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Offline ariel

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Re: global warming
« Reply #25 on: 22/01/2006 03:37:36 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver

Of course beavers are good for the environment.




yeah DocBeaver! look what the internet told me:
Beavers are not necessarily harmful. In fact, many land managers and ranchers are now reintroducing beavers for stream restoration work. Beaver dams slow stream erosion, raise water tables, and filter pollutants and sediments - critical during times of mud slides and ash flows.
[^]
 

another_someone

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Re: global warming
« Reply #26 on: 22/01/2006 19:04:54 »
quote:
Originally posted by VAlibrarian

"Trees and plants are not as good for the environment as we once thought"- wrong, trees and plants ARE the environment.




This is the problem with the notion of The Environment.

Environments are whatever is around at the time – and at present, this includes power stations, factories, tarmac roads, etc.; they are all part of The Environment.

quote:


Every time some researcher re-measures something and discovers a 1% error it seems to cause an enormous opinion ripple around our planet with millions of people seizing onto the information as a way to believe "things are really okay, there is no danger that natural systems will ever collapse under the pressure of human over-use".


 
What on earth do you mean by collapse?

The natural system does what natural systems do, and they may adapt, they may change over time, but they do not collapse.  Human systems may collapse, because we judge the collapse of the system by the purpose to which we design the system, but since we did not design or give purpose to natural systems, we cannot judge what might be regarded as a collapse of the system.

quote:

The problem with this is that the cumulative evidence that we are doing real damage is simply too clear at this point.




Damage is a human concept, not a natural one.

We do not talk about the death of the dinosaurs as damage.  It was a part of natural change.

quote:


I recall a few years back many people refused to believe in global warming because it was well documented that temperatures in certain areas were not going up. Well, researchers recently discovered that there was a mistake in the measurements, and all the temperatures including atmospheric and oceanic were going up. Did you see any news reports? Did you hear any public apologies by those who had been using the incorrect data to deny the existence of global warming? Nope. So do not ask me to get excited by the fact that trace amounts of methane come out of plants. This in no way compares to the massive changes that over 6 billion humans are making in our atmosphere.



The changes 6 billion humans are making to the atmosphere is still dwarfed by the effects of all the photosynthesis by plants and algae.

Even those who promote the notion of human effects on global temperature seem to accept that global warming is substantially driven by changes in solar radiation, and if humans at all have a significant effect upon this process, even those who claim so, claim its significance has only been in recent decades (i.e. the warming of global temperatures between the middle of the 17th century and the middle of the 20th century is claimed not substantially to have been of human origin).
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Re: global warming
« Reply #27 on: 22/01/2006 22:03:03 »
Another Someone, we will just have to agree to disagree on this topic. I will grant you that we may not wish to refer to the extinction of the dinosaurs as "damage"- but I think you might agree that we would view the extinction of homo sapiens as "damage". Not that accelerated climate change would result in our extinction, it would probably just reduce our numbers a bit. But even that might be viewed by many of us as "damage", as we are not fond of dying in our anthrocentric value system.

Perhaps in a technical sense we cannot claim that human activity causes the "collapse of natural systems". But from the standpoint of the Passenger Pigeon, Great Auk, Dodo, etc., our activities could be viewed as detrimental to other species. If we were to deforest the amazon area, grass or weeds would grow in place of the trees, sure. But we might not be happy with the unforeseen results of the deforestation. What would Brazilians use to build houses thereafter, mud?

In a broad sense we inhabit a planetary biosphere that incorporates plants, animals, nonliving structures and gases, and you and me. To pretend that humans lack the power to drive the processes of this system is disingenuous. Take a look at our planet from space at night and study the lights. Take a look again in daylight and note that the green areas are much smaller than they were 200 years ago.
The reality is any natural system has population limits. Like any organism which lacks predators (other than a few microbes and other humans), humans have an upward limit to their numbers. One limit is food supply, and another is having survivable temperatures. Both those limits help explain why human-caused global climate change is not a joke. I will agree with you that the increase over the past fifty years is slight, if you will agree that trending that rise over the next 100 years would spell trouble. I will not be here to see it, but I would like my great-grandchildren to inherit a survivable planet.

chris wiegard
 

another_someone

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Re: global warming
« Reply #28 on: 22/01/2006 23:47:17 »
quote:
Originally posted by VAlibrarian

but I think you might agree that we would view the extinction of homo sapiens as "damage". Not that accelerated climate change would result in our extinction, it would probably just reduce our numbers a bit. But even that might be viewed by many of us as "damage", as we are not fond of dying in our anthrocentric value system.




The thing that has has the greatest impact upon continued human population expansion is probably education and the changing role of women in society.  Populations in the most educated portions of the world are getting to the point where they are beginning to fail to replace themselves.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing depends upon what you feel about human population levels, but it has nothing to do with greenhouse gases or deforestation (excepting that, at least in Europe, the deforestation of the continent contributed to the wealth that allowed the people of that continent to develop their education systems).

quote:


Perhaps in a technical sense we cannot claim that human activity causes the "collapse of natural systems". But from the standpoint of the Passenger Pigeon, Great Auk, Dodo, etc., our activities could be viewed as detrimental to other species.




The same same could be said from the standpoint of the smallpox virus.

quote:

 If we were to deforest the amazon area, grass or weeds would grow in place of the trees, sure. But we might not be happy with the unforeseen results of the deforestation. What would Brazilians use to build houses thereafter, mud?




The term 'weeds' has no meaning – a weed is merely an ordinary plant that is growing in an undesirable place.  A rose is a weed if you did not want roses growing, or it can be a very desirable plant, if that is what you wanted to grow.

The fact is that tomorrow is always an unknown quantity.  The idea that somehow by not chopping down the Amazon forests we would make tomorrow a known quantity seems to me to be an erroneous notion.

The point is that Europe gained its affluence by chopping down its forests.  Is it fair that we should demand that the people of South America should be denied the same opportunities?  Beyond that, as has been shown, it is not at all clear what benefit the Amazon forest does provide.  The loss of the European forests have not created an global catastrophe from the human perspective (although it did inevitably remove the habitat for much European wild life).  One thing we do know is that the forests and wetlands tend to harbour many dangers for humans, dangers that can be reduced by removing those forests and wetlands, dangers that have substantially been removed in Europe.

quote:

In a broad sense we inhabit a planetary biosphere that incorporates plants, animals, nonliving structures and gases, and you and me. To pretend that humans lack the power to drive the processes of this system is disingenuous. Take a look at our planet from space at night and study the lights. Take a look again in daylight and note that the green areas are much smaller than they were 200 years ago.




'Drive' or 'influence'?

I never said we do not influence the system – we are a part of the system, and the inevitable consequence of being a part of any system is that the parts of a system will have an influence upon the whole of the system.  All I said is that we are not alone in having an influence upon the system, and we are not even the dominant influence upon the system, although that does not mean we have an insignificant influence upon the system.

quote:

 
The reality is any natural system has population limits. Like any organism which lacks predators (other than a few microbes and other humans), humans have an upward limit to their numbers. One limit is food supply, and another is having survivable temperatures. Both those limits help explain why human-caused global climate change is not a joke. I will agree with you that the increase over the past fifty years is slight, if you will agree that trending that rise over the next 100 years would spell trouble. I will not be here to see it, but I would like my great-grandchildren to inherit a survivable planet.




Apart from the inevitable risks in arbitrarily extending trends, but I would not concur with you that, even if those trends do continue, it would create insurmountable problems for the human species.  I accept that it will create challenges, but no matter what happens, tomorrow will always be a challenge, just as it always has been, and it has been our ability to rise to those challenges that has allowed our populations to grow as far as they have.

Our ability to obtain food now far exceeds anything our ancestors had.  If we looked back at the ability of our ancestors to obtain food for themselves, and we had simply taken that as the natural limiting factor upon human population growth, we would have a worldwide population (at a guess) of probably one 1/1000th of what we have today.  From the moment humans developed farming technology, to the continued improvements in that technology, we have enabled every successive limit in population size to be exceeded.  I am not saying there are not people today who are starving, just as there always has been (although this is typically more a political problem than a technological problem in growing enough food), but nonetheless in past centuries we would have not even been able to feed the populations we do today.

Nor are we nearly as sensitive to environmental temperature changes.  It is true that the naked human being cannot survive extreme hot or cold, but humans within the context of the technologies they have developed have survived from the Arctic to the Equator.

I do not believe that any foreseeable human created change on this planet (as distinct from more natural catastrophes, such as an extraterrestrial impact, or a super-volcanic eruption) would present an insuperable challenge to human ingenuity.

The bigger human created risk to human survival seems to be our falling birth rate, and consequential skewed age distribution, in much of the developed world, which is gradually also spreading to much of the developing world.

Ofcourse, all life is dependent upon the ready availability of energy, and human success has been even more dependent upon even greater use of energy that other forms of life, and thus if we were to run out of energy, that would indeed cripple our ability to feed ourselves.  At present, although any individual energy source has a finite limit, there is no evidence that overall we are in danger of running out of energy, particularly if we are to embrace nuclear energy sources.

 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Re: global warming
« Reply #29 on: 23/01/2006 00:59:54 »
Hmm. While we agree on some points, our philosophies seem to be essentially at odds. My views proceed from an assumption that humans have a moral burden to protect the current biological system of planet Earth for our own survival as well as the survival of all other species (excluding roaches and smallpox, if you wish).
You seem to feel that there is no such moral burden, and that humans need to pursue whatever course they feel appropriate to further their own ends.
While we both see physical constraints to potential human humbers, you seem to feel that we are far from those constraints and that we will never reach them due to declining birth rates in much of the world. I note that we will tack on another 2 or 3 billion humans while we are reaching the actual point of zero population growth, and I feel that we are pretty close to fully exploiting our potential supplies of food now. You feel that our ability to generate food is only limited by our ability to generate energy. I might look with more favor on that concept if I thought it would not result in every square inch of North America being occupied by cornfields, factory farms for chickens, and houses for humans.  
I guess I will end my side of the discussion now. While I find it interesting I imagine many of the other readers do not. I really wish I had a time machine to go 100 years into the future and bring back evidence of how difficult conditions will be for our descendants. But doubtless you would wish to take the same trip in order to prove to me that we currently live in the "dark ages" in comparison to the marvels that time will hold for future human generations.

chris wiegard
 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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Re: global warming
« Reply #30 on: 23/01/2006 08:52:54 »
http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/lofiversion/index.php?t29285-100.html

Disquiet disbelief as a satellite views the fires of habitual environmental desiccation from a country Hell bent on self destruction.

All the red dots are fires and this does not relate only to Thailand, most of the countries and even continents can be seen blazing from satellites

Over 9.5 million suffer as drought spreads to 66 provinces
http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=29285

But it is not all doom and gloom!
Practical solutions are being debated on a lively discussion relating to the water shortages Thailand Now faces along with the current drought.

Invitation to anyone interested to bring in his or her thoughts and views, and see if some sense can come from this chaotic Armageddon madness.

One solution is a simple project titled “A Pocket Full of Acorns, designed to address Thailand’s declining natural forests by encouraging schools and parents to take an active roll in replanting trees in areas that are in need of some helping hands.

Another is to have a National Tree Planting Week

Native tree Seeds are given free by many forestry organisations, we just need to let people know how simple it really is to address the major environmental problems faced by Thailand today, to make sure Thailand has a tomorrow!

Andrew K Fletcher


"The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct."
K.I.S. "Keep it simple!"
« Last Edit: 23/01/2006 08:55:52 by Andrew K Fletcher »
 

another_someone

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Re: global warming
« Reply #31 on: 23/01/2006 12:40:17 »
quote:
Originally posted by VAlibrarian

My views proceed from an assumption that humans have a moral burden to protect the current biological system of planet Earth for our own survival as well as the survival of all other species (excluding roaches and smallpox, if you wish).
You seem to feel that there is no such moral burden, and that humans need to pursue whatever course they feel appropriate to further their own ends.




I have two issues on this.

Firstly, I see us as another animal, not a God, and so our responsibility is no greater nor less than that of any other animal, or any other living organism.  We are all equal.

Secondly, what do you mean by 'protect'.  If you were given care of a caterpillar, would protecting that caterpillar be regarded as keeping the caterpillar in its original juvenile state in perpetuity, or would you regard allowing a caterpillar to metamorphose into a butterfly to be consistent with protecting the caterpillar?

The point is that we have seen millions of caterpillars, and we know enough about their natural life cycle, that we may reasonably ask, and answer such a question.  We do not have an equivalent experience of other planets to be able to know what the natural life cycle of a planet in the state of age of the Earth would be.  Can we know that the changes that we are party to upon this Earth are anything other than the natural development of any planet similar to the Earth that is at this stage of its development?  Is it reasonable to presume that in trying to prevent developmental changes to the Earth that we are in fact dispensing our moral duty, or simply fighting against the natural maturation of a living organism?  Can we ever know the answer to such questions, and should we hastily jump to one conclusion or another in the absence of such knowledge?

quote:

You feel that our ability to generate food is only limited by our ability to generate energy. I might look with more favor on that concept if I thought it would not result in every square inch of North America being occupied by cornfields, factory farms for chickens, and houses for humans.




I cannot say what is true of North America, but in Europe, the present trend seems to be a reduction in the amount of land used in agriculture.  Yes, agriculture is becoming ever more factory farming, but it is learning to do so with ever less use of land.  Whether this is a good or bad thing is open to debate, but simply an acknowledgement of current trends as I perceive them.

quote:

 
While I find it interesting I imagine many of the other readers do not. I really wish I had a time machine to go 100 years into the future and bring back evidence of how difficult conditions will be for our descendants. But doubtless you would wish to take the same trip in order to prove to me that we currently live in the "dark ages" in comparison to the marvels that time will hold for future human generations.




I don't think it is an either or.

We are all creatures of our own time.  If, rather than moving forward 100 years, we were to swap places with one of our ancestors of 200 years ago (before the coming of the railway), and ask how well we could adjust to the time we had moved in to, and how well our ancestor would be able to adjust to our own time.  Each would be horrified by what they saw and what they had to endure.  Even though our ancestor might marvel at our technology, he would also be totally shocked by much of what is normal and commonplace to us, just as we would be shocked and horrified by all that was commonplace to him.
 

another_someone

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Re: global warming
« Reply #32 on: 23/01/2006 13:08:58 »
quote:
Originally posted by Andrew K Fletcher

Disquiet disbelief as a satellite views the fires of habitual environmental desiccation from a country Hell bent on self destruction.

All the red dots are fires and this does not relate only to Thailand, most of the countries and even continents can be seen blazing from satellites

Over 9.5 million suffer as drought spreads to 66 provinces
http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=29285




Fires are a natural part of the life cycle of forests.  If you want natural forests, then you will have natural forest fires.

Clearly, not all forest fires are caused by non-human sources; but if humans did not cause fires, then nonetheless sooner or later a natural fire of some sort would come along.

The question we have to ask ourselves (and I know that many people in North America are asking this question) is whether we should attempt to curtail this natural part of forest evolution, or just let it happen naturally.  The trouble is that as humans are ever more encroaching on forest land, so these fires (whether natural or man made) are ever more endangering human life.  Thus the political pressure is to try and prevent fire, even though this may actually mean undermining the natural processes of the forest.

Ofcourse, natural forest fires and fires used for land clearance are two distinct things.



quote:


Invitation to anyone interested to bring in his or her thoughts and views, and see if some sense can come from this chaotic Armageddon madness.




Your use of adjectives is interesting.

The natural world is chaotic.  A highly ordered world is either a dead world, or a highly artificial world.  There is much to be said for bringing order to the world, but the one thing that cannot be said is that such a world would be a natural world.

quote:


Native tree Seeds are given free by many forestry organisations, we just need to let people know how simple it really is to address the major environmental problems faced by Thailand today, to make sure Thailand has a tomorrow!




I would consider it highly naďve to believe that the planting of a few trees will in any way address any significant part of the environmental challenges faced by Thailand, or any other nation of the world.  Trees certainly wont prevent drought.
 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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Re: global warming
« Reply #33 on: 23/01/2006 15:48:44 »
First of all, the fires on the map are from people burning their rice stubble, and clearing out forested areas.
secondly, all the areas devoid of trees no longer receive the rainfall they used to.
thirdly, a handful of seeds in one persons hands will do little to address the massive environmental problems Thailand now faces. But a handful of seeds in the hands of a few thousand children can go along way to addressing it.

For example, if everyone in the U.K. planted one tree in the whole of their lives, it would give us an extra 6o million trees, these trees could then reseed themselves multiplying the initial 60 million by another 60 million trees and so on, but this requires a little more effort than most of the users of this world will donate.

Trees won't alter the climate?

artificial trees are milking the moisture from the coastlines of Mexico and many other areas, using a simple nylon net and pipework to provide running water for villages that do not get sufficient rainfall.

"The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct."
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Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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Re: global warming
« Reply #34 on: 23/01/2006 15:50:52 »
O and I forgot to add. The fact that the trees have been removed from the coastlines prevents moisture from crossing from the oceans on to the land and falling as rain, causing more inland forests to become tinder dry and bursting into flames.

"The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct."
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another_someone

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Re: global warming
« Reply #35 on: 23/01/2006 18:55:10 »
quote:
Originally posted by Andrew K Fletcher

Trees won't alter the climate?

artificial trees are milking the moisture from the coastlines of Mexico and many other areas, using a simple nylon net and pipework to provide running water for villages that do not get sufficient rainfall.




If the artificial trees are enough to precipitate water from the atmosphere, then we scarcely need real trees.  But in any case, all you are suggesting is that the artificial trees are precipitating rain, not that they can in any way create the moisture from which the rain precipitates.  If the are taking water out of the atmosphere, then they must inevitably leave less moisture in the atmosphere to fall as rain elsewhere.  Clearly, if one has a country where too much rain is falling in one place, and not enough in another, then this would be an adequate solution; but where one has too little rain over large areas, it is unlikely to make much difference.

That having been said, it is not clear that what you describe is really effecting rainfall as much as creating dew.  It is true that trees can also collect water in this way in arid environments, but this would not allow much water to be left over for human use, which is why the artificial trees would do better, since the do not actually need the water for themselves.

Looking specifically at the Thai problem, it seems that the monsoons from May to August, which Indian ocean, was if anything, slightly above normal rainfall for the time of year.  The problem seems more to do with the season from September onwards, which is normally dominated by rains coming from China.  This, I suspect, is totally outside of the influence of anything Thailand can do for itself, and probably has more to do with what is happening in China.  Whether this is just a part of the natural cycle of things, or a consequence of changing land use in China, is another question.

Given the enormous changes going on in China, both in terms of industrialisation, and in terms of damming rivers, and changing structure of farming in the country, one can imagine that it may well effect the nature of water evaporation going on in the country.
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Re: global warming
« Reply #36 on: 30/01/2006 02:47:11 »
Another someone, as you are interested in correct definitions of terms, I have concluded that I must dispute your use of the term "challenge". You write that the Human Race always has surmounted challenges which come our way. I suppose the 20th century World Wars were challenges, and so was the Bubonic Plague.
I feel that it is inappropriate however to place global climate change into the category of "challenge". A challenge is something that looms up out of the darkness, demanding to be confronted. Global Climate change, on the other hand, strikes me as a self-inflicted cup of poison rather than a "challenge". Is it a challenge when you dig yourself a hole ten feet deep, jump in, and debate trying to crawl out?
Is it a challenge when someone warns you that your house is on fire, and you ignore them?
Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps there is actually an analogy to be drawn between the threat of global climate change and the "challenge" of Fascism in the 1930s. The United States was unwilling to confront Hitler until Japanese airplanes bombed Pearl Harbor, so why should we behave any differently now? We are quite talented at ignoring threats until an airplane drops a bomb on us, or flies into the World Trade Center. Denial is more convenient and less expensive in the short term. In the long term, however, denial fails.

I refer you to the case of Dr. James E. Hansen, an American climatologist who works for NASA and has issued many public warnings of global climate change over the past 17 years. His supervisors are now telling him to shut up, because George W. Bush does not wish to have climate change discussed in public: it annoys his friends in the Petroleum industry.


chris wiegard
 

another_someone

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Re: global warming
« Reply #37 on: 30/01/2006 03:25:36 »
quote:
Originally posted by Valibrarian

Is it a challenge when someone warns you that your house is on fire, and you ignore them?



I think you misunderstand my position on the matter.

I am not advocating ignoring any warnings.

I think your example above is a perfect example of my position.  If someone warns you that your house is ablaze, and all you have at your disposal is a bucket of water, you don't stand around to fight the fire, you let the fire take its natural course, and you act simply to protect yourself from its effects.

In many ways, asking whether the fire was your fault or not is an irrelevance, the only question you have to ask at that moment is whether you have the tools available to stop the fire or not.

The same issue ultimately must be the question regarding global warming, and it must be said that (even if it was a desirable outcome – since we don't know what the secondary effects of trying to stop the changes would be) I have not heard a single suggestion as to how we would stop global warming – the only scenarios I have heard have had about as much impact upon the final outcome as a bucket of water upon a house fire.

What we do know is that in part global warming is an effect that would have occurred even if humans were not on this planet, so even if we have had any effect upon the climate, it has at most only been to exaggerate something that was already a natural process.  That being the case, in order to stop global warming, simply stopping human activity would not be enough, we would have to also compensate for the natural events.  We simply don't have the capability to do this.

Thus, rather than waste resources by trying to throw a bucket of water over the fire, lets concentrate our resources on how one should build protection for ourselves against the inevitable.

I believe we do have the technical competence to protect ourselves from this fire, but I do believe it is futile to try and put the fire out, and we would be wasting valuable time and resources if they were thrown into such futility.

 

sharkeyandgeorge

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Re: global warming
« Reply #38 on: 30/01/2006 10:51:31 »
im not as up on this topic as you all seem to be but would like to point out that trees act as stores of water after rain absorbing run off which would otherwise strip away topsoil and leech nutrients out of whatremains also theyre root systems bind the soil and keep it together and over time break down rocks to create more soil. as to moisture in any close forest the area between the tree canopy and the ground is very much cooler from the shade which helps retain moisture and has more moisture due to the fact that trees sweat water to keep cool adding to moisture in the air thats called transpiration and over a wide area such as a forest means a massive amount of water is put in to the air everyday.

"Defender of the Sea"
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Re: global warming
« Reply #39 on: 31/01/2006 04:03:44 »
Okay, I will reply to your last posting in the same constructive mode that you use. How can we seek to address the threat of climate change, at the same time that we are working on understanding it more fully by means of scientific research? Answer: work at the same time to reduce the amounts of Carbon gases we release into the atmosphere yearly. Use financial incentives to encourage conservation, or use punishments to discourage waste. Truly, we can do nothing to condense the massive amounts of CO2 we pumped out over the past 50 years. But we are not yet even reducing our annual contribution of CO2. You have to start somewhere. I vote that the USA adopt a policy of reducing our use of fossil fuels, and demand that other nations including China follow our example. That would be far superior to our current polcy of refusing to sign any international agreements due to concerns that they might slow our economy, with the result that the Third World feels free to ignore the issue of climate change and tries to imitate our sad devotion to automobile culture, despite the fact that there is not enough oil left in the ground for all of them to have cars.  

I will admit that this may be inadequate as a means of avoiding climate change altogether. But isn't it better to do something to at least mitigate the process, rather than dedicating ourselves to making it worse?

chris wiegard
 

Offline Soul Surfer

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Re: global warming
« Reply #40 on: 31/01/2006 09:09:47 »
This discussion has got rather heated and polarised and its worth taking a step back in scientific detatchment.

Firstly the earth's climate has changed greatly over the last 500 million years or so of complex life Normal complex life has managed to adapt to it successfully with occasional major extinction evenrts.  For human life not to expect to have to adapt (in time)to changes as big as this is stupid.

The big question is can intelligent life survive for a long time? On the whole I think it can but we have to remember the example of Easter island as what happens to a large isolated developed population as the resources run out.

It seems very likely that sea level rises will force the evacuatiion of many low lying areas in the next hundred years or so.  OK doing our bit will help stave off the evil day but as Malthus said many years ago the REAL ptroblem is overpopulation and until we get that stabilised we are doomed.

But there is one more real and terrible risk that most people are forgetting and that is the time when the earth suffers the runaway greengouse effect and we will have to evacuate to mars!

As part of its life cycle the sun is gradually getting hotter and the earth's climate compensation processes  (see lovelock's work) are getting near the end stops.  At some point (hopfully in the far distant future) this will run away as the oceans evaporate and disperse into space  (the earth's gravity can only just hold on to water nd loses it quite quickly in a multi billion year time scale) and the earth will become like venus.

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Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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Re: global warming
« Reply #41 on: 31/01/2006 09:40:31 »
Another Someone.

Take a long hard look at the picture of fires in Thailand, then go look at some more pictures of the same mindless destruction going on in other countries, (there are lots to view on the NASA site). Pay special attention to the location of clouds forming over vegetated areas and the absence of moisture in the desertified areas.

Another example is the small islands dotted around the oceans. Where there are trees on the islands, there is almost always some cloud cover and adequate rainfall supplying the islands needs. However, on baron islands, there is no cloud cover!

In fuengirola in Spain, the expats got fed up with the baron lifeless coastlines, and turned to inhabiting the baron hillsides. Here they planted trees and shrubs, and used hosepipes to establish them. Gradually they turned the hills green, and now report cloud cover when all around this area there is none, they also get more rain!

Living on the coast, I have observed the pathways that sea born moisture takes when it meets the coast on many occasions. Even filming it as it crosses onto the land only where trees meet the coast. In the more built up areas, the moisture hugs the coast all day but does not cross over the hot dry beaches and hot black tarmac roads. When the mist vanishes from the coast, it remains in the wooded areas for many hours. On blazing hot days, these mist covered wooded areas are very cool with moisture dripping from the trees to the floor.

In India, a mangrove forested island off India received ample moisture and rainfall from the ocean. The locals harvested the wooded areas until all the mangrove was removed. They then used the island for livestock, and it stopped raining, turning the island from once fertile land into desert, where it almost never rains now. The bones of their folly remain for all to see, yet the link between having a fertile land and rain falling has yet to be recognised by the so called "Experts" On the other hand, the real experts are witnessing at first hand the effects that centuries of environmental destruction has unleashed upon them. We have all seen the starving millions in Africa.



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another_someone

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Re: global warming
« Reply #42 on: 31/01/2006 12:50:13 »
quote:
Originally posted by VAlibrarian

Okay, I will reply to your last posting in the same constructive mode that you use. How can we seek to address the threat of climate change, at the same time that we are working on understanding it more fully by means of scientific research? Answer: work at the same time to reduce the amounts of Carbon gases we release into the atmosphere yearly. Use financial incentives to encourage conservation, or use punishments to discourage waste. Truly, we can do nothing to condense the massive amounts of CO2 we pumped out over the past 50 years. But we are not yet even reducing our annual contribution of CO2. You have to start somewhere. I vote that the USA adopt a policy of reducing our use of fossil fuels, and demand that other nations including China follow our example. That would be far superior to our current polcy of refusing to sign any international agreements due to concerns that they might slow our economy, with the result that the Third World feels free to ignore the issue of climate change and tries to imitate our sad devotion to automobile culture, despite the fact that there is not enough oil left in the ground for all of them to have cars.  

I will admit that this may be inadequate as a means of avoiding climate change altogether. But isn't it better to do something to at least mitigate the process, rather than dedicating ourselves to making it worse?

chris wiegard



I have never argued against discouraging waste, although the problem here is determining what is waste and what is necessary use.

I think the example of the automobile is a good example.  Yes, the motor car does contribute to CO2 production, but exactly how much, and exactly how much of a difference to climate would it make if every motor car is banned?

If one were, for instance, to suggest (totally arbitrarily) that banning all motor cars would reduce by 20% the probability of another hurricane in the southern USA.  This will not mean that another Katrina will not happen, merely that it will happen slightly less frequently.  If one looks at the casualties of Katrina, the group that suffered most was the group that lacked access to private transport (i.e. a motor car).  Ofcourse, one could argue that the Government should have laid on the means of evacuation using mass transport.  Indeed, it should have, but the problem was, as is always the problem with central planning (just look at the history of the USSR) it can get it massively wrong.  Providing further financial disincentives to car ownership would simply have meant that even more of the poorest members of the New Orleans community would have perished.  Is that a price worth paying simply for a 20% reduction in the probability of a repeat of the same or similar scenario?

If one looks elsewhere where transport systems are inadequate (and there is no-where, other than a few affluent urban conurbations where mass transit systems are class to being adequate), these are areas that are likely to suffer deprivation through lack of trade, greater likelihood of small scale wars (OK, I suppose one can offset that with a reduced likelihood of global wars), and greater difficulty in help reaching those areas when disaster does strike them.  If Afghanistan had a good road network that allowed effective central Government, and good international trade, would it have been a suitable location for Bin-Laden to place his headquarters?

This is what I meant by the analogy with trying to fight a fire with a bucket of water.  If you do not have the tools to finish the job, then concentrate on making sure you retain the tools to get out of the way, and don't waste your time doing half a job – that time wasted could yet cost you your life.

Ofcourse, while the motor car (or some alternative personal transportation system) is useful, we should still strive to make it more efficient – I have no problem with that.

Actually, you say we can do nothing to condense the massive amounts of CO2 we have pumped out.  I would suggest that if we put our minds to it, it is not beyond the realms of possibility to build some nuclear power plants that extract CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it back to hydrocarbons (which could then be used as fuel, thus completing the cycle; or used in plastics, and thus prevented from re-entering the atmosphere).  It would be expensive in monetary terms, but it would seem be me to be less technically challenging than the efforts we have made, and are still making, to get nuclear fusion tamed for power generation.

Ofcourse, even if we did convert all the CO2, it would not alter the fact that solar output has been increasing since the middle of the 17th century.  The other problem is the converting CO2 (with water) back to hydrocarbons and O2 would increase the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, which would itself increase (however marginally) the likelihood of forest fires, and other natural combustion.

The first thing you have to realise is that any concerted effort to alter human behaviour on the scale you suggest requires concerted central planning of society on a scale that even dwarfs that which the Soviet Union was attempting – not least because it would need to be done on a global scale.  You may try and do it using criminal law, or simply using financial incentives (bearing in mind that the latter simply means that it becomes a tax that is more affordable for some than for others), but it still retains all of the risks associated with central planning – the risks of getting it massively wrong, and the risks of unforeseen effects that can have perverse consequences, and the inevitable problems of inertia and inflexibility once the system has been put into place.

There is an enormous cost, not only a financial cost but a social cost, in the kind of sweeping changes in global lifestyle you are suggesting, and if the benefits are only going to be marginal, then one has to ask whether such a cost is justified.

 

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Re: global warming
« Reply #43 on: 31/01/2006 14:13:24 »
quote:
Originally posted by Soul Surfer

This discussion has got rather heated and polarised and its worth taking a step back in scientific detatchment.




Firstly, while I may at times be forceful in my views, I do hope no-one mistakes that for being unduly heated, let alone disrespectful of anyone with a different perspective on things.

quote:


Firstly the earth's climate has changed greatly over the last 500 million years or so of complex life Normal complex life has managed to adapt to it successfully with occasional major extinction evenrts.  For human life not to expect to have to adapt (in time)to changes as big as this is stupid.




Agreed, totally – in fact, human life has already had to adapt to quite wide variations in both global and local climates.

quote:


The big question is can intelligent life survive for a long time? On the whole I think it can but we have to remember the example of Easter island as what happens to a large isolated developed population as the resources run out.




One has to be careful in interpreting the situation in Easter Island.

Firstly, the local population still existed even at the time of the first European settlers, some of them being kidnapped into slavery in the 19th century.

What is true is that the islanders had run out of wood to build canoes, and this substantially inhibited their mobility, and certainly made it impossible for them to leave the islands (which in any case were so remote as to make this a difficult option to exercise).

There were shortages of available resources, which did cause civil wars, but it did not cause the total extinction of the native population – Europeans did that.

quote:


It seems very likely that sea level rises will force the evacuatiion of many low lying areas in the next hundred years or so.  OK doing our bit will help stave off the evil day but as Malthus said many years ago the REAL ptroblem is overpopulation and until we get that stabilised we are doomed.




But there is an opposing problem (and this is why the overpopulation problem is so intractable) that evolution does not reward negative population growth (i.e. population implosion).  There is also the problem that the way we are going about stabilising population is creating a skewed age demographic.

quote:


But there is one more real and terrible risk that most people are forgetting and that is the time when the earth suffers the runaway greengouse effect and we will have to evacuate to mars!

As part of its life cycle the sun is gradually getting hotter and the earth's climate compensation processes  (see lovelock's work) are getting near the end stops.  At some point (hopfully in the far distant future) this will run away as the oceans evaporate and disperse into space  (the earth's gravity can only just hold on to water nd loses it quite quickly in a multi billion year time scale) and the earth will become like venus.




I think the factor you have not included in your assessment is the effect of volcanoes.  Volcanoes will pump many gases, including oxides of carbon, sulphur, and hydrogen, into the atmosphere.  This will in part help to replenish gases that are lost into space.  The question that we don't know is how much more reserves do the volcanoes have to call on before they fail to replenish those losses (which ofcourse will also depend upon the rate of loss).
 

another_someone

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Re: global warming
« Reply #44 on: 31/01/2006 15:31:38 »
quote:
Originally posted by Andrew K Fletcher

Another Someone.

Take a long hard look at the picture of fires in Thailand, then go look at some more pictures of the same mindless destruction going on in other countries, (there are lots to view on the NASA site). Pay special attention to the location of clouds forming over vegetated areas and the absence of moisture in the desertified areas.




I don't think we need satellite images to tell us that it doesn't rain in the desert.

Of itself, it does not tell us much about cause and effect.

quote:


In fuengirola in Spain, the expats got fed up with the baron lifeless coastlines, and turned to inhabiting the baron hillsides. Here they planted trees and shrubs, and used hosepipes to establish them. Gradually they turned the hills green, and now report cloud cover when all around this area there is none, they also get more rain!




Well, so I see:

http://www.andalucia.com/news/cdsn/2003-02-19.htm
quote:

A MASSIVE DOWNPOUR OF RAIN HIT FUENGIROLA LAST FRIDAY AT 18.00 WHEN 103 LITRES OF RAIN FELL ON THE TOWN WITHIN LITTLE MORE THAN TWO HOURS.
By comparison, Málaga only recorded 20 litres throughout the day with Estepona receiving 13 litres and Ronda three. Within minutes of the huge deluge commencing, all the streets in Fuengirola and Las Lagunas were either partially or totally inundated with water. Numerous businesses were forced to close because of the enormous amount of water that poured through their doors. As the streets of Fuengirola were transformed into canals residents declared, 'this is like Venice'. Pedestrians who attempted to cross streets found themselves up to their waists in water. Water also poured into underground car parks completely covering the cars. A wall at the municipal sports pavilion in Las Lagunas gave way under the force of the waters. Rivers and streams overflowed. Access to Fuengirola from the motorway was cut and not reopened until 21.00. The occupants of seven cars inundated with water at the Las Lagunas roundabout were rescued by emergency services. The train service to Málaga was halted after a landslide at Carvajal.
The Fuengirola and Mijas fire service rescued 90 people trapped in various zones of the two municipalities. Forty people who had sought refuge in an industrial unit on the Vega estate were brought to safety as too were 50 people rescued from their homes in Fuengirola. Fortunately none suffered injury.



But in general, it does not seem that the average annual rainfall is that great, although clearly not arid, but then it is a coastal resort:

http://fuengirola.costasur.com/en/eltiempo.html
quote:

The weather in Fuengirola is very mild in winter and warm in summer. It doesn’t rain very much with a yearly average of 469.2 mm. The rain season is between November and March. The summer is very dry.



But the underlying fact is that trees will not do much to create water.  Trees may in some cases help local evaporation, but if they do that they would have to do it by depleting groundwater.

The major means of creating fresh water is either by volcanism, or evaporation of sea water, or by combustion of carbohydrates or hydrocarbons.  Both the combustion and the volcanism will be accompanied by the production of CO2, which many consider to be environmentally unsound.

Photosynthesis is ofcourse the the reverse reaction to combustion, so while it may absorb CO2, it must also absorb H2O.

quote:


Living on the coast, I have observed the pathways that sea born moisture takes when it meets the coast on many occasions. Even filming it as it crosses onto the land only where trees meet the coast. In the more built up areas, the moisture hugs the coast all day but does not cross over the hot dry beaches and hot black tarmac roads. When the mist vanishes from the coast, it remains in the wooded areas for many hours. On blazing hot days, these mist covered wooded areas are very cool with moisture dripping from the trees to the floor.

In India, a mangrove forested island off India received ample moisture and rainfall from the ocean. The locals harvested the wooded areas until all the mangrove was removed. They then used the island for livestock, and it stopped raining, turning the island from once fertile land into desert, where it almost never rains now.




Do you actually have rainfall statistics for the relevant periods of time in that region?

I can well imagine that the soil conditions within the swamp were marginal, and would not have sustained long term agriculture, no matter what happened to the rainfall.

But in any case, these are all about local climate changes.  The question is not what the local influence of trees, or other vegetation, is; but what the global impact is.  If the effect of vegetation is simply to move climate from one place to another, then it will have no global impact – although this does not mean that local management of vegetation is futile, only that it should not be seen as a panacea for the wider perceived global ills.  Furthermore, if the effect of vegetation is to shift moisture around, then it important to look at the proper management of vegetation, and not the mere indiscriminate planting of trees hither and dither.

 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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Re: global warming
« Reply #45 on: 31/01/2006 17:33:05 »
Thank you for the article on rainfall and for the link: A MASSIVE DOWNPOUR OF RAIN HIT FUENGIROLA LAST FRIDAY AT 18.00 WHEN 103 LITRES OF RAIN FELL ON THE TOWN WITHIN LITTLE MORE THAN TWO HOURS.
There are many other examples of tree planting inducing increased localised rainfall. Some in desert areas including Morocco. And many more examples of diminishing rainfall from the removal of forested areas. Have you ever seen a tropical raindesert or even a tropical rainfield?

You may not need a satellite to see that it don't rain in a desert, but they do provide us with the pathways of moisture crossing on to land where coastlines still remain forested.

And I do like the idea of environmental graphitti covering scorched lands with vegetation is the only way to go in order to address the global warming issues we now face.

Imagine grabbing a percentage of rainfall that would normally fall at sea and inducing it to fall on lands devoid of moisture. Surely this would go a long way to reducing temperatures. Act locally, think globally.

We could always carry on regardless I suppose and hope it don't really matter about how many trees are removed. Maybe you could re-home one of those orangutans with singed fur from Borneo while we are debating whether the removal of trees has any long reaching consequences for our own survival also?

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Offline VAlibrarian

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Re: global warming
« Reply #46 on: 01/02/2006 02:15:44 »
Well the discussion may be polarized, but I submit that we have stayed civil so far. And that is not always easy. I have participated in message boards made up of North Americans, and on the topic of climate change there were times that people resorted to obscene language.
I feel that in time the politics of this issue will work themselves out. Did you notice that George Bush, Mr. Petroleum himself, is talking this evening about the virtues of trying alternative fuels in place of gasoline for transportation? True, he misses the point that these fuels still create atmospheric CO2, but he seems to be responding to a popular realization that present trends cannot continue indefinitely. Perhaps in another 30 years, while Florida is still above sea level, we may be able to harness nuclear power to create a transportation system based on hydrogen fuel cells. Then again, we may fail, or lose interest until the petroleum supply goes dry and we get desperate.
My basic point in all this is that free markets do not necesarily solve every human problem in a timely way. It is possible for a resource that is held in common, like oil, to be used in a wasteful way because if you do not use your share, somebody else will. I think that is the reason that they ran out of trees on Easter Island and killed each other over the remaining scraps of food until the Europeans arrived to enslave the survivors- because in a situation of competition between factions, it made no sense to conserve resources.
It is also possible to say why should I worry, it will not be a serious problem in my lifetime- forgetting that we would all like our grandchildren to have pleasant and lengthy lives.
Why use all the remaining petroleum of our planet in the next 100 years, for that matter. Space travel has never been viable for large numbers of humans. We are so far stuck with this planet, and it seems foolish to misuse resources and multiply our numbers beyond sustainable levels. Climate change is but one example of the consequences.

chris wiegard
 

another_someone

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Re: global warming
« Reply #47 on: 01/02/2006 23:03:57 »
quote:
Originally posted by VAlibrarian

Well the discussion may be polarized, but I submit that we have stayed civil so far.
 And that is not always easy.




I find it exceedingly easy, given my displeasure to the alternative.

quote:

popular realization that present trends cannot continue indefinitely.



Trends, like weather, cannot continue indefinitely, and like weather, cannot be accurately predicted.

quote:


My basic point in all this is that free markets do not necesarily solve every human problem in a timely way.




There is no way to solve every human problem.  Stick to solving the ones we know how to solve.

I am by nature a free marketeer, but I am also a realist, and realise that the notion of a free market is in reality a fiction.  All markets are artificial constructs, and they have rules, and the nature of those rules will determine the nature of the market.

So, if I have accepted that a free market is an arbitrary construct, what does it mean to be a free marketeer?  From my perspective, it means that the artificial construct should be kept as simple, as transparent, and as universal as possible.  The exact rules matter less than an acceptance that micromanaging a market, or the resources therein, will cause the system to fail.

quote:


 It is possible for a resource that is held in common, like oil, to be used in a wasteful way because if you do not use your share, somebody else will. I think that is the reason that they ran out of trees on Easter Island and killed each other over the remaining scraps of food until the Europeans arrived to enslave the survivors- because in a situation of competition between factions, it made no sense to conserve resources.




Indeed, but oil increasingly is not held in common.

When OPEC was formed, it sought to create a monopoly upon most of the world's oil resources, and in doing so to manage the production and reserves of oil.  It also had other political objectives, but there is no doubt that it also had the effect of being able to manage the then known reserves of oil.  OPEC was accused of profiteering.

There is now a large pool of reserves outside of OPEC, which makes it more difficult to manage the world's reserves of oil in its totality (combined with a lack of discipline amongst the OPEC member states themselves).  Nonetheless, OPEC does at least seek to manage its own reserves to some extent.

The problem is if you do not have a free market, then you must have a monopoly (or at least a cartel).  Historically, cartels were actually seen as a positive thing (at least, in Europe, up until the second World War – I believe the USA was moving against cartels since the problems it had with Standard Oil at the beginning of the 20th century), but have become an anathema to modern economic philosophy.

The advantage with cartels is they provide long term stability, and allow for long term planning.  This is the particular advantage that you seem to be keen upon.

The disadvantage with cartels is that their very conservatism makes them unresponsive to the environment they operate in – once they have determined what their long term policy should be, there is no reason for them to change that policy, even if that policy proves inappropriate for the conditions.

Ofcourse, there is no inherent need for oil to be held in common, and in fact, it is not.  Even in the absence of cartels, individual oil reserves are owned by individual enterprises (increasingly, they are owned by the State in which they are in, with licenses issued to corporate enterprises to exploit the reserve).

But, Kyoto is not about oil, it is about the air – and that is more difficult to assign a given owner to, and so is inevitably held in common.  I rather suspect that there might be many who would not appreciate there being a market in air, where you must pay someone for the right to breath their air.

quote:

 
It is also possible to say why should I worry, it will not be a serious problem in my lifetime- forgetting that we would all like our grandchildren to have pleasant and lengthy lives.




I suspect that the greater threat to our grandchildren will not be environmental, but financial.  The dominance of the Western economies is coming to an end, and the bigger problem will be not whether their will be enough oil to put in their cars to drive to work, but whether there will be any work to drive to.

I suppose that if we were being totally cynical, we could say that what we are trying to do with Kyoto, if applied globally, would in the medium term do more harm to China than to the USA, since China's industry is expanding while that in the USA and Europe is shrinking.

quote:

 
Why use all the remaining petroleum of our planet in the next 100 years, for that matter.




Arguably, because it is more efficient to do so.

Extracting small amount of anything is relatively inefficient, so in terms of pure efficiency, it makes sense to extract as much as possible in as short a time as possible, and then move on to extracting something else.

On the other hand, I have also suggested elsewhere that excessive efficiency can have its own problems, and a system that is less efficient can sometimes be more resilient.  Thus the question you have to ask is how important is efficiency and a lack of waste to you, and how much are you willing to tolerate a bit of inefficiency in order to retain a greater degree of resilience.

quote:

Space travel has never been viable for large numbers of humans. We are so far stuck with this planet, and it seems foolish to misuse resources and multiply our numbers beyond sustainable levels. Climate change is but one example of the consequences.




The term 'misuse' is rather subjective.

As I have said above, I am all in favour of efficient uses of resources, within the constraint that one does not become to inflexible by becoming over-specialised in utilising one resource (which is what usually happens when one learns to be too highly efficient – a generalist is always less efficient than a specialist).  But using a resource efficiently is different from refraining from using a resource.

As for multiplying our numbers – this is certainly coming to an end, as most Western nations are actually not reproducing themselves fast enough to sustain present population levels (hence the discussion over our grandchildren may not be so relevant – I myself have no children, and so will not be having grandchildren, and hence you may be happy in the knowledge that I will not be contributing to the multiplication of our population).

My own suspicion (from what you have said) is that your own actions have contributed to the continued multiplication of our population.  In general, I have observed that those who complain loudest about population growth are the one's with children (at least within that age group where they are likely to have made the choice).

That I may accuse you of implicit hypocrisy is that I would accuse myself likewise, since my own feeling is that the greater problem the next generation will face is too few youngsters to look after too many geriatrics, a problem that my own actions would have contributed to.
« Last Edit: 02/02/2006 00:58:13 by another_someone »
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Re: global warming
« Reply #48 on: 03/02/2006 23:07:13 »
I will admit that the demographic shift that will result in a smaller number of young people supporting a larger number of aging people is a potential economic problem. But I would argue that it is a "challenge" rather than a hole in the ground dug by ourselves. Why so? Because in a finite system such as planet Earth, a deceleration of population growth has always been inevitable. The only other choice was to continue to grow the human population until most of us starved, and that option is not appetizing to me.

I am the father of two girls, both of whom I have tried to raise to hopefully take their productive place in society as adults (they are currently teens). My wife would have been happy to have two more, but I argued against it insofar as we barely have the money to get two through college, and I feel that future will belong to the educated. Personal issues are rarely totally separable from political issues in my experience: doubtless this is true of my personal attitude towards global warming. Would I care about the possible impact of climate change on future generations if those generations included none of my descendants? Probably less than I do. Silly perhaps, but there it is. What I find odd is that many people with half a dozen grandkids apparently have no concern at all that climate change may have a negative impact on those grandkids, or the grandkids of the grandkids.

chris wiegard
 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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Re: global warming
« Reply #49 on: 03/02/2006 23:53:34 »
This planet is productive enough to support a massive population many times the size we are at present. Mis-management of land and resources is where we are screwing up. Address the problems of environmental decay and solve the other problems by doing so.

"The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct."
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Re: global warming
« Reply #49 on: 03/02/2006 23:53:34 »

 

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