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2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #20

Posted on 16 May 2020 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, May 10 through Sat, May 16, 2020

Editor's Choice

These 6 books explore climate change science and solutions

 6 Books Reviewed by Science News

Recent books about climate change tackle science and offer visions of the future. 

Climate change is increasingly becoming part of everyday conversations. For those who want to join the discussions, there is no shortage of books that give detailed background and context on the subject. The question is, which to read?

Science News staff members have reviewed several books published this year to guide you to which ones you might like. Many of these offerings address perhaps the most press­ing question: With limited time to act, what’s the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avert the most dire impacts of climate change?

These 6 books explore climate change science and solutions by Staff, Science News, May 16, 2020

Articles Linked to on Facebook

Sun, May 10, 2020

Mon, May 11, 2020

Tue, May 12, 2020

Wed, May 13, 2020

Thu, May 14, 2020

Fri, May 15, 2020

Sat, May 16, 2020

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Comments 1 to 12:

  1. Most of these look like great books.Thank's.

    "Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac paint two side-by-side visions of the world in 2050: a hot, pollution-choked hellscape rife with water wars and nationalist paranoia, and a hopeful, forested world of high-speed trains, energy efficiency and community-based agriculture."

    To me this gives clear choices, a useful realistic solution, and hope.

    "We won’t get there with solar panels and electric vehicles alone, he says, criticizing those as market-based mechanisms that reinforce the status quo. Instead, success requires a political and economic revolution"

    To me this is empty hand waving. Solar panels and EV's have been around for ages. The first silicon based photo voltaic solar panel was developed by Bell Labs in 1954. The first working electric motor and electric vehicle, a small locomotive that used two electromagnets, a pivot and a battery, was built by Thomas Davenport, an American from Vermont, in 1834 or 1835.

    Its true the recent expansion of solar panels and EV's are products of markets, and market friendly mechanisms like cap and trade, but virtually everything we consume is a product of "the market". I doubt that the governmnet should build solar panels, and I doubt that the writers provide an alternative to the market that can be implimented in time to fix the climate problem, and that is going to gain wide traction. You are better to look at sensible interventions in the market, and the scandinavian model that combines market with some government action.

    "The end of the book touches on several big interventions that might curb climate change, ...., but Jahren argues these won’t fix the root cause of climate change: overconsumption. "

    I thought the root cause was burning fossil fuels, actually. Even if we only burned them at half current levels we would arguably still have a climate problem, just delayed. However reduced consumption is obviously one helpful tool in mitigating climate change. What you have to think about is how much the average person would be prepared to reduce consumption, and plan the total mitigation strategy around that, and then have a backup plan in case people don't reduce their consumption. You also need a backup plan in case we dont build renewables fast enough, although its clearly gaining a life of its own as prices have tumbled.

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  2. nigelj,

    The root cause of climate change is the Total Impact of Human activities.

    Over-consumption is a significant factor in the Total Impact. The Total Human population and the ways of living that the Total Population aspire to Enjoy is also a signficant factor.

    However, simply reducing the Total Population or Total Consumption, even dramatically doing that, is not a Good solution. A smaller population with more harmful but 'lower' consumption could be much worse.

    The solution is to reduce the Total Negative Impacts. And that does require dramtically reducing the harm done by the ways of living that have harmful impacts (which can be related to Over-Consumption). That requires all of the Leaders and Winners, not just the sub-set who choose to care, to set the examples and improve the understanding of the ways of living that everyone can aspire to develop to enjoy, and help the less fortunate advance to better ways of living.

    The most significant required correction is the ending of the harmfully incorrect belief that 'Better Results will develop if people are freer to believe whatever they want to excuse doing whatever they develop a liking for'.

    The Best Future Result is achieved if All Human Actions are Governed and Limited by 'Expanding awarenss and improved understanding of what is going on pursued and applied to reduce the harm done and to help develop lasting improvements for humanity'.

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  3. OPOF @2

    "The root cause of climate change is the Total Impact of Human activities."

    No, with all due respect. The root cause is typically defined as "A root cause is an initiating cause of either a condition or a causal chain that leads to an outcome or effect of interest. The term denotes the earliest, most basic, 'deepest', cause for a given behavior; most often a fault." I think that implicit in this is identifying one singular cause if possible, or as few root causes as possible. Total impact of human activities are just contributing causes. Fossil fuels fits the definition of root cause best.

    In the USA 90% of emissions come from transport, heating, industry and electricity and almost all of that comes from burning fossil fuels. 10% comes from agriculture. So the root cause of climate change is predominantly fossil fuels, with agriculture added on as a smaller root cause. If we had not discovered oil and coal, and had nuclear power or renewables, electric transport etcetera, climate change would not be a significant issue. 

    Reducing our consumption and population are just tools to combat the climate problem because renewables are unable to do the job alone in time. But its serendipitous because reducing consumption and population growth have other obvious benefits as well.

    "However, simply reducing the Total Population or Total Consumption, even dramatically doing that, is not a Good solution. A smaller population with more harmful but 'lower' consumption could be much worse."

    Agree with this and the rest of your comments. A smaller population could also consume more per capita, especially as the resources might become available. So smaller population is a necessary but insufficient condition. Humanity just needs a change of mindest away from rampant materialism. Maybe its a moral issue ultimately?

    But we have to be realistic, and its hard for me to see people giving up basic products that are an established part of middle class life. They might however give up on things that are just for show and cost a lot of money like big SUV's and big flashy homes. Either way, because of these unknowns and difficulties, it seems prudent to use several tools to attack the climate problem.

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  4. Pie chart of USA emissions profile here.

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  5. nigelj,

    Many Human activities, not just fossil fuel use, are contributing to Climate Change. And all of them need to be corrected.

    Some of them, like fossil fuel use, need to be stopped (to be replaced by energy generation that is sustainable).

    Other activities that need to be stopped are ones that also produce ghgs like cement and steel production (to be replaced with materials or methods of production that are sustainable).

    And other activities, like cutting down and using trees, needs to be done sustainably, which includes being done in ways that do not increase ghgs.

    So the root cause of climate change and many other harmful developments is the unsustainable ways of living that humans have developed a liking for, and resist correcting.

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  6. nigelj,

    We do agree on the majority of the issue. But I still perceive an important difference of understanding.

    Getting people to give up the incorrect over-development of harmful wasteful consumption that the dominant socioeconomic-political systems have encouraged to develop will require fundamental aspects of the developed systems to be corrected.

    Another Objective based way of identifying the Root Cause is - Sustainability of the Total of Human activity Everywhere Now and Forever is essential. And that requires every human to at least be living a basic decent life in ways that limit Harm to Others (and the future generations are Others deserving Equal consideration). The future consequences of failing to achieve that objective are well understood. Even military strategists recognize the risk, the potential for harmful regional abuse by misleading appealing Political Actors, of failing to achieve that. So that means:

    • a Sustainable Total Population
    • with Sustainable Total Consumption
    • and Sustainable levels of Total Waste and Other Negative Impacts.
    • with the most fortunate setting good examples for everyone else to aspire to develop to and helping the least fortunate live basic decent lives.

    There is no absolute number for the ideal population, just an upper planetary resource limit. And the current understanding is a population limit of about 12 billion. A lower total population does indeed allow a better way of living for the least fortunate (and everyone else). But at 12 billion it is possible for everyone to live a decent basic life with many living with More than their basic needs being decently met.

    The current global development is Off-Course in many ways (and way off-course in some ways like fossil fuel use), especially the ways that the majority of the Richest and Most Powerful, and the many admirers who want to be Part of That Gang, have developed a liking to Act. And that development off-course has been happening long enough to create many harmfully unsustainable perceptions of How To Live A Good Life, massive harmful wasteful Over-Consumption.

    Liking harmful unsustainable activity, and a failure to appreciate the importance of Being Impressed and Contented with Pursuing Actual Sustainable Improvements, is the Root Cause of Climate Change. That change of attitude will be required to achieve the required limits of climate change harm to future generations.

    The required course correction, the return down from the incorrect over-development, involves altering the Driver. Being impressed by flashier, fancier, more enjoyable, cheaper and quicker ways of doing things, and being impressed without understanding if there are harmful results of what is Impressive is a serious problem - a root cause of many harmful developments (and harmful resistance to giving up incorrectly over-developed ways of living).

    The current dominant Driver of "Competing for Perceptions of Superiority in poorly governed and harmfully unrestricted games of Popularity and Profit" must be Governed and Limited by the Helpful Objective "All human activity being Governed and Limited by the pursuit of expanded awareness and improved understanding to correct the harmful likings that have developed and help develop sustainable improvements for Humanity."

    That is "Learning to be Helpful", which is not quite the same as Morals or Ethics but related. Learning is open to change and correction. Many people consider Morals or Ethics to be Fixed Rules which is a very unhelpful way of thinking about Moral or Ethics (it can lead to attempts to Game or Cheat The Rules).

    That Alteration of the Driver will not be easy. Some people will learn to Responsible Self-Govern, even older people can learn that. But many people will try to get away with Behaving More Harmfully, Less Helpfully. A lot needs to be corrected and the resistance to correction is very powerful. There is so much Personal Perceptions of Benefit at Stake (those middle class likings you refer to). But there is no lasting improving future for humanity without that Driver Change occurring.

    The developed systems that prolong or increase the Incorrect Driving Behaviour are ultimately the Root Cause of almost all Human Caused problems. Anything that is not Human Caused is a Challenge for Humans to Learn to Adapt to. Any Human Caused Problem requires Correction even if the correction is Unpopular or Unprofitable.

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  7. OPOF @6 and anyone interested.  New article in our media on climate change, population growth and consumption. 

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  8. OPOF @6,

    "a Sustainable Total Population
    with Sustainable Total Consumption
    and Sustainable levels of Total Waste and Other Negative Impacts.
    with the most fortunate setting good examples for everyone else to aspire to develop to and helping the least fortunate live basic decent lives."

    This is good but needs development. The 12 billion total global population quoted in the research as sustainable is a maximum. No reason is given to maximise population. Like you say a smaller population could have a better standard of living, all other things being equal. We should be looking at a minimum sustainable population and research suggests 2 billion people as below (just a couple of examples form a quick google search, not suggesting they are perfect examples).

    Obviously this reduces all enviromental pressures other things being equal, and provided we can also encourage people to stabilise or reduce consumption. I fear it will be very difficult to rely 'purely' on hoping people reduce consumption to fix environmental problems, and may not be sufficient anyway, hence the need to consider population size.

    Imho sustainable total consumption might be defined as 1)living within the ability of the biosphere to regenerate and 2) not wasting and squandering non renewable resources and 3) defining robust and generous minimum acceptable areas for natural resources, eg the Amazon rainforest.

    Sustainable waste might be to aim for zero waste while recognising some things cant be recycled, and can be disposed of in landfill if its done safely.

    Hard to see how anyone of sane mind could argue against being helpful.

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  9. nigelj,

    The total global population will not be 2 billion at any point in the foreseeable future. And it is likely to be peaking at or above 10 billion soon and be declining slowly after the peak.

    The real issue is the Total Impacts of human activity being sustainable. And the Planetary Boundaries are a pretty well developed understanding of where human total impacts are, and where they are headed.

    Wikipedia is not my favorite Reference resource. But the Planetary Boundaries presentation on Wikipedia is quite well done.

    All identified areas of impact can be understood to be getting worse, with some impacts already beyond the sustainable levels of impact. And some, like Climate Impacts, are not at the limit yet but the developed understanding is that exceeding many of the Limits will be Locked-In soon unless there is a very rapid correction of the socioeconomic-political systems that promote, develop and defend harmful drivers of human behaviour.

    Back in the 1970s when the 1972 Stockholm Conference was held there was still time for the gradual implementation of corrections of many harmful things that had developed, but not the Ozone Layer.
    Though the Ozone layer problem was fairly successfully addressed, a significant response to the larger understanding of required corrections was the Reagan/Thatcher 1980s with their declaration that Government Helpfully Governing and Limiting what could be done was Evil.
    The elections of leaders like Bush, Inhofe, McConnell and Trump in the USA are the result of the social devolution and related resistance to improved understanding that was promoted, encouraged and defended by that grossly harmfully incorrect ultimately unsustainable belief that Government could not be Helpful.
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  10. nigelj, the final sentence in your comment @8 has led me to more reasoning.

    "Hard to see how anyone of sane mind could argue against being helpful."

    The Root of the problem is Self Interest being deemed to be an acceptable basis for humans to base their actions on. Humans have evolved and succeeded as Social Beings planning for the Future, not as Individuals acting in the Moment.

    What can be understood is how people who are intellectually competent, well-educated, "sane" people could incorrectly argue for being harmful to Others by claiming the supremacy of being Helpful to Themselves or Their Tribe, arguing for Limited Consideration of Others.

    It is True that Absolute Altruism is not an appropriate expectation for human behaviour. But Altruistically Helping others by pursuing expanded awareness and improved understanding should be everyone's aspiration combined with diligent effort to ensure no harm is done to Others, no matter how beneficial a harmful action may be perceived to be.

    People who will not Self-Govern that way will need to have their actions Externally Governed and Limited. Their Self Interest based arguments can include denial of harm done or a claim of Net-Helpfulness from their perspective. They can even argue that harm only exists if a current living person can prove that they were harmed by the actions of another currently living person or Tribe of People (with those Tribes being any organized group of people - like: nations, states or corporations). That is what often limits legal actions these days, a living person has to prove that the actions of Other living people harmed them. And it is what allows all manner of environmental impacts as long as they are remote from influential people.

    The basic argument of Self Interested people is that self interest is a rational basis for determining the acceptability of actions. They can argue that risks and concerns about counter-actions against them by Other Self Interested people will result in no one trying to Help Themselves or Their Tribe in ways that are Harmful to Others. Simple observation of what actually happens can be seen to disprove that claim, not just the Tragedy of the Commons Concept.

    Derek Parfit presented a robust evaluation showing the unacceptability of Self Interest as a basis for Morals or Ethics in his book Reasons and Persons (the Wikipedia page on Derek Parfit includes a summary of the book but is not as good as reading the book). His presentation met a barrier to the consideration of future generations that he called the Non-Identity Problem. The problem is the way that the reasoning struggles to address Future Humans because until they actually exist they are not Certain Persons. The actions of current humans affect who the specific future Persons are. So future humans never count as Persons because they are not certain to be the people in the future. It is a rather twisted barrier to consideration of future generations.

    I consider the Non-Identity problem to be an incorrect logic artifact that is the result of starting the argument from the Perspective of an Individual Person. Parfit starts his arguments from the Self Interest basis and builds out the argument from that basis. Starting from the Individual Perspective, which Parfit successfully shows to fail to be reasonable, ends up unreasonable regarding future generations.

    Instead of Self Interest, the starting point for the arguments needs to be consideration of the entire future of the entire potential of Humanity. From that starting point the basis for Ethics and Morals becomes something like "Pursuing expanded awareness and improved understanding applied to resist harm being done to Others and aspiring to help Others, with Others including all potential future humans on this planet, or any other planet"

    That pulls the understanding of Helpfulness out of the Self Interest realm where it can tragically be argued that "A person is Justified to pursue an action based on their perception of how helpful it is to themselves vs. their perception of how harmful it is to Others". The selfish perception becomes the root cause of the problem. It can allow Utilitarians to argue for very harmful actions. And it allows people to argue for Their collective actions to be allowed to harm Others by considering things from the perspective of Their Tribe or Collective.

    If the perception of the Tribe becomes the entire human population, now and eternally into the future, then the perception of self interest benefit from actions by any sub-set of that massive total population can be easily seen to be nullified by the need to consider the total harm done to all Others.

    Applying that to climate change impacts leads to understanding that "No amount of perceived benefit by the current beneficiaries of activities that contribute to rapid climate change, or breaching any other planetary impact boundaries (regionally or globally), can match the total harm done to all the Others Today and into the far future, unless consideration of the future is Discounted (which I argue is reasonably obviously an incorrect thing to do).

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    Growing at a slower pace, world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 and could peak at nearly 11 billion around 2100
    17 June 2019, New York

    The world’s population is expected to increase by 2 billion persons in the next 30 years, from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050, according to a new United Nations report launched today.


    The study concluded that the world’s population could reach its peak around the end of the current century, at a level of nearly 11 billion.


    2B / 30 yr = 66,670,000 / yr = 182,648 / day = 7,610 / hour
    = 127 new people on earth per minute

    Quite a few
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  12. gseattle @11

    I recently became aware of a new study published in The Lancet (link to open source article) which looks at populationg growth and they see the peak at around 9.7B in 2064 and then slowly falling to 8.8B by 2100. Here is the press release from July 14 about the article.

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