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Earth Science Technology

We Had All Better Hope These Scientists Are Wrong About the Planet's Future (washingtonpost.com) 618

Less than 24 hours since we read this dire climate study, an anonymous reader writes from a Washington Post report about several more concerning things: James Hansen, a former NASA scientist, says his new study suggests the impact of global warming will be quicker and more catastrophic than generally envisioned. The research invokes collapsing ice sheets, violent megastorms and even the hurling of boulders by giant waves in its quest to suggest that even 2 degrees Celsius of global warming above pre-industrial levels would be far too much. Hansen has called it the most important work he has ever done. "I think almost everybody who is really familiar with both paleo and modern is now very concerned that we are approaching, if we have not passed, the points at which we have locked in really big changes for young people and future generations," Hansen said.
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We Had All Better Hope These Scientists Are Wrong About the Planet's Future

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  • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @12:41PM (#51753615)

    So what? After all, we've hit peak oil and the population bomb has already gone off. We are literally lifting people in frontloaders out of the way and Soylent Green is people. This is just a drop in the bucket with all the disasters that have already befallen us that were correctly predicted in the 1970s. It doesn't seem like there will be a humanity left to even care by the time Earth has turned into Venus.

    Now, excuse me, I need to go out in my gas mask and radiation gear to go salvage vacuum tubes from the ruins of civilization so I can keep my mainframe working in this post-apocalyptic world.

    • We haven't hit peak oil yet. Every publication I read in the 80's and 90's predicted a peak of cheap oil in the 2040's to 2050's.

      We are well on the way to that. After that cheap oil goes away and 100+ a barrel will be the normal. At the same time we will have a 50 million Muslims who haven't really had to work suddenly finding themselves without income, very angry, and armed to the teeth. (90% of Saudi doesn't really work but lives off government oil handouts).

      that should scare you

      • Re:What else is new? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rockmuelle ( 575982 ) on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @03:32PM (#51755501)

        Ignore peak oil, you've hit the real problem: large intelligent, underemployed, and underfunded populations.

        Thanks to basic math, it's happening already with the royal family in Saudi Arabia. Up to a point, populations grow exponentially (S-curves rather than real exponential curves). When the Sauds took over, they were essentially a small tribe with a leader and a few princes. Fast forward a number of generations, and guess what, now you still have one leader but tens of thousands of princes (ever wonder why so many people have met Saudi princes? there happen to be many of them).

        I had the privilege of working with a prince during a stint in the Kingdom. This was his biggest concern for their future: the royal family was too large and budget could not keep up with the cost of the entitlements. And, unlike welfare recipients in America, these really were entitled people. They all saw the previous generations living like, well, kings. They still do OK, but must live more modestly and are encouraged to work to supplement their income.

        My friend was very concerned that most of the other princes would have difficulty transitioning and that the next generations (which, thanks again math, will be even larger) will have no social or economic system to fall back on.

        Regardless of when peak oil happens, peak prince has already occurred.

        -Chris

    • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @01:23PM (#51754167)

      Also, "what else is new"? Certainly not the actual words of the summary, which are basically a few sentences taken verbatim from the Washington Post article.

      I know complaining about editing is usually pointless. But...

      an anonymous reader writes from a Washington Post report about several more concerning things:

      ... is simply NOT accurate. The anonymous reader didn't write "from" the Washington Post. He/she didn't write anything, but instead cobbled together a few sentences which were written by Washington Post reporter Chris Mooney.

      If you want to take a summary verbatim from TFA, at least credit the words to the person who actually wrote them, rather than an AC.

  • by SecurityGuy ( 217807 ) on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @12:50PM (#51753723)

    I tend to be a skeptic myself, so my reaction is far from panic, but this seems like something we should be studying very objectively. It's a shame so few people are capable of doing it.

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      It grabs headlines. That's why we have the media blaring as loudly as they can about every terrorist act they can. It's all so shocking, and therefor guaranteed to grab eyes and viewer share.

      I'm not saying this guy is completely off base, but this reads like the script to The Day after Tomorrow.

      • Yeah, I can't disagree with that. From the paper: "It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization."

        I'm quite interested in whether the science is correct, but he's doing himself a disservice in veering into social and political effects. If he's right, then this would be a landmark paper without the alarmism. It's a difficult position to be in. If he's right, the alarmis

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @04:34PM (#51756115) Homepage Journal

      Well, some people can't tell the difference between "skepticism" and "wishful thinking". A true skeptic tends to doubt everything on an even-handed basis. A wishful thinker doubts things that would be unpleasant if they were true.

      One thing an accomplished skeptic understands is that evidence for complicated real-world questions is always contradictory. This makes his job hard because he's got to judge which side of a question has the preponderance of evidence in its favor. On the other hand it makes the job of a wishful thinker easier, because there will always be evidence to support whatever he wishes to believe. All he has to do is cherry-pick.

      One of the best exercises for a true skeptic is to spend a few hours with Google Scholar and tracing the shift in consensus from the 1950s, when most scientists thought the planet was entering a cooling phase, until the 2000s when the consensus was strongly in the other direction. This will dispel any notion that the consensus just changed overnight for no reason (or because of some kind of conspiracy). There was a thorough and vigorous debate with both sides represented.

  • by mdsolar ( 1045926 ) on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @12:51PM (#51753733) Homepage Journal
    Here is the pdf. http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net... [atmos-chem-phys.net]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @12:53PM (#51753771)

    The planet will kill off all of the humans and then get back to its regularly scheduled program. We're just a glitch.

  • Some perspective... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Layzej ( 1976930 ) on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @12:57PM (#51753819)

    It's worth noting that this is just one paper, and some reservations about this paper have been expressed by peers:

    Michael Mann, a Penn State university climate scientist familiar with the original study, commented, “Near as I can tell, the issues that caused me concern originally still remain in the revised manuscript. Namely, the projected amounts of meltwater seem unphysically large, and the ocean component of their model doesn’t resolve key wind-driven current systems (e.g. the Gulf Stream) which help transport heat poleward. That makes northern hemisphere temperatures in their study too sensitive to changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning ocean circulation,” the scientific name for the ocean circulation in the Atlantic that, the study suggests, could shut down.

    However, another Penn State researcher, glaciologist Richard Alley, said by email that “though this is one paper, it usefully reminds us that large and rapid changes are possible, and it raises important research questions as to what those changes might mean if they were to occur. But, the paper does not include enough ice-sheet physics to tell us how much how rapidly is how likely.

    • by Etcetera ( 14711 )

      However, another Penn State researcher, glaciologist Richard Alley, said by email that “though this is one paper, it usefully reminds us that large and rapid changes are possible...

      Is that the same "usefully" as "useful idiot"? Or perhaps never letting a crisis go to waste? It's "useful" to the extent that it can scare people into acting beyond what the argument has reasonably shown the case to be.

  • Screwed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AntEater ( 16627 ) on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @01:02PM (#51753887) Homepage

    Seriously. If Slashdot, of all places, can't have a reasonable conversation about the science behind this topic without the deniers dominating the discussion then there really is no hope. We should just defund any climate research and put all that money into coal and oil discovery and extraction research. Game over. Why delay the end point? It's not like there's any political will to do anything serious about it anyway.

    • Maryland House and Senate just updated the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act to cut emissions by 40% by 2030.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      "Dominating the discussion" is codeword for "someone said something I don't agree with".
    • Re:Screwed (Score:5, Interesting)

      by a_mari_usque_ad_mare ( 1996182 ) on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @04:30PM (#51756061)

      Slashdot has more scientifically literate people than alot of other sites, but its been dominated by American right-wing grievance politics for a awhile now, and its only getting more extreme.

      These global warming threads have been a bell weather for the site's decline. If you read one for each year going back, you see would see more intelligent comments and less denial the further back you go.

      This place used to be for college-age computer geeks and STEM majors, now its for middle-aged Trump voters.

    • I'm old enough (by your id I think you are too) to remember the early days of this discussion when Climate Change was treated on Slashdot as a bit of a joke. That has completely changed. The denialists here save up their mod points and use them liberally to promote the early denialist posters and thus give the appearance that their view is predominant here.

      But it's just the same guys making the same arguments, refuted every time. e.g. Mr "climate model predictions don't correlate to actual temperatures,

  • by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @01:05PM (#51753929)
    The first study just argued that carbon release was faster than during the PETM. But what the PETM really tells you is that even very fast releases of carbon and temperatures 10-12C higher than today don't seem to be particularly harmful to land animals. It is, of course, possible that even faster releases of carbon are more harmful, but the first study provides no new evidence that they are.

    As for Hansen's paper referred to in this article, it tries to make a case for the dangers of climate change by looking for analogues for current climate change in the past. But he clearly starts out with the goal of showing that climate change is very dangerous and then tries to concoct scenarios and fit observations to reach that conclusion. Hansen is not objective anymore, and his papers and conclusions are not credible anymore.

    Good thing is: none of this really matters. Politically, it is impossible for Western leaders to have much influence over fossil fuel use, and deployment of renewable energy progresses at its own pace and as it makes economic sense, no matter what nutcases like Hansen say or want.

    • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

      The first study just argued that carbon release was faster than during the PETM. But what the PETM really tells you is that even very fast releases of carbon and temperatures 10-12C higher than today don't seem to be particularly harmful to land animals. It is, of course, possible that even faster releases of carbon are more harmful, but the first study provides no new evidence that they are.

      We are not just any land animal, we are human.
      If the sea level rise, animals will just move to slightly higher ground, they don't have huge cities to move. A massive storm will kill a few individuals and damage vegetation but it will have no home to destroy. Kill 50% of an animal population and it will just regrow in a couple generations as long as the habitat is preserved, humans too but animals don't make a big deal out of it.

    • by Will.Woodhull ( 1038600 ) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @02:42PM (#51755023) Homepage Journal

      Good thing is: none of this really matters. Politically, it is impossible for Western leaders to have much influence over fossil fuel use, and deployment of renewable energy progresses at its own pace and as it makes economic sense, no matter what nutcases like Hansen say or want.

      No, that's wrong.

      While the battle to decrease fossil fuel use was lost before it had begun-- for the reason you cite-- there are personal and public reasons for calling your position a "heads up the ass" posture:

      Personally, if Hansen et al might be right, then it would be prudent to NOT investment your retirement savings in that condominium project in south Florida. Multiply you by all the potential investors, and that is going to affect real estate values, today. Not years later, but today.

      Publicly, if Hansen might be right, then opposing the ballot measure to fund a ten year multi-million dollar project for waterfront improvements would make a lot of sense, since that waterfront might well be submerged before the work has paid for itself.

      There are serious right-now, today and not tomorrow, reasons for thoroughly studying what Hansen and the other experts are warning about.

      Frankly, it seems to be a matter of whether you consider the distant future to be when you are twenty or thirty years older than you now are. Or whether to you the distant future is the year after next year. Your position is consistent with the view of a younger person who regards a decade as a third or more of the life that he has so far lived, and has no concept of responsibility for decisions that will affect your kids' and grandkids' lives. Short-sighted. Git offa m' lawn!

  • Well, seeing as the case is now a genuine emergency, I know what we can do. Let's give the radical Left everything it's been asking for for decades, right now, without any debate or voting or any of that old-fashioned crap that only randomly results in positive outcomes. Let's make the decision now and get rid of capitalism once and for all, in the West anyway, and implement a fair system by which we'll be ruled by highly intelligent elites that will put all of society's resources in a basket and then sha

    • Let's make the decision now and get rid of capitalism once and for all, in the West anyway, and implement a fair system by which we'll be ruled by highly intelligent elites that will put all of society's resources in a basket and then share them out fairly for all.

      That sounds like an improvement over the current system where we're ruled by highly rich elites.

  • say that china gets a pass. In addition, the far left will continue to fight against the use of nuclear power, even though it could replace coal quickly.

    I applaud Dr. Hansen and his work, but hate his followers are just as unscientific as the far right.
  • that is all
  • Ever heard the phrase "There is no hope!" ?

    Seriously - have you made ever a count, how many time your hope was working out or it failed...

    Hoping creates contemplacy, delays action and hinders rationality - just look at the actual odds of winning Powerball. Doing it consoles, gives hope despite the fact that the odds are something like 1 : 11 Million. That's how human mind functions and gets fooled.

    Our planet is not a powerball lottery to use hope for future human and environmental decent existence.

  • We are second only to TURKEY as science deniers. Looking at these comments makes my head hurt. Cataclysmic event in the US might not be a bad thing.. stop the stupidity.
  • Nuclear power, NOW! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer@earth[ ]k.net ['lin' in gap]> on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @02:03PM (#51754611)

    We need nuclear power. We, as Americans need to be building a new nuclear power plant (with about 1GW capacity) every week. We, as humans, need to be building a nuclear power plant every day. We need to do this from now until we replace all coal and natural gas power plants, and then keep going to replace the nuclear power plants that we'd retire in 40 years. At some point we'd likely have to build them at an even faster pace to account for an increasing population and/or an improved standard of living.

    To those of you that think we could never build such complex machines at such a pace I say look at the numbers of commercial jet aircraft or oil tankers built in a year, they are comparable to a nuclear power plant in size, cost, and complexity and we mass produce them. To those that think we'd create some sort of radiation hazard, well we can address the comparatively small problem of disposing of radioactive waste or we can deal with the problem of oceans rising, super storms, and so on. I'd also maintain that the problem of nuclear waste has been solved already, we'd just need to build reactors that can both produce power and consume the waste we have now.

    To those that believe we can solve this problem with wind and solar I say these technologies produce less than 5% of grid power now after decades of government subsidized research and development. Nuclear power now produces 20% of our grid power and we've not built a new nuclear power plant in 40 years. Even if we built those same 50 year old designs today then we'd still be a century ahead of what wind and solar can do. If we build truly modern nuclear power plants, and mass assemble them, then we'd be able to bring costs down below that of any other power source based on economies of scale alone.

    To those that think nuclear power is the path to nuclear annihilation I say there is no better way to make nuclear weapons worthless than to make them more valuable as fuel than as a weapon of war. A large problem of dismantling these nuclear warheads is that we'd have to find a way to make the nuclear fuel inert. We can make it inert by neutron bombardment in a reactor, and we'd get effectively free energy from it. The cost of mining and refining this uranium and plutonium is a sunk cost, we can power the world for a very long time on these warheads alone and in the mean time go out and dig up some more fuel in the form of uranium and thorium. With breeder reactors we'd have an effectively limitless supply of fuel.

    Don't build the reactors on fault lines, or places known to have tsunamis, but put them on solid bedrock in the middle of a desert and use high temperature air cooled reactors so the lack of water is not only not a problem but makes containment in the case of a spill or leak much easier. In a dry place the radioactive material is much less likely to wash away, contaminate drinking water, or irradiate crops.

    If this doomsday scenario is true, and I DO NOT believe that it is, then we need to do something about it now and quickly. We can hope these scientists are wrong and keep burning coal and oil, we can continue to maintain our standard of living free of global warming with nuclear power, or we can revert to a life of subsistence farming and beasts of burden where life is poor, brutal, and short.

  • I said it in another post, but enough data has been provided. If non-scientists/engineers/skeptics/ideologues don't agree with the data or the context that it is placed in, then the discussion is over and completely useless. Nobody believes the data because they don't trust the source of the data, the people drawing the conclusions and they need to *visually* see the conclusions drawn in action. Merely showing models is not enough.

    Back when scientists were saying that the world was a globe and not flat...

  • Consider the Source! (Score:4, Informative)

    by spike_gran ( 219938 ) on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @03:57PM (#51755789)

    Clearly this study is complete biased nonsense. Look at the institutions at which these supposed scientists work.

    Columbia University, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, NASA Goddard, Institut Pierre Simon Laplace, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, University of California Irvine, Western Carolina University, University of Toulon.

    Each one is some garbage degree factory with no scientific rigor whatsoever.

    hehe

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