Global Warming and SF

Anthony G Williams

Greybeard
Joined
Apr 18, 2007
Messages
1,225
Location
UK
Global warming is an issue which is not going to go away, and that has implications for anyone writing fiction set in the foreseeable future. Any SF novel set within the next century or few which ignores this issue and its probable consequences will be likely to have a very short shelf-life before being seen as increasingly irrelevant. That doesn't mean that every such story should be about global warming, but that it should be set against a background which includes it – or the measures which were used to overcome it.

I don't, in this brief blog, want to rehearse the well-known basic arguments around global warming. Anyone who isn't yet convinced that this is happening as a result of human activities can read a wide variety of authoritative material on the web, such as the report of the US National Academies: Understanding and Responding to Climate Change (http://dels.nas.edu/dels/rpt_briefs/climate_change_2008_final.pdf); the Royal Society's Facts & Fictions about Climate Change (http://royalsociety.org/page.asp?id=4761); or, if you want the official 2007 report of the International Panel on Climate Change (the largest and most authoritative body studying this subject) go to the IPCC website (http://www.ipcc.ch). A more user-friendly summary can be found on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_global_warming), while I particularly recommend the New Scientist magazine's Climate Change: a guide for the Perplexed (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11462), since that also discusses the usual objections raised.

Instead, I want to focus on what might happen, and (in a later post) what might be done about it – subjects which provide very wide scope for science-fictional speculation. A recent conference of climate scientists in Copenhagen attracted some 2,500 delegates and heard 600 presentations over the three days. In the words of the New Scientist, "the majority [of these] showed the impacts of climate change would happen faster and be worse than previously thought". In other words, the predictions of the 2007 IPCC report are already being overtaken by events. This has been dramatically illustrated by the rapid shrinkage in summer Arctic ice cover.

This should be no great surprise. The rapid industrialisation of China (with a new coal-fired power station reportedly being built every week over the past few years) combined with the fact that very few countries have slowed down the increase in their CO2 output, was until recently boosting the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 levels over that predicted by the IPCC. For all of its other unhappy consequences, the current economic recession should at least slow down the rate of change and provide a bit of a breathing space to get our environmental act together.

Despite this general view that conditions are changing quickly and that this will result in serious consequences for the global environment and for humanity, there is still much uncertainty over what precisely is going to happen. This is partly because no-one is certain of the exact link between the rate of increase in CO2 production and the rate and ultimate level of the global temperature increase; and similarly no-one knows the exact implications, for climate patterns across the world, of any specific increase in average temperature. This leaves scope for some imagination on the part of SF writers.

Perhaps the greatest uncertainty – and cause for worry – is over the issues of feedback and tipping points. Feedback concerns the threat that some consequences of increased temperature will themselves increase the rate of increase. One obvious example concerns the accelerating shrinkage in polar sea ice. The ice reflects 90 percent of the sun's rays and thus keeps temperatures down. As this disappears, more of the sea is exposed and this absorbs over 90 percent of the solar heat, which helps to explain why the Arctic is warming up faster than the rest of the world. Another example is the existence of large quantities of frozen methane in the ground within arctic regions. As the ground warms up large quantities are already being released into the atmosphere – and methane is itself a greenhouse gas. This could all result in a tipping point, when the self-reinforcing changes gather such momentum that they rapidly accelerate beyond recovery. Nothing like as rapidly as shown in the ludicrous film The Day After Tomorrow, in which temperatures plummet drastically in a matter of minutes, but significant change could happen over a period of decades rather than centuries.

The expected consequences of climate change can be grouped under several broad headings: weather fluctuations; temperature and rainfall patterns; sea level changes; and ocean acidification.

The weather fluctuations we can already see happening are the result of increased atmospheric instability as the temperature rises. That means we are likely to see more, and more violent, storms. It also means that we are likely to see annual temperature and rainfall records continuing to be broken (in both directions). This is, however, by far the least serious of the likely consequences.

Changes in regional temperature and rainfall patterns, and their consequences for agriculture, will be far more significant. These are extremely complex and cannot be predicted with any great confidence, but some general trends are becoming evident. One is that some currently fertile areas, mainly in continental interiors, will become a lot drier. We are already seeing a pattern of increased droughts, in Africa, Australia, China and the USA, where water sources are being used up faster than they are being replenished. This is likely to have a significant effect on agricultural production, since this is one of the major users of fresh water. In part compensation, certain other regions of the world which are now too cold for agriculture will become available. However, it takes a very long time to develop fertile soils suitable for agriculture, and the total area of agricultural land is likely to diminish significantly. Meanwhile, it is virtually certain (for demographic structural reasons – lots of young people in many parts of the world) that barring devastating epidemics, warfare or famine, the world's population will continue to rise until the middle of this century, up from the current 6.4 billion to around 9 billion, with obvious implications for the demand for food and living space – and CO2 production.

It has been suggested that some areas may paradoxically become cooler, at least for a while before the general increase in temperatures pulls them back up again. The best-known possible cause is the stopping of the Gulf Stream (also known as the North Atlantic Drift or the North Atlantic Current, which is part of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation - AMOC) as a result of a surge of fresh water from melting polar ice. This currently keeps North-West Europe (including the UK) several degrees warmer than it would otherwise be, so the short-term impact of stopping it could be considerable. This was the trigger used for the sudden cooling so exaggerated in The Day after Tomorrow. Some studies have shown that the volume of flow of the Gulf Stream has already reduced by about 30% between 1957 and 2004, but the current view appears to be that a complete stoppage of the Gulf Stream is a less serious risk than previously thought.

The melting of ice brings me on to the third major concern, which is the changes in sea level. These are already happening, partly because the oceanic water expands as it warms up, but that effect is relatively small. It is also worth pointing out that the melting of ice already floating on the ocean (such as the Arctic Ocean ice cap centred on the North Pole, or floating ice sheets around Antarctica) has no direct effect on sea levels because the ice is already displacing water. The threat comes from the melting of ice which is currently on land. Some 90% of such ice covers Antarctica, another 9% is on Greenland, and the remaining 1% is in the form of glaciers and smaller ice caps scattered around the world.

To give an idea of the potential scale of the problem: if the West Antarctic Ice Shelf – WAIS – were to melt or slide into the ocean, global sea levels would rise by an average of about 5 metres. The disappearance of the Greenland ice would add 7 metres. If all ice went, the total rise in sea level would be around 70 metres (220-240 feet) but we don't need to worry about that – according to our current understanding, it would take many millennia, and in such extreme circumstances it is unlikely that humanity would be around to see it. For a more realistic threat, it is worth bearing in mind that sea levels were 3-6 metres higher during the last interglacial period although the global mean temperature was then only 1-2 degrees warmer than now. Current expectations are for an increase in temperature of at least 2 degrees by the end of this century, and it could be a couple of degrees more.

The conventional models of ice melting show that even the WAIS and Greenland ice would take millennia to melt. However, that assumes the ice would melt while still on land; a very slow process. It is now recognised that this isn't necessary, all it has to do is transfer to the ocean to provide the rise in sea level. There are signs that this is already happening, with the rate of movement of many glaciers showing a marked increase as they are lubricated by meltwater flowing underneath them. This could result in a much faster rate of increase of sea level, with an average rise of more than one metre by 2100 now being projected (about double that forecast in the IPCC report). Such a rise would have all sorts of unwelcome consequences for port cities and low-lying areas in which large numbers of people live and farm. There is, of course, a considerable lag between an increase in atmospheric temperatures and the melting of massively thick ice caps. What that means is that even if the average rise in temperature is held to just 2 degrees, the ice will continue to melt, and the sea level to rise, for centuries.

The most recent concern is ocean acidification, which is already happening. As temperatures increase, and the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere continues to rise, more CO2 is absorbed by the ocean. This causes an increase in the acidity of the water, which potentially will have a serious effect on oceanic ecology as some creatures at the bottom of the food chain may find it impossible to cope. Coupled with world-wide over-fishing, this could result in fish disappearing from the human diet.

In conclusion: as the science firms up, the news concerning climate change keeps on getting worse in almost every respect. However, all is not (necessarily) lost. I will consider what might be done about this, which includes lots of SFnal ideas, in a future post.

(An extract from my SFF blog)
 

Ursa major

Bearly Believable
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Aug 7, 2007
Messages
23,769
Location
England
I think the problem with tackling any chaotic process (climate, climate change, technological advances, politics, geopolitics) is that you're going to end up with egg on your face, even if you set it in a future beyond your expected lifespan. (I suspect this may be one reason why many apocalyptic stories are post-historic, where the knowledge of what went on in the past are, at most, alluded to.)

Some authors have got round this by making the setting a parallel world - I've recently read a book where this became clear, almost as an aside, a third of the way through the book - so that when you realise that, say, Australia "was" always a Dutch colony, you worry less about continuing Soviet Unions and Japanese Economic Miracles (which have been quite common in SF books).

Another approach may be to stick to the local and personal, and let one's characters be somewhat vague about what is happening in the outside world. (Let's face it, not everyone is besotted with world news.)


But if the story is good enough, and the science believable, you should be able to get away with quite a lot.
 

Nik

Speaker to Cats
Joined
Jul 31, 2007
Messages
1,485
Global Warming in my 'Curious Case'

...
"What do you need, and where is it ?"
"Crates got to Fort William by train, then the line flooded."
I eyed the unrelenting rain, "That figures..."
I'd found a place to stop when the caller-ID pegged Sue, "I'm an hour from The Fort, then four -maybe five- on to you. It will cost..."
Sue would expect that. I'd been her straight-man too often for big freebies.
"Okay, okay... Look, Joe, this is a serious crowd. Movers & Shakers. Wear your Clan kilt and pitch your Eco-stuff."
"Deal."

After sea levels surged, most coastal ecology became 'damage limitation'. Pro-active work was horribly difficult. Yet, I'd found a niche: A weir here, a flood-gate there could collect enough sediment to out-pace the rise, return beach to salt-marsh, sweeten brackish to fresh. Add my patented plastic shutters that sank in fresh water, but floated up to stop saline incursions...
I sighed. I checked the fuel gauges. Yes, I'd need to re-fill at The Fort. I checked my hanging-bag. Yes, my kilt was clean enough...

Okay, I did my degree at a 'Bluidy Sassenach' campus, but my Masters was for work on Uncle Dougal's coastal farm. The wrong side of their 'Fifty Year' line, he'd lost yards to each storm. I turned that around. And I learned to wear The Kilt. Both opened doors...

The station staff led me to Sue's crates, found me a trolley to move them. I drove an ex-Army 'Front Control' Land-Rover. 'Ould Greenie' was not pretty, but had a fording Schnorkel, a vast load-bed and ample cable on both winches. A couple of tie-downs secured the crates. In theory, their size and weight would increase roll, but OG's usual handling was so 'agricultural' only I'd notice...

I topped off both LPG and petrol tanks, got a tax-receipt. This was going on Sue's tab. Then, back into the rain and the gathering dusk. Global warming had turned much of Europe sub-Tropical. The rising heat pulled air inwards. Coriolis effects turned that flow into super-cells. Here, on the edge of the continent, we were spared the mega-lightning, golf-ball hail and now-frequent twisters. We just got ocean storms, thunder storms and rain. Lots of rain. Lots and lots of rain...

I found my first victim of the weather after twenty miles. A city-car had aquaplaned on a gulley's overflow. No damage, just ditched. Tow-rope eased them clear.

An hour on, a tree was down. I turned on OG's roof-bar lights, hefted my modest pruning saw and joined the locals' demolition. Later, I had to make a deep ford -four-drive and Schnorkel- but it took longer to convince the Flood-guard to let me through.

Patience and care, sheeting rain, lightning and squalls filled the miles. At last, my map showed I was nearly there. The road was open enough for me to see cloud/cloud and cloud/ground strikes among the upland crags. I even thought I saw one fell a road-side tree. Traffic was sparse. In half an hour, only a biker had passed me and two cars come the other way. I shook my head. To be out in this, a biker was barking mad, or very, very good...
---
/quote

Hopefully, not laid on tooo thick ??
 

Anthony G Williams

Greybeard
Joined
Apr 18, 2007
Messages
1,225
Location
UK
A few weeks ago I summarised the current state of the developing understanding among climate scientists concerning the increasing rate of change in our climate. Even the 'most-likely' scenarios are now looking grim – the worst-case ones don't bear thinking about. So, what (if anything) can we do about it? What kind of measures might a realistic near-future SF story include?

There are basically four different approaches, most if not all of which may be needed in order to have a significant moderating effect on climate change. These are: to cut back CO2 production; to remove CO2 already in the atmosphere; to reduce insolation (heat received from the sun); and finally to adapt to the changes which are now inevitable, it being already too late to prevent some of the consequences of warming. I'll take each of these in turn.

Cut back CO2 production

This is the best known approach, or rather a whole cluster of different approaches under the same general heading. The techniques available range from the simple and obvious to the complex and difficult. The former are being applied already, to a greater or lesser extent in different places, but the latter will need strong political will on an international basis; i.e. they're not likely to happen until the consequences of climate change have become so obvious – and obviously bad – that not even short-termist politicians can ignore them.

Save energy - buildings: The relatively easy measures include changing building designs to minimise the need for heating in cold countries and for air-conditioning in hot ones. The former is well understood and already widely practiced; it requires good insulation standards, preferably including heat-recovery ventilation systems. The beauty of this is that most such measures can be retrofitted to most existing buildings, an important point given that complete replacement of our building stock will take a very long time. Measures to reduce air conditioning (likely to become increasingly important as the globe warms up) are less common and may be more difficult to apply to existing buildings. Some techniques are similar to the cold-climate ones – better insulation, smaller windows – but could also include installing an oversized 'floating' roof canopy, detached from the main structure, to provide shade without transmitting heat to the building. Some buildings are cleverly designed to have a ventilation system driven by natural convection, while 'green' roofs and walls – covered with plants – have been found to have a significant effect, not only in providing shade but in evaporative cooling. You do need a good water supply for these, though, which will be an increasing problem in many hot areas. Cooling systems using water circulating through underground pipes (a kind of reversal of the usual heat-pump heating system) may be more efficient than electrical air-conditioning.

Save energy – equipment and processes: Another well-known and much-practiced technique is the use of low-energy lights and appliances. Industrial processes are major users of power, an area which has probably received less attention so far than the domestic side.

Save energy – power generation: This is the major source of human-caused CO2 production, so non-polluting power generation has received a lot of attention in recent years, as demonstrated by the huge wind turbine farms sprouting up on land and in coastal areas. However, as is often pointed out, these aren't much good unless the wind blows. In fact, except for geothermal power, other sustainable power sources – hydro-electricity, tidal, wave and solar power – suffer from related problems in that the sources of power (even if reliable) are not constant, and may be a long way away from where they are needed. There is a potential solution to this, however; while AC current (in almost universal use) loses a lot of power when transmitted long distances, DC current does not. Until recently, converting DC to AC for domestic use was difficult, but solutions have been found. Some high voltage DC lines are already in use, and an international DC 'supergrid' has been proposed to link up Europe and North Africa. This will not only even out the supply from erratic sources such as wind power, but also provide access to solar power. Its proponents claim that a Europe-wide supergrid in conjunction with the full development of sources of sustainable power (mostly in the form of offshore wind farms) could reliably replace all of Western Europe's coal and gas power stations within thirty years.

Other alternatives being much discussed are the use of 'carbon capture' systems with fossil fuel power stations, by which the CO2 produced is trapped and pumped underground, and a revival in the use of nuclear power. The problems are that the carbon capture system is unproven (and some experts are dubious that it will work as advertised) and the supply of nuclear fuel is finite. Of course, if an economical source of fusion power could be developed that would solve most problems, but it's been 'coming soon' for about half a century and still seems a long way off, so it would be unwise to rely on that.

Interestingly, sustainable power is causing major divisions in the environmental lobby (a potentially fruitful source of SF plots). While all environmentalists are in favour of reducing CO2 production, some are also appalled by the alternatives, especially nuclear power, the visual blight of massive wind farms, and the potential effect on wildlife of huge engineering schemes such as the proposed tidal-power Severn Barrage in the UK. No doubt plans to cover vast areas of desert with solar collectors will result in similar protests.

These environmental protectionists argue that power generation systems do not need to be grand schemes. They believe that we should be thinking small-scale, with local generation of heat and power. Solar panels for water heating are commonplace now, and photo-voltaic solar cells are predicted to get a lot cheaper. These don't just work in hot and sunny climes; astonishingly, the world's major user of domestic PV cells is Germany, as a result of a scheme which provides significant financial rewards to people who sell their surplus power to the grid. However, while such schemes are well worthwhile and can reduce the demands on the power grid, the problem of the erratic supply of power from such sources can only be met by massive, interlinked, engineering projects.

Save energy – transport: This brings us onto another big polluter – transport. Much attention is being paid to road vehicles, with electric and hybrid (petrol/electric) vehicles in use and fuel cells being tested experimentally. Each of these systems, as presently conceived, has problems. Pure electric vehicles are limited to short-range use because of battery limitations. Furthermore, recharging batteries by plugging them into the grid isn't going to help much unless the electricity is generated from sustainable sources, so that would need to be in place to gain the full benefit from electric cars. Assuming that eventually happens, a battery swap system is proposed to allow drivers to change battery packs at service stations in the same way that they now fuel up, although there are indications that very fast-charging batteries may be on the way somewhat later.

Hydrogen cells, which develop electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen in a kind of reverse electrolysis (the only by-product being water) are at a much earlier stage of development. Hydrogen has to be manufactured (not currently a very clean activity) and special transporting, storing and dispensing arrangements would need to be put in place. This seems unlikely to be adopted on a large scale without major government start-up funding, because manufacturers won't develop and make fuel-cell cars unless they are confident that people will buy them in large quantities, people won't buy fuel-cell cars unless there is a comprehensive network of hydrogen filling stations, and companies won't manufacture and distribute hydrogen, or equip the filling stations to dispense it, unless there is a proven demand (or someone else provides the start-up funding).

Taking all of this into account, the best approach for the near future is to have an electric car with plug-in recharging and an internal-combustion on-board generator to top up the batteries on a long run. This generator could be very small, as it would only need to supply cruising rather than full power. It could also run at a fixed speed, further improving efficiency. The next stage will probably be all-electric, using high-capacity fast-charging batteries, with fuel cells possibly coming along later.

Of course, mass transport tends to be the most efficient way of moving people, at least in areas of high population density. Tram and other light-rail systems are proliferating and will probably continue to do so. Unfortunately, there is a major problem with aviation. The growth in this is very bad news for the environment, not only because of the large quantities of CO2 and other pollutants produced, but also because they get ejected high in the atmosphere where they are far more damaging than at ground level. It is very difficult to see what can be done to ameliorate this, apart from taxing air travel so highly that it once again becomes the privilege of the rich few, but this would be politically virtually impossible. Hydrogen fuel would help, but planes designed to use this are so far off that they don't even seem to be being considered at the moment.

A different approach to reducing vehicle pollution is to make fewer journeys. Modern communications technology makes it feasible for increasing numbers of employees to spend at least part of their time working from home instead of commuting into cities. There is also growing criticism of our exploitation of cheap fuel in amassing "food miles" (the distance food travels before it reaches local shops), one example being fish originating in Scotland being sent to Poland for preparation and packaging before being sent back to the UK for sale. This has led to a growth in the UK in "farmers' markets", which are limited to selling local produce, bypassing the big commercial distribution networks. This is another aspect of the "think small, think local" movement already identified in the section on power generation. This issue, combined with a likely increase in international instability caused by climate change, may well see traditional food importing countries like the UK reverting to more domestic local production. Our gardens of the future may well consist of vegetable plots, as in the Second World War.

Making it happen – incentives: Clearly, the speed at which all of the above measures can be implemented (at least in free-market economies) depends on financial incentives, as demonstrated by the German PV cell experience. It has been suggested that the simplest and most fool-proof method of encouraging the most efficient and sustainable use of energy for all purposes would be to tax all fossil fuels at source, when they are removed from the ground. This would not only discourage the use of fossil fuels, it would make sustainable energy sources more competitive on price. The major problem is that this would require global agreement, and that is inconceivable in present circumstances (when countries can't even agree to tax all aviation fuel). Maybe much later, if the environment is sliding into chaos, by which time it would probably be far too late.

The population problem: As mentioned in Part 1, an underlying problem which is going to undermine all of the attempts to minimise CO2 production is the projected huge rise in the world's population, from about 6.4 billion now to around 9 billion by the middle of this century. Although population forecasting is notoriously unreliable, anything remotely like this will cause enormous problems even without climate change. Unless, of course, there were to be devastating famines, epidemics or wars, with death rates orders of magnitude greater than anything seen to date, which is hardly an attractive option. Add in the predicted effects of climate change in drying out continental interiors, and such appalling outcomes become more likely as starving, desperate populations try to move to more fertile lands. It is hard to see a way to avoid this without drastic limits on childbirth, which even a dictatorship like China has struggled to enforce.

A different style of living: Can anything be done about coping with the population increase? The major problem is of course producing enough food, but the extra living space required will also be an issue, particularly since conventional housing developments use up a lot of land which might otherwise be growing crops. This suggests that different forms of living may be developed, possibly in the form of arcologies; huge buildings in which city-sized populations can live, work and play while occupying only a small fraction of the ground area of a conventional city – and also using up only a small fraction of the energy per person. By a not-so-strange coincidence, the novel on which I am (very intermittently) working, set a century into the future, takes place in such an arcology.

This subject is taking more space to cover than I expected, so the other possible measures to tackle global warming will have to wait until Part 3…

(An extract from my SFF blog)
 

mosaix

Shropshire, U.K.
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2006
Messages
8,077
Location
Shropshire, U.K.
Anthony, I missed your thread the first time around, but thanks for this. Food for thought both from global warming and SF viewpoints.
 

K. Riehl

FrogSqrl
Joined
Nov 22, 2006
Messages
848
Location
My cats run my life :^)
You could take a drastic approach, Bio-lab has an accident, worldwide death rate of 70%. This would solve the population, pollution, loss of natural resources and many other problems. Thus the remaining few hundred million people could still be a viable base for humanity. This is a Science Fiction story? Right?

I'm sorry but the long term historical record, 300 years, does not support the climate models that various groups are using to make their doomsday predictions.
You can interpret anything from such a small sample size as 10 years. When it comes to climate change you can make a much better prediction using a much larger sample.
I can't see us bankrupting ourselves over this.

The link I am posting shows data from multiple sources most of which are Satellite temp readings which do not show the increase that IPCC has predicted. The exception is the NASA data which is under the control of J. Hansen. The hack who has manually adjusted the data on several occasions to fit his predictions.

Is the earth getting warmer, or cooler? • The Register

Hansen is universally hated at NASA for stifling/leaning on/firing anyone who speaks up about how the Science has been changed or reported. Hansen has made statements like, " the president of every major power company should be thrown in jail for the rest of their lives".

So, when I look at 4 data sets where 3 agree that temperatures are leveling off or down slightly and 1 which matches the directors predictions exactly. I look at how they interpret the data. You can't trust any data the Hansen has such a vested interest in. In the following article Hansen's activism leads to him supporting eco-vandalism. The Greenpeace affiliated blog site is embarrassed and calls for his firing.

Note to NASA: Fire Dr. James Hansen, now. « Watts Up With That?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/...e-world-has-never-seen-such-freezing-heat.htm
 
Last edited:

Anthony G Williams

Greybeard
Joined
Apr 18, 2007
Messages
1,225
Location
UK
I am not a climate scientist, I merely try to keep up with their published discoveries.

What is very clear to me is that the overwhelming majority of scientists no longer doubt that the world is warming up, and that mankind's activities are a major factor in this. See the references in my first post to such prestigious bodies as the US National Academies and the Royal Academy, as well as the IPCC.

The only serious climate change issues being debated in authoritative academic publications are over such matters as how quickly it will happen and how bad it will get. There will, of course, always be some dissenters (you'll never get 100% agreement within any large group of scientists) but the doubters now represent a minor fringe viewpoint.
 

Nik

Speaker to Cats
Joined
Jul 31, 2007
Messages
1,485
Aside from global warming, there's growing evidence from Africa that large regions there have *really bad* droughts lasting centuries. I suppose you could consider them 'climate zone shifts', as they're driven by 'North Atlantic Oscillation' changes --Our ElNino/la_nina equivalent. Snag is that any additional aridity sub-Sahara undoes a decade of work against desertification, displaces more people and risks a 'DustBowl'...

Ultimately, without switching to a farming style that tolerates drought, has dew-catchers etc, most of that land must be abandoned. Much of central Asia faces shortages but --so far-- watershed resources are being agreed by negotiation. I fear Africa will see water wars...
 

Anthony G Williams

Greybeard
Joined
Apr 18, 2007
Messages
1,225
Location
UK
Over the aeons the Earth's climate has varied, due to natural causes, from being warm in Antarctica to being a completely frozen at the equator. Seen in that context, the warming effect caused by human activities is a relatively minor blip, notable mainly because it is projected to happen far more rapidly than normal.

The problem for us is that our current patterns of settlement, agriculture and trading infrastructure are all built up around the established climate patterns and sea level. Any significant change in these (whatever the explanation) means serious trouble. So if our activities are a major driver to the current changes, as the great majority of scientists believe, then it's sensible to try to do something about it. Even if they aren't, it's sensible to try to do something about it!
 

ktabic

Save punctuation!
Joined
May 16, 2008
Messages
737
the remaining few hundred million people

70% loss of life leaves about 1.8 billion people. Human population may have hit as low as 2000 at one point in time, so a few hundred million shouldn't have a problem.

Hansen is universally hated at NASA for stifling/leaning on/firing anyone who speaks up about how the Science has been changed or reported.

Hansen's old boss no longer agrees with Hansen. Or AGW.

The only serious climate change issues being debated in authoritative academic publications are over such matters as how quickly it will happen and how bad it will get.

Which is a problem. It means that debate has been stifled. The scientists involved are now ignoring reality is favour of their models. Their models which are inevitably flawed, since the reality of the Earth systems is far more complex and any honest scientist will admit that they still don't know enough about how the various systems interact.

There was a wonderful piece in the Herald Sun just a few days ago. It's Australia orientated, but a good read.
 

Anthony G Williams

Greybeard
Joined
Apr 18, 2007
Messages
1,225
Location
UK
Which is a problem. It means that debate has been stifled. The scientists involved are now ignoring reality is favour of their models. Their models which are inevitably flawed, since the reality of the Earth systems is far more complex and any honest scientist will admit that they still don't know enough about how the various systems interact.
Debate is intense, but not about the general principle that the Earth is warming up and that human activities are a major element in that. It isn't that such debate is being stifled, any more than scientific debate about the theory of evolution is being stifled - it's just that the debate has moved on.

The climate scientists are not "ignoring reality in favour of their models". They are constantly monitoring the reality of climate change and using the results to fine-tune their models. Certainly they will admit that their models can only approximately reflect what is most likely to happen, and will almost certainly turn out to be wrong - but they are just as likely to be wrong on the optimistic as on the pessimistic side. In fact, the actual reality of climate change is progressing more rapidly than was projected when the IPCC report was written a few years ago.
 

ktabic

Save punctuation!
Joined
May 16, 2008
Messages
737
Debate is intense, but not about the general principle that the Earth is warming up and that human activities are a major element in that.

And ignoring the fact that half of the global warming that has occured over the last hundred years has been wiped out in just the last seven. Thats not a very good debate.

They are constantly monitoring the reality of climate change and using the results to fine-tune their models.

Models aren't really science when they're programmed to produce the expected results, and when you think about it, that is what the fine tuning is doing.
 

AE35Unit

]==[]===O °
Joined
Dec 8, 2007
Messages
8,448
Location
Somewhere near Jupiter
I'm so fed up with that over used and inaccurate term,Global Warming. It gives one a false impression and lay people say that nothing is happening because things aren't getting warmer where they are(-20 frosts in Florida recently!) They should drop the term in favour of climate change!
 

mosaix

Shropshire, U.K.
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2006
Messages
8,077
Location
Shropshire, U.K.
I'm so fed up with that over used and inaccurate term,Global Warming. It gives one a false impression and lay people say that nothing is happening because things aren't getting warmer where they are(-20 frosts in Florida recently!) They should drop the term in favour of climate change!


Good point AE. You have a convert.
 

Anthony G Williams

Greybeard
Joined
Apr 18, 2007
Messages
1,225
Location
UK
And ignoring the fact that half of the global warming that has occured over the last hundred years has been wiped out in just the last seven.
Nope. See: Climate myths: Global warming stopped in 1998 - environment - 15 August 2008 - New Scientist

Models aren't really science when they're programmed to produce the expected results, and when you think about it, that is what the fine tuning is doing.
No it isn't. The whole process of developing a model of a complex system is one of iteration - of testing its conclusions against reality to check how well it's working and to modify it if it isn't.
 

Anthony G Williams

Greybeard
Joined
Apr 18, 2007
Messages
1,225
Location
UK
I'm so fed up with that over used and inaccurate term,Global Warming. It gives one a false impression and lay people say that nothing is happening because things aren't getting warmer where they are(-20 frosts in Florida recently!) They should drop the term in favour of climate change!
I sympathise wiith your view, but "Global Warming" refers to what is happening on average across the entire planet. Within that overall effect, some regions will get warmer faster than others, and others may even cool down for a while. So "Climate Change" is really describing the varied regional consequences of "Global Warming".

It's allso necessary to bear in mind the difference between "weather" and "climate". "Weather" changes over a variety of time cycles, from hours to months, but "climate" is the average of the weather conditions measured over a long period. So, for instance, average temperatures will fluctuate up and down year by year (2005 was the warmest on record) but what matters is the running average - and that trend is going steadily upwards.
 

ktabic

Save punctuation!
Joined
May 16, 2008
Messages
737
But 'climate change' lets them off the hook.

For one. climate is always changing. With or without us. It's been happily doing that for billions of years. Just because it's current state is one that we like, doesn't mean that it will or should stay in that state.
Secondly, they predict the Earth will warm up. Lots. Hence Global Warming. Now if the planet goes straight into another ice age, we can point at them and say "WTF? Warming? Dude! What where you on?" ;)

Strictly speaking, the term is AGW, Anthropogenic Global Warming. As in warming caused by us.
 

Anthony G Williams

Greybeard
Joined
Apr 18, 2007
Messages
1,225
Location
UK
But 'climate change' lets them off the hook.
No, it's just a matter of understanding what the terms mean.

For one. climate is always changing. With or without us. It's been happily doing that for billions of years. Just because it's current state is one that we like, doesn't mean that it will or should stay in that state.
Sure. As I've already posted this morning:

Over the aeons the Earth's climate has varied, due to natural causes, from being warm in Antarctica to being a completely frozen at the equator. Seen in that context, the warming effect caused by human activities is a relatively minor blip, notable mainly because it is projected to happen far more rapidly than normal.

The problem for us is that our current patterns of settlement, agriculture and trading infrastructure are all built up around the established climate patterns and sea level. Any significant change in these (whatever the explanation) means serious trouble. So if our activities are a major driver to the current changes, as the great majority of scientists believe, then it's sensible to try to do something about it. Even if they aren't, it's sensible to try to do something about it!
 

K. Riehl

FrogSqrl
Joined
Nov 22, 2006
Messages
848
Location
My cats run my life :^)
[/QUOTE]No it isn't. The whole process of developing a model of a complex system is one of iteration - of testing its conclusions against reality to check how well it's working and to modify it if it isn't.[/QUOTE]

That is exactly the problem with Hansen's model. He is programming in his personal bias and then changing the data to fit his expectations rather than changing his model to better predict what the data shows. He is letting his activism trump the actual results.

I agree with your points about our agricultural structure. Is it not the answer to move to crops that have been engineered to be drought resistant? To start encouraging people to move from areas that will soon become problematic ? I still say investing in desalinization plants to make them more cost effective would be the greatest benefit in the short term.
 

Nik

Speaker to Cats
Joined
Jul 31, 2007
Messages
1,485
Hi, IMHO, you have several problems with agriculture and populations...

First and biggest problem in most parts of the world is that people are too poor to move willingly, and unwelcome where they arrive if they flee drought, war etc. Add in oft-arbitrary borders drawn by polititicians back in the 18th or 19th century. Add in tribal conflicts. Add machetes and AKs....

Um, large-scale desalination is a very complicated, very expensive business. Sure, you can distill a cup or two with low tech, create dew-traps with little more than the right type of stones, lid optional. They don't scale well.

On-Tap 'running water' is problematic. You need a lot of power, a lot of capital for the installation. You also must find a way to abstract water without riots and dispose of hyper-saline effluent without pickling the local ecology...

I've seen discussion of prototypes that use wave or wind power to directly compress water against semi-permeable membranes or provide vacuum for direct distillation. Obviously, those depend on the weather. Beyond that, you have Neptune's Rules: Surfaces foul, salt spatters and abrades, everything corrodes, joints leak, and maintenance becomes a nightmare unless the skills and spares are on-site...

Oh, yes, and your installation is a Big Juicy Target...

I would like to see GM-modified reeds etc that would suck the salt out of salt-damaged land, provide bio-fuel for local power raising, then the salt-rich ash forms feed-stock for local industry.
 

Similar threads


Top