Support the Arctic Sea Ice Forum and Blog

Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Topics - ccgwebmaster

Pages: [1]
The rest / Building civilisations from scratch - religion
« on: September 02, 2015, 07:48:17 AM »
In my opinion one of the most important elements of a civilisation is "software" - the beliefs and ideology that underpin it. Easily overlooked when distracted by tangible hardware, but surely ultimately far more important for truly long lived efforts (hardware naturally follows given the right mindset).

I've tended to be rather cynical about religion personally, understanding it's function as the opiate of the masses, yet not really considering it to necessarily have a key role to play in such endeavours.

This article however gave me pause to consider the importance of religion in the long term context of the achievements and evolution of a civilisation:

I'm curious what opinions people hold, with one caveat - we're not talking about an idealised theoretical world, we're talking about the practical world we have to inhabit and work with. So we're talking about what works, not what we wish would work.

Policy and solutions / Nothing changes
« on: September 25, 2014, 05:29:39 PM »
The BBC I view as pretty representative of "the establishment" in the UK - which is to say the people who really wield power there.

It seems that the loss of the Arctic sea ice is still an opportunity.

Achieving a good level of skill - even just a few months ahead - would be useful to many sectors.

Shipping, tourism and oil industries - all are looking to exploit the opportunities that will emerge in an Arctic that is expected to become more open in a warming climate.

The rest / Notable examples
« on: May 06, 2014, 10:46:17 PM »
While obviously it's ultimately counterproductive to allow oneself to be driven to the point of dysfunction by concern for these issues - I thought this was nonetheless a notable example of someone who not only gets the seriousness of the situation we're in, but is also prepared to try to act in relation to it.

Ironically, one suspects that the story is all the stronger for the ultimate outcome - more effective in some respects than if he had merely made it and handed out his flyers? (after all lots of people hand out flyers, few are dedicated to the point of failure)

The rest / New CCG Forum
« on: April 05, 2014, 04:15:22 AM »
Neven - I hope it's OK to announce this here? If not please feel free to delete my post.

I've set up a new CCG forum using the same software as here as the forum I developed (from scratch and in great haste at the time) is really poor visually and it's more work than I can justify to improve it (I'm a technical nuts and bolts developer, not a graphic designer).

This is in no way intended to compete with ASIF, but rather intended to focus on the questions of what we do from here - transition, post collapse recovery, and so on.

Nothing to do with sea ice per se but anyone from here is welcome to participate there if so interested. For those few to whom it applies - the old CCG site logins will not work on the new forum.

The rest / Climate change writ small
« on: April 04, 2014, 04:05:44 PM »
Nobody listened to the scientific warnings, and the negative event warned about ultimately happened? Sounds about par for the course.

I'm hoping to use the results of this poll to drive a discussion about actually practical (theoretically at least) solutions amongst forum members (if forum members cannot agree practical targets and solutions, I doubt the wider public is going to do any better - let alone the UN and international forums).

Before one can discuss practical solutions one needs a practical target from which one can derive a strategy to fulfill it. So to what proportion of current emissions must we cut down to?

Consequences / The Hazards of Public Awareness
« on: March 31, 2014, 06:56:35 AM »
It seems to me that - largely as a result of the IPCC stuff coming out recently - the media is starting to run stories to the effect that:
  • climate change has already started to undermine crop yields
  • it presents a clear and present danger on a global scale
  • the timescale is being reined ever nearer for serious effects
  • ongoing effects are acknowledged even in the current day (climate change has arrived)

To some of us, this isn't really new stuff - as we've been arguing (albeit without as much solid scientific backing as ideal) for much of this for several years now. However there used to be a lot of voices arguing against these views, and they seem to have gradually faded somewhat. Admittedly that's on this forum - where information and intelligence both run pretty high, particularly by online discussion forum standards and where evidence can win the day (it can't always), and where the discussion curve is head of the general public.

Having never been afraid to court controversy, this puts me in a slightly novel position as the old controversial views become increasingly mainstream - forcing one to look further ahead for the next new thing. After all, one doesn't really do anything much merely following the herd - one must get out a step ahead.

Hence I'm looking at the gradual seep of this rather dark information into the public consciousness and thinking - what happens next?

Now - some portion of us (maybe even a big or majority portion), repeatedly espouse the hope that there will be some magical public awakening (and even more improbable pulling together to solve the problem and continue with the modern world approximately as we know it) as a result of either this or increasingly catastrophic consequences.

However, I would argue that history does not support this assertion (and in any event the science also shows it to be an increasingly hopeless notion). There has been no concrete response to date to either the increasing spread of knowledge or the increase in frequency of catastrophic events.

Instead I think I can come up with another analogy - a fire suddenly breaks out in the middle of a crowded theatre. What happens next?

I would venture to suggest that human nature predicts that in the vast majority of instances pandemonium ensues, as people lawlessly fight to try to get to the fire exits to escape (with the net result that far fewer people make it out of the theatre alive than if they had organised in a selfless and disciplined manner to evacuate as efficiently as possible).

Accordingly, I see several negative aspects to increasing public awareness of the severity and imminence of these threats. I see a real risk that soon the policies of individuals and nations will be heavily influenced by this understanding in a generally unhelpful and negative way. While lip service may be paid to the notion of cooperation, I think actions will speak louder and we will see the same sort of selfish lawless jostle for position and fighting at the expense of others as we would typically see in the burning theatre.

The primary reason this will be unhelpful is that virtually all of these entities will be taking very short term perspectives that offer no meaningful future hope or improvement. Nations will vie for resources, and to secure their borders and populations. The wealthy will stockpile and try to find places they think they can be secure from the storm. Nobody will consider those who must come later.

This will also accelerate the onset of collapse as global markets and resource supply chains start to break down and competition replaces cooperation. I already have that assumption in my projections - and think it one reason I expect collapse far sooner than various others (like JimD).

While I'm interested in the controversy (and other views), I think it also worth noting that time to meaningfully act ahead of the curve - and in a considered and long term thinking manner - is running out. Give it a few years, and I daresay I shall need to try to find a new controversy - assuming we are still talking about this then.

The rest / Introspection on strength of action/communication
« on: March 16, 2014, 08:17:09 PM »
This poll isn't very scientific - just personal curiosity about the composition of the forum members and where people put themselves on a crude scale of commitment to climate change communication. I've done this one in terms of communication first and foremost - but with a reasonably wide interpretation of communication whereby actions are also a form of communication.

I might start another one at some point to assess how far people go to cut their impact on the world (particularly emissions but also finite resources in general), as that also seems a very valid behaviour to adopt with respect to climate change and various other threats facing civilisation.

I put consistently in the question - as I'm not really sure attending one protest or writing one letter really counts as your typical behaviour (though I grant some of these things are necessarily more occasional than others).

Science / The uniqueness of seasonal or absent Arctic sea ice
« on: January 30, 2014, 06:24:10 AM »

If the sea ice has been perennial for over 30 million years - perhaps that should serve to highlight how fundamental (and far reaching) the changes we should expect to see as it becomes seasonal again in the near future could be.

There's a lot of discussion about ideals and solutions - but I feel this is in itself a policy - and likely a default one. This proposed development is but one possible example of this tendency and the direction things are already headed.

I don't think such efforts offer any long term hopes for humanity - rather they show the expression of human nature and how it is (and will) respond to the oncoming challenges.

I've stuck it in policy (rather than consequences) because I think it raises both the question of the default policy (for those most responsible to use their ill gotten resources to retreat into bunkers and let the rest of us pay for their behaviour in suffering and death) - but it also raises the question of how we (at all levels, large and small) should respond to this.

It's a pity we can't get more views from those already at the bottom of the ladder - but they can't afford internet or education or decent food or clean water or sanitation and therefore are not represented in this forum. Let's remember that unless we are wealthy or influential enough to get into such a citadel - we - or our descendents - will be outside the walls by default. It is a mistake to take anything in life for granted (even something as simple as an electric light switch or a tap/faucet from which clean water can flow).

I thought it might be interesting to start a topic to keep track of nation states using terrorism legislation or other abusive behaviour against environmental protest groups (particularly for peaceful protests where the behaviour of the public agencies involved is not valid).

One from America:

Police infiltrating protest groups to the extent of having children (!) with the people in them.

The establishment of the UK database for protestors, including people with no previous criminal records and who have committed no crime (unless peacefully attending a protest counts):

Inappropriate and unwarranted harassment of protestors by the police (I mean, who confiscates soap?):

Police propaganda - lies and misinformation from a body that should be trustworthy:

More lies from those who are meant to be trustworthy by their role in society (70 police officers injured, but the truth?):

I'm making this list because I don't think people quite appreciate the darker side of the authorities and how they are handling (and intend to handle) climate change. I don't think people get that there is a lot of surveillance and potential violence (and sometimes actual violence) already at play in terms of repressing the common man in the street should they dare to get unruly over issues like climate change.

Maybe people reading this might not be aware this is happening - and with frequency - maybe they haven't joined up the dots or don't remember enough such examples to build a case - that's why I think it might be worth maintaining a catalogue of examples.

It's in "Off-topic" as I have no idea where else it would belong.

I'm especially looking for examples where the protestors were clearly within the law or the response was massively disproportionate.

If we cannot trust the police to be impartial enforcers of law and protectors of society, but rather to be subservient agents of our socioeconomic overloads - and we cannot trust over overlords to do the right thing - how can we sit around expecting change to somehow happen? Do we not need to confront the fact that a fight may well be needed - and a big one - and one that cannot happen for as long as we all sit around waiting for something?

Policy and solutions / Small group logistics in a collapse context
« on: January 09, 2014, 11:31:21 PM »
I thought I'd try to start a topic for this as it moved so far away from the original topic elsewhere but was an interesting and possibly useful discussion. The posts in question that relate are at:,687.msg18629.html#msg18629

A discussion of minimum viable population in the context of humans, historic examples, possible strategies to mitigate problems and scope for small groups to continue to survive even in a world radically changed by climate change (post collapse). A few snippets to seed the topic:

MVP and extinction[edit]
There is a marked trend for insularity, surviving genetic bottlenecks and r-strategy to allow far lower MVPs than average. Conversely, taxa easily affected by inbreeding depression – having high MVPs – are often decidedly K-strategists, with low population densities while occurring over a wide range. An MVP of 500 to 1,000 has often been given as an average for terrestrial vertebrates when inbreeding or genetic variability is ignored.[3][4] When inbreeding effects are included, estimates of MVP for many species are in the thousands. Based on a meta-analysis of reported values in the literature for many species, Traill et al. reported a median MVP of 4,169 individuals.[5]

So 4000 or so I guess.  But the big caveat to me in this number is that this population has to be collocated so that they can breed properly.  It can't be scattered across the globe and then each little group would inbreed and die out.  So in practical terms if you have a group somewhere which meets the 4000 number then there are going to be lots of others scattered around the world as well.  So it really means a few hundred thousand probably.

While noting the 4000 figure quoted has multiple caveats reducing relevance specifically to humans.

An example quoted for small groups that had longevity:

The Khoisan, the last significant surviving culture of hunter gatherer groups can shed light on this question. They now occupy only the deserts of southwest Africa but previously populated all  of Africa south of the Congo. They were pushed into the marginal areas of desert by the expansion of Bantu past the rain forests of the Congo.

While the individual groups frequently don't number more than 40 individuals, their nomadic lifestyles allow separate groups to gather frequently and individuals (young women most often) migrating to other groups was common practice. It serves to strengthen both groups as they could mitigate the impacts of mortality on each group. Anthropologists also argue that it strengthened the ties between individual groups, fostering harmony and anchoring the larger culture.

I think you are probably right that if we could preselect our gene pool and then rigorously manage the mating sequence it would not require the 4000 individuals.  But we might be making assumptions here that the scientists who are experts in this have already taken into account. 

Not according to the source being quoted - the 4000 figure was an average for many species and with certain caveats.

But executing all of that requires common sense, a good knowledge of genetics and breeding, and the ability to actually enforce the proper selections of mates.  What is the likelihood of any of that?

We already do quite a bit of it - note the taboos culturally against and the legal provision for punishing incest?

BTW as a former dog breeder I can assure you that ALL purebred dog breeds are just chock full of genetic problems and disorders.  Most breeders cull the pups to eliminate the obvious defectives, later on as the dogs develop other problems become evident and a further culling process occurs.  And even following all of that it is not uncommon for dogs which the breeders thought were perfect and that they are using to further the breeding lines turn out to have significant issues and they have to be removed from the breeding stock.   Pure bred dogs have amazing specific abilities we have managed to select for, but they are a genetic mess. 

And there is the additional issue of the complexity of the human brain as compared to the other species.  I would expect inbreeding to manifest many problems in this area that would not occur with a species like dogs.

I suspect people have in the past culled newly born people - in fact - it still happens today.

That isn't to say it's desirable but in any event the breeding opportunities of people with inbreeding issues would likely be significantly reduced compared to dogs.

What I'm wondering is what sort of strategies would work well to mitigate the scope for inbreeding in a small group? Obviously it might not be likely for a society to be able to make optimal mate selections for all pairings as human nature doesn't really conform to that - but to apply a basic set of rules should be well within human capability.

Suppose the male and female names were both passed onto offspring (so both the maternal and paternal lines were represented via the family name) and it was prohibited for mate pairings to occur where either name was the same in the other party? What degree of inbreeding protection would that provide?

Science / Who do we listen to? Which science?
« on: July 21, 2013, 11:55:58 PM »
Having recently apparently managed to give the impression to some people that I am anti-science, and with the general note that bodies such as the IPCC are somewhat vilified even amongst portions of the scientific community, I thought some debate around what we take as relevant science might be illuminating.

A view expressed by another person in another thread was that we should consume the conclusions of bodies of "experts" with respect to climate change (with the implication that personal speculation and progression along the spectrum of expertise was irrelevant and unhelpful).

I wanted to - in the specific context of arctic sea ice (but with the note that the same principles apply to a great number of other earth system predictions with respect to anticipated effects and timescales thereof from climate change) raise this as something worth a closer examination.

Perspective 1

My impression is that the mainstream scientific community has consensus views little shifted from 2007 - predicting total Arctic sea ice loss later this century (certainly not within the next few years, and - on average - not even without the next few decades). This is a recent paper appearing to state that very conclusion:

IPCC AR4 doesn't really appear to predict total ice loss this century:

Although Neven is picking holes in it in this example, it contains the necessary quotes to illustrate that AR5 is likely to be similarly conservative:

The Hadley Centre (Met Office) weighed in - they expect later century ice loss also, as predicted by their models - this article contains their views as to why projections of near future ice loss ought to be discarded and ignored:

All of the above, I argue is mainstream science. It is mainstream because it reflects the typical view held by the public, by policy makers and by the scientific community at large (noting that most scientists are not experts in any arbitrarily selected field, in this case sea ice, as science is a vast entity).

It is a matter of public record that the models used to attempt to predict these things are still incomplete and still advancing quite fast (indicating a long way to go, if I might be cynical).

Perspective 2

Observational evidence, which I submit is still science appears to indicate that the models are not accurately predicting the state of the Arctic (notwithstanding that these models usually take base runs starting well over a century ago historically and are actually only off by a few decades - something fairly pointed out to me by someone defending the modelling community - my counter point was that those decades really matter once you're inside them)

We have measurements by satellites (which I would hope most people using this forum are familiar with as I don't want to have to compile a list). We also have corroboration from ground measurements - sometimes that actually suggest that the satellites appear to be painting a somewhat more rosy picture than what's going on at ground level.

I can't remember where I came across this (might have been this forum):

Between PIOMAS and Cryosat 2 it seems reasonable to state that ice volume has crashed and is continuing to decline precipitously with very little time left for any negative feedbacks to put a floor under ice loss before we start to see ice free conditions in the Arctic for part of the year. It is very hard to see how the ice can persist perennially for decades to come given that the pressure on the ice is increasing over time as greenhouse gases continue to be released and the warming from already released gases continues to build (noting lag in the climate system in this respect).

There are multiple experts (and I use that word strongly) in the field of sea ice who have lent their name to near future predictions for total ice loss. This is also science - in the sense that it is presumably based upon extensive expertise and knowledge with the science, even if it is not precisely mainstream.

Professor Peter Wadhams -
Professor Carlos Duarte -
Dr Wieslaw Maslowski -

I feel it is worth noting that if the climate models in Perspective 1 are failing to accurately predict the loss of the sea ice, they are also failing to accurately predict knock on consequences of losing the sea ice. That is to say that there are at least two sources of possible errors from the models:

1. The models may well have failed to capture key details that cause things to happen faster than expected as apparently with the sea ice
2. The models may capture some processes accurately but nonetheless fail to predict timescale as the forces driving these processes do not occur within the models until much later

It seems in little doubt to me that the experts in the field of sea ice being quoted above do not subscribe to the consensus mainstream views in perspective 1.

The Big Question

Who do we listen to?

I choose to go with what observations appear to be saying, and I tend to take a more pessimistic view. I do believe a pessimistic view is justifiable in terms of the surprises the earth system has sent our way so far, and am unclear what process could meaningful delay (by more than a matter of years) total ice loss during the Arctic melt season.

Bodies such as the IPCC may say numerous events are very unlikely, but also acknowledge the uncertainties and limitations of their methods. That is ignoring the statistical near certainty that if you have enough very unlikely events to pick from - at least some of them will happen.

I've chosen sea ice as the terms of reference for this debate about which part of science we listen to - and want to be clear that I do not listen so much to mainstream science as to what the experts in the specific field in question are saying (this is perhaps where I offended some people in another thread).

I think this is a relevant debate not only to examine more closely the portions of the scientific spectrum we base our views on - but also to explain why I (and possibly others, who I won't claim to speak for) take an outlook sometimes generously described as pessimistic (and sometimes insulting described as much worse things).

It's also relevant to help identify when alarmist and apparently extreme statements are justifiable.

Perspective 1 or Perspective 2? Is there any middle ground?

As many will know, Guy McPherson is basically predicting near future extinction for the human race. Rather than dismiss him out of hand (much of what he says makes good sense) I feel it is important to examine his statements and test them - especially as many people take him very seriously.

In a previous thread I have voiced the view that the human species is far more resilient than he gives it credit for - having survived for tens of thousands of years without modern technology, in a variety of climates including some very large regional changes (eg Younger Dryas).

I disagree with some of his sources:
- Paul Beckwith, cited for a near future warming prediction and loss of sea ice this year (and last year), as far as I can see this is no more than a personal opinion voiced by Paul Beckwith, not scientifically published material
- Malcolm Light, with a similarly cited description of some methane veil high in the atmosphere beyond detection that was going to incinerate us all in a spreading firestorm (I believe AMEG distanced itself from this prediction, and AMEG is hardly standing in the mainstream)
- His view of oxygen levels dropping in the atmosphere to levels too low for humans to breathe appears to be based on a common misunderstanding of a paper predicting longer term drops in oxygen levels in the sea (as opposed to the atmosphere)

Accordingly I would make the motion that he fails to demonstrate we need to worry much about not having an atmosphere with enough oxygen in, and does not make a convincing case for a major global average temperature rise within the next few decades.

I do want to say - this isn't a witch hunt - he has a lot of sensible material online, and it is only his most extreme views that seem easy to refute. It doesn't take much watering down before, unfortunately, they seem to be closer to reality than most.

Policy and solutions / Collapse scenarios & mitigating strategies
« on: June 06, 2013, 08:22:55 PM »
Rather than continue to misdirect a "coal" thread, I've created this topic - relating to how collapse can be expected to manifest and what sort of policy/strategy solutions might be appropriate to dealing with it.

Hence I think flint knapping is as good a place to start as any

Excuse me, but that's simply silly.

Let's envision the world after the sort of collapse that you think would make flint knapping a useful skill.  It would be a very depopulated world in which somehow enough game survives to support you few hardy souls who live off the land.  If we go into massive collapse we'll eat the other animals on our way out.  We've got more than enough firearms and ammo to take out even the mice.  One does not need sharp points to collect insects.

But suppose a few people and some deer/whatever do both survive.  That small band of you survivors would be surrounded by massive amounts of steel just waiting to be beaten into spear and arrow points using thousands of miles of railroad track anvils and millions of leftover carpenter hammers.

Have you ever tried cutting up a railroad track and making something a lot smaller out of it?

A lot of people's first response to considering collapse is that "metals are no problem, we could scavenge from the wreckage". I happen to strongly disagree - not that the idea itself is immediately wrong, but that is it seriously flawed. Most metals are reactive and will corrode away so the lifespan of available resources is limited by things other than direct consumption. Furthermore - they would become a "fossil" resource and to become reliant upon them would be to embed a future problem in the system for people down the line. Sound familiar?

In any event, we are not just talking about hunting - I'm not sure why you automatically assume that to be the only, or even most important, use for flint tools. Tools in general are part of what enables us to leverage our surroundings to greatly improve our standard of living, even if most people now do not understand this or practice it in their daily lives (as they have become dependent on the use of tools beyond their knowledge or understanding in remote locations - even sometimes on the other side of the planet - to sustain their life).

Plus the technology of gunpowder is not going away. 

The technology we have developed to date will not go away unless there are so few people left that there's not enough people to run simple factories.  A population of only a few million would be adequate to maintain a high tech existence.
A population of a few million conveniently all collected together in some magical region where they can access all the resources they need to continue operating a high tech civilisation? I'd love to know how that one works.

I'm not clear why you think you can assume on gunpowder being retained as a technology. Do you know how to source all the materials for it yourself? Can you do so without long range trade links? Can you create a gun barrel from scratch?

Basically the first question about collapse is - what do you (or anyone else) think will set a floor for collapse? What will halt the decline downwards and limit the scope for collapse? What will prevent the destruction of so many of the things we need to operate an advanced civilisation from human conflict, quite independently from climate change? Who has the skills amongst the wider population to wind back technologically a certain distance (say a few centuries to before the internal combustion and steam engines) and then gracefully stop there?

Consequences / Collapse - rigour, science and logic
« on: April 18, 2013, 12:46:38 PM »
It strikes me it should be possible in principle to model/forecast the human world to some extent. I'm not sure about attempting that - probably beyond my abilities - but I think it would be interesting to at least explore how one might go about it.

In this light it would be useful to identify a general approach and any actual scientific papers (as opposed to personal opinions) that could be used to construct a model. It would also be relevant to note which areas information is missing in that would need to be clarified, or fundamental assumptions that must be made to attempt this. I would argue it is necessary to exclude black swan events where single things have a large impact and where we have no means of assessing probability (for instance, nuclear war - unless one can assess the probability of a particular country in particular circumstances going down this route).

As a starting point I think the following especially relevant:
  • agriculture
  • the likely range of effects of climate change upon it (including but not limited to the Arctic impacts)
  • correlation between food supply and demand annually and by implications the prices in relation to a particular level of supply
  • the relationship between food prices and conflict
  • the identification of the countries likely to be affected and to what extent
  • identifying special impacts for specific regions (eg that contain critical resources or overlook major trade routes)

One could include many factors - but my thinking is if one starts simple it isn't necessary to be entirely accurate as long as one treats it like weather forecasting and only attempts short range scenarios.

The goal would be to explore the dynamics of conflict and collapse for a range of agricultural scenarios, in an attempt to gain insight into how rapidly collapse could occur and what levels of stress would be required for it to become a significant risk. Given inability to predict specific events one would necessarily have to treat anything more complex as a statistical picture, by repeatedly running a model (if you know 25% of countries meeting certain criteria will have a civil war, you randomly pick each time the ones that do, for instance).

Policy and solutions / So what are people doing?
« on: April 01, 2013, 09:23:21 PM »
It seems to me not so many people are doing a lot to prepare for all this. It finally seems that people are starting to take the issue more seriously and waking up to the fact that it is likely to start to bite us rather sooner than later (and I think a lot sooner than most are prepared to contemplate - in my view the stage is set for massive issues possibly as soon as later this year, and best case not much later).

So I'm curious - is anyone doing anything? (except sitting transfixed in front of various sources of information watching it all unfold)

This is my project - but with a wider context that is what I'm really pushing (the question of considering the longer term future of our species - as opposed to the selfishness of now).

I'm used to being dismissed out of hand - and I didn't start all this yesterday - so that's all I have to say right now.

Pages: [1]