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Why are we not focused more on climate change?

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Liberals love to bash conservatives as climate change deniers, but it feels like liberals are only slightly ahead of the curve on this one.

 

Years ago, I read how society had to make dramatic cuts to our carbon emissions to avoid the "point of no return" that would create a planet that would be uninhabitable by humans. So we are talking about a risk of total human extinction here if we wait too long and do too little to reduce carbon emissions.

 

What is too long? What is too little? There's a lot of debate, of course. Some scientists (and some people I know with genius-level I.Q.s) are convinced we have already gone too far and tripped too many environmental feedback loops, which will make human existence impossible within 50 - 150 years.

 

The notion we've gone too far, that our extinction is now mathematically certain, is still a fringe view. In between the climate change deniers, and those who feel we've already gone too far so that any efforts we make now are pointless, we have the rest of us -- people who agree that if we do not do enough to change, and do it quickly enough, we WILL have gone so far that our extinction will be inevitable.

 

For those of us holding this "middle" view, it's hard because there's no clear answer to how much we have to change, or how quickly, to avert our extinction. I found a 2012 news article discussing a study that said 2017 was the point of no return if we did not drastically reduce carbon emissions (note, we have not reduced carbon emissions drastically, if at all, since 2012).

 

Unfortunately, the uncertainties about this issue seem to pave the way for the majority -- including most liberals -- to just shrug and accept minor changes that are not even concrete. President Obama's big climate change plan involves a target of 30% reduction by 2030. Note, these "targets" can easily be missed. What do you do if you tell companies to reduce carbon emissions and they instead increase them? Impose a fine? Great, but it does not really make up for the resulting human extinction, does it? Do we really want to trust our very existence to large businesses toeing the line to strictly adhere to governmental environmental mandates? Their track record on this is woefully bad.

 

Perhaps even more importantly, even if we reach this target, no scientist I know of has actually said that a 30% reduction in 15 years will avert certain doom for humanity. Everything I've read (excluding material from conservative lap dogs) suggests this is too little, too late.

 

I feel like there is an astounding disconnect going on here. If a cage full of spiders at the zoo breaks open and one of them stings you, and the zoo people tell you that the spiders are deadly poisonous, but he's not sure how long you have till it'll be too late, what do you do? Do you make a "target" of going to the hospital the day after tomorrow to get checked out and see about an antidote? Do you finish your tour of the zoo before heading off to the hospital? Of course not! You rush straight to the hospital as quickly as you can, not because you know you'll die if you don't, but precisely because you do NOT know how long you actually have. See, when you're life is on the line, and you are faced with an uncertain time-table, the only sane and logical decision is to act with all possible haste.

 

So, if that's how we act when our life is on the line, how should we act when our human survival is on the line? Set target deadlines decades away for modest carbon reductions? Even though there are plenty of scientists saying that'll be too little, too late? That's insanity, that's suicidal.

 

In the face of uncertainty as to the extent of change, and the time table for change, that is needed to avert our extinction, we need to act like we are dying and rushing to the emergency room in an ambulance, running red lights, exceeding the speed limit, etc.

 

It's kind of funny when you think about the comparative harms of making a mistake being too fast or too slow on this issue: What's the risk of we erroneously move to fast to cut carbon emissions, doing it with decades to spare? The normal growing pains when people have to rapidly change their way of life. That's it. On the other hand, what's the risk if we erroneously move to slow to cut carbon emissions? Human extinction. Hmm... Comparing these, should we really be talking about targets to cut carbon emissions fractionally in 15 years? Shouldn't we actually be talking about declaring martial law? Shouldn't we be having a serious discussion about having the government take over all factories that emit greenhouse gases with armed soldiers and shutting them down, only letting them open after they've been re-engineered to renewable energy? Shouldn't we be talking about making it a mandatory law that employers must require telecommuting for every employee who can possibly telecommute? Shouldn't we outlaw all fuel burning cars effective, say, Jan. 1, 2016? Heck, I'd even be willing to bail out the auto companies again for any financial loss they incur from having to move "overnight" to electric cars. Shouldn't we be talking about massive solar and wind energy projects, not by some vague laws that give some kind of incentives to private companies, but by just building the damn things as a government project so it just gets done? Shouldn't pass a law right now that guarantees free college tuition to every person who majors in environmental sciences, so we have as many minds as possible working on a cure?

 

Is this overkill? Maybe... Just like it's overkill to speed to the hospital for a spider bite when you MIGHT have days or even weeks before the poison kills you. But, since you just don't know, overkill is the only sane approach.

 

I'm a reasonably intelligent person, maybe not brilliant. I try to stay on top of important issues, when I can. I've tried honestly to read up on climate change to figure out what we need to do, by when, so I don't have to worry we are the generation responsible for committing global suicide. And I honestly cannot find any clear answer to how much we have to change, or how soon. And I think most people are in a similar state of uncertainty. However, I look around and it feels like the masses who share this sense of uncertainty are not driven by this uncertainty to a desire for urgent action. Instead, it feels like they think, "Gee, since I don't KNOW that we are taking action too slowly to avert our doom, I won't make waves, I'll just vaguely encourage my politicians to make the environment a priority...

 

And that seems so crazy to me. You don't need certainty to act in response to a grave threat. If you give me a gun with 1,000 chambers and only one bullet, I won't point it at my head and pull the trigger. One in a thousand risk of death is too great. Every day we sit back and let the current inept and corrupt politicians quibble about minor climate change measures, I feel like we are pulling that trigger. And eventually there will be a bullet in that chamber, maybe as soon as tomorrow.

 

Given the gravity of the situation, the question should not be "how much do we need to change, and by when?" Because that makes it sound like we are going to try to just squeak by with the minimum we have to do to survive. The question should be, "Are we doing everything conceivable and possible to reduce our carbon footprint and restore the atmosphere as fast as possible?" The answer to the latter question -- the better question -- is definitely "no." Which reflects a disconnect not just with government, but among the people who sit by and shrug it off.

 

Can anyone give me definitive proof that we are doing enough to avert disaster? Because if not, then that proves we should be doing more.

 

Ken

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Can anyone give me definitive proof that we are doing enough to avert disaster? Because if not, then that proves we should be doing more.

 

 

 

I don't think there's any doubt that on climate change we should be doing more.

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I'll give a more detailed answer when I have more time.

 

I agree. The very survival of much of the human species depends on holding the line or reversing climate change, CO2 emissions (and methane).

 

There are so many powerful forces that value profit above all else, that they've gone into denial. And they have the money to convince a large part of the public to ignore science. So to those of us who are concerned, it often seems a futile battle.

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Liberals love to bash conservatives as climate change deniers, but it feels like liberals are only slightly ahead of the curve on this one.

 

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by this first sentence. Up to now, there have been virtually ZERO candidates, liberals or otherwise, running for public office who have made climate change their top issue. The way to halt or even reverse climate change is through tight government control of industry. What are liberals to do when virtually none of their diminishing number of political representatives are willing to stand for the measures necessary to tackle climate change?

 

The US is still arguably the main trendsetter in the world today. We are in an election season and Bernie Sanders is the only candidate talking about climate change. Hillary doesn't mention it. And most of the republican candidates either deny it's existence or say human activities are not the cause. Obviously, the political will to halt and reverse climate change is totally inadequate in the US.

 

Starting with the largest CO2 polluter, big oil, and including any industry that depends on burning fossil fuels for profit, acknowledging climate change would hurt their quarterly bottom line. One might think long range plans should be made for a large scale conversion to renewable sources of energy. But publicly held corporations don't usually work that way. They do not necessarily operate for the larger public good but are focused, like a laser, on profits now.

 

Currently, the big corporations and their owners, control government to a large degree. They do this by election campaign contributions in exchange for favorable legislation. And they lobby in congress, bribing lawmakers, for laws that increase their bottom line..... They don't want anything done about climate change. Many of these lawmakers serve as mouthpieces to the public, for the fossil fuel industry.

In the public sector, the fossil fuel industry has many talking head sales people..... The right wing noise machine, including talk radio, TV channels owned mostly by the right wing..... Including Fox News. In the media, climate change remains mostly in the background... Or often presented as something not yet proven. When republican legislators are interviewed, they usually deny climate change exists or say it has natural causes only.

 

No wonder so many voters are complacent.

 

There is a cult of ignorance in the land. Long exposure to the right wing noise machine has broadened and deepened it. In the cult of ignorance scientists are seen as pompous know-it-alls who need to be put in their place. In the cult of ignorance "my opinion is just as good as your science". Playing on this widespread conceit, falsely debunking climate change has been all too successful. The cult of ignorance is useful to far right fundamentalism and other areas of science like evolution have fallen victim as well.

 

Another problem with getting people to understand climate change is you can't see it, smell it or sense it. There simply is no tangible sign of climate change. If a cage of venomous spiders breaks open and someone gets stung and dies, you can see it.... The danger is manifestly real. Not so with climate change. Winter still gets cold and summers have always been hot.

 

Renewable sources of energy cannot substitute for everything, for instance, powering passenger jets. So huge sacrifices would have to be made on the way to weaning ourselves of fossil fuels. Renewables would have to suffice for most things until nuclear fusion arrives. Big government control and tightly regulated industry is the only way climate change can be neutralized or reversed. It would have to be done on a worldwide basis. We need a fundamental sea-change. But personally, I don't see it coming.

 

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To me, the future looks grim when it comes to doing anything truly meaningful about global warming.

 

Increasingly, the ultra-rich control where resources are allocated. I'm reading a book now called Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland. In it are many passages with quotes from billionaires.

 

The last thing on any of their minds is global warming.

 

They are laser fixated on economics, finances and the machinations of business. For most, their self-esteem and sense of identification is their economic status. They are skimming wealth from the system big-time and they are super optimistic about the future. Any attempt to control carbon emissions would cut into their profits, directly or indirectly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Al Gore was a rare politician who made climate change his top issue. Disgracefully, a regressive Supreme Court overturned the results of a lawful, democratic election to install a less environmentally friendly president.

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I see zero chance of getting carbon emissions under control. To impose that sort of rigor, you'd need a world government or a severe, clear, and immediate danger. World government is, unfortunately, nowhere near. And, the danger is not perceived as immediate. Instead, we're like the proverbial frog being boiled, never noticing the gradual change until it's too late.

 

One hopeful possibility is that the gradual change will allow us to adapt to the changes. The sea isn't going to swallow us overnight. We will have time to move from the coasts, develop alternative foods, etc. Poorer nations will have a harder time of course, but I don't see an end to the human race any time soon. Cockroaches may be the hardest creatures on Earth to eliminate, but people are a close second.

 

If things get too bad, there are ways to engineer the climate back into a livable zone. Technologically, it doesn't seem that challenging. The argument will be where to set the Earth's thermostat. Iceland and Saudi Arabia may have different ideas of how warm we should be.

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I see zero chance of getting carbon emissions under control. To impose that sort of rigor, you'd need a world government or a severe, clear, and immediate danger. World government is, unfortunately, nowhere near. And, the danger is not perceived as immediate. Instead, we're like the proverbial frog being boiled, never noticing the gradual change until it's too late.

 

All too true. Spot-on analogy with the frog.

 

 

One hopeful possibility is that the gradual change will allow us to adapt to the changes. The sea isn't going to swallow us overnight. We will have time to move from the coasts, develop alternative foods, etc. Poorer nations will have a harder time of course, but I don't see an end to the human race any time soon. Cockroaches may be the hardest creatures on Earth to eliminate, but people are a close second.

 

Signs are starting to appear that it's going to be traumatically disruptive. Many species of bees are in danger. Bees are the main pollinators in nature. Without them, many plants and crops would cease to be. As the temperate zone moves north, temperate zone bees are not relocating with it as would be expected. Instead, they're dying because of permanently hotter, dryer conditions in their home territory.

 

Climate change is under a spotlight in California since it's the breadbasket of the Nation. Hotter weather and drought are becoming a permanent feature and agriculture is already suffering. Foods grown in California are starting to becoming scarce as prices rise. Snow-pack has all but disappeared in the mountains and spring runoff that people depended on, has dried up.

 

A large desalination plant is under construction near San Diego, with more to come. The pure water it produces will be costly. The concentrated brine pumped back into the sea builds up over time, causing havoc to marine life. It's operation is energy-intensive and powered by fossil fuel.

 

 

If things get too bad, there are ways to engineer the climate back into a livable zone. Technologically, it doesn't seem that challenging. The argument will be where to set the Earth's thermostat.

 

Care to elaborate? From what I've read, any kind of geoengineering has many risks and few certainties.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/17/cia-controlling-climate-geoengineering-climate-change

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yeah, I'm in complete agreement with you all regarding the need to focus a thousand times more than we are at this moment in time. There is indeed always the disconnect coming from chosen political arbiters that say don't move too fast, there's too many other things going on. To me that's all bull. Economically speaking, we need to deal with it now and change the way we behave. We need think more about sustainability in every thing, every business endeavor, every educational policy, every foreign policy maneuver.

 

Many atmospheric scientist agree that climate change is not only real but that we have already done enormous damage to our atmosphere that will take a long time to correct. We need to battle climate change by drastic reduction of fossil fuels and at the same time focus on ways to mitigate the damage we've already created.

 

I believe green renewable energy = jobs and prosperity, and not just for people here in the US, but for all countries. We need to stop cutting forests and find better ways for sustainable agriculture. All of this goes hand in hand with education, intense spending in research, as well as a renewed sense of social justice globally.

 

Peace!

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Because your average Republican doesn't understand how AGW is happening and wouldn't give a damn if he did, and Republicans control the media in regard to anything having to do with money. It's very much as if the "God doesn't want us in space" types had taken over NASA (or it's predecessor, NOAA,) in 1950/60. That came very close to happening, I am told, but then Sputnik was launched and Space became part of the Caps vs Commies thing

 

Maybe that's it, have ISIS attack AGW. then all the Cons will get behind it.

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Funny, sad kind of funny that is. Woke up this morning turning on Cspan for the hilarious call in show this morning and it did not disappoint. The question to the call in crowd, is NASA spending worth it? First several callers said no no no. They had various reasons - one being we need to create more jobs here at home before lofting into space.

 

There were a few thoughtful types who pointed out how raw science of any kind in the end spurs new technology, and where would we be with out that. A few also penetrated the diffuse reasoning behind spending say 18 billion for NASA endeavors per year next to spending a trillion for a high tech war plane, etc...

 

Buttress this with the call for more STEM from both sides of the aisle, with neither side showing the kind of leadership one should expect. And no, I'm not all STEM, I also do believe in the liberal arts big time, but if you do go into liberal arts doesn't that open up the possibility towards other things as well?

 

I guess the problem is overall lack of education coupled with lousy leaders who feed peoples foolish insecurities to get elected, then screw the fuck out of them with their Republican policies.

 

Peace!

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Care to elaborate? From what I've read, any kind of geoengineering has many risks and few certainties.

 

 

From what I've read, there's no doubt we can make the planet cooler. Even carbon sequestration is essentially a form of climate engineering. I don't view it as a panacea, but as a last resort "in case of fire, break glass" option. There's no way we would ever get the climate adjusted to everyone's liking. Every time there was a blizzard or a tornado, someone would be blaming the climate control mechanism. It's also extremely unlikely we'd be able to do this without creating regional winners and losers. No, I'm not suggesting that geoengineering will fix everything. I was mainly responding to the OP's fear of "total human extinction".

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Because your average Republican doesn't understand how AGW is happening and wouldn't give a damn if he did, and Republicans control the media in regard to anything having to do with money. It's very much as if the "God doesn't want us in space" types had taken over NASA (or it's predecessor, NOAA,) in 1950/60. That came very close to happening, I am told, but then Sputnik was launched and Space became part of the Caps vs Commies thing

 

Maybe that's it, have ISIS attack AGW. then all the Cons will get behind it.

 

I like how you think!

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Funny, sad kind of funny that is. Woke up this morning turning on Cspan for the hilarious call in show this morning and it did not disappoint. The question to the call in crowd, is NASA spending worth it? First several callers said no no no. They had various reasons - one being we need to create more jobs here at home before lofting into space.

 

There were a few thoughtful types who pointed out how raw science of any kind in the end spurs new technology, and where would we be with out that. A few also penetrated the diffuse reasoning behind spending say 18 billion for NASA endeavors per year next to spending a trillion for a high tech war plane, etc...

 

Buttress this with the call for more STEM from both sides of the aisle, with neither side showing the kind of leadership one should expect. And no, I'm not all STEM, I also do believe in the liberal arts big time, but if you do go into liberal arts doesn't that open up the possibility towards other things as well?

 

I guess the problem is overall lack of education coupled with lousy leaders who feed peoples foolish insecurities to get elected, then screw the fuck out of them with their Republican policies.

 

Peace!

 

Good points OldBarn. NASA spending creates jobs, here at home, in the same way as fixing the infrastructure. And NASA has been especially productive of useful technologies.

 

There are pressing reasons to improve our space program. Helium-3, rare on Earth is abundant on the Moon. H-3 has huge potential for use in pollution free nuclear fusion..... So much so that the Chinese government has announced that they intend to mine H-3 on the moon. Presumably, they mean to be the first to do so. Who knows what territorial claims they might make on the moon if they get there "firstest with the mostest". Nuclear fusion as a power source, produces no radioactive waste, no pollution and no greenhouse gasses.

 

As we run out of ores on the Earth's surface, we can rely on asteroids which are incredibly rich in raw metals like iridium, platinum, gold, iron, tungsten, etc. But before we can tap these sources, we have to develop the means to get there first.

 

At some point, here on Earth, we will probably start to drown in our own waste. Although it seems like science fiction to many people, we will need to leave the Earth and settle elsewhere to survive..... Perhaps a terraformed Mars. But we need to have developed the space technology first.

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Because Republicans haven't accepted Climate Change as real yet. By doing so, they've allowed themselves to control the discussion. We have to first convince them it's real, before we can get anything done. It's impossible to convince them that they're wrong, though. They've set up so many defense mechanisms that no matter how many you get through it's never enough. You can explain to them that climate and weather aren't the same, but they don't have to accept it. And if they do, they've always got the ultimate fall back. "The science isn't settled yet."

You can explain that 97% of scientists believe climate change is man made, and occurring, and they'll simply say that it's where the money is. They'll shut their ears and close their eyes. Kind of like what they did with The Affordable Care Act. See no good, hear no good, speak no good.

On too many issues conservatives control the conversation. As long as they do, nothing will happen. Because they aren't about Progress. They're about tradition, and things staying the same. Change is a threat to them.

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Hi Cecelia. Welcome to the forum.

 

Yes the republicans are the party of "no". It's not hard to come up with denials. Especially if you live on a steady diet of Rush Limbaugh and Faux Spews. The Koch brothers founded and funded the tea party which is fueled by the sociopathic talking heads of the right wing noise machine.

 

Right wing Oligarchs also fund most of the think tanks, focus groups and an army of lobbyists bribing lawmakers.

 

Since much of the Koch brothers money is made in fossil fuels, and they seem to lack the capacity to anticipate anything but the future of their own profits, it is convenient for them to deny climate change..... And the entire right wing follows, having been convinced that they too are only a heartbeat away from corporate riches. Like most of the things they have been convinced of, nothing could be further from the truth.

 

The tribalism of much of the right wing makes it very hard to snap them back to reality. Between each other, they constantly parrot what they have been told by their mean spirited, race-to-the-bottom talking heads.

 

Since climate change is not dramatic like say a tornado, an earthquake, flood, fire or vulcanism, it's easier for them to deny it.... And deny science while scorning the well-educated.

 

We can only hope that enough people will swing over to enlightenment to bring in progressive government again.

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Hi Folks,

 

A bit on the same platitude of my last post to this extremely vital issue comes from my recent vacation where I visited the California Space Center in LA. There the bird we know as the Endeavor Space Shuttle now sits. It's amazing gazing at it. So I'm looking at it and wondering so many things, like why do they have these quirky writings on each of the tiles on its under belly. They had this recording of all take offs from the missions it took off from Earth in the second floor, you go down to the first floor and across to the hanger where the bird now sits. So you have this simulation of the control center, and all these monitors with all these squiggly lines monitoring something, but what - I asked a few of the kids working there - many of them are young and it's a great job to have working in the museum, but nobody could answer my many questions.

 

So there I was, looking at this bird that has been in space so many times, and who do I stumble upon, why, a retired Rockwell engineer. He started his career working for Apollo 17 and then moved across the street being among the first to work on the space shuttle mission. He told me there was a little message on his new desk his very first day, all it said was, make this bird work.

 

The tiles of which there are many that provide high temperature surface insulation for re-entry are each named with a specific place where they go, a little bit about what they do and and when they were stuck on - carefully BTW with a glue not much different than the tiles in your bathroom.

 

The monitors are measuring the engines at the back of the space shuttle that help propel it from the rocket engines that lift it into space and away from Earths gravitational force. Inside the space shuttles engines is a very complex computer that monitors all this, that's what they are looking at in the control center.

 

Obviously there's a whole lot more there than that. You have the small engines in the front and rear that control the bird so they can bevy up to the space station once in space, or allow someone to go out and fix a satellite or maybe the Hubble Telescope.

 

The amount of wiring is amazing beyond compare --- I don't know much, but in the small time I had to share with that nice retired engineer I did learn quite a lot and I can tell you it was worth every cent I paid to see it - 2 dollar.

 

A lot of the engineers who worked on the Shuttle started their career working on it, and retired when it was finally ended/ about 30 years or so --- sadly. We should pay ten times more for NASA than we do now, at the very least in my opinion.

 

This video is awe inspiring to say the least...

 

http://framework.latimes.com/2012/10/15/time-lapse-video-space-shuttle-endeavours-trek-across-l-a/

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