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Fiddling while the world burns

Written By: - Date published: 7:58 am, March 5th, 2009 - 79 comments
Categories: climate change, Environment - Tags:

The latest New Scientist brings together the work of thousands of scientists to describe what would happen to the world if the global temperature rises by 4 degrees, which is the mid-range for the projected increases due to climate change.

Many of you will simply continue to reject the notion of climate change and its consequences as you must because it poses a fatal challenge to the viability of free-market ideology. Our Prime Minister is with you, just this week he was still casting doubt on whether climate change is real. But, I’m sorry, this is happening, we are doing it, and the consequences within our lifetimes will be terrible beyond words… unless we act with the necessary speed and on the necessary scale, which we show no signs of doing.

The world heated 4 degrees is a vision of hell. The Amazon will burn. The Sahara will spread into southern Europe and down south of the Congo. Deserts will also spread through the Americas and Asia. The glaciers that feed the great rivers of Asia will be gone.  The tropics will be largely uninhabitable.

The human population may fall below 1 billion, confined to overcrowded, often infertile lands near the poles. New Zealand will be one of the few countries still in relatively good shape climatically but I’m sure you can imagine the ramifications of being one of the few desirable pieces of real estate in a collapsing, desperate world.

I’m going to reproduce New Scientist‘s lead article in full below. I recommend you read it.

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ALLIGATORS basking off the English coast; a vast Brazilian desert; the mythical lost cities of Saigon, New Orleans, Venice and Mumbai; and 90 per cent of humanity vanished. Welcome to the world warmed by 4 °C.

Clearly this is a vision of the future that no one wants, but it might happen. Fearing that the best efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions may fail, or that planetary climate feedback mechanisms will accelerate warming, some scientists and economists are considering not only what this world of the future might be like, but how it could sustain a growing human population. They argue that surviving in the kinds of numbers that exist today, or even more, will be possible, but only if we use our uniquely human ingenuity to cooperate as a species to radically reorganise our world.

The good news is that the survival of humankind itself is not at stake: the species could continue if only a couple of hundred individuals remained. But maintaining the current global population of nearly 7 billion, or more, is going to require serious planning.

Four degrees may not sound like much – after all, it is less than a typical temperature change between night and day. It might sound quite pleasant, like moving to Florida from Boston, say, or retiring from the UK to southern Spain. An average warming of the entire globe by 4 °C is a very different matter, however, and would render the planet unrecognisable from anything humans have ever experienced. Indeed, human activity has and will have such a great impact that some have proposed describing the time from the 18th century onward as a new geological era, marked by human activity. “It can be considered the Anthropocene,” says Nobel prizewinning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzenof the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany.

A 4 °C rise could easily occur. The 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose conclusions are generally accepted as conservative, predicted a rise of anywhere between 2 °C and 6.4 °C this century. And in August 2008, Bob Watson, former chair of the IPCC, warned that the world should work on mitigation and adaptation strategies to “prepare for 4 °C of warming”.

A key factor in how well we deal with a warmer world is how much time we have to adapt. When, and if, we get this hot depends not only on how much greenhouse gas we pump into the atmosphere and how quickly, but how sensitive the world’s climate is to these gases. It also depends whether “tipping points” are reached, in which climate feedback mechanisms rapidly speed warming. According to models, we could cook the planet by 4 °C by 2100. Some scientists fear that we may get there as soon as 2050.

If this happens, the ramifications for life on Earth are so terrifying that many scientists contacted for this article preferred not to contemplate them, saying only that we should concentrate on reducing emissions to a level where such a rise is known only in nightmares.

“Climatologists tend to fall into two camps: there are the cautious ones who say we need to cut emissions and won’t even think about high global temperatures; and there are the ones who tell us to run for the hills because we’re all doomed,” says Peter Cox, who studies the dynamics of climate systems at the University of Exeter, UK. “I prefer a middle ground. We have to accept that changes are inevitable and start to adapt now.”

Bearing in mind that a generation alive today might experience the scary side of these climate predictions, let us head bravely into this hotter world and consider whether and how we could survive it with most of our population intact. What might this future hold?

The last time the world experienced temperature rises of this magnitude was 55 million years ago, after the so-called Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum event. Then, the culprits were clathrates – large areas of frozen, chemically caged methane – which were released from the deep ocean in explosive belches that filled the atmosphere with around 5 gigatonnes of carbon. The already warm planet rocketed by 5 or 6 °C, tropical forests sprang up in ice-free polar regions, and the oceans turned so acidic from dissolved carbon dioxide that there was a vast die-off of sea life. Sea levels rose to 100 metres higher than today’s and desert stretched from southern Africa into Europe.

While the exact changes would depend on how quickly the temperature rose and how much polar ice melted, we can expect similar scenarios to unfold this time around. The first problem would be that many of the places where people live and grow food would no longer be suitable for either. Rising sea levels – from thermal expansion of the oceans, melting glaciers and storm surges – would drown today’s coastal regions in up to 2 metres of water initially, and possibly much more if the Greenland ice sheet and parts of Antarctica were to melt. “It’s hard to see west Antarctica’s ice sheets surviving the century, meaning a sea-level rise of at least 1 or 2 metres,” says climatologist James Hansen, who heads NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. “CO2 concentrations of 550 parts per million [compared with about 385 ppm now] would be disastrous,” he adds, “certainly leading to an ice-free planet, with sea level about 80 metres higher… and the trip getting there would be horrendous.”

Half of the world’s surface lies in the tropics, between 30° and -30° latitude, and these areas are particularly vulnerable to climate change. India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, for example, will feel the force of a shorter but fiercer Asian monsoon, which will probably cause even more devastating floods than the area suffers now. Yet because the land will be hotter, this water will evaporate faster, leaving drought across Asia. Bangladesh stands to lose a third of its land area – including its main bread basket.

The African monsoon, although less well understood, is expected to become more intense, possibly leading to a greening of the semi-arid Sahel region, which stretches across the continent south of the Sahara desert. Other models, however, predict a worsening of drought all over Africa. A lack of fresh water will be felt elsewhere in the world, too, with warmer temperatures reducing soil moisture across China, the south-west US, Central America, most of South America and Australia. All of the world’s major deserts are predicted to expand, with the Sahara reaching right into central Europe.

Glacial retreat will dry Europe’s rivers from the Danube to the Rhine, with similar effects in mountainous regions including the Peruvian Andes, and the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges, which as result will no longer supply water to Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Bhutan, India and Vietnam.

Along with the exhaustion of aquifers, all this will lead to two latitudinal dry beltswhere human habitation will be impossible, say Syukuro Manabe of Tokyo University, Japan, and his colleagues. One will stretch across Central America, southern Europe and north Africa, south Asia and Japan; while the other will cover Madagascar, southern Africa, the Pacific Islands, and most of Australia and Chile (Climatic Change, vol 64, p 59).

The high life

The only places we will be guaranteed enough water will be in the high latitudes. “Everything in that region will be growing like mad. That’s where all the life will be,” says former NASA scientist James Lovelock, who developed the “Gaia” theory, which describes the Earth as a self-regulating entity. “The rest of the world will be largely desert with a few oases.”

So if only a fraction of the planet will be habitable, how will our vast population survive? Some, like Lovelock, are less than optimistic. “Humans are in a pretty difficult position and I don’t think they are clever enough to handle what’s ahead. I think they’ll survive as a species all right, but the cull during this century is going to be huge,” he says. “The number remaining at the end of the century will probably be a billion or less.”

Humans will survive as a species, but the cull this century will be huge

John Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research in Germany is more hopeful. The 4 °C warmer world would be a huge challenge, he says, but one we could rise to. “Would we be able to live within our resources, in this world? I think it could work with a new division of land and production.”

In order to survive, humans may need to do something radical: rethink our society not along geopolitical lines but in terms of resource distribution. “We are locked into a mindset that each country has to be self-sustaining in food, water and energy,” Cox says. “We need to look at the world afresh and see it in terms of where the resources are, and then plan the population, food and energy production around that. If aliens came to Earth they’d think it was crazy that some of the driest parts of the world, such as Pakistan and Egypt, grow some of the thirstiest crops for export, like rice.”

Taking politics out of the equation may seem unrealistic: conflict over resources will likely increase significantly as the climate changes, and political leaders are not going to give up their power just like that. Nevertheless, overcoming political hurdles may be our only chance. “It’s too late for us,” says President Anote Tong of Kiribati, a submerging island state in Micronesia, which has a programme of gradual migration to Australia and New Zealand. “We need to do something drastic to remove national boundaries.”

Cox agrees: “If it turns out that the only thing preventing our survival was national barriers then we would need to address this – our survival is too important,” he says.

Imagine, for the purposes of this thought experiment, that we have 9 billion people to save – 2 billion more than live on the planet today. A wholescale relocation of the world’s population according to the geography of resources means abandoning huge tracts of the globe and moving people to where the water is. Most climate models agree that the far north and south of the planet will see an increase in precipitation. In the northern hemisphere this includes Canada, Siberia, Scandinavia and newly ice-free parts of Greenland; in the southern hemisphere, Patagonia, Tasmania and the far north of Australia, New Zealand and perhaps newly ice-free parts of the western Antarctic coast.

We will need to abandon huge areas and move people to where the water is

If we allow 20 square metres of space per person – more than double the minimum habitable space allowed per person under English planning regulations – 9 billion people would need 180,000 square kilometres of land to live on. The area of Canada alone is 9.1 million square kilometres and, combined with all the other high-latitude areas, such as Alaska, Britain, Russia and Scandinavia, there should be plenty of room for everyone, even with the effects of sea-level rise.

These precious lands with access to water would be valuable food-growing areas, as well as the last oases for many species, so people would be need to be housed in compact, high-rise cities. Living this closely together will bring problems of its own. Disease could easily spread through the crowded population so early warning systems will be needed to monitor any outbreaks.

It may also get very hot. Cities can produce 2 °C of additional localised warming because of energy use and things like poor reflectivity of buildings and lower rates of evaporation from concrete surfaces, says Mark McCarthy, an urban climate modeller at the UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre. “The roofs could be painted a light, reflective colour and planted with vegetation,” McCarthy suggests.

Since water will be scarce, food production will need to be far more efficient. Hot growing seasons will be more common, meaning that livestock will become increasinglystressed, and crop growing seasons will shorten, according to David Battisti of the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues (Science, vol 323, p 240). We will need heat and drought-tolerant crop varieties, they suggest. Rice may have to give way to less thirsty staples such as potatoes.

Vegetarian dystopia

This will probably be a mostly vegetarian world: the warming, acidic seas will be largely devoid of fish, thanks to a crash in plankton that use calcium carbonate to build shells. Molluscs, also unable to grow their carbonate shells, will become extinct. Poultry may be viable on the edges of farmland but there will simply be no room to graze cattle. Livestock may be restricted to hardy animals such as goats, which can survive on desert scrub. One consequence of the lack of cattle will be a need for alternative fertilisers – processed human waste is a possibility. Synthetic meats and other foods could meet some of the demand. Cultivation of algal mats, and crops grown on floating platforms and in marshland could also contribute.

Supplying energy to our cities will also require some adventurous thinking. Much of it could be covered by a giant solar belt, a vast array of solar collectors that would run across north Africa, the Middle East and the southern US. Last December, David Wheeler and Kevin Ummel of the Center for Global Development in Washington DC calculated that a 110,000-square-kilometre area of solar panels across Jordan, Libya and Morocco would be “sufficient to meet 50 to 70 per cent of worldwide electricity production, or about three times [today’s] power consumption in Europe”. High-voltage direct current transmission lines could relay this power to the cities, or it could be stored and transported in hydrogen – after using solar energy to split water in fuel cells.

If the comparatively modest level of solar installation that Wheeler and Ummel propose were to begin in 2010, the total power delivery by 2020 could be 55 terawatt hours per year – enough to meet the household electricity demand of 35 million people. This is clearly not enough to provide power for our future 9 billion, but improving efficiency would reduce energy consumption. And a global solar belt would be far larger than the one Wheeler and Ummel visualise.

Nuclear, wind and hydropower could supplement output, with additional power from geothermal and offshore wind sources. Each high-rise community housing block could also have its own combined heat and power generator, running on sustainable sources, to supply most household energy.

If we use land, energy, food and water efficiently, our population has a chance of surviving – provided we have the time and willingness to adapt. “I’m optimistic that we can reduce catastrophic loss of life and reduce the most severe impacts,” says Peter Falloon, a climate impacts specialist at the Hadley Centre. “I think there’s enough knowledge now, and if it’s used sensibly we could adapt to the climate change that we’re already committed to for the next 30 or 40 years.”

This really would be survival, though, in a world that few would choose to live. Large chunks of Earth’s biodiversity would vanish because species won’t be able to adapt quickly enough to higher temperatures, lack of water, loss of ecosystems, or because starving humans had eaten them. “You can forget lions and tigers: if it moves we’ll have eaten it,” says Lovelock. “People will be desperate.”

Still, if we should find ourselves in such a state you can bet we’d be working our hardest to get that green and pleasant world back, and to prevent matters getting even worse. This would involve trying to limit the effects climate feedback mechanisms and restoring natural carbon sequestration by reinstating tropical forest. “Our survival would very much depend on how well we were able to draw down CO2to 280 parts per million,” Schellnhuber says. Many scientists think replanting the forests would be impossible above a certain temperature, but it may be possible to reforest areas known as “land-atmosphere hotspots”, where even small numbers of trees can change the local climate enough to increase rainfall and allow forests to grow.

Ascension Island, a remote outpost buffeted by trade winds in the mid-Atlantic, may be a blueprint for this type of bioengineering. Until people arrived in the 17th century, vegetation was limited to just 25 scrubby species. But plantings by British servicemen posted there produced a verdant cloud forest. “It shows that if you have rainfall, forest can grow within a century,” says ecologist David Wilkinsonof Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, who studied the phenomenon.

Even so, the most terrifying prospect of a world warmed by 4 °C is that it may be impossible to return to anything resembling today’s varied and abundant Earth. Worse still, most models agree that once there is a 4 °C rise, the juggernaut of warming will be unstoppable, and humanity’s fate more uncertain than ever.

“I would like to be optimistic that we’ll survive, but I’ve got no good reason to be,” says Crutzen. “In order to be safe, we would have to reduce our carbon emissions by 70 per cent by 2015. We are currently putting in 3 per cent more each year.”

Explore an interactive map of the world warmed by 4 °C

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What an amazing species we are, to have to power to change the world so drastically so quickly by accident, to have the wisdom to see the changes coming, but to not have the courage to do anything about it.

79 comments on “Fiddling while the world burns”

  1. out of bed 1

    Bloody luddite communist dope smoking hippie Greenies

  2. ieuan 2

    4 degrees = a version of hell

    Seems to me that 4 degrees would actually make New Zealand a very agreeable place to live.

    Sorry but ‘bullshit’, ‘over the top’ and ‘scare mongering’ are the only words that come to mind reading your post.

    I’m not a climate change denier, I just don’t buy into any of these doomsday predictions and I actually think they are counter-productive as it turns people off from the debate as to what we should be doing.

    [I didn’t write the New Scientist article, take it up with the scientists. SP]

  3. coge 3

    Agree with ieuan. This alarmist approach puts most people off. Like a blue faced preacher warning of the approaching rapture. Dig a bit deeper & you should find the author of this piece is pushing a similar barrow.

    [I didn’t write the New Scientist article, take it up with the scientists. SP]

  4. roger nome 4

    “Seems to me that 4 degrees would actually make New Zealand a very agreeable place to live.”

    Yeah – who cares if the entire east-coast becomes drought-afflicted for half the year …

  5. roger nome 5

    “I just don’t buy into any of these doomsday predictions”

    Well – do you have reasoning to back that up, or are you just going to clog up this blog with unsupported opinion?

    Make a worth-while contribution or bugger-off.

  6. DeeDub 6

    ieuan

    “4 degrees = a version of hell

    Seems to me that 4 degrees would actually make New Zealand a very agreeable place to live.”

    Yes…. and I’m sure a few very powerful military powers will think so too. Enjoy your sunny holiday in New China, mate.

  7. Matt Holland 7

    “This alarmist approach puts most people off”

    Just how do you tell people that they we are collectively screwing the planet without being alarmist?

    What a cop out. Those people need to get over their fingers in ears reaction.
    They should try getting those fingers out of their ears and doing something, no matter how small, or at least try keeping their trap’s shut and stop being counterproductive. Especially as they are, in general, about as informed as a garden snail.

  8. So if the world wants to live in New Zealand because of global warming, it will be a good time to buy property then?

    • Ari 8.1

      More like a good time to invest in a navy and hope we can deal with the sudden immigration explosion.

      • Draco T Bastard 8.1.1

        Yep, when push comes to shove we won’t be welcoming those refugees with open arms but sinking them before they get here. We won’t have any choice.

    • Snail 8.2

      tongue in cheek there, brett.. consider enzed lan area approximates UK. They have 66mn people and fairly maxed out.. World population is…? Yeah, even the formerly livable world population that finally gets here would exceed that. Then there’s less, much less room for farming and food production,m so.. sorry buddie your argument is tapped out..

      But o’course you can always pull yo tongue back out and talk sense..

  9. roger nome 9

    Brett – you’re assuming that our version of property rights would still apply …

  10. Doug 10

    Japan’s boffins: Global warming isn’t man-made
    Climate science is ‘ancient astrology’, claims report
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/02/25/jstor_climate_report_translation/

    • Pascal's bookie 10.1

      Thnx. That site is awesome, in a ‘fortean times’ kind of way.

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/science/rotm/

      Science headlines

      High-speed train toilet attempts to eat Frenchman

      Barcelona boffin births swarming microrobots

      Fire-breathing black cabs: Shock eyewitness photo

      And my fav:

      Brain-plug weapons could provide war crime immunity
      Lawyer spots future brainhat-slaughter atrocity loophole

  11. ieuan 11

    R N: ‘Well – do you have reasoning to back that up, or are you just going to clog up this blog with unsupported opinion?’

    Let me see:

    (i) We have normal temperature variation in NZ of about 30 degrees min to max temperature so hard to see how 4 degrees = a version of hell
    (ii) There have been times in human existence when the average temperature was hotter than it is now and colder than it is now and guess what – we are still here!
    (iii) Even if the world did heat up by 4 degrees and this had an enormous effect on the human population not every change would be bad.
    (iv) What can we actually do about it? Seems that enormous effects would be required to make even a small change in the predicted climate change, that does not mean we should do nothing but it does mean we should only do the things that make sense.

    Like I said in my comment I don’t disagree with climate change and this being caused by human activities, I just don’t buy into the doomsday scenarios.

    This is a magazine article that is designed to do one thing and that is sell magazines. Newspaper readership goes up in times of crises, basically it boils down to – there is no money in good news.

    Now roger nome would you like to add something worth-while? Or are you just here to abuse me.

    • Ari 11.1

      (i) We have normal temperature variation in NZ of about 30 degrees min to max temperature so hard to see how 4 degrees = a version of hell

      I see someone doesn’t understand trends. So say we currently vary from -15 of our average to +15. After a four degree temperature rise we’ll vary from -11 to +19 of our current average. You’re just trying to confuse people here.

      (ii) There have been times in human existence when the average temperature was hotter than it is now and colder than it is now and guess what – we are still here!

      Nobody is arguing that the human race will die. We’re arguing that the world will be a very uncomfortable place to live, with only New Zealand, Canada, and Russia able to produce food on the scale we currently do. (oh, and maybe some parts of northern Europe and Greenland)

      (iii) Even if the world did heat up by 4 degrees and this had an enormous effect on the human population not every change would be bad.

      Indeed not, as pointed out above, some regions- like ours- will come out ahead. But that’s not a good thing when both of the world’s biggest superpowers are likely to turn into deserts, and potentially have the power to invade all the nice areas- only one of which has any significant military power.

      (iv) What can we actually do about it? Seems that enormous effects would be required to make even a small change in the predicted climate change, that does not mean we should do nothing but it does mean we should only do the things that make sense.

      The cost of acting to prevent climate change could be as small overall as the amount we spent bailing out banks, and it would definitely seem worthwhile compared to living in the world that we’re predicting we’ll have if we don’t act.

      It’s not easy, but it’s definitely possible and it’s the right thing to do.

    • Con 11.2

      (i) We have normal temperature variation in NZ of about 30 degrees min to max temperature so hard to see how 4 degrees = a version of hell

      Yeah, you may not have noticed, but the article is talking about the entire Earth, not just NZ.

      But anyway, how is NZ going to get by if such a doomsday scenario were to come to pass? Just say “I’m alright Jack” while the rest of the planet goes to hell in a handbasket? Good luck with that.

      (ii) There have been times in human existence when the average temperature was hotter than it is now and colder than it is now and guess what – we are still here!

      Yeah, it may have escaped your notice but the article made the point that the human species will survive. I’m not sure what your point is there … would you not care if billions of people die so long as the species survives? That’s harsh, man, really harsh.

      Even if the world did heat up by 4 degrees and this had an enormous effect on the human population not every change would be bad.

      Yes every cloud has a silver lining and it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.. A change is as good as a rest.

      And let me just add: “don’t count your chickens before they hatch!”, and also “birds of a feather flock together”.

      What can we actually do about it? Seems that enormous effects would be required to make even a small change in the predicted climate change, that does not mean we should do nothing but it does mean we should only do the things that make sense.

      Finally, the beef! We can ditch fossil fuels and switch to renewables. That’s it! That is literally all we have to do! Sure … it’s a big task, but it “makes sense” particularly if you consider the alternative, doesn’t it?

      • ieuan 11.2.1

        I agree that we have to switch to renewables but my understanding is that we can only slow projected climate change and not reverse it.

        My point about every change not being bad is that certain parts of the planet that would become more hospitable like, say parts of Russia, the upside is always left out of alarmist doomsday scenerios like this.

        As for the effect on the human population, this article is written like these things will happen overnight, the projected 4 degrees is over 100 years, which means that we will have time to adapt, humans are very resourceful.

        • lprent 11.2.1.1

          ieuan: You are both correct and incorrect about places like Siberia, Alaska, and Canada.

          Yes the climate change will make it warmer. That is not the good thing that you anticipate

          Very large areas are flattish peat permafrost. The likely outcome is that they will become pretty good bogs and swamps as happens now in areas that defrost in summer. This is already having a substantial effect on the existing populations (there was a good BBC radio journo on National radio last week talking about the current effects). Most transport is done by rivers or in the freeze. As the latter gets shorter they’re starting to have to look at abandoning the areas too far from the rivers because they can’t supply them.

          As permafrost peats defrost and resume putrefaction, they will then release large amounts of interesting greenhouse gases. This is one of the substantial risk areas because there is a hell of a lot of carbon locked up in those bogs. There are strong issues about the level of cascade that we likely to see as some areas get warmer.

          Besides, you have to remember that the IPCC does conservative projections – ie what the vast majority in the IPCC advisory panel is willing to sign off on. From what I know of the issues (with a BSc in earth sciences 30 years ago and continued reading since), I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 3-4 degree C average warming in the next 30 years. But we’ll probably get a pretty good idea now that the climate down cycle is largely over.

    • Chris S 11.3

      i) The difference in average temperature between what is perceived as a “hot summer” and an “average summer” has been shown to be less than a degree.

      A change in an average temperature always means that some places will show a much larger increase, while some a lot less. NZ is surrounded by a big, cold ocean so our temperatures will increase at a slower rate than the global average but at the other end of the scale some will increase at a much faster rate.

      ii) This is why we discard outliers when looking at trends.

      iii) It’s not just the temperature that affects us, ieuan. By warming the planet, we will end up with increased sea levels and increased sea temperatures. Also, by damaging Antarctica we interrupt the climate systems that have been moving hot and cool air around for millions of years.

      Extreme weather events will become more extreme, powerful and common. 1-in-10-year droughts and floods could become annual before the next century doing untold damage to our agriculture-driven economy and the ability to provide for ourselves.

      iv) You could be right. Our climate is driven by feedbacks to our input. Some are what’s called “positive feedbacks” and will feed off themselves even if we stop emitting immediately. If we emitted no more CO2 or warming agents, the globe would continue to warm for a number of years.

      New Scientist is a respected source, it’s not a peer-reviewed journal though so you’re right to be skeptical.

      I suggest you read the book Hot Topic, by Gareth Renowden. It’s a very good read with the main topics behind climate change and what’s in store for NZ. Here’s his site: http://hot-topic.co.nz/

    • Snail 11.4

      hey ieuan, where’s the money in four degrees celsius higher..?

  12. Con 12

    Yeah Steve, get with the program! Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Just put these blinkers on, cover your ears with your hands and sing loudly “LA LA LA”. That’s what we really need to stimulate debate.

  13. grumpy 13

    Is there Climate Change?

    Is it man made?

    Can we do anything about it?

    We can argue as much as you like but it certainly is the opportunity for the Perfect Tax. collected by preying on the public’s guilt and without having to spend it on anything in particular.

  14. Ianmac 14

    In 1959 as part of the International Geophysical Year, I gave a very modest seminar about Global warming and the possible effects of an average 2 degree rise in temp with special focus on sea levels. My point is that nearly 50 years ago (help) the concerns were being examined and sadly still denied.

    • burt 14.1

      [deleted]

      [lprent: deleted for writing after banned]

      • Snail 14.1.1

        The sky is falling the sky is falling. you bet.. like smnoking as someone here said recently, the slowest most expensive suicide possible..

        Time to quit.. the disgusting habit/s

  15. burt 15

    [deleted]

    [lprent: deleted for writing after banned]

    • r0b 15.1

      Burt, would you prefer medical care from the 1970’s or medical care from today? Do you use computing technology from the 1970s or computing technology from today? You’re a cyclist Burt, how would you compare bicycles from the 1970s with bicycles from today?

      The point being – we get better at stuff (some of it anyway), in some cases much much much better, and our understanding of climate change now is much better than it was. Plus, just because some experts were wrong 40 years ago does not mean that almost all the experts are wrong today…

      • burt 15.1.1

        [deleted]

        [lprent: deleted for writing after banned]

        • Pascal's bookie 15.1.1.1

          I did. It’s about journalists, not scientists, so it’s of no use in determining whether we should be concerned about AGW, and the methodolgy section lacks detail on how their sample of stories was chosen.

          • burt 15.1.1.1.1

            [deleted]

            [lprent: deleted for writing after banned]

          • Con 15.1.1.1.2

            Burt, you seem to have the idea that in the 70s there was a scientific consensus that the globe was cooling (because there was a media beat-up about it at the time). But this is actually not true. Sorry to burst your bubble.

          • Pascal's bookie 15.1.1.1.3

            Oh I get it, it’s about the messengers not the message. I guess we are lucky that these days the journalists report the current science theories rather than the bad old days when they reported the current science theories. It’s lucky that the latest theories are valid because all the latest theories over time have been proven wrong.

            What it is really saying is that we ultimately know stuff all about climate and sure we lean more as we go along but in the end we don’t know enough to form a constant opinion over enough time to prove that we know what we are talking about.

            Didn’t you read your own link burt? Or did you just not understand it?

            It isn’t talking about what we ‘ultimately know ‘ at all. It’s about media coverage of climate issues.

  16. Ianmac. It’s incredible, isn’t it?

  17. vto 17

    Look, in the 148,500 odd years of my life I have seen a few civilisations come and go. The current one’s pretty average compared to some so don’t fret – the next one may be better for human kind.

  18. tsmithfield 18

    There was a TV item recently about concerns that the Tuataru might be threatened due to global warming. Apparently sperm production in these critters decreases as temperature goes up. The DOC scientist was expressing her concerns, but then added at the end that the Tuatara has survived warm periods in the past and so somehow has found a way. Same with Polar Bears et al. me thinks.

  19. Draco T Bastard 19

    We had the chance to limit human population back in the 1960s when we were warned that over population was bad. We didn’t and now we get to pay the price for our stupidity of maintaining massive population growth.

    I have no qualms about the loss of a few billion people. I do have qualms about the loss of species. ^Shrug^. Life will go on and I can only hope that we will learn that we need to exist within the ecological limits.

    I’m one of the people who think that 4 degrees is inevitable and we need to rapidly and drastically reduce our ecological footprint to prevent a 6 degree rise in average global temperatures.

  20. Ianmac 20

    Burt: Even if Global warming was a myth would you rather improve air quality, deal with water pollution, solve energy problems or just do as you say and deny that we have a problem and carry on as we are?

    • burt 20.1

      [deleted]

      [lprent: deleted for writing after banned]

      • Con 20.1.1

        BTW – You must have felt pretty pissed when the weight of the scientific community moved against your theories and beliefs from the late 50’s ?

        Huh? Haven’t they in fact moved to a consensus on global warming ?

      • Ianmac 20.1.2

        I don’t think that the weight of knowledge moved away from my belifs of the 50’s. I think that there has been an explosion of knowledge that confirms, and that some people want to ignore it like the parent who ignored the child complaining of molestation.

  21. burt. Go read the new scientist article, then read new scientist’s climate change myths piece, and don’t come back until there’s something going on inseide that head of yours.

  22. I mean it burt, you’re wrecking a very important thread you’re banned until till you can give us a cogent discussion of the science around climate change.

  23. burt 23

    [deleted]

    What a pathertic insecure little boy you are. Debate the changing state of climate change theroies or learn nothing from history – your choice tempa-tantrum-boy.

    [lprent: Banned for 2 months – deleting graffitti]

  24. noleftie 24

    I could direct you to any number of articles pointing out the stupidity of your doomsday cult but you’d be as keen to read them as I am to read that new scientist bullshit.

    I see New Zealand is up for the wrong side of half a billion dollars because of the Kyoto Protocol(although National wants those figures checked).

    Can anyone explain exactly how burning up all that money saves the planet?

    • Snail 24.1

      Can anyone explain exactly how burning up all that(NZ) money saves the planet?

      More to the point is you explain how not spending the money saves New Zealand..

  25. roger nome 25

    Burt – as other people have pointed out, all you’ve proved is that there was a media bet-up about a possible up-coming ice-age. You need to provide some proof that the majority of the scientific community was in agreement with this.

    So far all you’ve done is clog up this thread with nonsense and cry to steve about being banned. How old are you again?

    • burt 25.1

      [deleted]

      [lprent: deleted for writing after banned]

      • higherstandard 25.1.1

        Global warming will be armageddon just like Y2K – facetious I know, but I believe we should always ask if behind the actual science and good intentions there are groups who have an agenda that’s more to do with filling their own pockets than saving the planet.

        • roger nome 25.1.1.1

          HS – don’t be another Burt. Supply an ACTUAL argument please!

        • Pascal's bookie 25.1.1.2

          Obviously we don’t know how much money the researchers at private energy companies get paid, but do you think it is more, or less, than the people at NIWA?

          If ‘less’,

          and ‘AGW = Y2K’,

          then NIWA style researchers are selling out their intellectual integrity for less money than they could get for telling the truth.

          And the overwhelming majority of their international colleagues are taking the same deal.

          Show us how clever you are hs.

          Discuss.

        • Snail 25.1.1.3

          quite right, HS, scepticism can be most healthy and constructive, whence it admits its limits.. (as with science and scientists)..

          As to the Y2K issue I am less convinced that it was a cogent and relevant argument. At the time the truth appeared to be that no one knew whether ‘legacy code’ would cater to a millenial time change. Or not.

          Including the then government computer wizz Minister-duly responsible for expending some $360+ mn on the supposed problem. By name Mr. Williamson, of National. Still there! But then in the glow of overall ignorance there can be no reason to honestly suggest he shouldn’t be. Because of it.

  26. roger nome 26

    But Burt – where’s the proof? A few scientists don’t constitute a global majority (as exists today). Your argument is weak and nonsensical.

    Anyway, you’re banned until you come back with a rational, fact-supported argument, remember?

  27. Ianmac 27

    Burt: Over 3000 scientists support the Intelligent Design. Therefore it must be right. Right?
    However over 3,000,000 scientists support Evolution and the Natural Selection position.
    For you the original 3,000 must be right. Right?

  28. Felix 28

    Hey burt,

    Con has provided you with a couple of useful links but seeing as you can’t click on them (at least I assume that’s the case as you haven’t mentioned them) I’ll fill you in.

    They relate to a study of the scientific articles on climate change published between 1965 and 1979. The results are:

    “Between 1965 and 1979 we found (see table 1 for details):

    * 7 articles predicting cooling
    * 44 predicting warming
    * 20 that were neutral

    In other words, during the 1970s, when some would have you believe scientists were predicting a coming ice age, they were doing no such thing. The dominant view, even then, was that increasing levels of greenhouse gases were likely to dominate any changes we might see in climate on human time scales.”

  29. Felix 29

    burt, you weren’t banned for disagreeing with anything.

    You were banned for deliberately derailing the thread. And now you’re arguing that scientific consensus is meaningless because no-one can be absolutely sure that there aren’t fairies at the bottom of the garden

    Can someone ban this fuckwit properly?

    [lprent: Did. I’ll keep a view on IP ranges as well]

    • burt 29.1

      [deleted]

      [lprent: Added to auto-moderation. If you can’t control yourself, then I’ll just have to help…]

      • Felix 29.1.1

        You can argue that you didn’t derail the thread but why are you trying to argue that that wasn’t the reason for your banning?

        And you still haven’t bothered to read anything that’s been presented to you.

        What do you think about the article that Con linked to twice and I quoted?

  30. lprent 30

    In case anyone hadn’t noticed, burt has been acting like a idiot. And has now been totally banned for it. In deference to his past contributions, I’m unwilling to ban him completely.

    I suspect I probably killed messages prior to the time of the actual ban – but what the hell – it isn’t like he said anything that he hasn’t said a thousand times before.

    However insulting my writers as a straight personal attack is a no-no…

    I particularly don’t like the use of psuedo-science.

    Pascals bookie said it correctly. When I did my earth science degree from 1978-1980, there were two contending trains of thought on future climate change amongst the academic community who looked at the subject. Most looked at the greenhouse gas effect as the likely outcome. A few thought an ice-age. The former dug around for evidence. The latter dug around for headlines because they couldn’t find any evidence outside of northern Europe and the north-east USA.

    30 years later, we now have the data that was lacking in the early 1980’s, and we still get old fools like burt bringing up discarded headlines.

  31. grumpy 31

    So perhaps you can explain. Exactly what is this money spent on and how does that save New Zealand?

    Forests in Khazakstan?

  32. Alex 32

    Climate change eh? Reminds me of the horrors that engulfed the world when the y2k bug hit. Or the killer bees. Or the dreaded bird flu. Or when chicken little warned us that the sky was falling down. Oh yeah, that was a terrible day. ITS A SCAM.

    [ Alex also beleives that he can never die because it hasn’t happened yet. Climate change myth debunked – http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11462 }

    • Felix 32.1

      Can you remember why the y2k bug didn’t hit?

      I’ll give you a hint: it involves a dedicated effort from governments and companies all over the world to co-operate by utilising the best relevant technical and scientific information available to address the problem to ensure it didn’t happen.

      Oops I just gave you the answer, didn’t I?

      • Con 32.1.2

        Similarly the bird flu outbreak was headed off by mass public health campaigns, including the wholesale slaughter of literally millions of poultry in China and other Asian countries.

        Alex, you slacker, you missed a couple of hackneyed “Chicken Little” “the sky is falling” scares, Remember the dreaded Acid Rain scare? And the Ozone Hole? Can’t you whip up a bit of cynicism about those other atmospheric pollution scares, too? I’ve seen other AGW denialists play that card, and I’m disappointed you didn’t drag it out.

        The interesting (and encouraging!) thing about those atmospheric pollution crises is that ultimately they were headed off by concerted international efforts, before their effects were too disastrous. At considerable expense, mind you. Who now misses CFCs? Surely the AGW denialists who so treasure their incandescent bulbs could muster up just a little nostalgic affection for those old CFC-powered spray cans?

        • RedLogix 32.1.2.1

          Ah yes the old ‘Y2K didn’t happen nitwitery’. Felix’s answer is the brief version, and pretty much on the money. Here is a slightly longer version for future reference.

          Computers generally only actually care about calendar time when they are dealing with money. This is because money is not only a store of value, it also has velocity. The primary tool for accounting the velocity of money is time, or more precisely, calendar days. All accounting systems use calendar time, all deposits, interests due, transfers, credits and debits are ALL dated. For this reason EVERY money transaction must record as a minimum, both the amount AND the date.

          Early computer systems were a bit limited in memory, so it became common practise to save on memory by only using the last two digits of the calendar year, which of course created the now legendary ‘Y2K Crisis’. And a crisis it was, well for the banks, insurance companies, … any large commercial entity that used computers on a large scale to manage money. It got a lot of attention, and lots of resource was thrown at it to ensure that come the dreaded date, all the bugs had been ironed out.

          But along the way, a technically illiterate media somehow got the idea that ALL computer systems must have this Y2K bug, and well what if the big computers that ran the power systems, the water, the phones, trains and so-on… what if they crashed too? What kind of huge disaster would that be? The answer of course was always… not at all likely.

          Because in fact systems like power and water, are run not by ordinary computers as most people are familiar with, but by specialised real-time hardware usually called PLC’s (Programmable Logic Controllers) or DCS’s (Distributed Control Systems). There were two main reasons why these systems were almost completely immune to the Y2k issue.

          1. Most real-time applications, ironically enough, are not the slightest bit interested in the calendar date/time. They handle state logic or physical variables like temperature, flow or pressure, which are rarely if ever related to calendar time. What is of interest is elapsed time (time intervals) almost always much less than a year long. So the year value hadly ever used.

          2. And even if it was used most real-time control system (by the 90’s) used proper 4 digits for their year value anyhow.

          Of course us real-time control system engineers always KNEW that the Y2K bug was totally irrelevant to our systems (although that didn’t stop a few from charging fees for mostly useless “Y2K Audits” )… yet because we are so much the poor cousins of our much more glamorous and better paid IT relations… no-one from the media ever bothered to ask us the truth.

      • bill brown 32.1.3

        And because I was on call – and I didn’t drink at all that night, honest.

  33. felix. No felix, if something doesn’t happen, then it never would have happened whether or not you took measures to prevent it. It’s like how they don’t let me drive drunk, yet I’ve never once totalled my car.

  34. Matthew Pilott 34

    I know it’s Godwin’s but stuff it – does Alex (and all the others) remind anyone of Chamberlain?

    “There will be a stable climate in our time”…

    • Con 34.1

      Yes it does. And it reminds me that people will believe anthing – literally anything at all – if it fits with what they believe to be in their own interests.

      This is how people can become convinced that they are inhabited by the spirits of ancient aliens who were kidnapped millions of years ago and trapped under a volcano by another alien called Xenu. Ludicrous, but once you’ve invested enough in it, it becomes obvious.

      Similarly, people will try to cast doubt on anthropogenic global warming by pointing out that people have been wrong about other things before, or by pointing out that sometimes it still gets cold, or that the globe has been hotter in the far distant past, or that there was a hot spell in the 30s, or a cold spell a thousand years ago …

      None of those “arguments” make any sense at all, but they don’t have to make sense … they just have to reassure people that actually everything is ok; they don’t have to do anything, and it’s not their fault the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

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