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inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #26 of 124: The dogma of the quiet past is inadequate for.. (robertflink) Sat 24 Jul 10 17:37
    
Before WWII, the country (USA) was overwhelmingly against getting
involved.  In hindsight, an earlier intervention may have saved
millions.  Had the people been better informed, would involvement been
earlier?

My point is that a people may democratically decide to keep their
heads in the sand.  That some will preach such a position as wisdom is
likely and only mildly causative. 

BTW, I am in favor of any and all efforts to address climate change as
a key element of getting to a lighter footprint on the planet.  Thanks
for the book 
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #27 of 124: for dixie southern iraq (stet) Sat 24 Jul 10 18:44
    
Taking the long Darwinian view, bad human decisions on restraining
greenhouse gases probably won't lead to human extinction. So what are
we all fussing about?
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #28 of 124: paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Sat 24 Jul 10 21:56
    
Extinction of lots of other species we're fond of, and depend on,
leading to mass starvation--our species may survive, and lots of others
will too, but being culled won't be fun.
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #29 of 124: Eric Pooley (ericpooley) Sun 25 Jul 10 05:16
    
The same day the Senate pulled the plug on the carbon cap, China Daily
reported this: “BEIJING — The country is set to begin domestic carbon
trading programs during its 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015) to
help it meet its 2020 carbon intensity target. The decision was made at
a closed-door meeting chaired by Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the
National Development and Reform Commission ... Putting a price on
carbon is a crucial step for the country to employ the market to reduce
its carbon emissions and genuinely shift to a low-carbon economy,
industry analysts said.”

China is now spending $9 billion A MONTH on clean energy. The US
government spends $5 billion A YEAR on clean energy R&D. We are
squandering our chance to dominate the next generation of job-creating
industries. We are arguing about 20th century rust belt jobs and losing
out on tthe jobs of the 21st century. 
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #30 of 124: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Sun 25 Jul 10 06:16
    
It's sort of scary when a developing nation is making smarter moves
than us. 
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #31 of 124: We're carrot people. (unkljohn) Sun 25 Jul 10 06:58
    
Whatever it takes to get it through our thick skulls!
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #32 of 124: John Payne (satyr) Sun 25 Jul 10 08:37
    
One of the primary failings of capitalism is that it acts to lock in the
status quo.  The smart money is probably long since out of oil stocks, but
somebody owns them, with retirement funds being the most likely suspects.
It's hard to develop political will when the actions that are needed will
act to erode the life savings of many voters.
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #33 of 124: Earl Crabb (esoft) Sun 25 Jul 10 09:31
    
Well, China isn't that far ahead of us.  We've had a carbon trading
exchange in place for more than ten years, already.

(Google "Richard Sandor" "carbon trading")  
(say hi to him if you talk to him)
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #34 of 124: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Sun 25 Jul 10 11:04
    
Actually Eric, I'm curious about another aspect of the climate
deniers. Assuming you're correct about them being "true believers," I
wonder what you think it will take for them to wake up and realize that
we are really in trouble here. I'm not suggesting that they will have
a sudden change of heart of present their mea culpas--but some of them
will probably realize at some point that they can actually make money
off of climate change. 
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #35 of 124: Julie Sherman (julieswn) Sun 25 Jul 10 13:39
    
I have been remiss in not telling our off-site readers, please email
<inkwell@well.com> with your questions and comments for Eric Pooley)

 
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #36 of 124: John Payne (satyr) Sun 25 Jul 10 19:23
    
> we are really in trouble here

Well, yes, most likely, especially those of us living very near
sea level and on the edges of deserts.

We're in uncharted territory.

Not only is the CO2 level higher than it's been in a very long time,
but jets flit across the sky seeding high level clouds like they've 
never been seeded before, tractors crawl across the landscape exposing
raw soil to sun, wind, and rain, in the United States roughly 1% of the 
land area is roofs, roads, and parking lots (or has it reached 2%?).
Meanwhile, overgrazing has turned much marginal land to desert, and
rainforests are being cleared and burned at an alarming pace; temperate
forerst have been reduced to a fraction of what they were a few hundred
years ago, and prairies have been turned into farm land, and largely to
dust.

It's a bold experiment, with neither theory or rationale behind it,
much like a child making mud pies, being performed on what is certainly 
the only planet within at least four light years capable of supporting 
life as we know it.

Very reckless!
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #37 of 124: Eric Pooley (ericpooley) Mon 26 Jul 10 05:47
    
<<I wonder what you think it will take for them to wake up and realize
that we are really in trouble here.

Many of them will never get it. The tend to be older guys, so they're
not likely to live long enough to see the chaos.
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #38 of 124: Eric Pooley (ericpooley) Mon 26 Jul 10 05:49
    
I'm working on two piece of journalism. One is a what went wrong
story, and the other is a where we go from here story, I'll post some
chunks if you're interested. 
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #39 of 124: John Payne (satyr) Mon 26 Jul 10 06:39
    
What went wrong?

You don't have to be more than a little cynical to think that it happened
when herds started following people rather than the other way around, or
when the planting stick, for poking seed holes, became a plow, for opening
furrows.  Most of the destruction man has wreaked upon the planet has
resulted from these developments, although with our modern, mechanically
enhanced methods, we're fast catching up.
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #40 of 124: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Mon 26 Jul 10 09:55
    
Eric, you've talked a little about some of the activists you spent
time with, and some of the tactics they usefully employed. Perhaps you
could give us some more detail on that? 
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #41 of 124: Jeff Dooley (dooley) Mon 26 Jul 10 10:27
    

The recent "what went wrong" story, say over the past 20 years could be very
valuable strategically.  Part of what makes The Climate War so interesting
is to get a feel for the tension among the environmentalists over the
markets versus litigation divide.  At some point, probably when it's way too
late, stark pragmatism may force a consensus, but the cdost will be high by
then.

With the recent defeat of cap and trade in the US it's hard not to be grimly
cynical, but that leads nowhere useful. The "where do we go from here"
story would be a great place to continue the effort, and I would be very
interested in what you're coming up with Eric.
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #42 of 124: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Tue 27 Jul 10 16:09
    
Just arriving - interesting conversation so far, and a book I want to
read!

My question Eric is this: to what extent do the folks you met
understand systems theory, feedback loops, and the idea of there being
irreversible tipping points?  

It's so fundamental to the science, and yet I've encountered a number
of well-meaning policymakers who just don't get why there is such an
element of urgency to the situation.  Expressions of urgency are taken
as a sign of shrill extremism when they are likely the height of
pragmatism.

And it's so fundamental to the sense of frustration too - if
incrementalism were a viable option we'd be right on track to solve
this knot of problems in 40 or 100 or 500 years... Which we don't have.
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #43 of 124: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Wed 28 Jul 10 07:40
    
>My question Eric is this: to what extent do the folks you met
understand systems theory, feedback loops, and the idea of there being
irreversible tipping points?

Not wanting to pre-empt Eric here, or to sound like a denier, but can
you clarify what you mean? ARe you saying that scientists know, in the
same way that they know that a rock will always fall toward earth and
not toward outer space, that climate tipping points exist and what
constitutes them? 
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #44 of 124: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Wed 28 Jul 10 11:22
    
Yes, that there are changes you can't undo once they are done because
that's the way systems work.  

For example, there is a bunch of methane trapped in arctic permafrost.
 If you raise CO2 levels and global temperature enough to start
melting permafrost, the methane is released.  Short-term, methane is
17x more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, so melting permafrost
triggers a huge positive feedback loop.  If global CO2 emissions were
curbed before that massive release was triggered, it could possibly
prevent it.  But if they were curbed while it was underway, the CO2
level change would no longer have a significant impact on the system.

Maybe an analogy would be if you have a fire start in your house, you
have a moderate window of time when you can theoretically put it out on
your own.  But once it begins to spread, get out!  Something
constitutes a housefire tipping point where you recognize that the
processes operating have overwhelmed your capacity to intervene.

You can't un-melt an ice cap or put the ice sheet back on Greenland in
human-scale time.  The mechanism that melts them is a runaway positive
feedback loop, and that's what I'm asking if folks understand.
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #45 of 124: Jeff Dooley (dooley) Wed 28 Jul 10 11:41
    

There is by now a fairly deep tradition of modeling complicated "systems"
full of interdependencies that suggests how they may respond over time to
dramatic changes, such as a change in overall climate.  This is inductive
science (like expecting a rock to always fall to earth just because that's
what it has always done), and so it is messy and imprecise, yet it has
produced useful insights.

As <keta> says, one of these insights is that if you push a model far enough
out of equilibrium it will begin to oscillate wildly and unpredictably at
some point.  This would be a tipping point in the model.  What happens to
the components of the model or its structure after losing equilibrium is
impossible to predict, though some overall meta-patterns, like the tragedy
of commons, seem to show up in the models repeatedly.

Also (again echoing keta), the probability of the model settling back after
the oscillation into the same structural equilibrium that it exhibited
before going out of control is zero.  So, after the oscillation there will
be something there, but there is no way of knowing what it would be except
that it won't be like it was.

These models are attempts to hypothesize structural relationships in a way
that gives us some insight into the way complex messes, like global
habitats, might behave over time under various kinds of stresses. But the
models are not the habitats.

The apparent fact that humans do not easily grasp modeling elements like
long delays between actions and the return consequences (though global
action to eliminate CFC emissions in the 90s based on modeling results is a
counterexample) is, I think, part of the reason why there still aren't
enough people in the US feeling a sense of urgency about climate change.
But with long systemic delays, once you begin to notice symptoms of large
scale change emerging, it's pretty much too late.  It doesn't help that
short-term comfort always seems to trump sacrifices to avoid longer-term
hypothetical consequences, and the hypothetical nature of the consequences,
being derived from models, gives deniers some plausible confidence that the
scientists are wrong.

I've been talking about the models since that's all we have.  Hopefully, all
these decades of work has produced models and structural components, like
feedback loops of various kinds connected in various ways, that actually can
provide practical clues to help us find a way to preserve our habitat to
some degree and maybe limit unnecessary suffering due to ignorance.
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #46 of 124: Joel Bremson (jb) Wed 28 Jul 10 12:11
    
The tipping point argument is a reason to act with urgency but taken
to far it can inspire fatalism.

One of my takeaways from the book is that global warming should be
talked about in terms of being a solvable problem. If a problem is
urgent and solvable we can expect people to take action, urgent and
unsolvable will just create fatalism.

The deniers spread such a thick cloud of FUD that countering it with
cold, sober, scary realism will not work. The counter should be more
along the lines of investing in clean technology for a happy retirement
with good weather. Something like that. 
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #47 of 124: Jeff Dooley (dooley) Wed 28 Jul 10 12:57
    

A related, good point from the book is that effective action now will almost
surely lead to less severe problems for the habitat than waiting and acting
sometime in the future.
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #48 of 124: Julie Sherman (julieswn) Wed 28 Jul 10 13:19
    
(just received an email from Eric, apologizing about his absence. He
has been traveling, away from wifi. He will be back tonight.)
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #49 of 124: John Payne (satyr) Thu 29 Jul 10 19:59
    
It's my impression that appreciation of system behavior, much less real
understanding of it, isn't particularly common.  And really why should
it be?  We don't teach anything like cellular automata in K-12.  Even in
College, only math and statistics and maybe hard science and engineering
majors are remotely likely to be exposed to such ideas in a rigorous 
manner.
  
inkwell.vue.388 : Eric Pooley, "The Climate War"
permalink #50 of 124: Eric Pooley (ericpooley) Fri 30 Jul 10 05:23
    
Sorry I've been AWOL. On the question of who understands complex
systems and the threat of tipping points, clearly the climatologists
understand this threat. Im The Climate War I describe a number of
potential tipping points: the melting of permafrost and methane
hydrates is one (essentially, the earth will take over and release so
much GHG it won't matter what we do) and  ocean acidification is
another. The scientist can't say with any specificity when such a
tipping point will come (or, to use Gary's analogy, when the rock will
fall), but the geological evidence suggests that when it does come,
climate change can be very rapid. RAPID change, of course, is the
disastrous kind, of course, because it gives human, animal and plant
populations no time to adapt.

Who gets this?

Scientists - yes
Climate activists - yes
Politicians - a few
The public - mostly not
The Deniers - of course not

To Joel's point, this is cause for urgency, not fatalism -- since we
don't know how far away the tipping points are, we have to proceed on
the assumption that we still have enough time to avoid the worst. How
could we give up with so much at stake?
  

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