Fastest rate of natural carbon dioxide rise over the last 50k years

251 points by geox on 2024-05-15 | 470 comments

Automated Summary

The rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide increase today is 10 times faster than at any other point in the past 50,000 years, according to a study analyzing ancient Antarctic ice. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveal that the current rate of CO2 change is unprecedented. Human emissions are the primary cause of the rising CO2 levels, which contribute to warming of the climate due to the greenhouse effect. The researchers used ice core samples from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide and found that the fastest natural rises in CO2 were about 14 parts per million in 55 years, which occurred roughly once every 7,000 years. At today's rates, that magnitude of increase takes only 5 to 6 years. The findings suggest that strengthening westerly winds, expected to occur due to climate change, will reduce the Southern Ocean's capacity to absorb human-generated carbon dioxide.

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belter on 2024-05-15

We are in the multilayered race between

- The risk of the rise of AGI

- The risk and madness of Nuclear conflict

- The risk of runaway Climate change

My money is on Mother Gaia. She will brutally and swiftly discipline her puppies.

AlexandrB on 2024-05-15

#1 is marketing hype.

#2 is very real.

#3 is happening and could cause #2 if wars for livable land and water resources break out.

aurareturn on 2024-05-15

#1 is very real

#2 is warmongering

#3 will be solved by human ingenuity

I have a more positive outlook. :)

tomrod on 2024-05-15

#1 is a pipe dream. Oauth2 token TTL expiration alone will limit infiltration :-)

belter on 2024-05-15

Underrated comment :-)

belter on 2024-05-15

Recent "Star Trek Picard" episode...

Data: We are going to die.

Geordi La Forge: Data...You are being negative again. Say something positive!

Data: I hope we die quickly!

globalnode on 2024-05-15

That should be the slogan for the in-coming climate and viral disasters.

daveguy on 2024-05-15

One person can make one command decision and make #2 a reality. That's all it takes. No matter how many people drool over AGI the bandwidth and processing just isn't there. We barely have control systems as intelligent as a bacterium.

vasco on 2024-05-15

As far as I know no single person on earth can do it all by themselves - all the mechanisms I'm aware of at least.

somenameforme on 2024-05-15

To my knowledge, this is correct. In theory a command from e.g. the President is authoritative and should legally be carried out. In practice, you'd require every person along the chain to implicitly agree to effectively ending the world. Even at the bottom of the chain, there are likely multi-key requirements so even there you don't have just one person with his hand on the trigger.

This makes one of the biggest threats to humanity's survival being buggy software. If a software glitch from one side or the other suggests nuclear weapons are incoming, they will almost certainly retaliate in kind. And once the bombs are away, the other side will definitely respond, and that's pretty much gg humanity. In fact this exact thing very nearly happened in 1983. Soviet instrumentation indicated that the US had attack the USSR with multiple nuclear weapons. The technician on duty, Stanislav Petrov, [correctly] judged that what was happening was an instrumentation error, and disobeyed protocol - refusing to escalate it to his superiors who very well could have ordered retaliatory strikes.

For some context this had happened at once of the highest levels of tensions between the US and the USSR. This was in the era of the 'Star Wars program', which was to be a US missile defense shield, leading the Soviet Union to become paranoid about intentions of a preemptive nuclear strike attack. Those tensions had already led to the downing of one 747 that had inadvertently veered into Soviet territory, while carrying a US Congressman at that. Given this context it's highly probable that his superiors would have ordered the retaliation. So he's one of very few people who can be reasonably said to have saved the world.

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mrguyorama on 2024-05-15

In America this is not actually a useful thing. America's ICBM silos have technicians sitting in front of consoles, and basically every day, they get a command of keywords/numbers to punch into the computers. The technicians do not know whether the numbers are a test, or a real launch, at any time. This is purposely designed to prevent a low level button pusher from preventing the US from launching nukes.

If the president wants to launch a nuke, the only thing that stops them is their cabinet simply not relaying the order. This happened several times when Nixon got shitfaced.

Like nearly everything in american government, this is just a "norm". The only thing preventing an insane american president from doing pretty much anything, at least for a while, is "norms" and customs. Nixon wanted to nuke pretty much all of Vietnam pretty much all the time, and it was only his cabinet that prevented that. But there is no precedent, or legal reason, to actually force that to be the case. So what happens if you then get a president who has surrounded themselves with a cabinet that explicitly thinks Nixon was right, that Nixon had the right to burgle the Watergate hotel because the president should be able to do anything (this is a real faction in US politics right now) and have openly put together a plan to fire damn near everyone on day one and replace them with explicit yes men?

somenameforme on 2024-05-15

This seems to run contrary to basically everything I've read on this topic. For instance during Trump's presidency there was a tremendous amount of fearmongering about him possibly wanting to nuke North Korea. This led to commentary from numerous generals and others opining on the topic about whether they would or would not obey the order. Here's some rando link. [1] The sort of system you're describing would enable the President to unilaterally carry out illegal orders independent of the military. I just find it difficult to imagine that they would concede that, not only because of the power concession, but because of the ethical or even constitutional implications. Notably officers don't swear an oath to their commanding officer or anything of the sort - they swear it to the Constitution.

As for Nixon, he was literally playing the madman as part of a strategic goal [2] (arguably the exact same thing North Korea is doing in modern times), but privately was the one who ultimately scrapped a plan that involved nuking Vietnam. [3] A nice quote from the Madman article (from Nixon), "I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I've reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We'll just slip the word to them that, "for God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can't restrain him when he's angry—and he has his hand on the nuclear button" and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace."

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lamontcg on 2024-05-15

> Notably officers don't swear an oath to their commanding officer or anything of the sort - they swear it to the Constitution.

The Project 2025 agenda targets the Pentagon as being "woke" and full of "Marxists" and will likely result in a purge of generals and officers. Anyone who has ever signed off on anything they can call a diversity program will get ousted on day 1. The vacancies will then be filled with Trump supporters.

Der_Einzige on 2024-05-15

Tactical nukes are sometimes under the command and potential authorization of battlefield commanders who in theory could operate without the authorization of a president. Consider a risk of this happening in the context of a border war between two nuclear armed states with low spillover risk to the rest of the world - i.e. pakistan and india.

vasco on 2024-05-15

The commander cannot initiate it himself. No single person in the United States, that I know of (no access to classified info) can physically do it by themselves. The commander would have to order someone else to do it at least. This is a huge component of the whole doctrine as far as I'm aware.

tim333 on 2024-05-15

Putin seems quite adept at launching dumb wars that no one seems very keen on.

jeromegv on 2024-05-15

> #3 will be solved by human ingenuity

It already started, billions of dollars in losses, with no real solution in sight.

exoverito on 2024-05-15

There will always billions in losses from something, especially when global wealth is estimated to be around 450 trillion. The Dust Bowl was a disastrous incident of climate change, yet it didn't occur because of CO2. The damage caused by the California Wildfires are just as much a function of expanding developments into forests, immediately putting out small fires leading to the accumulation of fuel over time, and opposition to controlled burns. Property damage and deaths from flooding are mostly a function of population growth in the developing world, without sufficient corresponding investment in water management infrastructure.

Regarding the solution, stratospheric aerosol injection would be the most immediate and effective solution to rising temperatures. It's been estimated that current increases in CO2 have a radiative forcing effect of about 2 watts per square meter, compared to the total solar irradiance of 1361 W/m2. If CO2 levels doubled to 800 ppm then it's estimated this would have a radiative forcing effect of 6 W/m2. This scenario would require mitigation strategies like stratospheric aerosol injection to reduce solar irradiance by about 0.4%. In the context of plant growth this reduction in sunlight would be negligible given that photosynthesis is only 1 to 2% efficient. If anything we should see significantly accelerated plant growth by about 10 to 50% due to the CO2 fertilization effect at 800ppm.

silverquiet on 2024-05-15

I'd be curious to see the science on enhanced plant growth; my understanding is that the benefits of increased CO2 fade very quickly. I believe we can already see plant pores evolving to be smaller as they were in previous times when the Earth had greater CO2 levels.

About the only thing that gives me hope is SRM, but it's a half-assed solution at best. A world with 800ppm CO2 and a dimmed sun via aerosols is not the Earth that I was born to; it is probably not possible to fully understand the affects.

exoverito on 2024-05-15

The optimal CO2 level for plant growth is between 800 and 1000 ppm, as observed within greenhouses.

There is no perfect solution. One of the benefits of stratospheric aerosols is that they only stay suspended for 10 years or so, reducing the risk of long term effects. They are also an exceptionally cheap strategy, on the order of a few billion a year to cool the entire Earth. Compare that with the many trillions needed to just get to carbon neutral, while significantly reducing economic growth and living standards.

The world we were born into will not exist in any scenario. As they saying goes, you never step in the same river twice. CO2 emissions show no sign of decreasing, especially as China, India and Africa continue developing. Furthermore, we are on the cusp of AGI within the next decade or so, which will radically change reality far more than the Earth possibly getting a bit warmer in a 100 years or so. The IPCC does not even predict major cataclysm, and expects only sea level rise of a couple feet in the worst case scenario.

silverquiet on 2024-05-15

Seems plausible at least, and you are of course correct about the world; the CO2 level of the atmosphere when I was born was well below 400 and we'll not see that again as long as I live. That's what I tell those who respond viscerally to the idea of messing about with the atmosphere purposefully - we are already altering it regardless.

saagarjha on 2024-05-16

I mean, we can try to un-alter it rather than altering it further and hoping it will cancel out.

deciplex on 2024-05-15

> they only stay suspended for 10 years or so

And then what happens? Earnest question.

marssaxman on 2024-05-16

And then we have to do it again, and again, and again; once you grab that tiger's tail, there is no letting go. In the meantime, sense of urgency abated, we would most likely keep on burning fossil fuels and putting more CO2 into the atmosphere, locking ourselves further into the loop.

It is a terrible idea which will almost certainly happen.

exoverito on 2024-05-16

Entropy is inexorable and must always be resisted. Humans need to drink water and eat food, again, and again, and again. Unimaginable amounts of time, effort, and resources are spent every day maintaining civilization. If we build out solar panels, we will have to replace them in 20 years. There is no free lunch.

We don't know how bad the climate will be at 800 ppm. 300 millions years ago, during the Carboniferous era, there were vast forests and very high CO2 levels, around 1000 to 5000 ppm. If the Earth gets too hot we will simply do stratospheric aerosol injection. If climate change turns out to be overhyped, then we get the CO2 fertilization boost for free, win-win.

Regardless, the real solution is next level energy production from advanced fission, deep geothermal, and ultimately fusion power. With a vast surplus of energy we could do wildly impractical things like filter sea water for gold, and of course extract extremely diffuse gases from the atmosphere. Renewable energies are very low energy density, and more akin to farming from a physics perspective. They make sense in certain situations, but are not reliable for powering an advanced industrial civilization.

I also suspect people's intuitions are out of perspective in terms of time scales. It seems likely AGI will arise within the next 20 years. Climate change is nothing compared to the singularity and rise of superintelligence.

tim333 on 2024-05-15

Back to the ground in rainfall I guess.

deciplex on 2024-05-16

Yeah that's kind of what I was getting at: the implications of all these aerosols falling to earth later, and getting into everything.

exoverito on 2024-05-20

Calcium carbonate aerosols are proposed as a good alternative to sulfur dioxide since they are basic and do not react with ozone. Calcium carbonate is used an additive to soils to reduce acidity and is used by organisms to construct bone tissues. Furthermore, these aerosols would be extremely diffuse. It's estimated that we'd need 5 million tons of sulfur dioxide per year to reduce temperatures by 1 degree centrigrade. Assuming we need 10 million tons of calcium carbonate that eventually descends to the Earth, that would come out to be 0.0196g per square meter. Effectively negligible, and may even be beneficial for areas that have slightly acidic rains.

dahart on 2024-05-15

> If anything we should see significantly accelerated plant growth by about 10 to 50%

If that’s true, there should be global evidence of this happening already- are you aware of any publications confirming this effect?

You say accelerated growth like it’d be a good thing, but I don’t think we should wish for it or expect that to mitigate any damage… getting to the point of doubled CO2 would probably be extremely bad. If CO2 levels doubled, we’d for sure lose significant amount of our ice sheets, and some coastal cities along with it. Some of that is already happening anyway, but tripling the radiative effect will make it go much faster and much farther. As it stands, any increase in plant growth isn’t in any way making up for the rate we’re cutting down and paving over all the plants, and it’s not clear that 10 to 50% accelerated plant growth would make up for it either… even assuming that accelerated plant growth actually leads to more plants and a greater volume of oxygen cycle, and not just earlier blooms.

vixen99 on 2024-05-15

> there should be global evidence of this happening already

There is. for instance.

"From a quarter to half of Earth’s vegetated lands has shown significant greening over the last 35 years largely due to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change on April 25."

Interesting observation: Trillions of dollars have been spent to date on emission reduction with many incurring a consequent lowering of quality of life. Some would say this is inevitable but better to survive than the alternative. To date (as far as I can tell) there has been no discernible reduction in the rate of increase in CO2 as measured at Mauna Loa station. When will this paramount metric relate to measures taken? Any guesses?

chimprich on 2024-05-15

From your article:

"The beneficial impacts of carbon dioxide on plants may also be limited, said co-author Dr. Philippe Ciais, associate director of the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences, Gif-suv-Yvette, France. “Studies have shown that plants acclimatize, or adjust, to rising carbon dioxide concentration and the fertilization effect diminishes over time."

The beneficial effects of increased CO2 will also be more than counteracted by other problems as the world temperature rises, such as greater heat stress and lower soil moisture.

> Trillions of dollars have been spent to date on emission reduction with many incurring a consequent lowering of quality of life

It's cheaper to avoid the warming in the first place rather than deal with the consequences, so complaining about the cost is a false economy.

> To date (as far as I can tell) there has been no discernible reduction in the rate of increase in CO2 as measured at Mauna Loa station

It's possible that we've reached peak CO2 emissions:

...however we need to cut them significantly.

dahart on 2024-05-15

Are you suggesting that trying to reduce CO2 isn’t worth it? What alternative are you proposing? What lowering of quality of life are you referring to? How do you know what Mauna Loa would have measured without the efforts to date? And what is the expected delay between CO2 reduction and effect?

ToValueFunfetti on 2024-05-15

Seems like we're moving directly and rapidly towards a real solution. Perhaps not rapidly enough, but the only way to change that is billions more in "losses"

RHSman2 on 2024-05-15

Does money matter when we are all dead from a lack of oxygen?

FranzFerdiNaN on 2024-05-15

The idea that we are going to technology our way out of climate change is hilariously naive. That would require us to remove more co2 from the atmopshere each year than we add, which is just a laughable idea to achieve within the required time frame of the next 15 years or so.

UniverseHacker on 2024-05-15

It would have to be both cultural/political, and technological on that time frame. With current technologies that remove CO2, we could completely remove all of the CO2 we currently add to the atmosphere, without even any reduction in our use or release of CO2. The cost of such an effort with current technology would be slightly less than, for example, the cost of World War II (adjusted for inflation, etc.).

If people cared enough to make huge sacrifices, we could absolutely do it right now. Now the technology to make it effortless, so it happens automatically without people doing anything expensive or difficult? E.g. pulling carbon from the air to make things becomes cheaper and superior to pulling oil from the ground? Indeed, we are a ways from that.

red-iron-pine on 2024-05-16

the solution is that most of humanity has to go. it sounds like the world is moving that direction, anyway

UniverseHacker on 2024-05-16

Ok Thanos

jayGlow on 2024-05-15

there are likely technologies that could mitigate the effects while we work on a solution. geoengineering could help reduce the temperature of the planet although that has its own problems.

jonathankoren on 2024-05-15

We have the solution for decades. The rolling class just doesn’t want to use them because it would cost them money

goatlover on 2024-05-15

What happens in 15 years? It’s not a comet impact. It’s an ongoing problem where technology will help us adapt.

smallerfish on 2024-05-15

There's all kinds of tipping points that are plausible in the next decade that would lead to accelerating warming. Permafrost melting releasing large amounts of methane; gulf stream redirecting; extended drought in climate critical regions; large ice shelves collapsing, etc. It's gradual until it's not.

mrguyorama on 2024-05-15

The problem is that we are adding too much CO2 to the air. In fact, we have already added too much CO2 to the air, to the point that we will have noticable bad effects within the next few decades. More importantly, all this stuff has huge inertia, so if we stopped producing CO2 right this second, we would STILL blow past CO2 goals.

If we EVER want to get back to today's climate, you know, "normal", it requires removing gigatons of CO2 from the air. From a pure chemistry energy of reaction standpoint, that will be enormously expensive. There is zero technology that can change the physics fact that combining CO2 with something that will sequester it will take more energy than we ever got out of it.

Petroenergy is explicitly a loan. We have to pay that back

goatlover on 2024-05-15

I understand that, but we may have to adapt to new normal with noticeable bad effects. That's where technology can help. Not sure we can remove that much CO2. Maybe if fusion becomes a thing, it would give use enough cheap energy.

IMTDb on 2024-05-15

#1 is marketing hype

#2 is warmongering

#3 will be solved while trying to reach #1

tim333 on 2024-05-15

Or optimistically AGI will solve #2 and #3

xipix on 2024-05-15

#1 will lead to #2

#2 will solve #3

gadders on 2024-05-15


andybak on 2024-05-15


gadders on 2024-05-16

Not every green advocate wants this, but I think a few would be really upset if a technical solution was found that didn't involve the complete restructuring of society in the name of "fairness".

jibe on 2024-05-15

We could be building nuclear power plants instead of shutting them down.

andybak on 2024-05-15

I have no idea how this comment relates to the previous one.

mrguyorama on 2024-05-15

And that makes the greenhouse effect not real how?

jonathankoren on 2024-05-15

Number 3 is literally an article of faith. And like all matters of faith, not only is there no evidence for it, the evidence that we do have runs counter to the belief.

Let’s be honest here. Climate change was a completely predicable problem with known causes causes and solutions. It was detected early and alarms were raised in a timely manner. Literally nothing happened. In fact, even today, nothing happens. Why? Money. Because the billionaires would rather have us all die than not buy a tenth superyacht. (NB: Go Team Orca!)

The problem was not, and is not, science. It’s money and who has it. Now those same folks and their apologists promote quite laughable ideas like carbon capture and geoengineering. Could we have gotten cheaper lithium batteries earlier with more investment? Probably, but what did we get instead? Fracking. Literally the opposite of what was needed.

Science is not magic. Even if it was, the nature of the problem means it gets exponentially more difficult every day that passes. You mange to repeal the second law of thermodynamics and somehow got the carbon pollution industry to spend enough money to make it viable? Great! Oh, oops! The permafrost melted and now 10x more powerful methane has been released, so… yeah. Too late!

It’s just Pollyanna talk that actively harmful as it not only directs resources from mitigation and migration to wasteful handouts while simultaneously giving cover for just staying the course.

But hey. Maybe I’m just a doomer, and those Titanic passengers should have just sciences up more lifeboats instead of drown. Maybe all of this just… “needs more study”.

sharpshadow on 2024-05-15

That’s a difficult one, securing livable land and water with nuclear fallout.

cheschire on 2024-05-15

I think the implication is that the nuclear war would exist between sovereign rulers, not necessarily between the physical spaces themselves. Wipe out a capital city in an attempt to behead a sovereign government so that their land is available for take over.

Apparently though, the bombs that landed on hiroshima and nagasaki did not create much fallout, making the space livable relatively quickly.

It seems less destructive long term than a nuclear reactor meltdown which may be a tempting but misleading proxy.

thijson on 2024-05-15

A very real danger is a nuclear power that has a deranged person in charge. They know they don't have much time left, they don't care what happens after they are gone, they decide to fire off all their nukes.,_le_d%C3%A9luge

thijson on 2024-05-15

Chernobyl had tonnes of radioactive material, a nuclear bomb has much less material, in the kilograms. After Chernobyl blew its lid off, the reactor core was laid open. Witnesses said they could see a beam of light going into the sky. It was the radiation ionizing the air. A helicopter that was trying to drop sand onto the reactor accidently flew too close over it, giving the pilot a lethal dose.

AnimalMuppet on 2024-05-15

Maybe not "accidentally". That pilot may have known the danger, and done it anyway. I seem to recall reading that he did, but I can't point you to a source.

kjkjadksj on 2024-05-15

Fallout is used in nuclear war to limit troop movements and other purposes. Making an area a no go zone is exactly one strategy.

UniverseHacker on 2024-05-15

Regardless of how realistic you think AGI risk is, it’s not marketing hype- it has been a human fear and central in scifi for a long time. Movies like 2001, Terminator, and the Matrix were hugely popular long before AI was profitable. Arguably ancient myths about golems and genies are essentially the same fear and concept. AI companies are afraid of public fear over AI as it might lead to regulating them out of existence…. They are actively creating marketing hype in the opposite direction, to convince people that AI is safe and useful.

daveguy on 2024-05-15

Fear of AGI is very real. But our proximity to AGI is marketing hype. In terms of existential crisis #2 and #3 are serious and already worth investing in mitigation. But #1 (AGI) is science fiction.

mhardcastle on 2024-05-15

In 2022, the median ML researcher surveyed thought that there is a 5% or 10% chance of AI leading to "human extinction or similarly permanent and severe disempowerment of the human species," depending on how the question was asked.

Der_Einzige on 2024-05-15

I claim in 2024 this has doubled or tripled.

UniverseHacker on 2024-05-15

Fiction is much more than just entertainment... science fiction has been pivotal in both shaping and preparing our society for changes caused by technology. Much of the best science fiction has been so prescient that it's hard for modern audiences to even understand that these things were written before the world was like this. When I share a lot of old sci-fi with my young son, he finds it unremarkable, as they seem to simply be mundane stories about our present reality. Authors like Vernor Vinge wrote about AGI risk in stories because they were personally worried about it, and trying to share something they felt was important with others.

You can easily disagree with the warnings and fears shared in particular sci-fi, but to dismiss fiction as categorically irrelevant to our reality is just ignorant.

There is some important history here your comments suggest you are unaware of. One reason AI companies talk so much about AI risk despite it being bad for their bottom line isn't marketing hype, it's because many people in those companies are genuinely afraid. One could argue that this is because many of them have been exposed to the rationalist community- which could be (uncharitably?) seen as a doomsday cult obsessed with AGI risk. The founders of many AI startups including OpenAI were heavily influenced and active in this community.

daveguy on 2024-05-15

I neither said nor implied that AGI being firmly in the realm of science fiction is a bad thing. There's nothing wrong with thinking about the implications and they would be significant. It's just such a stretch from where we currently are that it's not worth investing significant resources in mitigation. The threat from AI that is present and real is janky systems being depended upon for life and death decisions. Authors like Vernor Vinge (and I love his stories) depend on bending the rules of both physics and computation. Physics in that computation is somehow fundamentally different in different areas of the universe and computation in that known computability limits no longer apply.

It's easy to re-imagine science fiction as being closer to reality after the fact.

AI safety is an issue whether AGI is 10 or 100 years away.

nullstyle on 2024-05-15

Out of curiosity, could you recommend any Science Fiction written before the nuclear age that talks about nuclear proliferation? Or to take something from our present world, what Science Fiction stories would you recommend to talk about the effect of drone tech on trade and shipping?

azemetre on 2024-05-15

Alas, Babylon was written in 1959. Not exactly before nuclear proliferation but before the Cuban Missile Crisis.

red-iron-pine on 2024-05-16

MAD and nuclear holocaust was a meme well before Kennedy. They were building bunkers in the mid-50s in back yards...

nullstyle on 2024-05-15

That wasn't what I was looking for, but I appreciate the honest response. UniverseHacker claims "science fiction has been pivotal in both shaping and preparing our society for changes caused by technology" and I want to understand that claim more. Let me explain:

By my reckoning, there are two driving factors in how the understanding and control of nuclear reactions affects our world: First, the huge step change in energetic density over chemical reaction, second the fact that you can cause explosive chain reactions. If there was a smooth gradient of progression towards the energetic density of Fat Man, the world would have been a very different place. If the science had panned out such that we couldn't cause a nuclear chain reaction, the bomb/energy source duality would never have emerged.

I'm curious if there is any fiction out there that contended with either of these factors prior to us realizing that the disparities between chemical and nuclear reactions are what they are. I've not read Alas, Babylon, and I'm not trying to deny that it had important influence, but I'm pretty sure we knew that it was possible to end the world via nuclear conflict prior to 1959. By your estimation, how did the book shape or prepare our society for the changes caused by nuclear technology? We're on the other side of the cold war and the conflict between capitalism and communism isn't a thing anymore, right? If we die in a nuclear fire, it will not be anything like, to quote wikipedia, "The explosion is mistaken for a large-scale US air assault on the military facility and, by the following day, the Soviet Union retaliates with its planned full-scale nuclear strike against the United States and its allies."

I'm not trying to be snarky, I'm trying to understand what I'm missing.


To me these claims of SF's prescience fall short, especially when it comes to the dangers of AGI. As an example, I have no mouth and I must scream, as wonderful as it is, doesn't have much to say about preparing our society for AGI. AM will not emerge from GPT-4o, and I'm pretty sure if AGI does happen it won't be through a super computer built to coordinate militaries. I enjoy reading SF, but I think its wider influence is as much miss as it is hit, and I think we can plot better courses when we treat SF as mostly entertainment. People who develop technology would be better served studying the history of technological development.

UniverseHacker on 2024-05-15

The unintended consequences of new powerful weapons falling into the wrong hands and new trade technology are very old themes in fiction even if the specific technical details are not.

nullstyle on 2024-05-15

I noticed you edited your initial response for tone before I could respond. Regardless, I'll respond to your initial statement to say that no, I'm not trying to make a snarky rebuttal. I'm trying to understand your statements better because my own personal experience and opinions disagree with what you claim and I'd like to integrate your perspective. I don't give a shit about internet points. You specifically mention Vernor Vinge, whom I haven't yet read. My understanding is his work is dependent upon their being an intelligence explosion with the development of AGI, which seems incredibly unlikely given how AI technology has developed thus far. I think we've seen amazing growth in capability but nothing close to an intelligence explosion as I've seen portrayed in SF. As someone working in this space, what lessons would I learn by reading Vinge's work as opposed to spending that time reading more about the history and happenings in the real world of computer security?

Now, to respond to your post-edit: I feel like my disconnect with your positions in this thread are around the importance of fiction. I think fiction is a minor muscle in the body that drives technology, if you'll allow the metaphor, whereas you claim "science fiction has been pivotal in both shaping and preparing our society for changes caused by technology." Perhaps you could explain what you mean more concretely? Another confusion I have: The claim of prescience and that the themes are very old seem to be at odds. If I develop an understanding of the dangers of runaway technology through a story about Genies, why do I need more modern work? What if I instead gain these understanding through actual history? The real world has so many more wrinkles than a story and so many more lessons to give about technological development than a story that I balk at words like pivotal. There is not pivot point, only hundreds and hundreds of articulations.

Anyways, I've written enough for now, and I don't expect you to follow up.

UniverseHacker on 2024-05-16

My apologies for the covert edit making you rewrite your reply.

Why is sci-fi useful when we could just look at technology history? It's the range of imagination involved- exploring big possibilities and unintended consequences that are unlike anything we've experienced before. A lot of it is also noticing how historical patterns could play out in a new context, and sharing those ideas.

I am reluctant to list out prescience examples, because on one hand they seem so numerous I couldn't do them justice with just a few, and on the other hand people will disagree with the importance of them.

Overall- I feel like it is a simple fact that lots of tech people and inventors love sci-fi, grow up reading it, and then it influences what they think about and choose to work on. I suspect we wouldn't have had rockets or space travel when we did, if we didn't have so many victorian era books imagining space travel. The numerous billionaire pet project space companies we have now seem a lot like people trying to live out fantasies from reading Heinlein. Even little things like the devices we have- my Kindle looks and acts exactly like the e-book readers in The Next Generation, for example.

When my son sees old Star Trek episodes very little is remarkable to him except the big things like warp drive and transporters. The "advanced tech" they use day to day is all stuff that is a normal part of his life- 3D printers, tablets, ebook readers, video conferencing, mobile communicators/phones, etc. Same with the "Back to the Future" movies- they travel to a future filled with various electronic gadgets that are very similar to those we now have, but didn't exist at the time... and my son doesn't see how remarkable that seemed to me as a kid, when those didn't exist.

As a researcher in biotech, some of my current research is definitely inspired by sci-fi, especially biotech and nanotech from Neal Stephenson books.

Edit: found this interesting list on wikipedia

nullstyle on 2024-05-20

Sorry for now responding for now, and sorry for responding so briefly, but I just wanted to say thank you for your earnest and thoughtful response. You rock! I don't have the freetime to properly articulate my rebuttal, but I will say we are on the same page in many regards. I think the power of story is very important in the process of technological development, but I think 1) All stories, not just sci-fi are important for developers and 2) stories are the least important and most pre-determined aspect of the process. Humans tell and learn from stories and act has purpose and use everywhere, but they are also easily misinterpetted and used as inspiration for badness. Most of the billionaire pet projects fit under this umbrella. IMO Great sci-fi inspiration should be the sprinkles on top of a layer cake of development prowess, experience, thoughtfullness, and continued education in the craft.

ns123abc on 2024-05-16

Hindu mythology wrote about nuclear proliferation 5000 years ago

nullstyle on 2024-05-16

I'm assuming you're speaking about

Where would I go if I wanted to learn more deeply than wikipedia about how hindu mythology talks about nuclear proliferation? Any directions I should search?

feoren on 2024-05-15

Spiders have been a human fear for two million years, but I'm not too worried about them causing our downfall as a species. Just because we're afraid of AI doesn't mean it's actually worth fearing.

UniverseHacker on 2024-05-15

Yes, even if something is worth fearing, it's not simply because people are afraid of it already. Did something I write make you think I was arguing otherwise?

As an aside, I would argue that this deep rooted human fear of AI is related to the general ancient fear of humans being wiped out by other bands of more technologically advanced humans. Which for most of human history has been the single biggest danger by far.

People also have deep instinctual fears of things like spiders and snakes for the same reason- they were serious hazards in the environment where humans evolved.

One could say we have evolved these instincts to fear them, because they are worth fearing... not the other way around.

feoren on 2024-05-15

> Did something I write make you think I was arguing otherwise?

At the risk of having boring meta-commentary about comments, I feel like I see people often forgetting that their comments are in the context of a larger conversation and are going to be read as responses to the parent comment that they are, well, responding to. And then they get confused when their comments are interpreted in that context, rather than as completely standalone statements. So let's backtrack:

(A) AGI is a threat to human civilization. (B) Actually, its risk is marketing hype. (You) It's not marketing hype. Our fear is deep-seated.

It's not that weird to interpret the 3rd comment as disagreeing that the fear is just hype. When in fact, you were disagreeing only with the word "marketing". It's "innate" hype, not "marketing" hype. That's a much -- for lack of a better word -- weaker comment, because it is nitpicking about a minor word choice ("it's marketing hype") rather than the sentiment of the comment ("it's just hype"). So now you're asking "why did you assume my comment was interesting, and not just a little nitpick!?"

> One could say we have evolved these instincts to fear them, because they are worth fearing

But now you're back to saying AI is worth fearing, right? Isn't that what you're telling me I was wrong to assume you're saying? This feels like a needlessly difficult conversation.

All that aside, your additions to the conversation are interesting. I actually really like your take on it being a fear of technologically superior tribes. It just doesn't feel like it needs to be quite so adversarial. You established an adversarial attitude with "it's not marketing hype".

emporas on 2024-05-15

Technologically superior tribes always needed land. Their technology was advanced, but not in a way in which land is rendered useless, i.e. land price equals to zero.

Two reasons mainly for land price not equating to zero. First: buildings could not be extended upwards. Second: chloroplasts could not be produced just with air and sun.

These two problems will be solved in less than 10 years both. Land price worldwide will collapse to zero, or near zero. Buildings will be built using a flexible material, very strong and lightweight, i.e. graphene. Food will be produced using genetically modified spirulina, alongside with pharmaceutical substances and narcotics.

Also, just to reply to a parent comment, Matrix was a philosophy movie, Terminator was a comedy with some scary parts, and 2001 i didn't understand any of it. Was i supposed to be afraid of something in 2001?

UniverseHacker on 2024-05-15

I appreciate the thoughtful reply.

The seriousness of AGI risk is a big conversation our society is having right now, and I am not interested in laying out my position on it in detail on here... only that dismissing the fear of AGI as marketing hype is a straw-man argument - and ignores all of the history, discussions, and arguments on both sides of this debate going back decades, or arguably even thousands of years.

Sure, it is fair to suspect that, because I am making that point, that I might also think AGI is a real threat to human civilization. The debate is so widespread right now, with mostly aggressive and dismissive bad faith arguments on both sides, that it sounds pretty exhausting and pointless to discuss.

I share your concern, and objection to making discussions needlessly adversarial. In general, I've seen a huge rise recently in internet discussions mostly reducing to people yelling at each other that the other person is a narcissist. Even in niche technical and hobby forums, it is becoming the norm for disagreements. I feel it is infecting me as well, and it might be time to take a break from the internet and talk to people I actually like in real life more.

ballenf on 2024-05-15

For sure, it's the locusts that I'm worried about.

iamthirsty on 2024-05-15

Spiders don't, won't and couldn't control almost all aspects of human life.

This is a false equivalence.

riedel on 2024-05-15

I guess you will surely find a movie to prove you different

madaxe_again on 2024-05-15

Couldn’t is a stretch. Microbes can control almost all aspects of human life, as evinced in 2020.

krainboltgreene on 2024-05-15

None of the movies and stories you mentioned were about the "rise of AGI". The closest you can get might be The Matrix via Animatrix? You can go look up what the authors meant by their pieces, there's plenty of analysis of each of those stories. In addition I would love a citation on "the rise of AGI" being a fear in sci-fi for a long time, I've enjoyed quite a bit of science fiction literature and I can only think of a handful that even touched on the idea.

UniverseHacker on 2024-05-15

Skynet??!!?! It seems so obvious that I am having a hard time understanding your objection... it would feel condescending to try to explain that Terminator is about AGI risk.

The modern conceptualization of AI existential risk comes largely from Vernor Vinge, in particular his essay "The Coming Technological Singularity" but it is also a central theme in most of his works, especially the Zones of Thought series.

8note on 2024-05-15

I think it's about as much about ai risk as transformers is.

I'm terms of skynet I think you'd be referring to the third one? But that one is about drone strikes, and that's what we do today without AGI - we send out invincible killer robots to go wipe out villages from above because all males above the age of 16 are enemy combatants. The end of the movie could just as easily have been that they find a person behind the skynet controls killing everyone

UniverseHacker on 2024-05-15

The overall plot of Terminator is that an AGI called Skynet becomes self aware and unstoppable sometime in the mid 1980s and humans only hope of survival is to use time travel to destroy it before this happens. I’ll admit this isn’t very well explained to the audience, and the focus is mostly on Arnold blowing things up.

krainboltgreene on 2024-05-15

I don't think anyone is confused about Terminator's plot, but people in this thread are definitely confused about what theme means and how to do literary analysis (not surprising given the context of this website).

teo_zero on 2024-05-15

I understood "rise of AGI" as if preceded by "uncontrolled": a runaway intelligence that ultimately turns against its creators. In that sense, yes, those movies do include this theme.

Your comment makes sense if you intend "rise of AGI" as just growth. But then why should it be a concern?

krainboltgreene on 2024-05-15

None of those movies have AGI as a theme, you have confused "theme" with "plot point".

cma on 2024-05-15

Terminator 2 and a deleted scene, but the essence of it was there in the movie

genezeta on 2024-05-15
flir on 2024-05-15

Neuromancer. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. Erewhon.

krainboltgreene on 2024-05-15

You have massively confused "AGI as a plot point" with "is what the literary work is about". For example Neuromancer is about trauma and identity. If I'm being charitable I could give you Erewhon, but that's only because a major theme is anthropocentrism. A vast majority of the book is a criticism of victorian society.

Ellison's analysis of his own work is pretty well known and while not specifically about AGI is definitely about technology misuse, so you win there.

UniverseHacker on 2024-05-15

This is an absurd level of nitpicking... the phrase "is about" means both of those things in common speech, and everyone can tell which you mean depending on context. Language is defined by regular people through its use and context, scholars only describe it after the fact- to their extreme dismay. You might be technically correct within the jargon of, e.g. an academic literature course, but you aren't correct to insist the words mean that unless you are in that context, with that audience, where it has that meaning.

Moreover, I don't think you are correct, even in the literary sense, when saying, for example, what Neuromancer is about. I don't really care what an author says it's about, most artists are channeling something unconscious and often have very little conscious understanding of what their work is actually about. I've read plenty of Gibson books. The guy is an absolute luddite, and writes on a typewriter. He is terrified of how dangerous and dehumanizing technology is, and all of his books are "about" an all-consuming fear of technology and the changes it causes.

krainboltgreene on 2024-05-15

I don't really care about your opinions on academic literary analysis, it's OK to be wrong and have your own thoughts on the matter, but prepare to be confused when people don't agree that the Transformer movies are about the dangers of aliens turning into vehicles.

For someone who doesn't care what Gibson thinks of his own artistic works you sure do have a strong opinion on Gibson's artistic work.

UniverseHacker on 2024-05-15

You are mis-representing people that intuitively understand that a phrase can have different meanings depending on context, as fundamentally confused and actually muddling the two concepts.

Nobody would say "transformers are about the dangers of aliens turning into vehicles" but people would say it is "about aliens that can turn into vehicles." They might also say something like it's "about the the struggle to live day to day without being sure if everyday things are truly as they seem" - if that's were what it's about- I'm not actually familiar with transformers.

As an academic and a human (both!) I think it is important to remember how to keep the jargon from whatever you study distinct in your mind from common usage, so you can still communicate with people that didn't study whatever you studied.

flir on 2024-05-15

My son's just completed an essay on Marxist themes in Blake.

I think this guy's ideas of what literary analysis is and is not are pretty idiosyncratic, to be honest.

krainboltgreene on 2024-05-15

You're welcome to make assumptions about what I'm doing, but at the end of the day you have to contend with the fact that I read a comment at face value, in the context, and then multiple people tried to back that original comment up. Maybe if you were the original author your opinion on what they were "trying to say" would matter, but it doesn't.

UniverseHacker on 2024-05-15

Who was the original author?

flir on 2024-05-15

If not Neuromancer (although I feel differently) then Queen of Angels (Greg Bear). It's the most fascinating take on AI I've ever read - the entanglement with the themes of justice and punishment is thought-provoking.

The Turing Option (Harry Harrison, Marvin Minsky). I can't stress strongly enough, do not read this book. It's terrible. But it does exist.

krainboltgreene on 2024-05-15

Again I must stress you've confused theme with plot point. I haven't read QOA in a long time, but I'm pretty sure it was about identity and justice.

flir on 2024-05-15

It's about an AI struggling to become conscious! Alarms go off when it uses the word "I"! The whole point of that subplot is why that AI can't achieve consciousness, but the one sent to Alpha Centauri[?] can. It writes essays meditating on its circumstances, the way humans have treated it and its sibling, it writes an essay exploring whether punishment of others is a gateway to self-awareness...

You want to tell me the theme of that thread is human identity? It's our responsiblity to our creations. It's what does it mean to be sentient? It's the ethics of using a self-aware AI as a tool. (Amongst many other things).

krainboltgreene on 2024-05-15

It contains an AI struggling to become human (to gain identity), if I remember correctly.

Either way, we're way off course from "it was a great fear of scifi that AGI would become a risk" to "a book with AGI as the vessel for metaphor about humanity exists".

Delmololo on 2024-05-15

We have now chips with 20petaflops.

The weekly news regarding AI are always adding new things to ai.

We started pouring billions into ai.

The amount of new research papers regarding AI are exploding.

I would argue that it is not marketing hype or aluminum hat thinking to take that serious

rafaelmn on 2024-05-15

You could give similar numbers for crypto (powerplants, custom chips, billions invested, R&D) and yet it amounted to nothing.

Not saying it's the same - just that your argument isn't very strong.

Ironically Nvidia is riding both waves. A few people in the tech scene know how to fuel a hype train.

Delmololo on 2024-05-15

On the surface perhaps.

Btw hype is defined as exaggerated claims but the ai 'hype' train is not hype.

We already use all those tools daily.

It has real impact and makes real money

throwmeaball on 2024-05-15

Crypto is crunching random meaningless numbers. AI is crunching real world data. They are not the same. But AI should not be viewed as a problem. The real problem is that some people don't want others to have the same stuff as they. They want to work 1 hour while the other guy has to work 100. Interest on interest.

user90131313 on 2024-05-15

2 is the real hype

admissionsguy on 2024-05-15

#1 is marketing hype

#2 is a remote possibility

#3 is a non-threat

alex_duf on 2024-05-15

please explain how #3 is a non-threat?

admissionsguy on 2024-05-15

Unlike race, the fear of global warming is a social construct. Logically, if you are worried about humans, you should be worried about aging, cancer, heart disease. And if you are worried about the rest of nature, you should be worried about geology and human influence (of which climate is a minor part and self-limiting if significant).

jonwinstanley on 2024-05-15

You can’t think of any circumstances where climate change might cause a threat to human life on the planet?

eterps on 2024-05-15

I also think it's bewildering when people say things like that. Are they thinking that humans are incapable of causing climate change no matter what they do? Or that we are currently not in trouble and fine for decades/centuries to come?

admissionsguy on 2024-05-15

I think you are <strike>crazy</strike> unreasonable if you think we are not fine for decades or centuries to come, climate-wise. Barring big volcanic eruptions.

vbezhenar on 2024-05-15

And how hypothetical global warming is a threat? So let's assume it's happening. Let's assume some ices melt and ocean level rises. Let's assume some coastal cities gets flooded. Just move to higher places, eh? Why do you live in coast anyway, what a weird thing.

I'd welcome global warming, I tired of paying $50/month every winter just to keep my house warm.

mrexroad on 2024-05-15

Your comment is so misguided I can’t tell if you’re joking, trolling, or serious. I don’t know what else to say other than please keep the following in mind: CO2 is transparent to solar radiation, but opaque/reflective to the IR wavelengths that earth radiates heat back to space.

lliamander on 2024-05-15

> #3 is happening and could cause #2 if wars for livable land and water resources break out.

Seems more likely to me that attempts to solve #3 will lead to #2.

If we actually attempted to curtail fossil fuel consumption as much activists claim we should, there would be such a drop in agricultural and industrial productivity that there would be mass starvation, particularly in the developing world.

I don't think those countries would peacefully go along with that plan.

c048 on 2024-05-15

'Mother' Gaia will wipe all complex life from this planet with 1 to 1.5 Billion years if her 'undisciplined' puppies don't find a way to leave this ball of dirt.

She's also got quite a lead with killing off 99.99999% of all species that ever lived, when compared to us.

gmd63 on 2024-05-15

Everyone hell bent on leaving is actually distracted from the real less immediately glamorous challenge, which is learning to sustain life and exercise restraint.

itsoktocry on 2024-05-15

>Everyone hell bent on leaving is actually distracted from the real less immediately glamorous challenge, which is learning to sustain life and exercise restraint.

Unless you're willing to exterminate people who don't comply, the incentives are such that maintaining the status quo will give economic (and military) advantages.

Besides, over long time scales there's more to fear than a few degrees of climate change.

saagarjha on 2024-05-16

There are plenty of things that give economic and military advantages that we thwart.

jessetemp on 2024-05-15

They’re probably referring to the earth getting enveloped by the sun in a billion or so years as it expands.

I still think you’re right though. The better plan is staying on earth. The trick is moving it outward as the habitable zone expands with the sun. Only have to convince humanity to sling a giant meteor just outside earth’s orbit every year for millions of years without messing up. What could go wrong?

triceratops on 2024-05-15

> They’re probably referring to the earth getting enveloped by the sun in a billion or so years as it expands.

Mother Gaia refers to the Earth, not the sun.

andybak on 2024-05-15

I think the point is that we need both. One is short/medium term and the other is medium/long term.

An asteroid/comet impact big enough to wipe us out is a statistically certainty - not science fiction.

zelphirkalt on 2024-05-16

Or has realized that even with sustaining life and exercising restraint, there are enough people, who do not care and destroy all positive outcomes.

sniggers on 2024-05-15

Restraint won't make the unpredictable gamma ray burst or unstoppably-sized asteroid go away.

BirAdam on 2024-05-15

Sounds like a challenge for which our species is well suited.

randomopining on 2024-05-15

You think leaving earth is the solution? The only place we've evolved to survive on.

SketchySeaBeast on 2024-05-15

And if we can't manage the climate challenges here, how are we going to do it on Mars or during interstellar travel?

JeremyNT on 2024-05-15

We evolved in this little window of time on this version of Earth.

In a billion years, when the Sun is hotter and Earth's oceans have all dried, it's probably not going to be a great hang any more.

randomopining on 2024-05-17

Yeah in a billion years. We should figure out the common issues (tragedy of commons, etc) that will follow us wherever we go -- before we try to leave. A billion years is plenty of time to focus on that.

postingawayonhn on 2024-05-15

The earth hasn't always existed in its current state, or for that matter existed at all.

Once day the earth will almost certainly cease to exist and intelligence will have to find a new home of some kind. We have probably got a couple of billion years though if we are careful and I have no idea what intelligence will evolve to over that timeframe.

cdelsolar on 2024-05-16

Just a few hundred million years. The sun will be too luminous pretty soon.

randomopining on 2024-05-17

Ok so lets figure out our problems first and then move on. If we go too soon we'll bring all of our standard problems.

14 on 2024-05-15

Definitely not the solution. Ending capitalism for some other form of economy is the only way in my opinion. Not that I don’t think people should be rewarded for the products and services they offer just that the incentive to make cheap shit and sell an upgrade every year is definitely harmful to our earth. The problem I see is I don’t know what type of economic solution there is that would fit.

angusturner on 2024-05-15

I think the tools to solve the challenges of waste, environmental damage etc. already exist within the framework of capitalism. Mostly they are just unpopular and seen by many as a government overreach.

1. taxes that force corporations and individuals to pay for the negative externalities / social costs of their actions 2. regulation (e.g. stop allowing planned obsolence, mandate the right to repair etc.) 3. government spending into R&D, incentives and subsidies for renewables etc.

Anyway, my point is that the issue is basically one of co-ordination and political will. It obviously doesn't help that many Americans (and Australians too for that matter, where I live) don't accept the basic facts of the situation (before we can even discuss solutions).

itsoktocry on 2024-05-15

>Anyway, my point is that the issue is basically one of co-ordination and political will

Again, what does "political will" mean? What are you going to do to those that disagree? Lock them up? Exterminate them? What is the solution to force people to do your bidding, and has it ever worked?

DFHippie on 2024-05-15

I assume they mean convince enough people to implement the proposed policies that they can fix things through normal, legal means. "Forcing people to do your bidding" normally consists of winning elections and then implementing and enforcing legislation. This is how we force people who want to shoplift, cheat on their taxes, or murder to do our bidding. It doesn't work perfectly, but it only has to work well enough.

lucianbr on 2024-05-15

Theft is also a problem of political will. If people would just not steal, the problem of theft would be solved. For some definition of "solution", it is a solution. But not a useful or realistic one. It's just not going to happen in any reasonable timeframe. Only if human nature itself changes in some distant future. Same thing applies to environmental damage.

hellojesus on 2024-05-15

I have yet to hear of an economic model that humans have discovered which is better than free market capitalism.

The issue isn't the cheap junk; it's the demand for the cheap junk. Things would be far more sustainable if people focused on reducing their consumption habbits, as producers would be run out of business.

amanaplanacanal on 2024-05-15

The free market is probably the best we are going to get, but we need to address some of its known failure modes: externalities, monopolies, and the imbalance of power between employers and employees.

hellojesus on 2024-05-16

These are all addressable by the individual.

Externalities: any negative externality upon an involuntarily third party can become illegal via law. This can cover things like littering, servitude, etc.

Monopolies: the free market has yet to produce a monopoly that increases prices for consumers if there isn't a natural monopoly. The gov deals with allocation of naturally constrained resources such as radio frequencies.

Imbalance of power: just save more. Save enough so you can wake up comfortable with the idea that you were fired overnight. It dissolves any power imbalance when your boss needs you as much as you need the income.

airstrike on 2024-05-15

Luckily we have 1 to 1.5 billion years to figure out how to survive outside of this ball of dirt... (cataclysmic asteroids and other similar events notwithstanding)

padjo on 2024-05-15

Climate change is analogous to a scenario we see all the time in nature i.e. a species finds massive success causing its population to spike, this population spike degrades the supporting environment and the species risks extinction.

We dodged this in the 20th century with the green revolution but the risk remains. We still haven’t figured out how to live within the limits of our environment, instead we continue to extract from it and degrade it. If we don’t figure this problem out then our species is done for.

Compared to this the other two are barely even risks.

soulofmischief on 2024-05-15

The other two are really only risks if the climate change risk doesn't take us out.

Night_Thastus on 2024-05-15

#1 isn't happening anytime soon, nothing we have is on a path in that direction.

#2 people always worry about, but it's almost certainly not going to happen - insane dictators or no. Even in much worse scenarios we avoided it.

#3 Real, but slow. I think we'll see some coastal communities devastated over the course of the next ~50 years, but the rest of the world will adapt and/or sweep it under the rug as best they can. The bigger threat is economic. Companies will no doubt try to use the changing situation as an excuse to skyrocket prices and keep everyone broke.

jonwinstanley on 2024-05-15

Increase of both droughts and floods mean we have issues inland too

mywittyname on 2024-05-15

#2 People aren't evaluating this risk correctly. If the war in Ukraine has taught me anything, it's that the assertions, "Putin would never do..." is wrong.

#3 The real risk is the refugee crisis. The world is going to be split into two groups: refugees, and those trying to keep the refugees away. Large countries are going to experience crises from both internal and external migration. Think, people from mexico flooding into texas, while people from Texas flood north into the great plains. It's going to happen slowly, then all at once.

Night_Thastus on 2024-05-15

There's a big difference between an invasion and launching nukes. There is no amount of reparation, apologies, victim blaming, empty promises, propaganda, etc. to un-do a nuke. Putin wants to remain in power - which doesn't happen if there's no country left to govern.

baq on 2024-05-15

droughts are here now and will get worse in the coming decade. the amount of energy required to melt ice sheets (if that's what you're alluding to) is extremely huge and while it is certain they'll melt in a business as usual scenario (and possible if we stopped all emissions now...), it'll take hundreds if not thousands of years to get there.

whereas extreme droughts are here today, now, as we speak.

127 on 2024-05-15

Or maybe AI will just nuke humans to fix climate change.

gessha on 2024-05-15

Ah, good ol Gandhi strats

Jun8 on 2024-05-15

On the topic of “Mother Gaia” being a bloodthirsty bitch (how we humans like to anthropomorphize rather than grasp things as they are) see Tiptree’s excellent story: We may have come close to this being reality four years ago perhaps.

willyt on 2024-05-15

You forgot the H5N1 with 50% mortality rate raw milk thing. There is an article on Ars about raw milk drinkers actively seeking infected milk in the belief it will immunise them against H5N1. I’m not a biologist but this feels like it could be very dangerous to everyone.

aeonik on 2024-05-15

AGI will likely want low noise circuitry, so at least a rogue AI overlord would likely be aligned with the other two objectives.

Can't have high intensity radioactive and thermal noise messing with those world dominating algorithms.

KingOfCoders on 2024-05-15

Mother Gaia does not care about anything.

shrimp_emoji on 2024-05-15

Mother Gaia is a dirty bitch![0]


darby_eight on 2024-05-15

> The risk of the rise of AGI

can someone explain what the risk of this actually is? I just assumed it was a regulatory capture ploy.

IMO it is massively distracting from the very real and very measurable impact the global industry has on our climate.

kypro on 2024-05-15

I understand why some people might not weight the probability and risk of AGI as highly as others, but to deny the risk entirely, or to act as if it's ridiculous to be concerned about such things in my opinion is just an intellectually ignorant position to hold.

Obviously near-term AGI and climate change present us with near zero risk, and therefore certain groups will dismiss both. This is despite clear trends plotting towards very clear risks, but because these individuals are yet to see any negative impact with their own eyes it's all too easy for them to dismiss the risk as some kind of hysteria. But these risks are real and rational because the trends are real and clear. We should take both seriously.

The nuclear risk is real too, but unlike AGI and climate change the risk isn't exponentially increasing with time. I think other weapons like bioweapons and drone weapons potentially fit that risk profile, however.

darby_eight on 2024-05-15

> deny the risk entirely, or to act as if it's ridiculous to be concerned about such things in my opinion is just an intellectually ignorant position to hold.

This would take someone actually articulating what this risk you refer to is. All I have to go off of is Terminator, which is patently ridiculous. People in power would never relinquish this power to a computer without being able to dictate whom it benefits.

zeckalpha on 2024-05-15

This is the polycrisis.

morkalork on 2024-05-15

Letting off a few nukes could slow climate change a bit right? I vaguely recall that all the dust kicked up by the hundreds of tests in the 50s and 60s had an effect.

sushibowl on 2024-05-15

Possibly, but you have to keep doing it. kicking up dust into the atmosphere tends to have significant short-term impact on the global climate (see e.g. volcanic winters: Then the dust settles shortly and everything returns to normal.

But volcanic eruptions that cause a winter like that tend to be quite a bit more powerful than your average nuclear weapon. More importantly, not all dust is created equal. Sulphur containing compounds tend to have the biggest cooling effect. One neat (in a terrifying sort of way) geo-engineering idea is continuously injecting large amounts of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere.

triceratops on 2024-05-15

Drop a nuke into a volcano /s

unicornhose on 2024-05-15

Morbidly curious what would actually happen in this scenario.

Filligree on 2024-05-15

You’d create a lot of body thetans.

adrianN on 2024-05-15

It works best if the nukes hit densely populated areas, but I hope we manage to implement the solutions to climate change that don’t require killing billions.

bufferoverflow on 2024-05-15

Temperature problem can be solved relatively easily and cheaply by putting a bunch of reflective film all over the planet (mainly deserts).

Getting CO2 out of the atmosphere is actually expensive. But we will have to do it. High concentrations of CO2 reduce IQ and make humans actually uncomfortable.

shrimp_emoji on 2024-05-15

We are not at risk of runaway climate change. That's a common misconception and a convenient scare tactic.

We're also not at risk of runaway AGI any time soon. LLMs are a joke. Minds are computationally irreducible, and all our supercomputers can barely hold a baby fruit fly's connectome.

Unless you mean biological AGI. We're going to figure out genetic engineering far sooner than we'll get the hardware necessary for inorganic AGI. Once we master biology, we can genetically engineer organic super intelligences or, far sooner, superviruses whose genome can be uploaded into a nucleotide synthesizer in someone's garage. Then it's game over. Unless we've colonized Mars (which also helps with nuclear conflict).

EasyMark on 2024-05-15

Gaia isn't really a thing. There are only natural processes, chemistry, and physics, and there is definitely nothing motherly about them; they are ruthlessly efficient.

deepfriedchokes on 2024-05-16

If that is true of Gaia then that is true of you as well.

jibbit on 2024-05-15

now theres a list that "antibiotic resistant bacteria" fits into quite nicely

hsavit1 on 2024-05-15

You don’t understand the enormous immediate risk of climate change if you think that AGI is a comparable risk. Climate change is now and is killing people every day

rdlecler1 on 2024-05-15

Nature is out to kill us. We’re doing a far better job in this fight than we ever have. I’d rather deal with problem of climate change than the problems of our ancestors.

margalabargala on 2024-05-15

That's not true at all. Remember CFCs and the ozone layer? That was a comparable problem, except people actually stopped that one, by no longer emitting the gasses causing the issue.

SketchySeaBeast on 2024-05-15

I don't know that's it's comparable. The ozone required manufacturing changes, it didn't require an upheaval on how we live. Sure, it's "don't emit the bad gas", but the gases come from different sources.

mrexroad on 2024-05-15

The primary difference was that the ozone depletion didn't gain much traction as a political wedge and world leaders were able to take the threat seriously. 14 years after scientists published basic research warning of potential risk, the Montreal Protocol was signed. 25 years later there was a 98% reduction in release of ozone depleting substances and the ozone layer has begun to heal. Throughout all of that, DuPont lobbied and testified that ozone depletion was a hoax / fake news / scientists making stuff up / etc. Contrast that to today, where the entertainment news outlets have people, who don’t even cook, up in arms that someone will take away their god-given right to a gas range, and who in turn view it all as a hoax and conspiracy for corrupt politicians to profit.

I’m not sure the world would be able to pull off the Montreal protocol today, even if largely manufacturing changes and having to find a new hairspray brand.

margalabargala on 2024-05-15

I have the sense that people back in the 60-80s had a bit of an innate trust for scientists born out of the rapid technological progress that preceded that time period, but that has since gone away.

Things like CFCs were taken seriously. Things like radiation were taken seriously (for better or worse, yielding our insane regulatory landscape around building new nuclear power plants).

The last major thing that scientists warned about that was really taken seriously (in the sense that something was done about it before it had/would have had massive negative effects) was world overpopulation, with the publication of things like "The Population Bomb" and China's one-child policy, etc.

Unfortunately, that one was gotten wrong; we now know that without any intervention, world population will tend to moderate itself and we won't actually see mass starvation due purely to too many people. I think that error was the first major blow resulting in people no longer really trusting catastrophic predictions.

I wonder what the world would be like if instead climate change was put forth as a catastrophic issue with the same fervor back then.

smallerfish on 2024-05-15

I don't think that's the primary difference.

With the ozone layer, we already had alternatives to CFCs that were viable. A handful of companies lost out on product lines, but they're all still doing fine today. Individuals didn't have to do anything.

With the problem of CO2 emissions, lifestyle changes are required to fundamentally solve the issue, and people aren't willing to make them. Yes, it's possible that geoengineering can buy us some time. It's possible there will be a battery revolution. Renewable energy is increasingly widespread. But there's nothing right now that's a drop-in replacement. The only sure-fire solution that we have right now is a widespread reduction of consumption and mobility, and very few people are on board with that.

RHSman2 on 2024-05-15

Btw, we are nature, so you are right. We are the problem.

the_third_wave on 2024-05-15


wahnfrieden on 2024-05-15

AI doomers don’t even care about its harms today such as being used for automated American death panel decision-making, something that the Victims of Capitalism Memorial Foundation will recognize someday

cduzz on 2024-05-15

And climate change is now making many more people wealthy than AGI has and potentially ever will.

Reverse Carbon Sequestration employs a very large population.

usaar333 on 2024-05-15

Climate risk is extremely unlikely to be existential this century. And the mean GDP hits are pretty low all things considered. 30% or so in 2100.

AGI actually has a plausible case for existential risk and would result in a much greater GDP shift.

I'd put nukes above climate change. See does metaculus:

olalonde on 2024-05-15

Climate related deaths are at an all time low...[0]


duozerk on 2024-05-15

Ah yes, a "source" from Charles Koch's Cato Institute.

Do you really expect to be taken seriously with this "rebuttal" ?

olalonde on 2024-05-15

Here's another source using data from the "EM-DAT International Disaster Database"[0]. Excerpt from the article[1]:

> As we see, over the course of the 20th century there was a significant decline in global deaths from natural disasters. In the early 1900s, the annual average was often in the range of 400,000 to 500,000 deaths. In the second half of the century and into the early 2000s, we have seen a significant decline to less than 100,000 – at least five times lower than these peaks. This decline is even more impressive when we consider the rate of population growth over this period. When we correct for population – showing this data in terms of death rates (measured per 100,000 people) – then we see a more than 10-fold decline over the past century.



amanaplanacanal on 2024-05-15

Better weather prediction probably has a large hand in that.

Bluestrike2 on 2024-05-15

Well, for starters, the graph lopped off the first twenty years from the data set so that it could "start" from the massive peak in the 20s and 1930. The top reply to your original tweet is a retweet of two videos that rebut the graph.[0]

It's further skewed by the use of decadal averages, which hid the fact that the greatest peaks included deaths that were either the direct result of--or greatly worsened by, conflict and/or a handful of specific policy decisions--food production failures during and conflicts such as the Zhili-Anhui War in 1920-21[1], floods that occurred during the Chinese civil war which dramatically worsened responses and recovery, the Holodomor in Ukraine in 1932-33 and the Soviet famine of 1930-33 more broadly, the 1938 Yellow River Flood[2] following the intentional destruction of dikes in an attempt to slow the Japanese Army's advance, World War 2 more broadly in the 40s where you had both the food production interruptions of war on a massive scale and explicit acts of mass starvation, the Great Chinese Famine in 1959-61 which is considered to be one of the largest man-made disaster in history,[3] etc.

The graph falsely suggests that we've we've somehow stumbled upon a viable adaptation strategy that makes climate change nothing to worry about. Since 1900, we've seen massive medical advancements, improved early warning systems for at least some types of disasters, transportation networks and technology that helps move people away from disaster zones both before some disasters and in their aftermath, the ability to rapidly move large amounts of food to disaster areas, and more.

Those are all great achievements, but the largest factor in the decline your chart suggests (albeit through data misrepresentation) is the fact that we don't have massive conflicts on the scale we saw in the first half of the 20th century, genocidal dictators looking to quickly wipe out millions of people through starvation, or political ideology driving inane agricultural policies that killed tens of millions of people because the autocratic dictators of some of the most populous nations on Earth read some pseudoscientific drivel (Lysenko and others managed to inspire not only the Soviet Famine in the 30s but also the Great Chinese Famine in the late 50s) and decided it sounded pretty ideologically reliable. We still have conflict and famine, but nothing on the same scale.

Trying to take that and spin it as climate adaptation is, well, absurd. Even by climate skeptic standards, that argument's a real stinker.





olalonde on 2024-05-16

No matter how you want to spin it, there are relatively few climate related deaths today compared to the past. Climate change is not causing a rise in climate related deaths, which is what OP was essentially claiming.

lesuorac on 2024-05-15

Fundamentally just because the current value is at a low point doesn't make something not a threat.

The easy way to think about it by handwaving half-lives of an element. You start with 100 and end up with 50 for a 50% survival rate but also a raw loss of 50. Each of those remaining 50 still are going to have a 50% survival rate despite that the next raw loss is ~25.

But yeah; you can challenge the source of the argument as invalid as opposed to just challenging the argument as invalid.

wafriedemann on 2024-05-15


wafriedemann on 2024-05-15


dangus on 2024-05-15

I feel AGI and nuclear conflict have zero relevance to this article.

I also personally think the risk of nuclear conflict is pretty much zero.

pfdietz on 2024-05-15

I don't know about that; I could see everyone drifting into a conflict no one wants, WW1 style.

Recent events also are incentivizing small countries to go nuclear, which will increase the risk of nuclear war. I expect South Korea, Japan, and maybe even the Philippines and Vietnam to acquire nuclear weapons at some point. Japan already has a capability to acquire nuclear weapons quickly, with their separated reactor-grade Pu stockpile.

dangus on 2024-05-15

Acquiring nuclear weapons is not the same as using them.

Nuclear weapons aren’t a combat armament. They are an insurance policy. They are a way to get adversaries to leave you alone or bring you to the negotiating table.

I believe it was Kim Jong Il or Un or maybe both who directly stated this to insiders in their regime. They weren’t ever intended to be used, and those leaders were fully aware that any real conflict would result in their regime’s annihilation.

Their #1 goal was preservation of their family monarchy. Nuclear war is the opposite of that.


pfdietz on 2024-05-15

The argument "war won't occur, it's irrational" isn't a good one. Both WW1 and WW2 were irrational, but they happened anyway. If actors were perfectly rational no wars would occur.

oldpersonintx on 2024-05-15


api on 2024-05-15

The risk of global thermonuclear war is low since it would require one of the major powers to go suicidally mad.

The risk of local or regional nuclear conflict as part of a larger scale war is high.

swader999 on 2024-05-15

We all work in complex systems and see first hand how fragile and error prone they are. Yet you think the risk of nuclear war is low even though the programs rely on similar types of systems?

TeMPOraL on 2024-05-15

Human-driven systems, embedded in the real world, are still inefficient enough[0] that they are much more resilient than the kind of systems we work with. At the very least, each part of the system has the ability to independently evaluate the process they're a part of, and stop it in its tracks if they think a fatal mistake is about to happen. See e.g. Stanislav Petrov and be thankful his job wasn't automated, or we'd not be here to talk about it.


[0] - Which, in this context, is a good thing.

EGreg on 2024-05-15

You’re pretty much alone in that

AtlasBarfed on 2024-05-15

Putin is backed in a corner.

You are praying their arsenal isn't launch capable anymore.

actionfromafar on 2024-05-15

I'd put a higher risk number of nuke throwing starting between smaller countries, like Pakistan, or Iran. Putin strikes me as more like a coward than suicide bomber.

bbarnett on 2024-05-15

Putin is quite old and will die soon. My concern is the chaos which follows, as Putin has killed all strong contenders for power.

It shows how little he cares, for the best thing a leader can do for a nation is to ensure a strong successor. The resulting civil war in Russia is where the nukes may appear.


AtlasBarfed on 2024-05-17

Honestly I wonder if a lookalike will simply continue on. I know it's conspiratorial but Putin has looked a lot healthier.

srackey on 2024-05-15

If you stop looking at the internet it immediately becomes clear nothing is happening.

Apocalyptic thinking is not the mark of a healthy mind.

alfor on 2024-05-15

CO2: slow, decades, centuries

AI: fast, month to years and exponential

Nuclear: risky but has been with us for 70 years already

Conclusion: climate change is not a real concern, tech will improve so much in the next decade as to make all our assumptions obsolete.

kylebenzle on 2024-05-15

1. AGI doesn't even exist and Sam Altman and I agree on one thing, GPTs will not get us there. Saying AGI is a risk is like saying the sun exploding is a risk.

2. Nuclear conflict is real, it's astounding Pakistan or Russia hasnt used the bomb yet but they will when the US backs them into a corner.

3. Climate change? At this point, who cares? We know it's happening and happening VERY slowly so we have PLENTY of time to get ready. Theres no real risk other than failing to move away from the cost in the next 100 years. International shipping and big ag are the largest polluters by far and those ain't stopping.

huygens6363 on 2024-05-15

Fear of AGI is not based on Altman’s latest brews. Look at the progress curve of AI in general is one way to get a feeling for it. The other one, which I prefer, is looking at existing AIs for which we thought human ingenuity was top notch and how they are beating us left and right. Strategy, creativity, cunning, all human notions that are being slaughtered. Slowly, but surely.

It is “just” a matter of combining. I think it’s an “engineering problem” by now. Which is not to say that it will happen soon, just that if we set our minds to it it won’t be that big of a deal.

blueflow on 2024-05-15

I'm patiently waiting for my sysadmin job to be automated away. AGI, its time to deliver! I'm waiting. Should have happened yesterday?

Workaccount2 on 2024-05-15

AGI by 2030 is not a reach statement at all anymore.

The LLM's we have today weren't supposed to show up until 2030 at the earliest and 2050 more realistically. If you go back 10 years and read what people were writing about AI progress, you will find that they were _completely_ off the mark. It's prudent to assume a very liberal timeline for AI progress, based off whats been happening now.

short_sells_poo on 2024-05-15

I'm loving this absolutely breathless parroting of "AGI in the next 5 years" and yet: we don't even know what general intelligence is. We don't know how/why/where consciousness arises. It's not even a clearly defined concept. But here we have "Workaccount2" prophesizing the rise of general intelligence :D

Please enlighten us sensei, what is actually General Intelligence, and how will you know it's here?

I realize my reply is a bit flippant, but it's tiring to see how certain are people about something that nobody truly understands.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

AGI has nothing to do with consciousness, unless consciousness is for some reason required to attain it (which doesn't seem like it's the case).

AGI simply means that we can create a type of machine that can do any kind of mental task that a human can, at least at a human level.

short_sells_poo on 2024-05-15

Consciousness appears to be a form of intelligence. Is it required for general intelligence (whatever that means)? We don't know. Would humans be classified as having general intelligence if we weren't conscious? In any case, I perhaps worded that poorly. I wasn't saying that consciousness is the same as intelligence, it was just an example of how little we actually understand intelligence.

> AGI simply means that we can create a type of machine that can do any kind of mental task that a human can, at least at a human level.

What does this even mean? What is human level? The ability to write a symphony? Or the ability to calculate 2+2=4? These are such poorly defined metrics that I don't understand how can we then start throwing around very precise (and short!) timelines for attaining it.

The statement: "we'll send a human mission to Mars in the next 5 years" is 10x more believable than this breathless AGI hype, because at least the former is well defined.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

> I wasn't saying that consciousness is the same as intelligence, it was just an example of how little we actually understand intelligence.

I would say that current AI's do have a kind of intelligence. It's just not generic enough that we label it AGI.

Add an ability to form, optimize an execute plans while also increasing the physical world model, and we're getting really close.

Both of these abilities are already being developed.

Workaccount2 on 2024-05-15

Ironically I often post the exact same sentiment that you are sharing. But you are conflating two different things.

AGI doesn't require consciousness. We likely will have no idea whether or not the first AGI computer is conscious or not. What we will know though, is that it is solving novel problems that humans struggle with, and from the outside the only way to discern it isn't another human is because it is way to smart to be one.

I strongly suspect that the first computers which actually are conscious (AGI or not), whenever that happens, will have to fight a heavy uphill battle to prove it. And there will always be a group of people who will never believe an AI (is it even artificial at that point?) is conscious.

short_sells_poo on 2024-05-15

I didn't say that AGI requires consciousness, just that we don't understand what intelligence truly is, along with consciousness (which appears to be a form of intelligence).

And I'm not particularly keen of the reasoning: "it is solving novel problems that humans struggle with", because a pocket calculator can solve problems that humans struggle with. A computer can play chess better than a human can, does it mean it's an AGI?

Workaccount2 on 2024-05-15

Wikipedia has an entire article for helping to understand what "AGI" refers to:

blueflow on 2024-05-15

10 years ago we just had another AI hype. I want to see delivered promises & my job automated before i change my mind.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

We're still in the same AI hype as 10 years ago. You just stopped noticing for a while. It really hasn't stopped since AlexNet back in 2012.

Personally, since I first started to learn about Neural Nets in the 90's, I've always predicted that they would bring AGI around the time they matched human brains in complexity and compute power. Back then, assuming Moore's law meant that would be between 2030-40.

Now, there was always the prospect of a serious breakdown of Moore's Law, which might delay it, but since that didn't happen (compute power just moved from CPU's to GPU's), we're now approaching the final stretch. Human brain scale neural nets are already being planned, if not already being built in secret.

Workaccount2 on 2024-05-15

Every promise has over delivered by a decade or more, so don't worry, you'll likely have your legs up 20 years faster than promised.

Delmololo on 2024-05-15

The fact that you can now ask an LLM in a chat like fashion is absolutely irrelevant to you?

Not an achievement at all?

Talking to an ai?

Generating any image you like?


trashtester on 2024-05-15

25 years ago, I did a back-of-the envelope calculation during a party and came up with roughly 2040. I didn't know that Kurzweil had already predicted 2029. Once I heard about it, I felt Kurzweil was over-optimistic, and stuck to 2040. Recently, though, it has started to seem that AGI before 2029 is more likely than 2040 or after.

TeMPOraL on 2024-05-15

The only AI remotely generic enough for that exists for like 2 years. Give it a few more, you might just get your wish.

kylebenzle on 2024-05-15


huygens6363 on 2024-05-16

I don’t know what “sysadmin” is today anymore, but we don’t need AGI to get rid of that.

Delmololo on 2024-05-15


BirAdam on 2024-05-15

Well, also, plastic waste getting dumped in water ways, and in the USA, steel and coal waste being dumped into the Ohio (causing a huge dead zone in the Gulf). There are serious pollution problems everywhere, and I kind of hate the climate change narrative for taking people’s eyes off of those problems.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

AI is already developing enzymes that can break down plastics. Put them on bacteria, and that plastic may stop being a problem quickly.

kmeisthax on 2024-05-15

Which is great until plastics that we want to keep using start getting eaten by bacteria.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

sure. we may have to chose whether or not plastics should be biodegradable. Cant have your cake and eat it, too.

Filligree on 2024-05-15

Wood is biodegradable, but wood houses work anyway. Ditto cotton. So long as you keep things dry they don’t tend to rot.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

Exactly. Plastic will be the same at some point. Natural selection would probably lead to plastic-eating bacteria anyway. DeepMind's enzymes are just a way to speed it up.

KronisLV on 2024-05-15

Hey, aren't you the user who was trolling I'm that one thread about someone making an app?

Oh well, some concerns around AGI might be attempts at marketing and attracting attention, though some caution probably isn't too bad to have. AGI might become a thing, it's just that there's no guarantee that it will happen in our lifetimes. On the other hand, even LLMs will put some folks out of a job.

Relations between nuclear powers are anyone's guess but there's no reason why Russia couldn't be forced to back off, as opposed to "being backed into a corner". Wouldn't be the first proxy war and most likely won't be the last.

I care about climate change, there are certainly others. No idea whether much of a change will be made in our current course, but there's no reason to be super dismissive. If anything, recycling, eating a bit less meat or doing lots of the other common recommendations improves my own quality of life, even if the legislature that goes after the big corporations is nowhere to be seen yet. No reason not to make the world a better place, or ar least try to, in whatever ways are viable, like donating towards planting trees or something like Wren.

duozerk on 2024-05-15

> happening VERY slowly

> failing to move away from the cost in the next 100 years

Unless you're a time-traveler from the 50s who has somehow managed to post here, there is no excuse for this type of disinformation these days.

Mentioning higher sea levels is also a red herring; massive agricultural yields collapse will be an issue long before (like, this century) sea levels become a major problem.

More than this, we have now reached levels of atmospheric changes that put actual near-term Human extinction (not to mention that of most sea and land species) on the table.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

This doesn't seem to agree with IPCC predictions. What's your source?

duozerk on 2024-05-15

Despite the IPCC being very conservative/optimistic in their scenarios, this is in fact in line with their reports; admittedly my comment above might be badly worded - when I said "near-term", I meant "in the upcoming two centuries or so".

The IPCC reports say we might reach 4C, 5C or even more; based on the historical record, such a major change in such a short time - several orders of magnitude faster than previous CO2e-gases-linked mass extinction events - likely cannot be adapted to by the majority of species (there will of course also be a few evolutionary winners), resulting in potential extinction. I also quote the latest draft report from that same IPCC, leaked about two years back by concerned involved scientists to newspapers before the usual step where political stakeholders are allowed to reword the parts they deem too disturbing or against their interests:

"Life on Earth can recover from a drastic climate shift by evolving into new species and creating new ecosystems," it says. "Humans cannot."

baq on 2024-05-15

The IPCC also consistently underestimated sulphur in the atmosphere because if you look at this and previous years we've reached their 2030-2035 goal of warming this year.

> GHG emissions will lead to increasing global warming in the near term, and it’s likely this will reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2035.

> Global temperatures have been exceptionally high over the past three months – at around 1.6C above pre-industrial levels – following the peak of current El Niño event at the start of 2024.

> The past 10 months have all set new all-time monthly temperature records, though the margin by which new records have been set has fallen from around 0.3C last year to 0.1C over the first three months of 2024.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

There is lots of space on earth that would be a lot more hospitable to humans if 5C warmer. Like the central eurasian steppe.

duozerk on 2024-05-15

You can't grow food for a large population when average planetary temps are at +5C. It doesn't mean it's locally always +5C warmer than it used to be; it means you're seeing insane temperature swings in a matter of days, constantly - in both directions, it just so happens that the average is +5C.

Not to mention, at +5C it is all but certain shallow methane hydrate deposits (those stabilized by temperature, not pressure) all over the world are now outgassing CH4; not to mention several other similar tripwires, and likely not all of which we've even identified.

Edit: I can't seem to be able to reply to your comment below, not sure why. You're absolutely wrong about those Siberia figures, and they're not supported by current scientific consensus.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

If you farm a siberia that's 5 degrees warmer and more humid (also in ipcc data), you can maybe feed 10 billion just from there.

baq on 2024-05-15

average is an average, you're forgetting about extremes.

it only takes a few days (or hours) of above wet bulb temperatures to kill humans who live in and around the tropics today.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

So people will move out of those worst affected areas.

baq on 2024-05-15

Exactly. Hundreds of millions of them.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

Sure. That could happen. Or there could be wars/conflicts resulting in some of those not having anywhere to go.

Still, this scenario is quite different from human extinction, which is what I was responding to further up.

triceratops on 2024-05-15

What's the soil quality over there?

duozerk on 2024-05-15

Much of the soil in Russia that will warm is indeed acidic and largely inexploitable, which I suspect is what you were getting at; to their credit though, they picked an area that isn't (IIRC). Not that it changes much.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

Most soil can be used for some type of farming with some help from fertilizers. Temperature and access to water is more critical. Higher CO2 also increases crops, in isolation.

We're also talking about a time span of 100-300 years. Keep in mind how much more efficient farming is now compared to even the 1950's.

jpadkins on 2024-05-15

1) Is real but will have net positive impact on humanity (of course there will be losers, but like most new technologies humans will have more for less effort)

2) It is real but unlikely to end humanity. Much more likely to create large areas that are unlivable, but a lot of work has gone into avoiding world ending scenarios.

3) Is mostly hype. Doom predictions in the last 20 years on this topic have been very wrong. The climate is always changing, and humans will have to adapt as always (+1 to 2C increase over 100 years is not world ending). The long term problem will be prevented by a) running out of cheap carbon based energy b) geo-engineering c) rise of cheaper non carbon based energy (related to a).

Asteroid impact or pandemic / virus / man-made bioweapon are all higher probability humanity ending risk IMHO. Not enough thought & energy are put into those scenarios.

jtolds on 2024-05-15

How can this be such a top-voted answer? What?

Without even going into the unsubstantiated assertion with #1, your comment on number 3 shows a dramatic misunderstanding of how compounding effects work. You can't use the last 20 years to linearly project like this. It is true that most scientists agree that humanity will likely not go completely extinct, but it is also true that most scientists agree that many, many individual humans will be impacted. It is tough to say just exactly how humans will be impacted, but think famine, war, major societal upheaval.

Here's a citation if it helps:

mike_hearn on 2024-05-15

He said 20 years of doom predictions that haven't come true. Compounding effects don't apply to the accuracy of academic predictions. It's not like academic accuracy automatically gets exponentially better over time. Linear projection when attempting to guesstimate the accuracy of future predictions by a group of people who have also made predictions in the past is a fairly reasonable thing to do, unless you have some specific evidence that they significantly improved their methodology.

Your citation is merely an advocacy piece, not science. For example the first diagram contains charts of fertility rates, institutional assets divested and world GDP whilst claiming they are "climate related human activities". Presenting a nearly random collection of metrics as evidence for your argument isn't a sign of robust thinking or argumentation.

jtolds on 2024-05-15

When someone says "20 years of doom predictions haven't come true", I charitably assumed that claim was about scientific consensus predictions, but perhaps I can't assume that everyone shares knowledge of what that is.

So far, all data says that the climate scientists are dead on and have been very accurate:

What doom predictions from the last 20 years haven't come true? If someone says that doom hasn't happened yet, I guess what I want to say is that they haven't waited long enough.

I think the climate scientists are frustrated and giving up. My initial link was an attempt to show where the Overton window is regarding the experts in this field, more than anything else. This comment is probably not the right place to bring someone up to speed with the climate science field when they can Google it themselves.

mike_hearn on 2024-05-15

Although it's not well known, you unfortunately can't use temperature data to judge whether climatological predictions are correct. That's because the databases of temperature data that are presented as "global temperature" (a fundamentally statistical product) are themselves maintained by climatologists. It's a bit like asking a CEO whether his products are good, and he cites his own private data on customer happiness to prove that it is. Lots of people wouldn't accept this as evidence because it's not independent. The data might be correct, but his salary is at stake and so there's the risk of shenanigans. You'd want a truly independent assessment.

Climatologists like to claim that they are of course far better than that and would never abuse their monopoly position on such data, but they also regularly change those databases in ways that retroactively make failing predictions correct. Like here [1] where they declared a new record-breaking temperature that was lower than their previously announced record. They didn't mention that anywhere but the previous press release was still on their website and somebody noticed.

Anyway, you're right, let's Google things. Here are a few failed predictions from 20 years ago that can be judged without using temperature databases:

• Dr David Viner, climatologist, March 2000. "Children just aren't going to know what snow is". David Parker, climatologist, same article. "British children could have only virtual experience of snow." [2]

"Australia faces permanent drought due to climate change", 2003 [3]. Dr James Risbey, Center for Dynamical Meteorology and Oceanography at Melbourne's Monash University, says "the situation is probably not being confronted as full-on as it should". Current data shows no drought [4]

• Pentagon report, 2004 [5]. By 2020 the weather in Britain "will begin to resemble Siberia", by 2007 violent storms have rendered parts of the Netherlands uninhabitable. "A ‘significant drop’ in the planet’s ability to sustain its present population will become apparent over the next 20 years". "Immigrants from Scandinavia seek warmer climes to the south." None of that is even close. "Senior climatologists, however, believe that [the author's] verdicts could prove the catalyst in forcing Bush to accept climate change as a real and happening phenomenon."

There are hundreds more like this. It's inevitable that people take this history into account, and kinda unfair to demand that people don't. If there had been rigorous investigations of what went wrong in these cases, and clear evidence of learning or regulation of the field in the same way as happens in other areas of life after big failures, then people's confidence might be higher.







mrexroad on 2024-05-15

Care to back these up with some facts/data?

> Is mostly hype. Doom predictions in the last 20 years on this topic have been very wrong.

> +1 to 2C increase over 100 years is not world ending

abdullahkhalids on 2024-05-15

Average increase of temperature has negative consequences, but the accompanying variance increase has a lot more catastrophic impact. Storms, forest fires, floods, droughts are some of those things where increased variance can screw societies over.

A lot of this can push insurance costs so high, that insurance companies stop working. There are only so many times insurance can payout damage due to extreme storms, or crop failure. Once insurance stops, there is rapid deterioration of infrastructure.

breakyerself on 2024-05-15

This is what passes for common sense when you live in a conservative media bubble. The mainstream of climate science as represented by the IPCC has tended to be over conservative when it comes to how much change we should expect over a given period of time.

Right wing media outlets focus on the the predictions of lay people like Al Gore and Greta Thunberg and use those to try to dismiss the entire field of climatology. Which is a non sequitur.

jmyeet on 2024-05-15

I'm not that worried about nuclear conflict because it's a scenario where literally nobody wins. There's always the "Madman" hypothesis but really that's no way to do geopolitical analysis. Nobody is truly "crazy" (IMHO). Remember those orders have to be carried out by someone. They've studies on this with missile silo operators and they had a disturbing or comforting (depending on your POV) tendency to not launch.

It's really the "slow death" scenarios that are a much bigger risk.

While I'm firmly in the AGI camp, I'm both fatalistic about our willingness to do anything about it but I'm also highly skeptical of the "runaway climate change" doomsaying. The Earth has been around for ~4.5 billion years. While it's only been similar to what it is now for th elast 300 million or so, that's still a really long time. We've had periods where ice extended to the equator (~500 million years ago). We've had much warmrer periods.

The Earth will be fine. We however might fall by the wayside. There's really been such a long period of time that if runaway climate change were going to happen, why hasn't it happened already?

trashtester on 2024-05-15

> There's really been such a long period of time that if runaway climate change were going to happen, why hasn't it happened already?

I don't think runaway climate change or even something like a reversal of the Gulf Stream were ever any of the mainstream scenarios from IPCC. The worst scenarios, IIRC, were a global warming of +6 to 10C.

And that is over several centuries, provided we do nothing to stop it.

This century, the worst scenarios are about 4C hotter than today.

Also, it's not like the temperature is going up that much everywhere. For instance, heating an area near water from 34 to 38C means a lot more water evaporation, and thus more cooling. Also, stronger winds mean the humidity may be blown away more quickly.

Now even 4C of heating, provided we don't develop any technologies to either counter it or cope with it could cause a disaster that could cause similar disruptions, forced displacements etc as WW2, but the world didn't end because of WW2. It was only a minor speed bump in the grand scope of things.

Anyway, the probability that it should take 100s of years to reach AGI seems quite slim. And once we have AGI/ASI, the world is going to be so fundamentally different that I'm not sure how much some warming really means, at least for humans.

duozerk on 2024-05-15

At 4C of heating, you cannot grow food in any reasonable quantity with any reliability, period. 4C is the collapse of modern civilization at the very least (in fact likely earlier due to increased geopolitical instability and tensions due to dwindling resources, combined with the availability of nuclear weapons), with a massive die-off of humans along with it.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

Many places could increase food production to twice what it is today if 5C warmer.

duozerk on 2024-05-15

We're at +1.5C, more or less, and growing the usual grapes in France - of all places - is already becoming much harder (they keep dying of frost after waking up due to wild temperature swings).

At +5C, there is no growing food in any substantial amount outside of high tech, low yield approaches; approaches that depend on complex planetary supply chains (both for initial deployment and maintenance), which will have disappeared by then.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

> At +5C, there is no growing food in any substantial amount outside of high tech,

It seems you have some specific geographic region in mind. Earth has a lot of regions that are more than 5C colder than the most fertile regions.

People adapt. People move. Sometimes they fight wars about it. This has happened many times before.

We're currently living it the most peaceful, prosperous and safest period that humanity has ever experienced. (Despite what social media is tricking our brains into believing). In the future we will surely live through periods that are closer to the average. But I'm not seeing any extinction-level events due to climate change within the next few hundred years.

AGI or nukes, on the other hand, they both DO have the potential to end us as a species.

saagarjha on 2024-05-16

You seem to think that a couple of degrees just applies uniformly across the planet, or to a specific location, transforming somewhere cold into something which is now suddenly hospitable. That isn't how climate change works. It doesn't mean that Canada will suddenly be nice and balmy year-round; it means that the climate will fluctuate more wildly and wreak havoc on our agriculture, as described in the comment above. The temperature change is a global average, and your local experience is going to be a lot worse at the extremes.

trashtester on 2024-05-16

> You seem to think that a couple of degrees just applies uniformly across the planet

I don't believe that at all. I even studied the IPCC for how their various scenarios lead to different levels of increased heat in different places.

When it comes to fluctuations, there are several types. An obvious one is wind, which will probably become noticeably more chaotic with more energy. Another is temperature.

Temperature variations generally depend on humidity and wind. As winds get stronger, that in isolation leads to some increase in temperature variations.

For humidity (both at ground level and in the atmosphere), increased humidity leads to lower temperature variations.

There are also precipitation. Higher temperatures lead to heavier rain (when it rains), and can increase the likelihood of hailstorms.

There are also extreme weather patterns that become more common when it gets colder. While tropical storms and hurricanes increase in frequency in hot weather, more laminar storms ("winter gales") get more common when the weather is colder. I believe this is because the LACK of turbulence/chaos means there are fewer factors that can break up such storms.

This last type is common in places like Canada, Scandinavia or Siberia now, and come almost exclusively during winter.

Btw, the impact of increased temperature on weather is something that we can already observe on Earth today, simply by travelling between different weather zones. While SOME of the extra energy can affect areas far away from where the heating occurs, a lot of the effects are local or regional.

That means that it's likely that Temperate Zone type weather is going to shift a bit to the North, and include a greater proportion of Canada, Scandinavia and Russia. These areas will then get weather more similar to places like the US/German/China today.

The southern parts of the temperate zone is likely to see weather patterns that resemble tropical (or desert) weather zones. Much of the US can be more like Mexico, France can be more like Morocco or Greece, Sothern China more like Thailand, and so on.

This means that areas that get warmer AND dryer (like Spain, Italy and France, probably) will get some of the variations currently seen in Sahara.

But it doesn't mean that the temperature fluctuations get greater everywhere. Some areas become more humid, and that means lower fluctuations.

Btw, for humans, dryer weather can be an advantage, since it allows us to dissipate heat much more easily. For farming it's less ideal. Places like Saudi Arabia could go in the opposite direction, with higher humidity and more rain, farming could become easier, but the risk of wet bulbs could also go up.

Anyway, while it is true that more energy in the atmosphere ON average increases the frequency of most types of extreme weather, it is not true that it will increase all types of extreme weather everywhere.

EDIT: Here's a map:

saagarjha on 2024-05-17

Ok, but I fail to see why we would want to increase extreme weather on average? Like, if we happen to make some part of the planet a little better for agriculture by accident, while ruining the rest of it, how is that a good thing?

trashtester on 2024-05-17

Do you actually believe people think the warming is a good thing?

People want to drive their car, heat or aircon their house, go an vacation and use or consume all sorts of products that require energy to produce.

And even just scrolling facebook means a lot of energy is used in some data center.

This has side effects. Most cars will spew poisonous gas out the back, into the city where people live. Some of them die from those fumes, most don't. People still drive cars, because they think the benefits outweigh the costs.

Global warming is similar.

mrguyorama on 2024-05-15

"5C warmer" doesn't mean a uniform increase in temperature of 5 degrees at all times. It means "5 * the thermal mass of the earth's biosphere" worth of extra energy in an extremely chaotic system that is currently in a local stable point, but doesn't have to stay there.

trashtester on 2024-05-16

Just to clarify. The reason I didn't respond to this one:

> "5C warmer" doesn't mean a uniform increase in temperature of 5 degrees at all times.

Is because I thought it was completely obvious that this is correct. I've seen that several responses thought I ignored and argued that 5C warming would be the same everywhere, while what I meant by "5C warming" was "the effect of a global 5C warming".

What I DID think was the main message was this one:

> It means "5 * the thermal mass of the earth's biosphere" worth of extra energy in an extremely chaotic system that is currently in a local stable point, but doesn't have to stay there.

While I agree that a "5C global warming scenario" may mean that the average temperature in Lyon, and even that the VARIANCE of the temperature IN LYON may go up quite a lot, I did have objections with the hypothesis that the chaos would be the main factor leading to variations in temperature.

While, for the global average, increased energy in the atmosphere may lead to SOME increase in the variation in temperature, I don't think that variations in temperature depends nearly as much on the energy in the atmosphere as other types of extreme weather, such as hurricanes, heavy rain, hail storms etc. (And effects of those, such as destroyed crops, damage to property or flooding).

Changes in humidity seems to be a much greater factor in the variability of temperature than this extra energy has.

If you check the IPCC projections for changes in precipitation patters, maximum and minimum yearly temperatures, you will find that in areas where precipitation is expected to increase, the minimum yearly temperature goes up a LOT more than the maximum yearly temperature goes up, especially so in the sub-arctic part of Eurasia (like Siberia).

Meanwhile, in areas that are expected to get dryer (including Spain, France and Italy), the minimum yearly temperature hardly increases at all, while the maximum temperature goes up a lot more than the global average.

Basically this means that some vineyards in France, Italy and Spain may have to move to more robust crops, like maybe olives. But it also means that new areas open up that may become more favorable to vineyards, for instance in Germany, Poland or even southern Sweden.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

A 5C warming is indeed likely to make a few areas uninhabitable. I'm not saying climate change is not a problem. I'm just saying it's not an extinction event.

But keep in mind that the areas that tend to get the greatest warming tend to be the dry ones. In such places, sweating will still allow human bodies to regulate body heat, if air conditioning breaks down.

mrexroad on 2024-05-15

I think you missed the above comment’s point about risk to stability in a chaotic system…

trashtester on 2024-05-15

That part looked like gibberish.... Maybe rewrite to make it more clear?

dTal on 2024-05-15

From a different comment whose main thrust you also ignored (you are all over this thread with the same fallacy):

>It doesn't mean it's locally always +5C warmer than it used to be; it means you're seeing insane temperature swings in a matter of days, constantly - in both directions, it just so happens that the average is +5C.

trashtester on 2024-05-16

"Wild temperature swings" is already quite common in dry places. Sahara can be below freezing during the night. The IPCC predicts that Southern Europe will get dryer, so they will have larger variations.

More humid areas, especially if they're near coasts tend to be a lot more stable.

I think these tendencies will remain true.

While introducing more energy to the atmosphere is likely to generate more winds (including hurricanes), it doesn't seem plausible to me that (given constant humidity) this will be enough to cause enough variation in temperature to make farming impossible in most places.

If you have some reference (preferably something like IPCC, as opposed to something that could be fringe), I would be willing to reconsider.

> you are all over this thread with the same fallacy

Maybe you could state exactly what fallacy you think I'm advocating for? I'm not saying global warming is something good and that we don't need to worry about.

I just don't think it's a likely extinction level threat, like an asteroid, rogue AI, nuclear war, an alien invation etc. Unlike those others, it's almost certain that we will experience some degree of global warming, but if that's the worst we will face, humanity will survive as a species.

Also, there is a couple of other factors:

First of all, I think many that worry about climate change (beyond those who honestly think it will lead to extinction) really care mostly about all the pain and suffering that global warming could bring at some point, at least to some large minority of humanity. Maybe also that it will cause a non-trivial fraction of the population to die from famine, wet bulbs etc.

I don't think that's impossible (though maybe a bit pessimistic, see below), but I think the fallacy that the these people make, is to assume that we will have a future world without such events. Historically, we have seen that bad things have happend from time to time.

The collapse of the Roman Empire caused half the population to die off (partly due to colder weather). The Black Death caused a similar percentage to perish in many place. The Mongol conquests resulted in large parts of the Eurasian steppes to be so depopulated that they still haven't recovered. Then the were the world wars, Bronze Age collapse, and the list goes on.

The future is likely to bring similar events, too. Climate change could possibly be such an event. But usually, these events are not those we expect, but rather some kind of Black Swan that surprises everyone.

The second fallacy that some climate change fanatics seem to ignore, and this one by choice, it seems: We're still very much in a kind of exponential technological development. 200 years is a very long time, and unless the technological development suddenly grinds to a complete halt, we will have a lot of new options both when it comes to minimizing global warming and also to survive any warming we're not able to prevent.

People seem to choose to ignore this based on a better-safe-than-sorry philosophy. That's ok when dealing with risk that we aim to reduce to zero, as long as the cost is low. Kind of putting on a seatbelt when driving.

What many don't seem to realize, is that this is a luxery belief / first world concern. For someone less privileged, like most countries in South Asia or Africa (and also working class people in the west), access to cheap energy now is seen as really important. That means for such people, some risk is acceptable.

Kind of like if the seatbelt on your car is broken, and the nearest grocery store is 20 km away. Do you walk there, or do you drive the car regardless. To do that risk evaluation, you want to know the real risk of driving without the seatbelt.

Similarly, for those most affected short term by for instance ending most fossil fuel use, the REAL risk associated with global warming is relevant.

And to evaluate that, it's actually really relevant to factor in that humanity is likely to grow a lot in technological capability to face new challenges over the next 100-300 years. How much is a matter of opinion, but zero is unreasonable.

As far as I can tell, the most likely scenario is that Climate Change is going to be a challenge for humanity. My best guess is that in most places on Earth, people will find ways to deal with this challenge. But I'm open for the possibility that 100s of millions might die because of it.

I also realize that global warming could be a factor leading up to a nuclear war. I really don't think it would be the main factor, though. I consider nuclear war as a separate risk category.

Most wars are caused by nationalism or religious conflicts, especially betwen the kinds of countries that are likely to have large arsenals. The obvious current example is Ukraine. It's not a famine that drives Putin, it's a desire to Make Russia Great Again.

Compared to reasons such as nationalism, religion or even ideological conflicts, I think global warming would be a significantly smaller risk factor in terms of how it increases the risk of global war.

Another huge uncertainty is the what population Earth will have in the future. Already, it's pretty clear that the population in most developed parts of the world is going to decline rapidly over at least the next 50 years. Population growth is mostly restricted to South Asia and Africa now, and even in South Asia there are indications that it's going down.

It's certainly possible that this can be reversed completely, but if the current trend continues (and assuming Africa also has this trend eventually), the population could be halved every century. That means we will be only 1 billion by 2300.

On the other hand, if the trend reverses back to exponential population growth, we may be up to 30 billion or so by 2300 (unless prevented by starvation).

This is a huge gap! With only 1 billion, it would be far easier both to minimize global warming and to survive it. With 30 billion, it would be very difficult to prevent global warming and also much harder to deal with it when it comes.

And all of this hinges on us being unable to develop AGI/ASI this century. Which is starting to seem unlikely. Most of the researches in the field seem to expect AGI some time in the range from "within 5 years" to "several decades".

If we DO develop AGI before 2100, the exact circumstances around it is going to matter way more than global warming. At the optimistic end, AGI may find ways to completely end global warming.

Or it could cause human extinction before it matters.

So it's not that I don't "believe" in global warming. I generally accept the scientific consensus in most fields, as long as the field actually uses something like the scienific method, and is not just a cover for some ideology.

It's just that it seems to me that many "True Believers" in climate change turn it into something more similar to a religion than the actual science it's based on. And that this causes them to only see this single issue, while generally ignoring almost all other risk factors we're likely to face in the future.

mrexroad on 2024-05-15

Stability in a chaotic system is precarious. Changes, even if small or seemingly trivial, can cause massive cascading effects from positive/negative feedback loops.

Sigh, I don’t mean to sound like a dick, but if that’s gibberish then you might want to strengthen some of the foundational understandings around systems.

trashtester on 2024-05-16

I'm familiar with chaos theory, and not rejecting issues related to chaotic systems. But this part doesn't really seem well formed:

> It means "5 * the thermal mass of the earth's biosphere" worth of extra energy

Here it seems that the units were missing, at best. The extra energy would be "5K * the heat capacity of the biosphere (in J/K)"

> in an extremely chaotic system that is currently in a local stable point, but doesn't have to stay there.

First of all, I don't think the current state is THAT stable. And when it comes to any disturbance to the stability caused by the extra energy, that's what we have climate scientists for. Specifically, those are the ones that need to assign specific probabilities to the varous scenarios available.

For instance, while it is POSSIBLE that a result of the chaotic dynamics of the system would be that the Gulf Stream got reversed, it seems that the curren consensus is that this is highly unlikely.

However, there are a lot of other effects that would be highly likely, such as an increased rate of hurricanes for instance. But hurricanes is not a state of the whole system, it's basically just a type of weather that gets more common.

So, maybe "gibberish" was not the perfect word to describe it, as I was able to parse it. It's just that it didn't say anything specific. It was more at the level "It's getting chaotic, and chaos is scary", without making any specific predictions or producing references.

goatlover on 2024-05-15

Source for these claims?

darksaints on 2024-05-15

Really? You’ve never met someone with the “if I can’t have it, nobody can” mindset? Never heard of a custody dispute where the losing parent kills the kids in order to deprive the other parent of them?

Vladimir Putin is exactly that kind of person. When backed into a corner and knowing he will die, he would rather nuke the whole world than accept his fate. And those orders will be carried out by people in heavily restricted information silos, who only have the explanation of their commanding officers as reasoning. For all they know, this is a test, or the US already has launched their nukes, or if they don’t launch the nukes their mom will be dropped out of a window.

jmyeet on 2024-05-15

So this is a learning opportunity for the differences between "idealism" and "materialism".

"Idealism", which unfortunately underpins all mainstream political discourse, is simply that certain actors (people, states, etc) are good because they're good or they're bad because they're bad. It's really the Marvel view of the world. There are good guys and bad guys. Idealism is a completely inadequate way to view the world because it simply reflects the propaganda that's effectively sold the idea of who the good guys and bad guys are.

"Materialism" is a broadd term that originates in the philosophy that people affect the material world and the material world affects people. More specifically to this point, it's the idea that people do things for a reason. That doesn't mean the reason is justified or sound or good. But there is a world view that underpins any actions by any actor.

So when it comes to wars, the idealist will say one side are the good guys and the other side are the bad guys and never go any deeper than that. The materialist will derive that all wars come down to the desire for resources and land. Not religion. Not ethnicity. Those are simply pretexts to motivate the citizenry and foot soldiers.

So Putin dons the Duganist [1] hat, just like European kings in the Crusades wrapped themselves in Christianity. Putin may even be a true believer but that's not why he's doing what he's doing. He's securing a land bridge to Crimea, a warm water port on the Black Sea and control of territorial waters in the Black Sea and the resources contained therein.

He probably figures the West will eventually lose interest (which is already happening) and in the mean time he can keep selling oil and gas to China and India so the sanctions are inconvenient but can be weathered.

There's nothing crazy about it.

But even if he was crazy, to launch a nuclear attack, someone would have to carry out those orders. Bomb loaders, generals, submarine commanders, pilots, missile silo operators, etc. Look up the history of Vasily Aleksandrovich Arkhipov.


darksaints on 2024-05-16

Thanks for sharing your blogpost-level understanding of philosophy, while completely ignoring the fact that Putin has already said exactly what he is doing: trying to rebuild and even grow the Russian Empire. He has explicitly said this multiple times, and he even likens himself to Peter the Great. Land bridges to Crimea aren't an objective, they are merely strategic checkpoints in his long term goal of taking over as much of the world as he can.

And yes, he absolutely is the type of person who would destroy something if he can't have it. He did it with Grozny, he did it with Mariupol, he did it with Bucha, he did it with Bakhmut, he did it with Avdiyivka, and he will continue doing it with the rest of the world. So far, he has sent hundreds of thousands of Russians to their death, and they continue to do it. There are literally thousands of Russians that know they're gonna die, and they do it anyway. Your belief in the humanity of people running nuclear bunkers is already betrayed by their own actions in every conflict under Putin's watch, and somehow you think 100% (because it only takes one person!) out of the 3000+ nuclear silo operators will suddenly grow a conscience when Putin tells them to send the missile. It's fucking absurd.

Delmololo on 2024-05-15


mataslauzadis on 2024-05-15

The title is misleading, the article does not claim the current rise is “natural”, they just compared it to prehistoric records which were natural

pmayrgundter on 2024-05-15

The title is also misleading in that the paper ( doesn't claim to determine when the fastest rates of CO2 rise have been. In fact, it starts by saying cores generally can only support analysis of durations >100 years.

I take note of this because I've looked at this problem before and agree that core samples have a hard time supporting claims like "most in the previous XXkya" when compared with the last few decades, be it CO2, CH4, avg temp d02, etc.

Starting with layers as recent as 30kya, the age of the trapped gas often spans multiple centuries, and so e.g. you'd be averaging out point outgassing from even very large volcanoes well beyond detectability. Beyond 50-60kya, the layer durations are all in the few millennia range.

Here's my analysis worksheet:

Reference data: Antarctic Ice Core 155,000 Year CO2 and Gas Stable Isotope Data - Eggleston, S.; Schmitt, J.; Bereiter, B.; Schneider, R.; Fischer, H. 2016. Evolution of the stable carbon isotope composition of atmospheric CO2 over the last glacial cycle. Paleoceanography, 31. doi: 10.1002/2015PA002874

EasyMark on 2024-05-15

Humans are "natural". Many species have overpopulated and overused the resources they need to survive and eventually became extinct, we are extremely natural.

Clamchop on 2024-05-16

Natural is a word humans invented to distinguish the things they didn't do, make, or cause. Most of the time, a linguistic analysis is preferable to a philosophical one.

AnimalMuppet on 2024-05-15

Two possible takes on "natural":

1. They may mean "in nature", that is, not inside a building, and not even in a city (both of which would tend to give higher numbers).

2. They may mean "using something in nature as a measuring method" - in this case, Antarctic ice.

I agree that it's a confusing/misleading term.

imglorp on 2024-05-15
Symmetry on 2024-05-15

With each new IPCC report the chances of us keeping global warming below 1.5 C become more and more remote as emissions are locked in. But at the same time the really bad scenarios where we go well over 4 C also become more remote. Every half degree is worse than the last and each is worth righting for but it does look like our civilization will make it through this intact, even if not all people individually.

GenerWork on 2024-05-15

>it does look like our civilization will make it through this intact

Has anybody ever seriously believed that we wouldn't make it through? This just seems like an alarmist take to me.

vasco on 2024-05-15

This seems spuriously dismissive, even reading this thread you can see people think the world will end, any thread on this subject or Just Stop Oil interview should show you many people hold this view, or at least claim to.

feoren on 2024-05-15

I don't believe climate change will be the downfall of human civilization, but it's not just an alarmist take. There's actual reason to believe it could be. The problem is that it's a potentially self-accelerating problem, like a nuclear meltdown.

As the planet warms, more CO2 that is locked up in melting glaciers will be released, accelerating the problem. Rising sea levels could displace a significant portion of humanity, causing a level of unrest and chaos that could make it hard to muster the governmental and intergovernmental efforts that might be require to slow or stop the problem. Food scarcity could further these issues. People won't be worrying about investing in green energy if they're worrying about whether they or their neighbor will be the one who gets the last bag of rice.

And my biggest concern: CO2 makes us stupider. As ambient CO2 levels rise, people can't think as clearly -- we're talking about the entire collective intelligence of the human race potentially being reduced significantly if CO2 levels rise to not that much higher than they are now. The effect is noticeable at 1000 ppm, and indoor concentrations can be 2x to 3x outdoor concentrations. Right now we're at 424 atmospheric ppm. It's not hard to imagine that worst-case increases could literally smother the brains of every human on the planet. And then civilization is literally at risk.

Again: I don't ascribe much weight into the probability of that worst case. I put a lot of stock into the incredible ingenuity of humans to solve problems, once they actually acknowledge that they are problems. So I'm pretty sure we'll get through this as a species (although some coastal cities may not, at least in their current form). But the end of civilization is not merely alarmist -- it's an actual worst-case possibility that we should be aware of.

Symmetry on 2024-05-15

It is an alarmist take but that doesn't meant that people haven't believed it.

DFHippie on 2024-05-15

Here's a paradox. If people assume you are alarmist and discount everything you say -- "Oh, you way we need 100. I assume therefore that we only need 20. Here are 20." -- you need to be alarmist to get them to react appropriately. Then they attribute your exaggeration to your own deficiency, not your reaction to theirs.

Anyway, that's a general observation, not a claim that any particular position is alarmist.

vasco on 2024-05-15

This way of behaving in life is a very "rat each other out" choice from the prisioner's dilemma. Whenever I notice someone plays this game of shifting overton window instead of just stating what they want, specially at work, I can never take them seriously again.

DFHippie on 2024-05-15

That's a great interpersonal approach. It's my preference for sure. Be honest. People you interact with will learn that you are honest. Then you don't have to pull the long bow to convey an accurate message.

It's less clear when it's groups communicating with groups for the benefit of a third party audience. If a member of the Society of the Friends of Truth says something but you hear it via a paraphrase from some AM radio bloviator, individual reputations are less at play and discourse becomes coarser. The audience thinks, "That person is a virtue signaler. Bloviator says things I like to hear. Bloviator has my back. We have the same enemies, he and I. Mr. Virtue can cram it with walnuts!" After decades of this happening, it's easy to see why people would change their rhetorical technique.

8note on 2024-05-15

Wouldn't it be better described as haggling? Weve already got a word for it, and it's the polite thing to do in a lot of cultures

vasco on 2024-05-15

It's not haggling to pretend. In haggling the goal of each person is clear and there's only dimension, price, and each participant wants an outcome to maximize in a specific direction out of 2 possible ones (price up, price down).

What I mean are social situations that are way more complex like if you tell me I need to let you pass me in some queue because your grandma is dying, but turns out you just wanted to get home quicker to relax. At work there's a lot of this stuff when people exaggerate in a malicious way assuming everyone is doing it, and I can't stand it.

If we're haggling I know what we're doing and I'll also haggle.

goatlover on 2024-05-15

Lots of people on the internet and some in the media. Some activists as well, and a few politicians, although it's unclear to what extent they really believe climate change is truly existential.

EricE on 2024-05-15

Indeed. Fear = control Control = power

bequanna on 2024-05-15

An entire generation of young people in the West is being force fed climate doomerism from primary school through university.

They are telling these kids that the world will literally end if we don’t stop emitting carbon in a few years.

Maybe the motives behind this are genuine but it’s pure indoctrination and dishonest.

toss1 on 2024-05-15

Great visualization from Randall Munroe:

Literally everyone should see this.

Edit: Evidently many people still do not get the point

The point is that yes, climate has changed in the past, and the individual values are not the problem.

The PROBLEM is that it has never changed this FAST. By orders of magnitude.

Velocity changes everything.

Consider just taking a sip of your coffee 1000X as fast as usual.

Instead of bringing your cup the 2' from table to lip in 1 sec, it's 1/1000 sec. You will require multiple explosions to accelerate it to 2000fps/609m/sec/Mach2, and back to zero.

Same description of events, entirely different process and results.

Similar for species and ecosystems to adapt at 1000X the speed they've ever seen.

gadders on 2024-05-15

He picked his starting point well.

blueflow on 2024-05-15

And before they start panicking, they should see this:

The XKCD comic starts at the coldest moment in history known to mankind.

itishappy on 2024-05-15

What do you take away from this?

blueflow on 2024-05-15

That its not nearly as much as an catastrophe as some HN readers wish it to be.

Think about it. The carbon didn't spawn in the earth, it got deposited there. Coal and oil are sediment based. It used to be in circulation previously. And yet Earth is still habitable.

lesuorac on 2024-05-15

Oh geeze, that graph is really concerning. We're approaching temperatures where humans weren't living!

blueflow on 2024-05-15

People live in Australia right now. And Morocco!

duozerk on 2024-05-15

Giving you the benefit of the doubt you're not trolling, it seems you're laboring under the belief that, say, "2C of warming" means it'll always be 2C hotter where people live.

It does not. It means the mean will be at +2C. At this level of warming, we'd see crazy +15C / -15C swings regularly in many areas, often in a matter of days. It means plants that have started growing in earnest suddenly are in the midst of serious frost, killing them (something we're already seeing in my country in the EU, regularly). It means potentially many climate tripwires being triggered, too.

+2C is hell for tens, possibly hundreds of millions of people. And we're likely not stopping there.

blueflow on 2024-05-15

I'm serious. People live and survive in places with conditions that i would consider uninhabitable. If dissent is trolling to you, reconsider your ideas.

I challenge you to back up the +15C / -15C numbers.

itishappy on 2024-05-15

> And yet Earth is still habitable.

For humans? We did not exist for most of that chart. There's only one peak that coincides with the 200000 or so years of human existence, and your chart shows us on track to beat it. We don't have records from 100000 years ago either, we know humans as a whole survived and that's about it. I think it's a bit presumptuous to extend that to all 8 billion people alive today.

I guess my point is that it's possible that humans will survive this AND it will be catastrophic for our society.

IMTDb on 2024-05-15

The choice to start at 2000 BC is interesting, because as soon as you zoom out more, the story completely changes:

Randall chose one of the lowest point every in the history of earth as the "baseline". We are still in one of the coldest period ever for earth. The recent rise of temperature is significant, but not unprecedented. Before we reach a point that one could qualify as a "hot earth", we would need to warm up by an additional 10 to 15 C°

a_cardboard_box on 2024-05-15

> Randall chose one of the lowest point every in the history of earth as the "baseline".

Randall's graph starts at a little over 4C lower than current temperatures. The most recent minimum on your first graph is 7C below current temperatures.

Your 2nd graph couldn't be shown in Randall's format because it would either take too long to scroll, or it wouldn't have the resolution needed to show the dramatically higher rate of change.

> The recent rise of temperature is significant, but not unprecedented.

The rate of change is unprecedented.

> Before we reach a point that one could qualify as a "hot earth", we would need to warm up by an additional 10 to 15 C°

Billions will die before that.

baq on 2024-05-15

>> Before we reach a point that one could qualify as a "hot earth", we would need to warm up by an additional 10 to 15 C°

> Billions will die before that.

Yeah that's the true point of people who are concerned (like yours truly): the planet will do just fine. Humanity simply won't be around to see it.

adrianN on 2024-05-15

The problem is not the absolute temperature change, but the rate of change.

therealdrag0 on 2024-05-16

And the impact of the change to our costly and slow to build infrastructure.

stirbot on 2024-05-15

The xkcd chart starts at 20,000 BC, not 2,000. Well before permanent settlements, agriculture, trade, etc. that our current civilization relies upon.

Trow839rn on 2024-05-15

> Fastest rate of natural carbon dioxide rise over the last 50k years

Natural CO2 rise?

itishappy on 2024-05-15

> “Our research identified the fastest rates of past natural CO2 rise ever observed, and the rate occurring today, largely driven by human emissions, is 10 times higher.”

They are investigating historical trends. (They are then comparing their findings to modern trends.)

card_zero on 2024-05-15

If I understand the paper correctly,

Southern Hemisphere westerly winds are intensifying due to a natural cycle on the scale of decades. This makes the southern ocean warmer (and the arctic colder, but the ocean is mostly in the south). Warm water doesn't take up so much carbon dioxide. (Water takes up carbon to produce carbonic acid, so if the water is warmer it incidentally reduces ocean acidification, a possible benefit?)

Or it might be about convection.

> The drivers and source of these centennial-scale CO2 jumps are unknown. The proposed mechanisms include enhanced ocean–atmosphere CO2 exchange in the Southern Ocean (via wind-driven upwelling of carbon-rich deep waters or invigorated convection), surface ocean temperature changes (impacting CO2 solubility), biomass burning (via NH subtropical wildfires), or a combination of mechanisms.

silverquiet on 2024-05-15

Yes, I'm not sure what to make of that wording either. Based on my quick read of the article, it should probably just be "rise". Presumably it is knowable from isotope analysis if carbon added to the atmosphere is recent or fossil. We certainly know that we are adding fossil carbon to the atmosphere at a prodigious rate, and if "natural" carbon content is rising as well, then that is quite bad news because it would likely mean we had crossed some tipping point or other where the Earth system itself has begun contributing to carbon emissions.

Trow839rn on 2024-05-15

No, it is "natural" rise. If earth system itself contributes to carbon emmisions, we need to subtracted that from anthropogenic emmisions!

This is great news! Our efforts are actually paying off! Soon we will cut human emmisions to zero!

Also we should substract emmisions produced by other species like cows, dogs, cats.. And I have great business idea, where orangutan owns and operates coal plant, that is natural and should be substracted as well!!!

Not every CO2 molecule is produced by humans!!!!

NotYourLawyer on 2024-05-15

It’s time to stop pretending we aren’t going to do geoengineering and get serious about making it happen.

kgabis on 2024-05-15

I imagine it will happen when heatwaves and droughts start to be a serious issue.

hackerlight on 2024-05-15

Heatwaves are a serious issue already, try being one of the few hundred million people in South Asia/SEA with 3k annual income and no aircon during April 2024. School cancelled and outdoors work nearly impossible due to wet bulb temperatures nearing the threshold of human survivability.

kgabis on 2024-05-15

I meant serious as in "this place is no longer habitable".

jfyi on 2024-05-15

To be fair, wet bulb events are pretty much stage 1 of "this place is no longer habitable". Unless you mean "this place" as a opposed to "that place", then yes most people won't care until it happens to them.

I do suspect there might be a scare coming that will shock us out of that though. We will likely get to watch tens of millions of people in India and Pakistan die over the course of a few hot days at some point in the not too distant future.

hackerlight on 2024-05-15

I don't think it's binary, exactly. We have entered a grey area where large swathes or land near the equator is technically survivable but really sucky to live in, where one month of the year is spent sheltering from the heat in an air conditioned mall while you're barely working and your kids' school is cancelled, and the other 11 months of the year suck more than they used to but you're still surviving and working.

As we go from 2C to 4C warming that's when the mass deaths near the equator should start happening from the wet bulb temperatures due to sheer lack of AC in poor areas and households. But even then we might figure out logistics and information systems to get rural and poor people to the nearest mall when a heatwave is expected, which will be often. Assuming a blackout doesn't happen. They might not die if these systems work properly, but it'll be terrible for their economy and human development indices.

At 6C warming, it's just an even worse version of the above.

Whatever the case it's going to massively suck and the people who will pay the biggest price will be the people who have pumped the least amount of carbon into the atmosphere. Life is just structurally unfair.

8note on 2024-05-15

What's that mean though?

We could still dig under the earth, and put AC in the tunnels, and ship food and water in from afar.

Do you mean, "no longer habitable at a certain price point" ? If so, what is that price point?

kgabis on 2024-05-15

By uninhabitable I mean it would make no economic sense for people to live there.

frabjoused on 2024-05-15

Isn’t the whole issue that the real action will be too late given our currently technology?

axus on 2024-05-15

And yet the comment you are replying to is probably the case.

kgabis on 2024-05-15

I'm not downplaying global warming, but I do think the general public still is.

BirAdam on 2024-05-15

Nah. Politicians will still have the wrong incentives, and they’ll just let the poor die. Meanwhile the rich will buy up all arable land, and all land not largely affected. Following that, they’ll tighten control of national borders to stop waves of migration.

zelphirkalt on 2024-05-16

Until all the pitchforks are taken up again.

Workaccount2 on 2024-05-15

I feel you on this. The smoldering embers on the floor at starting to blink little flames, and everyone in the room is arguing about the best way to put them out in order to most preserve the things most.

The longer we wait, the more dramatic the changes we will have to make will have to be.

feverzsj on 2024-05-15

Climate change is unavoidable. People should start moving to highland now.

padjo on 2024-05-15

Sea level rise from climate change is a fairly marginal issue in most places on the scale of a human lifetime. Famine from drought is a much bigger problem in the short term.

graeme on 2024-05-15

This is often said in the sense that “we shouldn’t try to stop it we should just adapt”

No one ever thinks of ports. Imagine rebuilding all port infrastructure every 5-10 years.

Move to highlands all you want but simply giving up is not likely to be cheaper.

mywittyname on 2024-05-15

We probably won't rebuild most of what is lost. People will largely have to make due with living in poverty for an indeterminate number of generations.

EasyMark on 2024-05-15

I'm covered, I live on a topological local maxima of 100 feet above the "major" local minima of "800ft" on essentually solid rock, assuming it doesn't become the next sahara, I should be able to collect plenty of rain water for personal needs and have methods to filter it. Currently have enough solar for off grid and backup generators as secondary. Hopefully well armed enough to stave off interlopers if it becomes that desperate. I doubt if my house would survive a tornado though, but should be covered from other natural disasters.

abdullahkhalids on 2024-05-15

What happens if there is a drought in your area? How do you get water?

EasyMark on 2024-05-16

I covered that, I have 3000 gallons worth of water storage available and means to filter it. I hope to double it in the coming years. Perks of having 10 acres of land to do with as I wish. Some people have hobbies like classic cars, traveling the world, etc, mine is being prepared for climate change I guess? Not sure. It's something I've just been doing the past 10 years or so. There is a whole genre of websites on it if you dig. Not everyone is a right wing nut preparing for zombies :). I'm just anticipating reality. I assume if it got really bad due to climate change I'd have to leave, but mostly I'm covered on natural disasters in my area for the foreseeable future.

abdullahkhalids on 2024-05-15

There is no reliable water on the highlands because it depends on micro local precipitation. The lower down you go, the more reliable your water supply becomes because of the larger catchment area. But the lower down you go, the more chances you will get flooded.

There are no good answers.

self_awareness on 2024-05-15

And did you do it?

asow92 on 2024-05-15

I did. Northern Appalachian/Allegheny Plateau region. Lots of cheap real estate with low natural disaster risk.

Also a great region for small scale agriculture. Climate change might even help this region's arability.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

I actually had sea level rise and radius from likely thermonuclear targets in mind when I bought my house.

I hadn't read The Science yet, so I believed The Propaganda. Now that I've read The Science (IPCC reports), it turns out sea levels are unlikely to rise more than 50cm, and definitely not 10+ meters like I was preparing for.

dylan604 on 2024-05-15

> radius from likely thermonuclear targets

which direction did you take it though? did you move to a place away from likely targets (which really, with as many nukes that are out there, what's not a target?), or did you move closer so that you'd be taken out in the first wave and spared the life of misery after? my dad used to say that one of the deciding factors where he chose to build the house I grew up in was based on the latter.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

I moved away from the most likely target, enough that I would be likely to survive a 400 kt nuke.

dylan604 on 2024-05-15

If it's an actual full tilt global thermonuclear war with everyone using all of their arsenal, I'm not really sure I would want to live in that post-apocalyptic world. Now if it's just a couple of bombs in major metro areas, that's a different situation.

GeoAtreides on 2024-05-15

But how closed are you to post-nuclear logistical chains that would keep you fed and healthy?

trashtester on 2024-05-15

It really depends on the scale of a conflict. What I might be likely to survive would be something like a terrorist attack or some minor nation (like North Korea) going crazy.

I don't think there is any public setup in my country that would allow large parts of the population to survive a global collapse in international trade combined with a nuclear winter that could last years.

To survive something like that would require a full prepper setup. Like a cottage deep in the wilderness, with food storage for a couple of years, water for at least several weeks, lots of ammo for the rifle and all sorts of tools, seeds, etc required to start farming when the weather normalizes.

That would be out of scope for me, as it would take up a large part of my life.

Selecting a location to survive a minor attack is as easy as consider the view or access to infrastructure when buying a house, though.

diob on 2024-05-15

I mean, you and I probably can, but the majority of folks can't.

Trow839rn on 2024-05-15


shmageggy on 2024-05-15

Paper link Absolutely infuriating that university press releases don't include this. They should be embarrassed.

Daub on 2024-05-15

Agreed. I would understand such oversight from the 'common press', but from a university I would expect better. Oddly, of the 16 authors, they credit the first and the last, yet authors are usually cited in order of importance. The writer of this article clearly did not know better. Perhaps she thought that to credit the first and the last would be somehow 'covering all bases'. As others have done, I also question the title of the article, which does not correspond to the facts presented in the paper. As a press release, this is a mess.

Regarding the actual content, I am no expert, but on surface evaluation their methodology seems generally sound. Importantly, they seem to be referencing data from first hand sources. However, I am still confused. They state:

> A total of 453 measurements were made from 249 individual depth levels on the WAIS Divide Ice core (79.48°S, 112.11°W).

Does that mean '453 measurements from each of the 249 depth levels'? Or '453 measurements from random points in the 249 depth levels'? Or what? And what is the difference between an 'individual depth level' and a 'depth level'.

Such imprecision aside, climate change = warming ocean = wind direction change = catastrophic climate change. I remain worried.

doctoboggan on 2024-05-15

The first author is important as you said, but the last author is almost always the PI or leader of the lab that published the paper. So I guess it’s you that clearly did not know better.

karol on 2024-05-15

Gonna warm it up baby so you'll be building new pyramids in no time!

IncreasePosts on 2024-05-15

How calibrated are our proxy methods for determining CO2? Is there any concern about the accuracy of the proxy methods in the scientific community?

gmerc on 2024-05-15


informal007 on 2024-05-15

I don't know other, But there are more and more extreme weather situation in my city recent years.

egberts1 on 2024-05-15

I look forward to the resurgence of the Amazon Basin with those extra CO2.

angela-misan on 2024-05-16


TheRealNGenius on 2024-05-16


chickenlittle12 on 2024-05-15


moneytide1 on 2024-05-15


torstenvl on 2024-05-15


blueflow on 2024-05-15

The comments section is an trash fire. Some people seem to be more than ready for the apocalypse to actually happen. What a sad state of affairs.

BirAdam on 2024-05-15

People never picture themselves as being among those great numbers who suffer and die in these scenarios.

blueflow on 2024-05-15

Be realistic, you are more likely to die from cardiovascular issues or car crashes.

mjhay on 2024-05-15

A simultaneous failure of multiple breadbasket regions (something made much more likely by climate change) would case mass global death. To be fair, first-worlders wouldn't be as affected, though.

It's not good to assume all hope is lost, but it is also dangerous to bury your head in the sand.

trashtester on 2024-05-15

Global food production per capita now is massively higher than 50 years ago (and still climbing). And also probably higher than any time in the past.

Even if food production falls globally by 25% or so, any famines will be due to distribution, not lack of global food production.

If we really screw up, we may have famines similar to what was relatively common up to about 1980.

And why did we stop having them?

abdullahkhalids on 2024-05-15

Many countries in the world can't feed themselves. They import food from others. If there are crop failures, food producing countries impose export bans. For example, India has a ban on wheat export this year [1] because of crop failure.

Once export bans become tit-for-tat (not dissimilar to the tit-for-tat export/import control bans between US-China right now), then some countries will be fine, and others will experience mass starvation. Global food production per capita only works if there is free trade of food.


trashtester on 2024-05-15

I live in a country that imports 50% of the food. As long as the population produces something that others will trade for, that tends to work out ok.

However, should global food trade suddenly stop, I may be one of those starving.

Edit: just to be clear: Global refusal to trade food is extremely rare. What happens a lot more often, is that some country is unable to purchase food abroad due to either some blockade or lack of purchasing capacity.

fuzzfactor on 2024-05-15

And suffer from rising water levels, don't ask me how I know.

EasyMark on 2024-05-15

doing my best to cover those too. I try to stay physically fit and eat a diet that is anti-inflammatory

morkalork on 2024-05-15

It's kinda like learned helplessness and depression have infiltrated the human condition. But why wouldn't it? We're not that dumb, we see what's happening around us. It's mad.

deemster on 2024-05-15

It is sad but I think it points to how meaningless people find their lives. That's a big issue, why have we created a society where everyone is so miserable they want to watch the world burn.

canadiantim on 2024-05-15

a trash fire *

Some people just want to watch the world burn

vouaobrasil on 2024-05-15

Let's keep in mind we would not have any CO2 rise if it weren't for science and engineering.

itissid on 2024-05-15

Lowest common denominator to solve all these problems is either

1. Invent super cheap and scalable energy solution. Like Fusion. We could pretty much do whatever climate solution we want.

2. MMT to achieve (1) and a combination of one of:

a). Viable Climate solutions which are currently "costly" and if necessary UBI so labour and time could be freed up to implement those solutions.

b). Massively subsidize nationalized AI industry to crash the cost of implementation of said climate solutions.

adrianN on 2024-05-15

There is no reason to believe that fusion is cheap.

baq on 2024-05-15

Fusion is cheap if you price in externalties of fossil fuels.

Nobody does that because it's political and economical suicide... unless everybody does that at the same time. We need a good proper crisis for this.

adrianN on 2024-05-16

Let me be more precise: There is no reason to believe that fusion is cheaper than fission and fission is not competitive with renewables.

linuxftw on 2024-05-15

> “We think they are caused by a dramatic collapse of the North American ice sheet. This sets into motion a chain reaction that involves changes to the tropical monsoons, the Southern hemisphere westerly winds and these large burps of CO2 coming out of the oceans.”

Right. CO2 lags temperature increase, it does not drive temperature increase. Unless 'ice sheet collapse' is driven by something other than an increase in temperature (which would be nonsensical to suggest).

TimPC on 2024-05-15

It actually does both. The increase in CO2 causes temperature increase which is well documented in the literature. But increase in temperature also causes the release of CO2 which further increases the temperature.

FreeFull on 2024-05-15

The increase of temperature also causes the release of methane, which is a much stronger greenhouse gas than CO2.. Things aren't looking great

ghthor on 2024-05-15

The global “focusing” on CO2 pollution has just misdirected all activism away from fighting localized environmental pollution by corporations to and intangible hard to fight “pollution”. It’s sad

linuxftw on 2024-05-15

I completely agree. Corporations are destroying our waterways and contaminating the land with forever chemicals, and people won't stop talking about CO2. We're going to have a toxic planet long before we burn to death.

waihtis on 2024-05-15

Can we soon start talking about the largest elephant in the room - China and their global junk manufacturing industry - seeing how China commits approximately the same amount of CO2 into the atmosphere as the United States, India, the EU and Russia combined?

Global top polluters:

China, more than 14 million tons of CO2

United States, 6 million tons of CO2

India, 3.5 million tons of CO2

European Union, 3.4 million tons of CO2

Russia, 2 million tons of CO2

Rinzler89 on 2024-05-15

> - China and their global junk manufacturing industry

And who orders, buys and pays for all the junk? The western consumers. Who offshored their own dirty manufacturing industry to China due to their lack of workers/human rights and environmental protection? The west. Which companies profited the most from this offshoring to China? The western ones. Same for the textile/clothes industry.

So I think you're looking at the wrong elephant. Look at your elected leaders first for failing to regulate "free trade" for the sake of profiteering at the expense of the environment.

The hypocrisy of the rich western nations blaming the environmental damage on the poor countries to which they knowingly and willingly offshored their dirty industries to for profit, is mind boggling.

Also, the hypocrisy of western tech companies when dealing with China is equally grandiose:

  -China's CCP: "So US big tech, you will have to host your data here and build backdoors to your services for us so we can read all your customer data and spy on your users here. Take it or leave it."
  -US big-tech: "Yessir! Right away CCP! Which other way should we bend over to make money in China?"

  -EU regulators: "So we're gonna need you to be upfront to your users here about your privacy invasive tracking and give users and opt-out option, and also not block your smaller competitors from accessing your gate-kept market places"
  -US big-tech: "Noooo! That's tyranny! Uncle Sam help, your poor tech monopolies are being oppressed by the Europeans."

waihtis on 2024-05-15

No I'm with you, the multinational corporations are a major culprit in this.

querez on 2024-05-15

It's the consumers first and foremost. The multinationals are just doing what's in their best interest.

jwells89 on 2024-05-15

Multinationals are not blameless even if consumers ultimately create demand. It was them that has been working overtime for around a century now developing marketing and figuring out how to manipulate human psychology to convince consumers to buy as much as possible, creating the culture of consumerism we have today.

triceratops on 2024-05-15

Consumers didn't ask oil companies to run multi-decade campaigns of lies. Your second sentence is accurate but incomplete - the management of multinationals did what was in the best interest of the management.

liveoneggs on 2024-05-15

What is the purpose or context of this thinking? To infantilise and absolve China?

silverquiet on 2024-05-15

What is the purpose of any division? A molecule of CO2 is fundamentally identical regardless of its country of origin. It's a worldwide problem, and ultimately our inability to cooperate as one world will be the undoing of us.

c048 on 2024-05-15

The purpose of this is to absolve China of any and all responsibility, and put maximum blame with the West. Apparently the West is in complete control of China.

Miraltar on 2024-05-15

You can blame China all you want and nothing will change but if western countries buy less of their junk they'll need to adapt somehow

darkwater on 2024-05-15

To put the blame in the right place, perhaps? Obviously China (and its government) has its own responsibilities as well, but it all started with Western companies (and the Western lifestyle)

c048 on 2024-05-15

China said yes to all those things for Western money. They could've said no, they could've put in restrictions to lower their profits and improve conditions. Don't act like China is some poor puppy bullied around by the West.

Rinzler89 on 2024-05-15

>China said yes to all those things for Western money. They could've said no

Terrible argument. If it's not gonna be China, it's gonna be Vietnam, or Bangladesh, or Pakistan, or Sri Lanka, or whoever the rich west will deem fit to host their dirty industries at the most rock bottom prices so they can make a profit.

So again, is really all China's or $POOR_NATION fault, or the West's fault for constantly bidding the poor countries against each other in a race to the bottom in terms of human rights and environmental destruction for the sake of profit?

Just blaming the poor countries claiming that "well, the poor countries should just say NO to hosting the west's dirty industry", is incredibly stupid and short sighted.

_djo_ on 2024-05-15

Do you really think that China would not have industrialised if not for Western companies? Nothing about China's history shows that that's remotely true.

In fact, outsourcing was only possible because of the various industrial plans that China had put in place in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, all of which prioritised building equivalent capacity to what existed in the West and the USSR.

Moreover, China was destroying its environment in the 1950s already, long before it even allowed real trade with the West.

Let's treat countries as responsible actors in their own right, not as mere non-independent reactors to Western actions.

Rinzler89 on 2024-05-15

>China was destroying its environment in the 1950s already

To be fair, every country was destroying the environment, even in the west, well after the 1950's as well.

_djo_ on 2024-05-15

Not quite to the same extent, or nearly as late. China's Four Pests campaign, for instance, ran from 1958 to 1962 and was ecologically disastrous.

Meanwhile, in the US you already had strong conservationist movements starting up, leading to the creation of the EPA by 1970.

While China finally adopted some environmental protections in 1979, it wasn't until the late 1980s/early 1990s that they could override industrial development in key situations

no_exit on 2024-05-15

> Not quite to the same extent, or nearly as late. China's Four Pests campaign, for instance, ran from 1958 to 1962 and was ecologically disastrous.

Operation Ranch Hand ran 1962-1972, so that's a pretty lazy snipe.

_djo_ on 2024-05-15

I don’t see how the two are comparable.

While Ranch Hand was indefensible and US leaders should have been prosecuted for it, the scale of it is minuscule compared to the ecological damage of the Four Pests campaign.

card_zero on 2024-05-15

So, in your mind, China's industry is really the West's? Also, China is poor? Just a poor passive obedient victim of the West's desires?

triceratops on 2024-05-15

You could say the same about Western countries. They could've said no, put in restrictions to lower their profits and improve their conditions. They are richer, so they're more capable of doing all those same things than a poor developing country like China used to be.

liveoneggs on 2024-05-15

playing the blame game is a trap where the polluters win and breathing humans lose because all it does it cause stupid delays and distraction

EGreg on 2024-05-15

To note that there are drivers of pollution around the world, which we could address right here at home too, or at least cooperate

AtlasBarfed on 2024-05-15

The blame resides with the demand side / consumers.

And the fact the lords of capitalism only care about power and bank account size, and the scienze/religion of economics can't see further than three months into the future.

misja111 on 2024-05-15


Rinzler89 on 2024-05-15

>Who gets paid for selling all the junk?

If a building contractor is known to use salve labor and dump the waste in the lake of the next town nearby, do you report him to the authorities to shut him down, or do you knowingly and willingly engage in business with him to do landscaping/work on your house for cheap despite knowing this about him, because it's profitable for you as well?

If it's the latter, who's fault is it then? Is it really all his fault, or is it also your fault because you want things to be as chap as possible so you aid him at breaking the law and stay quiet, as long as you get your cut?

If it's not gonna be China, it's gonna be Vietnam, or Bangladesh, or Pakistan, or Sri Lanka, or whoever the rich west will deem fit to host their dirty industries at the most rock bottom prices so they can make a profit. So again, is really all China's or $POOR_NATION fault, or the West's fault for constantly bidding the poor countries against each other in a race to the bottom?

Workaccount2 on 2024-05-15

Generally I think it is most fair to place the larger slice of blame on the one who originally presents the opportunity. These entities also tend to try and be opaque about the dubious methods they are using to undercut everyone else.

Talk to that building contractor and they will swear that they pay their employees well and responsibly manage all waste.

Of course, you still bear the remaining slice of blame since you kinda knew they were lying and went along with it anyway.

linuxftw on 2024-05-15

Yeah, but how else will you get the new iPhone with 27 cameras that can make you prettier than you actually are?

Miraltar on 2024-05-15

The way I see it, blaming China is useless, as long as we behave the same, they gain too much to try changing.

fmobus on 2024-05-15

These numbers say more about the US than China, if you control for population.

And also, I keep seeing those numbers thrown around, but it's never clear if it's on the production side or the consumption side. If it's the production side CO2, then we have to remember that a huge fraction of carbon emitted by China is for the benefit of consumers in the western countries. Which makes you think, just wtf is the us doing that emits that much carbon per capita?

card_zero on 2024-05-15

> if you control for population

But why would you control for population? So there are a vast number of Chinese who can't afford a large share of China's emissions, so what? What's your mindset here, that we have to determine the most guilty individual person and ignore governments? There may be lots of people in China but it's one government and it's emitting a lot, in absolute terms. Is Liechtenstein (population under 40,000) potentially a huge priority for us to consider in regard to tackling emissions? Their per capita figure could be enormous. You should not care even if it is, because in absolute terms it will be trivial.

To answer your question: transport.

If you switch to China, this slice is taken over by manufacturing and construction.

abdullahkhalids on 2024-05-15

> But why would you control for population?

Because the amount of changes that a society has to make in how it lives to get to net zero is determined by how much each person emits.

The average US person emits 15 tons CO2 every year (there is distribution about it). The average China person emits half that. So obviously the US has to make a larger change in the structure of society.

Of course, it is better to subdivide even further. One way that is popular is to estimate how much do super rich emit and what the average emit, and of course the super rich have to be reigned in a lot more than the average person.

card_zero on 2024-05-15

> So obviously the US has to make a larger change in the structure of society.

That's not obvious at all. Suppose the difference in per capita emissions between country A and country C is that in country A they drive big cars and in country C they drive small ones. Well, both countries ought to stop using internal combustion engines. How is that a "larger change" for country A, just because they have larger cars?

And as for "reigning in" the super rich, what does that mean? You want to tax them more and ban yachts, perhaps? Do you think this sector is at all significant in real terms, in terms if the slice of actual effect these very few high individual emitters have on total emissions compared to general transport, power generation, industry and construction?

Focussing on any individual's carbon footprint is not the way. It's been tried since the 90s and it doesn't work, in much the same way that John Lennon didn't bring about world peace despite getting a large number of fans to agree that it sounded like a good idea. The problem there was that they didn't have the power to decide the matter. In the case of climate change, specific policies about fuel for power generation and transport can decide it. Taxing the rich is just a complete sideshow that probably happens to please you for unrelated reasons.

abdullahkhalids on 2024-05-15

> How is that a "larger change" for country A, just because they have larger cars?

We are never actually going to get to zero carbon emissions. There are many industrial operations that will emit CO2. The hope is that we can plant enough trees that the sucked CO2 is equal to those non-replaceable emissions to get to net zero.

In your specific case of cars, the production of cars does emit CO2. And production of larger cars does emit more CO2. Whether the electricity used for them is from solar, wind or nuclear, there are emissions associated with the production of panels, wind turbines or nuclear power plants. Constructing and maintaining roads also emits CO2, and larger cars require thicker and broader roads. So, a country with smaller cars will emit less CO2 ceteris paribus. Hence it is indeed better if the average car size is smaller.

Or if people start owning fewer cars and take the bus instead. And of course more people in the large-car country will have to switch to the bus than in the small-car country for the same reduction in emissions.

card_zero on 2024-05-16

You got that backward, more people would have to switch in the small car country. Confusingly, that could be an argument for prioritising change in the large car country - if the smaller number of people made the change easier - but I don't think it would, anyway.

You originally said "a larger change to the structure of society" is required if a country emits more carbon per person, and I said this was balls because America could be doing it in exactly the same structural way as China, only more of it. For another example, suppose China is exactly identical to America apart from having an extra 1 billion very poor people who emit no greenhouse gasses at all. Now is there any reason the burden of responsibility, or priority for change, falls on America instead of on that version of China? I say no, that would make no sense.

tzs on 2024-05-15

> But why would you control for population? Because the atmosphere does not care about arbitrary political boundaries. If we take whatever total amount of CO2 emissions per year we decide the world needs to stay under and divide that up giving each country an equal share you get an unstable result.

For example let's say we agree on 4 x 10^10 tons of CO2/year. There are around 200 countries, so each country gets 2 x 10^8 tons per year.

Under that each person in Liechtenstein could live a lifestyle that required 5 000 tons of CO2/year.

In the US each person could only live a 0.6 ton CO2 lifestyle, which would require each person on average to cut their CO2 by a factor of 25. That's around what they use in Zimbabwe today.

In China each person could only live a live a 0.14 ton CO2 lifestyle, and would have to cut emissions by a factor of almost 60 to do that. That's around what Ugandans use today.

But wait...what if the US holds a constitutional convention and reorganizes? It could dissolve and each of its 50 states could become an independent country, and those countries could form a strong trade and defense alliance by treaty to make it so that they effectively share the CO2 shares.

Under that the world has around 250 countries instead of 200, so the per country share drops to 1.6 x 10^8 tons per year, but the American Union collection of 50 countries together has shares totaling nearly 8 x 10^9 tons. The people of the American Union can now enjoy a 24 ton lifestyle which is about 60% more than they have now.

China could do the same with their 33 provinces. In that world the share per country is 1.4 x 10^8 tons and the 33 countries that form the Chinese Union would have 33 shares giving them 4.6 x 10^9 tons, or 3.3 tons per person.

But why stop there? China is pretty good at tackling big things, so instead of turning each province into a separate country and putting together a 33 country Chinese Union, why not make each prefecture a country and put together a 333 country Chinese Union?

In that world, with ~200 countries not in the American Union or Chinese Union, 50 American Union countries, and 333 Chinese Union countries the per country share is 6.3 x 10^7 tons. The Chinese Union would have 333 of those shares giving them 2.1 x 10^10 tons or 15 tons per person which is a current US-level amount.

The American Union would have 50 shares giving 3 x 10^9 tons or 9.6 tons per person.

The EU would have 3.8 tons per person.

Liechtenstein would have to make do with 1600 tons per person.

In this system any country can get a bigger share of the world's CO2 emissions budget by splitting and forming alliances among the newly formed countries.

The limit of this would be a world of thousands or even millions of micro-countries, and where the CO2 allowance per person is about the same in all of them.

That's why mathematically per capita is the correct way to allocate.

card_zero on 2024-05-15

> the atmosphere does not care about arbitrary political boundaries

But it does, if "cares about" means "is affected by". This is about how you think action can be taken. The tired old premise is that action can be taken by raising the consciousness of individuals, raising awareness, guilt-tripping them in a sort of viral chain-letter way until everybody just decides "oh my gosh I must monitor the carbon footprint of everything I do because I don't want to be a bad person", and then we've all stopped emitting and we're saved.

But really it's controlled by government policy. The responsibility only lies with the individual in so far as they can control governments. It lies with governments in proportion to the share of emissions that government is responsible for via policies it could make.

deelowe on 2024-05-15

Should the conversation be production or consumption? Who's really to blame?

liotier on 2024-05-15

Carbon tax, including as international tariff would sidestep that question, make the emitter pay and let the consumer choose.

have_faith on 2024-05-15

Consumption isn't a perfect knowledge game (although people are more educated now than they used to be). Individuals are never going to be perfectly equipped to evaluate the ramifications of every purchase they make. Regulations on production and the impact of delivering certain goods are the only real solutions. Because production itself can induce demand, it has to take at least part of the responsibility.

lotsofpulp on 2024-05-15

We are well past being equipped to know the ramifications of using energy to move mass long distances.

Using more space, traveling further distances, and moving more mass is all it comes down to. In order of impact, it means detached homes, individual huge car and air transport, animal food products, and shipping things across oceans (aka things stamped with made in China).

Approximately no one is willing to give up these luxuries on a nation scale.

dgacmu on 2024-05-15

You're placing the blame on the wrong thing - The embodied energy of producing most of the things we consume is much higher than the energy of shipping. Shipping on a massive container ship is really impressively efficient. (Shipping by air is a very different matter, of course)

You can see the same thing if you look at the energy cost of food shipping: perishable goods like asparagus are shipped in refrigerated planes, and the added energy of shipping is huge, whereas bananas are shipped on cargo ships.

For example

lotsofpulp on 2024-05-15

True, I should have replaced shipping with the mass of everything else we consume.

waihtis on 2024-05-15

I agree, there's roughly three parties to blame, the large corps, the junk manufacturers and the idiots who buy cheap chinese junk en masse

bel-crow on 2024-05-15

This might be ever so slightly off-topic and a silly question but why aren't sites like SHEIN being banned like Tik-Tok? They cause infinite harm, and clearly we're capable of banning big chinese sites, so why the holdup on SHEIN/Temu? I saw news about Congress members in the US calling for bans last year but nothing happened.

deelowe on 2024-05-15

Because TikTok was likely banned for not cooperating with intelligence agencies or perhaps cooperating with the wrong ones.

brightball on 2024-05-15

When it comes to regulations, production. Stricter laws in the US just lead to shipping production overseas to locations with less strict regulation.

itishappy on 2024-05-15

Regulate trade. Carbon taxes on production and shipping disincentivize this.

brightball on 2024-05-15

That gets very messy very quickly. You could have just as easily taken that step on labor conditions years ago.

card_zero on 2024-05-15

The people in control of emissions policies.

1. Governments.

2. In functioning democracies, voters.

And yes, production.

onion2k on 2024-05-15

Per capita the US would be on top.

bloak on 2024-05-15

Of the countries mentioned above, yes, and China emits a lot less CO2 per capita than the USA:

However Russia emits almost as much CO2 per capita as the USA, and Canada and Australia may be slightly worse than the USA.

China has larger CO2 emissions per capita than most EU countries, which is interesting. I'd like to see a breakdown of where that CO2 comes from. Is it manufacturing, agriculture, transport, domestic use or what?

_djo_ on 2024-05-15

However, the US's per capita CO2 level keeps decreasing, while China's is increasing at a rapid rate. It's already 60% of the US's level and at this rate will eclipse it in the next few years.

So any solution to climate change that does not take China's emissions into account is doomed to fail just as much as one that doesn't take the US's emissions into account.

triceratops on 2024-05-15

Canada and Russia are much colder than the USA, so some of that additional CO2 might be for heating. Not sure what Australia's excuse is.

goatlover on 2024-05-15


fmobus on 2024-05-15

That's a bad argument. If Americans would emit CO2 at the same per capita rate as china, the world would be much better off.

The fact that the Chinese can emit much less per capita and at the same time have raised their standards of living significantly over the last few decades, all while producing a huge fraction of manufactured goods consumed worldwide goes to show that something is deeply wrong with the US' policy on this subject.

goatlover on 2024-05-15

If Americans emitted the same per capita rate as China, they would have a lower standard of living. This shouldn't be the argument anyway. The focus should be on cleaner and more efficient technologies, which includes nuclear.

fmobus on 2024-05-15

It really depends on how "standard of living" is measured in the first place. I live in Europe and make top 5% percentile income, live a pretty decent life that doesn't require a car, in a very energy-efficient apartment. In the US I would likely not have that option, would likely be forced to have a car, would have less vacation days, would have to navigate a nightmarishly complicated healthcare system, and survive some school shootings. Yes, I would make more money, potentially live in a bigger house, but it is debatable if that would automatically be a higher living standard.

EDIT: Also worth mentioning: for a huge chunk of Americans, living an European standard of living would be a huge improvement.

itishappy on 2024-05-15

> This shouldn't be the argument anyway.

Why not? The reverse sounds more insightful:

If the rest of the world adopts and American standard of life, emissions would be much higher.

Should we expect the world to adopt a sub-US standard of living forever, or should we address the impacts of our standard of living?

goatlover on 2024-05-15

If the rest of world adopts the American standard of life, that means technology continues to progress, and there's a lot more highly educated people innovating. Given that sustainability and climate change are serious concerns now, I don't agree that it will continue to be a bad thing.

itishappy on 2024-05-15

This assumes a novel technological solution exists at all, which today is unfortunately still a big unknown. I'm hopeful too, but I'm not sure we can afford to make that our plan.

Thinking about it, another assumption implicit in both of our positions is that emissions and standard of living are directly related. I bet we could address this is other ways. I have restaurants and bars about a mile from where I live, if I could get there without crossing multiple four lane roads I'd drive a lot less and be a lot healthier.

Maybe our technological solutions already exist...

fmobus on 2024-05-15

Right, because the thing that is missing that will enable everyone to innovate is being able to drive a 3 ton monstrosity to the nearest (~4 miles) drive thru Starbucks.

onion2k on 2024-05-15

By that argument China should be releasing more CO2, unless you have a reason why Chinese people shouldn't have the same quality of life as Americans.

goatlover on 2024-05-15

Or build more nuclear, solar and wind plants, which they're doing.

fmobus on 2024-05-16

First, you said

> If Americans emitted the same per capita rate as China, they would have a lower standard of living.

Then, you said

> Or build more nuclear, solar and wind plants, which they[China]'re doing.

So... the US could reduce their carbon footprint massively by doing the same, while maintaining standards of living? Good to see we are in agreement, and China is not the problem atm.

rjmunro on 2024-05-15

It it's not per capita that counts, but per country, then each American should be allowed to pollute 4 times as much as each Chinese person because there are less of them?

I guess as a Brit, I should be allowed to pollute 5 times more than an American?

goatlover on 2024-05-15

The climate doesn't care about countries either, and people in developed countries aren't going to lower their standard of livings to meet some acceptable per capita carbon footprint standard. That's why these kinds of arguments are pointless. Blame China, blame the US, blame the British Empire, what difference does any of that make? Unless you can convince the richer countries to pay fines to the developing ones to help them adapt to climate change.

card_zero on 2024-05-15

Possibly you (well, some international body) can do that. Leaving that idea aside, countries matter because countries are controlled by policies, per-country.

This doesn't, of course, mean that you get to burn a big bonfire of coal if your country has a small population. The reality is that you get to burn a big bonfire of coal in any country unless it has a law against it. And another part of the reality is that emissions are caused mainly by transport, power generation, industry and construction, all of which can be decarbonised by policy, so the personal carbon footprint thing just isn't relevant because it's not up to individuals, and people having orgiastic fossil fuel bonfires is not the true nature of the problem anyway.

SketchySeaBeast on 2024-05-15

To be fair, the climate doesn't care about countries either.

mytailorisrich on 2024-05-15

But we do if we want to achieve global reduction in emissions while eradicating global poverty at the same time.

Per capita emissions in the US are ridiculously high while per capita emissions in poor countries are low and are bound to increase with development. Per capita emissions is the relevant metric to measure and compare the situation across countries with vastly different populations and to possibily forecast trends in overall emissions.

globular-toast on 2024-05-15

Of course not, but higher per-capita is the easier and more humane thing to target. If you account for the fact a lot of China's output is for the US then the US would be both higher per-capita and probably highest overall too. Yet despite having over 4x the population China has only about 2x the total output. That means the US is vastly inefficient compared to China. It's easier to get gains by improving an inefficient system versus an efficient one. In other words, the US it the low hanging fruit, not China.

waihtis on 2024-05-15


olalonde on 2024-05-15

It doesn't care about countries either...

lotsofpulp on 2024-05-15

Global politics cares about per capita. People in developing countries are not going to give a crap about what anyone in the developed countries say about pollution while people in developed countries are enjoying higher consumption.

People within developed countries do not care either, when they see their own countrymen hopping around in planes to tropical destinations and living in huge detached homes.

goatlover on 2024-05-15

Everyone should aspire to a higher standard of living. It just needs to become decarbonized. Degrowth is not a realistic solution for either the developing or developed world. It makes no economic or political sense.

mytailorisrich on 2024-05-15

Pointing the finger at China is ridiculous.

China has more than 4 times the population of the US so it would be reasonable to expect that they actually emit more than 4x the CO2 of the US. Your numbers show that they actually emit 'only' just more than twice the US, and bearing in mind that they are indeed the world's factory.

So your numbers show that the US (and Russia) are doing badly and that the EU is doing relatively well.

They also show that a global cut in CO2 emissions is and will remain extremely hard when combined with population and development targets (India emits very little compared to population, for instance).

_djo_ on 2024-05-15

The US's per capita CO2 emissions have dropped by around 70% since 1990. It should've been a larger drop, to match that of the EU, but nonetheless it's a highly positive trend that also proved that per capita emissions can be divorced from per capita GDP growth, something that was previously uncertain. Moreover, this happened while US manufacturing output remained fairly constant.

China's per capita emissions have more than quadrupled over the same period, and are showing no signs of slowing down. At this rate it'll soon eclipse the US's per capita rate.

You mentioned India, which is a much better example of a low per capita rate.

mytailorisrich on 2024-05-15

That's why I mentioned development, which is key to understand current status, evolution and where things are going.

The world simply cannot emit like the US do per capita.

China's emissions have increased because the country has been developing and Chinese are still quite poorer on average than Americans. India is still low because they are behind in terms of development and they don't (yet) produce for the world.

I am not sure what point you are making. My point is simply that population varies wildly per country so pointing the finger at China because they emit the most as a country is nonsensical. Emission per capita is a much better metric.

I am not sure there is any way to combine development and drastic reduction in emissions with 10 billion people on the planet, but I am sure that the US are doing worse than China when you do a valid comparison that must take population into account.

> Moreover, this happened while US manufacturing output remained fairly constant.

The issue there is that output is measured in dollar value, not raw volume or mass of stuff, which may be better correlated with emissions. Many intrinsically polluting and lower value industries have been outsourced to China with output imported.

_djo_ on 2024-05-15

I’m saying that before very long China will emit more per capita than the US does too, because US emissions per capita keep falling while China’s keep skyrocketing.

So, no, even when you take population into account China is a bad emitter and not doing nearly enough to invest in decarbonising their economy in the same way the US and EU have.

mytailorisrich on 2024-05-15

China is doing a lot to decarbonise its economy, probably more than anyone, and is still poorer than the US.

Again, you also need to take into account that the US and EU have outsourced emissions to China, which needed that to develop. Still the US emit a huge amount per capita so it's disingenuous so claim that China is a bad emitter, which feels like the US is trying too hard to deflect.

_djo_ on 2024-05-15

They’re clearly not doing more than anyone given that their emissions rate per capita and as a proportion of industrial output keeps climbing.

Claiming the US and EU ‘outsourced’ emissions to China is an overly simplistic view, and one that ignores the way China developed its own industry and targeted the developing world as a market for its goods long before US and EU companies outsourced en masse.

China now emits more than 60% as much per capita as the US, where thirty years ago it was more like 5%. In fact, China’s emissions have been so high in the past thirty years that their total emissions are now also up to more than half of all US emissions since 1850.

So, yes, China is a bad emitter and has already contributed more to global warming than anyone other than the US. What’s more, their emissions growth rate remains unsustainably high.

Also, none of what I’ve been saying is about deflecting blame from the US. It’s had a huge part to play in global warming too, and needs to do a lot more.

mytailorisrich on 2024-05-15

> They’re clearly not doing more than anyone given that their emissions rate per capita and as a proportion of industrial output keeps climbing.

> China now emits more than 60% as much per capita as the US, where thirty years ago it was more like 5%

China was very poor and has been developing... It does not mean that they aren't doing a lot, and probably more than the US do.

> In fact, China’s emissions have been so high in the past thirty years that their total emissions are now also up to more than half of all US emissions since 1850.

Chinas has more than 1.4 billion people now while the US have 333 million and 23 million in 1850... Still China will never reach the emissions per capita level that the US did in the past.

> China is a bad emitter and has already contributed more to global warming than anyone other than the US

That's a highly disingenuous claim, again ignoring population and development, as well as size of global economy.

If you keep ignoring that China has a massive population and is still a developing country, with inhabitants still poorer on average than Europeans and Americans then there cannot be an honest discussion.

What's the US' "excuse" for emitting more than even the EU per capita? They have the best technology and unlimited funds. But, oh yes, it's China who's the bad emitter...

_djo_ on 2024-05-15

What part of per capita are you not getting?

mytailorisrich on 2024-05-15

No snark, please. It seems that you are not getting what I wrote:

Regarding per capita figure the thing to keep in mind is that China used to be very poor and has been developing. Per capita figures therefore started very low and have been increasing rapidly with development, and are still much lower than the US's. This is also why India's figures are quite low.

Regading overall figures, obviously then what is relevant is the overall population, as explained.

Can't repeat the same thing over and over if you refuse to engage, so good night and good luck.

_djo_ on 2024-05-15

I apologise for the snark, my frustration for the better of me.

The point I’m trying to make is that I’ve been basing all my points on per capita emissions, not overall figures, and that China’s per capita figures are no longer much lower than those of the US and within just a few years at the current rate they will eclipse US figures.

That means that it’s not just about them developing, it’s also about them developing in an extremely emissions-heavy way, to a point where if nothing is done there’s a possibility that before long China will have per capita emissions several times larger than that of the US. Of course, given their population that also means their overall emissions will be huge, but that’s a separate thing.

maxglute on 2024-05-15

>US emissions per capita keep falling while China’s keep skyrocketing.

It's sus to ascribe countries as bad emitters because they're developing higher QoL instead of choosing to be stuck as subsistence shitholes with low per capita emissions. The only way for countries to stay at subsistence/developing per capita emissions is to stay susbsistent/developing. Of course some wierd people think that's fine.

A fairer description is PRC's moderate per capita emissions are converging with US high per capita emissions as QoL improves because average PRC citizen wants to live as well as average citizens of high consumption developed economies. But due to various physical constraints - less square footage per, less flying, less car ownership per capita due to density, PRC unlikely to pass US per capita - they're simply not setup to enable car centric, house+lawn levels of consumption. But PRC converging with west in QoL = PRC still primed for more catchup consumption = per capita emissions still has room to climb, while transitioning energy mix tries to sustain growth via greener methods of generation.

Meanwhile US's process of "decarbonization" = also becoming net oil exporter and largest lng exporter, the latter with evidence to be much more poluting than coal due to leaky infra. Which BTW adds, ~3 tons co2 per capita to US produced emissions, which single handly negates last 15 years of US "falling" emissions. Which BTW should be accounted for US emissions just like PRC exports are calculated in PRC emissions, but conveniently isn't. Meanwhile, PRC upgrading domestic coal to be cleaner, ceased construction of coal plants abroad, is net exporting green energy. That's without bringing population growth/decline trends. US adding 1.5m to US tier of emissions is like adding 12m Indians per year.

_djo_ on 2024-05-15

Whether a country is a bad emitter is a factor of its total and per capita emissions. It has no inherent moral meaning, but it has serious implications for how we can slow down climate change.

At current rates, China is going to be a larger per capita polluter than the US ever was, because it’s still choosing the quick, cheap, and dirty approach to so much of its industry including those focused only internally. As a result of poor central planning and incentives, it has built and then destroyed entire apartment blocks in cities across the country without them ever having been in use. Its per capita emissions rate is already higher than that of the EU average.

Nobody on here is saying that China or any other country shouldn’t develop. It’s expected that there’ll be a rise in per capita emissions as a result. But that doesn’t mean that China has the right to emit as much as it can just in the name of development, especially when so many lower carbon options exist.

Again, this isn’t a moral judgement, where adding focus to China means taking focus away from the US and letting it do what it wants. Nor is it a situation where we can or should give anyone a free pass just because of history. Instead, we’re in a situation where we’re collectively screwed unless we can reduce total emissions and China has to be an integral part of that reduction too. Just as the US has to be.

questhimay on 2024-05-15

there's no reason for you to reply to maxglute. they never quote anything for reference, preferring to hallucinate things out of thin air. and they always want to have the last word, which is a sign of immaturity/insecurity.

maxglute on 2024-05-15

>At current rates

This presumes current rates holds, when rate is constrained by factors and levels off past certain thresholds of development, and inherent constraints limit PRC demands vs US. With geography/population/density constrains, average PRC household isn't going to average 2300+ sqft of space & 2 car household, so trend of PRC per capita emissions passing US not realistic extrapolation.

>poor central planning

Wasting a few 100 apartment blocks over decades (for corruption/wrong zoning) doesn't meaningfully adds to per capita emissions. It's a rounding error on scale of millions of normal housing upgrading/recycling/replacement cycle over time. Even currenty underutilized housing is mostly reflection of short term supply outstripping demand. PRC still has 300m people to urbanize and net short 100s millions of housing units. Upgrade housing also important in development, moving people from dilapidated huts to modern buildings requires emissions.

> Its per capita emissions rate is already higher than that of the EU average.

Catchup growth = pouring down 100 years worth of concrete + steel, aka generations of infrastructure. In that sense per capita emissions is a concession to developed countries, since real useful index is historic per capita emissions, aka how much energy was expended in totality to enable modern/developed levels of QoL. PRC simply very good at condensing all this grown in a few years, other developing countries will follow, but spread over time, with longer tail.

>can just in the name of development, especially when so many lower carbon options exist.

PRC emitted relative to tech available at time. They upgraded coal to clean coal. They jumped on electrifiction / renewables at scale when it was feasible to deploy at scale. Prior to that the tech didn't exist economically, nor at scale, and hence might as well not exist. They would have jumped on nuclear sooner if western contractors didn't shit bed. TLDR is cleaning energy didn't scale with PRC growth, one doesn't slow compounding growth and development because tech isn't ready because effects of growth > emissions.

>moral judgement

Choosing position that prioritizes emission over development and vice versa is moral choice since it prioritizes effects of climate change to effects of development. My position is development > climate always since second order effects of development (poverty alleviation) > emissions/long term health. My other position is climate change is anthropocene problem, earth doesn't care we die in ice age or fire ball. Anthropocene solutions to anthropocene problem = geopolitical compromises, not what's best for science/enviroment. And only metric world can realistically agree on is per capita metric, in which case lead emitters sets the standard for what's allowable, and if that level pushes everyone over the edge, then that's where we'll "fairly" go, because that's want's ultimately morally acceptable/feasible.

belter on 2024-05-15

That is unfair on China, since they manufacture lots of the dirty stuff the rest of the world outsourced on them.

waihtis on 2024-05-15


belter on 2024-05-15

It was US business who drove the outsourcing led by companies like Apple or Walmart. Otherwise each IPhone would cost 10.000 dollars...

_djo_ on 2024-05-15

China's most polluting industries aren't its high tech phone and car factories, which are generally fairly modern. It's the mass of mid-level factories that produce cheap items for the entire world, but predominantly for the developing world.

The idea that Chinese pollution wouldn't exist if not for Western outsourcing is a myth.

Workaccount2 on 2024-05-15

Because of opportunities created by China.

When walmart moves into a town and kills the local shops, is it Walmarts fault for bringing cheaper prices or is the locals fault for moving all their shopping to walmart?

fmobus on 2024-05-15

If the global manufacturing was centered in the US instead, we would probably much worse of in terms of CO2 emissions.

EGreg on 2024-05-15

That’s actually pretty good logic. Drug dealers should be regulated, not imprisoned.

thaanpaa on 2024-05-15

Did you miss the climate agreement they committed to in November?