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Humanity Responsible For Current Climate Change 775

Posted by Zonk
from the we-screw-things-up dept.
tehanu writes "Scientists working with Antarctic ice have found that the level of greenhouse gases is at the highest level in over half a million years. Carbon dioxide is 27% higher now than any other time over the last 650 000 years. Methane, an even stronger greenhouse gas is 130% higher. The period of time studied covers eight full glacial cycles including a time when the earth's position relative to the sun is the same as it is today. Other scientists have found that the annual rate at which the sea has risen since the industrial revolution is twice that of over the last 5000 years. It is predicted that by 2100 the sea level will be 40cm higher. These results provide strong evidence that human activity since the industrial revolution, rather than just natural processes, has strongly altered the world's climate. As one of the scientists involved in the research put it: 'The levels of primary greenhouse gases such as methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are up dramatically since the Industrial Revolution, at a speed and magnitude that the Earth has not seen in hundreds of thousands of years.'"
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Humanity Responsible For Current Climate Change

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  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Friday November 25, 2005 @10:42PM (#14116327)

    This is an interesting turn of events...

    When the evidence was less than conclusive about either global warming in general or our role in it in particular, the administration roundly decried it, calling global warming a 'myth' and a 'fantasy'.

    When the evidence was conclusive about global warming in general, but inconclusive about our role in it, the administration switched to "well...perhaps it is real, but it's surely just a natural phenomenon...we can't be more than marginally responsible".

    And now that the evidence about both global warming in general and our role in it in particular is conclusive, the line will now be "oh well...water under the bridge. There's nothing we can do about it now".

    In other words...business in usual. It might be a good idea to sell that beachfront property and start shopping for property further north...particularly since you'll be hunting for your own food when the climate shift causes worldwide food shortages.
  • by Crashmarik (635988) on Friday November 25, 2005 @10:43PM (#14116338)
    Galileo started recording sunspots. Mars has its polar caps showing sines of melting and pluto also shows signs of warming.

    It would be nice if all the reports about the environment didn't carry the chicken little byline.
  • by nharmon (97591) on Friday November 25, 2005 @10:51PM (#14116368) Homepage
    Well, we know what happened the last time a few experts were taken at face value...No WMDs.

    "Scientific" studies are supposed to be criticised, repeated, disproven...and then when all else fails...accepted.
  • Links (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Friday November 25, 2005 @10:51PM (#14116369)
    Forgot to post the link where I got the 0.27% number from: Global warming--a closer look at the numbers [geocraft.com]

    I was discussing the global warming issue just last Tuesday with someone who was very adamant that humans are responsible for everything. As I offered more and more opposing evidence suggesting that there is no definitive proof that mankind is responsible, he grew more and more emotional until he told me "attitudes like yours are why the planet is going to hell" and wouldn't discuss it further. Unfortunately, these kinds of responses are common when you're trying to rationally discuss climate change and point out that correlation does not equal causality, and that a proven link has not been made. Most of the time, you see lots of "consensus science" used as a debate point--as in, "Well, so-and-so organization says we're responsible and these guys say we're responsible."

    I subscribe to what I call my "1/3 the hype" theory. When you see a lot of hype over something, reduce it to 1/3 of itself and believe that instead. E.g., "Linux on the desktop this year is going to take over!" becomes Linux will make a few gains here and there. And "mankind is responsible for everything according to correlation in some figures!" means there's some possibility we're responsible but no hard links yet.

    Besides, when someone mentions that temperatures are higher, they always neglect to mention that temps actually dipped from the 40s to the 70s, giving the impression that it's just been a steady, consistent ramp upward with no variation, when it hasn't. And it is misleading to omit that fact.
  • by Lifewish (724999) on Friday November 25, 2005 @10:54PM (#14116382) Homepage Journal
    "Scientific" studies are supposed to be criticised, repeated, disproven...and then when all else fails...accepted.

    You're right. It's essential for scientific ideas to be challenged by the scientific community. On the other hand, what's happening here is the scientific community's consensus being challenged by the political community, which is insane.
  • Re:No! God did it! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by StarvingSE (875139) on Friday November 25, 2005 @10:58PM (#14116405)
    Yeah thats really smart. Make gas $6 a gallon so people already hurt by the poor economy the US is experiencing can be hurt even more. For the record, I am very environmentally minded, but the fact is that people will drive no matter what the price is. We pay around $2.50 avg around the country (not an exact figure, just estimating for sake of argument) and no one takes the bus to work. The main problem is that in many US cities there is no choice but to drive everywhere. Public transportation is seriously lacking, and I feel that should be top priority in any large metropolitan area. Make public transportation easy, cheap, and readily available, and people will gladly use it instead of paying high gas prices.

    And besides, we're going to run out of oil in the next 100 years anyway, and the earth will balance itself out and go back to equilibrium, and everyone will be happy (except for the oil companaies).
  • Miller gave an interesting interview.

    http://www.actionbioscience.org/evolution/miller.h tml [actionbioscience.org]

    I discount his science because he's as fundy for gaia as some are for god. Global warming has become a religion and no longer counts as science.
  • by gatzke (2977) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:03PM (#14116429) Homepage Journal

    The Earth will not lose the ability to support life. Even all out USSR USA nucular war would not remove the ability to support life, as cockroaches would still be around...

    What you are worried about is significant change in the balance. We already have that. Think about the change in world population in the last 1000 years, from millions to billions. That is disruptive, as we are not currently self-sustaining.

    You want to lock us in to one point in time and make sure nobody is hurting too bad. Guess what, bad things may happen and a lot (millions) of people may die until things settle out to a sustainable level.

    I hope our tech can hold off major change for a few generations, but you never know...

  • So, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Descalzo (898339) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:05PM (#14116433) Journal
    at a speed and magnitude that the Earth has not seen in hundreds of thousands of years.

    So what were those lousy smegheads doing to the earth hundreds of thousands of years ago? Stupid cavemen and their earth-raping!

  • by gtrubetskoy (734033) * on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:06PM (#14116436)
    Trying to talk sense into these people is like trying to argue with a Scientologist about psychiatry or with a Southern Baptist about evolution.

    "Sense" is neither one view or the other. If we develop ways to produce and consume energy that do not pollute the environment, the debate on whether global warming is caused by humans would be completely irrelevant.

    What bothers me is the folks who cannot accept that the answer is somewhere in between, it has to be a total disaster scenario or complete denial.

    Of the two news items that read "So and so has almost positively proven the cause of global warming" or "So and so has developed a way to reduce co2 emissions by 2.76%" - which one is more sensational, which one qualifies as "front page"? Which sceintist will get more funding and publicity - the one behind the former story or the latter? Yet which of has contributed more to society? That's problem with us people, hype-driven beings...

  • Re:Good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ChipMonk (711367) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:12PM (#14116465) Journal
    Bush didn't sign the Kyoto protocol

    Clinton didn't sign it, either. Thankfully, neither one could sign it without the Senate's approval.

    You had it coming, suckers!

    Uh, excuse me, but who's running more and more Diesel engines [typepad.com]? You're not exactly complying with Kyoto either, and you did sign it.
  • who's to blame? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RussP (247375) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:14PM (#14116471) Homepage
    If the thesis of this article is true -- and that's a big "if" -- then who is more to blame than anyone else for global warming? Why, it't the anti-nuclear "environmentalists," of course. Nuclear power produces no greenhouse gases -- none! Yet the U.S. gets half its electric power from coal. Folks, we burn three tons of coal per *second* in the U.S. alone, and the gaseous emissions kill an estimated 50,000 people per year.

    If indeed human activity is causing global warming, then we can solve this problem inteligently or stupidly. The intelligent solution starts with nuclear power. The stupid solution is to give up our mobility and regress to third world living conditions.

    If you oppose nuclear power, please educate yourself [russp.us].
  • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:17PM (#14116491)
    Those "several billion internal combustion vehicles and hundreds of thousands of gasoline-burning and jet fuel-burning aircaft" contribute only 0.27% of greenhouse gases. With water vapor taken out of the equation, we contribute 5.53%.

    Water vapor is one of the so-called harmful greenhouse gases. It seems you haven't really looked at the numbers and just decided to react to my post. I posted this elsewhere, but here's a link with sources [geocraft.com].

    All I'm saying is there is no proven link that mankind is causing global warming, and there are plenty of possibilities that it is part of a natural cycle based on various opposing evidence. So I took issue with the emotive headline of this Slashdot article that declared humanity responsible for climate change.
  • by Salgak1 (20136) <salgak.speakeasy@net> on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:22PM (#14116510) Homepage
    Let's assume Global Warming is a fact. Now let's pull back to a Geologic Time Scale. Earth has been in an Ice Age for the past 5-10 million years. Apply Global Warming and. . . . . . . . we get "normal" conditions for the vast majority of this planet's history. When dealing with planetary-level events, one should also use a planetary-level timescale. . .
  • by Exquilax (924776) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:26PM (#14116530)
    Notice that dip you're talking about in your graph is still above the mean temperature in the 1800's. You know... not that looking at a graph isn't better than an actual statistical analysis.
  • Re:No! God did it! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by max born (739948) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:32PM (#14116556)
    I am a proponent of HUGE tax increases on gasoline.

    According to Hubbert peak theory [wikipedia.org] oil production is on the decline and will be down to near zero by the end of the century.

    A bigger source of CO2 will be naturally occuring forest fires which according to some estimates already make up for nearly 50% of the world's C02 production. Forest fires are a much overlooked source of pollution.

    Time to get that fusion reactor working.
  • Stuff and nonsense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Malleus Dei (889640) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:35PM (#14116570)
    The jump to a causal relationship is stuff and nonsense. When A and B both occur, this does *not* mean that A caused B. The sun's output is variable. This planet has been warmer in the geologic past than it is now. It has been warmer in recorded pre-industrial history as well (see the Medieval Warm Period, which can't be blamed on industrial activity). While it is certainly probable that humans have indeed contributed to global climate change, it is entirely possible that their total contribution is minimal compared to that which is happening naturally. Too many people want to claim causal relationships that can't be proven when we are still gathering data. Don't panic, and don't let anyone else panic, don't make any wild claims, and make certain that the spirit of open scientific inquiry is kept alive on this subject. Remember Chicken Little.
  • by Stalyn (662) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:36PM (#14116575) Homepage Journal
    Why is it so hard to believe that us humans are responsible for global warming? The Industrial Revolution brought about automated machinery which required energy and power. We decided to use fossil fuels like oil and coal. We burn these things and it releases carbon dioxide into the air. The more we produced the more people could be sustained, so there was a population boom. This meant more farm lands needed to be created so we cut down more trees. This also lead to more factories, more power stations, the need for more energy. We burned more fossil fuels hence more carbon dioxide.

    Why does it seem to some that humans can not bring about climate change? Our population keeps swelling, we keep burning fossil fuels and chopping down trees. Do you think we are unable to produce enough greenhouse gases? Is nature so vast and giant that humans seem to dwindle in strength? We humans are a part of nature. Locusts can devour forests. Why can't us humans ravage the earth?
  • Re:Good (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:37PM (#14116580)
    Do you seriously think Diesels are dramatically worse than other fuels? Hint... they are not!
  • Re:No! God did it! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:41PM (#14116594)
    I think it counts as "bad" if we destroy the earth's capacity to support us as a species.

    The earth will be fine in the long run, but will we be here to enjoy it?
  • Possible. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jd (1658) <imipak @ y a h o o .com> on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:44PM (#14116611) Homepage Journal
    Certainly, in the first 500,000 years of Earth's existance as a solid body, there was no free oxygen at all. Once life evolved, oxygen levels rose. Since then, the biosphere (as a whole) has been relatively stable. Which is remarkable, given that most of it is inherently unstable and, without life, would collapse extremely quickly.


    The situation is further complicated by the fact that we're coming to the end of an interglacial period - the last Ice Age technically didn't finish, and will be back for more. Such periods are unstable, in and of themselves, as they change very rapidly on a geological timescale.


    There is also the fact that we've got masses of sunspots over a prolonged period, unusual geological activity, etc. All of these will complicate any attempt to model the environment and will muddle which variables humans are responsible for and by how much.


    HOWEVER, we must also look at the nature of natural events. Volcanos are very short-term things and they pump the gasses into a much higher part of the atmosphere than do humans. We can therefore filter out natural contributions to the greenhouse effect, because those will go into an entirely different cycle. Human activity is prolonged (and, these days, often 24 hours a day, all year round), is highly regionalized and is often in areas that have a reduced ability to act as sinks. Water near industrialized ports is likely going to have a thin film of oil, making it harder to absorb gasses. Land near industrialized cities is often badly deforrested, with the same results. Farmland is no better, as farmers don't do crop rotation and use chemicals to add nitrates, etc.


    Whether you can deduce from all of this that humans are responsible for all damage is tough. I believe so, but I wouldn't be able to produce a convincing argument for it. What CAN be deduced is that the climate has become unstable and may not be survivable if nothing is done. I believe the focus of the debate should be less on who did what (because nobody is taking responsibility, regardless) and should be much more firmly focussed on preserving as much of the biosphere as possible.


    Damage to the Amazon jungle is something like 60% worse than previously believed, because loggers have been using thinning techniques to hide evidence of illegal logging. I believe that is a problem. Fish stocks are 10% of where they were at the turn of the 20th century. I believe that is also a problem. Species are becoming extinct at an accerating rate, which I definitely think is a problem. I believe that if we do something to correct these problems, then a lot of other problems will take care of themselves. We then only have to deal with whatever is left over.


    People are generally lazy, politicians doubly so, so any plan that involves relatively little work (and less pain) now would surely be a better bet no matter who is right on the global warming front.

  • Re:who's to blame? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HebrewToYou (644998) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:46PM (#14116618)
    What a terrifically insightful post!

    It is those concerned with "saving" the enviornment that frighten me the most, for they are the ones most willing to recklessly change the status quo using the trendy science of the decade. We still don't know shit about the climate cycles of this planet and what we do know is hindered by all sorts of complexity. The systems interaction alone is enough to make me doubtful of anyone's claims of understanding this spinning rock.

    And if climate change does occur on a drastic scale, my money is on it being irreversible and the result of natural (read: not human), cyclical actions of the long-term (read: more than a 650,000 year time frame).
  • by mOdQuArK! (87332) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:47PM (#14116623)
    we get "normal" conditions for the vast majority of this planet's history.

    Do "normal" conditions for the "vast majority of this planet's history" allow for comfortable living by us humans? As I recall, a big chunk of the planet's history included a time period where the atmosphere didn't contain much oxygen.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dashing Leech (688077) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:54PM (#14116645)
    "A 30 year span is insignificant in terms of global climate TRENDS."

    Actually, you just made the argument against the conclusions of the study. The argument for humans causing global warming goes something like this:
    - The temperature is higher now than it's been in x years of records. (X here is usually in about 1000 years of measurements, though there's arguments about a few periods in there where it might have been warmer.)
    - The greenhouse gases are higher now that they've been in Y years. (Y = 650,000 years from this study.)
    - Humans have been creating a lot of greenhouse gases since the industrial revolution started a couple of hundred years ago.
    - Aha! We must be causing it.

    That 30 years is insignificant over these time scales also means that 200 years or so is insignificant as well, which is the entire argument about us causing global warming. You can't claim 200 years is significant and 30 isn't whenn compared to these time-scales.

    There are many missing pieces from the argument so far to keep it from being a solid argument of some sort:

    (1) What is the time-correlation of the greenhouse gases. Fine, they're higher now than any time in the last 650,000 years. Did they keep within some normal fluctuations until about 200 years ago and then steeply climb, or did they start climbing 200,000 years ago, and are slowly leveling off? What's the pattern? If it's the former, one could correlate it to the industrial revolution and us. (Not necessarily causation, but higher correlation is more convincing.) If it's the latter, it essentially removes any use of the study as an argument for humans being the cause since we didn't produce greenhouse gases 200,000 years ago. This is highly important to the argument.

    For instance, when I moved away to university, I was taller than I had been in my previous 18 years. Therefore, university causes growth spurts. If I suddenly grew tall right after moving, perhaps it's true(but not necessarily). If I grew taller over years and was leveling off when I moved, it has nothing to do with it. The correlation over time with events is the most important part of the argument and we don't have it for gases.

    (2) We do have some of the correlation over time with events for temperature, and there is a rough correlation of temp with increased greenhouse gases, but not a firm one and there are correlations with other things (such as increased solar activity). If human-produced greenhouse gasses are the cause, what happened in the 30 years from 1940 to 1970. We can't claim to understand the causation of climate change over 200 years but can't understand causation over 30 years. Either we understand what affects climate or we don't. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

    (3) How can such a small fraction of greenhouse gases, as produced by humans in comparison to naturally occuring, cause such large changes? Why is the climate so much more sensitive to these small amounts?

    There are probably more missing pieces. Incidently, I actually do believe that humans are having a bad effect on climate. I hate SUV's, waste, inefficiency, and so on. However, I also have a firm understanding of deductive reasoning and the scientific method and can't throw that out just because I believe something is true. The argument for human causation is so full of holes right now it isn't convincing. That doesn't make it wrong or that we shouldn't be trying to be more efficient and less polluting; but there's either insufficient evidence yet for the argument or it's not being presented properly.

  • by st1d (218383) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:56PM (#14116657) Homepage
    Which begs the point, why stop at that point and declare results? Sounds a bit convienient. Why not dig a bit further? Say 700,000, 750,000, 1 million, then present results that show discrete fluctuations over those timeframes? Perhaps I'm cynical from MS-marketing "studies", but the point in time seems to be too convienient as compared to the results. Heck, who financed the study -- and not just the Uni that provided the researchers, either?
  • Re:Links (Score:2, Insightful)

    by chromatic (9471) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @12:05AM (#14116698) Homepage
    We undeniably would be healthier if we polluted our environment less...

    "Undeniably"? That's hardly falsifiable.

    New Orleans floating away is a tangible sign that something might be different with the weather...

    Would building in a marshy river delta below sea level in an area known for hurricanes and without sufficient levee support be a good idea without global warming? That's quite a hypothesis without much backing.

    ...what harm is being done by hyping it a little bit?

    People might find the empirical method just a little confusing. That would be a shame.

  • Re:Links (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Saturday November 26, 2005 @12:07AM (#14116711) Homepage Journal
    If Joe can be convinced that NO won't float away again if he doesn't buy an SUV, and replaces his light bulbs with CFLs, then what harm is being done by hyping it a little bit?


    So if you can manipulate someone into doing what you "know" is right the ends justify the means?

    Where do you get the right to decide what behavior is right and wrong and then affect change through lies? How could you become so arrogant?

    -Peter
  • Egads! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zogger (617870) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @12:17AM (#14116752) Homepage Journal
    Did you EVER have a job where you had to haul tools and material around? Where every job you get might be two counties over from where you live? The entire planet is NOT just people who only need to haul a laptop or some schoolbooks from the apartment to some convenient office or school. You are suggesting that some plumber or carpenter needs to take 18 trips on the bus just to get to work and back with all his tools, plus walk hauling a backpack of tools and lumber over his shoulder from wherever the bus stop is and the job site isn't? Or are you prepared for the price of about everything to go up like triple or more? That's the choices you have. That's what tripling the gas price would do, it ripples throughout our economy. All these people who actually build stuff and grow stuff and do stuff-actual wealth PRODUCING jobs-not wealth re arranging jobs or paper or electron shuffling jobs-have to drive, have to haul mass quantities of stuff,there is no other way around it, and if you up their prices, they will guaranteed "up yours". Like ordering stuff online and getting it delivered by UPS or Fedex? Think they will keep the same rates? how about snail mail? Trip on the plane to go see grammaw? All the stuff that has to get from factories or mines or farms to the processing plants and manufacturing plants then to the wholesalers then to the jobbers then to the retail outfits "downtown"? In the US anyway, 6 buck a gallon prices would cause a great depression to make the last one look like a charity give away.

    Perhaps you might need to think this reactionary tax through just a scosh more, follow the economic food chains around. And speaking of actual food chains, I live and work on a farm, you raise the fuel prices to triple what they are now, well get ready for 12$ chickens and 3$ a piece corn on the cob and 6$ loaves of bread at your local urban store. And because the costs of energy are closely related, how about tripling your winter heating bills now? When one fuel goes up in price, they ALL do basically.

    I think a better idea is what we are doing now, people switching to hybrids or the coming soon plug in hybrids, adding solar to their roofs, large wind generational projects going in, research into clean coal burning technologies, and etc.

    and..just for grins.. .what you got going at home now, how large is your personal solar array? Or anything similar? How much organic food do you produce with a hoe and shovel and carry to the local food coop or haul with your bicycle trailer and sell cheap?

    See? It's big problem, it's not all just cars and finger pointing. That just gets the finger pointed right back at ya.. That crap with cars is sorting itself out just fine now, people may be dumb but they aren't so dumb as to not notice fluctuations at the pump with mostly UP as the range and the general rise of "other" fuel prices like in their natgas bills and propane and whatnot. People ARE switching to better mileage and cleaner burning cars. check the stats, hybrids are the fastest growing market. And an SUV made it into the top 5 mileage vehicles sold in the US this year, the Escape hybrid. Clunky as it is and slow, the system is starting to work. We are talking overcoming inertial with 300 million people in the US and a lot of entrenched industries. This stuff takes time and a lot of individual effort as well as corporate effort and governmental incentives. . And the track record of governments passing laws and RAISING taxes to try and fix stuff is just mostly pure dismal. People fix stuff when it is practical, logical and do-able to do the fix and not much sooner. That's just how it works.

    We are a mobile society, we sunk our infrastructure bucks into roads designed for personal vehicles and trucks as the primary method of travel, and it just isn't practical to have full public transport that goes everywhere, it would cost dozens of trillions of dollars just to get started on it and even then it would never fit all situations..

    Want to make
  • Re:No! God did it! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cbelle13013 (812401) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @12:22AM (#14116774)
    Poor economy? Show me some numbers buddy. I live in Orlando, our unemployment here is 3.8% - unemployment nationally is slightly above 5%, interest rates are low, and we have the most homeowners now than any other time in history. What's so bad about this economy?
  • Re:Links (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 26, 2005 @12:56AM (#14116950)

    As I offered more and more opposing evidence suggesting that there is no definitive proof that mankind is responsible, he grew more and more emotional until he told me "attitudes like yours are why the planet is going to hell" and wouldn't discuss it further.

    Well that might be a reasonable attitude depending on the context. If it came up as part of the argument that we should be reducing our emissions etc, then that's a reasonable attitude to take - by the time we figure out that we are responsible definitively, it could be too late, and even if we aren't responsible for all of it, that doesn't mean harmful climate change could be on its way, and delaying it by reducing emissions etc could be tremendously useful. Either way, complaining that there's a case to be made that we aren't responsible is a dumb attitude in that context.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 26, 2005 @01:47AM (#14117208)
    I'm not a climatologist. I'm a biochemist.

    Are you an expert? I'm thinking that you aren't.

    As a scientist I have learned that if every professional scientist in a particular field has reached some agreement - I'm going to trust them over somebody in a non-related field who thinks he's found some wonderful proof that the entire field is WRONG.

    I suggest if you really want answers, you should contact some experts in the field. They should be able to point out any misconceptions you have.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 26, 2005 @02:11AM (#14117326)
    Comparing (most of) Germany to (most of) the US for transportation is silly.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Germany have these things called TRAINS?

    Once you get out of the northeast corridor, most of the US has no intercity train service at all. Zip, zero.

    The vast majority of cities and towns in the US (number of towns, not population) have NO public transportation at all. Zip, zero.

    In most US cities the public transportation is essentially useless if, for example, you're going from one suburb to another. For lots of people a car is simply a necessity. (And don't tell people to "just live where you work." You don't control where you work; you work where you can find a job. If you get laid off, the chances of finding another job hearby (unless you live in the city center) are slim.

    Now, we as a society brought a lot of this upon ourselves by societal decisions, so we have some responsibility for creating this situation. But it's a problem that has to be solved at the societal level.

    Telling an individual to FIND another way to get around only works if there IS another way to get around.
  • by fireboy1919 (257783) <[rustyp] [at] [freeshell.org]> on Saturday November 26, 2005 @02:50AM (#14117462) Homepage Journal
    Why is it so hard to believe that us humans are responsible for global warming?

    It's not. Therein lies the rub. Even if it the evidence is flimsy its not hard to believe. We can look at how much we waste, how much power we personally consume, and how much we have changed the world from how it was and think, "how could I not be responsible for destroying the Earth?" When the basic thought is so simple, but the true understanding is so complex, I think that we tend towards acceptance without burdening our limited understanding with actual proof.

    There are so many, many studies on it. Are they right? Could be so, but I've yet to see any direct proof, nor working (practically testable) models that demonstrate the principal. Without that, I always have my doubts - especially in the face of so much extrapolation.

    Of course, the converse is also true. I've yet to see any working models that demonstrate that we're not causing global warming. However, I'm holding the default view of "I don't know, and until I do I won't use the idea in any decision I make," which in this case is generally a ruling in favor of the idea that we're not responsible.

    It should be noted that I might be totally wrong here. I don't have an opinion on the veracity of any theory of cosmic origins or of evolution (or creationism), or even on the current "theory of everything" models for precisely the same reason - lack of a tested model and an abundance of extrapolation. I've noticed a lot of ./'ers seem to be so sure of their opinions on these subjects as to consider the opposing side ignorant, and deride them.

    I'm open to suggestions, of course. Why should I lower my standard of what constitutes reasonable proof to weigh evidence in favor of one view over another?
  • I am baffled (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ogemaniac (841129) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @03:31AM (#14117576)
    Instead of taxing gasoline, they should increase registration fees, tax unnecessary supersized vehicles with supersized engines and offer registration fee reductions for low emission, high efficiency, well-maintained, etc. vehicles down to (or even below) current rates. This way, people with average cars could work their way around the registration hikes/taxes by keeping their vehicles in perfect working order and by opting for more fuel-efficient and low-emission vehicles in the future. Many places already do things along those lines, some even go as far as offering subventions and tax deductions for hybrids. Taxing gasoline would do all the things you suggest, much more simply, much more fairly, and much more effectively. Why have the government have a billion-and-two regulations for which vehicle gets what tax or registration fee, when you can just tax gasoline, which forces people to pay in direct proportion to how much they pollute? Your proposed system is completely arbitrary - someone who drives a decently fuel-effecient vehicle hundreds of miles per week pays nothing, while someone who owns the "wrong" vehicle may drive only fifty miles per week but pays through the @$$, even though he or she is polluting far less.

    If you are concerned about the poor, the situation can be handled with a fuel credit equal to the average value that people put in each year. For example, a typical person driving 12k miles per year at 20 mpg uses 600 gallons. Let's say we implement a $1/gallon tax, but give a $600 tax rebate. This is approximately tax neutral, but slams gas hogs and rewards those are frugal. It encourages everyone, rich and poor alike, to conserve. It also does not harm the poor. as most will find a way to come out ahead, and the gas hogs who don't are SOL.

    A gasoline tax is quite close to economically efficient, and fairly taxes everyone in direct proportion to the problem they create. It is both fair and effective. Arbitrary regulations and cut-offs, such as you suggest, are neither.
  • Re:No! God did it! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Daath (225404) <lp@codeSLACKWAREr.dk minus distro> on Saturday November 26, 2005 @03:53AM (#14117629) Homepage Journal
    The main problem is that in many US cities there is no choice but to drive everywhere.

    Sure. I can accept that. What I can't accept is the whine about gas prises, from people who drive cars that aren't really economic. I mean with 10 MPG or there abouts, you have no right to complain ;P
    Invest in a more economic car, that goes 50 MPG or more.

    For the record, I pay around USD $5.70 per gallon. And yes, I do whine about it too. Car prises in Denmark are insane though, so I can't afford to switch cars (mine only gets around 32 MPG)...
  • by Shadez666 (736779) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @03:54AM (#14117631)
    The fact that the earth hasn't seen levels like this in half a million years is like stating that it will never snow because the last three days has been 20 degrees celcius. Half a million year is nothing on a timescale measured in billions of years. What is interesting in the article however is that we see a shift from blaming carbon dioxide to blaming methane. This is done because a lot of evidence has been accumulated that contradict the doomsday scenarios of climate change caused by CO2. This is basically another article that is aimed at increasing funding for research into a change that is quite natural and has occurred over and over again for a long long time.
  • Re:who's to blame? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dubl-u (51156) * <2523987012@pot a . to> on Saturday November 26, 2005 @04:41AM (#14117758)
    If indeed human activity is causing global warming, then we can solve this problem inteligently or stupidly. The intelligent solution starts with nuclear power.

    No, the intelligent solution is to tax carbon and let individuals figure out the best way to get emissions back in line. Fission power seems like the obvious choice on a simple analysis, but economic considerations (like insurance costs and waste disposal costs) make it a much more dubious proposition over the long haul.

    The fact is that we don't know the right answer yet. Soviet-style industrial planning didn't work particularly well for them, so I'm not seeing why we should adopt it here.
  • Re:who's to blame? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ndogg (158021) <the.rhorn@gmailWELTY.com minus author> on Saturday November 26, 2005 @04:51AM (#14117778) Homepage Journal
    Environmentalism shouldn't be about saving the planet. It should be about saving ourselves. Maybe any climate change will be reversible, but it will most likely be reversible on geological timescales. Not human timescales. That's by far long enough for us to go extinct.
  • Re:No! God did it! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 26, 2005 @05:29AM (#14117876)
    By your reasoning nothing in the world is "bad". "bad" is only a human definition. Stuff happens in the world, yes, but you can't say it is "good" or "bad".
  • by NerveGas (168686) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @05:46AM (#14117924)
    "Why is it so hard to believe that us humans are responsible for global warming?"

        Because that would involve a moral obligation to change our ways. If, instead, you had said that human activity caused climate change on a distant, ininhabitted asteroid, you'd have little problem getting people to accept it.

    steve
  • Re:Consensus (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lifewish (724999) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @06:33AM (#14118010) Homepage Journal
    Why do so many people act like scientific consensus is infallible?

    It's not. However, the consensus of the scientific community tends to be the best guess available on scientific issues from information available at the time.

    Climate models are only useful if they can predict the future accurately. When they fail to predict the future accurately, they aren't useful. When they're falsified the parameters are changed, and the process starts over again. Pretending that they are correct when they don't perform useful predictions is just as foolish as misusing Newtonian physics.

    Which climate models are you thinking of? Of course, the scientific community is continually coming up with better ones - that's the nature of the game. But it's my understanding that for some time now the climate models have been giving rather painful warnings.

    One of the largest problems with the current scientific consensus about global warming is that it comes to its conclusion in a manner that is not convincing in an intellectually honest manner. It attempts to short-circuit the process in order create political influence to solve any number of problems and non-problems.

    I'm not sure what part of this you think is intellectually dishonest. From the raw data available from the ice cores in the article, we can conclude that: a) the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased massively; b) so has the amount of methane. Both of these are potent greenhouse gases (this can be measured in the lab, in case you're wonderering how they know), so it makes a great deal of sense, going by these findings, to predict a rise in temperature. The political influence in this case is tangential to the science - it's just caused by lots of scientists looking at their data and/or reading their journals and going "holy cow! My grandchildren are going to be screwed!"

    If the data was being faked or the models were being fudged to support these conclusions, then it'd be dishonest, but I've seen absolutely no evidence that this is the case.

    In 200 years, whether humans were warming the planet or not, this will all be looked upon with scorn as pseudo-science.

    In 200 years the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will be even higher. At some level they will cause the temperature to skyrocket - firstly due to the basic thermodynamics of "planet retains more heat => planet gets hotter" and secondly due to the side-effects of reduced (reflective) ice caps and increased water vapour (also a potent greenhouse gas). This is all fairly solid science - no pseudoscience required. If it happens significantly before the end of the next 200 years, our descendents will be stuck at the top of an ex-mountain somewhere hoping the rain will stop before the water reaches the summit.

    Yes, it's possible that, by some deus ex machina that scientists haven't noticed, the climate finds a way to maintain acceptable temperatures and sea levels. But a) historically scientists have had a better idea of scientifically-analysable phenomena than politicians; b) do you really want politicians betting your great-great-grandchildren's lives on this; and c) do you really think they're making decisions because they think it'll all work out, or because they're getting vast campaign funds from the oil industry and couldn't care less about the future of the human race?
  • Re:who's to blame? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by orzetto (545509) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @06:40AM (#14118024)

    The governments of the world could not care less about the environment. It's known as "the tragedy of the commons". Even if people were afraid (as they are) of nuclear power, their governments would not care and build nuclear power anyway.

    The reason why no one builds more plants is that nuclear power in anti-economical. It simply costs too much. Its production costs once online for fuel and such are low, but the investments and fixed costs (security and safety procedures, for instance) are gigantic. Invenstments only are about 50% of all the life-cycle costs of a plant.

    Studies in peer-reviewed literature show that these costs are not going to come back, unless major improvements in on-line time, life time, and increases in energy prices occur at the same time. (Paine, J. R., "Will nuclear power pay for itself?", The social science journal, Vol 33 N 4 (1996) 459-473)

    The higher cost of nuclear is therefore not appealing to most nations, and that the people do not like them is only a good excuse to look like one's doing "the will of the people". People do not like coal plants either, but these are not going away. Of the countries with some nuclear program, China is starved for energy and will buy it no matter the price; Finland depends on Russian coal, and they do not want to depend on Russia (they could have waited a few years and built gas turbines with Norwegian gas, however: the recent findings are fairly large). Iran wants nuclear so they can build the bomb, no matter how much they deny it: it's easy to understand given they are surrounded by nuclear powers (US in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, former Soviet Union), and that the US are unwilling to attack an enemy with WMDs (as North Korea).

  • Re:Links (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RoLi (141856) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @08:35AM (#14118267)
    Global warming--a closer look at the numbers

    Ewww, that's just another "folk science" website. It essentially puts together some numbers and lulls people into judging them with their gut and not with their brain.

    Or to put it in another way: It's irrelevant wether your gut thinks that man-made amounts of CO2 are too small to affect the climate. That's now the way you do science. In science you use the brain and not the gut. Fact is that during thousands of years rises in CO2-concentration were followed by rises in temperature. Fact is that in the last decades rises in CO2-concentration were followed by rises in temperature.

    Fact is also that man puts lots of CO2 into the atmosphere while reducing the vegetation that absorbs CO2.

    You say: "I offered more and more opposing evidence" but you don't post any. All the anti-global-warming websites are just like anti-evolution websites: They attack some details, come up with outdated or just plain wrong numbers and most importantly they don't offer any explanation at all.

    Essentially the anti-global-warming position is that it's just a coincidence that we have the highest CO2-concentration and highest temperatures in hundreds of thousands of years. Which is no explanation at all. To say that some cycle that "we don't understand" is responsible is just like saying that God did it (like the anti-evolutionists) or that it's just a coincidence that the highest temperatures fall in the period of the industrial revolution. The anti-global-warming people provide exactly zero evidence for their "cycle"-theory, their whole theory is based on belief, not fact - and wishful thinking (that we don't have to change anything) of course.

    On top of all that the most stupid point of all is: The "We don't understand it perfectly, so let's just do what we want" - argument. Sane people would say that you have to be extra-careful if you don't understand what concequences your actions have. Only a complete moron thinks that lack of understanding is a reason to mess even more with things.

  • Re:No! God did it! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mjbkinx (800231) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @09:40AM (#14118397)
    Pretty much all over Europe prices are in the $5-6/gallon range, it seems to work well, i.e. you don't have to pay $6 for a loaf of bread as another poster claimed would happen if fuel prices were that high.
    It's true that particularly Germany has a higher population density than the US, and a decent public transport system. However, I wouldn't say people use public transport to save money -- a modern car would cost less in fuel, despite the high prices we have here. It's just that it's a comfortable way to travel if you want to go from city to city, i.e. if you're lucky enough to have a good connection to where you want to go. Some read a book, some work (or play) on their laptops. You can't do that while you drive. Public transport for shorter distances has the advantage that you don't need to find a parking space. For those who use it to get to work on a daily bases there are monthly tickets that make it affordable, and in some cities it has the advantage that special bus lanes go past the rush hour traffic jams. But as with trains, it depends on your personal situation whether it is a good option or not. Depending on where you live and where and when you want to go you might have to change (potentially crowded) busses, walk to the neares bus station in the rain, and so on. So, it really depends, and doesn't necessarily save you any money if you have a car anyway (however, it makes it possible to live without one, depending on personal circumstances).

    No, the main effect the higher prices really have isn't that people drive less or buy less cars (Germany even has more [whitman.edu] cars per capita than the US), but that consumers buy more efficient cars. Germans drive more than they used to, but use less fuel -- the average new car is down to 30mpg (link [umweltbundesamt.de] in German, sorry).
    I just read somewhere that 47% of new cars bought in western Europe have diesel engines, they use roughly 40% less fuel for the same power. Modern diesel engines don't have the disadvantages you might associate with them, i.e. they're not noisy, they accelerate quickly and so on. There are filters for particles.

    So, my conclusion is that instead of whining about high fuel prices (which aren't that high at all, compared to what it costs elsewhere), Americans should simply buy more efficient cars. I can understand that some people need cars to get around for their job, that they're needed for travel and all that, no problem. It's just that, personally, I'd buy an efficient car if I was in that situation, no matter what fuel costs. You don't even have to buy an expensive hybrid, modern diesels come pretty close.

  • Re:No! God did it! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hackstraw (262471) * on Saturday November 26, 2005 @09:40AM (#14118400)
    Uh, don't think so. If gas is $6/gallon, people won't commute anymore. Neighborhoods will become more dense, community size will shrink. Freeways will open up, and neighborhood grocery will reappear.

    Does anybody realize that there are other vehicles on the road besides people going to work and picking up their kids from school?

    The last gas price hike experiment was a failure because it hurt businesses, especially small businesses that provide local goods and services.

    So, with a $6/gallon gas price, not only would it cost an arm and a leg for you to go to work and do your normal things, it will make everything increase in price. Food, clothing, beer, just about everything that is not intrinsically tied to the commercial market. The only things that will not rise in price are staples like illegal or non-mainstream goods and services like prostitution, good drugs, tattoos, art, and some entertainment.

    I'm in no way supporting the silly SUV mindset or the lack of public transportation in our country, but a 200-300% hike in fuel costs would hurt everybody. The ones that will be hurt the most are probably those that don't already have SUVs and those that already use public transportation.
  • Re:No! God did it! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bluGill (862) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @10:06AM (#14118464)

    Last I checked there was only one car for sale in the US that got better than 50MPG: the Honda Insight, which is rated for a max of 2 people. That SUV (which gets closer to 20mpg, though I agree that is bad) will haul 6 people. Divide it out, and a per person when full. The SUV can also haul around a lot more cargo, which is handy from time to time.

    So if you need to haul a load even once in a while, haul a family once in a while, or need 4 wheel drive once in a while; the question is can you justify the second car as well. I did the math - it pays for me, but I drive 100 miles/day, and then I only can justify it for a cheap used car, not a new car. When my commute was half that it didn't pay.

    There are a couple cars that get in the 40mpg, but not many. There are laws of physics that make it really hard to get that high, without compromises that most people do not wish to make.

    My solution to high gas prices is to mi 50/50 ethanol/gas in my cars (My cars don't run right with more ethanol than that).

  • Re:No! God did it! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ThosLives (686517) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @10:10AM (#14118475) Journal
    Homeownership isn't really useful. What you need to look at is home equity, which is tragically low (lowest in history, mostly due to dumb interest-only loans and not having to have a decent down payment. Sure you get to stay in a house, but those programs are closer to renting than homeownership).

    The current savings rate should be in the list of indicators, and it's either still negative or zero. I don't care who you are, but if you spend all or more than your income (especially if you borrow to do it!), you're not in a good situation.

  • by Valdrax (32670) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @12:07PM (#14118889)
    So ... guilty till proven innocent?

    The point of guilty until proven innocent is to default to the least injurious assumption. In crime, that means that we default to the one that doesn't ruin a man's life and that keeps the investigation of a crime going. In global warming, we should default to avoiding disaster.

    Remember, if global warming people are right and we don't listen to them, the worst that can happen is a disaster that will take centuries to reverse and will lead to widespread famine from desertification in Africa and Central Asia and the loss of temperate topsoils, the irrecoverable loss of the world's biodiversity and the medicines that could come from it, the freezing of Europe due to the loss of the North Atlantic current, the flooding of most of the world's current shorelines, increased hurricanes due to longer seasonal warming of waters, increased spread of malaria due to greater tropical insect populations, vicious resource wars that will tear apart the Middle East and fray relations between all neighbors who share rivers & other water resources, diminished international trade, and diminished political capital for the USA -- the nation that consistently blocked action against fixing the problem.

    If the global warming people are wrong and we listen to them, then the worst that happens is we have poured a bunch of money into more efficient use of resources & alternative energy (technologies needed for space colonization anyway) instead of all the products we could've had with our previous expenditure of energy.

    Of course, a snarky soundbite just sounds so much better than actual reason.
  • by Jeremi (14640) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @01:15PM (#14119155) Homepage
    Well, we know what happened the last time a few experts were taken at face value...No WMDs


    That isn't a very good example -- in that case, only the experts who predicted the presence of WMDs were "taken at face value". The other experts who expressed doubts were either ignored, suppressed, or told to re-evalutate their conclusions until they did come up with the desired answers.


    I guess the moral of the story is, if you want correct answers, keep politics out of science.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 26, 2005 @02:00PM (#14119346)
    And the "sea level" raising 40cm by 2100 makes one wonder about places like New Orleans.

    For the record, a lot of New Orleans is/was built several feet below the surface of the water to begin with. Flooding was almost inevitable, and had nothing at all to do with the rising mean sea level.

  • Re:No! God did it! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by si618 (263300) on Monday November 28, 2005 @09:21AM (#14128044)
    Sounds like convoluted logic and an excuse to drive an SUV.

    Most modern 4 cylinder cars will transport 5 people + luggage and do it far more efficently than an SUV, with the added bonus of killing less people, consuming less resources and producing less pollution.

    Most cars I see on the road are either solo drivers or a single passenger. I do see a few 4WD's/SUV's with Mum driving the kid to school though. Oh, and the parking lot at our local shopping centre seems a great meeting place for them.

    Personally i've always owned small cars (in the past 2 honda civics, a mazda 808 and a toyota van to go travelling in), I went without a car for 2-3 years and was the fittest and most trim i've been for a long long time. We've recently bought a station wagon (2.0 litre subaru) as i've just become a dad and needed to get mum and little bubs around (oddly enough she wouldn't go for a dinky on my bike to the obstetrician:). I still do the 24km round trip to work on my bike and am quite happy to leave the car at home.

    Either way I'll take active safety over passive safety anyday.
  • by Le Marteau (206396) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @02:24PM (#14139591) Journal
    We must beat the drums of "bash Bush" yada yada yada.

    Damn straight. I'd impeach him for just this one act: on 9/11, he was reading a schoolbook to children. During his lesson, he was alerted to the fact that a plane hit one of the towers. He continued for what, a half an hour? reading to the goddamned snotnoses WHILE THE TOWER WAS BURNING FROM A DIRECT HIT OF A PROJECTILE.

    That is dereliction of duty to my book. The man is supposed to be commander-in-chief, not a goddamned school marm. Any REAL warrior would have told the brats, "sorry, kids, but something has come up" but THIS embarassment continues to frickin read "My Little Pony".

    That man is a disgrace to the military, and I'd impeach him just for that. Could you see an Eisenhower, a Patton, a Churchill reading a fucking schoolbook to kids while the Trade Center was on fire caused bya projectile? He's an absolute disaster, and personally, I think he's suffering from alcohol abuse induced brain damage.

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