If Society Is In Danger Of Collapse, Here’s How We Should Do Our Bit

If you’ve been following the news, you can’t have missed the series of floods, droughts, and wildfires that have occurred seemingly in all corners of the world. Coming on the heels of a Northern Hemisphere winter that had its own extreme weather events, it would be perhaps foolhardy not to by now take climate change seriously. You may also have seen the news about a return to a 1970s paper in which MIT crystal-ball-gazers predicted the collapse of our civilisation in the mid-21st century, and a review based upon the empirical data gathered since then which concluded that we could be right on track with that prediction set to happen in about 2040.

It’s sobering stuff, and something which could so easily form the basis of many a Hollywood apocalyptic disaster movie. But sitting here in 2021 amid extreme weather events and a global pandemic it’s certainly something to think about. It’s not as though we’re riding biogas-powered weapon cars through the post-apocalyptic desert just yet though, we still have a chance to do something to avert catastrophe and no doubt over the next decade a raft of changes will reduce our CO2 impact and make our infrastructure more resilient to stave off any coming crises.

Our mind was turned to the halcyon time before the pandemic, to the Danish BornHack hacker camp back in August 2019. One of the talks at the event came from [Igor Nicolic], whose day job as an academic with Delft University of Technology takes him into the study of ecology and sustainability. In it he looks at the current state of global sustainability, and identifies the roles which the hardware hacker community could play in an uncertain future. It’s a fascinating lecture from an expert in the field and it’s well worth a watch and taking note of his points, so we’ve placed it below the break.

Header image: kuhnmi, CC BY 2.0.

105 thoughts on “If Society Is In Danger Of Collapse, Here’s How We Should Do Our Bit

  1. I’m begining to suspect I won’t live to 70. But if there was this imaginary collapse, I wouldn’t last long, and I just have to stop taking an expensive drug, and my.life will be terminal.
    It was so much simpler in the days of Logan’s Run, 45 years and one month ago, when your crystal would blink and it was your Last Day.

    Being properly vaccinated, and getting back to “normal” (which hasn’t been my case since early March 2019) is way more apocolyptic. Since the dog got too old for walks, my legs, never backto normal, are feeling weaker every day.

  2. I can’t help but be cynical when people say things like that they are sure things will improve significantly in the next few decades.

    Unless the rich suddenly and miraculously end their obsession with money, it is extremely unlikely that there will be any meaningful change in the areas of society that will actually make any significant difference to the trajectory we are on.

    Sure, it’s great to be hopeful of change, but if nobody in the last 100 years heeded the cries of scientists, and there are still people today denying that the planet is warming even as everything burns around them…. well… our prospects don’t look too good to say the least.

    1. By “The Rich”, I’m sure you mean everyone who has a slightly larger car and house than me, everyone with a slightly larger lawn than me, and everyone with more gas-burning toys than me. Certainly it’s THEIR fault.

      1. Interesting, see I assumed he meant the Multibillionaires who are hoarding humanity’s wealth at a literally unprecedented level. Not the dude up the road who’s doing 1x-10x better than us, but the thousands who’s combined wealth is so staggering that studies have shown it’s almost impossible for us to grasp numbers of that size or place them in context correctly.
        You know the sort? The people who gained so more personal wealth during a day in the pandemic than the previous 10 generations of my family made put together in their entire lifetimes?
        The same people who we know hide their wealth and avoid paying taxes because journalists were murdered for pulled back the curtain. Yeah probably those people…

        1. The vast majority of wealth around the world is in the hand of the dudes up the round that do a few times better than you, not in the hands of the multibillionaires.

          Billionaires mostly own shares of companies, that barely qualifies as wealth, it’s pretty much just voting rights, and a means to get *some* free revenue yearly, but it’s *nothing* compared to the amount of wealth accumulated by the middle class of rich countries (US, EU etc).

          The world has 2755 billionaires. Their net worth is 13 trillion. Compared to the global economy, that is ridiculous (and again, most of that money is just shares in their companies, it’s not like they are going to purchase 13 trillion ice cream cones … ). Billionaires are a period at the bottom of the page of the economy, but people concentrate on them because they have an incredibly simplistic view of how the economy works …

          1. If you own billions in stock the lifetime cash takeout is easy and tax free.
            1-take lones secured against stock fo ryour whole life
            2-heirs can pay back the principal and below inflation interest
            3-it is tax free because we don’t tax loans and heirs/bank convert said stocks to pay back capital gains tax free

      2. There is a neoliberal dialectic which almost all of the political left and right follow in all OECD nations like a religion; almost all of the left, right, and center media, even the off kilter rightists faithfully follow the neoliberal faith; except for U-Chicago(Austrian-ish school econ, also crap) I think neoliberalism is universal for all OECD zone university MBA programs since the 80s. Most people really can’t fathom the difference between say a 10millionaire and a billionaire and left or right the assumption is that as long as the billionaire class is protected the economy will have opportunity for connected people to ascend or pass their status and wealth to their children. Once full automation arrives I think Marshal Brain’s short story Manna describes both a fractional ownership of the total economic output and neoliberal outcomes.
        We can live with $10millionaire class people but billionaires(you can find youtube videos which graphically illustrate the difference between $M and $G) have the ability to get full capture of the legislature, executive, judiciary, press, and finance systems so by modifying the system to survive and be enriched by the laws, administrative rules, and judgements they have purchased are incompatible with any society wide egalitarian rights. If Bolshevism and Leninism seems destabilizing long term with the privileged rule of bureaucrats(monetizing the violence of the state and choosing to spend the economic output for their benefit) then understand that the rule of even well intentioned billionaires in the current worldwide regime is also unsustainable for similar reasons even without considering global warming and out of control income inequality with the most industrious workers often bringing home the lowest pay.

  3. You say climate change is a thing, but I’m one of those that still disbelieves. I hold on to the belief the environment has cycles measured anywhere from months to millennium and beyond. Depending upon your politics, there are large populations believing the sky is falling if we don’t change this or that and other populations like myself. I don’t know if there’s any credible non-self-serving science out there that can document we are experiencing any different numbers of geological/Weather/social change now compared to some point in our distant path. I for one believe the downfall of society is predicated upon social media and its impact upon the gullible every day person and politicians/world leaders. The latter of which will pander to the crowd they believe will get them the most votes and keep them in power regardless of what is “right“.

    1. Are you missing? There is clear evidence that the recent (last couple hundred years) climate trend is way outside any natural fluctuations. The data don’t lie. At this point, anyone denying the human causes of climate change is either stupid or evil.

        1. Tens of thousands of scientists agree on what the data says. For all of them to lie, it would have to be a conspiracy of the same kind of size as the moon landings being fake, or the earth being flat. It is INSANE thinking. PLEASE look up the actual facts and educate yourself, it is scary to think that you vote despite caring so little about what the truth of these matters is.

          1. > Actually hundreds of thousands. I’m going to say millions of scientists.

            There are 7.8 million scientists in the world. About 0.1% of the world population.

            Of those, well over 99.99% of those with any qualification/knowledge related to climate science agree that global warming is demonstrated as well as evolution or the fact that the Earth is not flat.

            And for those who do not have a climate science qualification, but still understand the scientific method, the numbers are similar, well over 99% believe climate change is happening.

            You are a conspiracy theorist. For what you believe to be true, we would need a conspiracy of a size *much worse* than the “we didn’t land on the moon” conspiracy (that one at least would be limited to the US only. the climate conspiracy would be worldwide ).

            MILLIONS of people sharing this conspiracy, and not ONE whistle blower. If you really believe this is what is going on, you sir have mental health issues, and need to get help.

          2. (note I’m not talking to Perry, but to the original commenter, Dave_G, sorry if that’s unclear, HaD limits the amount of depth comments can have and it can create pretty confusing situations )

          3. Wait no I *am* talking to Perry, sorry, got it wrong again. Damn this is so confusing … I hate this comment system.

            Nobody thinks we only have 11 years to live, that’s a straw-man argument, and an incredibly obvious and pitiful one at that.

          4. It isn’t a conspiracy.

            It is more like group think. Both sides of the argument are guilty of this.

            The politicians on both side of the argument both use it to exploit the masses.

          5. > It isn’t a conspiracy.
            > It is more like group think. Both sides of the argument are guilty of this.

            You are not making sense. You have either not thought this through, or you do not understand how science works … at all.

            It HAS to be a conspiracy. Either the scientists are correct, or they are all coordinating to lie to the public.

            There is no “they are all deluding themselves into misinterpreting the data”, that makes NO SENSE *at all*. That’s not how science works.

            The scientific method is packed full of self-controlling ways to make sure that this does not happen. It’s THE WHOLE POINT of the scientific method: getting closer to the truth, and avoid mistakes/biases.

            > The politicians on both side of the argument both use it to exploit the masses.

            Politicians do not study climate science, scientists do. Politicians are fully irrelevant to this.

            And scientists ALL agree that climate change is happening, as much as they agree that the Earth is not flat, and that they agree evolution is the explanation for the diversity of life.

            If you think that ALL scientists on earth are wrong on climate science ( which you seem to be thinking ), you are pretty much the same thing as a flat-earther, or a moon-landing conspiracist …

            The data is insanely clear. If there was some massive mistake in interpreting the data, SOMEBODY would have noticed, would explain what the mistake is, and the scientific community would have changed its mind. That’s how science works.

            You REALLY need to educate yourself on how the scientific process functions … it is sad to see you be *this* incredibly wrong and deluded …

          6. Medieval Warm Period.
            Little Ice Age.

            Both the Thames and the Potomac River used to freeze over, in the 19th and 20th centuries respectively. Maybe you prefer that, I prefer the current situation.

          7. All the scientists can agree that climate change is real (and those who don’t you disqualify), but what you’re doing is using the group consensus about the general point to support your particular interpretation of what climate change means.

            That is abuse of the science, and why people call climate change politruks liars.

          8. > All the scientists can agree that climate change is real (and those who don’t you disqualify),

            No, I don’t: there are none.

            > but what you’re doing is using the group consensus

            I’m using group concensus on climate exactly as much as I would be if I said “science says the earth is not flat”. If that’s a problem to you, something is wrong with you.

            > about the general point to support your particular interpretation of what climate change means.

            I did not support any particular implementation, you are making things up. Somebody denied that climate is changing, I answered that climate is changing. There is no interpretation here, you just live in your own little world and are answering things that were not said.

          9. I hate that argument “Scientists agree X is true”. So what, 500 years ago “Scientists” agreed that the sun orbited around the earth, they were educated, they were respected, they were the pillars of their societies and they were WRONG! Now I am not making a comment on climate change with this, just saying show me the data, not a picture of people in lab coats if you want to convince me of anything.

          10. > I hate that argument “Scientists agree X is true”. So what, 500 years ago “Scientists” agreed that the sun orbited around the earth, they were educated, they were respected, they were the pillars of their societies and they were WRONG!

            I hate that argument. 500 years ago, there were no scientists. There was no scientific method. If you take a scientist from today, and transport them to 500 years ago, they WOULD NOT conclude the sun orbits around the Earth. This is so fundamentally and profoundly stupid thinking.

            The scientific method is DESIGNED to prevent this sort of mistake.

    2. It is mind-blowing that you would be this blind to the data and universal agreement among the experts.

      What you are saying would only make sense in a world in which the entire scientific community is either in a massive conspiracy to lie to all of us, or is wrong on a scale never seen in the history of humanity (and I haven’t seen anyone present a mechanism for why/how they would be *this* wrong).

      At this point, what you are presenting is *not that far* from flat-earth thinking.

      PLEASE look up the science on this. Wikipedia is a great starting point, follow the little numbers/links to the actual sources that point you to what the scientific community/studies actually say.

      We have satellites, massive amounts of data, models. This isn’t something that is in debate in science right now, the same way evolution isn’t in debate.

      > its impact upon the gullible every day person

      The irony of you saying this is just shocking. Pretty much every single climate denier I’ve ever met gets most of their misinformation from social media ( or some rare times classical dishonest/fringe media ).

      1. Consider this scenario. An old man is living in a small house he has build with his own hands. One day a man comes o his town who warns him about a weather forecast. An unheared amount of rain is supposed to fall in 24 hours. He should pack his most important belongings and leave.
        The old man has never experienced a flood in his town and mistrusts the stranger. He decides to stay.
        The next morning he is dead because a massive flood washed his house away.

      2. Yeah, anecdotal evidence isn’t how science is done. We have thousands of weather stations, we measure the height of tides, we have hundreds of satellites monitoring the planet, and the data is overwhelmingly saying the sea level is rising, as are global temperatures.

        Of course, temperature rises on average means in some places it’ll get hotter, and in others it’ll get colder. The fact that you might (I don’t really trust you to be objective anyway, humans suck at being objective, which is why we have the scientific method… ) live in one of the areas that has gotten colder, doesn’t IN ANY WAY refute global warming …

        The fact that beaches are still there doesn’t mean sea levels aren’t rising. Nobody suggests all beaches on earth should have disappeared already. Sea level has risen on average 7.5cm from 97 to 2017, that’s not enough to make your beach disappear, but it’s enough to massively impact climate, and even to start to threaten some low-height pacific islands.

        We can see, from space, the glaciers disappearing, the arctic getting smaller year after year, the tides going higher and higher ON AVERAGE year after year.

        The fact that you think your personal experience invalidates this, is some of the most crazy willful ignorance I can possibly imagine. You are deluding yourself, on purpose, out of some weird sense of liking being a contrarian.

        Our ability to report disasters has changed, but *the amount of disasters* has ALSO changed, that is a MEASURED fact.

        The difference between people claiming the world was ending 40 years ago, and what is going on now, is that people are not saying the world is ending, they are saying we have MASSIVELY OVERWHELMING data that shows that climate is changing, which the people 40 years ago didn’t have. Please give me one of those 40 years old predictions (instead of conveniently staying super vague), and I’ll explain to you *clearly* how those are extremely different from what is going on now.
        I’m not holding my breath for you to be honest and actually engage with an example …

        > If the monies spent on tackling these ‘climate crises’ was spent on the needy, the infirm and the elderly the world would be a much better place than it ever was.

        That money is being spent, poverty is reducing much faster than it ever has in history, and is on it’s way to completely dissapear in a couple of decades. We spend TENS of times more on improving standards of living worldwide than we spend on tackling climate change. But YOU don’t know that, you have your skewed vision of the world in your head, that is completely disconnected from the actual facts and data, and you do not care what is actually true, only what you LIKE to think.

        > This is what 60+ years on this planet has taught me.

        Then you’ve spent 60 years with a mind closed to facts, only loving/listening to what re-inforces your pre-existing ideas.

      3. For what you are saying to be true, tens of thousands of scientists would have to be in a conspiracy to hide the truth from the general public. It is insane, delusional thinking, on the level of what would need to be true for flat earthers to be right.

        What you are saying is about as correct as what flat earthers believe. And you use ALL the same arguments. I could take your comment, and replace climate with flat earth, and it would be a typical flat earther diatribe.

      4. Think the crux of the issue is that there are two different climate sciences, 1) the fact that climate, being a dynamic system, will be always in flux and 2) the baseless (based on money not science) political decisions made from these observations.

        Eg, the earth may be heated by human activities but this does not necessarily mean that one needs to incentivise things like electric vehicles in order to save the world especially while ignoring the largest polluters are increasing their pollution.

        If you believe that incentivising electric vehicles, etc is anything more than a way to transfer wealth then you are mistaken, the politicians writing the laws could care less about the environment.

        And because you touched on groupthink.. what do you think the average person, the average scientist even, thinks about the effectiveness of masks and how does that compare to the medical literature? You claim that groupthink doesn’t play a role but what about the cancel-demic going on, and your first argument is “but everyone else believes”. Ruminate on that please.

        1. Unfortunately money talks and those that knew and had sufficient evidence get ignored, smeared, threatened, lots and lots of money (that only counts as pocket change to those profiting) spent to let those getting rich on wrecking stuff keep getting much richer. Same depressing story as always…

          But that doesn’t mean every politician is bent, or ignorant, some of them might even be really smart, wise, civic minded and decent human beings (though I doubt any of them are all of those – as why would such a person stick at a such a job, it would be far too depressing). But part of the problem is even in a full on brutal dictatorship the decisions that get made have to get enough of the populations approval or at least not outright disapproval – as much as the dictator can get away with murder there comes a point enough of the population rebels, feeling they have nothing left to loose and at that point the dictators usually meet a very nasty fate.

          In a ‘democracy’ its even harder to actually make a decision that is purely practical and for the good of the whole – even more so now that everyone has immediate access to talking heads spouting largely highly twisted “clickbait” bollocks that means every decision made will be ‘wrong’ – it means even if you know the sky is falling you can’t get out the scaffolding to get up there and fix it without first getting enough of the population believing there is a need – its not enough for the population to largely not care – as that means the really loud screaming of the protesting minority matter more..

          Take the ‘Green’ protesters here for instance, basically all hypocrites insisting on no new nuclear, this oil refinery/well, rail line, road or industry shouldn’t exist, while driving to the protest site, having electric lights, aircon, heating, plastics of all sorts etc – if you insist such things can’t be permitted you have to live as if they are not, or at least make a serious effort in that direction! Not pretend you can have a pre-industrial world and post-industrial lifestyle just for wanting it.. But that massive noise means new nuclear power something basically every developed nation has known they would need to cleanly and efficiently meet the ever growing demand for a very long time has been NIMBYed to death, same thing with better rail links, sewage treatment – the list is near endless. Another great example a small, short lived mine (the assumption being electric carbon free will happen soon and the mine was tiny so would be empty quickly anyway) was to be opened to provide carbon for UK steelworking now – “no we can’t have that – its not green” massive outcry – its about as green as it can bloody get – good quality locally produced steel, made with meaningful environmental legislation, as opposed to importing from half way round the world probably garbage steel made in a place that cares little for wrecking the environment. You loose in carbon produced in the steels production, and then loose yet more bringing here…

          Also goes the other way one great ‘shocker’ story even with no proof at all (drones @ UK airports for instance) can create such demand for an ill-conceived change in the law and/or a witch hunt that stupid things happen, folks get blamed as criminal, having done nothing actually illegal or for things they couldn’t control, things get banned or lathered in red tape. Often for no real reason at all or because one shit happens for the first time in ages moment got lots of publicity, even though in truth for all the ‘drama’ around it, it was just life being they way it is – imperfect, certain to contain pain and death.

          p.s
          What electric vehicles can be is part of allowing people to live a 21st century lifestyle with much lower impact on the environment than currently – its a worthy investment as if everything else keeps up then the planet can safely support our current population, with a lifestyle we can still recognise. Minor, almost indistinguishable change in the way everyone lives now, while in theory having some benifit… Its so easy to actually make happen, as its easy to get enough of the population behind it – even a absolute petrol head, opposed to being ‘robbed’ of their big V8 won’t care enough to make a big deal of it, that is too much inconvenience, makes you stick out from the crowd and look bad, to avoid basically no inconvenience..

          Getting bigger, more complete changes takes time, and is far harder – as getting the population as a whole to accept things have to change in ways they won’t really like, or just don’t know the impact of… Fear is a good motivator to avoid change. All the while those greedy buggers keep trying to make the money printing press flow ever more into their own pockets…

    3. Agree, today was supposed to be sunny,but it poured down, so we can assume future predictions are acurate. Climate change is true though, as the climate always changes. Predictions also always change, from an ice age, to global warming, to climate change…I’m all for bettering the environment, but don’t believe the sky is falling. Anyway the bigger question is why are we here. And the answer is to raise co2 levels and create enough plastic. Once done the earth will get rid of us and spin happily on 😊

    4. What cycle is this that includes humans chopping down most of the forests, using up most of the peat, coal, oil and gas within the blink of an eye in geologic time with all of it ending up in the atmosphere?

      Humans are not a cycle. Not yet, anyway.

      1. Name one animal that doesn’t go through population growth and decline cycles? Even without predators (look at deer in the uk), animals will breed until they have exceeded their carrying capacity triggering a massive die off. What makes humans any different?

    5. @Anonymous’ comment is pretty typical version of “teach the controversy”. The comment’s misgivings have already been addressed the difference between the current, rapidly developing cycle, and previous, slowly developed cycles. As for “self serving”, who’s data to discount most is usually a function of following the money that generated it. Believe me, most university- and national lab-based researchers are not rolling in money, whereas the researchers and writers funded by fossil fuel extractors/processors often are. It’s axiomatic that a troll can shovel BS faster than even a subject expert can rebut it.

  4. So my impression is the only comments suitable for this topic include those supporting the youth-oriented popular notion that social reform will triumph only through the means of social media and one-sided political views.

    1. To be fair, there were warnings about global warming decades ago.

      But I’d also point out that Earth Day was in 1970, bike paths were a thing the same year, locally we got door to door newspaper recycling about 1980 (and even before that, a neighbor would take newspapers to places that wouod recycle, taking ours along too), “living simple” isn’t a new thing, and vegetarianism started going mainstream in the late sixties. And alternative power was a thing in the seventies.

      I’ve never driven a car, rarely get in one. Haven’t eaten meat since 1979, and buy a lot of stuff used, not that I have money to spend endlessly.

      Not perfect, but better than some, and done for my own reasons.

    2. Why should it? Acknowledging that we’re facing some problems isn’t a standpoint that should be restricted to one side of politics, nor should having a green outlook. I grew up on an organic smallholding in the 1970s for example. Were my parents hippies? No, they were very conventional Conservative voters from the 1950s, they just understood something about the environment.

      1. Jenny if you look at the UK Green Party manifesto on the subject of the economy, they still talk about growth. Last year it was still aiming for growth, now they say they won’t even measure it.
        Something more radical needs to happen and bloody quickly, not even the Greens go far enough.

      2. Jenny, if you want a view of how politics works in the uk in the 2020’s go back and watch Yes Minister / Yes Prime Minister.
        Very little has changed.
        For the reasons they state in the series.

        Government can’t / wont change with the times. it’s run by a certain class of people that wont allow others in that have different views. Other than a spot of lip service.

  5. I’ve looked into this extensively, and two of my long-term projects are an attempt at helping.

    It turns out that the vast, vast majority of doom predictions are politically motivated. Literally they are using fear to drive change in politics.

    Bjorn Lomborg studies these sorts of things explicitly, using the best data and information we have available, and rates the things we can do based on effectiveness. He uses the official UN data and projections to debunk many of these predictions.

    Basically, we’re turning things around at an amazing rate. Think back to how things were 20 years ago and compare with today: 20 years ago solar cells weren’t a thing, electric vehicles weren’t a thing, LED lighting wasn’t a thing, and wind farms weren’t a thing.

    20 years from now things will be wildly different, and lots of new technologies will be available. It’s expected that we will have more energy available than the population uses, be capturing carbon from the atmosphere, and depolluting the world.

    Until recently, UN projections were that population would peak around 2090, now it’s 2065, and fertility rates are falling faster than expected. US fertility rate is already below replacement level. (US popoulation continues to increase due to immigration.)

    We’re bringing people out of poverty (by UN definitions) much faster than planned, and studies show that once wealth reaches a certain level people start to care about the environment. Basically, if you’re not worried about safety and survival, then you can worry about greater issues. Poverty has been reduced by *half* in the last 10 years.

    It’s nice to contribute to sustainability, but don’t buy into the click-bait panic being sold by the media.

    As a world, we’re actually getting our act together.

    1. I look around, and the number of people I see that say they care is reasonable, but when asked to do something to contribute the answer is always the same: turn head to neighbour… “well, they aren’t doing it, why should I”

    2. Nope, not here to change anyone’s politics.

      Acknowledging there’s a problem shouldn’t be restricted to one side of politics, though in some countries the vested interests that stand to lose from it have done their best to make it so.

      Instead politics should be there to do what it’s best at – providing competing solutions. Spotting a commercial opportunity in solving an ecological challenge should not be alien to a capitalist, for example.

    3. > We’re bringing people out of poverty (by UN definitions) much faster than planned,

      Pretty much every metric except for the climate-related / species-dissapearance ones are improving currently (and there are reasons to be optimistic for the climate).

      There are fewer dictatorships, less violence, less poverty, more freedom, better standards of living, etc. Could list a hundred factors, all in the green.

      If somebody thinks things are getting worse, they are falling into a dumb trap the media is setting up because it sells better: https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_and_ola_rosling_how_not_to_be_ignorant_about_the_world?language=en#t-958431

      And it’s clear why things are getting better: science is not only improving things faster than it *ever* has, it is getting better at it year after year. We have more and more scientists, they have better and better tools, they get better at doing what they are doing, they have more budgets, and they have less interference from the religious, the stupid and the politicians. Pretty much, progress is not just improving things, it’s *accelerating*, getting faster and faster.
      And most people don’t realize what that means, so they don’t understand what the future is going to look like, they still have a cold-war doom mentality.

      1. I still have a downloaded copy of wikipedia, the debian apt repos, patent bundles and hundreds of thousands of boooks in .txt format somewhere on my hard drive *just in case* we see a collapse (say, asteroid or the sun fucking things up), but it’s so unlikely it’s more of a fun thing than an actual concern …

      2. ” science is not only improving things faster than it *ever* has, it is getting better at it year after year”
        The trouble is that part of that is that it’s getting better at pulling oil and coal out of the ground too, so deposits that were uneconomic decades ago are viable now.

        What we need is the paradigm shift in energy reliance towards non-carbon so we don’t emit it into the atmosphere quite so much. And – stop digging it up!

        And the big question is can we make that shift quickly enough before the arctic permafrost is all gone and the high latitude forests catch fire, with the consequent further release of CO2 and methane

        1. > What we need is the paradigm shift in energy reliance towards non-carbon so we don’t emit it into the atmosphere quite so much. And – stop digging it up!

          We are developing better renewable sources of energy faster than we are getting better at extracting non-renewables from the ground. It’s already in many places cheaper to do renewables than to do non-renewables, and that difference is only getting wider as time goes by. We are already passed the point of no return, we are going to progressively leave coal and oil behind.

      3. No one knows the future with absolute certainty. But we do know enough we can make educated guesses. Yes we will be getting the good and the bad together. Our eyes shouldn’t be blind to both. For we guard against the latter, while delighting in the former.

    4. “As a world, we’re actually getting our act together.” I think this is probably true.

      There’s even talk that less developed nations will jump over the heavy-carbon-dependence infrastructure and go straight to distributed renewable energy. It happened with phones…

      But one also doesn’t need to “buy into click-bait panic” to see that the shizz is hitting the metaphorical fan as well. That’s the reason for the positive changes, and that’s all good. (Maybe a little late, but you try changing the opinions / lives of 7 billion people.)

      1. And its that last point that really sells why there is so much spin on the facts as they are presented – you give most of us here a textbook full of relatively raw data and tell us to make our own minds up we probably would relish the task, but those not gifted with an analytical, engineering/science type mind won’t.

        And even if they dutifully slogged through the data quite likely wouldn’t fully understand its implications, if they can understand the data at all. Or believe they must be wrong (as its easier and probably even seems more likely, when almost nobody else seems worried about it yet – be embarrassing to cry wolf over nothing).

        So having such twisted reporting, the more widespread the better, convinces a population as a whole that changes are needed.

        Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately with how reporting works in some areas of the world) all this spin exists for too many masters, and actually getting more raw real reporting, or even just reporting that actually contains the meaningful, comparable data inside all the spin…

    1. Well very interesting though Nimoy‘s comment doesn’t really promote the idea of global warming. Nimoy‘s speech is consistent with my prior comment describing all of this as a potential cycle with a period of many millennia. That comment was deleted with one explanation being it did not fit the promoted premis of the article’s author.

      1. mmdee you are definitely right, there are cycles going on anyway. (I like the irony of Nimoy standing on a bridge with a load of gas guzzlers passing by behind him, by the way)

        The question is: are we accelerating a warming cycle by our actions of burning fossil fuels, and if so is the acceleration something we can live with economically (food supply being the first concern)?

        No doubt, after the human race is culled down to a few million, there will be a cooling cycle after a few tens of millennia, and we start all over again.

  6. A one-hour lecture. Lots of graphs. Graphs are good. His closing line was ‘make the future suck slightly less’. That’s not unreasonable. But, he presented a lot of controversial and uncertain info as fact. It really mostly boils down to changing the nature of human nature. It’s been a couple thousand years since pretty much every religion said ‘don’t kill people’. Fantastic – we have abolished war. Well, not really. I have my doubts whether we will make much headway on sustainability in time to make the future suck slightly less. In the meanwhile I’m sure we will invest a lot of effort on how to make the media more profitable.

    1. Humans failing to not kill each other has a minimal impact on individual cultures as a whole globally.

      A global change from a mostly stable laminar weather system to a far more chaotic one (once the polar ice caps have melted) will cause major flooding, deaths and destruction of infrastructure which will eventually self correct in a geological timescale.

      I kind of think of it as pulling the heat sink of an active CPU, the outcome will be bad – no matter how fast you react after it is gone.

  7. We can all do our bit as hackers!
    I bought 200W solar panels for £50 each secondhand, and an inverter for £100.
    I’m going to be adding a battery store to even out the generation/usage (as my meter doesn’t spin backwards) and dump the excess into water heating. Expect a small project coming up for the last bit.
    This is purely economic – I worked out how much electricity costs me, and we are now under the cost generated from solar, but only if you buy it cheap, not the expensive “as new” cost.
    It will also give me some independence if the grid is cut off (also have a petrol generator to run as an island).

    1. I like your motivation.

      However, it is only really feasible to use solar in certain locations and for limited applications and, with your own proposed setup, the major cost has been born by the ‘first-users’ of the equipment. For a majority to adopt such measures means making solar both cheaper and more efficient.

      Energy is being used as a population control device – driving many into debt and therefore servitude to maintain a normal lifestyle. Energy should be low cost and abundant as it is the SOLE reason we have developed a more secure, healthy and CLEAN world by its use.

      Adding politics to any system that should really be market-driven is simple distortion to the benefit of the politics – never the end-user.

      Last word – get an LPG conversion kit for your generator. LPG is the future.

      1. Agreed, but the cost per watt per lifespan of solar PV is coming down every day almost, and as it dips below the cost of generating+distributing from fossil fuels you’ll see a game changer.
        I would like to see PV plants in the sahara that are self-fuelled from their own solar farm, all PV output is fed into the factory, and they just ship out the “profit” as PV panels.
        Yes today it’s cloudy, and I’m not getting much benefit, and part of the exercise is to learn about this stuff (e.g that one speck of bird crap cuts the efficiency markedly).
        If you look at the supply chain for consumer PV, the majority of the markup is at the back end, giving people jobs so they can drive around in flash cars. That also needs radically changing – make it cheaper to install, and they will come. Every sunny day will keep a million tonnes of carbon in the ground.

        Oh – better than LPG – convert to biodiesel and use my waste cooking oil!

    2. …. and because connecting your setup to the UK grid as described would be illegal as you (should) know.

      but that’s another issue. Apparently we can only save the planet if we buy brand new kit and pay someone to wiring it up.
      Being green comes with a premium price tag.
      The man still needs to get paid.

      1. There is nothing wrong with old, but still standards compliment kit – and in the world of solar the standards haven’t really changed much, and those bits that have you only need to replace whichever bit isn’t legal any more, old cells matter not at all…
        And standards compliance is important – if everything can be anything whoever turns up to fix it, replace it etc years down the line won’t have a clue what it is or how to do so safely.

        And I’d far rather get the certified electrician, even though I know I could do it all myself (they are still human and will make mistakes, but far fewer of them than most folks having a go would), and am definitely glad its a requirement – I’d not trust various friends and family members to do something as simple as rewire a plug correctly, and the consequences of buggering up a solar install are nearly certain to effect more than just you…

  8. The good news is if we can get the ultra billionaire problem fixed(not $millionaires) we are not that far from a society where we can peacefully turn production to automation and everyone can either be a creative(including STEM) or be without formal employment without shame. I really think most of the so called ‘loafing class'(not the ultra loafing billionaires) will do as stone age people did and choose to do something useful for the social currency while others will small time entertain like bards of old and progress will accelerate once we are free from time/life waster mcjobs and have fractional ownership of total economic output(like billionaires do) rather than hourly wages or salary. If we can house feed and provide industrial and consumer goods to everyone, eliminate debt on a rotating basis or completely, then everyone can be fully educated, productive, and world society can stabilize. Wresting control from billionaires and dictators laws rather than violence will be the difficult challenge as will preventing a soviet style ultra-empowered bureaucracy which hordes economic output, state violence, and power.

    1. “”be without formal employment without shame””
      “”then everyone can be fully educated, productive, and world society can stabilize””

      Utter piffle. Plenty of people are happily without formal employment or education and are thriving under our current system. Not working is a lifestyle in many western countries, fully supported and by those that do. If you have no standards, no moral compunction, no “shame” as you put it, then you dont need to solve the billionaire problem to be sitting around all day watching TV and popping out kids for more welfare checks.

      Oh you people that think of mankind like it’s startrek. it’s hilarious.
      Most people are lazy, that’s the real reason why they plateau, it’s never someone else’s fault, blame xyz other people, it’s their own shear lack of will power and capacity to get over the next hill.

      I include myself in that. I’ve found my niche, a salary I’m happy with vs the workload and I’m not going to flog myself further for a few thousand in wages, yet many more hours and stress.

      But you just can’t fathom in your middle class world how people would be prepared to live below your status, but more to the point enjoy it.
      Not content with creating a social underclass you’ve gone off in white saviour mode and are now bringing massive immigration problems to our shores.
      Some people just want to live in a pile of poo. let them.

  9. I was watching “Deep Impact” on the TV the other day.
    They cannot save everyone, only 3million Americans. So they reserve 1million places for politicians, artists, scientists, teachers, law enforcement, etc etc.
    They then give 2millions places away in a lottery system.

    The issue with that approach is straight out of the book of another film, Idiocracy.
    Well you end up with a great proportion of people who will happily pro-create to replenish the earth with humans, but the problem is today that’s exactly what they are doing, but little else. Dont work, just have babies and take government hand outs. Not exactly taking people from the deep end of the gene pool.

    And there lies the problem. If on the verge of the extinction of the human race, we are unable to eliminate the social underclass who happily live only to sponge off the rest of us, because of some sort of moral nonsense than all people are equal (in value and status) then we be screwed.

  10. Gotta love censorship.
    3 comments gone so far.
    Cencorship does not accomplish its goal, whatever it may be.

    If an idea is solid, let it stand on it’s own merits. If it’s too weak to stand up to civil discussion, that says something about the solidity of the idea. (Note that I said civil discussion, feel free to delete posts that are just angry profanity/ personal insults)

    Note that I’m not taking a side on the whole climate change topic here; I’m more reflecting on how to best have/moderate discussions on polarizing topics.

    For those who are frustrated that “climate change” gets called a conspiracy theory, consider that shutting down opposing viewpoints only adds to that look, rather than detract from it.

    For those who disagree with any specific aspect of what gets lumped together as “climate change”, formulate your communication as a reasoned, civil, specific argument, and avoid simply bashing on “climate change”

    For both sides of *any issue*, remember that the vast majority of people believe what they do in good faith. Remembering this goes a long way toward fostering discussion accross divides in polarizing issues. It’s totaly possible for one side pf an issue to be wrong, BUT it’s because the people on that side see the issue in a way that’s not quite accurate, not because of active malice.

    For normal people, I try to always assume good motives, and it goes a long way toward allowing positive discussions with people you disagree with.
    (Except politicians; I’m weary of them untill proven otherwise)

      1. Nobody is censoring you, everybody gets comments dissapearing from time to time, it’s just the anti-spam system dummy. Maybe you used links, maybe somebody in your IP block is spamming, maybe you posted too much in a given hour, maybe you used too many keywords that spammers typically use, there are hundreds of reasons why those comments would be getting deleted. Thinking it’s because of a conspiracy is so typical and so dumb… Get your tinfoil hat, quick !

          1. I wasn’t answering Nathan, I was answering you. And the part I do not agree with is the complete delusion that there is some conspiracy to censor you. You’re not that important, nobody cares about you that much. Plenty of anti-climate-change and anti-science stuff is still there, why is *your* stuff being censored, but all that stuff still there? Makes zero sense. Must be that you are so dangerous to the system, they MUST get rid of you, or you’ll change the world with your words.

      2. Oh also, I subscribed to this thread (you can too), meaning I get an email for *all* comments (even if they get deleted later), and your idea that most people agree with you but are being censored, is complete fantasy …

  11. If I’ve learned anything from the pandemic then it’s that some people are unsuited for uncertainty and will be highly dangerous, killing people to obtain modern luxuries. These people will need to be dealt with in some fashion and sadly it seems likely that violence will be the solution.

    I certainly hope all predictions about a collapse are wrong because I know how badly it will turn out.

  12. I couldn’t sit through that video, but Herrington’s paper is interesting, and reminded me a lot of the comparatively silly and simplistic models I ran in the 90s after reading a coincidentally influential (to me) series of books. Recommended reading if you want to be similarly warped:

    Thomas Malthus’ An essay on the principle of population, which started much of this ball rolling (in 1798!). A controversial and influential book that altered government policies world-wide for almost two centuries, but he’s considered a bit of a nutcase now, and it’s still debated whether the ideas he put forth Did Good.

    Asimov’s Foundation and the whole idea of Psychohistory and the predictability of human population behavior. Fascinating idea.

    Niven & Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye that explored the consequences of unfettered population growth and extreme resource depletion.

    The Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth the basis of Herrington’s paper described above.

    And a story in a setting where we sort of make do after all this mess, and everything isn’t so bad:
    Kim Stanley Robinson’s Pacific Edge

  13. OK doomer. For the record the covid shutdown did not show a proportional drop in the rate of CO2 rise as recorded in the Keeling Curve data. i.e. the current data indicated that CO2 will continue to rise even if there is a 100% drop in human production of CO2. So either debunk the Keeling Curve data’s validity or the UN’s estimate of the scale of the slowdown, or you may as well seal yourself into your doomsday bunker now and be done with it, or you can wake up then give up on the flawed greenhouse gas hypothesis and get on with your life. Perhaps some people need to consider if they are suffering from some form of mental disorder that can be best described as existential dysphoria coupled with a nonspecific anxiety disorder. Who knows what the label is, but it is a thing and it does make some people dysfunctional, or worse they go around psychologically abusing other people with their negativity as if they derive meaning and pleasure from that deviant behaviour. There is no CO2 boogeyman coming to destroy you, nor is humanity as stupid, evil and or helpless as you believe. Your world view is perverted and unhealthy. I bet HaD delete this comment too, but that will not stop it from hitting the nail on the head or being true, the truth is always out there waiting for you to walk face first into it one day, even if you close your eyes and chant la la la.

  14. Doesn’t help that every hurricane, tornado, flood, insert natural disaster here, is attributed to global warming. On top of that, who, or what organizations contribute to it mostly, and why, all the whys. You will not get big business on board unless they can make a profit. Just look at your local history of what big business has done the the ‘earth’. Electric vehicles to solve the problem? perhaps a late start, but on the coat tails of major profits for auto makers. I suppose business is there to make a profit, but making believe one cares for the environment more so than profit gives the movement a bad name to regular people, as it doesn’t take to much to place where one lies. This discussion will go on forever, or until the current date of the disaster is set for arrives. I wonder how much gratuitous technology has impacted the earth? I wonder how much these building size data farms contribute, so we can post a selfie on some social media outlet, among other gratuitous uses. One can call another stupid, a sign of not good things really, but I digress, but everyone should take a good long look at their own ‘inventory of stuff’, your own footprint, not only in your home but in your activities out it. This topic is one gigantic mess, on more than one front.

  15. The topic of climate change is very difficult to discuss with everyday people. So many people view it as a binary topic: it exists or it doesn’t. That is so far from the truth, but climate change wackos will yell at anyone who doesn’t think we are dying in a few years and climate change deniers will yell at anyone who asks for their thoughts about the more frequent climate extremes each year. Societal thought has turned into emotionally based ignorance in many ways.

    My unbiased, yet educated take for this audience is as follows:

    Climate change is not a new topic, been around since the 60’s. It has had several names, but it is always the same. Unfortunately, many “scientists” supply ridiculous predictions in efforts to gain more believers to its existence rather than sticking to basic facts that even a 2nd grader could stand behind. Politicians get involved in the topic for all sorts of political motivations, yet I highly doubt very many politicians have a clue about the fundamentals of climate change. Data exists to support many aspects of climate change, but the concept of the world ending in less than 20 has no weight whatsoever, which ends up creating more deniers than anything. In the grand scheme of things, each person should do what they can for their part to support better environmental health, but the concept of turning things around requires country sized impacts. (I’m looking at you China) In the US, we have actually come a long way in the last 10-25 years, by climate change activists don’t want you to think about that because it doesn’t support their agenda. Climate change deniers will actually make better decisions on product purchases because, in many cases, the better product is better for the environment, but be careful in thanking them for the wise purchase.

    In a nutshell, climate change exists, but the world isn’t ending tomorrow. Do your part to make the world a better place. Don’t be upset that your neighbor still drives a gas powered car. Educate yourself on the facts by reading more scientific basic media/news instead of US mainstream media that has political agendas.

    If you are having a civil discussion on the topic, don’t be offended if someone disagrees with you and it is alright if you offend them. Offending someone with your opinion that is based upon facts simply means they don’t want to be wrong. Lastly, look for the data! If someone states something that sounds off to you, ask them to support their statement with data. There is nothing wrong with doing that.

      1. Looking at a single data point is dangerous and will lead to misinformation in a hurry. In essence, using that single data point (CO2 trend) implies that there is nothing that can be done about climate change.
        Sorry, but your rebuttal to my comment about things improving in the past few decades has no merit.

        1. It’s not a “single data point”. The CO2 concentration is the single most important driver of climate change, and that graph shows that we’ve made zero progress at turning it around. All you could argue is that without the efforts that were done, it could have been even worse, but that’s not nearly enough.

          And I never said that “nothing can be done”.

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