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Science

A Countdown To Global Catastrophe? 1403

Posted by Hemos
from the you-said-crossing-the-streams-was-bad dept.
An anonymous reader writes "From The Independent: The global warming danger threshold for the world is clearly marked for the first time in an international report to be published tomorrow - and the bad news is, the world has nearly reached it already. For the full story, see this article."
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A Countdown To Global Catastrophe?

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  • by havaloc (50551) * on Monday January 24, 2005 @10:57AM (#11455294) Homepage
    From tsunami [indiatimes.com] to Kyoto not impacting the environment at all [cnsnews.com] to dropping emissions [epa.gov], to overblown disaster movies [clickability.com], scientists resigning various environmental organizations [colorado.edu], and other speeches [senate.gov]. People are even connecting the environment [episcopalchurch.org] to the tsunamis, which have nothing to do with the environment, and everything to do with Earthquakes that are going to happen anyway. Lets get some perspective here.
  • WND shill game (Score:3, Informative)

    by KontinMonet (737319) on Monday January 24, 2005 @10:59AM (#11455324) Homepage Journal
    Should be called: CorporateCrapDaily [tripod.com]
  • Re:stupid tsunami (Score:5, Informative)

    by scatalogical (609339) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:00AM (#11455330)
    Global warming states that the maxima of BOTH hot and cold will increase. Nice to see people are too ignorant to even know what the actual theory is.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:00AM (#11455331)
    I didn't learn that this was all junk science from oil industry propaganda. I saw this on the O'Reilly Factor and it had SCIENTISTS and EXPERTS on it saying that this was all bunk.

    Also, I saw a special Hannity and Colmes did on it and Sean Hannity proved that this was all a Democrat conspiracy.

    So maybe YOU just need to do a little research, my friend.
  • Warming ? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:03AM (#11455380)
    We have +14C (57F) here in Germany. The calendar says "winter".
    This winter is at least 10C too warm, last 2 winters were also too "warm".

    The last real winter I can remember is over 20 years ago when we had snow.
  • by Anthony Liguori (820979) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:11AM (#11455465) Homepage
    The article states that since 1790 the earth's global temperature has risen 0.8 degrees.

    In almost a quarter of a millenia this is the change. Excuse me if I remain skeptical that this was caused by human activity.
  • by deanj (519759) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:14AM (#11455494)
    Bah.. Here's a better link: article [examiner.ie]
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:16AM (#11455514)
    Apparently we have another person who was asleep in math class when they taught the concept of rate of change. The last ice age ended 10,000 years ago. They're talking about comparable changes in temperature possibly happening over the next 100 years.
  • Re:Original Study? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Angostura (703910) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:19AM (#11455550)
    Sadly, the actual report is not online, it costs £5 to buy, which is pretty mad IMHO.

    You can find the original press release and list of recommendations, here [ippr.org.uk] though.

    I'm a trained biologist, but not *not* an eco-nut. However the variety of scientific evidence coming out lately, combined with the interesting stuff on global dimming [bbc.co.uk] has got me seriously worried. And I mean seriously.

    I'm sure you are right and the Earth's biosphere will probably cope, over the space of a few thousand years. However I have a two year old daughter, and I would really rather prefer her to enjoy the fruits of our society, rather than watching N. American and Europe become a dust-bowl over the next 40 years.

    Time to actually take this stuff seriously.

    Precis on dimming: Global warming effects may have been masked by particulate pollution which appears to have reduced the amount of sunlight getting to the Earth by a massive 30% in some cases).
  • by mdf356 (774923) <mdf356@gmBOYSENail.com minus berry> on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:32AM (#11455699) Homepage
    Just thought I'd pipe up -- one [episcopalchurch.org] of your links is being used in a misleading fashion.

    That article does not say that global warming caused the earthquake that caused the tsunami. It said that the earthquake (somewhat localized) had effects that touched people's lives very, very far away, and that global warming will touch even more lives.

    Cheers, Matt

  • Re:blech... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Angostura (703910) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:37AM (#11455756)
    Is that what it sounds like? Based on what?

    From the publisher's site [ippr.org.uk]

    Key recommendations of the Taskforce include:

    1. The G8 and other major economies, including from the developing world, form a G8+ Climate Group, to pursue technology agreements and related initiatives that will lead to large emissions reductions.

    2. The G8-Plus Climate Group agree to shift their agricultural subsidies from food crops to biofuels, especially those derived from cellulosic materials, while implementing appropriate safeguards to ensure sustainable farming methods are encouraged, culturally and ecologically sensitive land preserved, and biodiversity protected.

    3. G8 governments establish national renewable portfolio standards to generate at least 25% of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025, with higher targets needed for some G8 governments.

    4. G8 governments increase their spending on research, development, and demonstration of advanced technologies for energy-efficiency and low- and zero-carbon energy supply by two-fold or more by 2010, at the same time as adopting strategies for the large-scale deployment of existing low- and zero-carbon technologies.

    5. All industrialised countries introduce national mandatory cap-and-trade systems for carbon emissions, and construct them to allow for their future integration into a single global market.

    6. A global framework be adopted that builds on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol, and enables all countries to be part of concerted action on climate change at the global level in the post-2012 period, on the basis of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities.

    7. A long-term objective be established of preventing global average temperature from rising more than 2 C (3.6 F) above the pre-industrial level, to limit the extent and magnitude of climate-change impacts.

    8. Governments remove barriers to and increase investment in renewable energy and energy efficient technologies and practices by taking steps including the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies and requiring Export Credit Agencies and Multilateral
    Development Banks to adopt minimum efficiency or carbon intensity standards for projects they support.

    9. Developed countries honour existing commitments to provide greater financial and technical assistance to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate change, including the commitments made at the seventh conference of the parties to the UNFCCC in 2001, and pursue the establishment of an international compensation fund to support disaster mitigation and preparedness.

    10. Governments committed to action on climate change raise public awareness of the problem and build public support for climate policies by pledging to provide substantial long-term investment in effective climate communication activities.
  • Re:I am tired (Score:3, Informative)

    by RayBender (525745) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:39AM (#11455768) Homepage
    I am getting so tired of this junk science. The world has been coming to an end for my entire 40+ years on this planet. Nothing has happened yet. Ain't going to happen either.

    Maybe the world has been coming to an end, just slower than your average Hollywoood movie would have you think it will. Climate change really has happened, and you can talk to plenty of old people living in places like Alaska and they will usually tell you that it used to be colder. There is ample evidence for glacier retreat and ice thinning (the letter from e.g U.S. Navy polar research).

    Now, some reports have been overly dramatized - and some people retro-actively exaggerate the reports so they can say that its was all hype. In truth, there is always a range of opinion on something as important as climate change, and you can pretty much alway find someone who says something youi find useful, if you look hard enough.

    All that notwithstanding, the large majority of the worlds' climate scientists have over the last 15-20 years consistently been saying that we are causing climate change. There is so much evidence that only someone who wanted to believe otherwise would be in serious doubt.

    You make an obvious logical fallacy: the fact that something hasn't happened doesn't prove that it won't happen.

    No, climate change will happen over the next 20-100 years. It might be "slow" compared to an asteroid impact, but it will nonetheless happen and it will have an impact on our environment. How much it interfers with civilization is still somewhat up for debate...

    There is another example of this sort of thing that I find infomative; when I was a kid I learned about the dangers of over-population, and how diseases were a common consequence. As a kid I thought that there would be a large pandemic that would sweep through the teeming masses and kill millions of people. Of course, I was right - it's just that that pandemic happened slower than I expected (AIDS infects and will kill >20% of some poulations in Africa. That's pretty Malthusian if you ask me).

    Why has it better getting progressively colder over the past 20 years in places like Russia and China?

    It hasn't. In fact, there are many cities in northern Russia that have a new problem: apartment buildings collapse because the permafrost their foundations sit on has melted. That sounds like warming to me.

  • Re:Balancing act? (Score:4, Informative)

    by gothzilla (676407) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:41AM (#11455798)
    Sure, if you ignore the fact that many plants require a certain amount of direct sunlight.
  • Re:Already Flipped (Score:2, Informative)

    by R.Caley (126968) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:54AM (#11455962)
    There is a general scientific consensus that human activity is increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and that a runaway greenhouse effect will result from too much CO2 in the atmosphere.

    While both halves of that are technically true, no one sane would assert that the human effects would result in a run away scenario and Earth turning into Venus. Rather the effect of human activity, if any, will be to push the climate into another relatively stable state.

    If nothing else, remember that the carbon we are shoveing into the atmosphere all came from the atmosphere to start with, and a lot more is locked up in carbon rich sedimentary rocks such as limestone and chalk. We're just putting back it back. If we weren't in a run-away situation before life started making mass amounts of cacium carbonate, we aren't going to be after we just put back the relatively small amount of carbon locked up in fossil fuels.

  • by danharan (714822) on Monday January 24, 2005 @12:04PM (#11456082) Journal
    I'm in Halifax now, and getting sick of this series of storms we've been having.

    There's a few things we can do. All Canadians by now have probably heard of the one-ton challenge [climatechange.gc.ca]- even Rick Mercer's helping promote it.

    For a bit more comprehensive fare, you can try David Suzuki's solutions [davidsuzuki.org].

    Political pressure helps, but right now market solutions are probably the easiest way to deal with the crisis. If you have the means to install solar panels or can invest in renewables, go for it.

    The most cost-effective and elegant solutions are conservation oriented. Compact fluorescent light-bulbs, LCD rather than CRT monitors, etc... Hybrid or other efficient cars are better than conventional, mass transit beats any car, and changing lifestyles and city planning to reduce the trips we need to make is most elegant.

    Energy use estimates have been wildly inaccurate in the past as we got more efficient in using it. At the same time, better tech is getting cheaper as more people buy it and it reaches commodity status. Buying compact fluorescent bulbs 10 years ago didn't just save the energy of that bulb, it helped set in motion a market dynamic that has made them 4 to 5 times cheaper today, and more widely available. Same with LCDs... we as techies can be advocates for this and emerging technology- stuff that meets the same or more needs with less energy.
  • Re:Already Flipped (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheSync (5291) on Monday January 24, 2005 @12:17PM (#11456234) Journal
    a massive smallpox epidemic deliberately released by Europeans

    Where is your evident that this was deliberate? At the time of original contact, no one understood how smallpox was spread.

    At least one million Native Americans along the Mississippi died of smallpox in the 1500's before they ever met any Europeans.
  • by Mycroft_VIII (572950) on Monday January 24, 2005 @12:58PM (#11456802) Journal
    I take it you haven't really looked into this at all.
    First off no ftl is needed, and even were it needed we know general relativity is neigther complete, nor totaly prohibitive of 'ftl' travel.
    We also do NOT need to strip mine every ounce of metal, or even close, to make high volume colony ships.
    A simple way to do it is to find a fair sized asteroid (say .5 miles by about 2) and drill a nice long hole in the center. Then you pump in a few thousand gallons of water and seal the hole up. Next you use a fairly large mirror (which in zero g can be very lightweight) to focu light down on the long axis of your asteroid, which should be spinning along said axis.
    What happens next is the asteroid heats up till the rock softens. As this happens the water turns to steam from the same heat and applies presure to the inside of the rock. Done right you 'inflate' the asteroid into a hollow shell a couple miles across and several long.
    This becomes the basis for your space craft.
    now travel times might seem like an issue, but with ion drives and solar sails, and perhaps bussard ram-jets for engines you get up to a sizeable percentage c. At these speeds time dialation can turn a 400 year trip into a 4-10 month trip for the occupants.
    Now admittedly this won't hold 6+ billion people , but it could hold several hundred, many thousands if we find a way to make long term hibernation work (not as far fetched as it sounds). However quite a few of these could be built (and you wouldn't want just one big one any way) and we could send off a few billion colonist this way.
    The amazing thing is we can see how to do all of this, at our current level of tech this would take a huge world wide effort, but it's not impossible and with the advancement of technology this could eventually be reduce to feasability equivilant to another moon landing.
    And this isn't the only way to do this sort of thing that doesn't involve going beyond what we are almost certain to be eventually possible.

    Mycroft
  • by RayBender (525745) on Monday January 24, 2005 @01:05PM (#11456918) Homepage
    Large volcanos like Mt.St. Helens barf more particulates and greenhouse gas into the atmosphere in a single eruption than all the human activity since 1900.

    No, that's wrong. Volcanoes on average put in 100-200 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Humans dump about 6 BILLION tons each year. Here is a reference [fs.fed.us]. here is another [csiro.au]

  • Re:Already Flipped (Score:3, Informative)

    by ezavada (91752) on Monday January 24, 2005 @01:06PM (#11456931)
    A little research shows I was wrong on 2 points: First, the Mayans were already gone by the time the Spanish encountered the Incas. It was the Aztecs and Incas who were decimated by smallpox.

    Second, historians agree that the Spanish spreading of smallpox to the Aztecs was accidental. I was confusing this with later events during the conquest of Native American tribes, for example as approved by General Amherst on July 16th, 1763 [nativeweb.org].
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Monday January 24, 2005 @01:15PM (#11457051)
    hurricanes have been striking with increasing devastation

    Devestation (in the sense that it's talked about and covered in the news) relates to damage to the stuff people build, or to the people sitting inside that stuff when it falls down. The biggest factor in hurrican damage for the last 100 years has been the increasing number of expensive things that we've stupidly put on the coasts that are periodically hit, and always have been.

    Leaving aside the financial insanity of constantly bailing out (with all of our tax dollars!) those people that insist on putting up yet another house right where another large storm will, inevitably, knock it down... the density of human presence on the eastern seaboard is the main reason for the trouble. Further, all of the coverage speaks in terms of dollars worth of damage, as if a dollar-per-resident-today is the same as a dollar-per-resident-in-1970.

    The number of hurricanes per year fluctuates in large patterns, and we've been here before, not that "here" (the semi-busy 2004 season) was particularly bad. For Florida, it sucked. But there've been other years where they dodged the bullets, and it was the Carolinas, or even New England (or you folks in Canada). Big picture, here, folks. Bigger than "since I can remember," which includes fuzzy tall tales from when we were in elementary school.
  • by Some Pig! (103985) on Monday January 24, 2005 @01:23PM (#11457174)
    That's incisively put.

    I'd like to draw the topic's attention to a very recent book: "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed", by Jared Diamond (whom many may know as the author of "Guns, Germs, and Steel.") He treats many of these ideas in detail and at length.
  • Re:Already Flipped (Score:2, Informative)

    by hey hey hey (659173) on Monday January 24, 2005 @01:31PM (#11457316)
    For example the downfall of the Egyptian empire was partially due to a massive warm spell that caused crops to fail and deserts to form.

    You sure you read that right? Egypt fell either when Alexander, or the Romans invaded (depending on if you think the Ptolemies ruling from Egypt was Egyptian enough). As Egypt's wealth was in their grain, I'm pretty sure the Nile was still flooding quite happily.

    What you might be remembering is that the start of the Egyptian kingdom was partly caused by northen Africa changing from a large expanse of lakes into the Sahara desert. That forced tribes more and more into the Nile valley, and all the tasty food therein.

  • I wonder how many of you people that are joking abut this shit have kids, and if so, do you care about them? Because to me it doesn't sound like it to me. When gas goes up to $7.00 a gallon I don't think you will be laughing as hard. We are are struggling to feed your kids I don't think you will be laughing as hard, then.


    You mean like gas is now in the UK? Alright, when I was there last month at the then-current exchange rate, it was $6.25 a gallon, not $7.00 a gallon, but, close enough.

    Gas at $2, $5, or even $8 a gallon won't stop people using gas for their cars; they'll just shift to more economical vehicles or modes of transportation.

    Gas at $50 a gallon, or gas availability of only 1 or 2 days a month, on the other hand, makes it impractical to use as a staple of 99.9% of the population's lifestyle. That's when a fundamental shift in society's infrastructure must occur.
  • by skarphace (812333) on Monday January 24, 2005 @01:49PM (#11457548) Homepage
    The sunlight is getting to Earth. It's being absorbed in the atmosphere. And guess what the absorption of sunlight causes? heat -- warming, in other words. That's not good news.
    Actually, the particulate matter is causing reflection, not absorbtion. And this my friend, causes 'dimming' which cools the Earth. Read a little first before you post.
  • by Detritus (11846) on Monday January 24, 2005 @02:11PM (#11457849) Homepage
    I know my weapons physics.

    Fallout levels depend on whether they are ground or air bursts, and weather patterns. Fallout radiation levels decay quickly. Very little land would be uninhabitable for long periods of time. Contamination is relative. People can live and farm on land that is heavily contaminated by modern radiation safety standards without immediate and severe health problems. Human populations are surprisingly resilient when exposed to non-fatal levels of radiation. If you survive the first 60 days after the event, you will probably live a normal life.

    See http://www.rerf.or.jp/top/qae.htm [rerf.or.jp] for data on radiation effects from Japan.

  • by Yartrebo (690383) on Monday January 24, 2005 @02:39PM (#11458222)
    You'd better have a whole load of printers and computers to carry, and they have better be carried often or far, because a subcompact can carry all but the largest computers and printers. Everything consumer can easily be fit in the back seat of any car, no matter how small. Most consumer goods will also fit into the trunk.

    If you move the stuff a short distance and not all the frequently, you can always make a few trips.

    If you really have that much stuff to cart around, maybe a van would be a better vehicle than a minivan or an SUV as it has far more cargo space and similar fuel efficiency and costs.
  • by operagost (62405) on Monday January 24, 2005 @03:07PM (#11458666) Homepage Journal
    Getting an extra few hundred dollars back in your taxes is more important to people than the future of their own children (see under: Republicans' fiscal policies).
    Red herring
    Driving a Hummer to work is more important than not being able to breathe (see under: LA smog).
    Another red herring (L.A.'s geography is why the smog is bad there).
    And getting your way is more important than killing 15,000+ human beings you don't know (see under: Iraq war).
    Another red herring. I don't worry about killing people who commit acts of murder like blowing up police stations or putting thousands of dissenters and ethnic undesirables in mass graves. They're called "bad guys."
    If we were seriously concerned about any of this, starting with the most immediate, breathable air in our cities, we'd have hydrogen cars out there already.
    And how do you produce the hydrogen for your fuel cell?
    I just wonder once people start dying in the US, if the US will try to storm the remaining food/resource reserves by force. (yes, you might argue that Iraq already happened, but I'm talking resources other than oil).
    We already make much more food than we need due to advancing agricultural technology. That's why we need fewer farmers. Democrats have made a career out of claiming it's a bad thing - well, I guess it's a bad thing for the farmers. And so it was for all the typewriter repairmen, we don't need many of those to meet demand anymore.
  • Re:nota bad thing (Score:3, Informative)

    by RayBender (525745) on Monday January 24, 2005 @06:09PM (#11461477) Homepage
    Boiling a pot of watter has been repeated. I have not seen anyone show me that in that past CO2 levels have gone up and temperature went up with it.

    Check out: this link [worldviewo...arming.org]. Scroll down to the plot of CO2 vs temperature and then tell me there isn't a correlation. Now recall that CO2 levels are at 370 ppm and rising... Before you run off an put the cart before the horse (that warming causes CO2), know that we have good, sound physical reasons to expect CO2 rises to cause warming, but few reasons to expect the converse.

    Besides, wouldn't the sun be a better analogy for the burner as opposed to CO2? Especially seeing as how solar output has gone up?

    If you care to take an analogy too far, then adding CO2 to the atmosphere is like putting a lid on the pot. As for your comment about solar output - that is very unclear, and even the ones who published that said it can't explain all of the observed warming. Not to mention that its a result that doesn't have a lot of back-up, whereas CO2 increases, the observed warming, and the effect of CO2 increases on radiative transport are all things that have been studied by hundreds of researchers.

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