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Earth Science

Global Warming Irreversible, NOAA Scientist Finds 1061

Posted by kdawson
from the is-it-hot-in-here dept.
Tibor the Hun writes "NPR reports that Susan Solomon, one of the world's top climate scientists, finds in her new study that global warming is now irreversible. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concludes that even if we could immediately cease our impact on pollution and greenhouse gasses emissions, global climate change would continue for more than a thousand years. The reason is the saturation of oceans with carbon dioxide. Her study looked at the consequences of long-term effect in terms of sea-level rise and drought."
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Global Warming Irreversible, NOAA Scientist Finds

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  • First post (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @02:59AM (#26618945)

    We all gona die, but at least I got my first post...

  • OOOK (Score:4, Insightful)

    by afidel (530433) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:03AM (#26618965)
    So they are saying we will have the opposite of the Younger Dryas no matter what we do. That may be true, and it might not be true, but I think it's a bit premature to say that our computer models are so good that they can definitively say what global conditions will be like in 1,000 years. Considering how few variables we model let alone the level of detail we have on those data points I think it's a bit foolish to say we can say much of anything definitive from our models at those type of timescales.
    • Re:OOOK (Score:5, Insightful)

      by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:05AM (#26618985) Homepage Journal

      It's the old "Limits To Growth" bullshit back again. The same people who predicted mass starvation in the 70s are now predicting massive climate change. The whole concept that new technology means you can't just extrapolate seems to be lost on them.

      • Nothing New (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DesScorp (410532) <.DesScorp. .at. .Gmail.com.> on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:22AM (#26619077) Homepage Journal

        It's the old "Limits To Growth" bullshit back again. The same people who predicted mass starvation in the 70s are now predicting massive climate change. The whole concept that new technology means you can't just extrapolate seems to be lost on them.

        And this kind of hysterics has been around a long time. Hobbes had his "nasty, brutish, and short" predictions for mankind in Leviathan. According to experts 30 years ago, the was simply no way we could produce enough food for 5 billion people. Now we're doing it for 7. These professional pessimists have always underestimated mankind's ability to change, adapt, and solve problems. They've always underestimated our capacity to make things happen.

        • Re:Nothing New (Score:5, Interesting)

          by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:28AM (#26619099) Homepage Journal

          In 1898, delegates from across the globe gathered in New York City for the world's first international urban planning conference. One topic dominated the discussion. It was not housing, land use, economic development, or infrastructure. The delegates were driven to desperation by horse manure.
          [...]
          The situation seemed dire. In 1894, the Times of London estimated that by 1950 every street in the city would be buried nine feet deep in horse manure. One New York prognosticator of the 1890s concluded that by 1930 the horse droppings would rise to Manhattan's third-story windows. A public health and sanitation crisis of almost unimaginable dimensions loomed.

          And no possible solution could be devised. After all, the horse had been the dominant mode of transportation for thousands of years. Horses were absolutely essential for the functioning of the nineteenth-century city -- for personal transportation, freight haulage, and even mechanical power. Without horses, cities would quite literally starve.

          All efforts to mitigate the problem were proving woefully inadequate. Stumped by the crisis, the urban planning conference declared its work fruitless and broke up in three days instead of the scheduled ten.

          So when I say Limits To Growth is "bullshit" I'm clearly being inaccurate, I should have said "horse shit" :)

          • Re:Nothing New (Score:4, Insightful)

            by H0p313ss (811249) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:54AM (#26619257)
            You will note however that horses are pretty thin on the ground these days in most major cities. Hopefully the same will soon be true of gas guzzling SUVs.
          • Re:Nothing New (Score:5, Insightful)

            by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @04:20AM (#26619435)

            And just how did they get out of this horseshit disaster?

            By recognizing the problem and finding a solution. Street cars, subways and eventually motor vehicles.

            You can recognize the foresight of the New York administration of the late 19th century for recognizing that their current path was not a sustainable one and began planning and investing in solutions to the problem.

            But no. I'm sure you're right. If we just completely avoid the problem then the inevitability of progress will happen without any research. Without any change and without any effort.

            Meanwhile billions go hungry. Tens of thousands die every day from malnutrition. But no I'm sure you're right there was no food crisis. That's why the UN didn't just have a FOOD CRISIS SUMMIT this summer.

            Don't get me wrong. When it comes to technology I'm the most hopeless idealistic optimist there is but I also recognize there is a cost. That right now we are wrecklessly spending resources at an astronomically disproportionate rate to our rate of innovation and that we're like kids in a candy store unsupervised.

            We're really living in a bubble of inexpensive and practically free energy. Energy is dirt cheap right now. Commodity materials are dirt cheap. If we don't critically reevaluate our energy sources and our resource recycling very soon the bubble will pop.

            We have a limited window of nearly free energy and inexpensive commodity materials to build the infrastructure to ensure we don't see an end to cheap energy and inexpensive materials. If we can build renewable power sources *now* then we can continue to use our fossil fuels for fertilizer and plastic. If we wait until energy prices double, triple, quadruple and on and on then your plastic electronics are going to see the plastic quadruple in cost. If we wait until the energy prices double, triple and quadruple the cost of processing the aluminum in the windmill is going to quadruple.

            Avert the energy bubble crashing by saving the 'free food' for when they're needed.

            We are already starting to see population constriction. LA is importing almost all of its water. Where do you get more fresh water? Desalination? That's great when energy is practically free, but if fresh water starts costing energy and energy is from limited poorly scaleable sources such as coal then you're going to see the cost of water rise with energy.

            Everything is getting tied into our energy supply. Our food. Our water. This is all fine as long as energy stays cheap. Fossil fuels are a limited supply and are requiring more and more energy to extract. We can only expect their prices to rise and rise and rise.

            You can say that "technology found a way to solve the environmental problems of the 19th century." and you would be right. They were to STOP POLLUTING. We could be saving a lot of money if we just dumped and polluted like the 19th century. But instead of just throwing up our hands and saying "Oh! Hey! Technology will save us." They actually bought the technology that would save us and accepted the price tag. It's not free.

            We can keep continue tapping our free energy credit line but we need to realize it is a bubble. It will increase in price. Our lives are becoming intimately tied to its cost and the best time to start planning for the future is yesterday. These technological advances don't happen when we aren't researching them. We can't just invest trillions of dollars in oil drilling and expect efficient solar panels to spontaneously emerge. It takes interst and investment.

            Will we look back on this time and laugh? I hope so. But we'll laugh because we reacted to a threat and fixed it. Our costly and difficult choice will be seen as trivial and obvious. Just as was digging a giant tunnel into manhattan to feed it with water. Just as was building a subway system.

            Let's look at the story of Horse shit and highlight the key point. The solution to the horse shit problem... wasn't more horses. We've got a horse shit problem and buying more horses isn't the technological whiz kid solution you're proclaiming will save us.

            • Re:Nothing New (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Arker (91948) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @04:40AM (#26619567) Homepage

              "The New York administration of the late 19th century" did not invent or popularise the automobile, or the train. They did nothing to solve the problem. They threw up their hands and gave up because the problem was entirely beyond them - and the world today would be a better place if more governments would follow their lead in that.

              The problem was solved by new technologies invented, developed, an popularised by private individuals looking to either make a buck or solve a problem that they faced personally. Not by any committee of busybodies trying to save the world.

              • Re:Nothing New (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Goldberg's Pants (139800) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @05:48AM (#26619921) Journal

                At the time of this reply, you are only at +4, Insightful.

                I wish I had mod points. (But then I couldn't post this.) That boils this all down perfectly to the core of the issue. Legislation saying what we can and can't buy to light our homes (regardless of health and safety issues caused by said "allowed" lighting) and other stupid government interference... New York had the right damn idea. "Over to you, boffins. We're stumped!"

                Instead now we get endless meeting and think tanks and committees and bureaucracy burning tax payers money just to say "We can't let you have these bulbs anymore because of the power they use. Instead you can have these which contain toxic levels of lots of fun chemicals which mean you can't just toss them in the garbage, but of course you will, meaning these toxins will seep into the water table, but HEY! We appear to be doing something worthwhile and that might get us voted in next election, so fuck it, eh?!"

              • Re:Nothing New (Score:4, Insightful)

                by daem0n1x (748565) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:49AM (#26620299)

                Not by any committee of busybodies trying to save the world.

                What if it is a committee of busybodies trying to make a million?

                Do you think the pollutant industries we have just now will let anyone do ANYTHING to solve the energy crisis if public powers don't step in? Hell, they're sitting on a resource that's ESSENTIAL to all human activities, and it's growing thinner everyday, which means they can sell it for any price they want in the near future.

                Alternative sources of energy available to everyone is their worse nightmare. They will do anything to avoid them, like buying-out all technological breakthrough patents, buying governments, causing wars (they did all this, and will do more) to keep the status quo.

                Your laissez-faire utopias put us all in an economical crisis with consequences not yet predictable. I haven't seen any of the prophecies that you free-market fundamentalists are announcing for decades come true. You had your chance. You screwed up badly. Reevaluate your ideals.

                • Re:Nothing New (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by Znork (31774) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @07:33AM (#26620583)

                  put us all in an economical crisis

                  The economic crisis derives directly from the Federal Reserve and fractional reserve banking, neither of which is free market. Centrally controlled interest rates are not in any way 'free market', and fractional reserve banking is simply fraud (which should be replaced with 100% reserve deposits and the option to invest at the customers discretion and the customers risk).

                  Blaming the market for doing what the Fed told them to is pointless; when the Fed policy threatens to inflate away any money people have that they don't invest, people are going to invest it. Regulation to prevent it would be ineffective, as you'll currently note, when the Fed doesn't get what it wants it'll go on lowering rates and then simply printing money until people do what it wants. This is the fundamental nature of the Fed, and until it's abolished it's going to continue to mismanage rates and cause bubbles and collapses like this.

                  With free market rates and without FRB the housing bubble would never have come to pass; as demand for capital increased, so would the interest that depositors demanded, borrowers would have to compete for money to borrow. Only with infinite credit and artificially low rates is it possible to build unsustainable bubbles of the kinds we've seen.

                  I haven't seen any of the prophecies

                  You probably haven't looked too carefully. Austrian school economists predicted exactly what happened. Unless, of course, by 'free-market' you mean the self-serving monetarist clowns running a lot of US finance, most of whose approval of 'free markets' is strictly limited to the features that serve them and their friends.

                  • Re:Nothing New (Score:5, Insightful)

                    by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @07:52AM (#26620707) Journal

                    With free market rates and without FRB the housing bubble would never have come to pass; as demand for capital increased, so would the interest that depositors demanded, borrowers would have to compete for money to borrow. Only with infinite credit and artificially low rates is it possible to build unsustainable bubbles of the kinds we've seen.

                    Why do so many people think that fractional reserve banking is all or nothing? The 12:1 leverage limits were working just fine until the SEC was persuaded to raise those limits to 40:1. Then we had the housing bubble.

                    So clearly the only solution is to throw out fractional reserve banking altogether?

                    Why not look at all the historical data and determine at what leverage ratio bank failures increase dramatically then set a limit comfortably below that level?

              • Re:Nothing New (Score:5, Interesting)

                by Lars T. (470328) <Lars DOT Traeger AT googlemail DOT com> on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @07:06AM (#26620413) Journal

                "The New York administration of the late 19th century" did not invent or popularise the automobile, or the train.

                Well, the train was already quite mature by then, and there were several elevated lines in New York. And of course the opening of the first NY subway line falls clearly out of that time range (1904).

                http://www.enviroliteracy.org/article.php/578.html [enviroliteracy.org]
                It's not like horse manure was the only problem BTW: "In 1880, New York City removed 15,000 dead horses from its streets, and late as 1916 Chicago carted away 9,202 horse carcasses. Special trucks were devised to remove dead horses; since the average weight of dead horses was 1,300 pounds, one text on municipal refuse advised that "trucks for the removal of dead horses should be hung low, to avoid an excessive lift."

                The coming of the automobile dealt another large blow to the horse. Experimental motor cars had been around for a long time, but cities had always banned them. The crisis of the 1890s and early twentieth century, involving public health fears about pollution, traffic jams, and rising prices for both hay, oats, and urban land, made municipal governments and urban residents much more ready to switch to autos.

              • Re:Nothing New (Score:5, Informative)

                by mysticgoat (582871) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @10:58AM (#26623295) Homepage Journal

                "The New York administration of the late 19th century" did popularize the issues and did a lot of direct work on solutions, which helped speed these innovations (implementation starting before the automobile was conceived, and a long time before the automobile became a significant factor):

                1. Horse drawn trolleys, with routes that encouraged formation of residential commuting neighborhoods
                2. Zoning ordinances in general
                3. Taxi industry (remains highly dependent on local ordinances)
                4. Short haul delivery and freight industries (remains highly dependent on local ordinances)
                5. Bicycles (see below)

                These and similar endeavors received support from city governments through ordinances, city brokered bond issues, changes in laws. Between 1897 and 1910, they significantly altered city transportation systems, and through that, all aspects of city life. So the changes were in place before the number of automobile drivers had reached significance.

                The annals of the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) [bikeleague.org] documents this with respect to bicycles. Known as the League of American Wheelmen (LAW) until updating its name in 1994, it was founded in 1880 and had become a major lobbying group for paved streets and sensible and consistent traffic laws by 1895. It is one of the very few organizations that had a political impact on urban affairs before 1900 that is still effective and relevant today. The LAW acronym was very deliberate: this group has had more impact on traffic law development than any one else, including the automotive industry, which mostly tweaked traffic laws that had been developed for safer bicycling. Wikipedia article on LAB [wikipedia.org] gives a quick, highly glossed 3rd party description of the organization.

                Parent post asserts that

                The problem was solved by new technologies invented, developed, an popularised by private individuals looking to either make a buck or solve a problem that they faced personally. Not by any committee of busybodies trying to save the world.

                This is false.

                The changes were in fact brought about through local political processes like committees using mostly well established technologies like horse drawn trolleys and livery services in controlled ways. Wide area organizations like LAW provided input and attempted to shape the local processes. Arguably the most important innovation during this period was a change in pavement from cobblestones to brick, asphalt, and oiled surfaces-- to improve bicycling conditions.

                This is kind of important stuff to know today, because in the city nearest you, there are definitely efforts to reshape the transportation system to something greener, and these efforts involve the same processes that were in extensive use 110 years ago, before the automobile.

            • Re:Nothing New (Score:4, Insightful)

              by cripkd (709136) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:00AM (#26619995) Homepage
              I have to agree. At first i agreed to the original idea, that the horse manure conference was silly.
              But then i remebered that the London Subway was created just because of THAT. Crowded hundred-of-years-old streets that just couldn;t take any more pedestrian and 'automated' traffic. And guess just what the automated traffic solution was back then. Horse carriages. For people, merchandise, post, everything.

              Ok, the people that attended the horse manure conference did't just go back to their homes and invented the automobile and just because it's silly that they envisioned 1950's New York covered in horse shit doesn't mean their calculations were wrong.
              People bought cheap T-models not only because of the hype and the novelty of it all, but because they proved very reliable and easy to use. And they didn't shit on the street or in your paddock.

              And gasoline was the most cheapest and available propulsion. I've always wondered where would we have been without oil (i don't know, different biological processed, different geologica structure, no huge-animals-evolution-step), people would have taken the steps we are taking now towards electrical cars, but 100 years earlier.

              The first london underground trains had steam engines. The second batch were already electric, very revolutionary at the moment.

              So yes, as silly as those men were, the fact that other people produced solutions for the same problem they gathered there for means it was a time for solutions, and not for hidding their heads in the sand.
              Ironically enough, their solution is our problem now. We're now covered in car-shit.
              • Re:Nothing New (Score:5, Insightful)

                by N1AK (864906) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @07:55AM (#26620735) Homepage

                People bought cheap T-models not only because of the hype and the novelty of it all, but because they proved very reliable and easy to use. And they didn't shit on the street or in your paddock.

                People bought cars because they were better for themselves, any benefit for others was a lucky benefit. The automobile and late 19th century New York do not provide a good example of an environmental issue being solved by planning.

                The best thing government can do is give incentives for research and development that it believes is for the good of the nation. One of the biggest issues with global warming, is that if true, any solution needs to be global to work. Currently a country is at an economic disadvantage for going 'green' as any nation that chooses not to will have lower costs. If this fundamental issue is not addressed then any countries efforts to become more environmentally friendly will simply lead to the transfer of production and pollution to areas that are not effected.

                This displacement phenomena is the same as is often seen when laws vary between bordering states.

            • Re:Nothing New (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Dun Malg (230075) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @08:46AM (#26621181) Homepage

              But no I'm sure you're right there was no food crisis. That's why the UN didn't just have a FOOD CRISIS SUMMIT this summer.

              There may be a food crisis, but it's not about not enough food being produced, but rather that the hungry do not have access to the surplus. Further, the UN summit was about the predicted food crisis due to global warming, so I'm not sure how that proves any point beyond "experts 100 years ago thought we'd be starving in the near future, and experts still think that today".

            • Re:Nothing New (Score:5, Insightful)

              by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @09:58AM (#26622189) Homepage Journal

              Renewables are good but right now we need to move to more nuclear. People love to ignore the fact that the winds farms in Texas this year didn't produce near the power they expected. There wasn't enough wind. Same with solar. You can throttle it to meet needs. They make good supplements. Nuclear is clean, it works, and with fuel recycling we have enough for centuries.

              The US bought the load of FUD in the 70s and we are now paying for it. Instead of building more nuclear plants we built coal. They did a great job cleaning coal in the new plants but CO2 was never considered a pollutant.

              The latest reactors are even safer than the ones we are currently using. We need to start building them now instead of living in a fantasy world that some unknown break through will make Solar cheap, batteries 1000% better, and the wind never stop blowing.

          • Re:Nothing New (Score:5, Insightful)

            by wall0159 (881759) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @05:39AM (#26619867)

            I guess it's that old anthropic principle at work again - our society has survived, and we're still around to talk about it, hence we solved the problem. That doesn't mean we'll necessarily solve all problems that might be thrown our way, and it's no guarantee that our society will survive current challenges. But hey, if it doesn't, there'll be no one around to say "I told you so".

            A lot of people think "oh man, Y2K - what a hullabaloo over nothing" not realising that massive effort went into making it a non-issue. Do you really subscribe to the theory that we should just kick back and relax, and that everything will work itself out? That sort of thinking seems incredibly insular to me.

          • Horse Shit (Score:5, Insightful)

            by TapeCutter (624760) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @05:40AM (#26619877) Journal
            I get the joke but I'm not sure how we ended up on limits of growth and horse shit, that is not what TFPaper is about.

            What it says is that IFF we stopped pumping out GHG tomorrow it would take thousands of years for the ocean to regain it's pre-industrial PH level. The ocean (and the shelled critters in it) is the largest C02 sink, too much CO2 makes the ocean slightly more acidic and this is already having a negative affect on said shelled critters ability to make shells, loss of coral reefs is the most publicised of these effects. Personally I hardly think it's surprising that it would take a long time for makind's CO2 spike to be aborsbed into the system if we all dropped dead tomorrow but science is about measurement and evidence, the question of "how long would it take" is as valid as any other.

            limits of growth and horse shit

            I like the horse story but the Dodo bird meat industry didn't fare quite as well. Tecnology may one day overcome that "temporary" glitch but until it does the Dodo meat industry went past it's own limit to growth in the 1700's(?). While we are LIMITED by our lack of terra-forming technology I think the most obvious limit to growth comes from from human shit, not horse shit.

            As far as I am concerned we have no choice but to turn to technology to fix technology. However it's nice to have a "bug report" that clearly lays out what the problem is. Science is that bug report, without these kind of studies we wouldn't even recoginse the problem [google.com.au], and in fact many people still don't (just look at this thread for examples).
        • Re:Nothing New (Score:5, Informative)

          by BrainInAJar (584756) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:30AM (#26619113)

          Hobbes had his "nasty, brutish, and short" predictions for mankind in Leviathan

          Woah there... as a philosophy geek that's done entire courses on Leviathan alone, I can say definitively that you are way out of left field with that one. Hobbes predicted nothing of the sort no matter how you interpret it. The "nasty, brutish, and short" comment was about man devoid of any form of governance such as the literary scenario he laid out for the condition of man in the past.

          A horrible misrepresentation of a text like that'll garner you a C- at best by anyone who has actually read the book

          • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @04:22AM (#26619449) Journal

            A horrible misrepresentation of a text like that'll garner you a C- at best by anyone who has actually read the book

            You new here? We don't even have the patience to read an article, let alone a book. As for that C- we're use to getting them after spending too much time on /.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ShakaUVM (157947)

            >>The "nasty, brutish, and short" comment was about man devoid of any form of governance such as the literary scenario he laid out for the condition of man in the past.

            Or a man in the future, if government totally breaks down, and man enters a "state of war", in which man turns against brother, and reason itself is overthrown. Or something along those lines.

            It's relevant to the discussion, since if we're doomed to Malthusian overpopulation (which we're not, but stipulating the point...) then at a cert

        • Re:Nothing New (Score:5, Informative)

          by localman (111171) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @04:35AM (#26619539) Homepage

          According to experts 30 years ago, the was simply no way we could produce enough food for 5 billion people. Now we're doing it for 7.

          Though the experts were certainly wrong, let's not imply we're doing anywhere near a decent job of providing food for all mankind. Some 50,000 people die each day from starvation. Countless more live in a chronically malnourished state. True, this is not because of an inability to grow the food (probably what the experts predicted) but because of myriad other reasons from politics to economics to logistics.

          Cheers.

        • Re:Nothing New (Score:5, Informative)

          by SD-Arcadia (1146999) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @06:50AM (#26620305) Homepage
          As a social scientist I can't live with myself if I let this slip. Actually Hobbes's depiction of life as "nasty, brutish and short" is the exact opposite of a "prediction". It describes life not in the future but in the hypothetical and long past "state of nature", before the development of civilized society and the State (The Leviathan) which puts an end to "the war of each against all" that causes life to be "nasty, brutish and short" in the "state of nature". The transformation is purely social, based on a contract between individuals who agree to submit to a strong authority in exchange for personal security. The development of technology etc. does not come into the discussion in any significant manner in Hobbes, although you could argue for that as a factor independently.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by thermian (1267986)

        It's the old "Limits To Growth" bullshit back again. The same people who predicted mass starvation in the 70s are now predicting massive climate change. The whole concept that new technology means you can't just extrapolate seems to be lost on them.

        You don't know the power of the lecture circuit :)

        Seriously, these guys make money by saying these things. Ever heard of anyone making money by saying everything will be fine and lovely?

        What all these people seem to miss is that our planet, and life in general will make out just fine, its *us* who are in trouble, us and the rest of the specialised mammals. Ok, some fish may get their shit fucked up as well, but its unlikely to the point of impossible that everything will die.

        No, much more likely we'd be gon

        • No, much more likely we'd be gone, and in a few tens of millions of years

          Let's just hope that whoever will be putting our bones in a museum will get a little sophisticated and won't think that digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Hognoxious (631665)

          Ever heard of anyone making money by saying everything will be fine and lovely?

          That guy from Rome, the one who wears those funny hats.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Ever heard of anyone making money by saying everything will be fine and lovely?

          Pop down to your local church of choice next Sunday...

      • not correct (Score:4, Insightful)

        by aepervius (535155) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:31AM (#26619121)
        You cannot extrapolate from the occurence of "new technology" in the past to help us, onto future new technology coming at time to help us. New technology is in general an unknown, and thus you should NEVER plan with them in mind. The new technology could as well NEVER happen and so much screw you up in an irreversible way. Which is why it is insane on planning on new tech coming (ne crude extraction tech, new energy generation tech (including fusion), new food production tech, new recyclage tech , new medicine tech etc...). A sane planning should always be based on current tech. You can always adapt your planning if a new tech comes up. You can't if you are waiting for some new tech to come (when ? In how far the problem would be solved ? What problem would be left ? etc...). waiting for new tech to solve your problem is akin to waiting that the problem solve itself. And that is totally utterly lost on you.
        • Re:not correct (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Toonol (1057698) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @04:00AM (#26619301)
          So even though it's ALWAYS WORKED BEFORE it would be INSANE TO THINK IT WOULD HAPPEN?

          Perhaps you mean we shouldn't just sit on our haunches and hope new technology comes along. I'd agree with that. But if you mean that new technology shouldn't be sought out as the solution to our problem... well, I'd like for you to get off the internet and go find a cave.
          • Don't buy car insurance, either.

            After all, you've never had an accident! Who are those doomsayers who say you HAVE to?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by matt1553 (1010755)

            So even though it's ALWAYS WORKED BEFORE it would be INSANE TO THINK IT WOULD HAPPEN?

            I know I'm getting off topic, but there's a fair few philosophers that have something to say on that point. [wikipedia.org]

          • Re:not correct (Score:4, Insightful)

            by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @10:15AM (#26622535) Journal

            So how has it always worked before? (Hint: It actually hasn't, not even close, but let's pretend it has.)

            Never -- not once has it worked the way we expect.

            Once we got rockets, and we got into space, we expected this to be the "space age", where we would develop spaceships fast enough to travel between stars, and we would colonize the moon, maybe mars, so any problem of overpopulation or pollution might be mitigated by no longer being bound to Earth.

            And what happened, instead? We got the information age. We got computers which can calculate insanely fast, and communicate enormous amounts of information over vast distances. We got technology which can tell us, in detail, how utterly screwed we are for waiting for the other technology (faster-than-light travel, better telescopes to find viable planets) that never came.

            You can see this kind of thing happening all the time, and much faster, in software. In the 90's, it might have made a lot of sense to speculate that Java would take the world by storm, and that developers would be writing new, cross-platform applications, and that new users wouldn't have to care what OS their computer came with, because they'd just use Java.

            Well, there's still too much of a legacy codebase to drop Windows entirely, but Java applets, at least, have been pretty much entirely replaced by Flash, and, perhaps most unexpectedly, by Javascript and HTML. Raise your hand if you actually expected to be using an AJAX (or DHTML, if you like) spreadsheet by now.

      • Re:OOOK (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:34AM (#26619139)
        There was mass starvation in the 1970s, just not where you were living.
      • Re:OOOK (Score:5, Funny)

        by wrook (134116) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:50AM (#26619235) Homepage

        Absolutely! I hear you brother. I've totally lost confidence in *them*. Let's face it. Every time *they* have predicted the end of the world, *they* have been wrong. EVERY SINGLE TIME!

        I mean, if once -- only one time -- *they* got it right, I'd be willing to listen. But let's face it. *They* must be absolutely insane, because in my long life (and my father's and his father's before him) I have *never* EVEN ONCE died a horrible death from a world wide disaster of our own making.

        And like you say, technology *always* saves us (a fact that *they* are always too eager to sweep under the rug). Every time technology has saved us from imminent disaster, every single time mind you, it has been *technology* that has saved us. *They* would have us think that there are limits to what technology can do for us. But who are *they* anyway to say such nonsense. Let's just look at history.

        I'm just so tired of all this crap. I say, let's forget these stupid scare mongers and get back to something *important* like getting terrorists out of our beautiful country!
        ]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by linhares (1241614)

        It's the old "Limits To Growth" bullshit back again.

        Did you actually read it? I guess not. [google.com] There are no predictions in the book whatsoever, the book has a 100 year timeline and a bunch of possible scenarios. Scenario #2 is unfolding, with exponential rise in food consumption, energy consumption, pollution _AS DECADES PASS_. China, if growing at 7% per annum in, say, coal mining, will grow 2^5 its current consumption in 5 decades. THAT IS OF FUCKING GIGANTIC BIBLICAL SHIT PROPORTIONS.

        The planet is not infinite. Exponential growth will hit a ceiling

      • Re:OOOK (Score:5, Informative)

        by Evil Pete (73279) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:55AM (#26619259) Homepage

        Limits to Growth wasn't bullshit. Its predictions are pretty much coming to pass, and pretty much on time. There is a myth that they predicted all apocalyptic shit in the 20th century. I remember when Limits came out .... its predictions were aimed squarely at the early to mid 21st century.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by KDR_11k (778916)

        So what does technology have to do with this? You mean we'll develop something that removes the CO2 in the future? It's not going to be very energy efficient though, getting the stuff back down will cost a lot more than we gained by releasing it in first place.

        Starvation could be avoided with more efficient food growing but merely increasing efficiency won't undo the CO2 we emitted, merely prevent us from releasing more. What is being predicted here is the behaviour of the atmosphere and this researcher cla

    • Re:OOOK (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Toonol (1057698) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:57AM (#26619275)
      "Premature" is a kind way to put it. Moronic is more accurate. And I'm not a global warming denier; I think it's likely happening. But I'm MORE of a believer in mathematics, statistics, and logic, and those fields tell me that making any statement with that much confidence based on a low resolution, incompletely understood highly iterative model with many missing variables is not far removed from casting bones.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rastoboy29 (807168)
      A thousand years is not a long timescale in geological terms, and those are the terms they are dealing with.

      Not saying I know they're research is perfect or anything, but I think it's entirely possible they are right.
  • Failure of logic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:03AM (#26618969) Homepage Journal

    Wow. I hope the paper is not as inane as her quotes. There's a difference between passive conservation and active geo-engineering. What Solomon is trying to say is that even if we all hold hands and try to conserve that it'll make no difference because the damage is already done. Of course, to acknowledge this is difficult if you buy into environmental conservationism, as Solomon obviously does, so you end up with quotes like "I guess if it's irreversible, to me it seems all the more reason you might want to do something about it".

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The interesting thing is, to assuming that geoengineering as a solution is impractical as much of the scientific community seems to suggest strikes me as odd being we have basically accidentally geoengineered ourselves into this mess, assuming the current causation theory is correct. Just hope we don't act carelessly in trying to come up with a fix and end up making the problem worse.(see the park service fighting small forest fires in Yellowstone for about a century...)
    • by Xest (935314) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @04:07AM (#26619361)

      I don't really see why that's a failure of logic. Her point seems to be that, look we've pushed it to the point it's going to happen, let's not make it even worse.

      The event isn't going to be a simple binary yes it does happen/no it doesn't happen it's going to occur on a sliding scale, it could be major, it could be minor, it could be anything in between, how we react is going to define that.

      The logic only fails if you're viewing the result in a simple two state it does/doesn't happen manner. It's your application of discrete logic to a comment about a non-discrete system with a non-discrete range of outcomes that's at fault.

      If what she says is true and that it is irreversible, then yes we need to do something about it- it means we've fucked up majorly and we need to do something about it now to ensure the impact it has is as small as possible. Certainly going with the attitude of "Oh well" and continuing as is is likely only going to make it a whole lot worse, or even speed it up so that it happens not in 1000 years, but in 100 years. Even if we can keep it to 1000 years and it is serious then at least there's the hope we'll have a better solution by then, but a solution in 100 years could be a much tougher call.

  • by RuBLed (995686) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:05AM (#26618987)
    Damn whales exhaling in our oceans.
  • by blind biker (1066130) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:19AM (#26619063) Journal

    I am not surprised. I have been pondering the various, strong positive feedback loops involved with climatic phenomena, like the release of gigantic amounts of methane from the Siberian permafrost due to warming, the decrease of vitality and eventual death of plankton in the oceans (main source of oxygen for the planet, as well as main source of food for fish) due to increased sea temperatures, decrease of albedo due to melting of icecaps and glaciers, decrease of rainfall and consequent decrease of forests (that the Indonesian and Amazonian forests have been mercilessly burnt, doesn't help), to mention just a few. I am sure the better informed reader can add a few more of these positive feedback loops, but in my humble opinion, these are the stronger ones, and make the process of global warming unstoppable.

  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @03:26AM (#26619097)

    The key element about global warming that seems relevant is this : how LONG will it take? If we have 200 years before the ice caps finish melting, then it's not really the crisis that it's made out to be.

    Why won't it matter if it takes 200 years? Because realistically at even a fraction of the current rate of technological progress, mankind will have the technology to do something definitive about it in 200 years. The simplest, most elegant solution I can think of to global warming is to build giant orbital sunshades to reduce the total solar irradiance to the earth's surface.

    I can even see how this would be done using a juiced version of current technology. Automated factories would produce the thousands of square kilometers of shade material (kind of like the automated factories in Japan right now...). The factories might be on the earth or the moon. We'd blast the shades into orbit using lasers (see Lockheed Martin's new LED pumped laser weapon for technology that could do the job TODAY) and they would automatically position themselves in the right location using tiny ion engines (also already been done).

    The solar panels would produce electrical energy, which would be beamed down to earth via microwave. The panels would only be maybe 40-50% efficient, so the waste heat would radiate out to space, reducing the total thermal load on the planet.

    Presto! Problem solved, and probably would be a profitable endeavor for some future megacorp.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by shmlco (594907)

      "The simplest, most elegant solution I can think of to global warming is to build giant orbital sunshades to reduce the total solar irradiance to the earth's surface."

      Why not skip that and just set off a couple of dozen nukes? A mild nuclear winter could offset the global warming trend quite nicely.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)
      I think you have been overdosing on Kim Stanley Robinson books.
  • Sounds Reasonable (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @04:34AM (#26619523)

    The headline is a little alarmist, but the article is more reasobable:

    That's really a political decision because there's more at issue than just the science. It's the issue of what the science says, plus what's feasible politically, plus what's reasonable economically to do," Oppenheimer says.

    One of the things people don't understand about science sometimes is that it doesn't set policy because it requires objectivity. Goals, which are the basis of judgement and therefore decision making, are subjective.

  • by Bromskloss (750445) <auxiliary DOT ad ... privacy AT gmail> on Tuesday January 27, 2009 @07:53AM (#26620717)

    It seems all our problems would be solved if we were fewer...

The tree of research must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of bean counters. -- Alan Kay

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