scientific thresholds, like 400 PPM CO2.  The system seems to have so much lag time and so much variability built into it, that such thresholds could be passed without immediate impact to individuals.  I wanted to set thresholds that were more real/meaningful to the average person's awareness.  Hence the idea of using the flooding of New York City as a threshold.  More people are probably more aware of that incident and its impacts than melting arctic sea ice.

"Proportion of global population living in a socially collapsed environment" would be a great statistic if it existed and was a common household term.  The food price index might be a great stat that does exist and perhaps could become more of a common household term.


I think young people are consumed with experiencing and achieving things in their life.  Thus they care about climate change in terms of how much of a threat is it to them experiencing and achieving what they want to do.

Once they marry, and start a family, they care about their kids.  And their kids care about experiencing and achieving things in their life.  Thus family people have a huge push from their kids to keep everything going.  They don't want to be the parents that deny their kids a significant part of life.  So they keep everything going.

It is not until kids are grown and gone, and people start thinking about grandkids that they really start experientially caring about what the future will be like for future generations.  But that only lasts for a brief window, which closes when they face getting through their own retirement/old age.

So people have this huge drive to fulfill their own experiences/achievements for themselves or for their kids.

Thus to make a lifestyle change, you have to prove it to them in their terms.  It has to be in terms of life goals, experiences, and achievements for themselves and their kids.

Thus I think the flooding of New York City is a good threshold because:
  • It is a place people could conceive of visiting.  They could envision themselves going to a Broadway play, if the Broadway Theater were open.  It is kind of hard to do that if the city is flooded.
  • The same is true with showing the city to their kids, seeing the site of the World Trade Center, or UN headquarters, or Empire State Building or whatever.
  • They can conceive of people making their career there.  Perhaps someone they know has worked there.  Perhaps their kids might work there.
  • They know their own retirement stocks are traded there, which means they are personally affected when the stock market was closed for 2 days.
So it is an event that can cut through all the science and be something they notice and feel a personal connection to.

The DefCon idea is for each person/family to make their own list of things they care about, depend on or want to do someday.  And then decide what steps they will take when those things are disturbed for the first time.

The Flooding of New York City by Sandy was a single event.  It will be a good long time before New York City is shutdown.  But it can function as trigger point, where people realize once it has happened, it can happen again.  Where they should consider what adjustments they should make now that it has been proven that the weather/climate can interrupt/shutdown their stock market investments.  Perhaps they should be learning how to diversify their future into other things besides having a retirement fund.

Instead of depending on investments to provide one with enough income to buy what ever one wants/needs.  Perhaps one should also be learning how to obtain what one wants/needs without investment funds.  Like learning how to grow something themselves.

The events are going to happen.  The common man is going to notice them.  But if they do not have a system in place before the event happens, that says I will take X action when Y event happens, then they will not capitalize on the event.  They will let it come and go without making any changes, because who knows if this was a significant enough event to warrant a change.  Who knows if this is the ‘tipping point’.  Maybe they should wait and see if something gets worse first.   

There is always this tendency to think, that was bad, but it is over, and now we are past it.  Things will get back to normal now.  Everyone is focusing on getting back to normal.  I should just focus on getting back to normal too.  So they let the event pass without changing.

Some people have “change thresholds” built in better than others.  Some people know that when certain things happen or fail to happen, then it is time for them to change jobs.  People have thresholds set for their relationships.  If someone cheats, the relationship does not normally continue as-is.  And they know those things in advance.  Thus it is taking that same kind of thinking and applying it to a personal response to climate change.

People devise their own lists of thresholds, of things they care about and matter to them.  If they have a framework to write out what they would change/start doing differently when that threshold is first crossed, then all they have to do is follow their own plan.  They won't panic and do too much too soon.   But neither will they not do anything until it is too late.   

Mostly it can give the individual some re-assurance that they took the appropriate actions at the appropriate times.  So that afterwards they will not look back and wish they had done something different at a certain point.

And, oh, by the way, whatever list you come up with, you are already in DefCon 4.  So if you are not doing your DefCon 4 actions/responses, you are behind.  You are doubly behind if you don’t even know what your DefCon 4 actions/responses are yet.

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Re: Threat Levels
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2013, 07:32:43 AM »
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I don't like the "how much people should be afraid" question? I think responses grounded in rational thought are more likely to be productive, especially with a situation that requires long term thinking.

Perhaps fear by itself is the wrong word.  Could there be a balance point where people have enough concern/fear to move them to invest in long term thinking?

I am not convinced. I don't see much sign of people taking long term thinking seriously in relation to this as a general rule. I do see signs that people focus far more on immediate things - like how they will find a job, buy (or acquire) food etc.

Long term thinking is mostly for those who can afford it or who are obsessively determined. I don't think a mass movement comes from individual concern or fear - but rather from leadership and the herd dynamic. Most people follow the herd.

I wanted to stay away from purely scientific thresholds, like 400 PPM CO2.  The system seems to have so much lag time and so much variability built into it, that such thresholds could be passed without immediate impact to individuals.  I wanted to set thresholds that were more real/meaningful to the average person's awareness.  Hence the idea of using the flooding of New York City as a threshold.  More people are probably more aware of that incident and its impacts than melting arctic sea ice.

I agree about CO2 and the lag time which is why I didn't mention CO2. Methane would be a potential much faster effect if a big release occurred. Certainly a significant increase in atmospheric methane concentrations (eg due to a large ESAS release from the free gas reservoir) would seem to me to be a pretty solid red flag.

Dare I argue though that the occasional flooding of places like New York or New Orleans is normal (albeit unlikely) and that for this reason it still isn't an ideal event to go by? I think a benchmark based on sea level rise might be more meaningful in some respects - eg if the West Antarctic Ice Shelf started to collapse or the Greenland Ice sheet substantially drove sea levels upwards? Perhaps one could consider statistical changes in the behaviour of storm systems? I think if you fixate on events that may have occurred sometimes anyway there is a risk you reach your trigger points for the wrong reasons?

Thus to make a lifestyle change, you have to prove it to them in their terms.  It has to be in terms of life goals, experiences, and achievements for themselves and their kids.

Thus I think the flooding of New York City is a good threshold because:
  • It is a place people could conceive of visiting.  They could envision themselves going to a Broadway play, if the Broadway Theater were open.  It is kind of hard to do that if the city is flooded.
  • The same is true with showing the city to their kids, seeing the site of the World Trade Center, or UN headquarters, or Empire State Building or whatever.
  • They can conceive of people making their career there.  Perhaps someone they know has worked there.  Perhaps their kids might work there.
  • They know their own retirement stocks are traded there, which means they are personally affected when the stock market was closed for 2 days.
So it is an event that can cut through all the science and be something they notice and feel a personal connection to.

It seems to me - mostly you're saying it's a good trigger as people can relate to it. That much - I can agree with - but the problem is that flooding to some extent with some frequency is a normal event there and in many parts of the world. What makes this flood different?

Also what has really changed? Am I wrong to think life in New York now continues broadly as before for most people living there? The subways are dry again - the transport is running - life continues? Is there any degradation in the experience of living in New York that would support an argument that the city is potentially now starting on the down slope of collapse? Or is there still resilience sufficient to take another such flood and continue? (I suspect the latter but I really don't know)

In short except for reminding people of what extreme weather looks like and why more extreme weather is a bad thing, how is it relevant to people? (excepting that they can identify with it)

The events are going to happen.  The common man is going to notice them.  But if they do not have a system in place before the event happens, that says I will take X action when Y event happens, then they will not capitalize on the event.  They will let it come and go without making any changes, because who knows if this was a significant enough event to warrant a change.  Who knows if this is the ‘tipping point’.  Maybe they should wait and see if something gets worse first.   

There is always this tendency to think, that was bad, but it is over, and now we are past it.  Things will get back to normal now.  Everyone is focusing on getting back to normal.  I should just focus on getting back to normal too.  So they let the event pass without changing.

So really the argument is to try to encourage people to take trigger events as a basis for action, instead of constructing a strictly rational and objective way of viewing the ongoing processes of abrupt climate change?

In a sense the willingness of the media to label the storm that flooded New York with the climate change label helped a lot I think. Whether or not it caused any changes in behaviour - I suspect mostly not.

How do you persuade people that such a trigger point is sufficiently important to respond to, if they weren't personally affected by it so much that it degraded their ability to respond anyway? People have a very strong tendency to believe in life continuing as normal.

Another issue is that people don't always follow through with plans. I think it requires a certain amount of courage to break away from the "herd", however much planning or intentions you may make. In a sense, isn't daring to be different the single biggest step a person can make?

And, oh, by the way, whatever list you come up with, you are already in DefCon 4.  So if you are not doing your DefCon 4 actions/responses, you are behind.  You are doubly behind if you don’t even know what your DefCon 4 actions/responses are yet.
At minimum I'd already personally be at 2.5, and that only because time and money haven't permitted me to reach 2 yet.

Overall I think your approach as explained does have merit - for people who can be convinced that the situation is anything other than 5...

In the sense that evolution can be a process driven by mass mortality, perhaps ultimately there will be a selection for genes that dispose individuals towards long term planning? (assuming long term planning is in fact a successful strategy for responding to climate change)

Artful Dodger

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Re: Threat - Response Levels
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2013, 12:51:39 PM »
I've been struggling with ...  I guess it is: "how much people should be afraid."
Hi opensheart,

Firstly, I believe it is the United States that will be hardest hit by extreme weather events in the near to mid term. So it's appropriate to reflect on philosophy of some great Americans from the past.

"Never take counsel of your fears"
 - General Stonewall Jackson, US Civil War leader

"Fear chumps you up"
 - anonymous US Marine in Iraq, 2004

While the USA may (currently) be highly ABLE to deal with wx emergencies, the dysfunctional malaise of their current politics indicates they are increasingly UNWILLING to do so. The rich and powerful are hoarding their wealth, slow to help others affected by disaster, and ever hardening their callous attitudes toward those 'others'.

What does this mean for the rest of us? Put simply, the disaster will come, and we will be on our own. So any work you can do to support resilient communities is high value work. They are the groups with the best chances going forward.

And productive work is also the best antidote to the fear and dread experience in any Theatre of Operations. There is much to learn from the military, since they have the most experience dealing with human suffering. I recommend this article on Unit morale, which appeared in the US Army's professional magazine "Military Review":

Prime, E. N. G. L. I. S. H. (2004). Understanding fear’s effect on unit effectiveness. Military Review.

About the Author:
Quote
Major Gregory A. Daddis, U.S. Army, is Regimental S3*, 16th Cavalry Regiment, Fort Knox. He received a B.S. from the U.S. Military Academy, an M.A. from Villanova University, and he is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Command and Staff College. He has served in various staff positions in the continental United States.

So keep yer head down and yer chin up, troop!  ;)

*S3 - the Operations Officer of a Regimental-size miliary unit.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2013, 01:18:33 PM by Artful Dodger »
Cheers!
Lodger

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Re: Threat - Response Levels
« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2013, 10:37:50 PM »
If you were to ask Jim Hansen or Bill McKibben, they would probably declare that we (the entire earth) are at or approaching DEFCON-5.  However, DEFCON classifications are used by the military to declare potential threats that are imminent in terms of hours/days/weeks.  The global emergency we are facing is moving at a different pace, in terms of human timescales.

As yet, we do not know, within decades, when major metropolitan areas will have to be permanently abandoned due to SLR.  For example, will Miami be safe until 2070 or 2150?
It's also difficult to declare a Global Emergency when different regions of the earth will be impacted in different ways and at different times.

While I share everyone's dismay or frustration with global leaders and policymakers for taking little or no action, I can understand that a prudent leader must not say anything that could cause mass panic in the population.

That being said, I'd declare that with CO2 at 400ppm and the Arctic Sea Ice disappearing, we are probably at or near a Global DEFCON-4 and if we approach CO2 levels of 450ppm with no noticeable efforts to reduce GHG emissions we will be at Global DEFCON-5 with no means of returning to a lower threat level.
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fishmahboi

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Re: Threat - Response Levels
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2013, 03:03:54 PM »
With regards the threat levels I feel that we are at Defcon 2 or close to Defcon 1, chiefly because of the fact that the climate has already gone out of control with extensive crop damage, for example the US drought (http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2013/world/global-grain-reserves-are-low-legacy-of-u-s-drought/) and the floods in Europe (http://www.rte.ie/news/galleries/2013/0604/454445-floods-in-europe/) so I guess that once the consequences of the full Arctic Ice melt occur weatherwise I guess that is where things begin to fall apart and we are forced to survive with whatever we have. I guess the recent depopulation of the bees also plays into this as they are disappearing at an extraordinary rate.

SteveMDFP

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Re: Threat - Response Levels
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2013, 03:28:03 PM »

While the USA may (currently) be highly ABLE to deal with wx emergencies, the dysfunctional malaise of their current politics indicates they are increasingly UNWILLING to do so. 

Sadly accurate, Dodger.  We probably all know that Oklahoma's been devastated by massive tornadoes this spring (including the largest tornado ever recorded, at 2.6 miles diameter at the base of the funnel cloud, category F5).  These have destroyed schools with deaths of children.

Yet the Oklahoma legislature has voted DOWN proposals to issue construction bonds to fund storm shelters at public schools.  Simply unbelievable, and justified only by ideology of opposition to "government intrusion" and objections to any new taxes or spending.  Utter insanity.

icebgone

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Re: Threat - Response Levels
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2013, 03:37:01 AM »
The oceans hold the key to all life on Earth.  Eventually, the oceans will cease absorbing CO2 and become a source of CO2.  Game over for all life on Earth's surface.  Honeybees are part of the early warning system.  As more and more land areas experience temperatures above 47.2C the bees will collapse and die from thermal exhaustion.  No predators or potent chemicals, just lots of heat.

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Re: Threat - Response Levels
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2013, 03:52:06 AM »
Yet the Oklahoma legislature has voted DOWN proposals to issue construction bonds to fund storm shelters at public schools.  Simply unbelievable, and justified only by ideology of opposition to "government intrusion" and objections to any new taxes or spending.  Utter insanity.

What do you expect from a state that has repeatedly elected Jim Inhofe as a US Senator.  He is the most vocal "denier" of AGW/CC in the US Congress,  having written a book entitled "HOAX," claiming that AGW/CC is just a conspiracy.

In my opinion Senator Inhofe is using his position and influence to aid and abet grievous "Crimes Against Humanity."
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