A potentially controversial part of the article relates to its highlighting the fact that consensus estimates exclude certain categories of risk, which may be quite severe but are at present poorly understood. Given this high level of uncertainty, the scientists are being cautious in incorporating them in their estimates. This is understandable: a physician would no doubt think twice before telling a patient that she has anywhere between 3 months and 30 years left. On the other hand, if your doctor tells you that you are about to die... sometime, then you would be within your rights to seek a second opinion. But few people raised objections based on that.
I feel that discussion of climate change need not become mired in controversy. The controversy results from the fact that an attempt is being made to package and sell climate change as part of a political process: "Catastrophic climate change will result unless we curtail harmful industrial activity." This is the idea behind various international initiatives to limit greenhouse gas emissions, such as Kyoto and now Copenhagen. Scientific data goes in one end, enlightened policy comes out the other, and Nobel prises are handed out. The public at large is polarised into those who clap and cheer and say "The sooner the better!" and those who shake their heads or hurl invectives. There are also a few thoughtful individuals who variously think that international climate change legislation is the work of the Illuminati who are creating a world government, that the topic of climate change can best be tackled by studying sunspot activity while leaving the rest up to the miraculous workings of the free market, and that carbon dioxide does not cause a greenhouse effect but is simply the stuff makes champagne so delightfully bubbly (the latter proposition does require more research; please send along samples for me to test).
Consider, however, the following allegory. Imagine that I am walking along a mountain ridge, while in a swank châlet in the valley below some scientists, politicians and progressive industrialists are meeting, discussing climate change mitigation while drinking Glüwein and sampling amusing local cheeses and sausages. And then I, inadvertently (for I would never do such a thing on purpose!) dislodge a boulder. The boulder goes hurtling off the ridge and down the boulder-strewn slope, dislodging other boulders, and soon there is an avalanche of boulders, all following unpredictable paths as boulders are wont to do, but some clearly aiming for the châlet full of scientists and politicians. Alarmed by the approaching tumult, the scientists whip out their binoculars and their laptop computers, do a bit of plotting, and declare with great confidence: "This avalanche is being caused by Dmitry Orlov dislodging boulders from the ridge above and it is very likely that this châlet will be destroyed as a result!" And then the politicians decide to act on this authoritative, rigorously researched, consensus-based report, and propose an immediate forced evacuation of the châlet. They also sign an international treaty making it illegal for Dmitry Orlov to dislodge any more boulders from the ridge above said châlet. I, of course, do desist from dislodging any more boulders (wasn't going to anyway). The avalanche somehow magically misses the châlet, leaving it completely intact, and tumbling harmlessly into a ravine. The scientists and the politicians all die in any case, because, you see, the Glüwein they were drinking was contaminated with something lethal. Later on, the swank châlet is destroyed by an asteroid.
Confused? Sometimes a good way to clarify a point of confusion is to introduce a new term. Allow me to add a word to your vocabulary: "anthropoclastic," consisting of "anthropo-" (from Gr. anthropos, man) and "-clastic (from Gr. klastos, broken into pieces). It's a very proper-sounding yet virtually unused term. "Anthropoclastic climate change" is reminiscent of "anthropogenic climate change," which is a theory that climate change is being triggered by human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), agriculture (through deforestation, bovine flatus and so on), cement manufacturing, leaking or flaring gas into the atmosphere, chemical manufacturing... the list is very long. Anthropogenic climate change is the theory that these human activities are highly disruptive of the climate. Anthropoclastic climate change is the theory that a highly disrupted climate, which is what we already have, is highly disruptive of human activities, and, in consequence, highly destructive of human life. The anthropogenic theory is a case of man pointing the accusatory finger at man, while the anthropoclastic theory is a case of man pointing the accusatory finger at nature. I will leave it up to you to decide which of the two gestures is the the most futile, but, futile gestures aside, I believe that there are steps to be taken to let us survive climate change, and that these steps should be given due consideration before too long.
I hope that focusing specifically on the anthropoclastic dimensions of climate change will eliminate most of the fruitless debate or political nonsense that clouds so many minds, because climate change per se is something we can all observe first-hand. Some of the particularly compelling bits of evidence require a trip to an exotic locale, such as the arctic tundra, the glaciers in Greenland, the Antarctic ice shelves or the ocean above the Arctic Circle, and since not all of us can make such a trip, or have the prior experience and knowledge to interpret what we would see there, we have to trust the observations of others. Take, for instance, what David Barber, Canada’s Research Chair in Arctic System Science at the University of Manitoba, said to the Canadian Parliament on the disappearance of the arctic ice pack that had persisted for tens of thousands of years: "We are almost out of multi-year ice in the northern hemisphere... I’ve never seen anything like this in my 30 years of working in the high Arctic... From a practical perspective, we almost have a seasonally ice-free Arctic now.”
Those who are loathe to trust the testimony of experts and prefer to only trust their own eyes can see for themselves. To be able to make your own observations, it would help for you to be one of the old people who have lived in one place their entire life, deriving some part of their sustenance and inspiration from the natural world that surrounds them, and are thus forced to pay attention to it. Short of that, some of your evidence would have to be second-hand: you could find a few people like that, and ask them if they've seen any big changes as far as the weather and such, trees and animals and so forth. If it looks to them as if you are really willing to listen, you will walk away with an earful, believe me! All around the world, but especially far north, we have, at the very least, entered a long period freak weather.
In case it helps, I will share with you some of my own observations. I grew up on the Gulf of Finland in Russia, which is occupied Finnish territory. Before the Revolution the Finns were part of the Russian Empire, and sometime after they became independent they allied with Nazi Germany and started arming themselves against Russia. Then Nazi Germany invaded Poland, and shortly thereafter the Soviet Union invaded Finland and reconquered Karelia (Kariela), Finland's easternmost province. I grew up in Kuokkala; the neighbouring town was Kilomäki, but once the Russians switched the signs at the railroad stations, few people besides my grandparents seemed to remember what they were.
In spite of the expulsion of the Finns, growing up in Karelia exposed me to Finnish cross-country ski culture at an early age. The per capita count of skis per household was quite ridiculously high. Attics were packed full of old wooden skis, and an entire branch of science was devoted to ways of waxing them. After I conquered all of the local hills, and the maze of cross-country trails that fanned out throughout the neighbouring forests (sometimes I was towed by a large and disobedient family dog) I ventured out onto the Gulf, all the way out to the shipping lane kept clear by icebreakers, and back to terra firma.
One winter a huge storm blew up and toppled many layers of thick ice floes onto the beach. It didn't completely melt until mid-summer, and we had to climb over the ice barefoot to go wading across clean yellow sand to swim in fresh, cold, crystal-clear pale blue water. A few years after that my family moved away, and twenty years later, when I came back to visit my childhood haunts, the formerly pristine waterline wore a thick coat of rotting algae, the water was tepid and murky, and wading in it wasn't advised due to the risk of catching hepatitis, Giardia and an assortment of intestinal parasites.
The Gulf of Finland still freezes, and in 2003 it froze solid, to a depth of 80 centimetres (2.6 feet) but for many other bodies of water the ice has become unreliable. One of my Finnish friends grew up in Vermont (a small mountainous province that borders Canada) where he used to drive a laden van across the ice of Lake Champlain, navigating by shore lights. He tells me that by mid-winter the ice used to be thick, smooth, solid, and blown free of snow. If you try making that passage today, you are more than likely to drown. The following chart tells the story in numbers: it shows the number of years per decade that the lake froze over by a given month [source].
Thus, you don't have to think that humans caused climate change, or that humans can stop climate change before it is too late, but my feeling is that either you will agree that strange and dramatic climatic changes are afoot, or you just haven't done your homework. On this issue, I just don't see that there is any room for legitimate debate. The evidence is in.
It is also not controversial that the unusual climactic conditions are affecting the ability of farmers to grow food. I don't have to look too far to find examples: in New England, where I live, farmers are receiving federal disaster aid, because they lost over half of their crop. According to the Massachusetts congressional delegation, which petitioned for federal relief, "rain was 148 percent above normal in June, which was also the sixth coolest June on record in both Boston and Worcester, and likely the second cloudiest June on record since 1885. In July, rainfall was 200 percent above normal, with corresponding lower temperatures." "Corn growers in Norfolk County saw 83 percent of the value of their crop destroyed. In Essex County, strawberry growers could not bring more than 35 percent of their crop to market" reported the Boston Globe.
New England is by no means a unique case; everywhere you look, agriculture is under assault from the shifting climate. The barrage of strange weather makes it increasingly difficult for farmers to decide what to plant and when and where to plant it. According to the paleoclimatologist J.P. Steffensen, the stable climate that has prevailed during the previous 10,000 years is what made agriculture possible:
You can ask, Why didn't human beings make civilisation fifty thousand years ago? You know that they had just as big brains as we have today. When you put it in a climatic framework, you can say, "Well, it was the ice age. And also this ice age was so climatically unstable that each time you had the beginning of a culture they had to move. Then comes the present interglacial — ten thousand years of very stable climate. The perfect conditions for agriculture. If you look at it, it's amazing. Civilisations in Persia, in China, and in India start at the same time, maybe six thousand years ago. They all developed writing and they all developed religion and they all built cities, all at the same time, because the climate was stable. I think that if the climate would have been stable fifty thousand years ago it would have started then. But they had no chance.Steffensen is a neo-catastrophist — a climatologist who believes in abrupt, catastrophic climate shifts. So is just about every other climatologist. They base their belief not on some exotic theory or complex computer model; in fact, they are often at a loss to explain the underlying mechanisms. Instead, they simply cannot disregard the overwhelming empirical evidence they have collected. Still, even after listening to a neo-catastrophist tell it like it is, I find no reason to think that agriculture will fail everywhere at once, and result in instant mass starvation. It seems more likely that, as agriculture becomes less and less reliable, malnutrition will become chronic in many places, resulting in high death rates, low birth rates and high childhood mortality, and an overall dwindling of the population over several generations.
Anthropoclastic climate change does not have to be a catastrophe, but it can be made catastrophic by clinging on to a failing agricultural model of food production. If we insist that farmers produce monoculture cash crops on the industrial model, we shall surely all starve. But if instead people make a concerted effort to reclaim the entire landscape, both rural and urban, for informal food production, growing edible plant species on former golf courses, parking lots, cemeteries, town greens, suburban back yards, urban rooftops and balconies, and front lawns of stately homes, then it seems quite likely that, no matter which way the climate lurches in a given year, something somewhere will be bearing fruit, enough to make it to the next season.
Wild foods can make a difference as well. Last summer, the forests of New England were full of berries that went unpicked. We did not pick any berries this year, but we did get a chance to pick some wild mushrooms, which had a fine year. As I write this, garlands of wild mushrooms are drying in our hallway. Man doth not live by mushrooms alone, but it's a start. And start we should, the sooner the better, but certainly before the shelves in the shops are bare, and so are the ones in your pantry. Mitigating anthropoclastic climate change will not be up to the politicians or the scientists or the industrialists, it will be up to me and to you.
My sentiments exactly, Dimitry.
As an ice fisherman for 40+ years in Northern NY I can remember routinely chopping through lake ice well over 2 feet thick in order to drop a fishing line. Thinner and less solid ice is the norm now. There was an earlier freeze-up and later thaw in general, as well.
As a lifelong gardener I can now overwinter tender fruit trees which I could only dream of growing here 20, 30 years ago. The USDA plant hardiness zone map has recently been changed to reflect the new growing conditions in the US.
Also, the change in climate has brought new bird species like the red-bellied woodpecker into our area from more Southern regions and forced others to move their ranges farther north.
The recent trend locally toward lower maximum temps in summer and higher minimum temps in winter is something the TV weatherman doesn't normally discuss.
Thanks for another excellent article.
Great article - I agree, if you are over 30, and can remember the climate of your childhood, just look around and see the changes. We just went through another snow free Halloween here in Canada - I can only recall a few such times when I was young.
Food is where its at - grow it, store it, eat it. I think if we relearn this as a top priority in North America it would be a good first step in getting ready for change. Nothing worse than experiencing the collapse of industrial civilization when you're hungry!
"I find no reason to think that agriculture will fail everywhere at once, and result in instant mass starvation."
A difficulty one faces in talking about historical precedent for contemporary processes is when times scales do not easily correspond. Even a collapse like that of the Chaco culture that seems to us dramatically fast took place over a few generations. The impending collapse may well unfold faster than previous examples because of the highly complex interdependence of so many different components of economic and social life. I agree that some possibility remains to engineer a relatively benign transition to whatever new mode of living will follow, but I frankly have no real hope that this will in fact happen.
Magnificent piece, Dmitri, for which I'll be glad to pour you a couple of CO2 saturated beverages, whenever you happen to sail by Amsterdam harbor.
BTW, that principle you propose in the one but last paragraph, of falling back on food production on a dacha scale, should be taken as a general survival priciple. Putting "de-" before any modern trend will put the world onto the right road to self-sufficiency: de-globalize, de-europanize, de-industrialize, etc.
I'm saving a bottle for you and keep it cool.
Even in climatically vague Southern California, my childhood experiences of the local mountains(SBNF)are just memories. The entire forest we used to hike in is dead or dying, the streams are dry till the summer, when the new improved monsoons wash them with mud.
It really was dramatic, having visually manifested over 20 years- But the current crop of young adult explorers don't seem to see the change and like it just the way it is. The surrounding urban areas have matched it in decay, so the escape is just as cherished.
While I recognize the fact that things are warming up a bit, I have my doubts as to whether it is caused by man or not...
I am a life long fisherman from the lower Texas Gulf coast. We are seeing changes, like southern flounder moving out (we are at the extreme southern end of their typical range), and other fish like tarpon and gray snapper (of which we are at the far northern reach of their typical range).
This is nothing unusual. Back in the late 1800s through the early 1940s, Port Aransas was the "tarpon capitol". Such notables as FDR and Duncan Hines came to Port A for the excellent tarpon fishing.
One can look back in the Farmer's Almanac and note that Port A's reign as the tarpon capitol was at the peak of a steady rise in temperatures. When temps began to fall, the tarpon retreated southward to warmer waters.
The tarpon are back. Once again consulting the Farmer's Almanac, it is very clear that we are approaching the temperature range of those years long ago when the tarpon were thick here.
"it would help for you to be one of the old people who have lived in one place their entire life, deriving some part of their sustenance and inspiration from the natural world that surrounds them, and are thus forced to pay attention to it"
I have done that, and the old fishermen concur with my observation that our climate is cyclical. Things go up and down, and that is just nature at work. Those old timers concur that those years of tarpon abundance were hot ones, just like we've had recently.
One more point, I've lived less than one mile from the Laguna Madre my whole life, and the sea level hasn't risen an inch. Where's all that "Arctic melt"? Not here...
I wish I did not have to differ somewhat with "I find no reason to think that agriculture will fail everywhere at once, and result in instant mass starvation."
Besides climate change and economic collapse there will be a terrible, final shortage of petroleum for agriculture and distributing and preparing food. Petrostarvation could be generated for possibly a billion people within a year or two if enough goes wrong with supplies of petroleum from geopolitial factors in a post-peak oil world exacerbated by the unreliable, volatile oil market.
It seems also that electricity is a special consideration we cannot take for granted. See "The End of Electricity" by Peter Goodchild on culturechange.org.
That said, I enjoyed Dmitry's article immensely and can even hope it will have an impact that's positive.
Tarpon are interesting fish. They weigh around 60kg, live 80 years and roam the oceans looking for their ideal water temperature, which is 26C. They often meet their demise when they come too close to the USA, with its so-called "sport-fishermen" (people who think that killing animals can be a legitimate sport). Tarpon-fishing is a billion-dollar industry, all built around torturing fish. You see, these people enjoy the way tarpon jump around when they are trying to kill them. I got a chance to observe these people once when I got held up at a marina where a "fishing tournament" was going on. Maybe I'll provide an ethnographic sketch sometime.
I live near Cooperstown, NY. My landlord tells me that 30 years ago, he used to drive across Lake Otsego as a short cut to work. The lake hasn't frozen over in years, now.
Of course, pointing the finger at nature is, for many people, the same as pointing the finger at God. Remember that most of your climate change denial comes from the right, and is mired in religion, especially the deterministic fatalism relished by the Rapture Ready bunch. For them, climate change is What God Wants, and we puny humans shouldn't be messing with What God Wants.
No way you're going to ever convince those people, no matter how much evidence we pile up to prove that humans are causing this and, therefore, humans can ameliorate it (actually, humans have caused this, and we can only lessen the impacts and learn to survive in the new world).
Remember, despite all the evidence of evolution, those people still don't believe it (even as we watch viruses mutate and evolve right before our eyes). So, while I admire your attempt to classify climate change in a way that more people can agree to act upon, I doubt it's going to do much good.
Time for the true progressives to move on and do something about this, without worrying about what people who deny the facts are thinking.
In the mean time, I'm looking into inexpensive greenhouse designs for my organic garden. My contribution to my resilient community will be my gardening know-how.
Kollapsnick, I can only speak for myself and close fishin' buddies, but we've never killed a tarpon. No need to. They're lousy table fare, and mounts are made from fiberglass these days. Just need a photograph so the colors can be painted on. There is a big push toward no kill tournaments today, which I am glad to see. These days, more tarpon are killed in Mexico than anywhere, for cat food and such. I'm glad to say that conservation has taken root in the American sport fishing community, with explosive growth in organizations like the Coastal Conservation Association.
I would also like to add that more fish are killed by bureaucrats and their nonsensical regulations than by sport and recreational fishermen. For instance, our local spotted seatrout limit is 15 inches, but many fish under 15 are caught to produce one "legal" fish. Trout, like all small scaled fish, are extremely sensitive to handling, and many die after release. It would make much more sense to keep what you catch, up to the bag limit of ten, regardless of size, rather than killing dozens more over some silly size limit. But common sense does not prevail amongst bureaucracies...
One problem I see with forecasting Petrocollapse as a global phenomenon is that it won't be uniform. There are long-term barter arrangements in place between, say, Russia and China, Venezuela and China, X and China, to name a few, plus China has bought or leased farmland all over the place. Lots of other places will get a small oil "subsidy" care of Medvedev or Chavez, but oil is potent stuff, and just a little is enough to maintain order, and to till and plant and harvest. It will be the USSR all over again - for those who are lucky enough to have the right connections.
There is a difference between a market-based energy delivery system, which vanishes like the morning mist, and a planned physical system, which can keep going for a while. If the government owns all energy production and distribution, then when shortages hit, consumption gets under-prioritized in a big hurry. No fuel for private cars, just enough heating fuel to keep water pipes from freezing in public buildings, and, of course, enough fuel allocated to agriculture to keep the tractors and combines running.
Petrocollapse is engineered into the Western free market model, to be sure, but it doesn't apply in quite the same way to places where the oil industry is a state monopoly.
People fear change, plain and simple. It's feared so fiercly that the very idea of something that touches the lives of many, such as the weather, changing so drastically that their lives are threatened, it's much more comfortable to deny it.
Denial, the first stage.
Now, in retrospect, all of your writings are basically about change. I think that the reaction to the global climate change provoked such responses whereas your other writings didn't (unless they DID and I'm offbase, in which case you can probably ignore the rest of this comment... :) ) is that no one alive today has ever whitnessed such a drastic climate change as you're talking about now.
Nobody has lived through the oceans rising over their fields. Plenty however, have lived through governmental "Kollapse", which is far from apocolyptic.
Further casting shadows on the climate change issue is that fact that global climate change IS something that the leaders of government can (and have, and will continue to) leverage.
Compare these two statements:
"Elect me and we'll do something to change the impending climate changes!"
"Elect me and we'll do something about the impending economic/governmental collapse!"
The former provides hope. It makes the campaigner seem like a white knight with the good of the entire WORLD at his heart.
The latter casts doubt on the very institute for which the campaigner is seeking to lead. I'm sure it would also be recieved by voters as grandiose and arrogant, discrediting all former leaders. Probably not very good business.
Here is a nice article and slide show on Greeland melting from the Financial Times.
Dmitry—fine response article to your earlier post with your co-author on climate warming. I’m looking forward to reading parts 2 and 3.
You bring up an important point with your question, ala Jared Diamond, as to why human civilizations did not get started 50,000 years ago—too cold—versus 10,000 years ago when the climate began to warm. Now, we may be suffering from too much warming and climate change. It just goes to show how fragile our populations actually are, especially extended ones in number and habitude.
There was a warming about 135 to 110 thousand years ago (Marine Isotopic Stage 5), similar to the 10,000-year long Holocene. Extending your argument that Homo sapiens was more-or-less complete as a species at that time, why no civilizations arising then? Surely the climate was as mild then, so what was the determinant?
I confess to not knowing the answers, other than to raise the possibility that a lot of flukes or luck could have been involved. At that time, Neanderthals were still around (competition?), as were most of the Ice Age fauna and flora, just moved well to the north and south, I guess.
The Neanderthals mysteriously went extinct about 30,000 years ago and most of the Northern Hemisphere Ice Age fauna and flora went extinct at the beginning of the Younger Dryas event at 12,900 years ago, the latter probably as a climate change (rapid cooling) result of a comet or asteroid impact, so maybe a lack of big game forced the remaining hunters to settle down and eat cereals, instead, and the rest, as they say, is history?
Cogent. I love this place.
Having kept first frost records for 20 years here, I'll note that f.f. back then was 6 Sept. and now is late Oct or even early Nov. Sure, climate change is cyclical, but the Arctic melting is something else; and the permafrost melting and releasing all that frozen methane is a potential deal-breaker.
Here, also New England, (howdy, neighbor) I am planting berries and fruit and nut trees, eating wild berries and fungi, exploring biochar and anything else that promises long-term fertile permaculture results.
Humans may disappear locally, but hopefully something will eat well here.
"...why no civilizations arising then? Surely the climate was as mild then, so what was the determinant?"
Personally, I'm not very educated on what was what in that time period, but a little googling yields:
According to Donald Johanson and Blake Edgar in: "From Lucy to Language: The Record of Human Evolution." 130,000BC arrived the "first true Homo sapiens" about this time from Ethiopia.
True, humans have come a long way in a very short amount of time as far as technology is concerned,but that's all very recent. By and large, human civilization hadn't changed much for a very long time prior to fairly modern times.
Neandertal are understood to have been burying their dead as early as 125,000BC only 10,000 years later. Perhaps they were on their way?
It's also believed that the Neandertals were incapable of speech until 110000BC, which is based on the size of their hypoglossal canal.
I can't swear to the accuracy of these "facts" but if they're to be believed, perhaps it just took this 20,000 years to get the ball rolling, and it was only possible because of this warm up?
From this link: http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent/humanorigins/history/
"Sometime around six or seven million years ago, the first members of our human family, Hominidae, evolved in Africa. They spent much of their time in trees, as did their close primate relatives, the ancestors of today's chimpanzees and gorillas. But unlike other primates, these early hominids walked readily on two feet when on the ground—a trait scientists often use to define the human family.
Between the time of the first hominids and the period when our species, Homo sapiens, evolved in Africa more than 150,000 years ago, our planet was home to a wide range of early humans. To piece together their story, scientists rely on a wealth of evidence, including fossils, artifacts and DNA analysis. The web of clues is difficult to unravel, and experts often disagree about which species lived when and where. But it is clear that the human family has a rich evolutionary history—a past that has shaped who we are today."
Ah! I stand corrected.
Very glad I had the forsight to call my source's credibility into question prior to publishing the post. :)
Maybe you're right, a lot of dumb luck?
Was there anything else that may have flourished more readily, keeping the humans from doing so?
Maybe early hominids found food abundant, as they learned to hunt larger game to supplement advanced foraging abilities. If they lived in bands and their defensive skills kept them safe, and use of fire made their food more readily digestible, why bother to manipulate plants in one place?
All was good enough.
Until the megafauna vanished.
Matt, no one knows the answer, to the best of my knowledge, which makes it a fascinating research area! The late Stephan Jay Gould was a big proponent of contingency in species evolution, so in agreement with him, I suspect there was a lot of luck involved, which may bother the determinists, but should reassure the religious that it might have all been a miracle, after all!
All one has to do is to see the freeways in any major city around the world or see the globe lit up at night from space to know that there are great changes on the way.
The Earth, like Mars and Venus, had a predominately CO2 atmosphere. For hundreds of millions of years, sea plant and land plant life sequestered carbon and gave off oxygen.
( actually, I'm not sure what part methane plays in this?)
In the most simplest of terms, Humans are reversing that chemical exchange in a century by burning up as much coal and petroleum as they possibly can.
The doubters have either been deceived or they are the ones who want to continue earn money by continuing this process.
The big problem is that rising seas and warming climates could have a paradoxical effect by bringing on another ice age. If there was a gulf stream conveyer collapse would spell bad news for Europe. No one can really predict.
Nice post and I couldn't agree more, if you want to find out about climate change, ask older people and try to think back to your childhood.
I am from India and only 28 years old but everything has changed. The summers are setting in earlier. The winters are milder. The monsoon does not behave the way it used to. There are more extreme weather events. At the same time, we are having more non normal weather phenomenon, places which have never have had hail are having now. Places where it used to rain a lot don't get any.
One doesn't need to be a scientist, just a run of the mill homo sapien is good enough. But unfortunately (IMO) we don't even qualify for that anymore.
I try to talk a lot about this with people, they agree after a lot of persuasion. Then they end up saying, climate is changing so what?
Even if climate change is not happening due to human induced global warming, what are we doing to mitigate the ill effects? No government seems to be preparing for simple things like food production and water scarcity...
I think we are in for a really terrible time.
Dmitry, I think you should know your audience better. Choosing to take a position on climate change, one way or another, is only going to alienate your audience for one reason only: climate change is a divisive political issue. If you pick a side, you feel the hate. Please just stick to what you know best.
Politics rears its empty head...
This question has come up a few times already, so I have an answer.
I really don't care whether I have an audience. That's probably why people want to read what I write. If I ever start to care about the size of my audience, I would take that as a sign that I should stop doing what I am doing and just make lots of money telling lies.
I do believe that the Earth's climate changes over time. I also believe that scientists, of all the professions, are the least likely to lie or consciously mislead each other, so I think it is wise to pay attention to them. Because I do pay attention to them, I am aware that the climate changes both cyclically and chaotically, and that they feel that the global climate is changing in ways that are unprecedented in all of human history. And since, based on scientific data and forecasts, the environment will be unpredictable and unstable, I believe that it would be prudent if I and other people, individually and in free cooperation, tried to redesign their lives for maximum redundancy and self-sufficiency, minimum interdependence, and lots of options and means of escape.
So which facet of the N-dimensional political hypercube does my thinking represent? Well, that's another thing I certainly don't care about! I do have just one strong political opinion: political discussions are boring, a waste of time, and in bad taste.
I have a comment, and also wanted to share my blog: http://ditchyourfridge.blogspot.com which is all about living more simply, global warming, and peak oil. In lieu of your mushroom picking description, I wanted to share this.
Also, it always fascinates me when people doubt that humans are the cause of global warming. We are part of the planet, we take up space, process elements and nutrients, and there are a lot of us. It seems unimaginable to me that it would not make sense that the amount of destruction that we have done to one another and ourselves would not in the end damage our habitat. The only way to not see this is to somehow not believe that we are part of the planet. Which might also make a person feel that their prospects of surviving climate change are higher. But unfortunately, we are a part of the planet. Our actions matter, and we can be harmed greatly by ill executed ones. Simply the massive dead carbon emitted by war is one of the largest contributors to global warming in the world, for example.
It is a very nice article.
I would like add some more information.
In my opinion, heat and water vapor added to the atmosphere by human activities aggravate global warming.
Any heat added to atmosphere can liberate additional water vapor molecules, if it interacts with liquid/solid water.
Gaseous water molecule collects, retains and accumulates heat from the sun and heat from earth effectively.
It leads to release of further water vapor molecules and also CO2 from oceans.
All activities of human beings involve release of plenty of water vapor molecules. Everyday each human being may release few grams of CO2 molecules and at least 2 to 3 Kgs of water vapor (breathing + perspiration) , by just being alive!!!
Please see the following links
I gave a lecture on “white roofs for climate change” in 2006.
Now The US energy secretary, a physics Nobel laureate, wants to promote white roofs ONLY for saving energy.
But white roofs can do much more, like avoiding/reducing evaporation loss, reversing global warming etc
From 2005 onwards, I had been trying to promote white roofs as the best way to fight global warming.
Now I am convinced that it is the only way.
If we focus on water vapor as the major reason for global warming, some solutions will be
1. Reducing the energy use (nobody likes- But for the past 2 years, economic collapse resulted in reduction in global energy use ->less water vapor - > no hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico region now!!!)
2. Reducing abuse of solar energy (replacing dark colored surfaces with white surfaces)
3. Trying to store more liquid water on land (creating water bodies, trees)
4. Use of renewable energies (integrating them with agriculture and fossil fuel based power plants)
5. Abandoning boondoggles like carbon capture & storage (CCS- releases more waste heat and water vapor), Nuclear energy (releases more waste heat and 50% more water vapor than fossil powerplants), Hydrogen economy (releases more waste heat and more water vapor!!!), Battery cars,biodiesel etc
6. Banning golf (Australia, the water starved country has built the largest ever Golf course recently, running into hundreds of miles) and converting golf courses into forests.
7. Creating micro forests in the agricultural fields
As per Albert Allen Bartlett, an emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA
"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."
I would like to add one more shortcoming “inability to understand water vapor fully” to the above quote. Interestingly, water vapor release follows exponential path with respect to increasing temperatures!!!
So any slight increase in temperature will lead to release of more water vapor molecules into the atmosphere!
You, Dmitry, are my hero. Well, not really, but I love your writing and your honesty!
I'm sick to death of "debating" with people the reality of our changing climate. The last time I tried I got the response: "must be god's will." My wife said I should reply "maybe god wants me to tell you about this!" I could then thump that person on the head in a very Zen monk-like fashion. If someone's thinking process is that screwed-up, anything to get it to stop must be a good thing, right?
An excellent, thoughtful, and enjoyable post. But, Kollapsnik, you should have pointed out that it was the Soviets who attacked Finland first, before the Finns were allied with anybody. The 1939-1940 campaign was fought while the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact still stood and Germany recognized a Soviet "sphere of influence" which included Finland. The 1941-1944 campaign, when Finns and Nazis were happy to beat up on Russians together, each for reasons of their own, was just round 2.
Don't stop not caring about what political controversies you step into.
I just watched Ingmar Bergman's "the Seventh Seal" last night.
Humanity, as a whole, reminds me of the people in the knight's castle at the end, when Death walks into the room. They are all scared, with various reactions... they all knew it was coming. They are almost relieved that the waiting is over.
The world is still at an earlier stage of the film, though: denial. People like Orlov are like the courageous knight, playing chess with Death... trying to outwit him.
Working on local agriculture and production, and sustainable practices and downscaling, simply improves our chances, but it doesn't guarantee that our species will avoid its date with the grim reaper.
Religion isn't to blame... Marxisms was just as fanatical and focused on infinite material growth. Whereas many religious groups are strangely (to religion's detractors) "green" and sustainable. Think Amish.
In the clusterfuck of humanity's role in the global ecosystem, we need people like Orlov, Kunstler, Jan Lundberg (saw your comment - hello Jan), Ruppert, Charles Hugh Smith, and the whole gang.
I wanted to comment on something Dmitry said a few posts above:
"I really don't care whether I have an audience. That's probably why people want to read what I write."
Yep. That's part of it for me. I find it far easier to trust a person whose agenda isn't about getting people.
Dmitry, the climate change debate should be over, but since it is not valuable time gets spent on the debate. Perhaps humor mixed with facts is the best way to deal with this. Dedicated to this task is Peter Sinclair and his YouTube videos are fantastic. Check him out at http://www.youtube.com/user/greenman3610?blend=1&ob=4#p/u
He actually reads the studies the deniers quote to find out what they REALLY SAY!
One of my favorites is
But he has a clip to counter just about any denier lies and distortions that are out there.
Very well put. The anthropogenic mindset is the mindset of blame, punishment and atonement. Nature doesn't care about any of that. We can work with it, in a rational, labor-intensive, local way, or we can try to mold it forcefully as we have done in the dying era of agribusiness. That era is going to die because the inputs will not be there and the economics is based on constant growth. So we are talking about the death of the ideology of grown, which goes hand in hand with industrial society (in the form it took in the last century).
I am betting on the rational, limited, labor-intensive, local subsistence model. You are right: something always grows. And even pumpkins are good for more than carving up for fun!
I happen to be one of those New Englanders subject to the most hideous summer in living memory.
While the organic farm I work for--and many of my friends and neighbors--were pulling up their tomato plants and destroying them because of blight, I was harvesting many tomatoes before the plants died.
Also, my potatoes are keeping in storage as opposed to turning black.
This year just happened to be the year I sacrificed the dogma of "organic" gardening for a more flexible approach: judicious spraying with captan and pesticides. This made the difference between being "virtuous-with-empty-larder" and "fallen-but-well-stocked."
Part of my doomer planning now includes a shed stocked with chemicals.
This is in response to:
"I do believe that the Earth's climate changes over time. I also believe that scientists, of all the professions, are the least likely to lie or consciously mislead each other, so I think it is wise to pay attention to them. Because I do pay attention to them, I am aware that the climate changes both cyclically and chaotically, and that they feel that the global climate is changing in ways that are unprecedented in all of human history."
It is not clear that it is unprecedented. But the question of a precedent is not really of much help when trying to survive...
I stand corrected. By "human history" I meant history that has been written down by human historians. I did not mean "natural history." I should have said "unprecedented in the annals of modern civilization" or similar.
One thing I've noticed in the past year or so is the increase in moronic responses in the climate change debate. That is, I've noticed a marked increase in the "global warming is a hoax" and "Al Gore is a liar" types of comments, etc.
Now it's one thing to say that one doubts global warming is man made, but the increase in the numbers of those saying that not only are the scientists et al, wrong, but that they all are intentionally deceptive, is, frankly, very disturbing.
For my part I think we've been seeing a mix of natural and man-made effects on the climate up until now, which, having spent most of my 47 years in New England, most certainly seems to me to be warming up on the whole, as well.
I recently read too that of all the CO2 added to the atmosphere by Man, over half of it has been added after 1980. This suggests to me that, although scientists have been looking at the whole temperature record since we started burning fossil fuels, the early history of that burn period probably won't compare to what we're about to see as the earth's atmosphere and oceans really start to get the brunt of our greenhouse gas inputs, which are growing on something of a hyperbolic curve still. *IF* man-made warming is going to occur, I suspect it will rise out of the natural noise in the not too distant future given how much of the CO2 that's been added is a fairly recent add to the atmosphere.
But I suppose everything I just said about most of the CO2 having been added to the atmosphere in just the past 29 years is a "hoax" too.
Your last comments about wild foods:
We've got too big a population, if more than a tiny minority started foraging in earnest, the wild foods would soon be totally gone.
On the other hand, here is an idea for what we could do to make forests and other wild lands more productive of food for both wildlife and people: Become a little less "laissez faire", and actively plant more wild food plants. I am talking strictly about native fruit and nut trees and plants here, nothing invasive. To those who object that this would change the natural balance, I would argue that humans have been changing the natural balance since the first humans arrived in North America; actively planting the species that have been selectively plundered would actually only be restoring the balance that would otherwise exist. It would help out the wildlife, too.
If we are going to be harvesting from the wild, we need to be replenishing the wild as well.
ne thing that small scale, manual gardening allows is adapting to climate shifts.
for example on foot[or even w/ a draft animal] one can get into a wet field to plant/harvest/weed.
also i have hedged my bets with planting the same crop in beds, & flat space. if the season is very dry i may just focus on the flat space plantings, as they dry out less. with wet the opposite is true & it was that way here in the midwest this year.
these 'hedges' do require more time, & labor.
late/early frosts/freezes have been challenging lately too.
unfortunately even if this type of gardening could feed 6-7 billion we'll not organize to ever do such.
I think that this is a 'misunderestimation' of the motives behind the beliefs of the global warming deniers. If the acceptance of 'anthropoclastic' climate change is meant to result in actual changes in behaviour, and abandonment of bussines as usual, this idea will be rejected just as vehemently and by the very same people who now reject anthropogenic climate change.
i grew up in the deep south. alligators & armadillos were not around; a few were 100+ miles south of us.
now a visit there & armadillos as road kill, & if i go fishing warnings about alligators.
Hi, Dan here. I'm a so-called "denier", although tht term is a total misnomer, as none of the "deniers" I'm aquainted with actually deny anything. i prefer the term "sceptic".
What you probably don't realise is taht deniers are scientists too, or that they listen to scientists too. No scientists that I'm aware of ignore or deny that the average temperatures have risen throughout the past 100 years or so. That is a fact.
There is, however, no proof that CO2 is the cause of that warming. Several theories exist, and the CO2-theory is one such theory. The science just isn't settled at all.
We are living in a gigantic universe, and if you care to consider for a minute the sheer size and energy contained in that magnificent fireball we call "The Sun", it should come as no surprise to you that some people think that living right next to such a hot body does have some effects on the temperature here.
The whole solar system is in constant flux, and there are no equilibrium states, or stable periods, in the long view. Because it has been warming for some 100 years or so does not mean that it will not get colder tomorrow. We have had ice-ages in the past, and warmer periods, too. The system is so much larger and older than us humans, so our understanding of fundamental mechanisms is actually very limited.
Now, have you ever experienced a meterologist predict weather correctly and consistently over a larger span of time than, say a few days? It just can't be done with the knowledge we (mankind) have at this date. So, isn't it a bit naïve to think that we can forecast something even more complicated than local weather when we do not even know the fundamental mechanisms at work?
None of us are denying that a period of warming has ocurred. But we are open to the fact that science as well as nature is in constant development, and not settled.
So, please revise your view on the "sceptics". We are not lunatic ultra-capitalist deniers, actually we are rational, well-informed people who spend a great deal of time studying and discussing scientific facts, not just accepting one random theory over anoter.
The wise thing to do is not to try to engineer our climate that way causing potential disruptions. Neither is it creating a brand new multi billion dollar industry dealing with shares of CO2. In stead we should focus on *ADAPTING* to climate change.
Not adapting to warming per se, but to change. The only certain thing in this universe is change.
And then, all that talk about climate can easily be seen as a very bad excuse for ignoring pollution and the general environmental debate. What we really need to do something about is the way we people mis-treat the globe that we're on. But the people in charge seem to find it more interesting to contemplate new ways to derive taxes and new financial instruments such as CO2 trade.
IMHO, the environment debate has been effectivel hijacked by the big business climate agenda. And as long as big business calls the shots chances are slim that the environment or the ecosystem or population in general will benefit.
Feel free to disagree.
Hi Dan @8:14PM
I myself don't think that we've actually seen much man-made warming yet. Rather, I think it has mainly been a climate shaped by natural influences, up until recently. I say this because the CO2 added by Man has been fairly trivial until just the last 2 decades. (See my earlier post.) So, I'm something of a skeptic so far.
That said, if I may quote you: "None of us are denying that a period of warming has occurred. But we are open to the fact that science as well as nature is in constant development, and not settled."
Getting back to what I was saying, I am running into outright denialists in that several people I have talked to and/or read in the past few weeks have stated that the earth stopped heating up around 1998 or so and has actually been cooling over the past 10 years. Perhaps this increase in people that deny even the temperature trend is because most of the US just had a coolish summer, at least anecdotally cool? In any case, when one pulls up Nasa/NOAA data that show so many of the hottest years have actually occurred during the past 12 years or so, again, the response I get basically boils down to "Lies!"
You may not deny the basic facts, but there are many who do, and "lies" and "hoax" are their two favorite words right now, in my opinion.
Here's a relevant article: "What Happened to Global Warming? Scientists Say Just Wait a Bit"
Richard A. Kerr
Science 2 October 2009 326: 28-29 [DOI: 10.1126/science.326_28a] (in News of the Week)
You have to be a member of AAAS to view the full article on line, unfortunately. Try your local library link, as they may have a subscription.
Thanks for your comments. However, some of them are quite ridiculous.
"I am a climate scientist (just kidding!) and scientists know nothing and therefore you should blah blah blah etc." (Didn't read past that, but that first sentence made me laugh.)
A good headline for The Onion would be "Non-scientists demand right to weigh in on climate debate."
But it's no laughing matter, you know. I am somewhat close to nature, spending so much of my time on the water, and I feel it in my gut. A lot of people who commented do to, clearly.
Others clearly don't, and to me they resemble people who show up at a wake to offer the opinion that the deceased is faking it and should knock it off, sit up and have a drink.
And that, I suppose, makes me a bouncer at a wake. Not my dream job, mind you.
I have a hard time containing my bile with individuals who "deny" or are "skeptical" of climate change science. They claim the science is "unsettled" or the scientists are "lying." To the extent that the science is, in fact, unsettled, you hit the nail on the head in your last post, Dmitry - the science has always turned out to be more conservative than reality. That's what you get when you put thousands of scientists in the room and tell them to come up with a "consensus" opinion - the IPCC model.
To the extent that scientists are lying, it's funny how often "climate skeptic" scientists turn out to be on the dole of the oil or similar industry.
To the comment that "meteorologists can't even predict tomorrow's weather," you're conflating meteorology with climatology. Meteorology deals with the weather. Climatology with the climate. The weather might have been unseasonably cool in parts of the US Northeast this year, but that doesn't mean the climate still isn't heating up. Since pre-industrial times, the global average temperature has increased by close to 0.8°C (1.4°F). I won't even bother going into the difference between "global average temperature" and local or regional temperatures, which basically differentiate by latitude.
Anyone who declares that C02-causes-global-warming is "just a theory" really betrays their ignorance on global warming. There are no credible scientists anywhere on Earth who would declare that CO2 isn't a global warming gas. That is one of its primary characteristics. Light from the sun passes through the atmosphere, strikes the Earth, then is re-radiated up as heat-energy. The CO2 molecule, physically-chemically, absorbs radiation in just that part of the spectrum, then re-radiates it (half up, half down). By the way, without natural global warming (from CO2, water vapor, etc.) the planet would be about 40°C (72°F) cooler than it is now - i.e., uninhabitable. Global warming is fully accepted science.
Why do I waste my breath?
Looking at a "stages of change" model for addiction (to industrial civilization, in this case), it's clear that most so-called skeptics are mired firmly in the pre-contemplation stage. At this point, it's hard to see how they can break free of that, aside from witnessing the toxic tide wash over New Jersey with their own eyes. Or maybe they should just fly to Bangladesh (offsetting with CO2 credits, of course), and talk to some farmers whose land is now under a few feet of seawater.
It is not clear to what degree Man has contributed to the climate change. But, as somebody said, the destruction that is environmental in nature can be directly attributed to human activity. For example, water contamination, deforestation, ocean destruction and so on.
I say let's accept climate change and no worry about who or what is causing it. It is a very complicated system and likely there are many concurrent causes, human activity being one of them (not necessarily the main one).
What is ridiculous is to think that a symbolic exchange of "money" can do anything to alleviate the problem. I refer to "carbon credits", "restitution to the third world", etc. That is total lunacy. Physics doesn't know anything about money or justice...
Money never sleeps.
A tiny fraction of a corporation's operating expenses are sufficient for a horde of cut-and-paste minions. Perhaps these minions can't even read English, but it does not matter. Go to these bookmarks, post this propaganda, and get your two bucks a day.
Another factor to consider is cognitive dissonance. If you think global warming is a man-made phenomena, then you also think that every time you turn the key in your car you are contributing to this, and the results are very likely to be horrible. Every electric kilowatt consumed contributes to this warming-even solar and other 'green' tech, as these are built on the back of a polluting technology. Every object bought, every calorie eaten, every contribution to business as usual adds to the mess. Heavy stuff. Not all people can handle knowing that they are part of the problem, and that there is really no silver bullet that will fix things. Some people are stuck in denial because of this.
For me, I have decided that, since I cannot figure out how to avoid playing this dirty game, I will play as little as possible. My family thinks I live in poverty! Perhaps, but I can look at the climate evidence without freaking out. I hope to stop being part of the problem some day, so I seek a new way to live. Some day, I hope to make my carbon footprint vanishingly small, but that will take many many steps on my part. Until then, I seek, because I do not know.
Thanks for the excellent blog, and thanks for weeding out the shills and the deluded. I hope the positive reinforcement you get is enough so that you keep posting!
I'm doing what you suggest already, on a small scale...chestnut hybrids, white oaks, beech, filberts, assorted berries, and whatnot...hoping the understory comes along later. Pre-forestation, I call it. Forests migrate, what? 11 miles a century? so it seems wise to help them out, as you suggest. Something will eat them, nest in them, if anything survives.
I get seed from western NC, among other places, and bring it north, as soon enough it'll be warm enough here in NE.
But considering how to feed 8 billion unconnected-to-nature apes is unneccessary. A self-correcting problem; prepare for some awesome weather, boys and girls.
Denying that human actions have measureable climatological consequences is a form of magical thinking. There might be small details regarding how much or how little humans cause climate change [is it 5.3 degrees or 5.8 degrees?] that could be "argued". Those who claim an inability to measure or that there are no consequences or minimal consequences are either lying [touting an known untruth] or delusional [touting a subjectively believed in untruth]. To deny that actions have consequences is simply wishful thinking.
Steve Laudig said:
"Denying that human actions have measureable climatological consequences is a form of magical thinking."
At this stage, magical thinking is what dominates the media discourse. What but magical thinking could one call an announcement that "the economy" is doing better when people are losing their jobs and everything else very rapidly?
What the fuck are people thinking when they hold on to such an announcement as if it were an amulet or a totem pole?
People need _somebody else_ to tell them if they're doing well or not?
Let's end this era. It has outstayed its welcome a long time ago already.
Best and most compassionate (short) answer to climate change deniers I've seen. A commenter here mentioned Green Man's video series Climate Change Crock of the Week. My son is a video editor and he watched some of them with us, noting the selective cuts and the similar manipulation and emotional stabs that denier/broadcasters use. Much better is Skeptical Science which answers specific denier articles with specific solid scientific articles.
Anyway, It's hard to sit by and see that my kids' generation has a bleak future without trying to do something for them. I just finished fine-tuning my new site that shows them the way to reduced food whim-indulgence by giving them a strictly delineated and clearly taught system for eating much lower on the food chain for much less money. Healthy, tasty and convenient. A giant step toward making do when foraging and gardening become more than hobbies. By the way, I didn't let the blackberries near me go to waste. I have 60 jars of jam for trading!
Eating simply, aiming for 10% reduction in carbon in 2010
I would like to point out that climate change and wild weather is not the only danger to agriculture.
I do think it is critical to acknowledge that rising CO2 is the main driver for climate change, otherwise, how will we craft policies to stop it?
However my main interest is in the "other" greenhouse gases, those toxic emissions from burning fossil and biofuels that are the precursors to ozone and peroxyacetyl nitrates, which are well known to be toxic to vegetation.
In fact I would submit that the levels of these poisons in our atmosphere are now high enough to cumulatively and episodically damage all forms of life that must photosynthesize and produce chlorophyll.
Today I have been reading about the concept of shifting baselines, where people do not recognize the degradation of their environment because they don't realize how much richer it was in the past.
I suppose that would explain why practically no one I know in New Jersey has noticed that the trees lost their leaves a month earlier than normal this fall, and in fact are in the process of a mass ecosystem collapse.
I am Finnish and I also have noticed the same. Finland is the New UK, foggy and rainy most of the time (in the southern Finland) during winter times. Many times the snow comes very late, January. Better weather in the summer and lasts longer. This started happening during 1990's. Sometimes we get a good winter with a lot of snow (kids like it :) but not anymore so often.
Ironically Finland is one of the few countries actually benefiting from climate change, for example bumper crops in 2008 and this year. In fact so much that prices paid to farmers have collapsed and they are not exactly happy. How ironic is that! :)
For more, Norway and Sweden act as barriers against Atlantic storms that have intensified during last few decades. So in a way Finnish Gulf is kind of "happy duck pond" weatherwise. I just hope Russians will finally get serious about environmental pollution, a lot of sewage and industrial waste still goes straight to Gulf.
I'd bet Siberia is also benefiting from CC because you will get more and more farm land there.
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