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29 Comments:
mc32 said 7 days ago:

Is the implication that today’s warming surfaces of the seas will not be expressed in the deaths of the seas for centuries to come?

makerofspoons said 7 days ago:

Like many things climate related there is a significant lag-time, in human terms. As stated in the article the implication is that if humanity survives the climate crisis it could take centuries to undo the damage to the oceans. However it is much more likely acidification will cause a trophic collapse and kill off the sea life before that were to occur- we have already lost around half of the base of our aquatic food chain, phytoplankton, since 1950: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/ocean-p...

There are widespread problems with sea birds dying of vitamin B1 deficiency, for which phytoplankton are a source, indicating this collapse is already in motion: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6196476/

radford-neal said 7 days ago:

You need to read things more critically. Ask yourself, "can it really be true that total ocean phytoplankton have declined by 50%"? If it were true, what else would be true? It's the base of the food chain. One would see huge effects everywhere in the oceans. It's inconceivable that this would be reported just in some minor CBC news report. It's got to be that (at most) there's just a local decline in some spot off Newfoundland.

You've also grossly mis-read the article on vitamin B1 deficiency.

And, you ask "if humanity survives the climate crisis"? There is no prospect that the "climate crisis" will lead to human extinction. (Humans might manage to go extinct for some other reason, like an out-of-control bioweapon, but not for a reason closely linked to climate change.) You have been paying too much attention to quasi-religious apocalyptic propaganda.

makerofspoons said 7 days ago:

I was looking for a citation that was not paywalled- here is a Nature study that corroborates my claim that we have lost around half of the phytoplankton since 1950: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature09268

If this is true I would expect the populations of sea birds and sea life to plunge, which they have. The WWF published a report in 2015 that showed that marine vertebrates have declined by 49% from 1970 to 2012: https://www.worldwildlife.org/publications/living-blue-plane...

I'm not sure how I misread the vitamin B1 article, phytoplankton is cited as a potential cause of the problem several times in the section 'A Sea of Possibilities'.

There is also plenty of cause for concern about human extinction- between the insect die off and the marine die off it is unclear how we will be able to produce food going forward.

radford-neal said 6 days ago:

I've had a look at the Nature paper you reference. It is not persuasive. Look at their Figure 4a, and try to ignore their fitted curves. What do you see?

I see highly variable data, which is clearly auto-correlated. And indeed the paper discusses how ENSO and NAO are correlated with the measurements, which is a reason to expect strong autocorrelations. As far as I can see, none of their error bars or significance tests account for autocorrelation. So you should ignore them.

Just eyeballing the data points does not give any clear impression of a decline over time. Consider the four regions with the most early data. Arctic has values around 1930 comparable to the most recent, and no clear indication of a trend, either long term, or in recent decades. North Atlantic has early values around 1910 that are lower than recent values, and again no sign of a trend. North Pacific seems trendless as well, with any slight indication of a downward trend not significant in view of the autocorrelation. Only Equatorial Pacific could be seen as showing a declining trend, but it is also the most variable, with some very high points (as well as lower points), with the high points all before 1960. One might wonder whether the high points represent measurement anomalies.

ghostbrainalpha said 6 days ago:

The thing I have trouble understanding is this....

How can the same people be worried about human extinction as a result of environmental collapse, also think we might be able to develop a sustainable colony on Mars.

I agree that climate change is a huge problem and could result in horrific loss of life and a world wide traumatic event like we have never seen before. But there is no way that global warming will make this planet LESS hospitable than Mars could be possibly be in the next 200 years.

torpfactory said 6 days ago:

I think the technologies developed to make a mars habitat possible we end up also being useful for making some parts of a future earth habitable. That's a coincidence I hope doesn't come true.

Personally, I think every billion destined for mars exploration is money not being spend on addressing the more pressing crisis: What about the health of our current planet. Mars can wait, so to speak, for us to ensure our survival here on earth. A mars colony probably wouldn't survive a collapse of earth-based civilization.

jacobtwotwo said 6 days ago:

> How can the same people be worried about human extinction as a result of environmental collapse, also think we might be able to develop a sustainable colony on Mars.

We would control the size and direction of growth on a colony. As it stands the tradoffs we make with regard to earth's climate affect 7.5+Bn people. A colony can be planned/optimized before we get there. We don't need to terraform the entirety of mars to get a small colony. If you want to have mars rival earth, then we can start talking about the scales of comparison you're making.

dTal said 6 days ago:

You're quite right. Let's see some habitable biodomes out in the Sahara, a much more tractable environment than Mars. But nobody seems to be pursuing this technology at scale, preferring to focus on the rockets.

lurquer said 6 days ago:

Agreed. I suggest all scientists/engineers working on Mars or Lunar habitability, office exclusively in Antarctica.... once they get their offices up and running and self-sustaining, I'll pay more attention to them.

makerofspoons said 6 days ago:

I don't believe we will be able to develop a sustainable colony on Mars, at least not with present technology. Every attempt we have made to build a self-sustaining ecosystem, such as Biosphere 2, has failed.

Eerily when Biosphere 2 collapsed the insects died first, which is exactly what we are observing now globally.

ghostbrainalpha said 6 days ago:

Unrelated: But Biosphere 2 has a nice Facebook page, and they are worth following for their live events.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/Biosphere2/

I love seeing experiments with vertical farming.

xamuel said 6 days ago:

>There is also plenty of cause for concern about human extinction

Do you seriously mean literal extinction, as in, not one single human being left alive? That seems really implausible to me. Of course, it's academic in some sense--if all but 100 humans die out, then certainly that's the end of civilization as we know it. But that's not the same as bona fide extinction!

Relevant scene from Dr. Strangelove: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jf9iTZ433zs

makerofspoons said 6 days ago:

I mean literal extinction in the long-term. The current mass extinction we are in most closely resembles the Permian-Triassic extinction which was caused by a runaway greenhouse effect acidifying the oceans and warming the atmosphere: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permian–Triassic_extinction_ev.... It wiped out 96% of known species at the time: https://phys.org/news/2018-09-end-permian-extinction-earth-s...

chrisco255 said 6 days ago:

I don't know if you realize this or not, but humans are capable of living in entirely self-contained biodomes, outer space, and deep under the ocean for months at a time. Humans have invented nuclear energy, a nearly infinite energy source, along with countless other forms of electrical energy. Humans have perfected the science of agriculture and can even grow plants underground and even grow tropical plants in Canada. This is hyperbole. If you had to put the odds at humans going extinct, you'd have to place the odds at something like 1 in a trillion chance, short of an interstellar disaster or nuclear war.

makerofspoons said 6 days ago:

I realize it- months don't really matter when we're talking about the survival of the human race. We have never produced a self-sustaining closed system. The space station, Biosphere 2, and not any of the other closed environments we have ever created managed to stay closed and succeed without outside intervention. We have invented nuclear energy, and then have chosen to not utilize it at scale. The other forms of electrical energy we have created are exactly the problem- we have now realized we were doomed the moment we built the first coal power stations and created this faustian bargain with our environment. We can grow tropical plants in Canada at a huge expense of energy and utilizing fertilizers produced by fossil fuels. This carbon-rich energy let us balloon our population so that now we can't just turn it off- we are stuck. It isn't hyperbole- the soil, the insects, and the marine life that sustain us are disappearing and we have no technology to survive without them.

dTal said 6 days ago:

If that were true, why wouldn't we be doing it now? You could feed the world from the Sahara.

The fact is that ecosystem management is incredibly important technology, absolutely required for things like Mars missions, planetary terraforming, and Not Killing Earth - and we do not have it yet.

chrisco255 said 6 days ago:

Obviously there's more efficient farmland elsewhere that works better than the Sahara. Why would we do it now when we feed 7 billion people under the current system?

xamuel said 6 days ago:

Define long-term. You could just as well say the universe will eventually collapse in on itself and that will cause extinction in the long-term. None of the species during the Permian-Triassic extinction knew about things like nuclear power plants etc.

makerofspoons said 6 days ago:

Using Mark Lynas' book Six Degrees and the representative concentration pathways from the IPCC report long term for me is a century. The earliest we would see 5 degrees of warming would be around 2100 under RCP 8.5, the business-as-usual pathway. At that amount of warming we can expect a Cretaceous-like climate where methane eruptions destroy infrastructure in the northern hemisphere, super hurricanes flood the coasts, and hydrogen sulfide from the dead oceans suffocate terrestrial life. Of course, we likely are no longer on the business-as-usual pathway, we are taking some limited steps to mitigate climate change so I would say more likely long-term means 100-500 years, unless we significantly make changes to put us closer to the RCP 6.0 or RCP 4.5 pathways which are merely disastrous instead of fatal.

goatlover said 6 days ago:

> There is also plenty of cause for concern about human extinction- between the insect die off and the marine die off it is unclear how we will be able to produce food going forward.

Has there been a noticeable reduction in human food supply with the reported 50% reduction of insect and plankton populations?

makerofspoons said 6 days ago:

Not yet, like many effects of ecological collapse there is a lag time. As much as 50-90% of our calories come from angiosperms which are dependent on insects: https://www.livescience.com/52752-what-if-all-insects-died.h... and insects help us produce new top soil, of which we have lost half in the last 150 years: https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/soil-erosion-and-degra...

The combination of soil loss, pollinator loss, and decomposer loss helping us produce new soil will be a double-whammy for our agriculture. Thus far I would assume the reason why we have gotten away with growing plenty of (increasingly less nutritious) food is because of the wasteful practices that are killing the insects and depleting our soil, so we are on borrowed time.

chrisco255 said 6 days ago:

Here's an article from 1981 fearing the impending effect on soil loss in the U.S. due to expanded global exports of wheat, corn, and soy. https://www.csmonitor.com/1981/0603/060350.html

Nearly 40 years later...doomsday has yet to arrive.

NeedMoreTea said 6 days ago:

Interesting article. More like here's an article noticing that its happening, covers some of the reasons why (like fertiliser enabling the end of traditional crop rotation), and it deserves place in planning and ideally mitigating. No suggestions soil will be gone by 2020, or even 2100 or 2200.

the bigger claim, if one looks beyond the near decades, is to consider the state of the nation's agricultural resources ... our oil is clearly running out, and so is the most precious of our resources -- topsoil

Is about as "fearing" of the "impending" "doomsday" as it gets.

Anon84 said 7 days ago:

Not exactly. My interpretation is that global warming will have long lasting consequences. Even if we do manage to mitigate it, a lot of damage is already done.

dfxm12 said 7 days ago:

Even if we do manage to mitigate it, a lot of damage is already done

It is still important to note that further damage can be done!

Ixiaus said 7 days ago:

s/can be/is being/

SubiculumCode said 7 days ago:

-a testament to open data sciences. I think the same will be true with neuroscience data of today...more informed scientists of the future will download our data off the open repositories and make novel predictions based off their better understanding.

mistrial9 said 7 days ago:

offtopic -- an article got a lot of attention recently about renewed means of sea-level rise via heat expansion.. clicking on a few links got a pretty exemplary set of reproducible data tables and code, and several research publications showing years of inquiry.. as a Westerner, an interesting note is that it all came from a China PRC lab, quite a bit in English, and out-performing many "Nature Climate" sort of things, from an "open" standpoint.. quite the reversal, on a crucial topic.

Lijing Cheng et al International Center for Climate and Environment Sciences, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, China