Global Warming: Species Migrations & Extinctions

Everything we eat is a species, every disease vector is a species, every bacteria is a species. Everything in our biological world is a species. How are they all going to respond to changing climate? … there are three possible ways: you can move … you can evolve … or, you can die out.

Elizabeth Kolbert on Open Source

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Where will I go? What will I do? [The Horned Jew Lizard / Flickr]

It’s global warming time again. This hour with a chill warning from New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert about how changes in temperature and weather patterns will drive — are already driving — animals, plants, and bugs to migrate and evolve. And sometimes to die out.

If the earth’s temperature rises just three degrees (which, on our current trajectory, it’s scheduled to do before 2050), it’ll be hotter than at any time in the last 2 million years. So that means a climate that life on this planet has never confronted before. And a rate of change that might make Charles Darwin roll over in his grave: he figured out that life evolves to adapt to its environment, but Kolbert points out that he didn’t envision an environment changing so rapidly that we’d be able to observe evolution at work the climate changing so rapidly that it would spur evolution we could watch. [Thank you bft.]

In terms of species extinctions, according to a 2004 study published in Nature, mid-range warming projections mean extinction of 15-35% of land-based plants and animals by 2050. In other words: over a million species. And that’s just on land. Scientific American just published a study on global warming changing the acid balance of seawater — and the potentially major repercussions for ocean life.

So: What species will be most affected and where? Where will they go (if they survive)? What obstacles will they face as they migrate? What kinds of species will adapt/evolve most rapidly? How will that affect complicated ecosystems that evolved over long time scales? What can we do?

Elizabeth Kolbert

Staff writer, The New Yorker

Author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change

Connie Millar

Research paleoecologist, U.S. Forest Service

Camille Parmesan

Population biologist, University of Texas

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  • I will start out by being a spoiled sport and assert that global warming is a minimal concern re: biodiversity & extinction, set against habitat loss and other more direct human depredations. Temperature changes are not a new thing, look at this ice core data. No doubt there were mass extinctions of local subspecies…and there will be the same today, die off is a natural byproduct of natural selection and evolutionary processes.

    But the new variable is our species. Climate change is neither a necessary or sufficient condition for mass extinction…humans, modern humans, are a sufficient condition. There were massive climate changes 10 K years ago, and massive extinctions. There was a long debate about whether it was climate or people, but now it seems that the most likely explanation is that climate change reduced numbers (megafauna surived in Cuba until humans showed up 6 K BP), but people prevented the species from adjusting and killed them off by removing their demographic slack. We see the same pattern in Australia, the New World and in the islands (New Zealand) than humans settled. Sometimes the species were initially resilient, but when environmental vissicitudes weakened them somehow humans inadvertently came in for the knockout punch.

    I don’t think that humans can do much about climate change at this point…I don’t think we have the will. The variables, the parameters, that effect anthropogenic climate change are too downstream from our “concerns.” But, I think humans do have an emotional attachment to “warm fuzzy” mammals and what not, and we can focus on direct preservation of the species, perhaps new habitat creation, artificial refugia in the face of the fact that we’ve taken up so much land, etc. Animals can survive and adapt, Mammonths survived in the north Arctic islands until 4,500 years ago because humans weren’t around.

  • razib: I’ll take the bait. – Don’t you think much has changed in terms of human behavior and environmental impact since 10 K years ago, population of course but also in terms of deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels not to mention poisonous mining practices, ecologically devastating fishing practices… the list goes on and on….?

    You say, “I think humans do have an emotional attachment to “warm fuzzyâ€? mammalsâ€? Yes indeed! We’re warm. We’re fuzzy. We feed our babies milk. I’d say I have more than an emotional attachment to my warm fuzzy mammalian self not to mention my friends and family. I think we need to get out of the observers chair and accept our place as participants in the biotic community, troublesome and unique critters that we are. But I’m emotionally attached to snakes, seagulls and June bugs too. The more biodiversity we lose the more challenging survival will be for whoever is left.

    And personally, I think that is going to be the cockroaches.

  • Nikos

    Razib’s post is bothersome – but not because he’s wrong.

    He’s right, for the most part.

    My only dispute is that despite the probable futility, we should do everything imaginable to halt the ongoing carbonization of our atmosphere.

    How many of us have ever, in a day, climbed from sea level (or thereabouts) to 7,000 feet above? I’ve done it more than a dozen times in the past 18 months, and I can feel the thinness of the air in just that 7,000 feet.

    This rock’s atmosphere isn’t nearly as capacious as those idiot policy makers in Washington DC seem to think.

    It’s thin.

    Paper-thin.

    It can’t hold much effluent.

    And certainly no more that it’s already got.

    So, the next question is: how many of us are willing to give up our electricity addictions, let alone our stupid cars in favor of energy-saving public transportation?

    This is why Razib’s post is both sensible and bothersome.

    We’re a nimby nation in a nimby world with no willingness to sacrifice for our children and grandchildren.

    Good luck, Mother Earth.

    You’re gonna need it, hon.

  • Nikos

    peggy sue: you posted while I was still writing mine. Meaning I had no chance to ponder your point…

    I’m not sure what to think, but I do know that if you ever need a guide to the Northeastern Olympics for purposes of adding to your paintings, let me know. The scenery from the top of Gray Wolf Ridge is otherworldly!

    And the air is really thin

    gasp…wheeze…

    exult!

    See ya, neighbor.

  • Don’t you think much has changed in terms of human behavior and environmental impact since 10 K years ago, population of course but also in terms of deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels not to mention poisonous mining practices, ecologically devastating fishing practices… the list goes on and on….?

    peggysue, i don’t get the drift of you question.

    1) yes, things have changed in terms how we as a species interact with the world around us

    but

    2) the animals which are endangered have changed

    the animals that are around, which are on the ‘edge,’ or will be on the edge, the the survivors from the first waves of culling & depredation at the hands of our species. to give two examples, gray wolves and bison are new to north america, within the last 10,000 years or so. they arrived with Homo sapiens from eurasian, and, unlike dire wolves and bison-like ungulates indigenous to the new world they had evolved with humans. is it any surprise that the megafaunal concentration is highest in africa, where we as a species first evolved and predatory bipeds have long been a feature of the landscape? the great majority of charismatic megafauna were wiped away from the new world and australia tens of thousands of years ago, and the eurasian species have been culled and pruned back over the millennia as well.

    but two points

    1) there is some evidence that as much 90% of the planet’s biomatter is found in the crust in subsurface bacteria. what exactly are we talking about when we say “nature” and “biodiversity.” to some extent they are a reflection of norms, values, as opposed to an objective metric derived from agreed upon criteria. anthropogenic climate change might have a minimal effect on the vast majority of microbial life forms on the planet, do they not bleed when cut? (ok, don’t answer the last!)

    2) one thing to consider is that we as humans might already have strong impacted the climate of our planet. some researchers posit that the neolithic revolution increased the CO2 levels starting 9,000 years ago, and that this has stabilized climatic regimes so that an ice age has been blocked (we are overdue).

    scratch below the surface and you see a lot more murk and complexity that simple emission controls might imply. yes, the proximate, first order, values and decisions are stark and clear. but to frame these we need an elucidate of ultimate, long term, values and goals, and that’s harder….

  • Nikos

    razib: re your most recent point:

    Yes, but shouldn’t we err on the side of caution?

    I mean, compare the fate of a few billionaires and associated monster-corporate economies to the likelihood that the planet is on the verge of becoming uninhabitable to we pampered humans of the contemporary dominant culture.

    I’m not picking a fight so much as wondering aloud.

    And I’d much rather not have reason to wonder this particular set of questions.

    I like electricity.

    No: I love it.

    I can’t bear the thought of life without it.

    So why don’t we all have windmills on top of our roofs assisting the generation of power?

    Because a relatively few affluent stockholders of utility companies wouldn’t see the same filthy lucre off their investments?

    That’s how it seems to me.

    (But I am an admitted ignoramus!)

    Any reciprocal thoughts you have are welcome.

  • bft

    Darwin visited quite a few islands, and on islands it is relatively easy to have environmental changes rapid enough that you can see evolution at work. That’s what gave him the idea.

  • metolius8

    That anyone should despute global warning as frieght train approaching the station is ludicrius, at this point. That we might debate rather than act is criminal.

  • razib: perhaps I misunderstood you. I thought you were trying to say that things worked out and we adapted to climate change in the Neolithic era so we are bound to adapt to this new climate change.

    I think its more like an anvil above our heads has already been dropped and we are standing on the sidewalk right below it arguing about whether it has really been dropped and who dropped it.

    nikos: I think you have a good point that it isn’t all human beings who are accountable for this dilemma. Some of our species still live in relative balance within thier environments. You and I are complicit in that we are using power sources (gas & electricity) that contribute to the problem but we are part of a system that is controlled by corporate capitalists who have no interest in curbing consumption. (the sight of the Olympics from the South end of my Island is my very favorite view!)

  • Yes, but shouldn’t we err on the side of caution?

    I mean, compare the fate of a few billionaires and associated monster-corporate economies to the likelihood that the planet is on the verge of becoming uninhabitable to we pampered humans of the contemporary dominant culture.

    re: caution, this argument depends. to use an analogy, conservatives often argue that we should keep marriage the way it is because it is the cautious prudent thing to do in regards to such a crucial social arrangement. do you buy it? i don’t, i think we can predict and model things to a certain amt. so, the rub is actually the cost, the benefit, and the probability of negative consequences. we can frame arguments with alternatives so that the choice is “obvious,” consider pascal’s wager, it is a clear fallacy based on rigging the field.

    so, in regards to globing warming, the problem is certainly the modern industrialized countries of the consumer society…but half of humanity lives in china and india. they are trying to join the consumer world, and joining is going to result in a lot of coal fired plants in china.

    So why don’t we all have windmills on top of our roofs assisting the generation of power?

    they kill birds 🙂 and they ruin the sight seeing. seriously.

  • Katherine

    bft: I don’t think Darwin actually observed evolution at work in the Galapagos finches (I believe he saw the results of evolutionary pressures), but thanks for the general point — I made a change in the post (see above).

  • joel

    It seems silly to say things that nobody listens to or is about to take seriously or want even if anyone

    admited the merits, but the entire concern of this program could have been obviated with an appropriate

    reduction of human population. The balance of various conditions and rate of change that allows what

    organisms have been used to since the last cataclysm to exist cannot tolerate too much of the same

    activities in too small an area for too long a time, which is the exact phenomenon all living organism try

    to accomplish. If one or another is too successful at this endeavor, all suffer, perhaps catastrophically depending on the scale. There is no doubt that humans have been very successful at such endeavor.

    The subject of this program has been talked about in this format and on this forum several times since ROS started, but it is hard to remember what suggestions have been made to make a difference. Well, here is a suggestion I remember because I have submitted it before. I don’t suppose anyone will want to consider it now any more than they have demonstrated such desire in the past. But, given it is the ONLY suggestion ANYONE has offered that is guaranteed to work, maybe it is time to consider it.

    Given the comments for today’s show, it seems like people have run out of things to say about it.

    Cheers.

  • mdhatter

    this is going to be a good show.

    I actually followed the entire intro.

  • mdhatter

    and razib, you and I are of the same mind.

  • BB

    Kudos to Elizabeth Kolbert for her initial NY’er series on climate change, and subsequent articles (just finished the latest). I’ve been very glad to see a (relatively) mainstream publication devoting so much space to the subject.

    I’d also like to point out the recent findings of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment — a fascinating study conducted over a four-year period by the World Resources Institute with other organizations such as the UNEP. It reports on the devastating degradation of our natural systems and how it will affect the world in general, largely in economic terms.

  • cheesechowmain

    I’ll reprint something I offered from the reality bites show:

    I can go down to my local market located at a very northern region of North America, in February, and buy some cherries, berries, and figs. This is strange because given the relationship between the cycles of the seasons and when these various plants and trees bear these types of fruit, this does not coincide conveniently with February where I live. Thus, in addition to simulation, distribution mechanisms and capital markets have been internalized/naturalized and caused us to lose some sense of time; seasonal time.

    This has added our loss to a connection with climate.

  • BB

    Chris, have to take exception to your assertion just now that Al Gore has lost interest in the issue of climate change. His film, “An Inconvenient Truth” was just debuted at Sundance, based on a multimedia presentation he has been giving all over the world for over a year. He is very much interested in the issue and continues to try to educate people about it and get them to commit to combating climate change.

  • Chris

    I don’t think I said Al Gore lost interest in the environment — just his edge and his political focus in office and on the stump in 2000. I know he is speaking up again.

  • joel

    Chris, what is this about earth rising over the moon, or rising in the moon’s sky? There is no such thing. Obviously, as everyone who is able to look at the moon over time can figure out, if the earth appears at a certain place in the moon’s sky, as far as human’s are concerned, it will ALWAYS and CONSTANTLY appear in that place in the moon’s sky, every night and, yes, every single DAYTIME even, if one blocks out the sun from one’s vision, during full moon from earth which is, of course, “new earth” on the moon when one on the moon is looking at the dark side of the earth which won’t be entirely dark because of moonglow except, of course, during an eclipse of the moon, ie. is when the moon is in the earth’s shadow and sunlight is not being reflected onto the earth. But it HAS to be obvious that someone on the moon can never observe the earth “rise” in the moon’s sky.

    Maybe someone will post a sentence not over 14 words long that explains why the above is true. But not too soon. Let people figure it out for themselves for a while.

    Cheers.

  • Potter

    For as long as I have been in this area- there has been a “January thaw”. This year for the first time that I can remember we had a January freeze around a lot of thaw. The birdsong changed in January too.

    Cheesechowmein says: Thus, in addition to simulation, distribution mechanisms and capital markets have been internalized/naturalized and caused us to lose some sense of time; seasonal time.

    This has added our loss to a connection with climate.

    I agree totally. I don’t buy things like cherries and tomatoes in winter. They have been bred to travel they taste awful. Root vegetables and nuts and grains can keep us alive very well. Add some meat and dairy and that would be a good diet for winter. ( Maybe take a vitamin pill.)

    ROS keep scaring us.

  • Potter

    oops! I over-italicized.

  • romancesar

    Do any of the guests have recommendations of economically driven programs or policies that could curb our wanton and unpredictable influences on cllimate?

  • gordonh1

    If we accept that warming is happening and will be more extreme in the future, maybe we should focus some efforts on adaptation and “helping” species adapt, maybe spreading seeds of plants to new areas farther north, planting trees farther north, and so on.

  • Nikos

    Well, that was sobering.

    Great show, ROS staff. This topic cannot grow stale, not matter how the nay-sayers might whine: it’s the closest thing we’ve got to a ‘creeping Armageddon’ I can think of.

    Re my earlier suggestion that the only decent thing to do is to err on the side of caution: the guests, especially Kolbert and Parmesan, seemed to conclude their parts with just that message. Creative solutions are surely only a matter of the political will necessary to stand up to the ‘investment class’ and demand the replacement of greenhouse-gas technologies with new, clean ones.

    Electing to government parties ideologically disinterested in curbing our use of the atmosphere as a vaporous dump is just stupid.

    And if the ‘other party’ can’t handle it either, then it’s time to change the system.

    We can hardly persist within political systems that can’t take decisive action to save the planet’s habitats – especially the habitats of humans we’re supposed to bequeath to our offspring.

    Lastly, to razib: I can’t quite believe there isn’t a simple and cheap way to protect avifauna from windmill blades!

  • Potter

    (Nikos, I echo your sentiments).

    It seems to me that there needs to be collective and individual will and effort (like the war effort our parents and grandparents participated in) to prevent or change the trajectory of the global climate change, if we can.

    Most people in country, I would venture to say, be concerned but they are busy, buried in their daily lives. Polls show that people are concerned but this concern gets pushed to the periphery as not urgent.

    The busier people are caring for their own little the less they are tuned into any issues that deeply. They know what they know from headlines and sound bites. Thus we have low voter turn out and low-quality leadership chosen for surface reasons based on the relatively frivolous issues manufactured by or enlarged by clever partisans who win by can manipulating a vulnerable public.

    Bush came into office in 2000 denying or questioning global warming, rejecting the Kyoto Protocols. We lost quite a lot when the Supreme Court stepped in to choose our president in 2000, and whipped up fears affected too many choices the 2004 election.

    I suppose that is why Chris brought Al Gore into the conversation. How much can one man who “lost” the election do? When he speaks even the New York Times does not cover it.

    Good leadership can do a lot. We don’t have it.

    We do not have the time to learn our lessons the hard way, not any more.

    I would like to hear a program, or a series of programs on how individually we can play a role in changing the trajectory of climate change, slow it down by changing our own lives, something concrete, something now. We would all feel a lot better facing this and acting. Interview those who have started.

    The creeping dread, guilt and anxiety about catastrophe in our own time and what we are handing off to whatever future generations succeed us will not relent.

    Religious and philosophical arguments that work to ease the concern are immoral.

    Programs like this that warn of what is coming ( during drive time here in the East) are essential. ROS should keep up the series.

  • Potter

    sorry corrections for above: “The busier people are caring for their own lives”

    “Thus we have low voter turn out and low-quality leadership chosen for surface reasons based on the relatively frivolous issues manufactured by or enlarged by clever partisans who win by manipulating a vulnerable public.”

  • joel

    “I would like to hear a program, or a series of programs on how individually we can play a role in changing the trajectory of climate change, slow it down by changing our own lives, something concrete, something now. We would all feel a lot better facing this and acting. Interview those who have started.”

    Potter –

    What you are asking for in your 08:27 post of 9 Mar is right there 13 posts up from yours, but people who don’t want to see it won’t, as stated 13 posts before yours.

    For more detail, see my “alter” at:

    # jc Says:

    October 18th, 2005 at 7:53 pm

    From reading all of the above, it is obvious that the real problem is also the easiest to resolve. The problem, the REAL problem, whether you want to think so or not, is that there are WAY too many people using these resources everyone is so worried about. But that is really no problem at all. A fifty percent reduction can be achieved in only forty years by each woman waiting until she is forty years of age before bearing her first child. Since the average age of child bearing in this world is about twenty years of age, we have skiipped an entire generation by waiting another twenty years to have the next generation. We’d have one generation instead of two. Voila, a fifty percent reduction in the use of ALL resources and a fifty percent reduction in production of ALL pollutants. And it didn’t cost anyone anything, not a penny. Nobody had to buy anything. Nobody even had to DO anything. Regarding having a child, all anyone had to do for forty years is NOTHING. Everyone spends years of one’s life while not having children yet satisfying the appetite for sex, so everyone knows how to do that.

    Even better, since everyone wanting a child has satisfied that want upon the birth of their first child, by not having any more children, the size of that generation mentioned above will be only half of the generation before (given that not more than half the people are being replaced.) Hence, when attrition deletes the prior generations, the population will be reduced by seventy five percent. All the required people needed to provide for each other will still be there since proportions have not changed…. there are fewer needing anything. The only thing that has changed per capita is a HUGE increase in all physical resources. All for free without the need for anyone doing anything except being sensible regarding the premise/problem.

    Wanting more than one child is no problem as long as a similar number of women have no children.

    By the way, this is one circumstance where women have complete control and the opportunity to be the greatest of all heroines and heroes – very likely the savior of world from this species’ idiocy.

    Anyone care to deny this?

    Cheers.

    There you go, Potter. There is your program. It will change the trajectory (no need for 75% of the cars, trucks, planes, ships, power plants, heated and air conditioned buildings of all sorts, of the fertilizer, machinery of all kinds, etc., etc.,) and it will all be accomplished in only 40 years plus the die off time required for those present today, us, to die off. And you can start tomorrow… TONIGHT! And it will cost you nothing.

    Cheers.

  • jazzman

    Connie Millar states â€?We take thin core samples of living Bristlecone and Limber pines – this doesn’t hurt the trees a bitâ€? I was saddened to hear such a callous comment from someone (even if she is well intended) molesting some of the oldest living entities on our planet in the name of climatological research. How does she know that it doesn’t hurt the tree – because it doesn’t have a brain or nervous system – because it can heal itself? Even with care it is possible to introduce deleterious organisms into the bore hole and sealing it may be ineffective or worse.

    Joel writes:>>It seems silly to say things that nobody listens to or is about to take seriously or want even if anyone admited the merits, but the entire concern of this program could have been obviated with an appropriate reduction of human population. >> What do you consider an appropriate reduction of the population? By what mechanism do you propose that those people become obviated? Genocide? Euthanasia? Voluntary suicide? I’m surprised none of the regular bloggers commented on this post. I guess it seemed silly and no one wants to take it seriously even if they admitted the merits. Cheers!!!

    Nikos writes:>> Creative solutions are surely only a matter of the political will necessary to stand up to the ‘investment class’ and demand the replacement of greenhouse-gas technologies with new, clean ones. Electing to government parties ideologically disinterested in curbing our use of the atmosphere as a vaporous dump is just stupid. As to erring on the side of caution, cautious errors are still errors and don’t forget the law of unintended consequences. I’m not advocating the continued pollution of the planet by light, heat or greenhouse gases, but until people see that it is in their OWN self interest and generally speaking that means economic and health interests this situation will only exacerbate. As Potter notes the situation (especially with the current economic pressures that prevail in many if not most of the US population) is a low priority for the majority living from paycheck to paycheck (~70% I just read somewhere.) How do you convince Brazilian natives who are decimating the Amazon rainforest to provide for their families’ survival in the only way they believe is available that this is not desirable? Despite the rhetoric neither party has the will to take the steps necessary to clean up our own mess – most of them have vested interest in businesses that are major offenders. These 2 parties are both bankrupt as far as I’m concerned and they have weighted the system to favor de facto entrenchment for as long as they wish to “serve� (poor service indeed!) 3rd parties have an uphill struggle and I doubt they will be anything by a jiminy cricket conscience whenever they are allowed a mass forum. The blogosphere could possibly change things if it isn’t co-opted by the entrenched interests. This is to say nothing of cleaning up the rest of the world. We have expended any credibility we had globally by our selfish, irresponsible and insane policies – which continue to increase and attempt to justify. China’s industrial revolution will increase acid rain and contribute to more global warming can we stop the juggernaut with our demand for cheap labor? I saw a program on the Discovery Science channel that outlined the economic benefits that shipping companies will reap with open water in Hudson Bay and the Bering Sea and they are investing in this imagined (maybe not so imaginary) future and cheering for global warming. Here in the Northeast the mild winter has had many people who should know better extolling the benefits of GW because they don’t have to pay for as much heating with oil prices so high. GWB’s and the neo-cons nucular posturing could lead to global warming on a heretofore unimagined scale – 3 cheers for his nibs – he pays lip service to hydrogen power in the state of the union address but wants to proliferate more nuclear power plants around the world as his solution to “CLEAN POWER� and the solution to GW. Sounds like a plan.

    A Little Yellow Bird once said “We get the government we deserve!!!� and he’s right. “We have met the enemy and he is us.� Come back ALYB, we need you!!!

    No organism can survive in its own waste. This is a biological fact and one to which human beings should pay more attention.

    Peace – Jazzman

  • Potter

    Joel- regarding your proposal that ends with There you go, Potter. There is your program. It will change the trajectory (no need for 75% of the cars, trucks, planes, ships, power plants, heated and air conditioned buildings of all sorts, of the fertilizer, machinery of all kinds, etc., etc.,) and it will all be accomplished in only 40 years plus the die off time required for those present today, us, to die off. And you can start tomorrow… TONIGHT! And it will cost you nothing.

    I read the original post and believe me it did not go unnoticed. I thought of this on my own many years ago and had only one child for these very reasons.

    So how do you convince others- not only the women, but the men, maybe especially men? And why put the burden on women? Women do not have complete control.

    Aren’t we going in the wrong direction in this country as far as that is concerned by aiming to declare that life begins at conception and aiming to outlaw the right to an abortion? (Why all the outspoken men on this crusade?)

    At the other end of life- people are living longer. You may be able to live longer. Jazzman above is right to ask what you propose.

    What may happen actually is that we will see more catastrophe in the form of earthquakes, floods, and pandemic. Then there is always the nuke. We seem to be headed for a spell of proliferation.

  • Nikos

    Jazzman wrote: “I’m not advocating the continued pollution of the planet by light, heat or greenhouse gases, but until people see that it is in their OWN self interest and generally speaking that means economic and health interests this situation will only exacerbate.�

    Well, okay, I’m with you, I think.

    I also think that that was the overall point of the great if misunderstood hour of ROS entitled something like: “Global Warming is NOT an ‘Environmental Problem’�.

    I probably don’t have a real dispute with you—well, okay: maybe a quibble over tactics.

    I’ll try it in a question:

    How can we begin to clamor for the revolutionary technological changes necessary to ameliorate climate change without first altering the government-as-constituted to allow a multiparty slate of choices that include a viable choice of folks like the Greens?

    Mind you: pretending that this American Constitution, written by landed 18th century elites, who hoped implicitly that their construct would mandate individuals voted into the government without benefit of party support, will miraculously tolerate the emergence of a viable third (or fourth, or fifth) party is like expecting the Pope to suddenly welcome an influx of female Cardinals.

    Yeah.

    Right.

    “Third Party� is consistently waved about as a matador’s challenge by the two-party establishment, but it’s brandished so boldly precisely because the Donkey and Elephant collectively know that the Constitution inhibits genuine multiparty politics. The Founders’ hope to avoid parties actually enhances – and accidentally ensconces – the two innovatively-retarded choices we must ‘hold our noses’ and select between.

    Methinks the system is more the problem than anything else. Or, at least, it’s the first foundational issue we must address before any action to ameliorate climate change (or anything else, ftm) is even remotely conceivable.

    As always, I’d love to read your feedback.

    (Nice to see you away from your comfy digs in the ‘Morality’ thread, btw!)

  • joel

    Hey there jazzman –

    ” but the entire concern of this program could have been obviated”… If you go back and read the intro or

    premiss or “tease” of this program and blog, you will notice the “entire concern of this program” is,

    essentially, “Global Warming” which, it is conjectured, might necessitate that many organisms will undertake

    bizarre migrations in an attempt to find habitats that will allow them to escape extinction, some organisms

    of which may fail. It is this concern which I said could have been obviated which, no doubt, you will

    understand from a re-reading of your referred-to post.

    In my post of 7:52 pm. 9 Mar, (directly before yours of 8:46 pm) I explain the method of population

    reduction to a level of 75% explicitly in, essentially, 40 years. As you will notice, no genocide, suicide

    or other trastic measures would be required – only the natural attrition which will occur anyway as we live

    out our natural lives. Perhaps closer reading and then a period of thought will obviate your need to ask

    questions which had just previously been answered.

    The 75% reduction would, of course, help. But it is hardly adequate. That sized population existed not so

    very long before I was born, and mass extinctions and gross changes, both accelerating, in ecological

    systems and environmental balances had already occurred due to human intervention. The earth, because of

    humans’ ability to cause these phenomena, was already over populated. Be aware that the population is

    growing geometrically, ie. logarithmically. A reduction of 90% would take us back only to a level existing

    just a couple or few hundred years ago (out of what, three million years, or something like that, of human

    existence?)… let’s say about the time of my great, great, great grandfather’s childhood or so. And the

    earth, at that time, was in the process of being overrun by people.

    As I said in my post at 7:50 pm on 8 Mar., “it is the ONLY suggestion ANYONE has offered that is guaranteed

    to work…” But don’t worry. It will never happen. It requires a type of agreement and cooperation unknown

    to our kind and to the lemmings which we so love to emulate. I failed to notice any suggestions in your post

    that would effect a solution to global warming. You can penny ante from now till doom’s day and you will

    always be playing catch-up, which means you never will catch up or succeed in quelling this geometric

    progression.

    Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy the ride.

    Hi, Potter –

    I don’t know how to convince anyone of anything except to appeal to their sense of logic? I have never been

    able to sell anything. I tried back in the late ’50s after being discharged from the conscripted Army.

    Finding no paying jobs around here one winter, I tried door to door selling. It cost way more to make myself

    presentable than I made in the endeavor. I’m no Fuller Brush Man (if you’re old enough to remember him.)

    The only burden I’m “putting on women” is for them not to let some man have his way with her during a couple

    of days or so each month when she is ovulating, or about to, without using some sort of contraceptive or

    aborting the baby or practicing infanticide or whatever is her preference. I think any of these methods is

    preferable to spending a king’s ransom raising and protecting and educating that child for eighteen or so

    years and then wasting that whole effort by sending the kid off to war. Maybe Jonathan Swift (is he the

    one?) had the right idea to suggest we eat the surplus children. Far better, it seems to me, than to be such

    a hypocrite as to use the kids as cannon fodder.

    I don’t care when anyone thinks conception occurs. It seems to me that a human egg is a haploid human being

    as, indeed, are all the billions and billions of sperm we produce that are wasted and die. Some of our close

    relatives are able to grow haploid eggs (with half the usual number of chromosomes,) such as bees, and

    produce functional haploid adults. For all I know, maybe Jesus was haploid? But that brings up some other

    interesting questions but with probably indeterminate answers. I think it far better to admit that we kill

    humans when they are of little use, little investment has been spent on them, when many, if not most, were

    not striven for, will not be missed by many, etc., etc. rather than when the investment will be huge, when a

    great effort, perhaps even a struggle, was made to allow them to develop into a useful and loved person,

    when many will have broken hearts at their loss and many more will mourn and miss them, some, perhaps, for a

    lifetime.

    You ask what I propose? Only what I have already said, what I just said… that there are more people on the

    earth with more power and ability to exploit the resources of the earth to excess than the pre-existing

    ecological systoms of the environment can handle – can process their by products, and that we forthwith

    reduce our numbers by the most easily suffered and afforded means which is also sufficiently rapid, which

    is, it seems to me, merely to not replace 90% of us.

    Please forgive the longwindedness and all the errors.

    Cheers.

  • Potter

    Joel- I do agree that we must reduce our numbers. And how we get from here to here is the question. It seems to me that other countries may be ahead of us at least on the governmental level as far as policy goes though in practice we may have fewer children.

    It would be quite a shock if the Pope started thinking along these lines. How moral is the church’s position?

  • jazzman

    Nikos asks:>>How can we begin to clamor for the revolutionary technological changes necessary to ameliorate climate change without first altering the government-as-constituted to allow a multiparty slate of choices that include a viable choice of folks like the Greens?>> Good luck bucking the inertia of the 2 party mentality – H. Ross Perot and George Wallace are the only candidates nationally to win more than 10% of the popular vote in my memory. The electoral college system makes it even harder to accomplish and the real kicker is – the Greens that voted for Ralph Nadar in Florida most assuredly got what they deserved – GWB. Instead of making a pragmatic choice and voting for an environmentalist with a good probability of winning, the law of unintended consequences gives them and US the biggest disaster the to the environment available and not only an environmental disaster either! Even CT Whitman couldn’t stomach the insanity.

    N:>> American Constitution, written by landed 18th century elites…>/i> The founders’ elite landedness was what enabled them to be taken seriously as leaders because this was the dominant paradigm for authority. They were remarkably prescient in adopting the Greek democratic ideal and placing the responsibility for governance in the hands of the individual 1st and foremost. The abstract notions embodied in the constitution are a testament to their farsighted ideals. Admittedly semanticists have a field day with some of the wording and lawyers pervert its intent if it serves their ends but it’s a living document and can be changed, albeit difficultly (it should be difficult.) 3rd parties’ platforms (consciences) are usually co-opted by the majority parties if they are seen as populist and dangerous to entrenched power. Until there is a consciousness shift on a grand enough scale to actually precipitate a factional shift we have to make what we have better. Even if the powers that be were replaced you would still likely have 2 major players. See my comment to CCM in Hart/Perle (last post) on pluralistic disenfranchisement.

    I agree that the system is the problem but unless an overwhelming majority of legislators comprehend the urgency and magnitude of the problem and are wise (wise people generally don’t become politicians) enough to come up with a consensus on actually workable and efficacious solutions, we can only be conscientious regarding our own environmental impact, persuade within your sphere of influence, and aggressively lobby your congressional reps. Then wait and watch natural law clean up the environment (Potter sees this) and hope you and yours are not casualties.

    Joel writes:>> It is this concern which I said could have been obviated which, no doubt, you will understand from a re-reading of your referred-to post. >> Yes, I can read. You said if the population were reduced (i.e., obviated) that the GW and life challenging topic would be moot. I merely inquired as to your preferred method of population control as you made a provocative assertion sans methodology, therefore I suggested options. Obviously neither my suggestions or your later straw man proposal will actually work; genocide occurs frequently and eugenics was tried in the 1940’s.

    Joel:>> Perhaps closer reading and then a period of thought will obviate your need to ask questions which had just previously been answered. >> Perhaps a period of thought an less assumption regarding the fact that I didn’t address any points in your fatuous (facetious?) 3rd post might obviate the need for a knee-jerk defense. Your method as outlined in the post that I did not have time to read before submitting my post (I generally only have the opportunity to post once a weekday – and that is usually the time ROS is on the air. If I listen to the show I forego that night’s response) is obviously a pipe dream against human nature and has a proverbial snowball’s chance of being actualized (as you noted so why posit it if not to be polemic?) It is guaranteed to work if implemented, well so is genocide. Also it’s no accident that female fertility generally occurs between the 12th and 45th years and optimally biologically from 16 to 25 for both the baby’s health and the mother’s. After age 40, genetic birth defects increase and parent’s available childrearing energies begin to wane and the children are not supervised as well as they might be. I usually would not quote Dr. Laura, but in this case I agree with her. She maintains that it’s selfish to bring children into the world after 40 for many reasons. Potter’s musings are probably the most likely form of meaningful population control to take place. The reason you failed to notice a proposal for a solution is because I don’t see a man made one which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to ameliorate the situation. Human beings (especially western ones) have violated nature and the planet for centuries. First by Judeo-Christian authority (man has dominion) and then from the industrial revolution on, abetted by Darwinian and Freudian philosophies, many people believe that it is their right and heritage to exploit any resources the “fittest� can wrest from the world. I don’t see this aspect changing in the mass reality over the short term. I believe that razib’s scenario is as close to being accurate as any other’s and ultimately the environment is probably not bothered by human’s interference either way except for geologically slight perturbations or thermonuclear events. In any case it’s the humans that have to adapt, Gaia will survive.

    Joel:>> A reduction of 90% would take us back only to a level existing just a couple or few hundred years ago… And the earth, at that time, was in the process of being overrun by people With optimum allocation of resources and appropriate technology, the earth could probably comfortably support 15 billion, however our gluttonous beef appetite will have to be curbed somewhat. (I enjoy a good steak as much as anyone but it is a poor choice for optimum protein/acre.) BTW Lemming suicide is a canard.

    Joel:>> I don’t know how to convince anyone of anything except to appeal to their sense of logic? Logic is highly variable and not at all uniform except in a formal Quinean symbolic sense. You’d have better luck appealing to people’s innate sense of altruism. BTW I use a 40 year old Fuller hair brush that is as good today as it was then (only a discoloration of the mock tortoise shell after many boilings. Bristles are intact and very comfortable.)

    Joel:>> The only burden I’m “putting on women� is for them not to let some man have his way with her during a couple of days or so each month when she is ovulating, or about to, without using some sort of contraceptive or aborting the baby or practicing infanticide or whatever is her preference. I think any of these methods is preferable to spending a king’s ransom raising and protecting and educating that child for eighteen or so years and then wasting that whole effort by sending the kid off to war.

    What can I say to this mindset? The rhythmic “couple of days� is nonsense it assumes that women are always aware when they are ovulating. Ovulation doesn’t always occur on the ides of menses, many are irregular, and it’s not unheard of for pregnancies to occur during menstruation. Many women are opposed to birth control for religious, cultural and personal reasons. This country of 0 population growth except due to immigration and certain ethnic groups is not the greatest population offender and one of the few countries which men face consequences for overly importunate sexual advances. We ARE a resource consuming, waste creating, and cultural imperialistic offender. I find your economics based preference to infanticide rather than to invest love, nurture, time and money in raising a child because (s)he might go to war horrifying and question the tenets of your morality. If children are properly raised they won’t go off to war. Even if they do (heaven forefend) go off to war there is no reason to assume that your efforts were in vain. They may return with attitudes that could prevent future wars, having witnessed the horror and stupidity of that approach determined to work for peace. If resources are your concern, it would be far better if families were nuclear (traditional) groups pooling resources (for the commonweal) rather than splintering into single and single parent family groupings which lead to duplication of resource allocation. Houses, energy, multiple cars, etc. requiring more hours at work to support a lifestyle which with mutual respect for each other and concern for child welfare over self fulfillment would go along way to assuage societal problems.

    Potter: In regards to the moral position of any churches that claim birth control is a sin (immoral). As I put forth in the “Morality thread� as the 4th absolute moral tenet.

    4) Do not commit violence on yourself, others, life, or the environment… I would consider overpopulation a violation of this “rule� vis a vis the environment. Overpopulation is unsustainable and is frequently balanced by such less than ideal measures such as genocide and disease and famine locally, wars and pandemics and natural disasters globally.

    Peace to ALL – Jazzman

  • elphaba

    I was intrigued by Camille’s observation that people who believe in Ammegeddon and the Rapture do not have the same sense of importance about environmental issues and the looming environmental crisis. They aren’t thinking of the world continueing for hundreds, thousands and millions of years.

    How do we, who are concerned about the quality of life for the proceeding generations of humans and other species, convince the dazed and dozing majority that constructive thought and action needs to be taken?

    Many in the US are Christian, and a lot of those are “born agains” or “fundamentalists.” However, I think there are only a tiny minority of those who aren’t thinking about what college they want their kids to go to, and how they are going to save for retirement. They may say they believe in the Rapture, but I do think most of them aren’t ready to give up any future planning.

    In some ways Global Warming might be an environmental event that most humans can understand. It’s easy to dismiss the extinction of thousands of species, because it isn’t up close and personal. But its hard to shake off the feeling that something isn’t right when you are running around in a t-shirt and shorts at Christmas time, when ten years ago you were wearing a down jacket.

    The Bush Administration has tried its best to ignore Global Warming, but it hasn’t been successful. It has been successful in ignoring all other environmental issues.

    We probably won’t be able to do much about climate change, but if we start thinking ahead and talking about it we may be able to make more constructive decisions.

    Reduction of population: China has a one child policy. They still have the policy even though the original purpose of avoiding massive starvation is past. They see it as the key to becoming prosperous.

    With enough fear of the future, real dramatic population control might become the norm. It would be nice to have population control through birth control instead of war, famine, and disease.

    Delaying having a first child until 40 isn’t realistic. 30 or 35 would be better and in many places that is exactly what is happening. There was an interesting article in the Economist on this. Fertility is lessened at 35 and it plummets between 38 and 40.

    I am in favor of population reduction. I do think humans are a blight on the planet. I’m also very concerned about the future of humans. I have six children that I want to have happy, joyful lives. ( I contributed to the production of one, though I must admit if I hadn’t had big time infertility issues I probably would have been responsible for more than one. )

    I think Camille’s observation that we could do a lot better without sacrificing much. We could be a little warmer in the summer and colder in the winter. Our cars could be much more efficient, though slower.

    I think there could be some major improvements with just a little better planning.

    Houses that have most of their windows facing south are lighter and they warm up in the winter. With an overhang they are shaded in the summer. Its called passive solor gain and it should be the norm instead of the exception to the norm.

    What would be wrong if every new construction was required to have X amount of solar panels. Think of how cheap solar panels would become.

    I do think the libertarians have a point that the best way to spur innovation in new energy forms and energy conservation is through raising the price of energy. When California got jabbed by Enron there was a 17% reduction in energy use. The saying became, let’s do and end run around Enron. Most of that was turning off the lights and turning down the thermostat.

    I’d like to see some serious thought about mass transit and clean busses making a comeback. I tried to use the mass transit in Portland when I went up there with my kids as a tourist. I won’t do it again. It took me over 45 min. one way and an hour and a half the other, in the rain, to get to the science museum. I could have driven it in 10 to 15 min. You aren’t going to get people to use mass transit when it take 3 to 5 5 times as long to get from point A to point B.

    Now this has been a lot of disjointed rambling. Oh well, It’s time for dinner.

  • joel

    Potter:

    I am the last person to ask, “How moral is the church’s position?” I have not the least idea how moral its

    position is. My guess is that it is about as moral as many institutions. It seems to me that one of its

    major characteristics is hypocrisy. Since it doesn’t much affect my life, I don’t pay a whole lot of

    attention to it. For convenience, whatever other characteristics it might have, I put in the same file under

    “hypocrisy” until I find out otherwise, which I have not. I think the church is mostly a place where those

    who like to have someone else figure things out can live in reasonable care-free comfort if they only follow

    some rules or confess they haven’t. There seems to be a fair bit of power mongering that goes on in “the”

    church. I guess gross leeching off their congregations and otherwise taking advantage of them could be

    pretty immoral from some points of view, but those victimized seem to relish it. So who am I to judge?

    Regarding the human soul and its nurturing, I regard it as blatant hype. I am not aware of anything the church has offered as evidence of a soul as they try to portray it. If the church officials know it is a hype, I suppose their dishonesty is about as immoral a lie as any.

    Cheers.

  • joel

    Jazzman:

    I did not use the word “Obviate” in referring to the reduction of human population and am not even sure what

    its use would better denote. I have certainly implied that this excess in numbers is not needed for the

    human kind to be reasonably secure in its continuation, endurance, longevity, permanence, perpetuation or

    survival.

    The methodology, as I said, was described in the post directly before your posted criticism of its lack. If

    you prefer genocide to attrition from dying from so called “natural causes,” then I suggest you come right

    out and advocate it. I maintain, however, it would be more difficult to obtain equivalent results that way

    than by “reduced replacement.” In fact, as I have mentioned in an earlier post to these blogs, essentially

    all dramatic reductions in populations that have occurred in the past inevitably resulted in an INCREASE in

    net population due to a spike in reproduction after the cause of reduction has ceased functioning. This is

    regardless of the cause of reduction, man made or natural phenomena. Such a spike is already occurring in

    areas depopulated by the tsumanis in the Indian Ocean. A spike familiar to most post WW II generations is popularly called “the baby boom.” Such spikes occurred after most decimating wars and the “black plague,” etc.

    The rest remaining in your second paragraph referring to me in your 8:57 post on 10 March I consider self evident or have referred to simialar things in previous posts, have no argument with and won’t waste more time on since you have already restated it.

    The canard is not a canard (unless you are referring to “drowning themselves in the pond” or something.) But

    lemmings, as do all living organisms, and as implied above, over populate till some resonance or

    perturbation of balance passes a tipping point (how’s that for a current buzz word?) and a significant

    population reduction ensues. All species of all kingdoms and those in between create surplus young. These

    young provide what all others need to survive. The system decrees that they are meant to be fodder for

    something else. It just so happens that when microscopic pathogens were discovered and the great fad of

    their destruction and control came about, they happened to be the cause of mostly childhood diseases. The

    fervor of the medical profession to stamp out these relatively easy to kill pathogens unwittingly helped set

    off the great acceleration of the geometic progression of human population by preserving these surplus children. But so it goes.

    “…comfortably support 15 billion…” depends greatly on your definition of “comfortable.” Yours is

    probably different from mine. As, again, I have said, new generations, having never known anything better,

    usually accept conditions as they find them. That is not to say they might not imagine something better. But

    many changes that occur in one’s lifetime are lamented by the old. Perhaps, if you grow to an old age, 15

    billion may not look so enticing.

    I am not good at convincing anyone of anything by appealing to their innate sense of altruism, either. I

    tend not to try to convince anymore and hope people are able to figure out how to live their own lives.

    I have not written anything contrary to your statements of facts in your 5th paragraph to me in your above

    mentioned post. As to your sensitivities, they are apparently yours and you are entitled to them. Good luck.

    I find no reason to take issue with the tenor of the paragraph. Mostly, I think you are preaching to the choir on this round.

    Let’s see your suggestions that Potter can consider to be something substantial to do immediately to “obviate our concerns.” Doing nothing but posting laments in these blogs is paramount to mere

    procrastination.

    Cheers.

  • jazzman

    Joel:

    I’m aware that you didn’t use the word obviate (do away with /make unnecessary) in referring to human population, I did hence the i.e. It was a play on your usage of the word. I obviously do not advocate genocide, I used that term to say that there are other population reductions that are guaranteed to work besides your unrealistic one (again which you note.) I don’t know if population decimations are a primary cause of your spikes that follow those events. That would seem to imply an innate desire on the part of the affected population to fill the vacated niches. Maybe it’s the nature vacuum abhorrence thing – reminds me of Foundation’s Harry Seldon’s Psychohistory. If my ranting seems self-evident to you – good, however it’s about as self-evident as the truths in the US Constitution are to most of the beltway and the rest of the world.

    The Canard I referred to is the one that is evoked when one uses Lemmings as an example of overpopulation. I.e., they commit suicide en masse when their food supply runs out as Walt Disney and other wildlife embellishers have portrayed. I was not referring to a Malthusian population crisis which also is self evident in predator/prey population fluctuations. I’m old and I do remember the halcyon Eisenhower Era when all we had to worry about was the H-bomb and proliferation and I also lament the creeping coarsening of attitude, eroding of civility and falling standards I perceive, however some things have improved. I find more tolerance and acceptance of diverse cultures and ideas and am encouraged by the rise of the blogosphere. I disagree that posting laments or ranting as I am fond of is tantamount to procrastination. At least I try not to violate the planet or the rights of man. Kvetching about a situation that I think will be solved by itself.

    Peace

  • joel

    jazzman:

    I admit that I sometimes submit posts lacking workable ideas. Sometimes, rather, I cannot resist playing

    devil’s advocate or making other efforts for the sport of provoking responses to see where someone might be

    coming from. Occassionally someone doesn’t see through my ruse and gets up tight, but I think they get it

    after a while.

    However, I do think my “depopulation” offer is the fastest, cheapest and most acceptable method to

    accomplish a necessity of “sustainability.” I have no hope presently that it could ever get the required

    support to accomplish an adequate result, but when one realizes the only obstacle is the lack of agreement,

    it seems eminently more desirable to keep the idea out in front in plain view where, perhaps, it might keep

    working its way into people’s consideration and, given the unlikely success or the amount of adaptation

    required of other “solutions,” may start looking sensible. Those who most fear population reduction are

    politicians who measure success by how many people fall under their spells and those who fear the loss of

    markets or provided resources. They are so engrossed in the nonsense of the necessity of ever more growth in

    a closed system, ie one with limits, that they fail to realize the proportionality of things. Their

    instigating unrationable behavior is a probable risk factor.

    I would gladly advocate such a “solution” wherever there seems to be an inkling of insight or agreeability,

    but I’m too much of a skeptic and cynic to waste much effort trying to convince people unless for fun or

    sport.

    I have ideas regarding other “causes” which I also think are practical and are ignored at the risk of

    sensible future behavior, mostly regarding transportation, which nobody takes seriously similarly to

    population reduction, but which I keep throwing out in case someone might take notice by tripping over them.

    But I don’t expect to ever “sell” an adequate body of enthusiasts on them.

    So it goes.

    Cheers.

  • Nikos

    APR’s Marketplace did a brief interview with Elizabeth Kolbert on the March 14th show @ http://marketplace.publicradio.org/shows/2006/03/14/PM200603145.html

    The focus was the business angle of global warming. Interesting, too…

  • joel

    “joel Says:

    March 14th, 2006 at 10:45 pm

    jazzman:

    I admit that I sometimes submit posts lacking workable ideas. Sometimes, rather, I cannot resist playing devil’s advocate…” etc.

    P.S. Just out of curiosity, it might be fun to live long enough to see to what state things have to get for 6 + billion people, give or take a few, to be enticed to agree on something for their own good.

    Cheers.

  • Katherine

    Nikos: The business angle is indeed interesting — you can check out a show we did on it here: http://www.radioopensource.org/businesses-take-on-climate-change/.

  • jazzman

    I’m sorry after I posted I realized that the self-evident truths are from the Declaration of Independence – not the Constitution. I was thinking of how our constitutional rights were suffering due to the renewal of the Patriot Act – the last refuge of scoundrels when I was ranting.

  • One adjective that defines Simon Wilby is smart. He is the CEO of Smart Power, Inc. He developed