Global Warming
April 28, 2005 11:02 AM   Subscribe

I've been reading the ongoing series of articles in the New Yorker about global warming, and quite frankly, I'm freaked out. Further reading on the web only confirms this. So here's my question: is there any good news?

Please--no soap boxing. I really am heading into a depression (no joke for me) about the dire warnings, and I just want to know if there's any kind of silver lining here. That may sound naive, but I'm not a scientist, and I'm being overwhelmed by the masssive amount of somewhat contradictory information out there--not so much about "if" this is happening (it surely is), but "how soon" we're all going to die.
posted by danny boy to Science & Nature (19 answers total)
don't let anybody convince you that it "ain't happening" -- there is overwhelming scientific data from all over the globe, from all governments, public policy bodies, and more, confirming this.

the silver lining? in a sort of orientalist, essentialist argument, i'll posit that the effects of peak oil will get us before we can completely demolish the planet.

we'll probably return to an environment -- with all its attendant problems -- where community means more, where hands-on work is encouraged, and where life will run substantially slower. human relationships will prosper, imho. is this a positive thing? depends on your outlook in life.
posted by yonation at 11:36 AM on April 28, 2005

"All going to die?" Even the most dire predictions of global warming I've seen don't call for the end of humanity. Ocean levels rising, coastal cities flooded, sure, but hardly the extinction of humanity. Even the possibility of mass extinction due to climate change doesn't seem likely to wipe out humanity--we're a resilient bunch.

Silver lining? Well, it's possible we're staving off the next ice age. It seems now that ice ages are actually the more common state of the earth's climate, and interglacial periods (i.e., non-ice-ages, like we've been in for the past 14000 years or so) are less common. Global warming may well be delaying or completely preventing earth from returning to its usual ice age state. (Note: I am not advocating letting global warming go unchecked as a means of preventing an ice age, merely making an observation.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:46 AM on April 28, 2005

Response by poster: So the silver lining is that we'll return to an agrarian, pre-industrial society? I guess that's better than a massive die-off from drought and heat. Peak oil theories, if correct, wouldn't seem to cause the reverse in CO2 emissions fast enough to make a difference, though.

Gosh, I'm just lost in all of this.
posted by danny boy at 11:49 AM on April 28, 2005

I empathize with you. I have been spending all day, every day, with a pit in my stomach after being made aware of the ramifications of Peak Oil several months ago. Quite literally to the point of depression, breakdown, and panic--24/7.
posted by sourwookie at 11:52 AM on April 28, 2005

I strongly urge you to read Boiling Point by Ross Gelbspan. Although he makes out the same compelling case for major warming (with extensive footnotes,) he does have suggestions about what we all should / can / must do.
posted by anadem at 12:28 PM on April 28, 2005

Hmm, well, this one is easy. The emergency world-wide human exctinction button has been pushed repeatedly on this issue since the 1970's. Are you/were you still alive? Do you/did you feel extremely sick and die? How many times have you/did you die?

No answers? The questions were extremely stupid?

Did I make my point yet? No?

Since you're an adult, your life expectancy is less than 70 more years (sorry, but hey, it's the truth). We survived 35 years of extreme death and disaster. Add up if you think we can survive another 35 years of the exact same level of extreme death and disaster and you'll have your answer. If you think it's going to get worse, I'd like to point out that there were plenty of panic button pushers in the 1970's that assumed you'd be dead right now. How much worse could it get than that? Searing pain yet still alive, I suppose...
posted by shepd at 12:48 PM on April 28, 2005

The upper midwest will become an even more enjoyable place to live.
posted by drezdn at 1:11 PM on April 28, 2005

I'm glad shepd has boldly and comprehensively addressed the quite amazing amount of scientific investigation of the matter.
posted by docgonzo at 1:35 PM on April 28, 2005

Yeah the old "it's not the fall that kills you" argument.
posted by fleacircus at 1:54 PM on April 28, 2005

I'm an ardent environmentalist. I'm also a programmer, and have great respect for John McCarthy, the inventor of Lisp (possibly the most important programming language ever). When not being a computer-science god, McCarthy also maintains a detailed website about the science behind the "Sustainability of Human Progress." You can see the global warming page here. Reading through his writings, I have to admit that conservatism alarm goes off, but I also have to admit that he presents some very lucid arguments and numbers. On the topic of global warming, his message is that it likely is happening, but there are real technical solutions to the problem.
posted by gsteff at 1:59 PM on April 28, 2005

"The upper midwest will become an even more enjoyable place to live." says drezdn.

Well, it would have to, wouldn't it?
posted by phearlez at 2:21 PM on April 28, 2005

Don't worry. As several posters have noted, global dimming and peak oil are going to help keep the problem from escalating.
posted by PEAK OIL at 2:29 PM on April 28, 2005

These comments remind me of that Simpsons episode where the doctor tells Mr. Burns that he has every disease known to man, but that there are so many that they kind of balance each other out. Yay!

About the only silver lining I can think of is that while we are pretty sure that warming is happening, we aren't quite sure what the end result will be. Ice Age? Bad. More arable land for food production? Good. Mass flooding? Bad. Better climate in upper Canada, Northern Europe and the like? Good. More desertification? Bad. No more stupid "ice dancing" in the olympics? Good. Who knows?
posted by Justinian at 4:02 PM on April 28, 2005

humans that want the same thing can solve anything
posted by foraneagle2 at 6:25 PM on April 28, 2005

Peak oil is not really the issue it's made out to be. Just because we produce the most conventional oil we ever have doesn't mean energy consumption is going down. We will simply change to other energy sources. Nuclear, Coal, Gas, Solar, Wind, Biomass, Tidal, even Fusion given how promising ITER looks like it will be, all stand ready to do their part to make up for what oil can't. As for global warming, I definitely think it's happening, and there is a lot we can do about it. Cutting CO2 is one way, but we probably will have to take more drastic measures to get back on track. Carbon sequestration, iron seeding of oceans, perhaps adding chemicals to the stratosphere, etc are all options. Problems that require a big political will to fix take very large apparent consequences. The consequences aren't enough to make it obvious that it is happening to most people, and the science is just too eggheady for most people. When we see ski areas start to close down, and other human scale disruptions, people will probably start to take notice and we will get down to business with doing something about it. Large groups of people are terrible at forseeing a future problem and doing something about it in advance, but when an immediate issue presses, people will rise to the occasion.
posted by cameldrv at 6:57 PM on April 28, 2005

One thing is quite certain:

We will live in intensely interesting times.

And, really, isn't that better than boredom?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:58 PM on April 28, 2005

More arable land for food production? Good
Not to derail but food supply isn't the problem- it is the distribution of food that's s a problem.
posted by jmd82 at 9:34 PM on April 28, 2005

Here is the good news: you can donate 2/5/10 hours of your time or wages each week to an organization that can help solve, or reduce the bad effects of, this problem. Occupy yourself with finding a solution or providing monetary or professional support to those who can. It feels a lot better than sitting around being depressed about it, and "what I'm doing about it" is better dinner conversation than "what I'm depressed about."
Will you, danny boy, stop global warming, or figure out how we can best weather (pun intended) it? Doubt it. But you might enable or motivate the person who will.
posted by mistersix at 2:26 AM on April 29, 2005

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