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Mass Extinctions from Global Warming?

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the ruh-roh-raggy dept.

348

uncleO writes "The current issue of Scientific American has an interesting article, Impact from the Deep, about the possible causes for the five major global extinctions. It contends that only the most recent one was caused by a 'dinosaur killer' asteroid impact. Evidence suggests that the others were caused by 'great bubbles of toxic H2S gas erupting into the atmosphere' from the oceans due to anoxia." From the article: "The so-called thermal extinction at the end of the Paleocene began when atmospheric CO2 was just under 1,000 parts per million (ppm). At the end of the Triassic, CO2 was just above 1,000 ppm. Today with CO2 around 385 ppm...climbing at an annual rate of 2 ppm...to 3 ppm, levels could approach 900 ppm by the end of the next century."

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348 comments

Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (3, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 7 years ago | (#16353985)

The only extinction I really expect to see is that of the reputations of "scientists" who harp on CO2 emissions when CO2 is a very small part of the overall picture; Methane has a far greater effect, as do many other things.

We have every reason to reduce emissions. I'm absolutely pro-emission-reduction; cleaner air is better for every living thing and that's a perfectly good justification to swing me. However, bogus, over-hyped faux "science" just serves to give the opponents somewhere to stand and take a swing at the "scientists."

The fact is, we've been warmer, and we've been colder, and CO2 is not the be-all, end-all index of why it is cold or hot. For instance, just let a major volcano erupt and you'll see a temperature swing that'll get your attention. Or let methane generation get completely out of hand, that'll put CO2 in perspective for you.

Aside from all that, we'll cope with whatever comes our way, anyway. We always have; we always will. Barring asteroid impacts, of course.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354071)

Ahh, yeah. Let's continue pumping out CO2 as fast as we can possibly dig up the oil and coal,
because it is out of our control and we'll cope anyway.

Oh, and ridiculing science is always fun. I'm sure you must know more about the subject than
all of them put together, which is what makes it so funny.

God forbid we should actually change our habits or do something that may take a single cent
off our net profit, until there is 100%, undeniable evidence that we are destroying the planet.
Anyone who thinks we should is a dirty tree hugging hippy who isn't making any money out of it
anyway.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (0, Offtopic)

ericartman (955413) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354113)

Well said, thank you. Loved the "tree hugging hippy" part. Ecartman

Where did the O2 go? (1)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354611)

It's one thing to talk about increased H2S production, but that totally fails to address the question, "Where did the O2 go?" The article describes the displacement of dissolved O2 by dissolved H2S in anoxic oceans, which is fine as far as it goes. However, unless large reservoirs of elemental carbon (or CO or CH4) are being oxidized to produce CO2 in large quantities, the result should be an increased atmospheric O2 concentration. Perhaps volcanic activity resulted in such an outpouring of CO2 that it dwarfed the O2 forced into the atmosphere by the anoxic oceans, resulting in the increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations inferred by the rock record. Or perhaps the inferred cause and effect relationship is not nearly as simple as the article makes it out to be.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (4, Interesting)

Clirion (720337) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354155)

Did you actually read what he did say? We have every reason to reduce emissions. I'm absolutely pro-emission-reduction; cleaner air is better for every living thing and that's a perfectly good justification to swing me. Seems to me he may actually want to reduce the emissions, just the hype around it is bad.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (1, Insightful)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354601)

Depends on the living thing, actually. Higher CO2 levels would be good for most life which relies on photosynthesis, for example - which in the end means just about all of it, because almost everything that doesn't rely on photosynthesis directly relies on it indirectly. There is little evidence to suggest that increased levels of CO2 has significant adverse effects on life which relies on aerobic respiration either - it acts pretty much as a neutral participant, like nitrogen (unlike clearly destructive pollutants, such as CO).

However, global warming is bad for humans because of the instability it would create in the climate globally, as well as the obvious effects of the rising sea levels. The environment doesn't need our help in this, and this should be a humanist movement rather than an environmental one - all of the significant reasons to prevent global warming are to do with saving ourselves.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (0, Offtopic)

notnAP (846325) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354231)

I wish I had mod points right now...

The reply made so many arguments against the original post that had nothing to the original poster's arguments it should be mod'd Off Topic.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354287)

Science is a long and slow process. You cannot knee-jerk it into working for you, as so many people want to believe. It has taken science 77 years just to prove that breast really isn't best (it's just equal). Something as simple to study as that takes 77 years to get right, you better believe something as complicated and with so many more uncontrollable factors as the environment will take much longer.

The question is, are we willing to risk total destruction of our economy and pre-industrial revolution living standards over what amounts to little more than a scientific theory? We're not talking about a theory that has concretely provable (and now, again, disprovable) components like Einstein's theory of relativity -- we're talking multiple theories that, while in the general sense show a consensus, in the specific sense show several different paths to take and have no specific way to prove them right now other than to take the plunge and see what happens.

I, for one, would rather take the cautious route and wait for more concrete, proven, and accurate information. The economy isn't a laser light beam that you can turn on and off at will. Turning it off (which is what would be required to reduce emissions to the point that most of the more environmentally-evagelistic scientists wish) will result in drastic changes not only to things like lifestyle, but also drastic changes to our standards of health and hunger.

I, for one, believe there is a much better middle ground than "no more CO2 emissions". But, unfortunately, as long as the extremists are able to shout the loudest, we will continue to be unable to find the middle ground.

This really is not much more different than religion, if you think about it. Consider that to the right you would have extremist christians and catholics, people who would, at some point in time, find a way to get rid of anyone who wasn't white. And to the left you have extremist muslims that would be happy to blow up anyone that isn't arabic. In the middle you have people who are whatever religion their parents were and that go to church once a month out of a sense of duty, and some agnostics that don't care so much. Your ultra-right christians would be like your Exxons of the world that just want it all at any cost. Your ultra-left muslims would be like your greenpeaces of the world that just want everyone to have nothing at any cost. Everyone else wants a life of balance but can't get it as long as the other two keep fighting each other.

Example 1: We could easily power everything we use today with nuclear power, at a cost to the economy, if implemented slowly, that would be negligible. The end result would even likely be positive. But we can't have that because ultra-left environmental groups like the Sierra Club think that nuclear power will kill us all. The truth is it's the safest power we've invented yet.

Example 2: We could give people a perfect mass transit system, again, at a cost that would, if implemented at a reasonable pace, be very low. And, clearly, the end result is positive. But if we did that ultra-right oil companies like Shell would tell us our economy will collapse and we'll all die. The truth is that more mass transit helps cities become safer, more tightly-knit communities and redistributes the wealth away from large corporations naturally by positively encouraging local economy over remote economies WITHOUT the nasty look of "WE HATE WAL*MART MAKE THEM LEAVE".

Example 3: We could work on both of the above at a pace that doesn't get people pissed off, that encourages a healthy economy, and it would be of great benefit. But we can't do that because insano ultra-nutball doomsdayer scientists-that-have-the-PhD-but-not-the-scientifi c-method will tell us it's too slow and why the hell aren't we dead already? We need to stop doing anything at all and freeze to death already, dammit!

The ultimate answer, of course, lies within both of the above ideas, but neither will ever be fully implemented, as they should be, because the ultimate truth lies beyond the scope of the extremists, and, sadly, the extremists are the ones that are heard. Not reasonable people like ourselves. Fortunately, there are progressive facets to our society, and, given time, I do believe all of these ideas and many more useful ones will come to at least some fruition. And probably at a pace that doesn't harm anyone.

I guess I just wish it could all happen without the bellyaching from the nutballs, is what I'm saying in the end.

(And for those wondering, I live in a part of the world where most electricity now comes from nuclear power, and one of the least common sources is fossil fuels. It's reassuring to know my government is working at a reasonable pace to fix these issues, and with surprisingly little fanfare.)

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (1)

MollyB (162595) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354439)

Are you really providing insight here? You start with a supposedly-humorous absurd premise, then use it as a springboard to what sounds suspiciously like "talking points" all wrapped up in pseudoscientific prose.

Outside of our insane insistence on business-as-usual, we fail to see that we are, by continuation of current engineering practices, conducting a planet-wide experiment with no escaping the unknown consequences. How does that fit with your plodding cadence into a reasonable future?

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (2, Interesting)

Knossos (814024) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354537)

I agree with a lot you are saying here, however my biggest concerns with powering our countries with nuclear power would be: 1) Where does all the radiactive waste get put? Here in Britain we're already having difficulty picking suitable sites for nuclear waste disposal. Infact, our government has ordered that sites be found multiple times and ignored all proposals anyway. Perhaps that just wouldnt be the case for America, you've got plenty of desert to store your deadly chemicals. I can see there being a lot of problems for countries too small to have any non-populated areas for waste disposal. 2) Terrorism. I don't pretend to know how effective a 747 crashing into a nuclear facility would be. But at the moment I would assume it could trigger a meltdown/explosion/distribution of nuclear material over a wide radius. (Someone with knowledge of this subject please reply to this). All my hopes lie in the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) in France.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (1)

Knossos (814024) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354553)

Damn it, sorry. Forgot to put line breaks in there. Here it is with line breaks:

I agree with a lot you are saying here, however my biggest concerns with powering our countries with nuclear power would be:

1) Where does all the radiactive waste get put? Here in Britain we're already having difficulty picking suitable sites for nuclear waste disposal. Infact, our government has ordered that sites be found multiple times and ignored all proposals anyway.

Perhaps that just wouldnt be the case for America, you've got plenty of desert to store your deadly chemicals. I can see there being a lot of problems for countries too small to have any non-populated areas for waste disposal.

2) Terrorism. I don't pretend to know how effective a 747 crashing into a nuclear facility would be. But at the moment I would assume it could trigger a meltdown/explosion/distribution of nuclear material over a wide radius. (Someone with knowledge of this subject please reply to this).

All my hopes lie in the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) in France.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (5, Informative)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354797)

Without going into a great deal of detail, let me provide a couple of pointers you can use to begin hunting stuff up on the net.

First, with regard to storage of nuclear waste. Passivated glass block storage solves all the storage problems. The waste is distributed in the block, the block will last longer than the waste's dangerous lifespan, the production of the block is easy and the stored materials will neither erode, progress chemically, or distribute themselves through the environment any other way. The technology is here now, and all it takes is using it to resolve the problem. In other words, money. The only down side is that once in said glass block, the "waste" is really waste, that is, we can't use it for anything else. This may not be optimum.

Second, with regard to accidents, modern reactor designs don't have those same kinds of problems. Neither do smaller, low-ish power reactors. For instance, look up pebble bed reactors [wikipedia.org] . Good design is important.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354427)

God forbid we should actually change our habits or do something that may take a single cent off our net profit, until there is 100%, undeniable evidence that we are destroying the planet.

Translation: I don't understand the harm that poorly justified and thought out carbon reduction measures based on insufficient scientific data can do both to society and to my cause and rather than educating myself, I'll belittle anyone who isn't sufficiently aggressive on carbon emission reduction instead.

Sorry, but that's the way I see it. Here's my take on what's going on. We are "doing something", namely we're studying global warming both now and in the past. The more we know, the more effectively we can act, the better the justification will be to the public, and the less likely it is for other forces to derail whatever is needed. We also have been developing the technologies to replace fossil fuels.

Further, it's not clear to me what future emission and absorption rates of CO2 will be. Growing to 900 ppm means a great deal of increase in the consumption of fossil fuels over a century. That's possible, but it also appears that fossil fuel prices will naturally increase on their own due to depletion of existing sources. The human race might not be able to sustain its current CO2 emission rates. You can't count on that to happen without more knowledge, but it brings up an important point. We don't know that global warming will become a genuine problem.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (0, Troll)

ZoneGray (168419) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354783)

Well, of course we won't dig up all the coal and burn all the oil. Unfortunately, the "scientist" made the expedient assumption that usage would continue to increase unabated.

Had he spoken to an economist, he would have learned that once demand starts to exceed new discoveries, prices will increase to the point that other energy sources will become more useful. Has nothing to do with CO2, just simple economics. We'll never burn all the oil because the last 100 years' worth will become too precious.

And had he spoken to an accountant, he'd have been told to cross-check his math; in opther words, how much raw material would be needed to burn at what level of inefficiency to produce that much carbon dioxide?

Speaking of science, how come nobody complains that we're using up all the oxygen? I mean, it takes O2 to make CO2, right? Where does is come from? Why doesn't anybody ever talk about that?

And when the weatherman comes on to tell you how arm it will be, why does he tell you about the clouds in the sky, and not the CO2 in the air? I mean, it's not perfectly distributed throughout the atmosphere, and I'm sure it moves around. Shouldn't it be warmer on days when there's a little more CO2 locally? But they never even mention it.

The title of scientist does not immunize somebody from being full of shit.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (5, Insightful)

Daniel Franklin (60786) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354157)

Are you a "scientist"?

Perhaps you should read some of the literature. Of all the greenhouse gases, CO2 is, by a considerable margin, the most significant. Methane (and others) are far more potent... there just isn't as much, so their effect is smaller.

The fact is, global temperatures are strongly correlated with CO2 concentration. That's a mathematical fact, recorded in the ice of Antarctica. CO2 concentrations are increasing at an unprecedented rate. This is a real cause for concern. Glaciers are shrinking... major chunks of Antarctica are just melting away. I don't doubt that we can survive. However, unless we do something *now* about all the crap we are pumping into the atmosphere (primarily CO2, but also methane and others) we are going to see significant rises in sea levels within our lifetime.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (2, Interesting)

Bongo (13261) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354235)

The fact is, global temperatures are strongly correlated with CO2 concentration. That's a mathematical fact, recorded in the ice of Antarctica.

But in those records the CO2 increases lag temperature increases by 800 years. So which causes which? Climatologists answer this by claiming that some unknown process starts the warming, and then, 800 years later, CO2 comes in and acts as a feedback to cause further warming. That's a rather murky explanation.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354305)

Coccolithophores. They act as a temporary sink in the ocean. As large amounts of them die, they release CO2 into the atmosphere.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (1)

Elkboy (770849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354455)

Realclimate.org explains it [realclimate.org] — basically, there are other factors besides CO2 that affect global temperature. CO2 is released when warming starts and drives the majority of the later warming. 800 years is a small part of the warming cycles and all this lag shows us is that historically, global warming has been triggered by other factors. There's no doubt that increased CO2 traps more heat and it's a fact that CO2 concentrations are at historical highs due to human emissions.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (1, Insightful)

Bongo (13261) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354757)

Realclimate.org explains it -- basically, there are other factors besides CO2 that affect global temperature. CO2 is released when warming starts and drives the majority of the later warming. 800 years is a small part of the warming cycles and all this lag shows us is that historically, global warming has been triggered by other factors. There's no doubt that increased CO2 traps more heat and it's a fact that CO2 concentrations are at historical highs due to human emissions.

They "explain" it using a hypothesis. And yes, the 800 year lag doesn't disprove that CO2 traps heat, but then, their hypothesis doesn't prove that it traps all the heat needed for that further 4200 year warming. Instead, consider a simpler hypothesis, namely that whatever caused the initial 800 year warming, also caused most of the subsequent 4200 year warming. Otherwise, why else would temperatures eventually drop while CO2 remained high?

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (3, Interesting)

Alef (605149) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354219)

Methane has a far greater effect, as do many other things.

Methane is a stronger greenhouse gas per molecule. But that doesn't mean it has a greater impact, since there is much less methane being released into the atmosphere.

As a funny side note: a significant amount (more than a third) of the anthropogenic methane emissions are coming from agriculture -- farting livestock basically.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354653)

This wasn't so funny when governments (particularly New Zealand) started proposing a "fart tax" to charge farmers for the methane emissions of their herd. It threatened to do many of the smaller farmers out of business.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (4, Insightful)

ccarson (562931) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354223)

I've been following global warming for a long time now doing a lot research on the side for the last couple of years. Here are some facts about global warming. Some of which you hear and don't hear from the main stream media:

1.) The world appears to be getting warmer with many computer models showing an increase in global temperature.
2.) Tying a trend to warmer temperatures based on older data from the early 1900's is suspect at best. Good, reliable, accurate scientific equipment that measures the temperature wasn't readily available until recently (late 1900's).
3.) The sun's activity has increased by approx. 10% in the last 15 years. In other words, it's getting hotter.
4.) Apparently, the Earth magnetic field has decreased by 10% in the last 10 years. I'm an electrical engineer and during my studies in particle physics, I learned that a particles velocity can be affected by magnetic fields. I keep hearing about the increased activity of our Sun and believe it's possible that more of the Sun's radiation is penetrating the Earth's magnetic field due to it being weaker. If more radiation hits the Earth and the Sun is spewing out more heat, shouldn't that also increase the overall temperature of the Earth and can global warming be attributed to this?
5.) Jupitor is experiencing the same climate change that Earth is. (source: http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/060504_red_j r.html [space.com] )
6.) Mars is experiencing the same climate change that Earth is. (source: http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/solarsystem/ mars_snow_011206-1.html [space.com] )


How can you explain the recent same climate changes on different planets? I doubt it's all those cars being driven there.

Is it possible that the warmer temperatures that Earth is experiencing are caused by cyclical natural phenomena? What about glaciers in Greenland that have been shrinking for 100 years (source: http://www.breitbart.com/news/2006/08/21/060821191 826.o0mynclv.html [breitbart.com] )? What about the American dust bowl in the early 1930's? Was that caused by huge carbon emissions or was it a small natural climate cycle that just happens? Also, how do you explain huge ice ages on Earth? Were those climate changes, which are no doubt more extreme than what's going on now, caused by the combustion engine?

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (4, Insightful)

Elkboy (770849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354413)

2.) Scientists do new measurements on old sources. We don't just rely on old measurements.

3.) Who says that? According to the World Radiation Center and the Max Planck institute, there has been no increase in solar irradiance since the 40s.

5.) Jupiter, the gas giant, which is so much like the earth? As for Mars, it's interesting how just a few snaps from space can make you think, while years and years of direct measurements and hundreds of thousands of years of proxy data from earth means nothing.

Noone is denying that natural cycles exist. But there is no theory to explain the observed climate changes based on natural cycles alone. They work on time scales of thousands of years, while we're seeing change on a scale of just decades or centuries. What natural cycles do show us, however, is that an increase in CO2 concentration means higher temperatures. That is a fact, just as the observed spike in CO2 concentration is a fact. The data also shows that natural CO2 fluctuations did have a strong effect on ice ages and warm periods, and now humans have increased CO2 levels to historical highs.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (2, Informative)

ccarson (562931) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354609)

3.) Who says that? According to the World Radiation Center and the Max Planck institute, there has been no increase in solar irradiance since the 40s.

That's incorrect. See here: http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/sun_output_0 30320.html [space.com]

And for the record, a minor correction on my part, the increase in the Sun's activity isn't 10% in 15 years but rather 1.5-2.0% in 30 years. Regardless, my point is it's getting warmer which may explain why the Earth is also warmer.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (4, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354673)

Who says that? According to the World Radiation Center and the Max Planck institute, there has been no increase in solar irradiance since the 40s.

There have been some really exceptional flares recently, X-class and basically darned near off the scale (X22(!), in 2001 if memory serves.) We've been lucky enough to miss a direct hit from the worst of them, but clearly, old sol is having a bit of a temper tantrum, at least when you consider the narrow environmental window we can survive within. As a ham radio operator, I've been carefully watching, and been directly affected by, the 11-ish year solar cycle for the last fifty years, and I can tell you that the atmosphere's behavior today in terms of propagation is not even remotely similar to the way it was when I first began paying attention. This is essentially a direct the result of solar activity, and of little else, as near as anyone has been able to figure out. So I'm inclined to be doubtful when anyone says that solar input to the planet isn't changing, based on my own observations, for which I have logs dating back to the late fifties.

But there is no theory to explain the observed climate changes based on natural cycles alone.

This does not mean that we are not seeing a natural cycle. There is no validated theory connecting quantum and macro level activity, either, but that doesn't mean it isn't connected. There is no theory that definitively explains how a "big bang" could come about, yet it may be the case, and so on. The bottom line is, nature doesn't give a hoot for our theories, it does what it does despite what we believe. Theories are our best shot at trying to understand what is going on. But in many cases -- how brains work, what intelligence means, interesting details about gravity, and yes, climate, theory is not really very well nailed down.

The fact that in the geological record, CO2 increases lag warming periods by quite a bit puts at least some reasonable doubt on it as a causative agent, per se. Dust, on the other hand, is a known causative agent (see 1816, AKA the "year without a summer" for a seminal example.) It may well be that particulates are a far greater villain in the end. Certainly the more recent records (last millennium or so) favors this outlook.

Look, it is perfectly reasonable to argue for reduction of emissions. We have lots of right here, right now, reasons to so argue. Acid rain. Particulate levels of various unfriendly materials. Radioactivity from burning coal. Simple visibility beyond a mile or so in urban areas. Why not stick with what we actually know instead of creating a cult of "CO2 is the Evil Heat God" worshipers out of what is really pretty doubtful (and ass backwards in terms of causality) theory? Maybe a hundred years from now we'll have a handle on climate. Maybe (though I personally doubt it) on weather as well. But clearly, we do not today, and it seems quite ridiculous to get in a froth over such doubtful science.

And then there's the whole "politically correct" factor; there is no question that speaking against the climate change faction is not any way to get funding, to get published, or even to get invited to a party. That's got a very bad smell when it applies to science. We're supposed to make predictions from the data, not match the data to our predictions, no matter what the outside influences are. I fear climate science has done very poorly in this regard. From strident predictions of an "immanent ice age" to "we're all gonna fry!" within the space of a few decades is a real bell-ringer. It seems to me that these folks need to spend a little more time looking at what is happening before we should pay them a whole lot of attention in terms of them having the definitive scoop on what's going to happen... or not.

Troll Food. (4, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354461)

"I've been following global warming for a long time now doing a lot research on the side for the last couple of years. Here are some facts about global warming. Some of which you hear and don't hear from the main stream media"

Just in case you actually belive your "research", here is a handy mythbuster [realclimate.org] . A bit of research on that site will set you straight, the link itself points to a search on the word "myth", I'm confident the results will cover your objections and questions.

BTW: If you can come up with an original myth I'm sure the boffins at realclimate will be happy to try and bust it for you, if they can't then you may just end up famous.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354495)

The possible existance of natural causes of global warming doesn't exclude the possible concurrent existance of human causes of global warming. If both are real, we're merely double as bad off.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354499)

4.) Apparently, the Earth magnetic field has decreased by 10% in the last 10 years. I'm an electrical engineer and during my studies in particle physics, I learned that a particles velocity can be affected by magnetic fields. I keep hearing about the increased activity of our Sun and believe it's possible that more of the Sun's radiation is penetrating the Earth's magnetic field due to it being weaker. If more radiation hits the Earth and the Sun is spewing out more heat, shouldn't that also increase the overall temperature of the Earth and can global warming be attributed to this?

Dude, you've used basically the same paragraph for at least 3 previous posts.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (1)

rbarreira (836272) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354571)

2.) Tying a trend to warmer temperatures based on older data from the early 1900's is suspect at best. Good, reliable, accurate scientific equipment that measures the temperature wasn't readily available until recently (late 1900's).

Have you heard about this? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (5, Informative)

Max von H. (19283) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354799)

What about the American dust bowl in the early 1930's? Was that caused by huge carbon emissions or was it a small natural climate cycle that just happens?

That was man made, according to this wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] :

"The Dust Bowl was the result of a series of dust storms in the central United States and Canada from 1934 to 1939, caused by decades of inappropriate farming techniques, with buffalo herds that fertilized the soil displaced by wheat farming, followed by a severe drought. The fertile soil of the Great Plains was exposed through removal of grass during plowing. During the drought, the soil dried out, became dust, and blew away eastwards, mostly in large black clouds. At times, the clouds blackened the sky all the way to Chicago, and much of the soil was completely lost into the Atlantic Ocean."

Get your facts straight, puhleeeaaase! Western civilization and productivist agriculture hold a nasty record in destroying the environment on a wide scale. You can't destroy entire ecosystems without suffering consequenses, short-term and long-term.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (1)

lixee (863589) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354323)

Methane has a far greater effect, as do many other things.
Given that 10% of farts contain methane, I believe you have a point.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354509)

The only extinction I really expect to see is that of the reputations of "scientists" who harp on CO2 emissions when CO2 is a very small part of the overall picture; Methane has a far greater effect, as do many other things.

Right now yes, but what's being discussed is the CO2 levels at these extinctions and how we may get there one day, along with giving an estimate. The article is not about "oh wow, we're going to die from CO2 level tomorrow" like you seem to imply. If we're going to start seeing more serious effects from this in the next century, it only makes sense to start adapting now while it would be far easier than by then. We're already complaining it's too hard, after all, so imagine where we'll be in the coming few decades.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (2, Informative)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354527)

we'll cope with whatever comes our way, anyway. We always have; we always will.

No we haven't. The sixth extinction has started a few centuries ago and there's hardly anything we've done to cope with that, and more and more species are disappearing and there's hardly anything we can do to it. And whatever we do now we're in for a ride to the land of troubles, because as the unfreezing of permafrost and the acidification of the ocean due to its higher concentration in carbon release gigatons of CO2, these new gigatons of CO2 in the atmosphere contribute to the very unfreezing of permafrost and acidification of oceans, in other words even if we totally stopped emiting CO2 or methane if you like, the global warming would go on on its own.

You see what we gotta cope with is not simply the direct warming effect due to our emissions, what we rather have to cope with is our environment's kind of self-destruction process

just let a major volcano erupt and you'll see a temperature swing that'll get your attention

Oh man how I love to prove people wrong. Volcanoes actually cool down the atmosphere because of the aerosols they spray in the air. That's because of a volcanic eruption that we had a year without a summer [wikipedia.org]

Or let methane generation get completely out of hand, that'll put CO2 in perspective for you.

As much as methane can have a global warming effect, I think there's quite a difference between the volume of CO2 released and the volume of methane, both naturally and from our emissions, which makes CO2 a more important protagonist.

Ignorance is not the way to do this. (2, Informative)

NockPoint (722613) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354617)

... when CO2 is a very small part of the overall picture; Methane has a far greater effect, as do many other things.

CO2 is the central climate gas. No, it doesn't have the largest warming effect; water does, nor the largest effect per molecule; SF6 is the current leader with 22,200 times the greenhouse effect of CO2. CO2 is the central climate gas because it is the reason why the Earth's climate has been mostly stable over geologic history.

CO2 is released by volcanic action, and removed by rock weathering. Rock weathering is a temperature dependant process. If the climate is warmer than the equilibrium temperature, more CO2 is removed by rock weathering, cooling the climate. Volcanic activity varies somewhat, which changes the equilibrium temperature. Human releases of CO2 are about 150 times that of current volcanic activity. The good news is that there is only enough fossil fuels to continue such releases for a few hundred years, far shorter than the effective lifetime of free carbon (as CO2 in the atmosphere, carbon in living and dead plants, etc), so the climate will not reach the equilibrium temperature.

Water acts to magnify climate change, as warmer temperatures mean more water vapor, and less snow cover. Methane is the joker in the pack, but probably not a good disaster movie. SF6 is produced in such tiny amounts as to be almost a non-issue, yet with a lifetime of about a million years, tiny amounts will add up.

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=227 [realclimate.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulfur_hexafluoride [wikipedia.org]

Aside from all that, we'll cope with whatever comes our way, anyway. We always have; we always will. Barring asteroid impacts, of course.

RTFA: "Five times in the past 500 million years most of the world's life-forms have simply ceased to exist." Only one of these extinctions has a huge crater and other convincing signs of a killer asteroid. Perhaps there are even some events that might be harder to cope with than a killer sized asteroid. But H2S bubbling out of the oceans probably wouldn't make as good of movie as "Deep Impact".

--

This is not a sig. If it was a sig, it would say something witty.

Re:Fearmongering is not the way to do this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354731)

Most of these scientists study the climate as their primary job, and have been for many years, they'll have PhDs in climatology.

What do you have?

I'd stop and think about what you're saying about "scientists" if I were you. Idiot.

bad news for North Face (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354003)

I'm putting my money in swimwear companies and sunscreen. The glass is always half full for me. Mary Sunshine

Re:bad news for North Face (2, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354389)

I'm looking at buying farmland in Canada and Antarctica. ;-)

-jcr

There's only one thing that's going to kill us (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354007)

Media hot air.

Give Up - Commercial Interests too Powerful (3, Insightful)

SRA8 (859587) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354023)

Give up people. Commercia interests are too powerful to care about Global Warming. Heck, they cant manage to fix things that will affect us in 10 to 20 yrs (social security, balooning health care.) Who cares about something truly long term? Please correct me if i'm wrong, but I do think that we're screwed on this one...

Re:Give Up - Commercial Interests too Powerful (1)

Jules IV (1010773) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354045)

Totally agree, thats the ultimate challenge for mankind: a long effort toward better living, understanding and enviromental survival.

Re:Give Up - Commercial Interests too Powerful (1)

nickallen (905814) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354167)

Commercial interests are driven by consumers so if we all act together we can help change this. It makes little sense to completely blame commercial entities for the situation. A company will try to maximise profits and if that means being more environmentally friendly because that is what consumers want then that is exactly what they will do. Unfortunately, few companies are rewarded by their customers for being environmentally friendly. This requires good education about the issues and ideas on what we can all do to help change this. I'm hopeful that this can change - for example, if I see a product that has carbon neutral emissions I would buy that over one that isn't and I walk or cycle instead of taking the car for the majority of my journeys. There are many small things we can all do that would make a huge difference if everyone tried. I think we're more likely to make a significant difference this way than to rely on the governments to enforce behaviour by law - it is obvious that they are doing too little and too late...

Re:Give Up - Commercial Interests too Powerful (5, Insightful)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354225)

Commercia[l] interests are too powerful to care about Global Warming.
This attitude drives me crazy. If a large number of consumers start demanding greener products, some "commercial interest" will supply them. They will do this to gain an advantage over their competitors or a foothold in an entrenched market. Witness hybrid cars. They command a significant price premium over gas-only, yet there are waiting lists to buy them. Most financial analysts say they don't pay back that premium, even at $4/gallon for gas. But yet many people buy them anyhow - because they believe in the cause. And I'm sure they are very profitable as well (that nasty p-word). Those profits help the "commercial interests" to re-invest in even better models and progress is made. What is not helpful is reams of well-meaning government regulations which mostly serve to suffocate innovation, while at the same time, usually having unintended consequences that are more damaging than the problem they were attempting to address.

Re:Give Up - Commercial Interests too Powerful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354795)

Your example of hybrid cars is severely flawed. What percentage of people actually own hybrid cars? To reduce emissions by a significant amount, a *majority* would need to own them, but instead, most consumers go for the more "profitable" non-hybrids. A few people who feel guilty about the environment are not enough to turn the tide. This is why we need regulaion - there are some issues in society where everyone acting selfishly results in a worse solution than everyone acting together. Look up the Prisoner's Dilemma sometime.

Re:Give Up - Commercial Interests too Powerful (1)

love2hateMS (588764) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354373)

Err.. don't you think these mysterious, nefarious, greedy "commercial interests" have some stake in protecting the planet? ie. If the planet is engulfed in flames, or C02, or giant termites from space, how are these nasty businesses going to make money?

Global climate change is a fact-- human-induced global climate change is an utterly unproven pile of steaming hysteria.

Re:Give Up - Commercial Interests too Powerful (1)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354605)

"Err.. don't you think these mysterious, nefarious, greedy 'commercial interests' have some stake in protecting the planet? ie. If the planet is engulfed in flames, or C02, or giant termites from space, how are these nasty businesses going to make money?"

Valid question, but inapplicable to actual corporate practice. Any corporation's board has a more immediate "stake" in maximizing share value, assuming they want to keep their six or seven figure salaries. They do, unsurprisingly, and so whatever interest a corporation might have in the consequences of human-induced global climate change is dwarfed by the profit motive. Simple microeconomics.

Re:Give Up - Commercial Interests too Powerful (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354625)

Err.. don't you think these mysterious, nefarious, greedy "commercial interests" have some stake in protecting the planet? ie. If the planet is engulfed in flames, or C02, or giant termites from space, how are these nasty businesses going to make money?

The owners will already have made their money, and move to gated communities in Aspen, Alaska, Antarctica or wherever while the rest of us fry.

Re:Give Up - Commercial Interests too Powerful (1)

mutterc (828335) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354669)

don't you think these mysterious, nefarious, greedy "commercial interests" have some stake in protecting the planet?

Of course not. Protecting the planet is way too long-term of a project. Better to have good numbers this quarter, no matter how bad for the company / industry / economy / planet later.

Re:Give Up - Commercial Interests too Powerful (1)

SRA8 (859587) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354697)

This is exactly my point. Unfortunately, decisions for corporations are made on a quarter-by-quarter basis. At best, two or three year foresight is used by companies like MSFT who have long product cycles. Politicians use [length of term]-length decisions. How do we get the Establishment to think long term? Hasnt worked for Social Security in the US. We know FOR A FACT that Social Security WILL run out in 2024, but we havent done anything about that.

Ballooning healthcare - and poor spelling. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354515)

You talk about the inability to fix things over a 10 to 20 year period. Ballooning health care is something that could be fixed almost overnight by booting out 10 to 20 million illegal aliens. These people do not have healthcare. Their idea of going to the doctor is a trip to the emergency room because they can't be refused. Colds, minor stuff that can be taken care of is instead being handled at the emergency room. The cost for handling a patient at an emergency room is 3 to 5 times the cost of a regular office visit.

Another thing that has driven medical costs sky high: Guys like John Edwards, who manufacturers lawsuits about medical malpractice. Scummy attorneys who make $10 to $20 million per year suing big corporations "because they can afford to pay". $25 million dollars is a little ridiculous for a plaintiff award. Yet that's what these lawyers insist upon, "to send a message". Every lawyer wants to send a message.

So next time you have to pay $200 for insurance for the month for a family of four, thank a lawyer, and thank a liberal democrat for allowing illegals to flood our country.

i wouldn't worry, (0, Troll)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354037)

these events occured such a long time ago that the whole make up of the world was sufficiently different that I think it would be strange to be worrying about it now. I also wonder if these events might have exhausted themselves naturally.

Still, it's 100 years away at least, by which time I'll be living on mars ; )

Re:i wouldn't worry, (3, Insightful)

Jules IV (1010773) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354081)

Sorry to be bad news, but i really doubt we will ever live on Mars,its an utopia. We might get some minerals and riches (some rare metals and alloys maybye) but there will never be any life or civilization on this planet, it will probably be exploited by robots. It has seized its volcanic activities for a long time, so the 'core' of the planet died several thousand of years ago, so there is no hope of having a planet with any atmosphere, and since the magnetic core is not existing at all, the gamma radiation levels will always be unfavorable to any settlement of human colony. So, to our knowledge, there is only one planet on which life is possible, its earth, lets try to manage it cleverly for a while, since there is no escape from it.

Re:i wouldn't worry, (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354627)

so the 'core' of the planet died several thousand of years ago

lol, I love how people have such an aweful representation of geological scales. Like this old lady who said that where she lived ocean was there a few hundred of years ago when it was really in the Jurassic (about 180 million years ago according to my geological map of France). The core of the planet died most likely (i didn't check) a few hundred million years ago, or even a few billion years ago.

so there is no hope of having a planet with any atmosphere

I didn't get that, what does the atmosphere have to do with volcanic activities or the planet's core? Mars already has and atmosphere by the way, although it's substentially thiner than ours, if we wanted to make it more earth-like we could, but it would take hundreds of years.

Re:i wouldn't worry, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354645)

...if we wanted to make it more earth-like we could, but it would take hundreds of years.

Just curious, which geologic time scale are you using here? Is this the one you mentioned (e.g., the real one), or is this the grandparent's/old lady's?

Re:i wouldn't worry, (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354769)

which geologic time scale are you using here?

ha. ha. loser, that was weak. We're not even talking about a geological phenomena. Scenarios of terraforming are usually all about hundreds of thousands of years.

Re:i wouldn't worry, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354129)

Really, the way chemical reactions, and gases and equilibrium and such work may have changed since then. Studying these things is very significant. Saying there's no point studying it is just like saying there's no point studying anything.

Ok, maybe you'll be living on mars, but there will be my kids' kids here that I'm concerned about. I realise you weren't serious, but being serious this is of course why we are screwed -- the people with the power to do something can't think past their 4 year terms. Never vote for governments that say they want to cut taxes each year. They're going to run us into the ground in more ways than one before their through, but if all goes according to their un-thought-out plans, it will be the next government's fault. And even if the problems take two terms to occur and they're back in power they'll just blame it on the previour term government. It's all a game, and we're the spectators. If we want to live, and our kids to live, we have to move out of the spectator arena and start getting involved. Reading beyond the pre-election party hype and thinking of the long-term impact of their policies, and voting for those long as well as shorter term interests is the only thing that will save us. On a mass level, we deserve the government we have since we elected them, and therefore if the planet is run into the ground and kills us then we did it to ourselves.

Re:i wouldn't worry, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354179)

Still, it's 100 years away at least, by which time I'll be living on mars ; )

Actually, the end of the next century is more like 200 hundred years away, rather than just 100 years. Of course, I didn't read the article, so you could still be right.

Re:i wouldn't worry, (1)

Alef (605149) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354247)

Still, it's 100 years away at least, by which time I'll be living on mars ; )

We'd have to screw up pretty badly before it is easier to terraform Mars into a habitable planet than to restore Earth.

Re:i wouldn't worry, (3, Insightful)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354387)

That's something that I love about the whole terraforming argument. So many people out there believe that we'll be able to produce drastic rapid climate change on another planet and that it will completely stabilize itself the moment we snap our fingers and say "stop." We're only barely beginning to understand the climate of the planet we've inhabited for 2 million years. What makes you guys think we'll be able to go somewhere else with variables that we don't even know about and effect changes we can't make happen here?

One wonders (0, Troll)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354041)

Which side is right ...

Environmentalists :
-> CO2 will cause mass extinctions
but also
-> gsms cause brain cancer (show me one single case ...)
-> against nuclear power, the easiest and most economically viable option to stopping global warning

Everybody else
-> There is not sufficient evidence to really change our policy (this btw, is unfortunately very true)
-> Therefore CO2 does not cause problems (this conclusion may be true, but the honest answer is : we don't know)

So what do we do ? There is one viable option to reduce oil dependancy : nuclear power. So the debate really is coming down to :
-> Massive amounts of relatively harmless (in small quantities) CO2 + tar + ... or minute quantities of very very harmful nuclear waste

The alternatives are, at best, in development
-> fusion : currently not possible, in development
-> solar power : too expensive, currently massive quantities of oil are needed to create solar panels, research ongoing
-> wind : unreliable, will place extreme demands on distribution net, and effects unknown
-> sea wave power : currently not possible, in development

(obviously we will still need oil for chemical industry etc, but nuclear power could cut oil needs 30-40%, and thus cut our dependancy on the middle east)

Imho the environmentalist option to be against both oil and nuclear power is not going anywhere, it's just not helpful. You can call all you want for the moon to come down, but regardless it's just not going to happen. Also, you cannot turn of all energy in the country for 5 years until an alternative is developed. It needs to be here now, working and functional, and proven. Obviously you cannot turn over the country to something like wind power.

Re:One wonders (2, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354095)

Which side is right ... Environmentalists : -> CO2 will cause mass extinctions but also -> gsms cause brain cancer (show me one single case ...) -> against nuclear power, the easiest and most economically viable option to stopping global warning

You think you have to actually pick a side, and sign up to a complete party line? Do that and you don't think at all.

Re:One wonders (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354403)

You think you have to actually pick a side, and sign up to a complete party line? Do that and you don't think at all.

Come election day, and you have very little choice but to do so. In the US, any issue which isn't split clearly down the Democrat/Republican line and people fall down on both sides is completely lost. I'm not saying that you'll find a party program that'll completely match your preferences here either, but with 7 parties in parliament you're pretty sure to find something that'll be at least a partial match. The break down pretty muchy like this: Far left, left, right, far right, christians, environmentalists, rural interests. And the smaller parties really do have an influence when building coalitions and the like, making sure that their key issues are covered. While it has its downsides, such as blame distribution I feel that it adds a lot more dynamics to the politics. It doesn't take much for a party to take a rather decent fall in the polls as people switch to adjacent parties, giving clear signals that "We don't like what you're doing right now" within the same block or going to a block-neutral party. After all, there's only a really few big issues that'll make people switch their policy completely (and with two parties, they naturally become pretty much opposites).

Re:One wonders (2, Interesting)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354105)

There is one viable option to reduce oil dependancy : nuclear power.

Nuclear power (especially on its own) isn't going to do much to reduce oil dependency. It's not like much electricity comes from burning oil or derivatives.

Re:One wonders (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354411)

No, but if electricity is cheap enough compared with oil, then the demand for eletrically powered things (rather than oil powered) will shoot up - I'm thinking heating systems, vehicles, that sort of stuff.

Problem is, to appeal to the mass market it's got to be cheape enough once you've factored in the extra cost of buying an electric vehicle - but as demand increases the existing problems with making electric and hybrid electric vehicles which can perform to a similar standard as petrol powered ones will slowly melt away.

Re:One wonders (2, Insightful)

SirWinston (54399) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354557)

> Nuclear power (especially on its own) isn't going to do much to reduce oil dependency.
> It's not like much electricity comes from burning oil or derivatives.

First, we in the U.S. burn large amounts of fossil fuels (coal, oil derivatives etc) for electricity--precisely because unlike Europe we haven't built new nuclear power plants in decades.

Second, the ubiquity of cheap nuclear-generated electricity would easily have a ripple effect on other areas of infrastructure, phasing in electric capacitance charging stations to slowly displace gas pumps as electric cars replace petrol guzzlers.

All-electric retrofits of existing gas/electric hybrids are so impressive that cars designed from the start as all-electric would be phenomenal; today's battery tech makes this feasible, unlike the early days with the EV1. Add large capacitors like the ones mentioned in a recent /. article in to the equation, and performance, range, and recharge time can be improved.

An abundance of cheap nuclear-generated electricity would change everything. Cutting back on fossil fuel use and resultant greenhouse gasses would merely be the tip of the iceberg--imagine if energy eventually became an order of magnitude cheaper due to a real effort to create a nuclear infrastructure, the ripples that could have. In IT alone the effects would be huge--one of the largest ongoing costs to companies like Google, for example, is the big energy bill its countless servers and cooling solutions generate. A nuclear infrastructure generating more and cheaper energy could boost the whole economy in the long term.

Re:One wonders (3, Informative)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354693)

It's not like much electricity comes from burning oil or derivatives

Riiight [nationmaster.com] , except that 80.2% of China's production of electricity and 71.4% of the USA's production of electricity is coming from fossil fuels, and that for the whole world 65.1% of electricity is produced from fossil fuels.

You're right, it's not that much, it's only two thirds.

Re:One wonders (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354779)

You're right, it's not that much, it's only two thirds.

Fossil fuels != oil.

Most fossil-fuel related *electricity production*, by my understanding, comes from coal (and gas ?), not oil (or derivatives like petrol).

(Heating with oil was something I hadn't considered, however, largely because it's not very common here in Australia (neither is really cold weather, for that matter).)

Re:One wonders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354109)

nuclear power, the easiest and most economically viable option to stopping global warning
Check your sources ! WIndpower is cheaper, Nuclear power only seems cheaper because Nuclear energy is subsidized heavily (a LOT more than green energy), and they don't count the cost of building and destroying the nuclear power plants. (I BEG you to check this)

Re:One wonders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354199)

Links would be helpful.

Re:One wonders (4, Insightful)

Alef (605149) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354121)

Environmentalists :
-> CO2 will cause mass extinctions but also
-> gsms cause brain cancer (show me one single case ...)
-> against nuclear power, the easiest and most economically viable option to stopping global warning

Everybody else
-> There is not sufficient evidence to really change our policy (this btw, is unfortunately very true)
-> Therefore CO2 does not cause problems (this conclusion may be true, but the honest answer is : we don't know)

You are trolling. First you label everyone believing that human induced global climate change is really happening as "the environmentalists" in an attempt to discredit that opinion, ascribing it to a relatively small number of extremists. Then you put a bunch other opinions in the mouths of these people to make them sound irrational and stupid.

All this when in reality the vast majority of researchers and people (at least outside the US) find that there are strong reasons to think that we are causing global warming, and that the consequences likely are devastating for a large portion of the Earth.

Re:One wonders (1)

mustafap (452510) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354297)

>the environmentalists" in an attempt to discredit that opinion

Do yo ulive in a country where being an environmentalist is a bad thing? god help you, I hope it's a small country.

Re:One wonders (1)

Alef (605149) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354371)

Do yo ulive in a country where being an environmentalist is a bad thing? god help you, I hope it's a small country.

Quite the opposite, actually. However, it seemed the OP was hoping the term would bring negative connotations. At least with his definition of environmentalism. In your case he clearly failed.

Re:One wonders (1)

constantnormal (512494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354759)

... there are strong reasons to think that we are causing global warming ..."

If human activity is to blame for the current bout of global warming, then one would logically expect the current bout of global warming to have begun sometime during, oh, let's say the past couple of hundred years. Certainly no more than a few thousand.

But that's NOT what the evidence shows. The evidence shows that the current cycle of global warming began about 30,000 years ago. Other evidences include the land bridges between Ireland and Britain, Alaska and Siberia disappearing as the oceans began to rise -- presumably from the melting of the ice caps from the previous Ice Age. And long before human activity had any effect on global climate.

I don't have a problem with stating that human activity is contributing to the current cycle of global warming, but it clearly did not cause it, and there is no reason to believe that even if we immediately terminate all human production of atmospheric carbon (assuming that such a thing is even remotely possible), that the current global warming would subside.

We may have accelerated the progress of this cycle, but we clearly did NOT cause global warming. And in all likelihood, other sources of greenhouse gases -- things like the thawing and subsequent rotting of millions of acres of permafrost -- are now the driving forces.

The fact that we do not have a solid model that incorporates the plethora of sources of atmospheric carbon that are begin recognized currently, or one that can produce the cyclic behavior observed in the paleoclimate record should make us a little cautious. To produce models that track a few thousand years does nothing to test theories against an observed history of a cyclical process occurring over million of years.

The referenced article raises its own questions. For instance, if the planet has seen increases in CO2 and H2S immediately preceding the several previous mass extinctions, then it seems likely that some process also occurs to wash the nasty stuff out of the atmosphere, else the Earth would resemble Venus.

Perhaps it is the abundance of life on Earth that is responsible for the rise of atmospheric CO2 to levels that make the global temperature hospitable for the formation of life, and cyclic eruptions of super-volcanos (like the Yellowstone caldera) snuff out the bulk of the life infesting the planet, allowing the excess CO2 to break down or otherwise dissipate over the next few hundred years following the mass extinctions (and the release of the carbon trapped in all those carcasses), and the large amount of atmospheric dust and debris from the eruption to immediately start the planet into another Ice Age.

But that is merely speculation. The fact is, we don't know and have no theories backed by evidence to suggest plausible answers.

Yes, switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy is A Good Thing, and we should be doing so (and are, as fast as we economically can) -- but to suggest that such a switch is the "cure" for global warming is unsubstantiated, giving dangerous hope of a remedy that is almost certainly false.

To "cure" global warming, we need to be able to directly alter the amount of atmospheric carbon -- maybe extract it in the form of carbon nanotubes via gene-modded algae or trees, using carbon nanotubes to replace lumber in our technology. We're clearly a VERY long way from being able to do that.

And even then, we need to be able to deal with the H2S dumped into the environment by super-volcanos, and I cannot imagine how we can deal with that. Based on the cyclic history of the Yellowstone caldera, we should be expecting another eruption there Real Soon Now, which will pretty much obliterate life in North America, if not kick off another wave of mass extinctions around the globe.

Re:One wonders (1)

asuffield (111848) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354763)

All this when in reality the vast majority of researchers and people (at least outside the US) find that there are strong reasons to think that we are causing global warming, and that the consequences likely are devastating for a large portion of the Earth.


That's pure fiction. There have been many studies posted to slashdot alone on this subject, let alone reputable scientific news sources, and every one of them comes up the same: most scientists think the planet is getting hotter, it's probably related to our actions to some extent, and it may have other unknown causes. Most scientists think it is impossible to tell at this point what the long-term consequences are likely to be. "Devastating consequences" is pure Hollywood, there is no scientific consensus on the subject at all (if you think otherwise, show the study). The closest you'll find is a bunch of commonly accepted studies saying "if X and Y and Z happen, bad things will result", where there's no knowledge about whether or not those conditions will actually occur.

Endless debate on the subject and all the numbers you could want (no two sets the same) can be found by following links from wikipedia's article on Scientific opinion on climate change [wikipedia.org] .

Re:One wonders (1)

zecg (521666) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354123)

Environmentalists :
-> CO2 will cause mass extinctions


Now, this is reading it very unscientifically. Just how did you produce "will"?

Everybody else
-> There is not sufficient evidence to really change our policy (this btw, is unfortunately very true)
-> Therefore CO2 does not cause problems (this conclusion may be true, but the honest answer is : we don't know)


Read up on CO2 and global warming. The projections for the future are not 100% certain, but there IS enough evidence that it's harmful to change policy and it DOES cause problems. Try reading at least the MOST obvious and easily accessible sources before you get all insightful on us:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming#Danger ous_global_warming [wikipedia.org]
http://yosemite.epa.gov/oar/globalwarming.nsf/cont ent/index.html [epa.gov]

Re:One wonders (2, Interesting)

pinkocommie (696223) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354127)

Greenpeace founder supports nukes.. [washtimes.com] Watch The Inconvenient Truth, one of the salient points of the movie was we can make changes today, now that will in time have tangible effects, switching from coal to nuclear for example (also fyi coal also is highly radioactive , minute quantities of radioactivity x tons n tons of coal [ornl.gov] ). Another equally important point with hydrocarbons worth billions if not trillions of dollars in the ground there is sufficient business for people to do anything possible to stem erosion in market share (cue the CO2 is life ad's) The bottom line is regardless of our 'understanding' of us being the causative agents or not, the CO2 levels are rising and this in turn will have adverse effects. Even if this were a result of polar bears farting if we can work to offset the excess to minimize impact, would that not be a sound move? Also regarding what we can do? cut down on power usage, energy saving appliances, the whole thread on slashdot and elsewhere on minimizing idle mode power consumption, energy efficient cars hybrid electric etc, flourescent lightbulbs etc etc. Bottom line there is no significant downside that i'm aware of to conservation and switching from hydrocarbons to the maximal extent possible, then why not do it?

Everybody else? (1)

Vexorian (959249) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354191)

Everybody else -> There is not sufficient evidence to really change our policy (this btw, is unfortunately very true) -> Therefore CO2 does not cause problems (this conclusion may be true, but the honest answer is : we don't know)
Hello, I am not a frigging environmentalist. But this sickens me off, why do it call it the `green house effect? Do you know what a green house is? Green house do work! and let the warm increase and all that is caused by CO2 . Now if you think about it, evidence is required to proof that CO2 DOES NOT CAUSE Global Warming. I am sorry but it is not the opposite.

Re:One wonders (4, Insightful)

RoLi (141856) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354259)

Environmentalists: [..] gsms cause brain cancer (show me one single case ...)

First of all, "environmentalists" are not a single block of people but there are many different opinions. Second, the mobile phone hysteria was bred by esoterics, not environmentalists and even though there might be some overlap, those are different groups. Third, this hysteria is pretty much over already, so you are not knocking down a strawman - it's already knocked down. 4: Even if "environmentalists" said that, being wrong on one thing doesn't make you wrong on everything.

There is not sufficient evidence to really change our policy (this btw, is unfortunately very true)

Actually there is sufficient evidence and a large part of the world DID already change it's policy. Germany is leading in wind power and Sweden wants to be independent of oil within some years. Many other countries do similar things to attack the problem.

Also, do you remember the problem with the ozone-layer? A world-wide effort by most countries (that time including the USA) dealt with the problem and it worked amazingly well. Today the ozone-layer is almost back to normal.

Therefore CO2 does not cause problems (this conclusion may be true, but the honest answer is : we don't know)

There is already a mountain of evidence that it does cause problems, but even if you ignore all that, messing around with something you are dependent on and you don't fully understand is pretty stupid, don't you agree? I think we should use a very conservative approach to environmental issues BECAUSE we don't fully understand it. To say it's "not a problem" because we don't understand it doesn't make the slightest sense at all.

Imho the environmentalist option to be against both oil and nuclear power is not going anywhere, it's just not helpful. You can call all you want for the moon to come down, but regardless it's just not going to happen. Also, you cannot turn of all energy in the country for 5 years until an alternative is developed. It needs to be here now, working and functional, and proven. Obviously you cannot turn over the country to something like wind power.

Things that can be done easily, without new technology and with modest investment:

  • insolate the houses better to safe heating
  • Use stone instead of wood houses so you no longer need air-conditioning (heavy stone houses don't heat up so quickly)
  • Yeah I know, it's a terrible suggestion, but using smaller cars would safe a lot too. There is no need to move 3 tons to transport a 70kg human

BTW, wind power is already covering 4,3% of Germany's electricity (per 2005) and will cover 10% or more by 2020. The USA with a much lower population density could cover a much higher percentage than that.

Having said all that, I'm not really worried about global warming because the very same people who want to "safe the economy" by wasting oil will run the economy right into the ground as soon as Saudi-Arabia hits peak oil. (probably before 2010, but even if they can hold out longer it's merely a question of when, not if)

Re:One wonders (1)

Elkboy (770849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354481)

"Also, do you remember the problem with the ozone-layer? A world-wide effort by most countries (that time including the USA) dealt with the problem and it worked amazingly well. Today the ozone-layer is almost back to normal."

Unfortunately, the Antarctic ozone hole will take many decades to close and before the ozone levels reach the levels before the depletion began. But it is a significant triumph of international cooperation and foresight to overcome a global problem.

"Things that can be done easily, without new technology and with modest investment:"

Don't forget low energy lightbulbs. Switching all your lightbulbs isn't a major investment or hassle for an individual, but the energy savings if everyone did it would be huge.

Re:One wonders (2, Interesting)

DarthChris (960471) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354263)

...the environmentalist option to be against both oil and nuclear power...
Whilst I agree that it's stupid to be against both options (radioactivity is even less understood, especially at low doses), I think you're making a harsh stereotype here.

Finally: I've said this before, but perhaps was misunderstood:
-If we don't cut our carbon emissions (because we think we don't need to) and then turn out to be wrong, we may well end up like Venus.
-If we do cut them, we reduce our use of oil (which is in finite supply, as parent pointed out) and probably cut our costs (by energy efficieny stuff, my Mum works in that). Should we then turn out to be incorrect (i.e. CO2 isn't quite as bad as some of the doomsday predictions), we haven't really lost anything, but have gained quite a bit. Unfortunately, this is largely dependant on industry, and as the parent observed, convincing them may be difficult.
In short, either we will screw the atmosphere up with CO2, or we won't. Some people will inevitably pick sides and be wrong. In a matter with such potentially far-reaching implications, which way would you rather be wrong?

Re:One wonders (2, Interesting)

cliffski (65094) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354503)

Forget nuclear, have you not considreed energy efficiency? I reckon 90% of people I know use incandescent lightbulbs, probably 90% leave their PC monitor on at work overnight, 90% of them drive to the local shops rather than walk, 90% of them probably have the TV on standby over night (plus the phone charger, the video, the DVD, the set top box, the hi-fi and the home PC).
Energy efficiency is never mentioned, but we can save energy AND our own hard earned cash this way.I never understand why businesses dont invest in tech that auto shutdowns everyones PCs and monitors after 7PM.
And why does my PC have such a ludricous power supply anyway, especially when im just surfing, do I really need it all?

Re:One wonders (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354577)

fusion : currently not possible, in development

I agree due to the huge technical challenges to contain the heated plasma of deuterium and tritium gas to get fusion.

solar power : too expensive, currently massive quantities of oil are needed to create solar panels, research ongoing

Now more viable than you think. Thanks to nanotechnology breakthroughs we could see production cost of solar panels drop dramatically in the next 5-7 years.

wind : unreliable, will place extreme demands on distribution net, and effects unknown

Then why are multiple companies putting up 1-5 MW giant wind turbines all over the US Midwest?

sea wave power : currently not possible, in development

Recent breakthroughs in capturing sea wave motion to convert to electricity could make it possible to put up large numbers of such generators along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines of the USA within the next 20-25 years.

By the way, the development of lower-cost supercapacitors using nanotechnology that could store large amounts of electricity in a relatively small space could make solar and wind power even more viable, since they could be used to store electricity generated by solar panels and wind turbines and release the power at night time and in low wind conditions.

Politicians won't care (5, Insightful)

PhoenixAtlantios (991132) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354049)

The politicians, their children, and even their children's children will all be dead and long gone by the time the next century ends (2200). If you want them to do something, try pointing out the implications global warming will have before they die.

Re:Politicians won't care (1)

Coeurderoy (717228) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354083)

You mean before the next elections, or more accuratelly before the next time their party administration designate them for reellection.
(The risk of an US Representant or Senator to fail to be reellected is LOWER than it was for a Soviet representent to be thrown out.

Not my problem (1)

Ice Wewe (936718) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354115)

Today with CO2 around 385 ppm...climbing at an annual rate of 2 ppm...to 3 ppm, levels could approach 900 ppm by the end of the next century.

That's assuming we as a race live that long. With things like North Korea, and the current situation in Iraq, I'd feel good if we made it for that long. Anyway, unless they make a miracle drug to keep everyone alive for longer, I wont be around then. So, my grandchildren are screwed.

Global warming is a lie (0, Troll)

zitintheass (1005533) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354187)

They promised us summers like in California. This year was the coldness summer in my entire life, this is simply unacceptable, we in the north are unfairly treated environmentally speaking. We need to pump more CO2 into atmosphere. Go buy a Hummer.

Where's the O2? (2, Interesting)

sensei moreh (868829) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354215)

It's one thing to talk about increased H2S production, but that totally fails to address the question, "where did the O2 go?" The article describes the displacement of dissolved O2 by dissolved H2S in anoxic oceans, which is fine as far as it goes. However, unless large reservoirs of elemental carbon (or CO or CH4) are being oxidized to produce CO2 in large quantities, the result should be an increased atmospheric O2 concentration. Perhaps volcanic activity resulted in such an outpouring of CO2 that it dwarfed the O2 forced into the atmosphere by the anoxic oceans, resulting in the increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations inferred by the rock record. Or perhaps the inferred cause and effect relationship is not nearly as simple as the article makes it out to be.

Won't Happen to US if we believe the science (0)

logicnazi (169418) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354237)

Now reducing emissions is clearly the safest way to go about dealing with global warming but so long as humans take these threats seriously we won't all die from massive bubbles of gas erupting.

Unlike the ancient eras of life we are (hopefully) smart enough to know we need to keep the world cooler. If we end up with our backs to the wall we can always inject more sulfates into the upper atmosphere or otherwise decrease the amount of solar energy the earth absorbs. There are big drawbacks to these plans but they are a sure of a hell lot less bad than all life on earth dying from released gases.

Re:Won't Happen to US if we believe the science (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354345)

As has been proven time and time again over the past 4 billion years, ALL life on Earth is very unlikely to die. If you're arguing against the eventual demise of mankind, however, that's a different story...

Re:Immortality? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354367)

Thats funny, I thought all life on earth was certain to die? Or was that not what you meant...

New Indirect Solar Power Generation Concept (3, Interesting)

rohar (253766) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354267)

I have been working on a design for an indirect solar power generation system [energytower.org] that can be cost effective, location independent and I believe can be built with a low enough capital investment to compete directly with fossil fuels.

The idea is to build a standard low gradient heat platform that can be optimized for a geographical location's specific climate and geothermal features. The specific adaptation for arid regions utilizing absorption refrigeration [energytower.org] especially shows promise.

Just a thought.... (5, Interesting)

grishknash (118043) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354281)

Lots I want to reply to...
Probably the best source for scientific data and reliable modelling comes from the intergovernmental panel on climate change [ipcc.ch]. The last full report was from 2001 and is fully available on line and for free. I stupidly bought the books. The amount of synthesis of data performed is HUGE and from literally thousands of scientists in the field. It is truly the definitive work in progress. Due to the nature of science and the complex chaotic mechanisms of climate the models cannot be 100% conclusive; however, the four prospective models used have hypothesized the expected changes since 2001 fairly well. The four models assumed different scenarios of human responses to climate change. The four models being a reduction in CO2 emissions, constant increases, moderate increases and large increases in CO2 emissions. The effects of these models are classified according to a likelihood scale and associated percentages. Since the publication of the report, we have had 5 years to compare and contrast the models with reality. The modelling has done quite well. I suggest anyone who is interested read the synthesis report. The rest would take you a year or so to read :)
Since the report, due to the political tenderness of the topic, if anything, has been underreported and cautiously forwarded. It seems that one area that was underestimated in impact was the positive feedback mechanisms invovled in lost albedo and permafrost thaw. Also, the effects due to water vapor and cloud formation are still difficult to understand and predict.
As a teacher, I agree that we MUST listen and respond to the experts in the field and not political/religious/uninformed theorists. IE> michael Creighton and his ' State of Fear'. Some of the scientists he interviewed respond to his book at realclimate.org as well as a 'book report' in science magazine. Both are telling of the political nature of the topic.
Finally, we need to consider the larger manifestitions of 'global warming' with respect to increases in ocean acidity, altered weather patterns with respect to agriculture, etc. It is the unpredicatable spinoffs of global warming/climate change that will threaten society. Lack of food, lack of clean water and the wars associated with future conflicts we need to worry about.

Not Human Nature (4, Interesting)

ChronoFish (948067) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354419)

One of things that we have to accept about humans is that they are part of nature. It's not natural for humans (as a population, not necessarily individuals) to restrain themselves.

What this means (to me) is that the destruction that humans brings (aka man-made) is also natural. It is also natural for humans to destruct to the point of no-return - i.e. humans will use up every last natural-resource until there is no longer a natural-resource to use.

Whaling and fishing are great examples. The Atlantic Ocean used to have an abundance of (sperm) whales. But the human race killed them off - that didn't stop the whalers of course. Rather than realizing the impact and looking for alternatives, they setup long complex shipping routes. Boats from Nantucket (North Eastern US) would set sail and round Argentina (South America) and then exploit the waters of Hawaii and Singapore in the Pacific. Eventually killing off the whales there as well.

The reason for hunting whales? Primarily whale blubber -which was boiled down to oil - which was used as a power source. Eventually the stock of sperm whales dried up in the pacific as well - forcing humans to come up with an alternative - which they did (petrol) - thereby officially killing the whaling industry. (Sure Japan is still at it - but mostly for the meat which focus on other types of whales).

The point is that humans will not restrain themselves or conserve (with some notable exceptions of course) their natural resources. And this is a natural part of human nature - which is part of nature.

So yeah - we are doomed to repeat the process (there are countless examples) and the end result is that we will wipe ourselves out. But that is part of nature - to thrive until starvation. Every population does it. Name one animal that does not gorge themselves - even if it means death to the species.....

-CF

Re:Not Human Nature (1)

katsiris (779774) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354591)

A fundamental tenant of the natural order is self-preservation. To ignore that and say "it's part of nature for us to destroy ourselves" is like a gazelle seeing a lion and not running because it knows its place in the food chain.

How many obese wild animals do you see? (2, Insightful)

arcite (661011) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354735)

Answer, none. ALL animals establish equilibrium with their environment.

If pathetic short sighted people like you become the only voice out there the human race is indeed #ucked. If however, more rational voices and policies can be established, there is hope yet. We have about 100 years to save this planet, I don't see how that is impossible.

Ofcourse, you'll probably be dead by then anyway. Lung cancer from too much smob mb?...

The Cost of Fighting Global Warming (0, Flamebait)

schroedogg (596283) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354421)

This idea that global warming is caused primarily by humans is speculative at best. In the past 120 years, the average surface temperature has only risen 1.2 degrees F in North America. Because measuring has not been as accurate as it is now, this may not be a totally accurate number. Plus, most of this can be attributed to things not caused by human action such as retreated glaciers, volcanos, etc. Do we really know for sure that WE are causing global warming?

Also, think of all the negatives of fighting this perceivedly harmful warming. One, the poor will become poorer because they won't be able to afford the latest fuel efficient cars, furnaces, etc. We just recently purchased a "new" (used) car and found that it was manufactured to meet california emissions standards, though we do not live in California nor was it manufactured there. Because of this, a simple $50 oxygen sensor that needs replacing is now going to cost $150. On top of that, it has not 1 but 2 catalytic converters, which are another expensive part to replace. Then think about the benefits of global warming. Warmer weather means a longer growing season, which could be a boon to agritculture in 3rd world countries. Also, more people die from cold each year than from heat, so a warmer planet could mean less deaths due to temperature.

Of course, these are assuming the warming doesn't eventually result in some sort of catastrophe, but I think the evidence for this is very shaky at best. Don't believe everything the media is spitting out currently. I think this whole catastrophe theory is a very politically motivated issue with a little bit of science behind it.

Re:The Cost of Fighting Global Warming (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354491)

Go read up on the length of the growing season(s) in tropical regions, versus precipitation. It never gets cold enough to stop photosynthesis in a serious way. On the other hand, high temperatures will, in fact, limit the growing ability of crops, forcing them to close their stoma to stop water loss, and the whole fuss making C4 plants more efficient. Maize is C4, but many other base crops are not, and higher day temperatures during significant parts of the year would certainly still be a problem for those organisms. Irrigation is the problem here, and that's not helped by a higher temperature.

Increased CO2 levels might on the other hand benefit a lot of plants, especially in the high-temperature scenarios. Those effects won't get too significant until we reach a level similar to what's mentioned in the blurb, several times higher than the "normal" level for the human civilisation, and a level where even the most crappy "CO2 is an IR-mirror inwards in the sky" high-school physics model will give us some pretty adverse answers, unless there is a giant negative feedback somewhere fixing it for us.

Stop the "Only in US-oil industry lies", here's EU (2, Interesting)

andreasg (1010787) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354493)

Here's something that describes a theory and experiements by danish scientists. The statement that it is only in the US that people is arguing the global warming because of the oil industry is simply false and an easy way to discredit the research done by those who you do not agree with.

These guys aren't saying that CO2 might not be one of the causes but that it might not be the biggest cause.

source: http://denmark.dk/portal/page?_pageid=374,931599&_ dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL [denmark.dk]

"Results from an experiment, called SKY (Danish for 'cloud'), show that the released electrons significantly promote the formation of building blocks for cloud condensation nuclei on which water vapour condenses to make clouds.

Hence, a causal mechanism by which cosmic rays can facilitate the production of clouds in Earth's atmosphere has been experimentally identified for the first time.

The Danish research team, headed by Henrik Svensmark, officially announced their discovery 4 october 2006 in Proceedings of the Royal Society A, published by the Royal Society, the national academy of science, United Kingdom."

The place they performed the experiments: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cern [wikipedia.org] http://public.web.cern.ch/Public/Welcome.html [web.cern.ch]


"Global warming caused by cosmic rays?

It is known that low-altitude clouds have an overall cooling effect on the Earth's surface. Hence, variations in cloud cover caused by cosmic rays can change the surface temperature. The existence of such a cosmic connection to Earth's climate might thus help to explain past and present variations in Earth's climate.

Interestingly, during the 20th Century, the Sun's magnetic field which shields Earth from cosmic rays more than doubled, thereby reducing the average influx of cosmic rays. The resulting reduction in cloudiness, especially of low-altitude clouds, may be a significant factor in the global warming Earth has undergone during the last century."

More info here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_variation#_ref- Svensmark1998_0 [wikipedia.org]

Cleaner air (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16354565)

I will always vote in favor of cleaner air. But how? With our very fragile economic balance, and our overwhelming dependence on "energy" (oil), what can we do? All these people crying about CO2 get right into their cars and drive.

I know this will sound silly, but how about eliminating soda? I bet a significant quantity of CO2 is released by all the soda, including the energy spent making and compressing the CO2. Anyone have any numbers?

If we don't fix the problems, the earth's ecology will.
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