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Your thoughts on climate change

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Jungle Japes, Feb 22, 2014.

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  1. Smuel

    Smuel Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I understand each of these issues. What I don't get is ytzk's case for an imminent collapse of everything. He brings up examples, such as bees, bananas, or fishstocks, and can describe what might go wrong in each case, but they are independent systems - there's nothing tying them together that would cause a synchronised failure. Humanity in its current form is capable of overcoming each of these problems, as long as they don't all happen at once. And ytzk provides no reason why they should.

    Okay, let me try to explain why we're exempt. In your previous example of deer on an island, the deer population is dependent on the plant population. Plants are growing and reproducing by themselves, and the deer are eating them. A balancing act then ensues, and if the deer over-graze then the plant population can't replenish itself quickly enough and both the deer and the plants disappear.

    You draw an analogy between the deer island and humans on planet Earth, but it is not an equivalent situation. For starters, we grow our own food on purpose. If humans increase in number, the standard ecological model would predict a decrease in the chicken population, since we are their main predator. However, that is not what happens - the chickens only exist in the first place because we create them to eat. If the human demand for chicken increases, human production of chickens increases to match. This is not a natural predator/prey relationship, so trying to draw parallels doesn't make any sense.

    Other examples of resources don't follow the model either. There isn't a mineral population or an oil population which has growth inversely proportional to our rates of consumption. There is just a fixed amount of those things and we have to be careful not to use them all up before we can obtain suitable alternatives, on a case by case basis.

    At first glance it seems profound to say that humans are subject to Darwinian processes just like everything else, and it's true - we are, but we're not subject to the processes in the same way as natural populations, so simplistic comparisons are invalid, and make it look like you don't know what you're talking about.

    Ah, thermodynamics. The last refuge of the desperate believer. Really ytzk, this is the moment that your argument jumps the shark.

    So you don't like that we're destroying coral reefs. Hey, I don't like it either. I agree that we should stop doing that. But if that is your ultimate goal then I think you'd be better off extolling the virtues of coral reefs rather than trying to scare people into conservation efforts by making vague implications about a link between their destruction and a hypothetical doomsday banana virus.
     
  2. Dark Elf

    Dark Elf Administrator Staff Member

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    Re:

    They feed fish to livestock, so if you eat beef, you're eating meat that used to eat fish.
     
  3. Grossenschwamm

    Grossenschwamm Well-Known Member

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    I'm also unsure of an imminent collapse (at least, the imminent part is foggy to me), but I might have some insight on the fish part, as well as bananas. Before you read these, bear in mind I'm not attempting to patronize you with specifics.

    First;

    There are quite a few sea animals that humans have made an industry or simply a livelihood around which eat fish as well as fish themselves. There are also animals that aren't fish that can't survive low oxygen levels in the ocean like jellyfish do, so if the oxygen levels drop to a point where jellyfish are some of the only things swimming in the ocean, the seafood market will take quite the crash. The oxygen won't be the only problem, considering the jellies are rather dangerous, though aimless, predators. Jellyfish blooms are known to take out nuclear power plants, and shut down tourism in affected locations. Plus, a salmon fishery in Ireland reported at least 100,000 fish in its stock were eradicated by a jellyfish bloom in 2007. It's also likely that humans having a huge appetite for fish and other oceanic resources has an effect on how often these blooms occur, though it's readily admitted that we don't have enough data to suggest the frequency of blooms is higher than historical averages. Despite this, jellyfish are renowned wreckers of shit.

    Second;
    Bananas are...popular, in a word. Cavendish type bananas account for about 50% of the world's consumption, with the other 300 odd cultivars taking up the rest. However, the cavendish is the only thing people know as a banana in most developed countries. Panama's disease (a fungus, not a virus) has become a real threat in Asia, Australia and Africa, and we have no way of stopping it right now. It's transmitted by contact with fabrics or shoes, so it's only a matter of time before growers in the Americas are infecting their bananas. When this disease takes out the cavendish population, we'll have no other choice but to push another type of banana into the commercial limelight as a dessert fruit. What this means realistically is that bananas aren't in danger, so much as bananas as we know them. It'll also cut profits in half for the companies in charge of growing and shipping bananas, which is going to wreak havoc in the multi-billion dollar industry. The worst thing about this bleak, different-banana future is going to be the taste. According to people who've had the gros michel, adjusting was the hardest part after it was no longer commercially viable. This push towards a new banana is expected between 5-10 years from now.

    Now, it's harder to see a direct impact from a type of banana no longer being available. However, when you cut an entire industry's profits in half, two things can happen - pay cuts and layoffs. Layoffs are better for the bottom line, and as it's a job with bananas it's certain to be temporary. This is still going to be very hard for a lot of people growing and selling them, but in fairness, the jellyfish blooms are a much bigger threat.
     
  4. Jungle Japes

    Jungle Japes Well-Known Member

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    Re: Re:

    Chase that line of reasoning far enough and I eat dinosaurs too, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the reason they went extinct. Unless I can get this blasted time machine working. Then it might be a real possibility.

    Speaking of time travel, does anyone else feel like a catastrophic banana-eradication event could be what finally leads to Planet of the Apes?
     
  5. Grossenschwamm

    Grossenschwamm Well-Known Member

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  6. ytzk

    ytzk Well-Known Member

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    Smuel, old chap, I have a headache, so I will answer your points only briefly.

    1. Humans aren't just creating chickens. We're creating factory farmed, genetically similar, antibiotic soaked chickens on land which otherwise would support genetically diverse, resilient communities. It is not as simple as deer eating trees, but there are feedback loops in nature which make our game of homogeneous global dominance very dangerous, eg...

    2. Pathogen evolution is statistics. There's a reason all our stock is fed antibiotics because otherwise they'd die of septicemia from growing up in a small box. Antibiotic resistance is also statistics. It is bound to happen. Viruses are also particularly likely to mutate in conditions where lots of poultry or pigs are kept near humans. Predicting pathogen evolution in complex interplay with multiple species of immune system is about as complex a computation as anything, but we can say that it does happen and it will happen again.

    3. Everything is connected. It is important, in statistics, to consider the interdependence of components of complex systems. Apollo 13 failed because they assumed that the different systems would not fail together but they were wrong. In ecosystems, the bits are interconnected in surprising ways. No one ever thought that acid rain would cause avalanches but it does, because trees. Seems obvious in retrospect but noone imagined it.

    The biggest immediate threat to the reef I know is sugar cane farms because fertiliser run off causes local blooms of crown of thorns starfish which eat the ecology to death, turning a technicolour sci fi world into a white desert. Who would have predicted that?

    I think CO2 will acidify the oceans and cost billions of people their daily food. That will probably domino onto other systems as well, time will tell.

    4. I'm not trying to scare people about the apocalypse but I am advising all my clients to invest in canned foods and shotguns.

    5. Peace, man. I respect that you have hope. I think you misunderstood my point about billions of children growing up at the same time: It means we can adapt quickly and I find that a comforting thought.

    TL;DR - Yeah, well, like, that's your opinion, man.
     
  7. TheDavisChanger

    TheDavisChanger Well-Known Member

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    Climate change is real. Global warming is bullshit.
    [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gDErDwXqhc[/youtube]

    youtube tie-in: This is my latest youtube channel find.

    EDIT: I won't be bothered with fixing my youtube link.
     
  8. Smuel

    Smuel Well-Known Member

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    Re:

    I think this is our main point of contention now. I believe there are some connections that are so implausible that we can rule them out. Virus mutation is one of those. Sure there are complex interplays, etc, but fundamentally a virus that is lethal to chickens is quite unlikely to also be lethal to pigs. It is even more unlikely to be lethal to bees. It is next to impossible that it would be lethal to all three. So while our farming methods may be increasing the likelihood of bizarre new strains of pathogen evolving, the possibility of one of these threatening the entire food supply at once is vanishingly small. It is just as unlikely that several individual lethal viruses would appear simulaneously. They would at the very least be staggered, giving us a chance to deal with each in turn.

    Also, I get that human activity is having all kinds of unintended consequences, but just as you accuse me of a failure to anticipate the negative effects, I think you're suffering from a failure of imagination. Say that CO2 does result in acidifying the oceans. In your model, all the fish stocks die, and it's game over. In my model, new unexpected species swarm in to take their place, and we can eat those instead. I'm not saying that this makes it okay to acidify the oceans, I'm only saying that I think it won't be the unrecoverable catastrophe that you predict.

    By the way, my opinion on this isn't coming from some kind of complacent "hey, everything will be fine so relax" type attitude. When I was younger I was also convinced that humanity was doomed to perish in a toxic fog of our own making. But the more I learn about history, the more I realise that many of our fears are overblown. The earth has suffered far more extreme changes in the past than a slight increase in acidity of the oceans, and yet the planet is still full of life. People have been worrying about imminent starvation from population growth for hundreds of years, but it has yet to materialize. I think that a lot of the things we worry about are not genuine concerns. Again though, I'm not preaching complacency - ozone depletion is definitely a genuine concern. Climate change is even more so, though I think the deleterious effects will be due to rising sea levels and worsening weather, rather than second-tier effects on wildlife. And there are probably other things we haven't even considered yet, that we should be concerned about.

    tl;dr - Hey, everything will be fine so relax.
     
  9. Grossenschwamm

    Grossenschwamm Well-Known Member

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    Re: Re:

    I find myself agreeing with many of your points in this thread.

    And, since this is a thread on climate change, I'm not surprised to see no one has mentioned a problem with bacterial infections becoming harder and harder to treat with antibiotics, aside from ytzk mentioning the evolution of pathogens (which will apply to anything that causes a disease). If anything is a threat to human life on the planet, it's that.

    We tend to give antibiotics to livestock constantly, whether or not they have infections. And I remember just a few years ago, if I had a really bad cold and ended up going to the doctor, I'd be given a course of "Just in case" antibiotics. My response was naturally, "But if it's a virus, why am I being given something that kills bacteria?" "Just in case" my weakened immune system were to allow some bacteria in. Bronchitis is something caused by viruses about 90% of the time, but people are generally taking antibiotics for it with each diagnosis.

    The CDC just reported that we're running out of things to treat gonorrhea. MRSA is rampant in hospitals and nursing homes. We face a likely future of bacterial infections we can't fight with medicine, simply because they were prescribed too much. The other side is how we haven't been letting our immune systems fight off infections; so now we have tougher bacteria and weaker immune systems. Hell, just a few months ago I got cat scratch fever - it's a severe infection common in people with house cats, obviously. The microbes responsible show little weakness to antibiotics, and in fact antibiotics taken during the course of the disease can make patients even more sick.

    I'm not going to say that if this (likely) event happens, all humanity will die. But I will say it's going to set modern medicine back quite a bit when he have nothing to stave off bacterial infections.

    The immune system itself isn't a perfect system - I know that because my own immune system thinks my pancreas is a foreign body and finally succeeded in shutting it down at some point in the past few years. In spite of this, by not allowing our bodies' natural defenses to develop with what can infect it, through constant and in most cases unnecessary antibiotic intervention, we've allowed bacteria to evolve resistances to the only things we have to fight them. The worst part is how one of the greatest advances in modern medicine has been abused so much it's becoming impractical.
     
  10. Smuel

    Smuel Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I agree that the anti-bacterial arms race is a far more pressing issue than anything else mentioned so far in the thread. I think that most of the things we do in that area are counter-productive (also see: worrying about the wrong things). Using cleaning products that "kill 99.9% of bacteria" means you're removing all the ones that your immune system could fight off anyway, and leaving the 0.1% that are really dangerous. I prefer to use soap and water. I also make a point of refusing most medication, unless I'm suffering from an ailment that could cause permanent damage. I like to keep my immune system well exercised for the coming bacterial apocalypse.

    Ugh, that sounds like something ytzk would say.
     
  11. ytzk

    ytzk Well-Known Member

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    I too agree with you on most points, Smuel, maybe even all of them. I mean, I don't think you know much about virology or immunology; pigs and poultry and humans together do have a synergistic effect on influenza mutation rates but nevermind that now. I said 'time will tell' and it will.

    There is an elephant in the room, though, and he says "why does the debate skip straight from ecocide to it's effect on human survival?" The answer is, of course, that it's because humans generally only care about humans. As Emerson said, "the thoughts of rabbits are of rabbits, and the thoughts of turtles are of turtles." The thoughts of humans are of humans. In this sense, it is you who lacks imagination.

    There are a trillion awesome monsters with their own reasons to be. The fact that they also make up a planet sized life support system with nano-scale cogs and gears which has sustained all human life to date is just a happy coincidence.

    I have said before that I would hate to live in a sterile, engineered world where people actually need to work hard to find fresh air, water and food, and that I would most regret the loss of such a fantastic variety of life forms but that hardly touches on the issue.

    You live on a tiny island, once a part of the Roman empire and the 'patient zero' of the industrial revolution. There are no lions in the woods nor eels in the Thames, to say nothing of the invertebrates which are the real contributers to ecosystems. The most biodiverse part of europe is the old buffer zone between east and west germany.

    In other words, old boy, you don't know what you're missing. The fact that people have helplessly observed the destruction of nature for centuries does not automatically mean that we can keep it up at an accelerating pace for centuries to come. The modern world is already a desert, every damn day more entire species just die off forever, to say nothing of longterm contaminants which sicken the survivors. There. Are. Limits.

    If you jump off a cliff and then, halfway down, imagine all kinds of ways to survive, it does not make you safe. Nor does thinking 'so far, so good' for that matter. Although, admittedly, being overconfident and complacent is probably the best possible death under the circumstances.

    Anyway, back to the elephant: Yes, biodiversity is vital to the resilience of our life-support system, yes it threatens our survival to destroy it so rapidly, but most of all it is beautiful and priceless, and all this 'progress' is like watching blind children using masters' paintings as toilet paper.*

    TL;DR - the earth is thy mother, English.

    *but not in a kinky way, Jojobobo.
     
  12. Grossenschwamm

    Grossenschwamm Well-Known Member

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    Re:

    This might be a symptom of a flailing ego (humans considering "What will happen to us?") - but really, if dolphins had a system of writing I'm pretty sure I'd read books by all of the dolphin authors. "The Pod" by SCREEEE the Orca sounds like it'd be a good read. Solid proof that other beings on the planet think "like we do" would either cause us to care more, or assume the other beings were a threat. Putting two species close to each other when they fill the same niche generally doesn't end well for one of them.

    This reminds me of when I discovered that the food "chain" was actually a food "web." Removing one anchor point in the web might make the structure slightly less durable, but it gets on well enough until a new anchor gets put in its place. In general, we have no idea how many macroscopic species (let alone microscopic) there actually are on Earth, which could be seen directly as "how many potential anchor points to gain/lose." And our history shows that we seem to be really good at shattering most of a "web" before we realize anything is amiss - you already know what's happened with cane toads in Australia, but it's fairly common to assume nothing could go wrong when a species is implanted to take care of another implanted species (because it looks great on paper!).

    On one hand, I find myself agreeing with you in that we're moving forward without regard to what's around us. On the other,
    So in this light, can it be said that Smuel is ignorant of the consequences, or is he just not dwelling on them?
     
  13. ytzk

    ytzk Well-Known Member

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    Hey, don't get me wrong. Smuel is obviously well informed and intelligent, and certainly has a healthier and more measured response than I do.

    He wins all the internets.

    Who knows? Maybe it will all turn out alright in the end.
     
  14. Grossenschwamm

    Grossenschwamm Well-Known Member

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    For some reason, I always knew the internet was won by snark and one-upsmanship.

    This is what I think - no one knows what the future will bring. We could have an earth-shattering cataclysm that has nothing to do with the topics mentioned in this thread, or we could all die as a result of drastic climate change, or perhaps we'll all die of bacterial meningitis. Or nothing will happen, and we'll end up in a fairly decent future, an OK future, or a bizarre plant worshiping future headed by the Cult of Ferns.

    In all of these cases, it's healthy to both be aware of possibilities while simultaneously not allowing the fears of such to run our lives - even if the fear is grounded in reality, there's a good chance being paranoid will make people skeptical.

    On top of that, and back on topic;
    No matter the opinions of the people commenting in this thread, both positive and negative consequences to how we handle energy sources will require a global effort to change. It could happen at any time, but it really only takes a small community (on the global scale) to affect change.

    Since the chemical spill from a coal plant in West Virginia made the water poisonous, people have been switching to solar power. This could be the start of something big - but it also goes to show that something horrible needs to happen to people before they decide to make things better.
     
  15. ytzk

    ytzk Well-Known Member

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    My biggest regret is for the awesome monsters who are already, and who will be, extinct, if and when we ever deal with the crisis.

    The daily disturbance in the force, as though a million organisms cry out in pain and are suddenly silenced, is giving me a headache.

    Interesting aside: Today I heard from a PhD student in paleoclimatology. He said we're officially in the Anthropocene Age - we get our own geological age on account of our awesome - and that we're causing the sixth extinction event in the history of life, already equal to the end of the Jurassic. He also said that many experts think it is too late to avoid 'climate catastrophe' and the optimistic experts are becoming less and less common. Have a nice day.
     
  16. Grossenschwamm

    Grossenschwamm Well-Known Member

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    Re:

    Does this weaken or strengthen a case for the Cult of Ferns?
     
  17. Xyle

    Xyle Member

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    The basis for my beliefs is my energy bill. Take the value of your own energy usage and multiple it by the populations in the developed countries. Increase this amount by the amount of energy used by factories, industry and other businesses. Factor in energy line lose (which my energy bill showed to be something like in the 30 or 40 percentages on average). That is a LOT of spent energy being put back in the world.

    A portion of this energy escapes into space such as the visible lights from the cities and such, but a lot of it is being converted into waste heat energy that is raising the temperature of everywhere there is energy being spent. Through the natural process of thermodynamics, that heat then spreads out raising the average temperature of not only the local areas, but of the planet.

    Even if the greenhouse effect of CO2 is a hoax, we are still heating the planet with our computers and lights and industry; therefore, any tech that uses the preexisting energies of the planet such as wind, tidal and solar to generate electrical energy reuses the energy that we have already put into the planet. And for that reason alone, I think green tech is a good decision.




    I am reminded of the cut and slash forestry of the United States in the 1800's. Whole forests harvested without replanting because some businessmen were too short-sighted to see that they needed to establish a sustainable business model. The same thing happened in the Amazon more recently and I don't doubt that it will happen over and over again as long as people keep looking for quick money. The fact that the illegal drug industry still exists (where the clients themselves are destroyed for someone else's profit) is proof enough that people exist who are still looking for easy ways to get rich.




    Seriously? Haven't you ever heard of cross-species transmission?
     
  18. Smuel

    Smuel Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I have. But firstly, the majority of viruses are harmless, and secondly, those that are not are invariably specific to a narrow range of hosts. It's in the nature of how viruses work. Chickens, pigs, and bees are all sufficiently dissimilar that there is a vanishingly small probability of a virus existing that is lethal to all three. Seriously, how do you think life on Earth has survived this long?

    Oh, wait, you probably don't think it has survived this long.
     
  19. Jojobobo

    Jojobobo Well-Known Member

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    I was taught that often bacteria or viruses don't tend evolve to kill their host because if you kill the host then you obviously can't transmit to other hosts. That's why bird flu petered (for the most part) out relatively quickly, because whilst it was a killer disease it wasn't a very infectious disease. So I guess in broad strokes, Smuel probably has the right of it though if a disease does adapt to a different host and they are completely susceptible it's more likely to take the new host by storm (either spread like wild fire, or kill reasonable numbers but not spread so crazily) where it's not a huge problem to the old host.
     
  20. ytzk

    ytzk Well-Known Member

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    It's possible that viruses are nothing to worry about. I mean, I heard in a virology lecture that all experts agree that the virus is the biggest threat to our survival, but what do they know, right? They're not even HoL members.

    I wish it were simple to understand and spectacular to see, but it isn't. If and when virus mutation brings us to our knees, it probably won't be with a bang but a whimper. The seasonal flu will be a little more severe each year for a century, for example.

    Besides, the homogeneous, highly-mobile civilisation of ours is tempting more than just the flu. Pathogens are much more diverse than just viruses, and we are already looking down the barrel of antibiotic resistance being spread amongst the world's bacteria. There are some countries in which you simply must not go to hospital, because they are already crawling with superbugs. Even if the bees survive the pesticides, the fish survive the acid and the bananas survive the viruses, the nature of our civilisation means we are all likely to die of appendicitis or a stubbed toe.

    You mustn't forget that we are swimming in a thick soup of life, and it is busy adapting to us. Even inside your own body, microbes outnumber your cells by ten to one.

    P.S. Fun fact: We don't have rabies in Australia, but we recently discovered a cute virus which send fruit bats insane, infects horses and kills humans. You know when you have found an infected bat because it attacks your face without warning.

    P.P.S., what you call bats in the UK, we call 'microbats'. Fruit Bats are called Flying Foxes because they're almost that big. They're actually a kind of protolemur which makes them human's closest related native species. Also, flying death monkeys.
     
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