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Unforced variations: April 2012

Filed under: — group @ 2 April 2012

This month’s open thread – a day late for obvious reasons… Have at it.

236 Responses to “Unforced variations: April 2012”

  1. 51
    Hank Roberts says:

    David B. Benson says: @40 — Hadley cell expansion.
    David, do you know if this is an outlier or a change more likely to be permanent?
    After all the effort to build that new observatory in what has almost always been a clear cold dry location, I wonder how many days of the desired conditions they’ll get.

    It’s a location that might be quite well instrumented for detecting change over time, as the astronomical work needs the cold dry air.

  2. 52
    Chris Korda says:

    Less government.
    Less business.
    Less wealth.
    Less power.

    Less roads.
    Less buildings.
    Less food.
    Less people.

    Less is coming.
    Less is already here in many places.
    Less is licking our ankles.
    Less is rising up to meet us.

    How fast should we be going when we hit it?
    Some say if we go faster, we won’t hit it.
    Some say there’s nothing to hit.
    Do you believe them?

    Humans will be here for a while yet.
    How much should they suffer?
    Future generations.
    Your children.

    Should they pick through the rubble?
    Should they eat slime?
    Should they die like ants?
    Is that what you want?

    Here in the empire, it’s a soft life.
    It’s easy to forget the Holocaust.
    It could be like that again.
    It could be sooner than you think.

    Less can no longer be avoided.
    Less could be gradual, or sudden.
    Less will hurt, either way.
    Sudden will break more bones.

    You could admit you were wrong.
    You could apologize to your children.
    You could slow down.
    You could fasten your seat belt.

  3. 53
    wili says:

    Following on the thread of #36, 38, and 42: Semiletov has something just out in “Environmental Research Web”:

    (Thanks to Newfie at Malthusia for pointing it out.)

    “The highest concentrations of atmospheric methane and carbon dioxide are found in the Arctic, north of the areas where the most man-made methane and carbon dioxide are created. Our recent analyses suggest that during the Holocene and previous “warm stages”, thawing of subsea permafrost (including disturbance of gas hydrates and bottom erosion), degradation of onshore permafrost (caused by coastal erosion, for example), and the formation and evolution of thawing lakes are also responsible for the Arctic increase in these gases.”

    This seems to be a summary of an earlier article, so nothing since the famous emergency excursion to the Arctic last September. If anyone does come across an update on that, please do bring it to our attention.

    It does seem as though extremes are getting rapidly more extreme all around.

    I think I had mentioned that, though in a stable climate they should be equal, heat records have outpaced cold records for the last couple decades at a ratio of 2 to 1.

    In 2010 that went up to about 3 to 1

    2011: 8 to 1

    Early 2012: 13 to 1

    March 2012: 35 to 1

    Things seem to be flying wildly out of whack at an accelerating pace. Anyone care to guess what the next set of ratios might be in that sequence. One hopes its a blip that will settle down to the more gradual increase of the last few decades. But one also wonders if it is an indication that, having passed certain tipping points, we are now very rapidly moving into a very different and far hotter state.

  4. 54
    Keith Henson says:

    Recent technical advances in lasers make an energy project that dates back to the late 60s an economical way to displace fossil fuels in a decade.

    Proposal is to use conventional rockets to place a seed propulsion laser at GEO followed by a rapid buildup to in excess of 2 GW. That’s enough to support a 100 GW per year power satellite construction project and a rapid build up to 1-2 TW per year rate. That rate gets humanity off fossil fuels in a decade.

    The bootstrapping reduces the cost to the point that the initial investment pays off in about 3 years.

    The new factor is the realization that even one power satellite used for propulsion reduces the cost of space transport to well under $100/kg and the cost of electric power from space to 2 cents per kWh or less.

  5. 55
    David B. Benson says:

    Hank Roberts @51 — As I understand it, as the ghlobe becomes warmer the Hadley cell expands. In the southern hemisphere that will shove the descending portion with its atendant dry air further to the south. So, for example, Central Chile is predicted to become quite dry.

    But further north the expaned Hadley cell still has some moisture, tending to decrease the quality of astronomical observations at the Atacama site.

    I opine (quite strongly) that poor seeing will become more frequent there.

  6. 56
  7. 57
    Susan Anderson says:

    Hansen on Climate Dice at DotEarth: juxtaposed with Michael Wallace of last month’s thread. Darn, I hoped for something straight up but we have on the one hand, on the other … again!

    I hope you all will forgive me for lifting my earlier check on Dr. Wallace more or less verbatim from “Extremely Hot” in case you haven’t heard of him; It is painful to see him equated with Dr. Hansen, one of the giants of our time:

    “one of the country’s most eminent climatologists, John M. Wallace” (publications date from 1964), via Wikipedia:

    John Michael Wallace is a professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington, as well as the former director of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO)–a joint research venture between the University of Washington and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). His research concerns understanding global climate and its variations using observations and covers the quasi biennial oscillation, Pacific decadal oscillation and the annular modes of the Arctic oscillation and the Antarctic oscillation, and the dominant spatial patterns in month-to-month and year-to-year climate variability, including the one through which El Niño phenomenon in the tropical Pacific influences climate over North America. He is also the coauthor with Peter V. Hobbs of what is generally considered the standard introductory textbook in the field: Atmospheric Science: An Introductory Survey. He was the third most cited geoscientist during the period 1973-2007.

    Dr. Wallace’s positions on energy exploration include extreme fossil fuels.

    His textbook, written in 1977 and revised in 2006 (Amazon) is said to be one of the best on meteorology around. He appears to encourage an energy quest.

    The conversation continued in comments for a bit here towards the end of the first page of comments and the next page:

    Some of you applied your excellent abilities to finding out more, for which thanks.

  8. 58
    Susan Anderson says:

    Oops! That’s John Michael Wallace! (news today makes it confusing)

    recaptcha: suffering ecalibl (ecological libel?)

  9. 59
    caerbannog says:

    I’ve been trying to put together a simple, easy to understand visual summary of the global-temperature results I posted about earlier here. That is, a nice visual demonstration of the reliability/robustness of the global temperature record that is also refutation of most of the claims that denialists have made about the global temperature record, in an easy-to-digest “eye candy” format (something that won’t make non-technical folks’ eyes glaze over…)

    I’ve put together 3 images.

    1) The first is a plot of what I call the “Sparse Rural Stations” index (i.e. global-average temperatures computed from a very small number of scattered rural stations), compared with the official NASA/GISS “Meteorological Stations” temperature index. Image here:

    2) A Google Earth visualization of stations used to compute the NASA/GISS “Meteorological Stations” index. Image here:

    3) A Google Earth visualization of stations used to compute the “Sparse Rural Stations” temperature index. Image here:

    The “Sparse Rural Stations” procedure is extremely simple. Divide up the globe into 20 degrees x 20 degrees grid-elements (at the Equator; longitude dimensions adjusted as you go N/S to keep grid-element areas approximately constant). Search each grid-element for the station with the longest temperature record. Use one and only station for each grid element. Compute the year/month temperature anomalies for the selected stations, and just straight average them all together for each year.

  10. 60
    Susan Anderson says:



  11. 61
    Jim Larsen says:

    On Kareiva,

    I disagree with previous commenters in that I find Kareiva’s points extremely valuable, especially when talking about the future and the actions we should take to prepare for it. For example, attempts to keep the Arctic’s and Antarctica’s ecosystems intact are futile wastes of time and money. You like polar bears on ice floes? Too bad. There is ZERO chance to preserve that. Polar bears will learn to live solely on land, hybridize with grizzlies, or go extinct. Same stuff goes for most ecosystems around the planet. Things will change radically and far faster than nature is “used” to changing. We’re going to have to make decisions about which species from around the world to introduce to new ecosystems as the old ones collapse. What plants and animals will we choose to introduce to the ex-taiga? Antarctica? The ex-tundra? Will we do it accidentally and haphazardly (like releasing pet boas in Florida) or with intelligence and purpose?

    Mankind used to just live here. Traditional environmentalism worked in the Holocene. Guard/fence the Amazon, and the Amazon lives on. But now that we’ve entered the Anthropocene, like it or not, we’re in the terraforming business. Fence the Amazon, and it will probably die anyway.

    So, Kareiva’s point is clear and correct – traditional environmentalism wants to return large areas of the planet to pre-human conditions, but those conditions aren’t supportable anymore. The climate is changing too rapidly and the planet is becoming too crowded. Traditional environmentalism is doomed to failure because saving the current environment is no longer possible. We’ve got to build a new one, perhaps with palm trees in Boston. And since most ecosystems will be brand new, their species will be selected either randomly (i.e., weeds and pests will flourish), or for human benefit. It’s our choice, but we CAN’T choose “what was there before”.

  12. 62
    simon abingdon says:

    Many RC posters have realised that Captcha words are like tealeaves with hidden messages. Today at 09:56 UTC mine are “labors Undedue”. An unfavourable omen, or not? I shall wonder about it all day.

  13. 63
    Radge Havers says:

    Jim Larsen @ 61

    “traditional environmentalism wants to return large areas of the planet to pre-human conditions”

    Traditional environmentalism? What is this, Punch a Dirty Hippie after Easter Day? Environmental thinking is much more subtle than that. I will agree though, that climate change is hard to work into planning. Heh. I just heard NYC Mayor Bloomberg make some good noises on NPR about the environment then turn around and say that there’s no point trying to do anything about it until mid century. (And on that same day an NPR newscaster mentioned in passing that “some” scientists are concerned about global warming. Guess that means no big deal for now.)

  14. 64
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Larsen: “saving the current environment is no longer possible. We’ve got to build a new one … It’s our choice, but we CAN’T choose ‘what was there before’ …”

    And what evidence supports your apparent belief that human beings have the knowledge, understanding and capability to “build a new” biosphere?

    Sure, we have amply demonstrated — and continue to demonstrate — that we have the capacity to DESTROY rich, diverse, robust ecosystems that have taken many millions of years to evolve. And we are currently in the process of demonstrating our ability to massively degrade and perhaps even mostly destroy the entire Earth’s biosphere. We are very, very powerful indeed — when it comes to the power to destroy.

    But to imagine that ignorant, rapacious mass destruction is evidence of the ability to create “brand new ecosystems” for “human benefit” is nothing but delusion and hubris.

  15. 65
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I find it interesting that you seem willing to speak for what “traditional environmentalists” might seek. Are you a traditional environmentalist? Have they vouchsafed their deerest desires to you? Have you polled them? Oh, and last but not least, WTF is a traditional environmentalist…one who only becomes one with the environment after marriage?

    The issue is not that we are changing the environmental. Most environmentalists accept this as an inevitablility. Their concern arises from the fact that we are changing the environment in an uncontrolled fashion–in a fashion that increases the odds that the environment will not support us when our population reaches 10 billion or so by mid century.

    When the car is careening out of control under conditions of low visibility and hazardous driving, I don’t think it is an extreme position to want to apply the brake.

  16. 66

    Another milestone–1000 page views for this article on the (simplified physical basis for) the greenhouse effect:

    Thanks as always to RC readers for past support.

  17. 67


    “But to imagine that ignorant, rapacious mass destruction is evidence of the ability to create “brand new ecosystems” for “human benefit” is nothing but delusion and hubris.”

    Maybe. But we manifestly do have the power to make choices that fundamentally alter the conditions of life for the entire planet.

    Therefore, we have the responsibility to use that power in an intentional manner–and hopefully the wisdom to do so in a benign manner as well. (That part looks far from self-evident just now, to be sure.) And if we are part of a larger whole, doing so will indeed be “for human benefit.”

    Making sure that self-interest is sufficiently enlightened always seems to be the hard part, somehow.

  18. 68
    dhogaza says:

    SecularAnimist, it’s just positivist thinking at work. We’re not destroying existing ecosystems (a bad thing), we’re creating new ones (a good thing!). Of course this must be combined with the strawman view of conservationists wanting “to return large areas of the planet to pre-human conditions”. This statement demostrates ignorance … and not on the part of conservationists.

    In the same sense that cigarette manufacturers are creating business for doctors, and morticians.

  19. 69

    #60–Yes, as Susan said, very nice!

    My only thought: how about the other (‘Eastern’) hemisphere as well in the second and third images? It’s sufficiently illustrative as is, but would be yet more intuitively convincing if ‘complete.’ Besides, folks will always want to look at their own backyard, and the politics of CO2 are very much in play in Oz right now…

  20. 70
    Hank Roberts says:

    > traditional environmentalism …
    > we CAN’T choose “what was there before”….

    And that’s Kareiva’s strawman argument.

    Kareiva misquoted a familiar quote.

    It’s about wildness, not wilderness.

    Sure, there are nuts at the fringe on all branches of the tree.

    Ask any wildland firefighter about the places where “environmentalists” live right next to wildland but over and over defeat prescribed burning, so the next wildfire will be horrendous.

    Those are ‘not in my back yard, peace in our time’ fools.

    Look for the pampas grass in their tasteful gardens maintained by people they pay under the table, most likely. Same ones who patronize the nurseries selling stuff that’s invasive, too.

    The ecologists condemn those nitwits — “right” or “left” or “conservative” or “liberal” as they may want to be called, from an ecology viewpoint they’re stupid shortsighted selfish rich people.

    If Kareiva focused on that rich stupid fringe he’d be focusing correctly, but he’d have to condemn people he agrees with otherwise politically, I’d imagine. So he tries to make argue a left-right divide.

    He’s confused his argument beyond remedy, and confused typically.

    Read someone sensible instead. Try this:

    Leopold’s Challenge
    18 June, 2009 | Stephen Bocking

    “… These struggles come to the fore whenever ecologists urge new ideas about ecosystems. One such idea has been to discard the notion of ecosystems as stable or finely balanced…. destabilizing forces (say, a forest fire) maintain diversity and resilience. A view of nature as predictable has been replaced by one that accepts uncertainty and the likelihood of surprise. This implies a new goal for management: not control for maximum production, but resilience in the face of disturbance, which thereby embraces natural variation over an artificial and unsustainable stability….”

    [Response:Yes, a lot of this thing stems from Kareiva confusing the issue frankly. First of all, environmentalism is not ecology, as Peter Kareiva well knows, yet he writes in his essay about how “environmentalists” have this preservationist mentality for conservation, which even among them, is a case he vastly oversimplifies. He even cites as one of his main references for this, an article (a bad article no less!) in Mother Jones magazine! He should be discussing the views that various ecologists have toward restoration and conservation, which are wide and varied. Much of his language strikes me as designed to promote controversy, perhaps to bring attention to himself. I think he has a lot of explaining to do to clarify where he’s coming from, and why.–Jim]

  21. 71
    SecularAnimist says:

    Kevin McKinney wrote: “But we manifestly do have the power to make choices that fundamentally alter the conditions of life for the entire planet.”

    So far, we have only demonstrated that we have the manifest power to “fundamentally alter conditions of life for the entire planet” for the worse — as evidenced by extinctions of species, gross degradation of entire ecosystems, and now the threat of the gross degradation of the entire Earth’s biosphere with AGW.

    Kevin McKinney wrote: “Therefore, we have the responsibility to use that power in an intentional manner –- and hopefully the wisdom to do so in a benign manner as well.”

    Given the overwhelming evidence that we utterly lack the “wisdom” to alter ecosystems — let alone the entire Earth’s biosphere — “in a benign manner”, it would seem that our main “responsibility” is to use our “power” to restrain ourselves from ignorant and destructive actions.

    What I see is an alcoholic diagnosed with terminal cirrhosis of the liver, boasting of his “power” to “fundamentally alter conditions of life for his entire body”.

    Or a guy walking into a china shop and wildly swinging a baseball bat until he has destroyed thousands of dollars and centuries worth of irreplaceable artistic artifacts, boasting of his “responsibility” to “use his power in an intentional manner” that will “hopefully” be “benign”.

  22. 72
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Larsen wrote: “like it or not, we’re in the terraforming business”

    Um, no.

    Converting a barren planet, like perhaps Mars, and transforming it into a rich, diverse, thriving and robust biosphere like that of the Earth, would be “terraforming”.

    Transforming the Earth’s rich, diverse, thriving and robust biosphere into a poisoned, ecologically impoverished wasteland is not “terraforming”. It’s just ignorant, arrogant stupidity.

  23. 73
    Jathanon says:

    Maybe @61 Jim Larsen has some points, but I agree, “traditional environmentalism wants to return large areas of the planet to pre-human condition” is a complete straw man, and to me signals a particular ideological argument. I’ve never met anyone expressing those sentiments. I know lots of environmentalists, and though I will absolutely not try to speak for them as a group, I think most would not be opposed to my earlier points (sustainability, corporate abuse, environmental responsibility), as well as wanting to “preserve” or conserve many still-existing natural areas.

  24. 74
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank Roberts wrote: “This implies a new goal for management …”

    May I humbly suggest as a “new goal for management”, that a species that aspires to “manage” entire ecosystems and indeed the entire Earth’s biosphere, might first consider learning to manage itself.

    The delusional anthropocentric hubris that created the problem is not the solution to the problem.

  25. 75
    Hank Roberts says:

    SA, try these references.
    I’m speaking about how it’s being done, not what I’d do if I were God.

    A perennial caution: not to let the best be the enemy of the good.

  26. 76
    Jim Larsen says:

    64 SA said, “And what evidence supports your apparent belief that human beings have the knowledge, understanding and capability to “build a new” biosphere?”

    Really? Apparent belief? I didn’t mention capability and have no evidence that we’ll do a good job. Lots of invasive species were introduced in an attempt to improve things. Kudzu comes to mind. And that’s a single species. Trying to populate, say, a new desert from scratch will provide plenty of opportunities to screw things up.

    It isn’t delusion nor hubris, but plain necessity. We can leave that new desert essentially devoid of life, or we can introduce species. We can let species go extinct as their range moves faster than they can migrate, or we can help them move. Traditional environmentalism focuses on “let it be”. Well, previous extinction events took millions of years to heal, and that isn’t an acceptable timeline. As I said, LIKE IT OR NOT, we’re in the terraforming business. I’m surprised you took that as confident optimism. In fact, the opposite is true.

  27. 77

    like it or not, we’re in the terraforming business

    I believe the correct term is ‘sterilizing’.

  28. 78
    Radge Havers says:

    Er, communication again.

    Hank, SER readers: “Valuable Tools and Resources” with a big ol’ cycle and hammer thingy on it? Heavens to Murgatroyd.

    And today on NPR the Tennessee monkey business, I couldn’t even listen. Had to go breathe in a paper bag. Teaching the controversy because, for instance, climate scientists used to think the science was settled, but now they don’t.

    For pity’s sake, try not to set yourselves up.

  29. 79
    Radge Havers says:

    Gah. I should talk. Make that ‘sickle’ not ‘cycle’.

  30. 80
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Kevin McKinney,
    Thus far, I’ve seen precious little evidence of “choice”–rather the evidence of several billion small choices, each on of little consequence, that together are wrecking the planet for human habitation. No raindrop thinks it is the cause of the flood. So the rich can blame the problem on the fecundity of the poor, while the poor blame it on the avarice of the rich. And nothing improves.

    I am beginning to believe that the only “choices” that are going to matter are the ones scientists make in developing a new and better infrastructure. And it will have to be better, or humanity will stay on the course it is on until it kills us.

  31. 81
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Radge Havers

    You call this a hammer and sickle?
    Your eyes are fooled by your prejudices, or you’ve never dug a ditch.

    Do you imagine this proves they’re all secretly Masons?

  32. 82
    Ron R. says:

    Read the puff piece on Kareiva. I have to say it’s alarming that the Nature Conservancy would keep such a clearly corporate compromiser on board. Maybe they should adopt a policy from Catholicism: excommunication. Here are some quotes:

    “Quietly, these massive funds — nicknamed the BINGOs, for “big nongovernmental organizations” — have utterly revamped their missions, trumpeting conservation for the good it does people, rather than the other way around. “Biodiversity” is out; “clean air” is in.”

    “Beyond fears of corporate abuse — nothing new at the Nature Conservancy — Kareiva is asking members to adopt a different moral system. Gone is the bright line saying that all species must be saved. It’s replaced by acceptance that some species will go extinct, said Michael Nelson, an environmental philosopher at Michigan State University.”

    “A generational dynamic is being played out. Kareiva’s team seems to be winning. Team Biodiversity may soon leave the court … Let Thoreau go. ‘Broaden the constituency to those loggers,’ he said.”

    So Kareiva joins other notorious compromisers like Patrick Moore and Bjorn Lomborg. People first. If some conservation accidentally happens along the way, then fine. Good for PR. But do it for people.

    It seems that when some environmentalists reach a certain age they grow tired of the fight, and when they’ve gotten comfortable and used to luxury, an internal struggle, perhaps quelled for decades, begins to boil to the top. You see it in Kareiva’s comments about the loggers bars his dad used to go to, “I felt aligned with it” he says. And, disappointed, not having realized their original goal of a world saved, they begin to rationalize, to wonder if perhaps they’d made a mistake, if the world actually needs saving. Maybe it’s not so bad after all. When they were younger and their future less certain they wanted change, they cared for all. But later when they’ve gotten used to the finer things their priorities begin to change. They turn inwards. It’s hard to see the need for change when personally you’re doing well. Luxury (look at Kareiva’s girth) is a potent contender.

    Then there’s the need to stay relevant, important, to grab some limelight before you go, to make a mark on history. Ego comes into play. Perhaps the aging of the environmental movement will be it’s doom (as the article seems to be saying).

    Problem is, this is certainly bad for the earth. Every inch that is surrendered is an inch we can’t get back. Extinction is forever. There’s an old Italian saying that goes: “feather by feather the goose is plucked”. The end of Kareiva’s philosophy is a world with nothing left but man, his pets and the animals he eats. His postage stamp sized yard and a city park here and there. There is no difference between Kareiva and Creationists who insist that Genesis 1:28 shows that the earth was made for man and is ours to do with as we want. The other 99% of species have no inherent right to life, not without our permission. It’s the same philosophy that allows dead hearted people to use chimps and puppies for all kinds of horrific laboratory experimentation. They are not beings with feelings but machines for our use, whatever that nay be.

    Stop fighting and throw in the towel. If you can’t beat ’em join ’em. Right. We see it in the subtle argument from dirty energy funded rightwing think tanks that rather than mitigate carbon dioxide emissions we should all just adapt.

    The conservative National Center for Policy Analysis whose “Environmental Task Force” contains a number of climate change skeptics including Sherwood Idso and S. Fred Singer[210] says, “The growing consensus on climate change policies is that adaptation will protect present and future generations from climate-sensitive risks far more than efforts to restrict CO 2 emissions”

    Despite conceding that our consumption of fossil fuels is causing serious damage and despite implying that current policy is inadequate, the Report fails to take the next step and recommend serious alternatives. Rather, it suggests that we simply need to accommodate to the coming changes. For example, reminiscent of former Interior Secretary Hodel’s proposal that the government address the hole in the ozone layer by encouraging Americans to make better use of sunglasses, suntan lotion and broad-brimmed hats, the Report suggests that we can deal with heat-related health impacts by increased use of air-conditioning … Far from proposing solutions to the climate change problem, the Administration has been adopting energy policies that would actually increase greenhouse gas emissions. Notably, even as the Report identifies increased air conditioner use as one of the ‘solutions’ to climate change impacts, the Department of Energy has decided to roll back energy efficiency standards for air conditioners.[219] Letter from 11 State Attorneys General to George W. Bush.

    In essence this is shorter Kareiva:

  33. 83
    Radge Havers says:


    OK, very funny. To be precise, it’s a visual pun on a hammer and sickle motif.

    Look at this:

    And then look at this:

    I assure you I’ve done plenty of digging (and heavy lifting) in my time, and I have the back and bad temper to prove it. I’ve also trained and worked as a graphic designer and been around art and artists all my life, six decades now. So speaking from that perspective listen up; you’re not well served by turning a deaf ear on this issue. This is exactly the association that would be trapped in a typical design critique.

    It’s not a question of my prejudice or even necessarily how it was intended. It is certainly a question of how your audience will receive it. Make sense?

  34. 84
    Ron R. says:

    Found this link that discusses “Breakthrough Institute” of which Kareiva is a Senior Fellow.

    Check links in criticism section for sources.

  35. 85

    #71–SA: “What I see is an alcoholic diagnosed with terminal cirrhosis of the liver, boasting of his “power” to “fundamentally alter conditions of life for his entire body”.”

    Right. We have a problem. We aren’t dealing with it well.

    Does it help more to believe that we have the potential ability to deal with it, or the reverse? ‘Cause it ain’t going away. We have the drink (to adopt your metaphor), we have the dough to buy more. So we have the choice what we will do with that dough. We can’t duck it by saying, “Oh, we are not worthy to choose.”

    We damn well better learn to be worthy, or we’re going down. And yes, that involves humility–but it’s false humility to pretend we don’t have powers that we do, and thus to continue to misuse them. Some castigate it as ‘playing God.’ I say we don’t have to do that–but we do urgently need to do a better job of ‘playing human.’

  36. 86
    don gisselbeck says:

    We are not trying to “save the earth”. The earth after humans do our worst will be in no worse shape than it was after the last big asteroid hit. We are trying to save civilization. I for one hope that we be able to perform Bach, ski the Grinnell Glacier, watch elephants, sit around drinking beer and doing the myriad other things that make a civilized life for many more millenia.

  37. 87
    guthrie says:

    Radge Havers #78 – you must be from Scotland. Or have totally insane parents.

    (Yes this comment is well off topic, but I find it amusing)

  38. 88
    Radge Havers says:

    guthrie @ 87

    Good catch!
    Part Scottish, and the insanity is all my own!

  39. 89
    Dan H. says:

    Good point Don,

    Barring a Dr. Strangelove or Martian Chronicles scenario, the earth will go on. Unfortunately, we seem to be doing our best to minimize the number of species with which we share this planet, mostly by forcing them out of their natural habitats or overhunting (rather illogical to quote Spock). If we wish to continue watchin elephants (and other species) in nature, then we had better do our best to preserve their natural environment.

  40. 90
    J Bowers says:

    “Teaching the controversy because, for instance, climate scientists used to think the science was settled, but now they don’t.”

    Realclimate 2009: Unsettled Science.

  41. 91
    Ron R. says:

    don gisselbeck — @ 11:42 said The earth after humans do our worst will be in no worse shape than it was after the last big asteroid hit.

    Well that makes me feels SO much better! Thanks.

  42. 92
    SecularAnimist says:

    Kevin McKinney wrote: “Does it help more to believe that we have the potential ability to deal with it, or the reverse?”

    I not only “believe”, but I KNOW, that we have the actual ability to phase out virtually all anthropogenic GHG emissions by replacing fossil fuels with solar, wind and other renewable energy sources, and to begin drawing down the already dangerous anthropogenic excess of atmospheric GHGs with reforestation and organic agriculture — within a decade or less.

    IF we choose to do so. And I am not at all certain that we will choose to do so. Indeed, it appears that we are collectively making the choice NOT to do so.

    In light of this — and in light of our ongoing degradation of ecosystems all over the planet, in addition to AGW — the notion that humanity will “terraform” the Earth, creating some sort of “brave new biosphere” out of the ruined, biologically impoverished wastelands and acidic oceans of a globally-warmed planet, is simply insane. It’s just nonsense.

    Don Gisselbeck wrote: “We are not trying to ‘save the earth’. The earth after humans do our worst will be in no worse shape than it was after the last big asteroid hit. We are trying to save civilization.”

    Actually, as unbelievable as this may be to the pathologically anthropocentric psychology that is at the root of the crisis we face today, some of us would like to “save the earth” — which is to say, we would like to save at least some of what remains of the rich, diverse, resilient, unimaginably complex and beautiful and creative Holocene biosphere from being utterly rubbed out by an anthropogenic catastrophe.

  43. 93
    MartinJB says:

    SA, are you saying in post 91 that you KNOW [emphasis yours] we can entirely replace fossil fuels with alternatives in the next ten years or start to replace fossil fuels during that decade? I suspect the former, as the latter is a trivial statement. If it is the former, do you actually have a plan for how this herculean (but entirely laudable) feet is to be accomplished?

  44. 94
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Hank @ 70:
    >Ask any(sic) wildland firefighter about (evil) “environmentalists” ….

    Or: you heard some one firefighter on complicit media, one who has learned from talk radio how to assign labels and blame for his frustrations ….

    There are some individuals who oppose prescribed fire that might cause them smoke for a day or two. It’s political to declare these the environmentalists and to blame them for insufficient prescribed fire.

    Prescribed fire issues:
    Serious concern with smoke reducing roadway visibility
    many other regulations for good reasons …
    certain conditions are required – not too wet, dry, or windy for starters
    ** Not enough resources and trained personnel to burn all the places that need it when conditions are good **

    Prime responsibility for putting out wildfire often rests with a state’s Division of Forestry (DoF). Some of their personnel may be conservative. Quite a few people from other agencies and NGOs have fire training and may help put fires out. All of the above are the same ones who carry out prescribed burns. Their main frustration is

    ** Not enough resources and trained personnel to burn all the places that need it when conditions are good **.

  45. 95
    Ron R. says:

    Funny how Kareiva thinks he can do away with environmental icons like Thoreau, Muir, and Abbey simply by finding imperfections. So Thoreau’s mother did his laundry, Apparently that shocking revelation proves that Thoreau was wrong. No doubt Galileo had his imperfections as well. Pretty soon Kareiva will be saying that he was wrong too, which only goes to prove that the sun does indeed revolve around the earth and man really is the center of creation.

    It’s like a baseball game where one side secretly hires a “motivational speaker” and sends him into the locker room of the opposing team before the World Series. There he tells the team that, hey, you’re not likely to win anyway so relax and stop knocking yourself out. He knows that once he can get them to accept that it’s game over, the other side has already won.

    Of course he’s right that we need to talk to the other side. But just because the pillagers are people with human needs too doesn’t make the pillaging right. Kareiva says that he was moved by the loggers holding their children on their shoulders in the back of the room. Fine. No doubt slave holders had families to feed as well. No doubt they loved their kids too. But the institution of slavery was wrong all the same.

    What’s at stake? RIght now we have a rapidly increasing population on a finite world. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the logical conclusion here. Eventually even the postage stamp sized yards and city parks will give way to the inexorable crush of humanity and we’ll have to build up. The surface of the globe covered in highrises. A Julian Simonesque dream. All our food synthetically derived, pets replaced with robots. Maintenance-free plants in place of real ones. Wilderness a thing of the past. Utopia. But look at the bright side: we’ll have all kinds of cool gadgets lying around.

    It’s sad that so many city bound people today are growing up without little appreciation for nature. No knowledge of it’s beauty, it’s subtleties. No memory of what the world once was. No understanding of our connection to and need for it. No comprehension of the suite of serious threats it faces thanks to one species. So how can they care for it? This planet with a razor thin biosphere clinging impossibly to its surface surrounded by the freezing vacuum of space, all of it’s sister worlds dead.

    Someone mentioned to me in passing the other day that he saw a beaver that had been living a tentative existence in a little stream hemmed in by apartment complexes on one side and a busy street on the other, had finally run out of luck. It had been run over. He thought it remarkable that a beaver had been living in that tiny stream. There was a pause like a elegy, one less beaver in the world, a little less wildlife. And then it was onto other news.

  46. 96
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    > restore a pre-human condition

    There is not much interest in setting the clock back millions of years.
    In North America, pre-Colombian is sometimes a desired standard.
    More specifically: to restore an ecosystem, restore its natural drainage and hydrology and its natural fire frequency and seasonality (both with appropriate variability) and control or eliminate invasive species. Then be patient with time & nature.

    This usually improves regional water resources while making the preserved area a resource for everyone from hunters to Lepidoptera lovers.

  47. 97
    Radge Havers says:

    Hank on another thread:

    “Ok, that ends _this_ exchange, I trust.”

    Well almost, except to point out that this illustrates a difference in the way that artists and scientists communicate. If literal concrete analysis of the image applied, it wouldn’t be a question of art, or metaphor. Nor is it a question of the technical use of symbols. I know scientists sometimes find the dreamlike, illusory world of visual artists hard to come to terms with– occasionally with good reason. I once worked with an artist who changed obscure map boundaries in order to make them more visually satisfying.

    However, artists try to develop a feel for how images go into peoples heads and what they do once they’re in there. They should know that what’s appropriate for one audience may not fly in a different or broader venue. That cover looks professionally designed, and therefore I think it highly unlikely that the use of that particular image in that particular way was unintentional. The people who designed and vetted it no doubt knew exactly what it looked like. I happen to think it was a naive move.

    Ok, that ends _this_ exchange…
    I trust.

  48. 98
    David Miller says:

    Kevin says:
    Some castigate it as ‘playing God.’ I say we don’t have to do that–but we do urgently need to do a better job of ‘playing human.’

    Gotta love it. I am so stealing this quote.

  49. 99
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Is it corporations all the down? or up?

  50. 100
    Stephan says:

    March 28, 2012

    The Honorable Charles Bolden, Jr.

    NASA Administrator

    NASA Headquarters

    Washington, D.C. 20546-0001

    Dear Charlie,

    We, the undersigned, respectfully request that NASA and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) refrain from including unproven remarks in public releases and websites. We believe the claims by NASA and GISS, that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated, especially when considering thousands of years of empirical data. With hundreds of well-known climate scientists and tens of thousands of other scientists publicly declaring their disbelief in the catastrophic forecasts, coming particularly from the GISS leadership, it is clear that the science is NOT settled.

    The unbridled advocacy of CO2 being the major cause of climate change is unbecoming of NASA’s history of making an objective assessment of all available scientific data prior to making decisions or public statements.

    As former NASA employees, we feel that NASA’s advocacy of an extreme position, prior to a thorough study of the possible overwhelming impact of natural climate drivers is inappropriate. We request that NASA refrain from including unproven and unsupported remarks in its future releases and websites on this subject. At risk is damage to the exemplary reputation of NASA, NASA’s current or former scientists and employees, and even the reputation of science itself.

    For additional information regarding the science behind our concern, we recommend that you contact Harrison Schmitt or Walter Cunningham, or others they can recommend to you.

    Thank you for considering this request.



    [Response: This is pure politics. As former employees of NASA they should know full well that NASA doesn’t take official positions on scientific issues. I note that they provide no references for the ‘unsupported’ statements that think NASA has made. Scientists who work for NASA are however expected to talk about their results, write about them and submit them for peer review. What these letter writers are asking for is for the administration to curtail the free speech rights of NASA employees that they disagree with and that is just wrong. If I asked Bolden to tell Cunningham et al to to stop spouting nonsense, I would be instantly criticised for trying to quash dissent, but these guys have no qualms about it whatsoever. The only response needed is to point these people to the NASA statement on scientific openness that was made the last time people tried to politicise discussions of NASA science. Didn’t work then, won’t work now. – gavin]