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2015 Begins With CO2 Above 400 PPM Mark, and why this is important

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In May of 2013, for the first time in at least 3.8 million.....possibly even 16 million years, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels broke past the 400ppm mark.

1_12_15_Andrea_JanCO2_690_414_s_c1_c_c.p

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography records of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels show that Jan. 1 was the first day of the new year above that concentration, followed by Jan. 3 and Jan. 7. Daily averages have continued at this level or higher through Jan. 9, though they could continue to dance up and down around that mark due to day-to-day variations caused by weather systems. But even with those fluctuations, 2015 will likely see many months above 400 ppm, possibly starting with the very first month of the year.

“My guess at this point is that January 2015 will be very slightly above 400 ppm, but it's too early to tell for sure,” Ralph Keeling, the scientist in charge of the CO2 monitoring project atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, said in an email. Keeling’s father, Charles, began the project in 1958. The graph that shows the decades-long rise in CO2 is eponymously called the Keeling Curve.

The 400 ppm mark was first passed on May 9, 2013. In 2014, it happened two months earlier, in March. The average CO2 concentrations for March, April and June 2014 were all above 400 ppm, the first time that has been recorded. The peak CO2 measurement of 2014 was just shy of 402 ppm in May.

At the Mauna Loa Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii, back in the 1950's, a young atmospheric scientist named Charles Keeling started a project to measure CO2 and keep weekly records. It was not expected to be of great importance aside from providing a basic understanding of how much gas levels varied in the atmosphere from region to region, and whether CO2 levels varied much from place to place and over time.

What they discovered was that there wasn't much geographic difference from other areas measuring CO2, but they did notice a slow upward progression of rising Co2 levels from year to year....when they began, atmospheric CO2 levels were averaging around 315ppm, but what's most alarming, is that the rate of increase has been rising as the decades progress.

Our planet has many positive and negative feedback effects, which alternatively, force more carbon into the atmosphere and sequester carbon back into the oceans and rock layers - especially along mountain ranges. The problem for a creature that has the capacity to move the dials and push up carbon dioxide levels, beginning with setting fires for various purposes and using wood for heating - is that high concentrations of atmospheric CO2 that had previously only occurred during periods of excessive volcanic activity, are detrimental for life as a whole and lead to cascading effects of species dieoffs, until the much slower carbon sequestration effects of rock weathering can bring CO2 levels back to levels that are idea for the majority of life in the biosphere.

Over the ages, it has been noticed that, as rock analysis of ancient gas levels have become more reliable, that CO2 levels have gradually declined over time. At first, when there were no oxygen-breathing life forms and only anaerobic bacteria, the planet was rich in both carbon dioxide and methane. But, over time, the Sun has grown hotter and thrown off more energy, and flourishing of life on Earth has depended on sequestering more and more carbon. So, for most of the last 20 or more million years, atmospheric CO2 levels stayed below 300!

That is an important point to keep in mind, as we break through the 400 barrier permanently. We, as a species, have never had to live on a 400ppm CO2 planet. One where sea levels are much higher, most of the world's ice is melted, except for the eastern ice sheets of the Antarctic. And, what's most important is that, in the past, the increases to Co2 caused by planetary changes, occurred at much slower rates than what we've done since the Industrial Era began 150 years ago, and carbon levels were about 280ppm.

The changes, just from what we've put up there now....never mind what we are going to add over coming decades and what we can expect (1 degree C) from the latent heating effects still stored in the oceans, will take centuries or longer to realize their full effects. Yet, here we are in 2015, with no real plausible efforts being made to stop carbon production, let alone find ways to reduce CO2 levels.

This is a point where I differ with Waldo - because I don't see the big green business crowd pushing their windmills and solar panels sales as any kind of permanent solution to climate change! Real change is not going to come without addressing global population level increases, and more importantly, the modern system of capitalist economics which rewards short term thinking rather than long term planning, and delivers most of the benefits to a small greedy and powerful elite at the top of the money pyramid, while everyone further down the line, works harder and harder in an effort to buy more stuff and imitate the extravagant lifestyles of our perceived betters.

Dialing back consumer-driven capitalism is going to be even harder now than it was a half century ago at the beginning of the TV age! A number of recent psychology studies are finding that the same pernicious effects seen in excessive TV viewing over the years...increased narcissism and materialism, are enhanced by all of our new hand held toys - "smart" phones, laptops, Ipads etc.. The modern environmental movements look more like shallow attempts to pretend to be dealing with a problem that others defer right from the start by denying it even exists! So, is the future a struggle between global warming deniers and global warming pretenders who think having a solar panel or an electric car means they've done their part to fix Planet Earth!

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Oh the horror of making the planet more suitable for life!

Edit: this is sarcasm.

Edit 2: But seriously, nice alarmist post. Contains unjustified claims, appeals to emotion and the typical anti-capitalist conclusion. Totally Scientific!

Edit 3: that was sarcasm again.

Edited by -1=e^ipi

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First of all, there was doubt that we ever reached 400 in may 2013, second, the yearly average has never reached 400, and third, it's below 400 again today.

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-carbon-dioxide-400-20130513-story.html

"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) revised its May 9 reading at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, saying it remained fractions of a point below the level of 400 ppm, at 399.89."

Not that it matters, what does 1ppm of CO2 feel like anyway?

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@ poochy, 400 ppm was passed last year.

http://www.climatecentral.org/news/co2-400-ppm-global-17485

Though the global annual average hasn't exceeded 400 ppm yet. I'm not sure why you are trying to argue against this; there are so many other holes in the original post that you could go after.

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In May of 2013, for the first time in at least 3.8 million.....possibly even 16 million years, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels broke past the 400ppm mark.

A little advice:

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

Humanity needs to emit CO2. That is not going to change any time soon. Acceptance is best answer. Edited by TimG

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@ poochy, 400 ppm was passed last year.

http://www.climatecentral.org/news/co2-400-ppm-global-17485

Though the global annual average hasn't exceeded 400 ppm yet. I'm not sure why you are trying to argue against this; there are so many other holes in the original post that you could go after.

As i said, it wasn't passed in May 2013, and yes the average hasn't passed 400, all of which I said, and was in response to things said in the op, such as,

"In May of 2013, for the first time in at least 3.8 million.....possibly even 16 million years, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels broke past the 400ppm mark."

So, whats your problem? I didn't say we hadn't passed it at all, clearly the op is an alarmist exaggeration, being obviously wrong on some of the basic facts and not mentioning others, like the average, goes to show that. Anyway, despite the alarmism it will go above and beyond 400, our ability to adapt to that future is far more important than our ability to play make believe with the present. Feel free to attack the op's "other holes".

Edited by poochy

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Oh the horror of making the planet more suitable for life!

Edit: this is sarcasm.

Edit 2: But seriously, nice alarmist post. Contains unjustified claims, appeals to emotion and the typical anti-capitalist conclusion. Totally Scientific!

Edit 3: that was sarcasm again.

First, if nobody caught it, I made a mistake that CO2 levels have stayed below 300 for the last 18 million years. Actually, according the the Tripati rock analysis, that should have been 400ppm. The 300 number...as you can see from the *ice core chart that goes back 800,000 years, and is considered more accurate than chemical analysis of rocks, shows CO2 never exceeding 300 during the brief interglacial periods. And plunging as low as 180 at the peak of some of the ice ages.

*that chart was in the linked article...maybe I better post that one also:

4_29_14_Andrea_TVM_400ppm-CO2_700_394_s_

Re: edit 2, the primary reason I am an anti-capitalist today...or certainly anti-growth-based capitalism is because I don't see any way to resolve our current economic model with a future for life on Earth!

I have changed my thinking over the last 10 years, and have come to believe that capitalism inevitably is a self-destructive economic system that by its very nature, alternates between boom and bust cycles. And, without those liberal constraints on capitalism that John Maynard Keynes advised Roosevelt to follow in the 1930's - tax the rich, create large scale public works projects etc., capitalism would have gotten us to the sad state were in now much sooner! But, it took a little time for the Neoliberals and libertarian business interests to change government laws, tax and trade policies to get the almost unfettered capitalism (for the rich) we have today! And that's why we're in the crapper now! But this doesn't have a whole lot to do with environment! If the system was immoral but sustainable in the long term, I would be all for it, or at least for a liberal form of capitalism. But, now I'm inclined to say tear the whole thing down before there's nothing left of this planet!

Edited by WIP

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As i said, it wasn't passed in May 2013, and yes the average hasn't passed 400, all of which I said, and was in response to things said in the op, such as,

"In May of 2013, for the first time in at least 3.8 million.....possibly even 16 million years, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels broke past the 400ppm mark."

So, whats your problem? I didn't say we hadn't passed it at all, clearly the op is an alarmist exaggeration, being obviously wrong on some of the basic facts and not mentioning others, like the average, goes to show that. Anyway, despite the alarmism it will go above and beyond 400, our ability to adapt to that future is far more important than our ability to play make believe with the present. Feel free to attack the op's "other holes".

You see where that line on the chart is heading?

The rate of carbon increase has almost doubled since they first started taking readings at Mauna Loa over 50 years ago. The trends in our time are towards ever-increasing rates of carbon dioxide, because of

Globalization: the amount of fuel consumed to transport products has greatly increased as so much industry has been outsourced. Globalization also ramps up pollution and carbon in the newly industrializing nations, because they have much more lax environmental laws than the home country. This is one reason why claims that our carbon production is declining are a total fraud: if our manufacturers move outside our borders, that carbon is still going up into one atmosphere! Each country doesn't have it's own separate air to breath...should be obvious, but the arguments about who's responsible for carbon emissions miss the point totally

Decline in non-renewable resources: The reason why tar sands are being distilled for petroleum products today is the same reason that deep sea drillers are trying to go further and further into the Earth's crust: like all mining and resource extraction, it's a matter of picking the cheapest resources to exploit first. The low-hanging fruit get's picked, and then it's on to the more costly sources...which are not only more costly in dollar terms and putting a dampening effect on dreams of economic expansion, but they are also more costly in environmental terms: more earth has to be dug through or extracted to get at ores, minerals, coal and oil deposits, so carbon output for extraction keeps increasing...as does carbon burned for refining

Positive feedbacks already in play: This one is still being hotly debated, but there is growing evidence that we are already tripping positive feedbacks that cause the oceans, permafrost, soils, clathrates (methane trapped in shallow colder waters) to release more methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

That last one could make the whole issue moot, since there would be such a rapid increase in carbon levels that everything predicted in IPCC reports would be old news. And surviving...let alone trying to run an economy, could become almost impossible.

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First, if nobody caught it, I made a mistake that CO2 levels have stayed below 300 for the last 18 million years. Actually, according the the Tripati rock analysis, that should have been 400ppm. The 300 number...as you can see from the *ice core chart that goes back 800,000 years, and is considered more accurate than chemical analysis of rocks, shows CO2 never exceeding 300 during the brief interglacial periods. And plunging as low as 180 at the peak of some of the ice ages.

Actually I did catch it. But I'm so used to alarmists making up stuff that there isn't really much point trying to point it out. From my perspective it appears that the alarmist mindset is: All those that don't agree 100% with the alarmist mind set must be evil, facts and evidence be damned.

Anyway, it is a well-known fact that CO2 levels have been low for the entire pleistocene. Though I call BS on your 'haven't reached 400 ppm in the past 16 million years' claim. 3.8 million years is reasonable.

Re: edit 2, the primary reason I am an anti-capitalist today...or certainly anti-growth-based capitalism is because I don't see any way to resolve our current economic model with a future for life on Earth!

The future of life on Earth is not going to disappear nor are we at risk of extinction. This is alarmism not based on the scientific evidence.

I have changed my thinking over the last 10 years, and have come to believe that capitalism inevitably is a self-destructive economic system that by its very nature, alternates between boom and bust cycles.

Many people come to believe many nonsense things.

And, without those liberal constraints on capitalism that John Maynard Keynes advised Roosevelt to follow in the 1930's - tax the rich, create large scale public works projects etc., capitalism would have gotten us to the sad state were in now much sooner!

I know, right! If only we were all like North Korea and in poverty. Then CO2 levels would be far lower. I absolutely agree!

And that's why we're in the crapper now! But, now I'm inclined to say tear the whole thing down before there's nothing left of this planet!

You only perceive that we are 'in the crapper' because you are deluded. If you think that increasing CO2 emissions by burning fossil fuels will result in 'nothing left on this planet' then your understanding of climate science is orders of magnitude wrong, much like Obama.

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The rate of carbon increase has almost doubled since they first started taking readings at Mauna Loa over 50 years ago.

No, the rate of increase has increased by about 2.6 times since 1959. More than doubled, not almost doubled.

Decline in non-renewable resources:

If fossil fuels get more expensive that generally reduces consumption of fossil fuels and as a result reduces CO2 emissions. The primary reason CO2 emissions are increasing is because of economic growth and a growing global population.

Positive feedbacks already in play:

Positive feedback effects do not cause 'ever increasing rates of CO2 increase'. But I don't expect alarmists to understand the concept of a convergent sequence. In their minds, existence of positive feedbacks somehow implies divergence in temperature and CO2 levels cause they don't understand math.

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Actually I did catch it. But I'm so used to alarmists making up stuff that there isn't really much point trying to point it out. From my perspective it appears that the alarmist mindset is: All those that don't agree 100% with the alarmist mind set must be evil, facts and evidence be damned.

Hyperbole much? Everyone knows it's merely 97% not 100.

It's no wonder the debate around this is hopeless when facts get so distorted and taken out of context.

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Fine, I'll bother responding to your original post and point out all its holes.

In May of 2013, for the first time in at least 3.8 million.....possibly even 16 million years, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels broke past the 400ppm mark.

This 'possibly 16 million years' as far as I am concerned is nonsense and doesn't agree with the geological record unless you go to the very low end of estimates during the neogene. But only looking at the evidence that agrees most with alarmist claims is expected because alarmists reject the scientific method and approach things dogmatically to satisfy their confirmation bias.

but what's most alarming, is that the rate of increase has been rising as the decades progress.

Why is this necessarily alarming? Please prove that increasing CO2 emissions is necessarily bad.

The problem for a creature that has the capacity to move the dials and push up carbon dioxide levels is that high concentrations of atmospheric CO2 that had previously only occurred during periods of excessive volcanic activity, are detrimental for life as a whole and lead to cascading effects of species dieoffs, until the much slower carbon sequestration effects of rock weathering can bring CO2 levels back to levels that are idea for the majority of life in the biosphere.

The claim that high concentrations of atmospheric CO2 have previously only occurred during periods of excessive volcanic activity is false. High levels of CO2 have been the norm for most of the past 590 million years since the start of the Cambrian explosion. The historic norm is 1000-2000 ppm of CO2 and that's one of the reasons why photosynthesis of plants is best at these CO2 levels (and why people with greenhouses increase the CO2 levels to promote plant growth). We are in a geological time period of ridiculously low temperatures and CO2 levels (quaternary period) and this is despite the fact that solar irradiance has been generally increasing over the past 590 million years as the Sun goes through its life cycle. The only other geological time period with similar conditions is about 300 million years ago during the Permian.

Furthermore, the claim that 'high CO2 levels' are bad for life on Earth (and by high I assume you mean somewhere in the range of 400 - 1200 ppm) is unjustified and as far as I am concerned is false. If you look at the geologic record, life has flourished on Earth generally during higher levels of temperature and CO2. It wasn't until the Earth had the conditions of the early Cambrian that multicellular life took off, not during the cold conditions of the Cryogenian. The amount of bio mass on Earth has generally been higher during warm eras with high CO2 concentrations such as the Carboniferous and the Cretaceous (which is why fossil fuels generally originate from these time periods). Heck, there were a lot more ape species during the early Cenozonic than there are now, because the Earth was a lot warmer and the climate was more suitable to support large biodiversity. Furthermore, it wasn't until the end of the last ice age did agriculture become viable and human civilization take off, not before.

The implied claim that extinctions are necessarily bad is unjustified and if you think this is the case, I request that you prove it. As far as I am concerned, I would be very happy if mosquitos, ticks or great white sharks went extinct.

Finally, I call BS on your implied claim that lower CO2 levels (I'm assuming you mean ~270 ppm) are ideal for the majority of life on Earth. As I mentioned earlier, biodiversity and biomass have generally been higher during the past 590 million years when the climate was warmer and CO2 levels were higher. Biodiversity and biomass are generally much higher in places closer to the equator (say the Amazon rainforest) than closer to the poles (say all of Antarctica). Increasing CO2 levels will cause a CO2 fertilization effect on all plant life and which should allow the Earth to support more life. Why do you think that the C4 cycle has only evolved recently and C4 plants have started to flourish recently (on an evolutionary time scale)? Because CO2 levels have been ridiculously low and plant life on earth is basically starving for CO2. Why do you think that we live in an age where mammals are dominant across most of the planet? Because the climate is relatively cold which gives mammals advantages relative to other forms of animal life.

So, for most of the last 20 or more million years, atmospheric CO2 levels stayed below 300!

I call BS on this claim.

That is an important point to keep in mind, as we break through the 400 barrier permanently. We, as a species, have never had to live on a 400ppm CO2 planet. One where sea levels are much higher, most of the world's ice is melted, except for the eastern ice sheets of the Antarctic.

No, but humans have been indoors where CO2 levels have been much higher. Furthermore, humans are a TROPICAL SPECIES. We evolved primarily in equatorial Eastern Africa. Why do you think we are relatively hairless and are covered from head to toe in sweat glands? Why do you think comfortable room temperature for humans is 22-25 Celsius, where as the average global temperature is 15 Celsius? Why do you think lots of people live in equatorial places such as Indonesia, Peru and Nigeria, but Antarctica is uninhabited, and polar countries such as Canada and Russia are relatively empty? Increasing atmospheric CO2 by a few hundred ppm will make the climate of the planet MORE SUITABLE for human life, not less.

And, what's most important is that, in the past, the increases to Co2 caused by planetary changes, occurred at much slower rates than what we've done since the Industrial Era began 150 years ago, and carbon levels were about 280ppm.

Please prove that an 'unprecedented' rate of change is necessarily bad. You may have noticed, but there are these things called 'seasons' that occur annually where the rate of change of climate is much higher and species across the planet seem to do fine.

The changes, just from what we've put up there now....never mind what we are going to add over coming decades and what we can expect (1 degree C) from the latent heating effects still stored in the oceans, will take centuries or longer to realize their full effects. Yet, here we are in 2015, with no real plausible efforts being made to stop carbon production, let alone find ways to reduce CO2 levels.

Wait, first you are going on about how the fast rate of change is super bad. And now you are going on about how since it takes a time scale of centuries or even millennia (due to certain feedback mechanisms such as glaciers) for the majority of the change due to increasing CO2 to occur. So which is it? Is the change more terrible because it is too fast, or is it terrible because it is slow and takes centuries. It looks to me like you are trying to have your cake and eat it too!

This is a point where I differ with Waldo

You mean the alarmist that refuses to accept that humans breathe out CO2 and that CO2 is identical regardless of if it comes from an animal or from fossil fuel burning? I would hope you differ.

Because I don't see the big green business crowd pushing their windmills and solar panels sales as any kind of permanent solution to climate change!

I think you need to prove that something is a problem before going on about what the correct 'solution' to this 'problem' is.

the modern system of capitalist economics which rewards short term thinking rather than long term planning, and delivers most of the benefits to a small greedy and powerful elite at the top of the money pyramid

I would like to see your proof (both empirical evidence plus a reasonable mathematical economic model) that justifies this claim that the current capitalist system necessarily rewards 'short term thinking' and delivers most of the benefits to a 'small and powerful' elite that are necessarily 'greedy'. I see lots of claims and little justification for these claims.

Dialing back consumer-driven capitalism is going to be even harder now than it was a half century ago at the beginning of the TV age! A number of recent psychology studies are finding that the same pernicious effects seen in excessive TV viewing over the years...increased narcissism and materialism, are enhanced by all of our new hand held toys - "smart" phones, laptops, Ipads etc.. The modern environmental movements look more like shallow attempts to pretend to be dealing with a problem that others defer right from the start by denying it even exists! So, is the future a struggle between global warming deniers and global warming pretenders who think having a solar panel or an electric car means they've done their part to fix Planet Earth!

TV age? What? TV is in decline. I haven't watched TV in years. Haven't you heard of netflix or youtube?

A number of recent psychology studies are finding that the same pernicious effects seen in excessive TV viewing over the years...increased narcissism and materialism, are enhanced by all of our new hand held toys - "smart" phones, laptops, Ipads etc..

Maybe, maybe not. A number of these types of social science studies have immense confirmation bias and lack proper methodology.

The modern environmental movements look more like shallow attempts to pretend to be dealing with a problem that others defer right from the start by denying it even exists!

Yeah! How dare people be skeptical, question things and ask for evidence! They should just blindly believe whatever the 'progressives' want them to believe! Why should the people making all these sky-is-falling claims actually have to prove anything or justify their claims with evidence?! *sarcasm*

So, is the future a struggle between global warming deniers and global warming pretenders who think having a solar panel or an electric car means they've done their part to fix Planet Earth!

1. You are setting up the typical false dichotomy between global warming denialism and global warming alarmism. Though I understand that setting up this false dichotomy is necessary for the preservation of your ridiculously belief system because it allows you to avoid actually having to justify or prove anything because you can just point to a belief system that is more ridiculous and pretend that that somehow exempts you from having to justify or prove anything.

2. You have the unjustified claim that Planet Earth is broken. Please justify it.

Edited by -1=e^ipi

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Oh the horror of making the planet more suitable for life!

Edit: this is sarcasm.

Edit 2: But seriously, nice alarmist post. Contains unjustified claims, appeals to emotion and the typical anti-capitalist conclusion. Totally Scientific!

Edit 3: that was sarcasm again.

You know if carbon sinks, like rain forests, were using up this CO2, it wouldn't be over-concentrated in the atmosphere, right?

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You know if carbon sinks, like rain forests, were using up this CO2, it wouldn't be over-concentrated in the atmosphere, right?

What? 'Over-concentrated'? Are you using that adjective correctly?

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/over-concentrated

Are you trying to say that CO2 levels are too high and that if rain forests magically did something that they are not currently doing, that CO2 levels would not be 'too high'?

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You know if carbon sinks, like rain forests, were using up this CO2, it wouldn't be over-concentrated in the atmosphere, right?

Well, plants might have an ability to consume CO2 at a slightly higher rate but maybe it's like humans taking vitamins, there is only so much your body needs or can absorb.

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Brazil's rain forest is dissapearing at a rate of nearly 5000 sq km per year. We are destroying the sinks as we increase emissions.

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Actually I did catch it. But I'm so used to alarmists making up stuff that there isn't really much point trying to point it out. From my perspective it appears that the alarmist mindset is: All those that don't agree 100% with the alarmist mind set must be evil, facts and evidence be damned.

Anyway, it is a well-known fact that CO2 levels have been low for the entire pleistocene. Though I call BS on your 'haven't reached 400 ppm in the past 16 million years' claim. 3.8 million years is reasonable.

Okay, I'm basing the 15 or 16 million number on the Aradhna Tripati analysis that was first published a little over five years ago. Chemical analysis of rock layers is calibrated by the more recent ice core analysis to try to determine their accuracy. I'm not a scientist, but the published data...which every other researcher has access to, found an uncertainty rate of only 14 parts per million. So, it's possible that, at some points in the last 15 million years, Co2 levels got close to 400 and may have actually exceeded the 400 mark. But, the overall trend of the last 15 million years is unmistakable!

The general trend throughout planetary history has seen brief periods of rapid increase in carbon dioxide, followed by longer, slower periods of gradual reduction through sequestration of carbon out of the atmosphere. The disingenuous presentation that climate disinformers present to the public of .....carbon levels go up and down...the Earth gets warmer....it gets colder...it's just part of natural cycles, is complete BS! The real story of Planet Earth is that extinctions...especially large or mass extinctions occur when the carbon levels spike higher through volcanic activity usually associated with plate tectonics. After a long drawdown, when carbon levels are reduced, life flourishes again, and the abundance of life is actually greatest during the ice age periods, like those experienced through the bulk of the Pleistocene.

Maybe humans didn't appreciate the last ice age much, but all of the ocean life, and the coastal plant and animal species during times of lower sea levels may have outvoted the human race....at least until our ancestors discovered how to make fire, and raise the thermostat a little. But in our time, it should be plainly obvious that the temperature is too high already, and one of the major factors that has already started a sixth major extinction of life on Earth.

The future of life on Earth is not going to disappear nor are we at risk of extinction. This is alarmism not based on the scientific evidence.

And what do you base your promise on? I consider the evidence of an estimated 200 animal species (plants still unaccounted for) becoming extinct every day, as well as the rapid retreat of natural habitats, rapid declines in topsoil and fresh water to maintain our food production levels, the total aggregated contamination of land and oceans etc. etc., all of this should tell even the clueless that we are heading down the wrong road, and worth noting that in the previous five major extinctions, the dominant life forms that flourished, were all wiped out early in those extinctions! What makes us so special that we believe our descendents will somehow live through the mess we have created for them?

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Okay, I'm basing the 15 or 16 million number on the Aradhna Tripati analysis that was first published a little over five years ago. Chemical analysis of rock layers is calibrated by the more recent ice core analysis to try to determine their accuracy. I'm not a scientist, but the published data...which every other researcher has access to, found an uncertainty rate of only 14 parts per million. So, it's possible that, at some points in the last 15 million years, Co2 levels got close to 400 and may have actually exceeded the 400 mark. But, the overall trend of the last 15 million years is unmistakable!

Like I said, you alarmists can cherry pick studies that are on the low end of past atmospheric CO2 estimates all you want. But that doesn't change the fact that the mainstream opinion in the scientific community is that atmospheric CO2 concentrations did reach 400 ppm in the Pliocene.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/05/130510-earth-co2-milestone-400-ppm/

The general trend throughout planetary history has seen brief periods of rapid increase in carbon dioxide, followed by longer, slower periods of gradual reduction through sequestration of carbon out of the atmosphere.

Not sure what time scale you are referring to. If you are referring to the geologic record since the Cambrian explosion, this claim is highly debatable. There have been many cases of relatively rapid decreases in atmospheric CO2 such as the Ordovician-Silurian mass extinction event and the late Devonian mass extinction, although there have been periods of rapid CO2 increase such as before the end of the Permian. As for periods of slow gradual reduction in atmospheric CO2, that has been the trend for the Cenozoic, but I don't see it as a general trend for other eras. I don't really see how your claim is a fair description of the geological record.

So I'm going to assume that what you are referring to is the general trend in the Pleistocene, which is the case, but that is driven primarily by Milankovitch cycles. I'm not really sure what point you are trying to make with this though.

The real story of Planet Earth is that extinctions...especially large or mass extinctions occur when the carbon levels spike higher through volcanic activity usually associated with plate tectonics.

Extinction events when CO2 goes up. Extinction events happen when CO2 goes down. Extinction events happen for reasons that are completely unrelated to CO2 levels. What's your point?

After a long drawdown, when carbon levels are reduced, life flourishes again, and the abundance of life is actually greatest during the ice age periods, like those experienced through the bulk of the Pleistocene.

Please provide proof of these claims especially that the abundance of life is greatest during ice ages.

Also, if ice ages are so awesome then do you think it would be beneficial to the Earth if humans performed a bunch of geoengineering on the planet by pumping sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to create a new ice age where Canada, Russia, Northern Europe and Patagonia are covered in ice that is kilometres thick?

Maybe humans didn't appreciate the last ice age much, but all of the ocean life, and the coastal plant and animal species during times of lower sea levels may have outvoted the human race...

Making claims is easy. Proving them is more difficult. Please provide proof.

But in our time, it should be plainly obvious that the temperature is too high already

No it is not obvious, so please provide proof.

one of the major factors that has already started a sixth major extinction of life on Earth.

Arguably. On the other hand some species may be brought back from extinction such as the South Koreans trying to bring back the Woolly Mammoth.

And what do you base your promise on?

On the magnitude of change due to increasing CO2 levels resulting in a climate that is well with-in what has been seen historically over the past 590 million years during which multicellular life has flourished. On the fact that all life on Earth today descends from life that has survived all of the mass extinction events so life on Earth Today is more resilient that life on Earth was say 300 million years ago. On the fact that life evolves and adapts to changing climate as it has been for millions of years. And on the fact that the vast majority of the planet's history did not have an intelligent species such as Humans that are capable of geoengineering the planet, creating artificial environments in enclosed spaces that can sustain life, and will start spreading life to other celestial bodies this century.

I consider the evidence of an estimated 200 animal species (plants still unaccounted for) becoming extinct every day,

So? Not all species are equal and extinctions are not necessarily bad.

the rapid retreat of natural habitats, rapid declines in topsoil and fresh water to maintain our food production levels

Please provide proof that food production levels are in danger.

all of this should tell even the clueless that we are heading down the wrong road

Well apparently I am less than clueless. So please provide me with proof that we are 'heading down the wrong road' rather than give me your emotional appeals.

the previous five major extinctions, the dominant life forms that flourished, were all wiped out early in those extinctions!

Yes, that's why they are so famous. What is your point? Are you trying to infer that that somehow implies that humans are going to go extinct due to the 6th mass extinction event.

What makes us so special that we believe our descendents will somehow live through the mess we have created for them?

1. We are a tropical species and the changes to the climate that will result from increasing atmospheric CO2 will make the planet more hospitable to human life not less. 2. We are intelligent. How many of these previous species had and internet, or language, or cars, or cities, or put satellites in the sky, or went to other celestial bodies? Zero.

Edit: Also, you never really fulfilled my requests for you to provide proof for your various claims in my previous post. Appealing to emotion and making baseless claims is easy. Trying to properly justify why society should take a particular action is much harder.

Edited by -1=e^ipi

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I'm late because updates weren't showing for this thread:

Like I said, you alarmists can cherry pick studies that are on the low end of past atmospheric CO2 estimates all you want. But that doesn't change the fact that the mainstream opinion in the scientific community is that atmospheric CO2 concentrations did reach 400 ppm in the Pliocene.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/05/130510-earth-co2-milestone-400-ppm/

What exactly do you define as cherrypicking?

I read your national geographic story....I'm pretty sure I've read this same one before a number of times already...and there is nothing of substance different from what I have already put down in this thread!

I mentioned before that the Tripati analysis is considered more accurate, but whether CO2 went above 400 during the Pliocene or stayed just below, as according to Tripati is immaterial! Your source doesn't say definitively that CO2 was above 400 during the Pliocene, and it points out that it is believed to be an era at the end of a spike in CO2 levels during the PETM over 50 million years ago, and there was a gradual progression through carbon sequestration, to slowly remove carbon from the atmosphere until recent times:

Read your linked article again!

Some time during the Pliocene, it probably crossed the 400 ppm mark, as it's doing now-but back then it was on its way down. As a result, at the end of the Pliocene, it became cold enough for continental ice sheets to start forming in the northern hemisphere. The Pliocene, says geologist Maureen Raymo of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, "was the last gasp of warmth before the slow slide into the Ice Ages."

Not sure what time scale you are referring to. If you are referring to the geologic record since the Cambrian explosion, this claim is highly debatable. There have been many cases of relatively rapid decreases in atmospheric CO2 such as the Ordovician-Silurian mass extinction event and the late Devonian mass extinction, although there have been periods of rapid CO2 increase such as before the end of the Permian. As for periods of slow gradual reduction in atmospheric CO2, that has been the trend for the Cenozoic, but I don't see it as a general trend for other eras. I don't really see how your claim is a fair description of the geological record.

I'm saying that, GHG levels are the main determining factor over time for setting the thermostat, or global average temperatures. There are tons of idiotic claims made that since CO2 levels were much higher in the distant past...even during apparent ice ages, like the Ordovician, then 400ppm is no problem today! But, the estimated solar output of the Sun during that Ordovician...when some geologists believe ice sheets covered the entire planet for much of the era...was only about 70% of modern solar output. So, the Sun has been growing hotter over time, and the high atmospheric CO2 levels of the distant past would have this world spiraling towards a Venus Syndrome today.

So I'm going to assume that what you are referring to is the general trend in the Pleistocene, which is the case, but that is driven primarily by Milankovitch cycles. I'm not really sure what point you are trying to make with this though.

Never mind the cycles. The fact that CO2 levels varied from about 180ppm during peak ice ages up to 300 during the briefer interglacial thawing events, would indicate that most of life on Earth was adapting towards living on a colder planet. And we have upended that trend in less than 150 years! Much too short a time for any plants or animals to adapt to rapid changes in environment. Anecdotes tossed off like "alligators were swimming in the Arctic Ocean back in the Eocene" are pointless today. The creatures of that time had much longer to adapt to a warmer environment.

Extinction events when CO2 goes up. Extinction events happen when CO2 goes down. Extinction events happen for reasons that are completely unrelated to CO2 levels. What's your point?

You have to go pretty far back in time to find lower CO2 and glaciation attached to mass extinctions! Like the Ordovician-Silurian period when it's believed (but I don't know if it has been definitively proven yet) that ice covered the entire land surface of Earth right down to the Equator. And, nothing like that has occurred for a long time.

Please provide proof of these claims especially that the abundance of life is greatest during ice ages.

I don't even know if anyone has tried to do an exhaustive analysis of the biota of Planet Earth in comparison with today, but a few biologists have speculated that ice ages were good for most life...for one thing they didn't extend down below mid-latitudes...North America being the greatest expansion of ice during the last one. The colder ocean waters of the Arctic and Antarctic are much richer in sea life than the comparative blue ocean waters of the Tropics, because of upwelling of nutrients from the deeper ocean layers. This process is blocked by high temperature surface waters in the Tropics. And, on land...it may be tie between plants and animals driven south by advancing glaciers and cold temperatures, but also having available more land surface in the lower to mid-latitudes because of the lower sea levels. So, aside from a few land species that couldn't adapt to the changes....like the Mastodon apparently...there like was as great or greater abundance of life on land and a much greater abundance of life in the oceans than during those interglacial periods. If the totality of living creatures have a strong effect on carbon levels...as some Gaia theorists believe, most of the life on this planet were trying to keep the thermostat down.

Also, if ice ages are so awesome then do you think it would be beneficial to the Earth if humans performed a bunch of geoengineering on the planet by pumping sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to create a new ice age where Canada, Russia, Northern Europe and Patagonia are covered in ice that is kilometres thick?

First off, none of these geoengineering schemes, except for a rock-weathering enhanced plan in Norway, do not reduce carbon levels...therefore CO2 continues to be absorbed by the world's oceans, turning them more acidic, and increasing the dieoff of life in the oceans.

And, I mentioned before that humans...animals that had been primarily adapted for life in the tropics (except for Neanderthals) would not welcome a return to ice age conditions. But, my point wasn't that we should head into another ice age, it was that the ice ages had become the norm over recent geologic history and that's what the rest of the natural world was most suited for. What it's not suited for is a world at 400 that is rapidly increasing Co2 levels and getting hotter, along with an oversized human population that is still trying to expand and take away more natural habitats!

On the magnitude of change due to increasing CO2 levels resulting in a climate that is well with-in what has been seen historically over the past 590 million years during which multicellular life has flourished. On the fact that all life on Earth today descends from life that has survived all of the mass extinction events so life on Earth Today is more resilient that life on Earth was say 300 million years ago. On the fact that life evolves and adapts to changing climate as it has been for millions of years. And on the fact that the vast majority of the planet's history did not have an intelligent species such as Humans that are capable of geoengineering the planet, creating artificial environments in enclosed spaces that can sustain life, and will start spreading life to other celestial bodies this century.

Lots of red herrings here to smell up the place! First off, in case you are not aware of it, it has been recently determined that when the Triassic began, it took at least 100,000 years for life to flourish again to match the biodiversity lost during the Permian Extinction.

Estimates of the number of species lost during the P/T Extinction are usually set at 95%...could be higher, and if it was 100% of advanced life, we wouldn't be here to argue about how much more risilient we are today! In fact, if one mammal-like reptile (i forget the name) joined the extinction, we would have lost our distant ancestor and not be here for that reason alone.

Our capacity for geoengineering may be what seals our fate here on Earth! Because some idiots are trying to apply engineering solutions to a complex system that is still not completely understood. before I would let engineers and technologists tinker around with living systems, I would insist that they first design and make functional an artificial biosphere...like Biosphere 2 experiments that kept going out of control for unknown reasons and had to be unsealed. This is also the first step before any long term space exploration and colonization can be attempted, but some experts think it's easy to solve.

So? Not all species are equal and extinctions are not necessarily bad.

It's a matter of how many extinctions and how fast! A certain level (no one knows yet) of biodiversity is essential for maintaining ecosystems and stuff we don't like to worry about...like the nitrogen-phosphorus cycle, but when that starts to break down we're screwed!

Please provide proof that food production levels are in danger.

From Mother Jones, reprinted from the Guardian: We're Destroying the Planet in Ways That Are Even Worse Than Global Warming

Humans are "eating away at our own life support systems" at a rate unseen in the past 10,000 years by degrading land and freshwater systems, emitting greenhouse gases and releasing vast amounts of agricultural chemicals into the environment, new research has found.

Two major new studies by an international team of researchers have pinpointed the key factors that ensure a livable planet for humans, with stark results.

Of nine worldwide processes that underpin life on Earth, four have exceeded "safe" levels: human-driven climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land system change, and the high level of phosphorus and nitrogen flowing into the oceans due to fertilizer use.

Researchers spent five years identifying these core components of a planet suitable for human life, using the long-term average state of each measure to provide a baseline for the analysis.

They found that the changes of the last 60 years are unprecedented in the previous 10,000 years, a period in which the world has had a relatively stable climate and human civilization has advanced significantly.

Carbon dioxide levels, at 395.5 parts per million, are at historic highs, while loss of biosphere integrity is resulting in species becoming extinct at a rate more than 100 times faster than the previous norm.

Yes, that's why they are so famous. What is your point? Are you trying to infer that that somehow implies that humans are going to go extinct due to the 6th mass extinction event.

And you think we are going to survive this one because we have the capabilities of causing mass extinctions?

1. We are a tropical species and the changes to the climate that will result from increasing atmospheric CO2 will make the planet more hospitable to human life not less.

Except that the rapid changes we have started, are changing the precipitation patterns....such as the Amazon is drying out right now.

2. We are intelligent. How many of these previous species had and internet, or language, or cars, or cities, or put satellites in the sky, or went to other celestial bodies? Zero.

How long will the internet last after the power goes out? You have not even given a thought to how much energy and resources are needed and to build all the crap of modern civilization. Our present way of life has not been planned for any long term survival. In decades or centuries at most, there will be nothing left except for the decaying edifice of the monuments we have built for ourselves...unless a complete change in thinking about how we live and use the resources of this planet - both renewable and non-renewable. Without that...and time is probably getting very short for making a significant difference, it will all end like all other past civilizations built upon hubris and narcissism, except the next collapse of this global civilization will likely be total.

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Read your linked article again!

Some time during the Pliocene, it probably crossed the 400 ppm mark, as it's doing now-but back then it was on its way down. As a result, at the end of the Pliocene, it became cold enough for continental ice sheets to start forming in the northern hemisphere.

So you are against the word 'probably'? Don't you realize that's how science works? They test hypothesis and given confidence levels using statistical tests. The scientists at the Large Hadron Collider haven't proven that the Higgs' Boson exists; they have only shown that it probably exists at a 5 sigma level (so 99.99994% chance).

I'm saying that, GHG levels are the main determining factor over time for setting the thermostat, or global average temperatures. There are tons of idiotic claims made that since CO2 levels were much higher in the distant past...even during apparent ice ages, like the Ordovician, then 400ppm is no problem today! But, the estimated solar output of the Sun during that Ordovician...when some geologists believe ice sheets covered the entire planet for much of the era...was only about 70% of modern solar output. So, the Sun has been growing hotter over time, and the high atmospheric CO2 levels of the distant past would have this world spiraling towards a Venus Syndrome today.

No. For most of the past, fluctuations in CO2 levels have been driven primarily by changes in the Earth's orbit (if we are talking about the ice ages, that is driven by Milankovitch cycles), Solar activity (if we are talking about events such as the medieval warm period or the little ice age, that is due to solar cycles; over long periods of time such as hundreds of millions of years, that is due to gradual increase in solar irradiance as the sun progresses through its life), volcanic activity (Permian-Triassic mass extinction is a good example) or changes in the positions of continents (this is generally the main cause of temperature fluctuations from geologic period to geologic period).

See for most of the past, it was changes in temperature (due to changes in solar out, earth albedo, ocean circulation due to continents) that ultimately caused fluctuations in CO2 levels (since solubility of CO2 in water decreases with temperature), where as in the past several decades the direction of causation has been reversed by human activity. It will also point out that the longer term general decrease in CO2 levels of the past few hundred million years is due to life being better and better at being able to extract CO2 from the atmosphere and perform photosynthesis. Furthermore, over the ages as life flourished, died and became fossilized, a lot of the Carbon was removed from the biosphere and atmosphere and stored under ground. If humans did not intervene as the only ecological niche capable of rereleasing this back into the biosphere (volcanic activity or plate tectonics is too low) CO2 concentrations would continue to get lower and lower until they reach a point around 150 ppm where photosynthesis starts to become unviable.

Now that said, the gradual increase in solar activity has been more than offset by the reduction in CO2 levels over the past few hundred million years. But in any case, it would be wrong to directly extrapolate CO2 levels from past ages without also considering factors such as changes in solar output or the position of continents. Furthermore, to try to extrapolate the differences in climate between the Pliocene and the Pleistocene as due to differences in CO2 levels is wrong in so many ways.

Primarily, the reason the Earth has been cooling for the past few million years is because of the changes in the positions of the continents. Particularly, the formation of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the closure of the Tethys Sea, and the creation of the Isthmus of Panama (which occurred ~3 million years ago and is the main reason for the difference between the Pliocene and the Pleistocene).

With respect to your comments on Venus, that is pure alarmism. The physics simply do not support the possibility for a 'runaway greenhouse effect' to occur by increasing atmospheric CO2 by a few hundred ppm.

Never mind the cycles. The fact that CO2 levels varied from about 180ppm during peak ice ages up to 300 during the briefer interglacial thawing events, would indicate that most of life on Earth was adapting towards living on a colder planet.

No it doesn't. To do that you would also have to demonstrate that the time scale of evolution is much shorter than I think most scientists would accept. You are basically saying that the timescale for evolution is less than half the evolutionary distance between humans and chimpanzees. If you want to provide proof for your absurd claim I am open to it, but I find it hard to believe. In addition, some biological traits take longer to evolve and adapt than others. The basic biology of life at the molecular level takes the longest by far. Plant photosynthesis is optimized for much higher CO2 levels because historically they were much higher. This is why if you do experiments in a greenhouse and control for CO2, plants grow best at like 1000-1500 ppm.

Much too short a time for any plants or animals to adapt to rapid changes in environment. Anecdotes tossed off like "alligators were swimming in the Arctic Ocean back in the Eocene" are pointless today. The creatures of that time had much longer to adapt to a warmer environment.

So first your are saying that ability for life to adapt is fast, because life is somehow optimized for the Pleistocene climate, but now it is too slow.

You maybe have noticed but there are these things called Seasons that occur Annually that life on Earth seems to deal with just fine, where the rate of change is much higher than anything you are talking about. Furthermore, fluctuations in the Earth's climate over the past 1000 years due to solar cycles, North Atlantic Muti-Decadal Oscillation, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, etc. has produced rates of climate change that while smaller than the current anthropogenic rate of warming, are not orders of magnitude smaller.

Here is a question: If you were an alligator, would you prefer to live in a climate with a temperature of 25 C that is warming at a rate of 0.02 C per year, or a climate with a temperature of 40 C that is warming at a rate of 0.01 C per year. Obviously you would prefer the 25 C because the climate level is far more important than the rate of change on an ecosystem's ability to support life.

If you want to properly justify this whole 'but the rate of change is high' argument you are going to need a lot more evidence than what you have provided.

You have to go pretty far back in time to find lower CO2 and glaciation attached to mass extinctions! Like the Ordovician-Silurian period when it's believed (but I don't know if it has been definitively proven yet) that ice covered the entire land surface of Earth right down to the Equator. And, nothing like that has occurred for a long time.

You have to go back in time to any of the mass extinctions because there were only five of them and they were all a really long time ago. If you want smaller extinction events, you don't have to go that far back. Extinctions at the end of the Pleistocene, extinctions due to the onset of Antarctic Glaciation 34 million years ago, etc. Many of the extinctions in the past couple tens of million years are due to the climate getting colder.

I don't even know if anyone has tried to do an exhaustive analysis of the biota of Planet Earth in comparison with today, but a few biologists have speculated that ice ages were good for most life...

Speculation without sufficient evidence isn't really meaningful. I have pointed to the Cambrian explosion, the higher levels of biodiversity and biomass during warmer eras such as the Carboniferous or the Cretaceous, the fact that human civilization didn't take off until the end of the ice age, the fact that biodiversity and biomass are far higher in a tropical rainforest than in tundra, etc., but none of that really matters. Because you have baseless speculation!

as some Gaia theorists believe, most of the life on this planet were trying to keep the thermostat down.

Wow! Gaia theorists! We are going into pseudoscience and religion now!

First off, none of these geoengineering schemes, except for a rock-weathering enhanced plan in Norway, do not reduce carbon levels...therefore CO2 continues to be absorbed by the world's oceans, turning them more acidic, and increasing the dieoff of life in the oceans.

Well some of them do, but the cheaper and more cost-effective ones do not. And assuming that warming is 'bad' (which you haven't proven and I don't agree with), offsetting increasing CO2 levels with stratospheric aerosols (for example) for many reasons might be preferable than just having a lower atmospheric CO2 level. The net effect of the aerosols and the higher levels of CO2 would reduce the temperature gradient between the equator and the poles, making the Earth's climate more mild, and you would also have the benefit of the CO2 fertilization effect, which would be helpful to plant life everywhere.

With respect to the oceans being more acidic, they have been far more acidic in the past when CO2 levels where many times higher and life got on fine. I also notice that 'how much acidification' never seems to come up with you. Any acidification is bad apparently...

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2004JD005220/full

The rate of decrease of pH of the Oceans has been 0.11 pH from 1751 to 2004, during which atmospheric CO2 has increased from 270 ppm to ~377 ppm. Extrapolating this trend suggests we go from a pH of 8.14 to a pH of 7.85 by 2100 under one of the more alarmist UN scenarios. Of course over a longer term, warming continues time and since warmer water can't dissolve as much CO2 warmer temperatures will act as a negative feedback to partially offset this effect. In any case, we are looking at a <0.29 pH change. How is that the end of the world (especially given that the Earth's oceans have frequently changed acidity by about 0.3 pH over the past couple million years)?

Finally, you can offset acidified oceans through geoengineering techniques such as Iron Fertilization.

And, I mentioned before that humans would not welcome a return to ice age conditions. But, my point wasn't that we should head into another ice age

So you admit that cooling can be bad, and warming can be bad. I'm not in disagreement with this. Life on Earth would probably perform best at a global temperature somewhere between the average of the Pleistocene (14C) and the average since the Cambrian Explosion (22C). What the optimal temperature would be, I do not know, but I suspect it would be above the current 15C that we have for a number of reasons that I have already mentioned. Also, whether the number would be closer to 14C or 22C depends on the timescale of evolution. But a priori I cannot know what the optimal global temperature of life on Earth is.

But I see that a lot of alarmists simply assume that life on Earth was somehow optimized for ~14C but have little evidence to back it up. It also seems to ignore the vast majority of the history of the planet during which multicellular life has flourished. If you want to provided evidence via a rigorous statistical analysis or something I am always open to new evidence but from my perspective I think you are irrationally assuming that before the industrial revolution the climate was somehow optimal or perfect. The climate has never been equilibrium and life has always been changing, so maybe life hasn't had enough time to optimize itself to any particular climate.

What it's not suited for is a world at 400 that is rapidly increasing Co2 levels and getting hotter

Again, this is a claim that I do not see as strongly supported by evidence. What is wrong with 'I do not know the exact climactic conditions that would be optimal for life on Earth and acknowledge the ignorance of humanity'?

Estimates of the number of species lost during the P/T Extinction are usually set at 95%...could be higher, and if it was 100% of advanced life, we wouldn't be here to argue about how much more risilient we are today! In fact, if one mammal-like reptile (i forget the name) joined the extinction, we would have lost our distant ancestor and not be here for that reason alone.

If, if... But it wasn't. Our ancestors survived the P/T mass extinction event because those ancestors were better able to adapt to change than the 95% of species that died out.

Our capacity for geoengineering may be what seals our fate here on Earth! Because some idiots are trying to apply engineering solutions to a complex system that is still not completely understood.

Just because humanity doesn't 'completely understand' something doesn't mean we cannot use our understanding of that thing to solve problems. We don't 'completely understand' gravity yet we can send rockets to the moon. We don't 'completely understand' quantum mechanics yet people are creating quantum computers.

Furthermore, unlike rockets or quantum computers, life has the ability to adapt and has lived under more extreme conditions than what is expected via increasing CO2 levels. Really, if you look at the expected change, 'the fate of the world, humanity and life as we know it' is not at stake. The expected amount of change is simply too small for that.

It's a matter of how many extinctions and how fast!

Why? If not all extinctions are bad this doesn't necessarily follow.

A certain level (no one knows yet) of biodiversity is essential for maintaining ecosystems and stuff we don't like to worry about... like the nitrogen-phosphorus cycle, but when that starts to break down we're screwed!

Seriously, if all of the species on the planet except algae and humans died out, humans wouldn't go extinct, we would just have to eat algae soup (Actually, we might also need certain bacteria that are found commonly in the intestines of Japanese people to help use digest this properly).

Edit: actually, we might need shrimp or something to eat algae so we have a decent protein source... or alternatively have soybeans.

Oh no the alarmist article I already responded to! Again it just makes unsubstantiated alarmist claim after unsubstantiated alarmist claim. An unprecedented rate of change does not necessarily imply the end of the world.

And you think we are going to survive this one because we have the capabilities of causing mass extinctions?

Yes. Yes I do. I think you could increase the expected impact on the environment by a factor of 10 and humans still will not go extinct. The only way we will go extinct is either by genetically engineering ourselves into a new species, cyborgization or a robotic uprising.

Except that the rapid changes we have started, are changing the precipitation patterns....such as the Amazon is drying out right now.

Please provide evidence that 'the Amazon will dry out'. You realize that a warmer planet will have more precipitation because the air will be able to hold more water via the Clausius-Clapeyron relation, right?

How long will the internet last after the power goes out?

How will there be no more power? Will the sun stop shining? Will the wind stop blowing? Will there be no more rivers to make hydro-electric damns? Will the moon suddenly disappear so that there are no more tides to harness tidal energy? Will all the thorium, uranium and other radioactive isotopes on Earth that have been around for billions of years in abundance suddenly disappear? Will the center of the Earth suddenly cool down such that geothermal energy is no longer viable? Will all the trees disappear such that there is no more wood to burn?

You have not even given a thought to how much energy and resources are needed and to build all the crap of modern civilization.

I do, I think in numbers. I'm not sure about you. Have you thought that a reasonable amount of energy is required to maintain the standard of living that we see in developed countries and making energy very expensive may significantly affect that standard of living?

Our present way of life has not been planned for any long term survival.

What is the time scale of 'long term survival' to you? An infinite amount of time? But in an infinite amount of time the stars will run out of fuel and eventually the universe will be unable to support life (at least according to the current understanding). In 5 billion years the Earth will be devoured by the Sun. In 2 billion years, the Earth will have no more liquid water (without intervention from intelligent life). On the time scale of millions of years, I don't see it likely that humans will still exist because we will probably either evolve into another species or get replaced by robots or something. On the time scale of a thousand years, there is arguably enough radioactive material on the planet to sustain a high level of living for that time (and for a longer time period, we can always use the helium 3 from the moon); heck we may even have hydrogen fusion by then. On the time scale of a hundred years, there are arguably enough fossil fuels for that.

So please pick your time scale.

In decades or centuries at most, there will be nothing left except for the decaying edifice of the monuments we have built for ourselves...

See my comment on timescale.

Edited by -1=e^ipi

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So you are against the word 'probably'? Don't you realize that's how science works? They test hypothesis and given confidence levels using statistical tests. The scientists at the Large Hadron Collider haven't proven that the Higgs' Boson exists; they have only shown that it probably exists at a 5 sigma level (so 99.99994% chance).

And, as I've pointed out many times before, we are talking about a complex system here with more variables being discovered every day....such as our ecosystems being impacted by microbes that live deep within the Earth. That LHC on the other hand, is the kind of problem that engineers like to deal with: one with few variables whose probabilities can be accurately determined beforehand....well they had at least one screw up when they first turned it on, but when you are talking about climate, you are making ridiculous claims like 400+ CO2 is no problem, without any justification, other than we're still breathing, and aside from extreme weather, we're still carrying on with the same kind of activities we've become accustomed to.

There are no reliability tests for climate any where in comparison to something like the LHC! But, instead of erring on the side of caution, the general consensus of climate policy-makers across political spectrums from conservative to liberal, is that we can still add X amount of carbon until the atmosphere warms another 2 degrees. Worth noting that this is a politically established benchmark, since 20 years ago, the first IPCC report advised that one degree of increased warming should be the target to aim for to stop adding carbon. The reason it was moved to 2 degrees, was because 1 degree of warming was already baked in by latent heat accumulated in the world's oceans which hasn't impacted atmospheric temperatures yet. As that target seems to become increasingly unrealistic because of economic and political forces, some are talking about "adapting" to a 4 degree warmer world. All of these assessments are total BS because any actual climate research models I've looked at, try to estimate probabilities, not carbon budgets!

The last full report I read which estimated the risks of various carbon levels, gave a 10% chance that today's 400ppm (note CO2 is not the total GHG levels) would raise ocean temperatures enough and melt enough ice in the Arctic and Antarctic to cause further releases of stored carbon in permafrost and methane ice (clathrates). And, recent research on clathrates are finding there are a lot more of them than expected, since clathrates form in deeper waters of more temperate oceans....they are not just an artifact of the Arctic Ocean. At the present target of 450, the odds go up to close to 50% of runaway climate change. Who takes those kinds of risks? Even 10% risk should have been high enough to demand a total change in economics. But, that is not how policymakers who look at short time windows and re-election look at these issues! So, they concocted an outright fraud, by presenting the data to the public as a Carbon Budget....as if it's like money in a cash drawer, and we only have to be concerned when our budget is used up!

Finally, it's worth noting that past extinction events are not a complete guide for future extinctions. As noted, land animals had no barriers to migration during the PETM....and they sure as hell are there now! So far, the major reason for species extinctions and biodiversity loss, has been human encroachment on natural environments, not climate change....yet! The reason why James Hansen declared a few years back that a "Venus Syndrome" type of extinction had to be taken seriously is that, we are living near the end of a long period of carbon sequestration. Carbon levels rose as high as 800 to 900 during the peak of the PETM; but since that time, CO2 levels have been steadily moving downwards, so that during the Pleistocene, they were cycling between 300 and 175ppm. There is a lot more carbon locked up ready to unleash when temperatures are high enough, and today's warming is happening faster than the PETM. And the Sun burns hotter than the Great Dying event at the end of the Permian Era...so, even the Permian...after everything is completely figured out, is still not a guide for what to expect in our Sixth Extinction.

As I have come to understand this issue, the failures to deal with climate change come from one side that has a vested interest in denying the problem exists, and another side that says it will be easy to fix, and that we can carry on with present day economies demanding more energy, more growth and more resources from the ground. If world leaders were ever honest about the issue, then maybe surviving extinction might be possible.....otherwise..............

Edited by WIP

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