RealClimate logo


Unforced variations: Oct 2017

Filed under: — group @ 1 October 2017

This month’s open thread. Carbon budgets, Arctic sea ice minimum, methane emissions, hurricanes, volcanic impacts on climate… Please try and stick to these or similar topics.

358 Responses to “Unforced variations: Oct 2017”

  1. 151
    nigelj says:

    Killian @142

    I didn’t say you personally were exaggerating / scaremongering. I said its something we should avoid. Apologies if I wasn’t absolutely clear on that.

    I have real idea what you are ranting about on the whole in the rest of your comments. All I said was pew research shows scepticism varies from country to country. Your ranting doesn’t change this.

    I was quite clear we should warn the public about abrupt climate change, I just spelt out how I thought it was best done. I just wanted your thoughts on my thoughts on how to do it. I didn’t expect pages of empty ranting, and insults directed at me.

    You make some good points on denialism, but I don’t think there’s some organised cadre or conspiracy of the denialists. Its more your typical unspoken allegiance of interests coming together. I’m sorry I just observe whats there and what is plausible. I’m not ruled by emotion. The denialists are bad enough without imagining that there’s an organised global body directing all the denialists like some sort of one world illuminati conspiracy!

    But on your overall posts. You sir are a bully. That’s the only possible thing I can conclude, it all points that way.

  2. 152
    nigelj says:

    Killian @142, I meant to say “I have NO real idea what you are ranting about on the whole in the rest of your comments”.

    It also twists what I said, and I believe deliberately so.

  3. 153
    nigelj says:

    Scott Strough @137

    “New Zealand is researching cattle foods? Are you kidding me? That is about the most stupidest dumberest idioticest thing I ever heard. Unfortunately I can’t seem to make up a dumb enough sounding word to fully express my dismay at the concept. New Zealand, a country with vast grassfed cattle now wants to step backwards into the dark ages by producing “feeds” for cattle? Come on man. A properly managed grassland biome is a net SINK for methane. Yes that includes the animals and insects like termites and the ants and the manure..all of it. The entire biome is a net sink.”

    No they aren’t suggesting change from natural grasslands completely to pure cattle feedstocks. The research appears to be into an enzyme methane inhibitor that reduces methane emissions. Here are a couple of media articles.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/80165002/kiwi-scientists-leading-world-in-reducing-livestock-methane-emissions

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11439795

    This is one key point. “Developing inhibitors is one of four aims of the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc) and New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) joint methane mitigation research programme. The programme also aims to breed low methane-emitting ruminants, identify low greenhouse gas feeds, and develop a vaccine to reduce methane formation by the methanogens that live in the rumen of livestock.”

    I think the aim in terms of feed stock for animals would be to keep animals basically grass fed, but use supplemental feedstocks. I think its very unlikely we would move to total reliance on feedstocks, and I agree with you it wouldn’t make much sense. I only have those two articles to go on and they only have limited information on exactly whats intended so I’m reading between the lines a bit.

    Anyway breeding low methane emissions cattle and a vaccine ( sounds ambitious I know) as outlined above would be perfectly compatible and complimentary to better use and development of natural methane and carbon soil sinks etc.

    Thanks for the links.I do think theres plenty of potential in developing soil sinks through better farming. I’m on your side. I wasnt arguing against that. You do see that dont you? Sigh.

  4. 154
    nigelj says:

    Astringent @127,

    I think IQ is a crude measure of intelligence and true intelligence is likely a combination of things. But IQ gives at least a rough idea.

    And yes I agree some children probably at least partly learn how to do IQ tests, and others don’t have the same opportunity clearly for example in countries with poor school systems. So it makes global comparisons pretty approximate.

    Mohammed Ali the champion boxer was very quick witted and articulate but had low IQ scores. I wonder if maybe he had a reading problem like Dyslexia, which back then would possibly have gone undiagnosed.

    I don’t really know the reason IQ has dropped recently in those countries. Its interesting that the reason for the increase in general IQ earlier last century is put down to better schooling and diet, so clearly environmental factors rather than genetic inheritance at least in a direct sense. I think the recent drop is maybe more likely environmental as well, like greater drug use or maybe an unintended consequence of excessive time on social media. Of course it may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors and its interesting its just in a few countries.

    “And who is to say that our Oxbridge, literate, professionals, have a monopoly of ‘intelligence’? They are just well adapted to a pretty dumb and artificial environment (and haven’t demonstrated that much intelligence in how they have been running things recently). Not hard to argue that it takes as much or more intelligence to feed your family off a hectare of rice paddy, or that a hunter gatherer who knows the safety and nutritional value of every plant in their environment is more intelligent.”

    I think you are talking more there about maybe “applied intelligence” and good use of knowledge rather than IQ. When survival is at stake people get very focused and make the most of what IQ and knowledge they have. Some people in cushy jobs just cruise along or live off the efforts of others.

    You have Donald Trump as well. I think he probably has a mildly above average IQ, given his background, but you might have the “gigo” effect at times. Garbage in, garbage out. This is the same issue with many well educated politicians in denial about climate change

  5. 155
    nigelj says:

    Mal Adapted @130, I agree with your summation on population, PAT , etc now that you have explained your views better.

    Hunter gatherers were indeed sustainable essentially, and farming triggered all the trouble towards unsustainability. I suggest its too late to go back however. We have to try to come up with a sort of environmental harm minimisation strategy as best we can.

    I read an anthropology text a few years ago, called “The Human Past” edited by Chris Scarre. It stated its not even 100% clear why humans developed farming because there was not apparent resource and population pressure on hunter gatherers to change from hunter gathering culture to farming. The text I read put it down almost to accidental discovery of grains and animal domestication, and heightened status seeking made possible by the more complex farming society.

  6. 156
    alan2102 says:

    Added in proof, regarding my assertions about the benefits of trees: just published:

    http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(17)30118-3/fulltext
    The Lancet Planetary Health – Volume 1, No. 7, e289–e297, October 2017
    Urban greenness and mortality in Canada’s largest cities: a national cohort study
    snip
    bottom line: “Increased amounts of residential greenness were associated with reduced risks of dying from several common causes of death among urban Canadians.”

    ………………….

    Note the source, what looks to be a great new journal:
    The Lancet Planetary Health
    http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/issue/current

    “Planetary Health” defined:
    http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(17)30116-X/fulltext
    “The Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission introduced a new field: planetary health that is defined as “the health of human civilisation and the state of the natural systems on which it depends”.1 Planetary health presents the opportunity to take a transdisciplinary approach to develop strategies to reduce and prevent risks to human health and natural systems. The opportunity to improve and sustain human health through the enhancement of stewardship of natural systems and the reduction of exploitative use of resources linked to unsustainable consumption and production patterns is a new concept in global health and medical practice.”

  7. 157
    nigelj says:

    Thomas @140

    Yes you are dead right in that exaggerating and scaremongering did convince people Iraq was a big threat, along with all the poor quality intelligence, propaganda, and lies by politicians. You got me there on that one.

    But I just think environmental threats are somewhat different. Its the same same with dangers of drugs etc. I think its partly because they are less immediate, threats, and people are able to also check information more easily so can quickly spot exaggerations. On Iraq everyone relied on the intelligence agencies and the word of politicians, because it was the only thing they had, and well the rest is history.

  8. 158
    Adam Lea says:

    Killian 142:
    If I am understanding you correctly, you are saying that denialism is generated by groups with at least some political power and with vested interests in maintaining the status quo. Such groups attempt to persuade the public that AGW is either not an issue and/or proposed solutions would have bad consequences, e.g. by framing the whole issue as an attack on individual freedom. If these groups never existed then public opinion would very likely be behind the scientific consensus, and governments globally would take the measures required, because it would be at the will of the population. If I have got this right then the question is how do you combat this? Personal freedom is very highly valued and people will retaliate against perceived attempts to suppress it. The way it is sounding to me is that the denialist groups have found and utilised a very powerful weapon (playing on the high value of personal freedom), so what to do about it?

    I can believe what you are saying. There is currently no opposition to the theory that CFCs are responsible for ozone depletion. This is because there are no similar denialist groups challenging this. The Montreal protocol came about, CFCs were phased out on a global scale, industry found economic alternatives and the world moved on. Can something analogous happen with the anthropogenic climate change?

  9. 159
    alan2102 says:

    #126 zebra 13 Oct 2017:
    “Alan 2102, See my answer to nigel just above and to flxible.”

    I keep reading your posts, but I often do not understanding them. Is this because I am dense, or because you are not expressing yourself well? I don’t know.

    For example, on #108, you write: “if you want to tell me again why you think simply reducing the rate of increase in population will not affect per capita consumption, please explain.”

    So, you are saying that simply reducing the rate of pop increase WILL affect per capita consumption? Why? Why would it have any effect? Why hasn’t the consistent fall in the rate of pop increase since ~1986 been accompanied by falling per capita consumption? (… or did I read you wrong?)

    zebra: “Also, it really is discouraging to see the same meme repeated over and over: “The problem is just those Africans.” (With low IQ’s no doubt.)”

    Who is repeating that meme, Zebra? I mean, aside from stating the fact that sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the few high-fertility areas on the planet (that is just a statistical fact; it is not blaming the Africans; the reasons are complex).

    zebra: “The problem is poverty and gender inequality all over the world”

    You mean the problem underlying high fertility, I assume. I used to believe, with everyone else, that poverty (at least as reflected by per capita GDP) was the key to fertility change. But my view has been shaken by a few statistics I recently became aware of, and by the work of a demographer, Sullivan, who writes compellingly of reverse causation, poverty v/v fertility. It seems that lower fertility may be more the cause of wealth, than the reverse. I will post more on this soon. I’m still digesting it.

    zebra: “unless we try to ameliorate that with non-fossil fuel technology, power still accrues to those who “own” the resources, because demand will continue.”

    Yes. Hence it is a good thing that we are rapidly instituting non-fossil fuel technology.

    zebra: “the time scale we have to work with is a couple of hundred years– what’s your fallback plan if the world doesn’t get religion from your preaching and stop eating meat and adopt permaculture and all that good stuff?”

    I am not preaching about not eating meat and adopting permaculture. Those are fine things to do, and many more should do them, but MY hopes for the planet do not rest with individual lifestyle choices. My hopes rest with forces MUCH larger and more powerful than that.

    zebra: “It seems obvious that putting a brake on population growth needs to be a significant part of an overall effort, at least if you are seriously concerned about migration and wars that will be precipitated by a changing climate.”

    Yes, in the few places with still-high fertility, it is important to support access to family planning services, contraceptives, etc. We can and should do better.

  10. 160
    nigelj says:

    Killian says this about me:

    “In my opinion this post clearly marks you as a denialist. The slow and steady, let’s be careful slow roll approach among denialists goes back a long way. Given the slow roll, the complete discounting of the existential threat, the reliance on gov’t and tech, the false presentation of Capitalism as potentially sustainable, and the constant dishonest use of Straw Man argumentation, I say you have marked yourself.”

    1) No I’m no climate denialist. I think we are causing climate change, and we need to do much more about it, and more rapidly.

    2) Nope, I have never said we should go easy on reducing emissions or go softly on discussing the risks. I Only EVER said we shouldn’t catastrophise, for example make unlikely claims that earth will become like venus or rapid change is highly likely this decade.

    3) I have never commented on the existential threat issue.

    4) I fail to see how reliance on government for example cap and trade or carbon taxes makes me a climate denialist. I also fail to see how supporting technology makes me a climate denialist. Its so illogical its laughable.

    5) Never used straw man arguments. I don’t think you actually know what they are.

    6) Capitalism is defined as private ownership in any dictionary I have seen. This is not unsustainable, in my opinion, and public ownership while it has its place for some things, doesn’t guarantee sustainability. The evidence historically is that large scale public ownership is problematic.

    So you get 7 out of 7 completely WRONG.

    I have also just spent some time arguing with the resident real life climate denialist Victor. Why would I do that if I was a climate denialist for gods sake?

    Your views on all this are delusional, illogical, badly informed, and you are acting exactly like an intellectual bully.

  11. 161
    alan2102 says:

    #130 Mal Adapted 13 Oct 2017:
    “I used to be a population-growth alarmist, but in the last 20 years I’ve reached the same conclusion you have…. Nowadays I’m more of an I=PAT* alarmist.”

    From this and other comments of yours I gather that you’ve given up classic strictly population-centered Malthusianism, but you’ve remained a Malthusian. A Malthusian is one who sees humans only as entries on the debit side of the ledger, never the credit side. Humans are mere hungry mouths — useless eaters — ever consuming and destroying, never producing or creating. Humans cause only LIQUIDATION of natural capital, never restoration or regeneration of natural capital. In this view, humans are incapable of building soil and restoring ecosystems, creating new dramatically more-efficient technologies, making scientific and technical breakthroughs which increase carrying capacity and enhance sustainability, and so forth. Humans are not creative and intelligent beings capable of worthwhile contribution; rather, they are only consumers and destroyers. Or so it would seem. Correct me if I’ve misrepresented your view.

  12. 162
    alan2102 says:

    PS: in the previous message, to Mal Adapted, I meant (throughout) NET gain or loss. That is, in the Malthusian view, humans might be capable of production and creation, (they obviously are), but only at a NET loss, or at the price of NET reduction in carrying capacity, etc. I should have made that clear. Pardon. But with that qualification, the same point stands.

  13. 163
    AIC says:

    America’s Top Fears 2017 Chapman University Survey of American Fears

    https://blogs.chapman.edu/wilkinson/2017/10/11/americas-top-fears-2017/

    Global Warming/Climate change makes the top ten for the first time since the survey has been started, apparently.

    Other environmental issues are also high, possibly because of fear that the Trump administration will be destroying our environment.

  14. 164
    MA Rodger says:

    Killian @143,
    Rather than struggle with the Abstract and diminuative previews of the artwork, it may be more useful accessing the full paper Hearty & Tormey (2017). As with the Abstract, you will note that the paper is described as an “Invited review article” and so the primary sources of Figure 2 (which is presumably what you were describing as the SLR chart “too small to read”) may also be of interest. They are Hearty et al (2007) and O’Leary et al (2013) (this last a pdf of the paper complete with somebody’s emboldening).

  15. 165
    Mitch says:

    145-Killian: The 65 deg N summer insolation at the LIG was roughly 540 W/m2 vs 480 W/m2 today. So, the LIG record reveals that significant changes in solar insolation have an important effect on global temperature and sea level. You shouldn’t attribute global climate change to CO2 alone. The effects from insolation versus fossil fuel emissions will be different.

  16. 166
    Hank Roberts says:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2017GL075353/abstract

    Research Letter
    Midlatitude Summer Drying: An Underestimated Threat in CMIP5 Models?
    First published: 14 October 2017
    DOI: 10.1002/2017GL075353

  17. 167

    a 159: Correct me if I’ve misrepresented your view.

    BPL: You’ve misrepresented the view of every Malthusian back to and including Malthus. However wonderful human beings may be, every one of them requires a certain amount of oxygen, water, and food every day, on average. It is physically impossible for population growth to continue indefinitely unless the increase rate slows to zero. Any fixed rate uses up the entire visible universe in a few thousand years (want the math?). Malthusians (including Malthus) prefer cutting the birth rate to letting the death rate rise.

  18. 168
    K says:

    #145 Mal Adapted said Steve Fish said:

    It seems logical to me that returning agricultural soils to a healthy state would be able to remove just the portion of CO2 in the atmosphere that was released because of bad farming practices.

    Speeding up succession, e.g. “Logically” why is there a limit to what we can build back into soils? If a container is half full of flour, why can’t we refill it to full, and then fill another? Your conclusion is illogical, not logical.

  19. 169
    Killian says:

    #149 Hank Roberts

    Thanks for nothing. I had already posted a link. Still don’t know the time frame.

    And also thanks for your down-the-nose look at those of us for whom it is not *only* 37…

  20. 170
    Scott Strough says:

    Steve @133
    Glomalin is not the end of the Liquid Carbon Pathway, it is a link in the middle we never knew about. Don’t be confused. That 7-42 year 1/2 life is only the uppermost layers and it doesn’t decay into CO2 it instead forms humic polymers that bind tightly to the soil mineral substrate. Deeper in the soil it lasts longer and tends to also even more consistently form the soil building polymers.

    Mollisols will sequester carbon for hundreds to thousands of years. But you are correct, they wont build forever. However the LCP continues to function. The primary difference is that the stable humic polymers tend to erode and build up as silt beyond the deltas in the ocean, or is considered “weathering” as it combines with deeper substrates. The way it happens is described in the Retallack paper.

    However in a really productive tallgrass prairie like was historically present in Illinois, Iowa etc, that A Layer can be 10 feet deep or more over vast areas.

    Regardless, there is not enough CO2 in the atmosphere to saturate the soil sink anyway. Long before that happens, the CO2 will drop so low that we have CO2 limited growth of plants. That’s how natural biomes are supposed to function. They are self adjusting complex systems. There is no worries about saturating the soil. It’s a non issue really.

    People have seen papers written about biomass and how biomass saturates, and they made a poor extrapolation to assume the soil should too. But again, bad conclusion not based on the realities of how grasslands sequester carbon.

  21. 171
    nigelj says:

    Zebra @146

    Your point one about women, choice, technology and lower population makes total sense.

    Your point two claims a non linear per capita relationship between population and resource use. Where is your proof of that? Its just an assertion at this stage.

    But you may be right. My instincts tell me it would be mildly non linear, fwiw, because economies of scale have a multiplier sort of effect, and its moderate, and not exactly exponential, with a few exceptions in electronics.

    But anyway declining population and per capita resource use is all desirable stuff as far as I’m concerned, whether its linear or non linear.

    You say “Do the test. If the coasts of the US could accommodate the entire population at a relatively low density, would you choose to live in Cleveland? I’ve explained why I think it would not be a rational choice.”

    I suppose it would generally not be a rational choice. We know historically that smaller low density populations are associated with small towns. Of course it would depend an awful lot on the individual, and occupations etc.

    But where does this get us in terms of environmental issues, and where are you really going with it? You have already more than proven your case that smaller population is generally desirable.

    I think smaller population solves some things well, assuming people do in fact make rational choices, but would not be a guarantee that people would make better environmental choices in all regards. I don’t see how it would lead to renewable energy for example. Isn’t decision making like this more dependent on information, culture, world view, how you balance personal self interest and wider concerns?

  22. 172
    Killian says:

    #151 nigelj said Killian @142…
    I have [no]idea what you are ranting about

    And you never will, or you wouldn’t constantly insult my content by calling it ranting. It’s not ranting: You are ignorant on these topics.

    I was quite clear we should warn the public about abrupt climate change

    No, you were quite clear we should not say anything too strong about it. I CLEARLY said this is a fool’s game, played the last several decades and bringing us to the point that even some climate scientists now identify an existential threat through their studies.

    I just spelt out how I thought it was best done.

    Yes, Don’t say anything scary! And I said, and have said, over and over and over, tell them the true, full risk, tell them how to solve it. What more do you want? Why do you constantly lie about what I have and have not said?

    I didn’t expect pages of empty ranting, and insults directed at me.

    Nor did you get any.

    You make some good points on denialism, but I don’t think there’s some organised cadre or conspiracy of the denialists.

    Oh my jesus…

    You sir are a bully.

    Again, you feel slighted because I have laid bare your ignorance on these topics, your rhetorical dishonesty, and, now, what can only be called denial. No organized denial? Holy Oil Slick, Batman! Somebody better call Heartland and Tillerson, et al., and tell them they are figments of our imagination.

  23. 173
    wili says:

    I just want to thank everyone in this discussion. It is thousands of times more intelligent and relevant than pretty much any other discussion I have seen online, and much better recently than I’ve seen often here, when some idiot troll throws a bomb in our midst and everyone starts chasing their tails trying to track it down.

    Thanks especially to hank for the Paine quote and to Mal for the Leopold quotes…I knew them well, but it’s wonderful to be reminded of these enormous insight from these giants. I have shared them, probably foolishly, with friends and family.

  24. 174
    Killian says:

    #164 MA Rodger said Killian @143,
    Rather than struggle with the Abstract

    Thanks. Via your links eventually got to the paper. It just don’t say, so… must do with “very rapid SLR or 3-5 meters.”

    Anyone got a translator?

  25. 175
    Killian says:

    #165 Mitch said 145-Killian

    Not my post.

    The 65 deg N summer insolation at the LIG was roughly 540 W/m2 vs 480 W/m2 today. So, the LIG record reveals that significant changes in solar insolation have an important effect on global temperature and sea level. You shouldn’t attribute global climate change to CO2 alone.

    Good thing I never do.

    The effects from insolation versus fossil fuel emissions will be different.

    Oh, yes. The latter far more rapid.

    Not sure what your point was here given you are misattributing a post, the authors of the paper I did post about said the two conditions are not directly analogous, and your point is common knowledge.

    What did you think had been said?

  26. 176
    Mal Adapted says:

    alan2102:

    From this and other comments of yours I gather that you’ve given up classic strictly population-centered Malthusianism, but you’ve remained a Malthusian…Humans cause only LIQUIDATION of natural capital, never restoration or regeneration of natural capital.

    I agree that long-term sustainability is only possible if ‘Malthusianism’ as you define it is incorrect. IMHO, the burden of support is on claims that it is incorrect in fact. The evidence for Malthusianism in your definition is the at least 46ky-long ongoing global Tragedy of the Commons. Your contrary claim is yet to demonstrated on a globally significant scale.

    Despite some apparent reversals for some forms of natural capital – air quality, for example, in which restoration (and accelerated global warming) has occurred ‘naturally’ once liquidation stops – others, such as marine fish stocks, global biodiversity in general and global climate above all, are still being net liquidated. When liquidation of all forms of natural capital first ceases and then reverses, OTOH, alan2102vian Malthusianism will be shown to be incorrect.

  27. 177
    w says:

    Best of luck to the Irish as Ophelia crashes down around their ears!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukFt2IkLlMs

  28. 178
    nigelj says:

    alan2102 @159, I agree totally, except on this population and family size thing.

    The research you quote claims smaller families caused prosperity, not prosperity causing smaller families. I would be interested if you have a link to this research.

    I think the research looks awfully simplistic and just half the story. Look at the timing. Family size reduced in America from about 1900 onwards. This followed the prosperity, technology, and lower infant mortality etc of the industrial revolution which probably eventually became widespread enough to affect birthrates. This suggests prosperity at least partly caused smaller families in the first instance.

    Of course this smaller family size would then cause more prosperity, because of fewer children, and thus more money to invest. This in turn would cause even smaller family size. This is a positive feedback.

    Then family size dropped even more sharply in the 1960s as prosperity lifted again, women’s right improved, and contraception became more accepted. I doubt this was all a coincidence.

    So prosperity is both cause and effect of smaller families.

  29. 179
    Killian says:

    For those so dismissive of anything not their own sequestration darling, and particularly those dismissing bio-char.

    http://theplantguide.net/2017/07/16/700-year-old-farming-technique-can-make-super-fertile-soil/

  30. 180
    Killian says:

    #162 alan2102 said in the previous message, to Mal Adapted, I meant (throughout) NET gain or loss. That is, in the Malthusian view, humans might be capable of production and creation, (they obviously are), but only at a NET loss, or at the price of NET reduction in carrying capacity, etc.

    It would aid conversations immeasurably if this were understood by all 7.5 billion concerned (obviously excepting those too young, or what have you). This is an absolute. It is not debatable. The only way this isn’t true is if zero non-renewable resources are used *and* renewable resources are used below the rate of replacement.

    It would absolutely change the discussion.

    But…

  31. 181

    To the moderators:

    Thanks for Boreholing Victor. It’s been a (relatively) good week as a result…

    (NB.–The currentlatest BH contribution is a remarkable piece of strawmanning by Vic, in the unlikely event that anyone cares. Talk about zombie argumentation!)

  32. 182
    Steve Fish says:

    Re: Mal Adapted says: 14 Oct 2017 at 9:48 AM, ~# 145

    Mal Adapted, I agree and, for the same reason that you outline, I think that forests should also be allowed to regrow. Steve

  33. 183
    Mal Adapted says:

    alan2102:

    That is, in the Malthusian view, humans might be capable of production and creation, (they obviously are), but only at a NET loss, or at the price of NET reduction in carrying capacity, etc.

    As an emotionally-inspired conservationist who assigns high private utility to biodiversity on all scales, I define a sustainable human culture as one that, by the best available scientific evidence, does not cause long-term change in the biosphere.

    What’s done ‘for the benefit of all humanity’ is usually at the expense of at least one other species. When we modify habitat to suit our purposes, we liquidate the biodiversity that evolved on that patch of ground. We increase carrying capacity for Homo sapiens by killing or chasing off competing species that aren’t useful to us, then enhancing populations of a few preferred species, spreading them far outside their native ranges, where in some cases they out-compete native species independently of human intent. Exiled ‘pest’ species trying to re-occupy their former habitat are cast as our mortal enemies, leading to further biodiversity loss.

    At some future time, humans may no longer cause species to become extinct, nor continue to depauperate natural communities, and will begin allowing still-extant native species to reoccupy their former habitats. That may be improbable before a great deal of subjective tragedy occurs, but it can’t be completely ruled out. If it does come to pass, alan2102vian Malthusianism will be disconfirmed.

    Speaking for myself, I fervently hope so.

  34. 184
    Hank Roberts says:

    More for the Cassandra file:

    from Earth’s Future (Wiley)

    Is nitrogen the next carbon? (pages 894–904)
    William Battye, Viney P. Aneja and William H. Schlesinger
    Version of Record online: 25 SEP 2017

    DOI: 10.1002/2017EF000592

    The rapid growth of anthropogenic reactive nitrogen production now makes it unquestionably dominant relative to the total of natural sourcesAnthropogenic production of reactive nitrogen has increased almost five‐fold in the last 60 years.This anthropogenic activity is a massive perturbation of a global geochemical cycle in a relatively short period of time.

    (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2017EF000592/abstract)

  35. 185
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS — about nitrogen — one source is the air burned in internal combustion engines, making nitrogen oxides (brown smog)

    NOx – Wikipedia
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NOx
    These gases contribute to the formation of smog and acid rain, as well as tropospheric ozone. NO x gases are usually produced from the reaction among nitrogen and oxygen during combustion of fuels, such as hydrocarbons, in air; especially at high temperatures, such as occur in car engines.

  36. 186
    Thomas says:

    alan states/queries the assumption that: “Humans are not creative and intelligent beings capable of worthwhile contribution;”

    imho, the rare exceptions of individuals who act on their creative intelligence to manifest it in the world and who also happen to be human beings, prove the rule above is reasonably accurate.

  37. 187
    alan2102 says:

    #149 Hank Roberts 14 Oct 2017: “It only costs $37.95 for the full article.”

    Hank, did you forget about http://sci-hub.cc/ ? Free full-text of almost everything.

  38. 188
    alan2102 says:

    #135 Kevin McKinney 13 Oct 2017: “zebra’s larger point [was] that government policy can have a very, very large effect on demography.”

    Surely. I was not arguing that point. The question is: WHICH policy? The problem with the narrative that attributes most of China’s fertility drop to the one-child policy is that it ignores the really big drop that occurred before that policy. That really big drop was ALSO (probably) caused by government policies — just different ones. Namely, the Maoist social transformations of the 50s, 60s and 70s, which abolished the feudal-like condition in the countryside, dramatically improved nutrition and public health, provided rudimentary medical care, nearly abolished illiteracy, and so on. Several of those changes enhanced family planning and use of contraceptives, no doubt (i.e. enhanced them unintentionally; that would be in addition to intentional actions).

    Lots of people ascribe China’s fertility drop to the one-child policy (OCP) because they would rather not admit to the (very positive) transformation of society during the Mao period. They want to chalk it all up to a heavy-handed, authoritarian government policy. WRONG. Or at least mostly wrong. Yes, fertility declined still more (~3 to ~1.5) after the OCP, but surely not all of that was attributable to the OCP; i.e. did the forces which caused the drop from ~6 to ~3 magically cease after the OCP was instituted? Of course not! Bottom line: yes, the OCP had an effect, but it was MODEST relative to what had come before (and what was still in effect as the OCP was introduced). Is this clear?

    The passage that you quoted is misleading:

    “Until the 1960s, the government encouraged families to have as many children as possible[5] because of Mao’s belief that population growth empowered the country”. Perhaps so, but the government’s “encouragement” was apparently completely ineffective in increasing fertility:
    http://www.coolgeography.co.uk/Side%20bar%20Pages/Buttons/Index%20Buttons/clip_image002.gif

    And: “The population grew from around 540 million in 1949 to 940 million in 1976.[7]” True, entirely due to demographic momentum, i.e. the result of prior high fertility, NOT from any government program to encourage fertility, as the article wrongly implies.

    I am still working on understanding demographic changes in China, and everywhere. I have not “arrived” yet.

  39. 189
    MA Rodger says:

    GISTEMP have posted for September with an anomaly of +0.80ºC, a little cooler than recent months and the 2nd coolest month of the year-so-far (with June the coolest at +0.70ºC).
    (While the satellite TLT anomalies did not reflect the warm start to the year seen within the surface data, UAH is showing September the warmest of the year-so-far while RSS has yet to report for September.)
    It is the 4th warmest GISTEMP September on record after Sept 2016 & 2014 (+0.87ºC) and Sept 2015 (+0.82ºC) and ahead of Sept 2013 (+0.77ºC).
    For all months, Sept 2017 is the =34th warmest anomaly on the full record. Of the anomalies warmer than Sept 2017, only five months are not from 2014, 2015, 2016 or 2017, the five of exceptions being two months from 2010 and single months from 2007, 1998 & 2002.
    For 2017 to achieve hottest-year-on-record status, the remainder of the year would have to exceed +1.22ºC. And to drop to 3rd spot the remainder of the years would have to average below +0.75ºC. So a 2nd spot for the full annual 2017 is reasonably the likely outcome. The following table is ranked by the Jan-Sept averages.

    …….. Jan-Sept Ave … Annual Ave ..Annual ranking
    2016 .. +1.03ºC … … … +0.99ºC … … …1st
    2017 .. +0.91ºC
    2015 .. +0.80ºC … … … +0.87ºC … … …2nd
    2014 .. +0.72ºC … … … +0.73ºC … … …3rd
    2010 .. +0.72ºC … … … +0.70ºC … … …4th
    2007 .. +0.68ºC … … … +0.64ºC … … …7th
    1998 .. +0.67ºC … … … +0.62ºC … … …10th
    2005 .. +0.66ºC … … … +0.68ºC … … …5th
    2002 .. +0.66ºC … … … +0.63ºC … … …9th
    2013 .. +0.63ºC … … … +0.65ºC … … …6th
    2009 .. +0.62ºC … … … +0.64ºC … … …8th

  40. 190
    alan2102 says:

    #146 zebra 14 Oct 2017: “The default state for humans reaping the benefits of technology and technological exploitation of resources is a stable or declining birth rate… my bottom line is that it should be possible to “nudge” things in that direction using inputs that do not add to fossil fuel consumption.”

    Except that in China, fertility fell off a cliff during a time (60s/70s) when there was almost NO technological exploitation of resources of the sort you probably mean. Hell, GDP per capita was still in the low hundreds, $U.S.! And oil production and consumption were at near-trivial levels, relative to today:
    http://crudeoilpeak.info/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/China_oil_production_vs_consumption_1965_2014.jpg

    Roughly the same happened in India, though the curves are less dramatic, fertility declining more smoothly over several decades. But still, very low per capita GDP.

    So, my bottom line is: YES, it is quite possible to get fertility down a great deal with very little fossil fuel consumption, and a very low general level of development, relative to the West. It might be possible with almost no fossil fuel consumption at all, as the renewables buildout continues. I am thinking of Africa and its vast renewable energy potential.

    The demographic transition clearly does NOT depend on modern first-world development status, great wealth and income, etc.

    I used to think (and I was in lots of company) that per capita GDP was a good-enough proxy for all the developmental-progress indicators that are associated with lower fertility, and that the demographic transition is something that happens as incomes rise from hundreds to thousands ($U.S.) per year. However, a closer examination of the stats for India and especially China reveal that that is not really so. China’s big demographic transition happened at per capita GDP of ~$200! In other words, it seems to require almost no wealth at all as conventionally measured, and also very little resource consumption. What it DOES seem to require is a degree of social development sufficient to bring the population out of a dark-ages-like state of backwardness — whether or not this is reflected in per capita GDPs or other conventional measures. See my post to Kevin McKinney, immediately above.

    Maybe it is just a matter of getting development up to the point where women have easy access to simple birth control tech, combined with a degree of general existential security and lower infant mortality. Maybe that is really all it takes. Anyone?

  41. 191
    Thomas says:

    #166 Hank re “Mitigating global warming therefore remains a priority to avoid dangerous impacts on global water and food security.”

    Ha, in their dreams maybe.

    Not going to happen in the real world upon planet Earth.

    Merely more unheard unheeded voices crying in the wilderness.

  42. 192
    Thomas says:

    143 Killian …. spot on …. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=barWV7RWkq0

  43. 193
    nigelj says:

    Killian @172:

    ” You are ignorant on these topics.”

    I don’t think so. I would say I’m better informed and more nuanced than you. I stand by all my comments. Virtually all the criticism from people on this website is directed firmly at you.

    “Why do you constantly lie about what I have and have not said?”

    I don’t tell lies, and I rarely accuse others of lies. Calling people liars is just cheap mostly empty rhetoric.

    “I didn’t expect pages of empty ranting, and insults directed at me.Nor did you get any.”

    I find your many accusations of ignorance are an insult. I don’t call people on this website ignorant or moronic.If that’s not an insult pray tell what is? Your views on this are a mystery to me and don’t make sense.

    “You make some good points on denialism, but I don’t think there’s some organised cadre or conspiracy of the denialists.Oh my jesus…”

    Killian you are just over reacting a bit. The Heartland institute is awful, but not some giant global conspiracy or mobile cadre of denialists. Reality is bad enough, but a bit more mundane. You lack self scepticsm and get carried away. That’s not SCIENCE. I loathe the Heartland Institute in all respects by the way.

    Regarding your general views. Anyone can cut emissions and resource use by saying”low tech small scale”. You say this as if its some great revelation, as if nobody else has thought of this, and you talk in vague generalities on a science website of all things! You refuse to engage in specifics.

    I don’t oppose all your ideas, but you ask a lot with your overall harsh prescription, and so the duty is on you to prove your case really well, and you havent. YOU HAVENT. I have knocked so many holes in it I have lost count. I have also offered an alternative approach at the end of last unforced variations fyi.

  44. 194
    nigelj says:

    Regarding the great debate on carbon sinks, with some people pushing trees, some pushing better soil management through better farming, and a mention of biochar.

    Surely its likely a combination of all three? These are not all mutually exclusive?

    I think the combination may stack up as follows. Regarding planting trees this creates so much mass storage, but making a big difference requires a lot of land if you do the maths, and land is actually just not so available. It can only be scaled up to a very moderate point, and simply wouldn’t make sense over taking crop lands. Some forests are also becoming net carbon emitters as below

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/28/alarm-as-study-reveals-worlds-tropical-forests-are-huge-carbon-emission-source

    I think you also have huge temptation to cut down trees before the appropriate time. In fact planting new trees may at best replace those being lost. I still think planting trees is a good idea, and suits steeper land useless for other things, but its not going to make a huge difference to emissions.

    Enhanced soil sinks through modified farming techniques seem to have potential. The chemistry and biology looks convincing and you are using already existing lands of huge areas, so it can in theory be scaled well up. But the problem you have is convincing enough people and maybe it needs education and some sort of incentives scheme.

    Biochar has so many benefits for animal health and also some benefits for soil sequestration of carbon, but mainly in that just that it promotes some of the basic chemical and bacterial processes. Its potential is just modest in terms of soil carbon storage, but because it makes so much sense for other things as well, it’s just clearly a good thing.

    But anyway it looks to me like soil sinks may have most potential, with trees and biochar in a useful second place. Given tree planting would tend to be on land less suited to crops, there’s no need for bitter argument.

  45. 195
    zebra says:

    alan2102 190,

    You appear to be agreeing with me, as painful as that may be for you. But let’s see if you can take one more step, and see why I still wonder where you are coming from.

    What it DOES seem to require is a degree of social development sufficient to bring the population out of a dark-ages-like state of backwardness.

    My problem is that you appear fixated on Africa when you say this. There’s a lot to discuss for Africa about numbers and consumption, but first, read this very articulate piece from a very prosperous and high-tech location and tell me what you think:

    https://hailtoyou.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/mormon-fertility-in-the-21st-century/

  46. 196
    zebra says:

    nigelj 171,

    I replied to you earlier and the comment got lost, so I will try again, although I am surprised that you don’t get this.

    A smaller population will, to use Mal’s term, have lower per capita LNC. I thought you agreed with this??? For the US example I gave, it seems obvious.

    Put aside earthquakes and tsunamis, and hurricanes and nor’easters. Living on either of the coasts in the US, you need less energy for heating and cooling, and you have access to both hydro, wind, and solar. Why would you dig up coal and transport it from Wyoming to generate electricity?

    If the interior of the country is vacated and allowed to return to grasslands and other natural states, there would be plenty of bison or beefaloes or whatever genetic engineering can come up with. No more feedlots. No more excess corn production. Natural carbon cycle.

    You are concerned about air travel, as I recall. Hopping around between small cities in the mid-continent is terribly inefficient. North-South rail corridor already exists on the East Coast. Goods can be transported by sea, which is very efficient- we also have a coastal waterway system.

    What don’t you understand here? Geography is really important in “culture”– what technology is chosen, social organization, and so on. Some people like to live in cities, which is very environmentally sound. I don’t, but I like to have access to the benefits. Some people want to be farmers or hunters. There is some population density that allows this to happen, without the need for marginal use of land and resources. Marginal uses increase LNC per capita.

    I don’t know what kind of “evidence” or “proof” you are looking for, and this is my limit of long comments. Do you have a counter-argument, or just incredulity?

  47. 197

    Nigel, #178–

    You’re absolutely right, IMO, that causality must run both ways in the ‘prosperity v. fertility’ question. But I’m afraid you’re oversimplifying the 20th century history of American demography a bit. (Pedantry alert!)

    As you can see from the graph in the source below, TFR didn’t simply decline gradually from the early part of the century; rather, there was an accelerating plunge into the depths of the Great Depression, when TRF levels were just about at ‘replacement’ and only a little higher than the modern era. This proved temporary, however, as TFR ramped back up again to the famous “Baby Boom” peak of the late ’50s to early ’60s–a peak significantly higher than levels in 1911 (where the graph begins).

    http://www.prb.org/publications/datasheets/2012/world-population-data-sheet/fact-sheet-us-population.aspx

    Where this leaves the larger question of causation in economics and demography, I’m not entirely sure, except that there’s a lot going on and researchers in the area will have to earn their salt! But I think it’s fair to conclude a few not very surprising things:

    1) Over short time scales, prosperity and higher fertility are correlated, not anti-correlated. (Imperfectly, to be sure–note that the decline of TFR leading into the depths of the Depression spans both the expansionary economic bubble years of the “Roaring 20s” and the early portion of the Depression itself, with the economic whipsaw of the ’29 crash making barely an impression in the curve.)

    2) The causality of point 1 runs both ways: babies cost money, which means that they create economic activity which by definition raises GDP. On the other hand (as you already observed)–and also because babies cost money–people are less likely to choose to reproduce when they are economically stressed (and inversely).

    3) Point 2b rests on the ability of people to choose to reproduce or not, which in turn implies that reproductive choice should in theory increase short-term variability in TFR. (The 20th century graph doesn’t look that way, of course, but there might be contributing factors that save the hypothesis.)

    4) It’s worth noting that people seem in general more willing to *defer* rather than *abure* children. That means that you can get demographic rebounds, of which the Baby Boom would be archetypal.

  48. 198

    Nigel, #193–

    Killian you are just over reacting a bit. The Heartland institute is awful, but not some giant global conspiracy or mobile cadre of denialists.

    Nigel, it’s really important to understand this point–Killian takes everything personally and doesn’t even know he’s doing it, but he’s absolutely right on this. Trump is not a fluke, he is a product–and ditto for the GOP-run Congress.

    Heartland is not ‘the conspiracy,’ but it is part of one. The denialist echo chamber has been shown to be an intentional creation, built up literally over decades and with the expenditure of very large sums of money. It’s also part of a larger agenda and a larger cultural ecosystem, patiently nurtured by the folks who now effectively form America’s governing oligarchy.

    The best single source I’ve read is Jane Mayers’s “Dark Money,” which seems to me to be quite meticulously researched. Her book is available here:

    https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Money-History-Billionaires-Radical/dp/0307947904/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506245630&sr=8-1&keywords=dark+money+jane+mayer

    (It’s probably also at a lending library near you–as was the copy I forced myself to read.)

    But though she’s the latest in chronicling this sad state of affairs, she’s not the first. For instance I wrote about James Hoggan’s expose of organized climate denialism here:

    https://hubpages.com/politics/Climate-Cover-Up-A-Review

    Nor can one forbear to mention in this connection Naomi Oreskes’s “Merchant’s Of Doubt.”

    Denialism is a global phenomenon, but the epicenter is unquestionably America; and one of the reasons for that is that that is where the vast majority of the money comes from.

  49. 199
    alan2102 says:

    #167 Barton Levenson 15 Oct 2017: “BPL: You’ve misrepresented the view of every Malthusian back to and including Malthus. However wonderful human beings may be, every one of them requires a certain amount of oxygen, water, and food every day, on average. It is physically impossible for population growth to continue indefinitely unless the increase rate slows to zero.”

    I understand that humans require resources, and that at present levels of technological development it is not possible for population growth to continue indefinitely. I said nothing about that. What I did say was that Malthusians have a cynical view of humans, seeing them ONLY as entries on the debit side of the ledger, never the credit side; ONLY as hungry mouths — useless eaters — ever consuming and destroying, never producing or creating. That is what I said. And I note that you had no response to what I said.

  50. 200
    alan2102 says:

    #176 Mal Adapted 15 Oct 2017: “I agree that long-term sustainability is only possible if ‘Malthusianism’ as you define it is incorrect. IMHO, the burden of support is on claims that it is incorrect in fact. The evidence for Malthusianism in your definition is the at least 46ky-long ongoing global Tragedy of the Commons. Your contrary claim is yet to demonstrated on a globally significant scale.”

    Give us a chance! It is only the last ~50 years (or not even) that we’ve had the wealth, knowledge and technology to undertake effective mass-scale eco-restoration. Also in the same time frame, the knowledge and technology sufficient to allow moderately affluent living with little environmental stress (and within some decades, no or even negative environmental stress). Also in the same time frame, the widespread awareness of the global-level problems that must be addressed, and the obligation of all as planetary citizens to participate. (Of course, not all feel so obliged, as yet, but again: give it chance! Ecological consciousness only really started in the ~1960s; give it a century or two to work its way through entire cultures and civilizations.) The restoration itself is going to take many decades, centuries. Let’s not be children, expecting everything to happen overnight.

    You sound like you have not heard about China’s eco-restoration projects. They are quite impressive, with more to come. They are just getting warmed up, and have not had the wealth until very recently to give it their best shot.

    Mal: “When liquidation of all forms of natural capital first ceases and then reverses, OTOH, alan2102vian Malthusianism will be shown to be incorrect.”

    The end of this century would be a reasonable target. We still have to develop India, the rest of South Asia and Africa. Those are huge tasks which will inevitably involve environmental losses to some extent, given existing technology and industrial practice. But with China’s leadership — now planning and beginning the build-out of an “ecological civilization” (can you imagine a U.S. politician using such a phrase?) — the strong countercurrent of eco-restoration will resolve the problems. Real healing of the planet will no doubt take a few centuries. That is making the usual assumptions: 1) we don’t blow ourselves up (nukes), and 2) no CAGW — both of which are possible, of course.

    Give us a chance! We’re just getting started.

    Your argument sounds like the arguments I’ve had in past years with overpopulationists who cannot believe the glaring fertility drop-off numbers. All they know is that population is still growing; they seem blind to the fact that growth is slowing and will cease in a few decades. In other words, they seem blind to the (all-important) TRAJECTORY of things, seeing only a snapshot of the way things are, frozen in time at this moment. Same with renewables skeptics who point to the very small percentage of total energy derived from renewables, as yet; no appreciation of the (all-important) TRAJECTORY of things, which have renewables doubling every 2-3 years, reaching 100% in a few decades!

    The same, I say, is happening here with respect to environmental protection, eco-restoration and the build-out of an ecological civilization. These are huge, multi-century processes, bigger even than human population change and the renewables build-out. (Indeed they include, as aspects, human population change and the renewables build-out.) They are not going to happen in 50 years or (fully) in even 150 years. What is important is to look at the trajectory of things, not so much today’s snapshots.

    50 years ago, was there a vibrant international conversation about the environment and planetary health (i.e. anything like there is today)? No. There was the beginnings of such a conversation; you could see that we were on a trajectory toward it, but it did not yet exist. It took 50 years to get to this point.

    To take a few small but significant examples: It took 50 years of global consciousness change before the old British medical journal, The Lancet, could feel moved to publish a new branch of the journal, titled “The Lancet Planetary Health”. 50 years ago, such a title would have been laughed off the stage as hippy tree-hugger nonsense. NOW IT IS MAINSTREAM. 50 years ago, the idea that most doctors would be recommending plant-based diets to their patients for not only personal but planetary health would be laughed off the stage as a delusional hippy fantasy. NOW IT IS HAPPENING.

    50 years ago, the idea that we should radically transform our whole society, economy and physical infrastructure, building an “ecological civilization”, would have been laughed off the stage as a hippy drug-trip hallucination. NOW IT IS ACTUALLY BEING UNDERTAKEN BY THE LARGEST AND MOST-SIGNIFICANT NATION ON THE PLANET.

    Single snapshots, frozen in time, tell us little. Single snapshots taken 50 years ago told us a bunch of very misleading things about the world that exists today. Same with single snapshots taken today, regarding the world of tomorrow. (Including the scores and hundreds of snapshots that you could put up showing all the bad things that are happening: gigatons of coal being burned, gigatons of topsoil being lost, and so forth.) The point is: things change, and trajectory is everything.

    Yes, of course there are no guarantees, and my optimism could prove totally wrong. Yes, of course we could fuck it up. Yes, of course there are serious existential risks that could render all this talk moot. Yes, of course the trend toward eco-consciousness and practice is not moving as fast as me and you would like. Yes, maybe this trend will not be fast enough to head off certain existential threats. Yes yes yes yes yes. There are endless excuses for pessimism, cynicism, nihilism, fatalism. At the end of the day: here we are. Humans are doing a lot of good things, and are capable of much more. Much consciousness is moving in the right direction, albeit with exceptions. We do not know with confidence the precise extent of AGW-induced changes (bad? disastrous? catastrophic? we don’t know, do we?), hence we cannot say that AGW will bring everything to a halt.

    What is to be done? Wallow in pessimism and nihilism? OK, if that is what you wish to do, then do it. I mourn the waste of your strength and intelligence and good nature, qualities which could make a positive contribution. But I also understand that in the context of a falling civilization — the West — the tendency to be pessimistic and nihilistic can be overwhelming. Fortunately, the future of the planet is now, increasingly, in the hands of others, not pessimists and not nihilists.