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JimD

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Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« on: April 29, 2014, 08:05:37 PM »
Like many here I suspect, I have been blogging for many years now on climate change, energy issues, sustainability and so on with some sort of goal in the back of my mind that I was doing this for more than simple amusement.  I think it fair to state that almost all of the posters here - and elsewhere-  are very passionate in their interest and are motivated by the desire to seek some sort of solution to our problems.  Or perhaps in the case of some proponents of BAU in preventing the rest of us from trying to solve problems which they do not believe exist. 

In my simple world model of this situation I break us all down into three basic groups; the BAU group, the Green-BAU group, and the small group who have come to the conclusion that collapse is certain.  I obviously fall in the latter group.  If I were forced to estimate the relative size of these three groups I would guesstimate that the two BAU groups are roughly equal in size at this time and between them make up near 100% of the population.  There are naturally hard core members of each group as well as those towards the middle who vacillate back and forth between the two general viewpoints.  But, from my latest perspective, there are no great differences between the two groups.  And the desired civilizational/technological direction of both groups is pretty similar and they will result in pretty much the same outcome - catastrophic collapse.  I have been thinking about the above the last couple of weeks and realized that the viewpoint I have been arguing with the most frequently over my years of blogging has been the group I have come to call the Green-BAU viewpoint.  This may have been a result of my thinking that the BAU crowd is so wired into their mode of thinking that there is no point in taking up the writing cudgel and beating them about the head an ears or it may be because I find some common ground with the Green-BAU group.  I do think that anyone who moves to my viewpoint is very likely to be moving out of the Green crowd and not the BAU crowd.  At least I used to think that way, but now I am not so sure.

Over the last few weeks I have read a couple of thousand posts on RealClimate going back to about Dec (mostly in the Unforced Variations topics) and I am coming to the conclusion that my assumption at the end of the above paragraph is not accurate.  RealClimate for those of you who do not know is a blog run by a group of very top level world class climate scientists (to include Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann & Stefan Rahmstorf) and has up until recently had a very strict posting policy oriented towards very scientific posts on the topics of climate change.  Thus it is interesting to read at times, but they do not in general address the most significant problems related to AGW - i.e. human factors.  This posting policy seems to have been relaxed the last few months and a more free flowing level of discussions has occurred.  And a much more vigorous  discussion as well - more like the ones we have here on the Forum.  While the site owners/moderators have not materially contributed to these discussions as one would expect of prominent scientists due to the reputational risk, the regular posters have been very active and as such it has provided a great opportunity to see into the minds of folks who are much more scientifically credentialed and oriented than is the norm here on the Forum.  What do I think I have learned from this exposure to the inner workings of the minds of very strong proponents of the Green-BAU viewpoint - as almost all of them fit into this group?

First and foremost is further proof of the findings of the studies of human nature and thought which find that almost everyone subconsciously determines what their conclusion is and then rationalizes an argument to support the unconscious decision.   The couple of thousand posts I read are replete with examples of posts by authors, who on scientific subjects are very calm, mathematical and reasoned, becoming very emotional and quickly resorting to insults, personal attacks and faith based arguments.  This begs the question as to why this is occurring in a group which one would naturally assume was the most objective and rational subset of people to be found - professionally trained and practicing scientists/engineers. The seeming obvious answer is that this is because the average scientist is no more capable of overcoming the dictates of the evolutionary stamp impressed upon the workings of the human brain than the average joe.  A few generations of the scientific method in no way overcome the 2 million years of evolution which wired the human brain for short-term survival.  In the face of extremely strong evidence that they themselves helped to collect the scientist/technologists are just as incapable of rationally coming to a conclusion as the plain old vanilla BAU group is.  They are just as focused on doubling down on a faith in technical progress and endless growth as everyone else is and will not even discuss the implications of the data which they are helping collect.  A perfect example of short-term human thinking and discounting the future for the present.

So where does this leave me - or perhaps leave a few of us.  If one comes to the conclusion that left to its own proclivities either group will rush headlong into collapse and that it makes little, if any, difference which group someone belongs to, then who is an ally in search of survival and who is not.  Convincing someone to move from the BAU crowd to the Green-BAU crowd serves almost no purpose what-so-ever.  And it makes almost no difference which group holds political power if their policies work to the same effect. 

Over the years I have spent a lot of time pointing out counter examples to Green-BAU arguments - renewables, coal, empire, agriculture, nuclear, etc. some 1300 posts here on the Forum alone - in a vain attempt to connect the dots of the data and point to what seems, to me anyway, a clear path to a logical conclusion that neither the BAU approach or the Green-BAU approach has any chance of preventing collapse and both approaches will lead to a much worse collapse than one planned for.  Almost never does anyone actually understand or choose to recognize the argument, much less respond to it.  This is also clearly the case over at RealClimate.  I have focused the vast majority of my efforts on those who do not fall into the standard BAU group in the belief that those most likely to be able to comprehend the arguments were those most trained to follow a rational thought process.  I no longer believe that to be the case I guess as I think I have come to the conclusion that there is no meaningful difference between the two groups and neither will come to their senses until catastrophe is staring them in the face.  Then, as human nature dictates, everyone will panic. 

In the meantime global CO2 emissions rose another 2+% in 2013 and are now some 36+Gtonnes (39+ Gton US) and presumably still climbing.  US emissions rose 2% in 2013 after declines for a few years and are projected to stay higher thru 2015.  We are 'still' completely wrapped around the axle and ignoring reality as hard as we can.

It is pretty depressing in a way, even if to be expected.   
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

Laurent

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2014, 08:35:42 PM »
Is there a question JimD ?
Collapse even thought we can see it coming is hard to avoid at a personal level, most green BAU are doing their best because their jobs depend on it. Things would be better if all our productions (bread, cars...) were associated with the carbon equivalent release to make them. Until that is done they can do what they want with no references nothing will move in the right direction. To much energy involved, All our societies have embedded constraints based on the energy we use to consume. I agree with you if your reply is : even with a good information that won't be enough, we have to structure the societies so we can adapt the strain we humans put on the nearby ecosystems...mean reducing the number of people but not only.


werther

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2014, 09:18:05 PM »
"But, from my latest perspective, there are no great differences between the two groups.
BAU and Green-BAU, it doesn’t really matter."

Both perspectives hold on to the fiction that one way or another, mankind can sustain its material possessions and even make it grow. As I’ve often thought, this fiction goes beyond rationality. It has to do with a biased philosophy that has gradually evolved based on 17th century decoupling of art and science.

At least, that’s what I think.

As almost all education is done from this biased perspective, it is not easy to see how individuals could get to terms with the notion that collapse is imminent. Letting go is hard, it is even harder to let go gracefully. Don’t count me out on that; it gives me a hard time just the same. It is sad to suppose most of mankind will suffer on this right to the end.

It may be that a small representation of us could hold on in a changing world. I suppose they will in some ways survive as a different species. That doesn’t make those individuals fortunate. Their fate will probably not be as benign as present day people perceive theirs to be.

But, in a way, the seeds of life will germinate.

Maybe the only aspect really worthwhile during our two million years of ascent is we became aware of compassion. And that is in the end the only awareness worth to try to pass on.

Try the Arts, Jim. It might be a source of solace.



JimD

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2014, 09:32:39 PM »
Is there a question JimD ?

......

Laurent

No.  Just some frustration that I have largely been completely unable to get engagement on my fundamental point that collapse is so likely that all actions going forward must be based upon the assumption that it will occur.  Options pursued which ignore a risk-benefit analysis which includes collapse are fundamentally unsound and should be discarded as they are just a form of gambling - and not even intelligent gambling at that.



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

ritter

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2014, 10:05:42 PM »
Jim,

You make an excellent point. There is an additional hurdle in that many of us who believe collapse is inevitable (however few that may be) find it difficult to promote a business model that allows us to exist in society yet hold true to that belief. I live in two worlds--that of my dark fears that collapse is the only way and that of swallowing hard to provide for my family.

I know the train is going off the rails. I just don't know how the hell to disengage from it without collateral damage to those I love the most.

Lucas Durand

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2014, 12:56:34 AM »
JimD,
I hear what your saying and I have a suggestion.

There is some relief in accepting the inadequacies of human agency at the societal level (ie, there is no way for human beings to collectively "choose" a destiny for themselves - it is a delusion born during an unusual period in human history).
Once that delusion has been cleared away, you are free to focus on where human agency is most effective - at the level of the individual.

So, my suggestion is simply to walk your own path sincerely and in honest accordance with your own morals and values.
Do this confidently without worrying what other people think and have faith that those around you, who know and trust you, will observe those changes.
If those people are initially unsure of your path, they may slowly be pulled towards you as the narratives that hold them in thrall break down.
The example you set may serve as a beacon to those people when the world becomes confusing.
This is a slow change, in many ways simply parallel to the existing narratives, but in the temporary void-space created by the implosion of more powerful stories, your new story could be something to cling to.

I also think werther made some good points.
I suspect that a successful compromise with nature will look something like speciation - a sort of "cultural speciation".
What is needed from those who can "see" what's coming is to set an example; to be a sort of moral nucleus that might attract other people as they become disillusioned with their former "reality"; to become a "varient in place" to be tested by environmental factors and to be a potential seed for some future way of life.
People living through a process like this will not necessarily be fortunate, but taking the "long view", this is certainly not defeat if the result is a lasting legacy (something the present economic culture will not deliver).
There is no single correct path - variation is the key to a legacy.
These types of ideas are probably best expressed through the arts - the expression of radical ideas is something art excels at, at least it did until art became mostly just another reflection of our economic culture.

Laurent

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2014, 08:18:34 AM »
Individual...yes obviously. What is needed is to reconstruct an economy localy that is viable within the ecosystem and with society as it is (before the collapse if possible), that cannot be done alone...everyone who understand the problem should go that way. Changing individually and starting to rebuild something, some relationships, etc...

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2014, 09:56:54 AM »
So where does this leave me - or perhaps leave a few of us.  If one comes to the conclusion that left to its own proclivities either group will rush headlong into collapse and that it makes little, if any, difference which group someone belongs to, then who is an ally in search of survival and who is not.  Convincing someone to move from the BAU crowd to the Green-BAU crowd serves almost no purpose what-so-ever.  And it makes almost no difference which group holds political power if their policies work to the same effect. 

So it's worms all the way to the bottom? No real news there.

People deny climate change is happening.
Those who do not, deny that civilisation can fail.
Those who do not, deny that we can do something about it (even in the failure mode).
Those who do not, mostly just talk about it.

Thus the floor of collapse is much lower than it needs to be. Just as the climate change outcome is so much worse due to the prevalence of denial.

It is pretty depressing in a way, even if to be expected.

One can only work with what one has?

It occurs to me that in a strange way our species - almost all members - are choosing their fate, choosing not to live, choosing not to try to retain a future for their descendants. Perhaps the voluntary human extinction people won through in a sense...

icefest

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2014, 10:08:44 AM »
Is there no middle ground between Green BAU and Certain Collapse?

I personally think that collapse is a real possibility but not inevitable. 

I'd compare the current situation to the time in the middle of the Cuban crisis of the 70's - no-one then was expecting the cold war to be over within 20 years.
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SATire

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2014, 12:17:10 PM »
I personally think that collapse is a real possibility but not inevitable.
icefest, I am convinced that it is in principle possible to avoid collapse, since it is clear what to do and that the things to do are possible to be done. However, it is very unlikely that humans are taking that chance. Especially JimD convinced me here in this forum with a lot of facts and informations from USA and also about "human natures ugly head", that an agreement to do the necessary global action is not and will not be possible. 

JimD, you know I agree with most of your conclusions but that I disagree on that kind of "grouping" and the importance of that grouping. The world is much more colorful so to look at individuals and their bonding in different societies is important. One example is visible in a forum like this, where poeple with strong opinions are trying to convince others e.g. to "switch groups" while neglecting trying to understand other poeple. Thus the grouping makes agreements impossible - in my opinion that is the "ugly head of human nature". While it is possible to dicuss in forums terms and definitions (e.g. that what you call "green BAU" in US would be considered BAU here and that some others would put some of the "collapse-promoting" in the vicinity of dangerous poeple - we could discuss such things endlessly just to learn a bit about strange poeple), it is very difficult to agree on priorities of actions without deep understanding and faith into each other.

E.g. I have the feeling that at least a good part of "deniers" here do not deny a specific problem to make profit or so, but have the feeling that other problems are just more threatening right now. Trying to convince someone that his feelings are "wrong" or "not relevant" makes any agreement impossible, since that destroys any trust - agreements come only with trust. My hope is (and I know, that any hope will die at least), that humans start to rate understanding and feelings higher than now and start to take care - I once described it the way that we need less "male human nature" and more "female human nature" to make our way into the future. But I could also take werther's idea in that context: Try art instead of technology - e.g. exponential growth of art would probably not kill us while keeping our girl-searching-"male nature" busy...

Theta

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2014, 01:11:26 PM »
I know denial of the damage that could be caused by Climate Change plays a big part in the lack of action, but could the likes of Guy McPherson or others that state that all of our efforts are meaningless as the game is already over, be a part of why humans refuse to do anything about Climate Change? I ask because if someone who has a large amount of credentials makes a statement that it is too late for humans to do anything and the whole world is doomed; it is likely that people will do nothing because, well, what's the point?
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wili

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2014, 02:44:11 PM »
"could the likes of Guy McPherson...be a part of why humans refuse to do anything about Climate Change?"

I rather doubt it. His videos only show a few thousand hits.

I would say, if anything, the vast majority of people aren't anywhere near freaked out enough.

But we also have to keep in mind that the influence of the average person on policy is close to non-existent. If you haven't been paying attention, the US (and much of the rest of the world) is an oligarchy (see Piketty's new book for the latest irrefutable evidence of this).

And many of the oligarchs are in the fossil-death-fuel business or have their money tied up in the same(so really it should be called an "oiligarch")--we are ruled by those determined to make money (even more gobs of money than they already have) on our destruction, really on universal destruction.
"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."

Lucas Durand

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2014, 04:48:06 PM »
Quote
What is needed is to reconstruct an economy localy that is viable within the ecosystem and with society as it is (before the collapse if possible), that cannot be done alone...everyone who understand the problem should go that way.
Laurent,
Yes, this is something people could do (and are doing in very small groups).
But the point is that most people who aren't already doing something, even people who know better, will not be convinced to make these types of changes because cultural influences can trump empirical facts.
The process of trying to change public opinion simply polarizes existing opinion to a greater extent as people tend to become more firmly entrenched in their existing beliefs.
The conclusion seems to be then that most people will have to have their existing beliefs shattered before there is even a chance to convince them of a new set of beliefs.
There is research that supports this idea.
Broadly, it is an hypothesis known as "cultural cognition":
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_cognition
http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/rf1.html
http://www.psychology.uwa.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/2523540/LskyetalRecursiveFury4UWA.pdf
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm abstract_id=1871503&http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1871503
https://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/


So for people who happen to find themselves in the rather (relatively) common position of being the only person in their world who seems to take the need for substantive change to heart, then they need to be courageous enough to set an example, risk some alienation in the process, and hopefully others will follow that example when their beliefs are finally shattered by the unfolding of real events.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2014, 05:03:51 PM by Lucas Durand »

JimD

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2014, 05:57:10 PM »
I appreciate all of the comments and all are deserving of response. 

It may seem like my angst is in search of solace and I appreciate the thoughts along that line.  However I do not seek a relief from that type of pain in that I do not mind it all that much and it serves to focus ones attention on the cause. 

I think the cause is frustration with the dictates of human nature and its inflexibility to adaptation.  This is perhaps to be expected of traits developed over millennia, but the concept of 'free will' in human actions I once believed in and thought demonstrated our real progression as a species keeps running into the reality that we, in practice, react almost exclusively from a primitive set of paradigm's.  We do not actually reason...

But only reason will save us at this point. 

I know that it stresses some when I group people into 'groups' as a way of explaining behavior trends.   I recognize that we are all individuals and unique within a reasonable definition - though there are thousands of individuals almost indistinguishable from each of us.  I think we all recognize that there are groups of individuals we each generally fit into and tend to act similar too.  Thus descriptions of groups and their behavior can help define and describe a general problem.  Or so I think.

Setting aside people like Guy McPherson (whom I think a little unbalanced) my focus was on a large group of very well educated scientists and engineers who are sort of by definition near the peak of ability in applying the methods of scientific reasoning and rational thought.  These folks certainly fall into the general group of those who advocate technological solutions to our dilemma of AGW and other problems.  A group within a  group so to speak.  The trigger to my post is a growing conviction that this 'group', in aggregate, is just as incapable of laying out a clear description of the problem and its governing parameters as the BAU group.  This is evident by the substance of their proposed actions which are not considering the probabilities and risks of collapse.

It does not matter at all whether you agree with me that collapse is inevitable -different people read data in different ways - and I accept that 'inevitable' is a dangerous word.  But no rational person can deny that collapse is a very real possibility and that possibility must be taken into account in any proposed action which purports to solve our problems.  This risk analysis is what is lacking in the proposed technological solutions.  Considering their training in the scientific method and logical reasoning this blindness can only be coming from the dictates of the subconscious parts of the human brain. 

The BAU group doubles down on continuing to live the way we always have before as it has always worked in the past and the Green-BAU group .... does the same thing.  It makes me grind my teeth.  Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity according to Einstein.

When one has not thoroughly described the problem being solved, and its hard boundaries, and then assessed the totality of the risks associated with the problem, and how the risks are being assessed, and dealt with or not, then one has not done the basic work required to base a solution upon.  Proposing replacing fossil fuels with a massive buildout of renewables, or covering the world with nuclear power plants, absent performing the above work ahead of time is not just a sign of incompetence... its irrational. Thus we get proposed solutions which will not solve the problem and in many cases will make the end result much worse than it needs be. 

Human nature seems to be resulting in demonstrating a version of Upton Sinclair's famous quote about not being able to make a man understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it.  No one proposes workable solutions because workable solutions require that we overcome our basic nature and sacrifice much of our current way of life.

I accept the point that I need to work on this from a different approach.  I will see what I can do.   
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

icefest

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2014, 06:15:01 PM »
JimD, what is your realistic best case scenario from now on? (Assume realistic is within a 90% CI i.e. ignore the best 5% chance)

How much suffering can we avoid?
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wili

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2014, 07:36:54 PM »
Jim, are you planning to share any of this with the folks over at RC, since it sounds like it is the posts there that partly inspired it? As one you follows that site quite regularly, I for one would greatly appreciate it. (Or perhaps you are already posting there under a different pseudonym?)

On human nature, it is certainly part of what is at play. But I don't think essential human nature has changed greatly over the last few centuries, while over the same time period we gone from a more-or-less sustainable planet to one, as you say on the verge of (or really in the process of) collapse of many of its most basic functions and support systems.

So it has to be something else interacting in a toxic way with elements of 'human nature' that have brought us to this juncture. Some reduce that extra thing to industrial society, or to exploitation of ff (if that can be separated from the former), or to capitalism, or to the growth imperative... or of course various combinations of these and others.

Ultimately, we have to have some kind of analysis of these causes and interactions in order to even plan (if such a thing is even remotely conceivable) a collapse. And in any case, some of us who really do think that collapse is inevitable do want to come to a full understanding of how we got here, whether such knowledge is ever of any practical help or not.

So any thoughts in this direction would be appreciated.
"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: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2014, 08:04:27 PM »
Is there no middle ground between Green BAU and Certain Collapse?

I personally think that collapse is a real possibility but not inevitable.

Of course there is a middle ground? Collapse comes in degrees.

Should we take no real action to raise the collapse floor, we may be set back ten thousand years, whereas if we came up with a strategy to retain key knowledge and technology in the face of collapse, it seems conceivable to me that we could be set back perhaps only a century or two (in terms of technological equivalence - I think in both cases it would take much longer to regain the ground).

If one raised the collapse floor up all the way, one would have implicitly avoided collapse (however, I think only genuinely long term sustainability can deliver this).

The real problem though is that people are not interested in raising the collapse floor for the good of our species and long term descendants. They are interested in how they get to live today (even the environmentally aware ones, hence the fixation on Green-BAU). Thus there is a process by which people are able to move from "we can avoid collapse with green-BAU" to "we are all mcpherson doomed" without going through the middle ground of "we can strategise around collapse itself".

There are far too many environmentally aware people who would be overjoyed if they were told that we could run zero emission energy sources and solve all our problems out to 2100 but no further.

It gives me a very low opinion of humanity as it stands.

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #17 on: April 30, 2014, 08:17:38 PM »
The BAU group doubles down on continuing to live the way we always have before as it has always worked in the past and the Green-BAU group .... does the same thing.  It makes me grind my teeth.  Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity according to Einstein.

[...]

I accept the point that I need to work on this from a different approach.  I will see what I can do.

In theory, would the logical thing not be to work with that tiny portion you mentioned? I do not think you can rapidly convert people with reason - the history of denial with respect to the simple fact of whether or not climate change is happening (let alone all the associated implications) says that much.

One can only work with the tools and resources one has.

In this case however, I think this portion really is vanishingly small. Still too small in the almost 7 years I've spent looking for (and indeed trying to create) it to have any real scope for a critical mass on even a limited scale.

However, every human endeavor in history starts with a single idea in a single human brain. From such humble origins the tides of history are created.

So to me the obvious question becomes - what are you doing as an individual? You are old enough to be a grandparent (if not now, before too long). You've reaped the benefits of the modern lifestyle for a sizeable chunk of your life. You grasp the nature of the problem intellectually. What are you doing for your descendants? Is it genuinely enough that if everyone did it, it would assure their future and that of our species?

Some of that is a tad personal I appreciate, but the general gist of the question stands for all.

JimD

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #18 on: April 30, 2014, 11:07:53 PM »
JimD, what is your realistic best case scenario from now on? (Assume realistic is within a 90% CI i.e. ignore the best 5% chance)

How much suffering can we avoid?

To answer that would just be my best guess.  While I am a fairly intelligent guy and do have some specific areas of real expertise I do not claim the level of smarts to think I can give a meaningful answer to your question.

I am certain that there is going to be a lot of suffering.  A lot.  We have inadvertently worked ourselves into a very  bad situation and we are continuing the behaviors which got us there.  We are still making things worse and the final outcome thus will be worse than it needs to be.

Because we have not properly looked at the situation and clearly defined the core problem which needs addressing we flail around making fools of ourselves.  We are overwhelmed with proposed solutions looking for a problem to solve, while at the same time ignoring the prime problem sitting in the room with us and thus are accomplishing almost nothing.

Basic human nature makes us do that.  It is unconscious for the most part.  Palatable plans are always accepted before unpalatable ones, even when they do not address the core problem and the unpalatable one does. 

Things are going to go very bad sometime in the next few decades.  There are a host of things we can choose to do which will make that process be MUCH worse than is the absolute minimum we can get away with.  And that is exactly what we are trying to do via both the approach's inherent in the BAU and Green-BAU camps. 

If we can find a way to look the core problem(s) in the face and map their boundaries we can then visualize the actions which lie within the scope of what can have meaningful purpose and which actions can easily result in end conditions being worse.  Each action has a possible benefit and a potential risk.  Some entail risks which are too great to chance even though there is a sound argument as to their potential benefits. 

I dance around here using intangibles on purpose.  I, or likely you, can easily name the problem(s), the core causes - which automatically point to likely solutions, and many of the possible paths towards a less catastrophic outcome.  But, in polite company or civilized discourse, actually stating many of them is an automatic disqualification from being listened too.  Here on the Forum it happens all the time.  It is that human nature getting in the way of logically stepping through the problem issue again.  Things we fear we ignore, we don't talk about, we mythologize. 

I just want people to take a  clear headed look at the problem and then address possible solutions.  We long ago passed the point where behaving as we always have made rational sense.       
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: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #19 on: April 30, 2014, 11:38:54 PM »
ccg

Quote
However, every human endeavor in history starts with a single idea in a single human brain. From such humble origins the tides of history are created.

So to me the obvious question becomes - what are you doing as an individual? ..... What are you doing for your descendants? Is it genuinely enough that if everyone did it, it would assure their future and that of our species?

Is it possible to do that?   I am not sure.  If we all lived with the carbon footprint of the average African we would still be adding each year to the CO2 ppm number and would be living beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth.  Neither us at current numbers nor civilization is sustainable in any meaningful sense.  And AGW sits on top of that.

Like most people I am a mix of good and bad.  I conserve and live a pretty simple life (by American standards).  I do not participate in the consumer lifestyle, but then I never did as it does not appeal to my basic nature.  Indeed there is not much that I do now that is greatly different than the entire way I have lived my personal life as I was always oriented towards what now seems to be the favored green and sustainable approaches.  But I certainly am pretty well off also, but those assets just sit in the bank so to speak as I do not use them in any way.

Living by example does not have much impact on others in my experience.  I live simply because to me that has always seemed the right thing to do.  I find enough of interest in my thoughts about the world and do not need to demonstrate to others how nice a car I could afford or how big a house I could buy.

Mostly what I do in an attempt to have an impact you see here on the Forum and at other places I write.  I write quite a bit at times - then I go into read mode and try and absorb more information to process.  I am working on a draft right now that runs to 37 single spaced pages - which I have not yet decided if it is worth publishing.  And I am working on several other large topics.  I seek to explain what seems confusing to others or what needs to be said.  Does it help or do any good?  I don't really think it makes much difference.  But I do it any way and it is certainly intellectually stimulating.

But I am coming closer to deciding to wander off and pursue other avenues of writing to see if I could have some impact from another direction also.  I have a lot of Don Quixote in me I guess.
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

Lucas Durand

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #20 on: May 01, 2014, 12:01:24 AM »
Quote
Living by example does not have much impact on others in my experience.
JimD,
While I don't question the validity of your observation, I wonder if it is fair to draw any conclusions from it yet.
I also try to live by example and while I'm sure it is not having much effect now, it's impossible to say what effect your example might have in the future.
People live by the stories they tell themselves, when those stories become undeniably false by experience, they look for new stories.

As a collapse scenario begins to unfold, and the "old stories" become false, will the "new stories" be constructive or destructive - there is the potential for both.
I argue from a strategic point of view that people who are aware of the potential for collapse should be making every effort to ensure that the "new stories" are constructive ones.
What better way is there to convince someone of your worldview than to demonstrate its effectiveness during times of uncertainty?

Tony OBrien

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #21 on: May 01, 2014, 01:22:29 AM »
I too am in the civilization is going to end and it will be ugly camp. And fairly soon. The only logical option is to move, as suburbia will likely be the worst affected.

However my family has made it very clear that I would be moving alone, thus defeating the purpose. So I will stay and make my suburban plot just a little bit more survivable. Grow veggies, save rainwater, but no guns. It will not be enough

While collapse is inevitable, will it be fast or slow? How much will be saved? Clearly there is no way 6 billion people will enter the 22nd century, but will it still be billions or thousands. Maybe something better will arise out of the ashes, but the transition will be horrendous. I do think mankind will survive the 21st century and the stories that are to be told will be very different.

ccgwebmaster

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #22 on: May 01, 2014, 01:27:54 AM »
ccg

Quote
However, every human endeavor in history starts with a single idea in a single human brain. From such humble origins the tides of history are created.

So to me the obvious question becomes - what are you doing as an individual? ..... What are you doing for your descendants? Is it genuinely enough that if everyone did it, it would assure their future and that of our species?

Is it possible to do that?   I am not sure.  If we all lived with the carbon footprint of the average African we would still be adding each year to the CO2 ppm number and would be living beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth.  Neither us at current numbers nor civilization is sustainable in any meaningful sense.  And AGW sits on top of that.

That isn't really what I was getting at. Your lifestyle may not be sustainable, but that doesn't mean you can't use it to design a sustainable future for your descendants.

My point is not over whether or not an individual can currently live productively within a truly sustainable resource footprint but rather over the legacy we are bequeathing to the future. If you were burning a hundred tons of carbon a year but in doing so assuring thousands of years of future human history, would that be wrong? I do not think it necessarily would?

The population and resource consumption aspects must necessarily self correct with collapse (population crashes, easy resources are depleted) - thus the question is what happens to those people who must inhabit what is left on the other side of collapse? Cutting a few tonnes of carbon dioxide a year is worth doing, I grant - but it has a much smaller effect than preparing resources, skills, knowledge, strategies etc for those people who must inhabit that future?

In this respect the actions of an individual are not necessarily the same between looking out for our species in the future, and trying to achieve a sustainable basis today (though I would argue the two paths ultimately converge).

Living by example does not have much impact on others in my experience.  I live simply because to me that has always seemed the right thing to do.  I find enough of interest in my thoughts about the world and do not need to demonstrate to others how nice a car I could afford or how big a house I could buy.

Mostly what I do in an attempt to have an impact you see here on the Forum and at other places I write.  I write quite a bit at times - then I go into read mode and try and absorb more information to process.  I am working on a draft right now that runs to 37 single spaced pages - which I have not yet decided if it is worth publishing.  And I am working on several other large topics.  I seek to explain what seems confusing to others or what needs to be said.  Does it help or do any good?  I don't really think it makes much difference.  But I do it any way and it is certainly intellectually stimulating.

To be sure, I am not exactly critical of what you are doing - it is arguably good, to a point at least - and your actions are in the right direction. It is not therefore a matter of quality of action per se (especially if intentions are in good places) but more a question of sufficiency. Are your actions sufficient to honour your obligation to your descendants? (and this question is one I cast to everyone, I'm not trying to pick on you)

You see - everyone could have the best of intentions, and act in positive ways - but if the actions are insufficient to the problem, we still fail (or at least collapse a lot further or see much worse outcomes) as a species. While one cannot clearly identify blame in such a case, surely our future requires sufficiency - not just intentions and efforts.

But I am coming closer to deciding to wander off and pursue other avenues of writing to see if I could have some impact from another direction also.  I have a lot of Don Quixote in me I guess.

Personally I am close to mostly giving up on communicating my viewpoints to a wider audience for the foreseeable future. While it seems to me conversations are gradually drifting into realms I envisaged years ago now (which represents progress), I don't feel I've achieved much in doing this, nor do I feel it is productive use of my time to continue on this route - better to focus solely on my own personal planning. At one time I had a vision of trying to inspire/encourage other people to do similar things, but if in so much time I cannot find one other person - I don't see the point to continuing to do so.

In any event, I feel that by the time most people grasp the problem it will simply be too late to develop and implement plans sufficient for the problem. Only reactive and desperate options will remain available then.

JimD

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #23 on: May 01, 2014, 01:40:27 AM »
Quote
Living by example does not have much impact on others in my experience.
JimD,
While I don't question the validity of your observation, I wonder if it is fair to draw any conclusions from it yet.
I also try to live by example and while I'm sure it is not having much effect now, it's impossible to say what effect your example might have in the future.
People live by the stories they tell themselves, when those stories become undeniably false by experience, they look for new stories.

As a collapse scenario begins to unfold, and the "old stories" become false, will the "new stories" be constructive or destructive - there is the potential for both.
I argue from a strategic point of view that people who are aware of the potential for collapse should be making every effort to ensure that the "new stories" are constructive ones.
What better way is there to convince someone of your worldview than to demonstrate its effectiveness during times of uncertainty?


Lucas

Well that is a pretty interesting statement.  It is almost exactly what my wife has been telling me for some time.  She says that I need to "tell" everyone else the stories I tell her.  Not the blog posts (which she mostly attributes to the male need for combat as entertainment) but the wherewithal's on what the world will look and feel like as events unfold.  In other words she has been beating me up to write a book.

So is it a destructive or constructive story to describe what life will be like if we continue to follow the dictates of human nature?  Or an instructive one?

And what does a story communicate if it presumes we step outside ourselves and act in a rational mode?  A collision of destructive and constructiveness I suppose.

Quite a dilemma for a determinist.  I needs perhaps to find my lost youth and the warm embrace of idealism and endless possibilities.
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: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #24 on: May 01, 2014, 01:57:24 AM »
ccg

It would be hard to write a better post.

Quote
To be sure, I am not exactly critical of what you are doing - it is arguably good, to a point at least - and your actions are in the right direction. It is not therefore a matter of quality of action per se (especially if intentions are in good places) but more a question of sufficiency. Are your actions sufficient to honour your obligation to your descendants? (and this question is one I cast to everyone, I'm not trying to pick on you)

You see - everyone could have the best of intentions, and act in positive ways - but if the actions are insufficient to the problem, we still fail (or at least collapse a lot further or see much worse outcomes) as a species. While one cannot clearly identify blame in such a case, surely our future requires sufficiency - not just intentions and efforts.

An unknowable of course, but highly relevant as a question and a point.  The point being towards expending more effort as one can never know what is sufficient.

I am sure that you have had more influence than you might think, but I do not doubt your conclusions on what is best for you either.   

Quote
In any event, I feel that by the time most people grasp the problem it will simply be too late to develop and implement plans sufficient for the problem. Only reactive and desperate options will remain available then.

As success depends on the group and not the individual I am pretty sure you have this right.  But that is the windmill I tilt with I guess.  I just don't think I can walk away from trying to get the message about the problem across.  If I were young I would take your path, but it makes no sense for me personally given my age. 
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

SATire

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #25 on: May 01, 2014, 12:38:31 PM »
My point is not over whether or not an individual can currently live productively within a truly sustainable resource footprint but rather over the legacy we are bequeathing to the future. If you were burning a hundred tons of carbon a year but in doing so assuring thousands of years of future human history, would that be wrong? I do not think it necessarily would?

The population and resource consumption aspects must necessarily self correct with collapse (population crashes, easy resources are depleted) - thus the question is what happens to those people who must inhabit what is left on the other side of collapse? Cutting a few tonnes of carbon dioxide a year is worth doing, I grant - but it has a much smaller effect than preparing resources, skills, knowledge, strategies etc for those people who must inhabit that future?

In this respect the actions of an individual are not necessarily the same between looking out for our species in the future, and trying to achieve a sustainable basis today (though I would argue the two paths ultimately converge).

ccg, I hope that I did not understand your post well. So please read my following comment not as critics but as some input, which perhaps could help you to explain the "collapse vision" also to poeple like me who fear the time of collapse and do not believe in a more sustainable time after collapse.

What you wrote about "burning carbon now for a better future later" reminds me to the last IPCC reposrt WG3 and the track resulting in only +2°C: We can burn a bit more now since we consider our grandchilds to get some of the CO2 out of the atmosphere: As if they would not be busy that time struggeling with AGW, fighting the conflicts and getting some food they are also asked to produce some char coal not for barbeque but to bury it beneath the earth! Such statements are doomed politics - they are a flimsy excuse to stay lazy today while keep feeling good.

What kind of resources, skills, knowledge, strategies should we prepare for our descendants if not some carbon to be burn, some left over space for CO2 in the atmosphere and some prooven skills to life with zero emissions? So what else than zero emission can be a usefull goal right now?

I actually want to tell you two things, which are surely apparent to everybody here. But I miss them in all the collapse scenarios:
1) some risk analysis for collapse scenarios is needed
2) How and why should it be easier possible to life sustainable in/after a collapse than now? No way.

I would kindly aks to consider following risks for collapse:

* It could be, that human nature will not change during collapse. So we will end up quite close to where we are now. History example from WW2 collapse in Germany: Poeple with some power before the collapse where first in power again after - it took to '68 to get them out. I would expect that poeple able to most efficiently extract the last ressources would make it most likely through the collapse. Thus collapse would select the wrong poeple for sustainability.

* Even if we globaly agree on zero emissions e.g. until 2050 - when first signs of collapse surface, I am sure that poeple will skip their emission goals trying to save their lives. E.g. instead of peacefully deliver the land in USA to sustainable native indians, Amish and perma-culture poeple I assume they will dig all the coal and prepare for war...

* Maybe the idea of a "purifying collapse" making a sustainable paradise possible is just some opium for us poeple like any religion?  Could that collapse idea prevent us from any serious action necessary right now by giving some hope for a better future after all of our prophecies became true?

* And as last point: How could it be easier in a doomed future to get sustainable than now? Right now we have the peaceful situation and all the ressources to transit to sustainability. E.G. in Europe and USA it is easy to come to 0 emission in a short time now. Right now it would only break our economy but not the basis of our life. That will certainly change in future. So we have to life the sustainable life now to give something real to our children and not only nice suggestments and a rotten world. You may say: That is impossible for some reason. But as the crazy green ideas of our parents became green-BAU in our current society the crazy perma-culture/bio-dynamical ideas are getting mainstream now, too. We are on the way to transit from green-BAU to "Amish-BAU" now within a generation, if collapse will not kill that transition...

I hope you can see my fear for collapse and why I think we should proceed on a more safe road from "green-BAU" via "Amish-BAU" towards "sustainable-BAU". I am feeling that such way could be much less risky.

Laurent

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #26 on: May 01, 2014, 01:45:46 PM »
Satire, I agree but we do not control the collapse. By sending informations on this forum (and others) we are certainly advancing the sure time of collapse. It  would certainly begin by a financial collapse, when the smart peoples gambling for stocks exchange will realize what we do now on this forum, then sure the collapse may occure.

But you are very right it is easier to prepare now...


SATire

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #27 on: May 01, 2014, 02:14:01 PM »
Satire, I agree but we do not control the collapse.
Laurent, I agree with you. Collapse is something out of control by the poeple - otherwise it would be named differently, e.g. transition, reform or revolution.

But somehow on the other side of the Atlantic there is some area where it is quite popular to think about performing a collapse intentionally...

You mention "financial collapse" - I would ignore that, because such things are not dangerous for our lifes but could even help to get a bit faster to zero emissions. My peer group, the 5-10% green avant-garde which I see becoming mainstream also in urban regions in the last years paving the way for the next "bio-dynamic-Amish-BAU", will not feel any financial or economic crisis at all. So I do not fear financial/artificial/economical crisis of some numbers like GDP or the like. What I fear is that collapse with billions dead poeple by intention - most likely killing the soft/sustainable poeple first. I understood that is the thing some poeple across the Atlantic have in mind - I think it is special to that area (and maybe also to Australia and UK a bit). It is a pitty that we do not have a lot of input from poeple from Asia and Africa here - I think they have a strong different opinion about such kind of global collapse, too. 

Thank you Laurent, that you asked that and I had the chance to mention that context. I think to most poeple outside USA my wording was very unclear because that strange context would hardly be considered, of course.

It  would certainly begin by a financial collapse, when the smart peoples gambling for stocks exchange will realize what we do now on this forum, then sure the collapse may occure.
Oh Laurent, that "smart poeple" are poeple like you and me and know what we know allready. But they are betting their money, that most poeple will not take action anyway (like most poeple here in the forum, too). If most of them/us start to believe that poeple will take AGW seriously, we will see the signal in London FTSE first. But again - that will not be a sign for the collapse but for some real "BAU-ish" action against AGW.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2014, 02:36:26 PM by SATire »

Laurent

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #28 on: May 01, 2014, 04:16:15 PM »
Yep, that kind of US thinking is out my head...and I don't want to understand more. Thanks.

wili

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #29 on: May 01, 2014, 05:44:12 PM »
Satire, on  your response to ccg. Thanks for that clear appraisal. It is for just such reasons that I have in the past distanced myself from people who seem to be  yearning for a collapse.

But I do wonder what you think is looming in our future as well as what is going on right now.

Do you not think that a collapse, with all the negative consequences you describe, is inevitable at some point?

Do you not think that the longer it is delayed, the more negative those consequences are going to be?

Do you not think that every moment before collapse, our BAU present pumping 35+ billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere and generally befouling our nest in ever more extreme ways, makes it ever harder for those after collapse, human and non-, to survive?

(I agree, though, that collapse is no guarantee of anything after it. It is most likely that a completely chaotic collapse will lead to massive inter- and intra-species violence. But that is likely to happen whenever collapse occurs, and the later, the worse. I also agree that there are very few ways that burning more carbon now is going to help future generations--most claims to the contrary are essentially rationalizations.)
"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."

Bruce Steele

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #30 on: May 01, 2014, 05:51:33 PM »
When we go hiking in the wilderness less people are better than large groups. When we take a very small boat to sea less people are better than too many. And although the "too many people on a small boat"is a well used analogy it is a good one. I have been on a sinking ship ,throwing heavy things over as the water rose.
I didn't get to the point of having to get in the water because throwing things over actually worked. The problem with an overcrowded boat is the only thing heavy to throw over is the people, and because throwing people over isn't an option the boat sinks.
 Many of us have tried shrinking our carbon footprint and some fairly simple changes can reduce one's personal contribution for sure but anyone trying to get down to the one ton Co2 emissions goal will quickly realize how difficult that is to actually do. Amish-BAU can get you there but really how much Amish dedication is really increasing? Trying to maintain a modern lifestyle with solar cells, electric cars, bullet trains, windmills and a 24/7 Internet connection is never going to get you below a one ton goal until all the embedded energy costs of manufacture are also stripped of their fossil fuel dependence. Here lies the problem. If everyone on the planet did somehow get down to the one ton goal we would need to reduce that again by half to stretch ( civilization ) out a couple more centuries.
  The time we have to respond is very short, within 30-50 years at current emission trajectories we will have committed large pieces of the ocean to permanent undersaturation. The melting ice and associated weather changes will undoubtably have impacted agricultural production, etc. We always come to the problem with too many people and our total inability to talk in any meaningful way about that problem. It isn't that anyone really wants collapse to mean a major dieback of humans but that's what it means... Not a technological collapse but a population crash.  Throwing anyone out of the boat isn't an option so the last option is for some people to get in the water and try to swim for land. That is a very personal choice. Swimmers will not stay with the overcrowded sinking boat. 
And when those swimmers do make it to land maybe then they will be ready to forgo their fossil fuel addiction for good. The trauma of the experience may be necessary for people to actually commit to making the major changes necessary to implement a sustainable future.   
     
       

Lucas Durand

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #31 on: May 01, 2014, 06:31:22 PM »
JimD,
Your wife sounds like a wise lady.

Quote
So is it a destructive or constructive story to describe what life will be like if we continue to follow the dictates of human nature?  Or an instructive one?
I would say its all about perspective.
My own view is that, in general, life clinging to the side of "Seneca's cliff" will almost certainly be a bummer, but its going to happen sooner or later (since as you say "human nature" is apparently non-negotiable for the most part), so lets get over that and try to redefine our perspectives and what "constructive" might look like in that new world.
My own view is that we are entering a time when what is "constructive" should be less about personal interests and more about the establishment of a legacy for our species that might have to endure hundreds or even thousands of years of "Gaia's wrath".
So, for example, we could try to inspire a shift in perspective from fear and self-interest to selflessness and servitude to future generations.

As I was getting at earlier, life "on the other side" will require dramatic cultural shifts (by hook or by crook) and I guess this will look something like speciation - a process of testing and selection will sort out the "more effective" cultures from the "less effective" in this new environment.
If this is the case, we need greater cultural diversity with new "cultural varients" in order to increase the chances of a greater number of "successful" varients.
But we also need to do everything we can to try to ensure that those new "cultural varients" are "constructive" under the circumstances - ie, that we do everyhting in our power to try to prevent "hard times" from driving us backwards into old hatreds and even more exploitive behaviours.

Quote
And what does a story communicate if it presumes we step outside ourselves and act in a rational mode?
Well, I suppose that would depend on what your reference points are for what constitutes "rational".
Right now those reference points in most people's minds are very strongly economic.
A lot of potential options are ignored in this time because while they may be "rational" from the point of view of, say, species preservation, they are "irrational" from an economics point of view.
So as before, what is "rational" is a matter of perspective - which is why I suspect many of my comments are often confusing to people or considered strange; it isn't that my ideas aren't rational, it's just that the reference points for my reasoning are different from most other people's.
Psychologically, I have committed more to the idea of living in a post-collapse world than most other people so I may seem strange - but this is the path that I encourage all "collapse aware" people to take; to make the leap of faith that what you believe will prove to be correct, to get on the learning curve of that new world before everyone else, to begin building and practicing "parallel structures" and to share insights and demonstrate examples.
Help legitimise new reference points for a new "rationality" consistent with your vision of reality.

Each to their own capacities, but as ccgwebmaster opined, the effort should be honest in its sufficiency.
In the end, you may be surprised just how much of a wave your example might make in the future.

This an entirely blank canvass to work on so it is a very interesting place to be.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2014, 06:38:56 PM by Lucas Durand »

JimD

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #32 on: May 01, 2014, 08:03:39 PM »
SATire

I've grown to like your commentary and find it a very useful sounding board to bounce my ideas off of.   I can see that at times it really upsets you and I don't say the things I do with any such intent.  I just try to be very straightforward with what I think is going on and is likely to happen.  And why.  Please keep that in mind with the below post.

With your 2 points just below you articulate some of what I have been arguing so strongly about.  Yes, we desperately NEED to do risk analysis of the situation. That no one is doing it before proposing technical solutions is my biggest complaint and I go back to it all the time.  The policies I support, and those I oppose, and what I think the odds are of collapse come directly FROM my personally performed risk analysis.  I want others to perform that same risk analysis and then explain to me in a rational and logical manner where I messed up and that there are other ways out of this than my logic has brought me too.  I may well be mistaken in the conclusions I have come to.  But when everyone recoils from what I say and refuses to consider it rationally and then proposes solutions which fail to perform any risk analysis I just have to say they are living in some sort of self delusional world.  If no one can present a meaningful counter argument to mine then I have to stick to my basic argument.  Risk analysis is something I have some skill at and thus I have confidence that my basic approach is sound - though my conclusion may be wrong.  Someone needs to show where I am likely in error or we need to take what I am saying into our thinking.  I believe we are currently on the road to huge mistakes that will make the world of the future much less livable than what is unavoidable.

I know you don't think like me on these matters, but try and put yourself in my thought process for a time and tell me where you think I am off track.

Let me pick at your below points a bit. 
 
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I actually want to tell you two things, which are surely apparent to everybody here. But I miss them in all the collapse scenarios:
1) some risk analysis for collapse scenarios is needed
2) How and why should it be easier possible to life sustainable in/after a collapse than now? No way.

Number 1 asks for the very thing I have been asking for from others and have tried to perform myself.  Without digging up all the references let me state that a number of very famous authors have written books on why collapse is going to happen.  In addition there are hundreds of articles and thousands of blog posts which have deal with this very  point.  There is literally mountains of data which point to collapse being highly likely if not inevitable.  This is the same conclusion to which I have come and what I ask for is a rational, logical reasoned argument which performs a risk analysis using this data and which shows me and all the others who have looked into this where we are wrong.  But no one does it.  What we get are outright rejections of what we say based upon the authors unwillingness to look the implications of collapse in the face, appeals which amount to a faith in technical progress, ignoring the data, ignoring the math and physics, ignoring the problems with the growth paradigm, ignoring the dictates of human nature, ignoring the history of human behavior, ignoring population growth, and so on.  This situation should ALARM you as it does me.  It strongly implies that my conclusion is correct.

Collapse seems certain and is likely already underway in a partial sense.  We will likely be in full fledged crises mode by around 2050 (IMHO).

To point 2 above.  The question is misstated.  There is no possible means or methods in existence in the world we live in today to ever get even a small percentage of the way to sustainable living on a global scale before collapse.  So the only part of the question which has relevance is how we can get there post collapse.  That is what ccg is addressing.  And it is not how and why it should be easier post collapse.  We must do it post collapse and how easy it is to do it does not matter at all.  As we must do it no matter what.  Or AGW continues to slowly get worse and we continue to spiral down until we are no longer viable.  Industrial civilization is not and never will be sustainable.  That would defy the laws of physics.  As long as human population and resource consumption are beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth it is not possible that the global population can live sustainably.  Individuals living sustainably do not change the logic of the previous sentence in any way.   

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I would kindly aks to consider following risks for collapse:

* It could be, that human nature will not change during collapse. So we will end up quite close to where we are now. History example from WW2 collapse in Germany: Poeple with some power before the collapse where first in power again after - it took to '68 to get them out. I would expect that poeple able to most efficiently extract the last ressources would make it most likely through the collapse. Thus collapse would select the wrong poeple for sustainability.

It is highly unlikely that human nature will change before collapse.  That would indeed be surprising.  For those who live through something as traumatic as collapse there certainly is a good chance that their behavior will be permanently changed from before, but changing the underlying human nature does not happen except over generations.  At least that is what history has shown us so far.  Thus to your point about who ends up selected for post collapse.  As always it will be a full mix of the species.  And one would have a pretty high confidence that human society will sort itself out along lines similar to what we have formed each time we picked ourselves up off the ground and started over following some disaster.  Why would we expect anything different?

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* Even if we globaly agree on zero emissions e.g. until 2050 - when first signs of collapse surface, I am sure that poeple will skip their emission goals trying to save their lives. E.g. instead of peacefully deliver the land in USA to sustainable native indians, Amish and perma-culture poeple I assume they will dig all the coal and prepare for war...

There is no possibility of zero emissions before 2050 and given the global population numbers we are looking at there is no possibility of zero emissions pre collapse.  At average African levels of emissions we would still be looking at 1 tonne per capita and thus about 9+ Gtonnes per year - not counting any new contributions from things like methane emissions from the arctic.

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* Maybe the idea of a "purifying collapse" making a sustainable paradise possible is just some opium for us poeple like any religion?  Could that collapse idea prevent us from any serious action necessary right now by giving some hope for a better future after all of our prophecies became true?

I should take this purifying comment as sarcasm?  There will be no paradise and purifying in the sense of remembered pain?  Could the collapse awareness result in some people not taking serious action?  Sure, but most are not taking any serious action today or are likely to in the future so how could that be considered to be particularly harmful.  Since those who calculate collapse are basing their arguments on data and logic and those refusing to consider it are not basing their positions on the same, which position is based upon 'prophecy'.  Refusing to deal with (or look at) Reality does not mean that it goes away.  We need to be very hardheaded and practical on this issue. 

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* And as last point: How could it be easier in a doomed future to get sustainable than now? Right now we have the peaceful situation and all the ressources to transit to sustainability. E.G. in Europe and USA it is easy to come to 0 emission in a short time now. Right now it would only break our economy but not the basis of our life. That will certainly change in future. So we have to life the sustainable life now to give something real to our children and not only nice suggestments and a rotten world. You may say: That is impossible for some reason. But as the crazy green ideas of our parents became green-BAU in our current society the crazy perma-culture/bio-dynamical ideas are getting mainstream now, too. We are on the way to transit from green-BAU to "Amish-BAU" now within a generation, if collapse will not kill that transition...

I hope you can see my fear for collapse and why I think we should proceed on a more safe road from "green-BAU" via "Amish-BAU" towards "sustainable-BAU". I am feeling that such way could be much less risky.

You are correct when you posit that I would say that getting sustainable in today's world is impossible. I think this is obvious.  Do you disagree with those who calculate that we are far beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth?  And getting further beyond every day while degrading the Earth further each day and thus reducing the carrying capacity?  We are going to increase the world's population by 33% by 2050.  We are trying to increase the affluence of everyone at the same time.  These are not sustainable actions.  We are going to emit vast quantities of carbon for a long time which will inevitably result in worse conditions of AGW and this will result in a lowering of the carrying capacity and a further drift away from sustainability.  Most of the programs being proposed to 'fix' AGW are highly resource intensive and heavily industrial in nature - thus not sustainable in any way. They do not even make any attempt to justify their existence on sustainability issues rather they are targeted towards reductions in carbon emissions as being the critical item to deal with.

My main argument on this subject is that we have not properly defined the problem we are tying to deal with in any way.  A full accounting of the situation leads one to the conclusion that we have reached a point in history where there is an existential threat to human survival.  Not immediately like Guy McPherson thinks but we are certainly on a track which leads there in a few hundred years.  We are not talking about needing to save industrial civilization or perhaps even civilization (US definition) at all.  We are talking about much MORE important issues than that.  Those working on sustainable lifestyles are working on something which can and will be very useful post collapse.  Those working on technical methods to indefinitely extend industrial civilization are going to make the post collapse world much harsher than it needed to be.  At least that is what my analysis of the risks comes to.  Everything we do needs to plan and prepare for the post collapse world as it will be here in not so long of a time.  Or we make things worse not better.  We are utterly failing at this task and seem to have every intention to double down on past behavior and completely obliterate our future chances.

We need to stop having babies, stop burning fossil fuels, power down, end the global economy, dramatically reduce consumption and standards of living, try as hard as we can to live like we did before industrialization, stop carbon emissions generated by making cement/deforestation/building machinery, live parasitically off our existing infrastructure and not make new infrastructure. etc.  In other words we deliberately choose to collapse in as managed a fashion as possible and with the least suffering possible in an attempt to get our carbon emissions down towards zero and back to near the Earth's carrying capacity.  If we don't do this we will stand a great chance of making that existential threat to human survival a reality.  Once we stabilize and start the reductions of AGW and have allowed the carrying capacity of the Earth to recover then we can (hopefully in an intelligent fashion) reclaim some of the good things we had to sacrifice to survive and have the smarts to refrain from picking up the ones which would repeat the process we are going to go through.

Well that is enough for now.  What do you think?
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: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #33 on: May 01, 2014, 08:12:06 PM »
Lucas

I found your post uplifting(?) and motivational.  That does not happen often.  Thanks.
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

wili

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #34 on: May 01, 2014, 08:52:52 PM »
Jim wrote: "I believe we are currently on the road to huge mistakes that will make the world of the future much less livable than what is unavoidable."

Here are some graphs that give a longer-term perspective on where we're heading, from a recent post at SkS:
https://www.skepticalscience.com/Past-and-Future-CO2.html

Past and Future CO2



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Figure 1: Compilation of available CO2 data for the last 450 million years. For data sources see text. Proxy records are colour coded and labelled in the relevant panel. Greenhouse gas emission scenarios (RCP – Representative Concentration Pathways) used in IPCC AR5 are shown in the right hand panel. Note the variable log scale for time. For the geological data a smoothed line has been fit to the data with an uncertainty accounting for uncertainty in age and CO2. The black line describes the most probable long-term CO2 with 68% confidence limits in red, and 95% confidence in pink.




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Figure 2: Climate forcing by changing CO2 and solar output for the last 450 million years. CO2 data and projections are as outlined in Figure 1. Changing solar output calculated as described in Gough et al. (1981; Solar Physics, 74, 21-34) with CO2 forcing from Byrne and Goldblatt (2014; doi: 10.1002/2013GL058456). The red band is the 95% confidence interval around the smoothed line through the published CO2 data.

The whole brief article is well worth a read, but in brief, including both CO2 levels and increases of insolation from our gradually warming old star, we are rapidly heading along a path (RCP85) that will take us in the coming decades into a territory of total forcings never before seen in the reconstructed climate history of the earth--for the last about half a billion years.

...

L wrote: "we need greater cultural diversity"

Here again we are going rapidly in the wrong direction. Language is a fairly good proxy for culture, and one that we can measure with some degree of precision.

--The number of language in the world has fell by half in the last 500 years (to about 6000) even as populations have exploded, doubling many times over during the same period.

--Half of those remaining languages are likely to become extinct in the next very few decades.

--95% of existing languages are spoken by less than 5% of the world's population, and most of those are indigenous languages and speakers under massive cultural pressure to leave their languages and cultures.

--Only about 600 of extant languages can be considered 'safe' from extinction, so 90% are under threat of extinction (endangered) or are moribund (in the process of extinction--only a few aged speakers left). For example, 90% of the 250 Aboriginal languages of Australia are moribund or very near extinction. Out of over 300 Indigenous languages that were once spoken in what is now the US, only about half remain, and only 20 of those are still being acquired by children as a first language...

....

On the positive side, here's a place that may be able to maintain a fair standard of living for a while after collapse, while contributing hardly anything to the problem: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/05/01/3433002/spanish-island-renewable-energy/
« Last Edit: May 01, 2014, 09:28:49 PM by wili »
"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."

ritter

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #35 on: May 01, 2014, 11:54:54 PM »
We need to stop having babies, stop burning fossil fuels, power down, end the global economy, dramatically reduce consumption and standards of living, try as hard as we can to live like we did before industrialization, stop carbon emissions generated by making cement/deforestation/building machinery, live parasitically off our existing infrastructure and not make new infrastructure. etc.  In other words we deliberately choose to collapse in as managed a fashion as possible and with the least suffering possible in an attempt to get our carbon emissions down towards zero and back to near the Earth's carrying capacity.  If we don't do this we will stand a great chance of making that existential threat to human survival a reality.  Once we stabilize and start the reductions of AGW and have allowed the carrying capacity of the Earth to recover then we can (hopefully in an intelligent fashion) reclaim some of the good things we had to sacrifice to survive and have the smarts to refrain from picking up the ones which would repeat the process we are going to go through.

Well that is enough for now.  What do you think?

Unfortunately, I think you're spot on. And, unfortunately, the required actions won't happen. The only way they could is with a (benevolent) one world governance. As we've already discussed elsewhere, the US, China and Russia would not allow such a thing unless it was their governance. So again, impasse.

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #36 on: May 02, 2014, 04:16:23 AM »
It isn't that anyone really wants collapse to mean a major dieback of humans but that's what it means... Not a technological collapse but a population crash.  Throwing anyone out of the boat isn't an option so the last option is for some people to get in the water and try to swim for land. That is a very personal choice. Swimmers will not stay with the overcrowded sinking boat.
And when those swimmers do make it to land maybe then they will be ready to forgo their fossil fuel addiction for good. The trauma of the experience may be necessary for people to actually commit to making the major changes necessary to implement a sustainable future.   

It's a choice that we made as a species in using finite resources to inflate the population so high to start with.

The swimming away from the sinking boat analogy sees pretty decent actually. It's worth noting when you choose to make the swim, you cannot be entirely sure it is the right choice.

Bruce Steele

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #37 on: May 02, 2014, 05:17:39 AM »
Ccg, In most cases it is never a good idea to swim away from the boat until it is completely gone but that is because whoever might be looking for you is advantaged by a larger target. In the current situation however there will not be a rescue launched so the decision to swim might be a wise one.
Probably taking this too far but the captain can never swim away as long as there is anyone still with the boat. Never.  So standing up as a leader may have downsides. Helping as many people to survive as possible while knowing you  will personally probably go down as a result is something best thought out well in advance.  Sacrifice for the greater good may have some relevance here, sacrifice to ease peoples transition would be admirable.
     
 

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #38 on: May 02, 2014, 06:04:45 AM »
Probably taking this too far but the captain can never swim away as long as there is anyone still with the boat. Never.  So standing up as a leader may have downsides. Helping as many people to survive as possible while knowing you  will personally probably go down as a result is something best thought out well in advance.  Sacrifice for the greater good may have some relevance here, sacrifice to ease peoples transition would be admirable.

Unfortunately, I think the captains of modern civilisation (so to speak) will be trying to keep the life boats for themselves and keeping the third class passengers down below as long as they can...

And so it depends upon the context of the leadership...

... Standing up as a leader is also called mutiny!  ::)

But one can flog an analogy too far, of course.

ccg, I hope that I did not understand your post well. So please read my following comment not as critics but as some input, which perhaps could help you to explain the "collapse vision" also to poeple like me who fear the time of collapse and do not believe in a more sustainable time after collapse.

I wrote out a rather long answer to you. So long in fact that the forum tells me I breach the 20,000 character limit. I'm going to split it up just in case anyone is bored enough to read it, but in summary I am arguing one simple point:

If collapse becomes possible (or likely, or certain), does it not make sense to try to prepare plans that handle it, instead of putting all our eggs in one basket and hoping a single strategy can save us?

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #39 on: May 02, 2014, 06:06:18 AM »
My point is not over whether or not an individual can currently live productively within a truly sustainable resource footprint but rather over the legacy we are bequeathing to the future. If you were burning a hundred tons of carbon a year but in doing so assuring thousands of years of future human history, would that be wrong? I do not think it necessarily would?

The population and resource consumption aspects must necessarily self correct with collapse (population crashes, easy resources are depleted) - thus the question is what happens to those people who must inhabit what is left on the other side of collapse? Cutting a few tonnes of carbon dioxide a year is worth doing, I grant - but it has a much smaller effect than preparing resources, skills, knowledge, strategies etc for those people who must inhabit that future?

In this respect the actions of an individual are not necessarily the same between looking out for our species in the future, and trying to achieve a sustainable basis today (though I would argue the two paths ultimately converge).

ccg, I hope that I did not understand your post well. So please read my following comment not as critics but as some input, which perhaps could help you to explain the "collapse vision" also to poeple like me who fear the time of collapse and do not believe in a more sustainable time after collapse.

I think the debate can be valuable, certainly I can try to explain my perspective better (in case you don't read to the end, I'd like to say your response was very well presented and argued).

What you wrote about "burning carbon now for a better future later" reminds me to the last IPCC reposrt WG3 and the track resulting in only +2°C: We can burn a bit more now since we consider our grandchilds to get some of the CO2 out of the atmosphere: As if they would not be busy that time struggeling with AGW, fighting the conflicts and getting some food they are also asked to produce some char coal not for barbeque but to bury it beneath the earth! Such statements are doomed politics - they are a flimsy excuse to stay lazy today while keep feeling good.

I don't think that was what I meant exactly by what I said. What I meant was that if energy (even finite fossil fuels) were being consumed to ensure the very long term (thousands of years) future for our species - I think that could be OK.

But today we burn fossil fuels to ship clothing half way around the planet. The clothing is of such low quality it lasts only weeks. It is made by people working in virtual slavery. Does this activity add any value to the long term future of our species? No - and it is releasing carbon dioxide and thus any who participate in it (most of us by the way) are murdering my and later generations by their actions.

If you consume fossil fuels to air condition or to heat your household? Do you deliver any long term benefits to our species, does this contribute anything to your descendents to come in the future? No, it does not - your selfish creature comforts murder them and destroy their lives, without even offering them the chance to represent themselves (and again there is no virtuous ground for most people here).

So certainly there are a very many ways we can consume finite fossil fuels that add absolutely no long term value to our species and it's prospects into the future - and indeed serve to make us complicit in murder (and I do not exempt myself here, to be clear).

Suppose however that you did something with that energy instead and provided something for those people in the future, however? Could that not add long term value to our species? Suppose (just for example, not necessarily a good example) you created thousands of knives from a fancy alloy (some stainless alloys would possibly work) that would not perish over time. In the event of collapse, those knives potentially represent a highly valuable asset for your descendants (and potentially other people).

If collapse occurs, do you suppose I would be then more favourably disposed to a person who can tell me they "cut their emissions to 2 planets worth" or to a person who can tell me "I prepared tangible things for those people who must live through this part of our history"?

And if collapse did not occur, we still should build our tools durably to minimise their long term footprint - so little harm was done?

What kind of resources, skills, knowledge, strategies should we prepare for our descendants if not some carbon to be burn, some left over space for CO2 in the atmosphere and some prooven skills to life with zero emissions? So what else than zero emission can be a usefull goal right now?

What else can be a useful goal? How about contingency planning? How can you (or anyone else) presume to assure me that collapse can be avoided and these problems solved?

Let me take a simple analogy - let is presume that civilisation is a house, and it is on fire. We are talking about fighting the fire and keeping the house standing (continuing as we always have).

So tell me this - what if the fire is too advanced and we are unable to put it out? Then the house will burn down, yes? Collapse will come.

Does it not then make sense to think of other plans? To ask what we can do if the house does in fact burn down? Can we not save some few key possessions from the house to make our attempt to build another easier? Should we not think how we can try to build a better house so that we don't burn down again? Indeed if we did manage to put out the fire, having a better house would still make sense...

Although such efforts must necessarily detract a little from fighting the fire, they become immensely valuable if the battle is lost and the house falls. They become all that is left. I am not saying we should not fight the fire, only that I believe the fire is too advanced and our abilities too limited to have a certainty (or in my view even a reasonable expectation) of success and thus we must consider how to improve the outcome if the house burns down.

I actually want to tell you two things, which are surely apparent to everybody here. But I miss them in all the collapse scenarios:
1) some risk analysis for collapse scenarios is needed

I have done my risk analysis - but it involved significant amounts of thought and reading over a prolonged period of time. Actually - a lot of the results of that effort (my risk analysis if you will) are scattered throughout many of the countless posts I've made on this forum.

I get the impression JimD has also coherently sat down and thought through a lot of this. Who else has - to such depth - I am not sure? (any takers?)

2) How and why should it be easier possible to life sustainable in/after a collapse than now? No way.

Why should it be possible? It will no longer be a choice. For tens of thousands of years humans were fairly sustainable (although even the discovery of fire and organised hunting did not always result in sustainable behaviour, our population was so limited we were arguably still sustainable).

It is not a question of "can humans live sustainably", as assuredly we can - if we live as animals as we once did. It is a question of "can we achieve knowledge, technology, and higher populations" and still be sustainable. I happen to believe that we can - I just don't think we can do it from where we are now without going through collapse first. It is not a path I want (except on particularly bleak days, but you should take into account my circumstances and the strains I live under to understand that), but I think the path may now be unavoidable.

* It could be, that human nature will not change during collapse. So we will end up quite close to where we are now. History example from WW2 collapse in Germany: Poeple with some power before the collapse where first in power again after - it took to '68 to get them out. I would expect that poeple able to most efficiently extract the last ressources would make it most likely through the collapse. Thus collapse would select the wrong poeple for sustainability.

I agree entirely, with one caveat.

If collapse is allowed to just occur and ignored as a risk and not planned for, then certainly, It  think you will be right. The most vicious and ruthless will initially do very well.

If however we come up with a strategy for collapse, do we not have the opportunity, in theory at least - to change this? Can we not try to select the outlook, behaviour and strategy of at least some groups responding to collapse? If this is done to a high enough quality, it is not theoretically possible those groups can be what carries our species and civilisation forwards instead? What I am trying to argue for with CCG is really a matter of ideology, of perspective. It isn't about trying to persuade everyone that they should set up a boat or even a high mobility strategy pitched at the absolute worst case outcomes (that stuff just happens to suit me personally).

I am trying to encourage people to think of the future, that's all. To consider that they have the moral obligation - and the power (including through using fossil fuel energy if circumstances justify it...) to make a difference that can reach out across countless future generations.

Or of course, they can also turn the air conditioning down and the heating up, or they can say to my and future generations that "at least they didn't put quite so many tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere". What will that count for later if collapse comes? Nothing more than a nice story - particularly if someone else burned the fuel/wealth for something more frivolous instead and no net difference was made to the world.

* Even if we globaly agree on zero emissions e.g. until 2050 - when first signs of collapse surface, I am sure that poeple will skip their emission goals trying to save their lives. E.g. instead of peacefully deliver the land in USA to sustainable native indians, Amish and perma-culture poeple I assume they will dig all the coal and prepare for war...

This is all too likely, I'm afraid to say. That's exactly one reason I think collapse is virtually inevitable.

However, this is a condition that can be taken into account for planning purposes in terms of developing post collapse strategies. It's one reason I personally favoured a high mobility approach (coming from a high population density nation far above carrying capacity and not feeling confident of being able to negotiate the probable conflict that entails).

* Maybe the idea of a "purifying collapse" making a sustainable paradise possible is just some opium for us poeple like any religion?  Could that collapse idea prevent us from any serious action necessary right now by giving some hope for a better future after all of our prophecies became true?

I do not expect human nature to fundamentally change just because of collapse. I do believe that suitable ideologies can be selected with a view to trying to boost their chances of dominating post collapse.

I do not think there is time to get suitable ideologies in place before collapse, because there is very considerable resistance to such things, particularly by the more affluent people reaping the short term benefits of their murderous activities (and I mean affluent in the context of a billion people going hungry each day).

And no, I do not think collapse ideas can rationally distract us from action right now. Rationally, I argue the very opposite - I am trying to encourage people to act. If we just sit back and think that somehow by some miracle things will be better post collapse? That is a ridiculous idea.

I should be clear that I expect the later part of my life (if I survive at all) to be back breaking endless misery. I expect the lives of at least a few generations afterwards to be no better, and hundreds if not thousands of years to pass before quality of life can return to anything like the affluent peoples of today know it (but on a sustainable basis if the plans can be made to come to fruition). And all of that will require endless work and action. Inaction assures only failure - whether you act to prepare for collapse, or you act to try to prevent it.

* And as last point: How could it be easier in a doomed future to get sustainable than now? Right now we have the peaceful situation and all the ressources to transit to sustainability. E.G. in Europe and USA it is easy to come to 0 emission in a short time now. Right now it would only break our economy but not the basis of our life. That will certainly change in future. So we have to life the sustainable life now to give something real to our children and not only nice suggestments and a rotten world. You may say: That is impossible for some reason. But as the crazy green ideas of our parents became green-BAU in our current society the crazy perma-culture/bio-dynamical ideas are getting mainstream now, too. We are on the way to transit from green-BAU to "Amish-BAU" now within a generation, if collapse will not kill that transition...

In the ashes after collapse, it is easier to be sustainable in the sense that there is much less choice. If one is not sustainable enough, one dies (resources will be much less plentiful). Right now the biggest obstacle to sustainability as I see it - is the typical westerner (especially as affluence rises, but probably actually most of the westernised populations - which also serve as an aspirational goal for most of the other populations).

However, I should be clear - I am not arguing for collapse as a route to sustainability.

Of course it would be better - much better - if we could transition our civilisation to a truly sustainable platform without collapse occuring.

I am however arguing that I think the probability of collapse happening is high enough that we need to plan for it to try to improve the outcomes for our species in this event.

I also believe green-BAU is a bit like you said in your question about "collapse purification" - it's a nice belief to let people bounce around and to buy into to justify inaction on their part. The belief that somehow we will solve all these problems and can continue to live as we have until then. More on this presently.

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #40 on: May 02, 2014, 06:06:40 AM »
I hope you can see my fear for collapse and why I think we should proceed on a more safe road from "green-BAU" via "Amish-BAU" towards "sustainable-BAU". I am feeling that such way could be much less risky.

I should be clear - I am not saying I think collapse is a desirable outcome. I do not think collapse is a superior route to sustainability. I do not think that vast numbers of people should suddenly start to prepare collapse plans. There are 7 billion people today, and a very large number of them simply cannot navigate collapse (and will die in this event). For those people the only rational option is to try to find ways to avoid collapse (unless they're self sacrificing enough to instead help those planning post collapse, even knowing they themselves won't directly benefit - and such people don't seem to exist). Unfortunately many people are not even trying to prevent collapse, but rather acting to accelerate and worsen it.

I suspect many of those who advocate green-BAU are also playing their part in this. How many people are using this to justify their murderous actions (that release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere or squander finite resources)? How many hide behind the belief that we can transit to renewable energy and that they can keep running their air conditioning and heating and car and have their holidays etc until then?

I am not sure I understand this very well, this willingness to be hypocritical, to justify this behaviour.

That's probably because of how I grew up though. As a child in a poor rural family, the oldest of 8 children, without toys, without new clothes, without many things - I cannot understand how so many people today can talk about how we need to cut carbon emissions and still heat or air condition their house until they are personally comfortable. But I grew up without a television - my society missed that opportunity to brainwash my. I grew up without friends (we moved every year mostly) and without even the ability to learn how to make them. I had no peers to shape my mind. My parents were rejected as a source of authority (consciously) as I wasn't happy with them (at that time I was sleeping in a leaking caravan almost a mile away from the family home - 2.5 bedrooms for a family of 10 - in the winters in Scotland, I would sleep without heating in below freezing temperatures in my early teens).

In short I grew up almost as an alien in my society - and for some reason (unlike all 7 younger siblings) I failed to yield to the pressures of society to make the individual conform to the norms. I had a very hard starting position in life, but fate at least granted me stubbornness and intelligence where it had taken away comfort and security.

Consequently I find myself in a very strange place now, having travelled so far from the herd that I am in very isolated (and psychologically harsh at times) territory. I suspect in some ways my perspective is therefore very strange to most people, and my position in reality certainly would be if the facts were all declared. I have known enough adversity to have confidence in myself and my ability to endure, yet I have access to tools of western societies that can greatly empower an individual (the internet, computing power, libraries, small portion of labour required to sustain basics of life, modern tools and equipment, etc - tell my why so many people waste so much time watching sports on TV or playing games?). Although far from wealthy I nonetheless therefore have the resources to attempt to achieve tangible things, given my willingness to sacrifice the creature comforts and norms of my society for my beliefs (I haven't lived in a house for over 7 years now, because I couldn't simultaneously afford rent/mortgage and to pursue my efforts).

I think it is easier for those living comfortably to see the fire (collapse) in the distance and to think that there is time, that they can avoid it. But I see that it is already burning those in the poorest nations and my social demographic in the more affluent nations will be next.

As I see it, my ancestors and my society (and all similar societies) have betrayed not only me personally but all people who are to come. How can anyone from such a society tell me to put my trust in them, to believe that green-BAU will save civilisation, and to gamble the fate of our species upon this one idea? Especially how can they tell me such things if they are not willing to fight for their beliefs as strongly as I am?

And so, I argue that some people at least should think about how we can improve outcomes if collapse occurs, so we aren't putting all eggs in one basket.

By the way, I thought your answer was very well argued and presented. I hope I answered the questions - and that's my excuse for such a long post (sorry).

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #41 on: May 02, 2014, 08:15:33 PM »
Thanks ccg for all your thoughts. It was much to read and it was a good read. Before I start writing an answer I will have to read it all again and think a bit more. It deserves a lot of answers. Thank you also, JimD, I hope you understand my asking for consideration of the 4 risk points better if I start with answering wili first.

Satire, on  your response to ccg. Thanks for that clear appraisal. It is for just such reasons that I have in the past distanced myself from people who seem to be  yearning for a collapse.

But I do wonder what you think is looming in our future as well as what is going on right now.

Do you not think that a collapse, with all the negative consequences you describe, is inevitable at some point?

Do you not think that the longer it is delayed, the more negative those consequences are going to be?

Do you not think that every moment before collapse, our BAU present pumping 35+ billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere and generally befouling our nest in ever more extreme ways, makes it ever harder for those after collapse, human and non-, to survive?

(I agree, though, that collapse is no guarantee of anything after it. It is most likely that a completely chaotic collapse will lead to massive inter- and intra-species violence. But that is likely to happen whenever collapse occurs, and the later, the worse. I also agree that there are very few ways that burning more carbon now is going to help future generations--most claims to the contrary are essentially rationalizations.)
Yes wili, I think I am very familiar with your thoughts. So maybe an answer to your questions would be most helpful first.

First I agree with a lot of poeple here that we heading towards an collapse - not by intention but by stupidity: Because western life is looking so comfortable it is so attractive for most poeple, that they do not think about tomorrow. It is like drinking way to much while knowing it...

Second: I do not think collapse is inevitable. Since humans are producing that collapse humans are also able to do that not. Unfortunately "human nature" makes that unlikely, so it must be tamed. Some suggest a "planned collapse" to do that trick. It may be the case that threatening poeple with collapse could be sufficient at some places - if you have that in mind, please go ahead. Angst does motivate some uncomfortable moves. But do not exaggerate it here, because poeple hate that and will not believe such warning again. 

Third: Why it does not matter to delay collapse. I thought I posted a lot of that arguments allready, but maybe I was not explicit enough. The simples reason is: During collapse poeple are fighting for their lifes (you know, the US-collapse we are talking about is that collapse with billions of dead poeple and not just the collapse of our life-style and economy). If the question is life or death all other goals are irrelevant. Especially AGW will become irrelevant and thus poeple will burn all carbon to get some advantage in the wars. And finaly, before dieing, they will use the weapons that are existent.
Therefore, after collapse surely all ressources will be gone. Otherwise collapse would not be over. And there is a significant risk, that collapse will end with nuclear winter killing most life on earth.

You see - it does not help to get that death for all (poeple and also most animals, plants, ...) earlier than necessary. And you see, it really makes some sense to try to get sustainable without a collapse. And it makes also some sense to maximize possibilities to get sustainable.

So - we must try or will die. Probably both, but we must take that last chance. Start to get emissions down to 1 t/year and start to educate your girls, if you still have population growth in your educational underdeveloped nation. After one generation that is done and we will do the next step of the necessary iterations. And start fast - USA is 10 years behind in task #1 and two generations behind in task #2... (edit: that last point should sound like motivation by exaggeration - I am unsure, if that works ;-)
« Last Edit: May 02, 2014, 08:22:43 PM by SATire »

jai mitchell

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #42 on: May 02, 2014, 08:42:42 PM »
First I want to remind anyone here that an immediate halt in CO2 emissions will necessarily produce a DECLINE in atmospheric CO2 concentration levels due to the increased levels of natural CO2 sequestration going on. 



note the projected reduction at zero emissions after 2010. 

Of course, this won't happen but it shows that a significant reduction in emissions would not just slow the current growth of CO2 concentrations but can actually allow them to decline.  (Currently the annual fraction of CO2 remaining in the atmosphere that is due to human emissions is about 45%, so any reduction below approximately 65% of current anthro emissions would yield a reduction in atmospheric CO2 concentrations.)

In the conceptualization of the problem posed:

1.  "BAU" = Catastrophic Collapse due to unsustainability of economy and CO2 emissions
2.  "Green BAU" = Catastrophic Collapse due to unsustainability of economy and (less) CO2 emissions.
3.  (Structured?) "Collapse" = semi-catastrophic collapse due to unsustainability of economy and CO2 emissions.

it seems that the real question is:

Quote
"how can we orchestrate a structured collapse of modern society that will allow small pockets of individual survivalists, living in an agrarian society, the opportunity to maintain the human species?"

Is that about right?

-------------------------

I see a solution posited here:

Quote
We need to stop having babies, stop burning fossil fuels, power down, end the global economy, dramatically reduce consumption and standards of living, try as hard as we can to live like we did before industrialization, stop carbon emissions generated by making cement/deforestation/building machinery, live parasitically off our existing infrastructure and not make new infrastructure. etc.  In other words we deliberately choose to collapse in as managed a fashion as possible and with the least suffering possible in an attempt to get our carbon emissions down towards zero and back to near the Earth's carrying capacity.  If we don't do this we will stand a great chance of making that existential threat to human survival a reality.

1.  Stop having babies
2.  Stop burning fossil fuels (power down)
3.  End the global economy
4.  Dramatically reduce (global) standards of living
5.  Attempt to live in a pre-industrial (agrarian) society
6.  Stop building with concrete and stop deforestation for food production.

Of course this "solution" is not really a solution at all but rather it is the projection of what a sustainable society would look like in a post-collapse environment.  So the author is simply saying "we should live like the collapse has already happened" and that in doing so, we will soften the eventual impacts of the collapse when it does happen.

In response to this post was the corollary method of implementation:

Quote
The only way they could (do the above) is with a (benevolent) one world governance.

In reality, if a one world government rose in the world today and was able to utilize policy tools that would force the collective human society to perform 1-6 above, that government would NOT be considered "benevolent" in any way.  (i.e. forced sterilizations, forced de-electrification, forced-depopulation. . .)

in other words, a socially engineered collapse would "buffer" the collapse scenario brought about by the two BAU scenarios.

------------

I submit that there is no possible way for global social policy or willing collectivist action to engineer a "pre-collapse, collapse" can be performed.  If the assumptions of "BAU" and "Green BAU" scenarios are correct, then the only real potential outcome is Catastrophic Collapse, and the only real solution being argued is, essentially, the following:

Quote
Every man for himself

In other words, we are going to have a collapse, most likely a massive one, so get ready.

------------

However,

I have yet to see where anyone here has proven in any way, shape or form, that a non-free market structured decarbonization of society cannot occur. 

Especially when the body of scientific study shows that there is still time (and hope) remaining to implement these policy shifts that may allow us to shift to a sustainable population/consumption pattern.

for example:

The population of Brazil is on track to reach zero growth in 2040



This is due to cultural and societal changes (primarily female self-determination and political empowerment)

source:  http://saladeimprensa.ibge.gov.br/en/noticias?idnoticia=1272%3Eacesso&view=noticia

implemented on a global scale (at a cost that is significantly less than the current annual military expenditures globally) we can halt global birth rates in 20 years.

--------------

Ultimately, the "Green-BAU" collapse scenario predicates on the concept that it is impossible to decouple economic activity from Carbon emissions and/or that it is impossible to do it in the remaining time allowed before environmental and resource-depletion collapse ensues.

If the above statement is true, then the rest naturally follows from it.  (every man for himself)

If the above statement is NOT true, then there is a pathway to provide for a slowing down and eventual REVERSAL of the non-sustainable forms of society, while allowing a peak and natural population decline (due to naturally low birth rates) over the next 200 years or so.  (global socialist utopia)

In any event, only the following statement is absolutely true:

Quote
We are in for some very big changes in the near future!







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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #43 on: May 02, 2014, 09:29:07 PM »
Third: Why it does not matter to delay collapse. I thought I posted a lot of that arguments allready, but maybe I was not explicit enough. The simples reason is: During collapse poeple are fighting for their lifes (you know, the US-collapse we are talking about is that collapse with billions of dead poeple and not just the collapse of our life-style and economy). If the question is life or death all other goals are irrelevant. Especially AGW will become irrelevant and thus poeple will burn all carbon to get some advantage in the wars. And finaly, before dieing, they will use the weapons that are existent.
Therefore, after collapse surely all ressources will be gone. Otherwise collapse would not be over. And there is a significant risk, that collapse will end with nuclear winter killing most life on earth.

SATire

I am sure you are feeling overwhelmed by all the long responses to you and I am sorry to add to that, but I wanted to address what you wrote to wili above as our differences on what collapse entails is perhaps a big part of our reaching different conclusions.

The history of civilizational collapses does not indicate that they all or even many have followed the trajectory you describe.  Some have been deep and some have not.  Not one has resulted in the complete consumption of resources.  Previous collapses have resulted in declines to the point where the local/regional carrying capacity was once again in balance with the demands of the surviving civilization.  Our situation is unique in that we are talking of an 'almost' global situation.  I agree with you that there will be wide spread desperation and unwise consumption of resources - especially fossil fuels. But I think you are very mistaken in your belief that all the fossil fuels will be burnt by those desperate people.  The prime reason I say this is not possible is that for a very big percentage of them they will have no access to those fossil fuels to be able to burn them.  People will be forced to revert to biomass or in some cases nothing.  I also do not believe it highly likely that the few countries which have stockpiles of nuclear weapons will be forced or find it worthwhile to use them.  At least on a wide scale.  The only countries I think likely to end up on that decision tree are India, Pakistan and Israel.  No one else as  the others will not likely end up in any situation leading to such actions.  Collapse will not occur everywhere at the same time nor at the same intensity.  Some countries/locations will not be severely constrained until long after others.  It will be very complex and, of course, somewhat unpredictable.

But how and when collapse occurs impacts also how intense it will be and how deep it must be to reach equilibrium.  The longer a period of time which passes before collapse occurs moves that collapse down the spectrum of possibilities towards the fast, catastrophic, high violence, deep drop which is so feared.  This is because the intense effort to avoid it actually results in dramatically increased consumption of resources, much higher levels of carbon emissions, much higher population total, much worse AGW metrics, and a much more degraded carrying capacity of the Earth.  We end up in a higher position to fall from and have a much smaller remaining resource base to land upon.

In comparison to a managed early collapse which would start from a lower population base, lower carbon emissions, less severe AGW metrics, would occur with a higher carrying capacity in place and have a much larger amount of resources to cushion the fall.  Thus this would be my preferred option - if we could actually choose it.  This being an academic discussion after all.

Just to be clear on my use of  the word collapse I should define it a bit better I think.  While collapse can certainly be used to describe the Mad Max anarchy I do not foresee that as a likely event and, in general, I am not talking about that kind of event.  I do not even think the catastrophic collapse would follow that path. Collapse should be interpreted as a significant loss in civilizational complexity.  This could be an elimination of globalization, a big drop in population levels, a big drop in energy consumption per capita, the breakup of large sovereign states back into their component parts, the end of international travel/tourism, the end of long distance shipping, the end of the internet, and so on.  Or a bunch of the above at the same time.  Growth in complexity seems to have directly followed our access to vast amounts of very cheap energy and just removing most of that access - by eliminating fossil fuel use - would dramatically reduce the degree of complexity we could support.  But it would not mean the end of civilization.

There is no avoiding the conclusion that the better the health of the Earth and the more resources remaining following collapse is better than the opposite.  So I prefer to have happen what would result in that outcome.
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: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #44 on: May 02, 2014, 09:37:49 PM »
Jai, nice graphs. But that is just one (uncited) study. Not sure how old it is or how many feedbacks they take into consideration and what the assumptions are about climate sensitivity to doubling of CO2.

Note this post on a recent study on methane feedbacks: http://www.climatecentral.org/news/arctic-methane-emissions-certain-to-trigger-warming-17374

And then there's the Macdougal et al. study on the impacts of permafrost melt: http://www.skepticalscience.com/Macdougall.html



Quote
Figure 3. Showing the atmospheric concentration of CO2 following a shutdown of human emissions in 2013(left) and, after following DEP 8.5 for 39 years, a shutdown in 2050 (right). The dotted blue line shows the results at a climate sensitivity of 3.0°C and the upper and lower lines 4.5° and 2.0° respectively. Selected and modified from Figure S8 in the Supplementary Information.

Note that the dashed line assumes a climate sensitivity of 3 degrees, which is now considered to be on the low end of what the sensitivity actually is.

But really your graph "C" is the crucial one. Even if CO2 levels go down, temperatures are going to remain at high levels for a very long time, even with immediate cessation of any more carbon emissions. 
« Last Edit: May 02, 2014, 09:43:00 PM by wili »
"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."

SATire

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #45 on: May 02, 2014, 10:13:15 PM »
JimD - the "definition" of collapse I used above did not come from my mind. I have learned that here in this forum from poeple like you, ccg and TerryM. OK - I probably included a bit of my experiences from my youth in the early 80ies. During that time doom was surely less than 10 years away at my place - the intended battlefield of WW3...

As ccg explained, such roots are strong and guide us through our life. ccg, I think you can do a lot of things with such strong roots. If it does not feel like strong roots for you, it is just because you are used to it. I think most poeple in this forum experienced something special making them to become somehow such ice-nerds. E.g. I also grew up without TV - but just because my parents felt that would be some cool life-style. The draw back for me was, that I had to wear hand-yarned plant-dyed knited pullovers and children can sometimes be quite cruel in such situations... However - part of the process getting adult is to learn that roots, the backgrounds and traumata of your parents and to daily draw your consequences.

Finaly I would suggest to use the word "collapse" less frequent and make also some use of words like "reform", "economic breakdown", "revolution" or such. I think for some places a few economic breakdowns and a lot of reforms can do the trick allready to get us from green-BAU to the 1t-Amish-BAU within a generation. Population is allready declining. And than we will look and we will see, which step to take next. But please stay away with your collapse and nukes from such reforming places... we would have enough work to calm down the bear with most of the other nukes.

jai mitchell

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #46 on: May 02, 2014, 10:45:17 PM »
Better Graphs,

From the AR5 CMIP5 model runs.



I also agree with your assessment, Carbon-cycle feedbacks will cause greater emissions, potentially much greater emissions, in the second half of this century than the above graphics show.   

In my understanding there will need to be CO2 atmospheric removal/sequestration implemented to keep temperatures from rising above 3C, even with our most aggressive "Green BAU" policies.  I am of the ECS 4.5 sensitivity crowd.
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SATire

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #47 on: May 02, 2014, 11:50:03 PM »
In my understanding there will need to be CO2 atmospheric removal/sequestration implemented to keep temperatures from rising above 3C, even with our most aggressive "Green BAU" policies.  I am of the ECS 4.5 sensitivity crowd.
Since it makes much more sense to leave the coal in the earth than to ask our grandchildren to bury char-coal instead of doing barbeque I would suggest to evolve "our most aggresive green BAU" over time a bit.
In a few years we will have LIDAR for CH4 on the satellite http://www.dlr.de/rd/en/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-2440/3586_read-31672/
and in the 2020ies we will also have CO2 LIDAR in space http://www.wmo-sat.info/oscar/observingmissions/view/20
So we will be able to track the CO2 sources precisely and could send the drones there...

SATire

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Re: Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« Reply #48 on: May 03, 2014, 12:11:52 AM »
ccg, the scenario in the comment just above could be such a case for "dumping additional CO2 now for our children": We surely will need some possibilities to prevent future eco-terrorists from ruining all our efforts and to motivate also the societies not signing the hypothetical "Paris-protocoll 2015" to stopp burning carbon. That I call "femal human nature" needed in future: Mom bear will kill someone risking the life of her children... Some kind of "direct education".