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A study correlating economic and political changes in China's Middle Kingdom has found that warmer climate benefited society. By contrast, a fall of temperature of 2C was correlated with conflict and famine. "The collapses of the agricultural dynasties of the Han (25-220), Tang (618-907), Northern Song (960-1125), Southern Song …

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I have also read this, but...

1) We don't want to explore too far above that maximum-temperature line; we're not at all sure what happens there.

2) This year, at least, Russia is getting heat waves and drought (BBC yesterday).

3) I've also heard the warming-vs-cooling theory that says we really ought to be saving the carbon in our fossil fuels for somewhat later in our slide down the ice age, instead of burning it all now (and in the next hundred years).

4) those hypothetical nuke plants need to be breeders, probably burning thorium, else we will run out of fuel for THEM, too.

5) the comparison of US/Canada vs EU indicates that civilization is possible with more or less CO2 footprint; the correlation is not iron-clad. Fossil fuels are cheap, therefore energy is cheap, therefore we use gluttonously. That does not mean that gluttonous use is therefore necessary.

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FAIL

Cough...

A few comments:

1) What do you mean by the "maximum-temperature" line - how about during the medieval warm period when Greenland was, well, Green. I know certain climate scientists are doing their utmost to airbrush the medieval warm period out of the record, but the evidence strongly supports its existence.

2) And this year, at least, we've had some of the coldest winters around in an age. Variance is a bitch, it really makes it hard to detect trends. The trend at the moment for global temperature is probably down over the last 10 years, up for the 20 or so years before that, but it is really hard to extract trends when temperature measurements are so badly affected by heat islands and the like. And no, I don't trust the adjusted temperatures produced by Hadley et al.

3) We have a lot of fossil fuels. I was told as a child that Oil was definitely going to run out in 20 years, we still have at least 50 years supply left - and that is 10 years after it was supposed to have run out. Coal we have oodles and oodles of. The only good reason I can see for worrying about how much oil we use is the simple fact that we get so many derivative products from crude (plastics etc.) that might become much more expensive to make once oil has run out, but I doubt anyone on this forum will see the end of oil, and probably the next generation or 2 as well. Saving things for future generations is a quaint idea that has never worked. During the Napoleonic wars, people in Britain were encouraged to plant oak to use for building ships, which by the time it matured wasn't needed. By the time we are in a new ice age, we will have new technologies to heat us. They might be based on Nuclear, or a renewable like Solar, or they might be based on as yet undiscovered stores of fossil fuels.

4) Actually, at $130/kg, we have enough U235 to last us for another century. Double the amount you are willing to pay, and we won't run out for a thousand years. Thorium breeders or conventional breeders are interesting tech, but we should research them slowly because of the added safety issues, and the problems of high-level waste.

5) I am much more worried about other pollutants than CO2. The US uses more fossil fuels than Europe primarily because it is much less densely populated. Like for like comparisons tend to show that fossil fuel usage is pretty even across the developed world.

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I guess I am thinking longer term

I've got (had) relatives that made it past 100 years old, so 100 years is not that long a time. I'd like to be aiming a little further out than that. My assumption, also, is that oil becomes more costly to obtain, that our consumption of other fuels will rise faster than a simply growth factor applied to our current consumption.

Globally, my understanding is that we just had a mild winter, and that we are in the warmest 12-months (July-to-July) ever observed. Arctic ice melt has been near or beyond the 2007 record for a good chunk of the 2010 spring and summer, and the weather in New England has been hot (we have a garden, the lilies and blackberries are running between 1 and 3 weeks ahead of schedule).

I think you need to quantify "much more densely populated" -- 1/3 of the US population, lives in areas as dense as Assen in the Netherlands (where the bike ride share is 40%). 2/3 doesn't, of course, but one corollary of low density is "(almost) nobody lives there". Our cars are large and burn more fuel than they need to, and we use them much more often than we need to.

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Grenade

need, want, and avaiability

Spoken like one of the 1/3.

2/3s of the U.S. population live away from the highest densities because they "don't admire" the socio-economic conditions and mentality of those who do - summarized by "what's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable" or, simply, "gimme this and do that". There's that bugger variance at work again. Should we all someday conform to the same value system by choice or coercion, we'll have neither these knotty problems nor lives worth living.

Why, when such limits are discussed, is it always assumed that we should increase the supply rather than reduce the demand? Yes, I mean population. No, I don't mean mass extermination or draconian controls of births - incentives to birth reduction by responsible reproduction perhaps, but not draconian save, perhaps, for Octomoms.

To imply, by omission, that we do not need to, if only we can find enough food and energy, is to consider considerably less than half of the "human equation". When it comes to human life, it's the quality, not the quantity, that really counts.

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Anonymous Coward

The birds

I'm sure Mao's campaign to kill the birds has had a far more severe effect on the food production than any of these historical temperature changes.

Were they really able to measure that precisely in the 1st century?

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Coat

Histprical Temperature chages/precise measurement

Of course this historic temperature data is totally accurate. If it were in any way dubious most of the evidence for Man made climate change* would be extremely questionable scientifically...

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I rather suspect they could, and to some extent even if they couldn't

they seem to have been more fastidious record keepers than the current crop of professional climatologists.

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The 1st Century?

Are you are claiming that Mao campaigned to kill birds (I've not heard of this) in the 1st century?

"I'm sure Mao's campaign to kill the birds has had a far more severe effect on the food production than any of these historical temperature changes."

Changes in storm patterns and local weather have been predicted for years to increase in strength starting...soon...because of increased CO2 in the atmosphere.

We have not yet entered the time of increased weather variation predicted by global warming.

We're still enjoying the golden age, when we can burn petroleum and coal at ferocious rates without caring who has to pay the price.

Enjoy these times. They will end soon.

Oh, and don't worry about the fossil-fuel billionaires. They'll be just fine.

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Nukes

By the time the next ice age arrives I will be using my personal miniature Stargate hand warmer. One end is in orbit around the sun transmitting solar energy to its cousins in my gloves. Either that or I'll be so gaga I won't notice the cold.

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Welcome

You know what this means...

Snowball fight!!

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Flame

No, use the oil now

Hard to get to it, when it's under an extra layer of ice. Rock doesn't move the way ice does. Burn it all now, I say, it's the only way we can be sure to avert a new ice-age. I'll rather have global warming than global cooling.

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Flame

Wrong outcome

"Burn it all now, I say, it's the only way we can be sure to avert a new ice-age."

This is the polar opposite of the self-centered environmentalist movement, though the result is the same. In both cases, there's an assumption that humankind can, somehow, prevent another shift from the current mild temperatures we've experienced over the last several eons to yet-another-ice-age. That concept is not just self-centered and self-aggrandizing, it's just plain stupid. Humans do and and will not ever have the technology to prevent the major climate shift of this planet, at least until we can reasonably control the orbit of the Earth, tilt of Earth's axis, and solar output. You'd have to at least be able to moderate the Sun's radiation output to get a handle on the climate, and even that probably wouldn't be enough.

It's no wonder that alien races in the movies are always trying to wipe us out. We think far too highly of ourselves, which is one of the few areas I agree with Christianity.

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Ahoi there Capt'n

".....there's an assumption that humankind can, somehow, prevent another shift from the current mild temperatures we've experienced......"

I agree we MAY not have enough of an influence over the climate to prevent the next ice-age. But can we REALLY afford to not even try?? Can we risk doing nothing???

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: Ahoi there Capt'n

Can we afford to do something spectacularly stupid, that measurably costs lives?

Let me check with Uncle George, he surely has cash to spare.

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Actually, we already have the technology, it would just be hideously expensive

to undertake. Granted, I think the undertaking would finally move us significantly in the direction of being able to get off this rock, but I'm not going to use it as a whipping boy just because I want to advance space exploration.

Controlling the temperature aspect of the climate is a relatively simple task of launching a sufficient number of satellites with mirrors that can reflect light toward or away from the surface of the earth. Personally, even if the satellites were there, I'm not sure we'd be smart enough to use them without actually throwing the whole thing out of kilter. I'd put them as seriously more dangerous than a couple billion extra tons of CO2 in the atmosphere.

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Anonymous Coward

Just wondering

how can there be any sensible, meaningful debate about this on these forums when Andrew labels everyone who disagrees with him as "bedwetter" ?

Oh, that's right you can't.

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WTF?

Re: Just wondering

LOL. This was my first thought too :-)

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: Just wondering

You remind me of the old joke:

"Don't eat at that restaurant. The food there is terrible - and besides, the portions are so small!"

History would be very different if people had thrown in the towel as easily as you have here.

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FAIL

Throwing in the towel vs. ignoring

If these forums were the primary field of debate (or even a semi-influential one) on this topic, Andrew, I would agree with you. But since they're not, AC's comment, and the people choosing not to argue with you are not so much throwing in the towel as they are simply ignoring you. The end result will not be some magnificent shift in the climate debate to your favor, but simply increasing marginalization of these forums re said debate.

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: Throwing in the towel vs. ignoring

"the people choosing not to argue with you are not so much throwing in the towel as they are simply ignoring you. "

Ignoring me... by commenting?

Like the joke goes: the food here is terrible - and it's such small portions.

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Happy

Ah... There's your problem!

"the food here is terrible - and it's such small portions."

That statement is a logical statement to make upon visiting a restaurant once. It's not saying that the speaker wants more of the terrible food, it's stating two criteria for foodservice: food quality and food quantity, and indicating that the given service is lacking in both.

That is a perfectly possible and consistent conclusion to come to, and it doesn't imply returning for future punishment as both can be observed in the same visit.

I believe the attitude you were hoping to refer to would be better described as:

"the food here is terrible -- and it's the same every day of the week."

THAT statement indicates that the speaker repeatedly returns for terrible food. But even that statement ignores other factors, such as the speaker's other options. Perhaps they can't cook, and can't find a better place that they can afford.

The same goes with my statement on throwing in the towel vs. ignoring. The first reaction to a fly, for example, might be to try to kill it. But someone dealing with a fly or several flies for long periods of time may stop trying to kill them. It's not giving up; it's merely recognizing that preventing the worst that the flies can do is not worth the effort in trying to kill them.

So yes, they may have commented. Once. But the question is whether after that comment they decide to continue reading and commenting, or decide that arguing with you is not a good use of their time.

Me, I have lots of time, and I like (reasoned, logical) arguments. So when I stop arguing with you, you know you're a lost cause.

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Adaptation

Jared Diamond may have under-estimated societies' capacity to adapt in "Guns, Germs and Steel". But in "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" he contrasted the mediaeval Viking settlements in Greenland, which failed and died out when the climate cooled, with the native Inuit in the same area, who adapted to the change.

Then again, there are also disadvantages to adaptability. (If I can say this without being accused of racism.) The adaptable hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Inuit didn't change much in the ensuing nine hundred years, during which time the Vikings went from longboats to stainless-steel cutlery.

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and not forgetting

IKEA

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Norse the more adaptive?

"he contrasted the mediaeval Viking settlements in Greenland, which failed and died out when the climate cooled, with the native Inuit in the same area, who adapted to the change."

Did the Norse actually die out? May be the majority, were more adaptive than the Inuit by moving in their longships to another location, They probably didn't fancy going back to a hunter-gatherer life style. Evidence in Greenland of widespread Norse colonial death by famine is pretty sparse. (prossibly due to being eaten !-)

For the future I would expect If there was major climate change. Then powerful Western nations and institutions would still continue to survive but not necessarily in their original place of origin. Though sadly, it might get a bit messy, for the current inhabitants.

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I don't think so...

"if you'd asked people in 1900 what would happen if temperatures rose by one degree, you'd have got the same prognosis you hear from the "bedwetters" today..."

That presumes an awful lot about the mindset and knowledge level of the people you're asking. There are, I believe, exactly 0 people living today who were alive in 1900, and I don't believe the records from that time are complete enough to provide us with a likely answer to a question that wasn't asked of them. So I'd say the response you've suggested is nothing more than a guess. Personally, I'd be more inclined to guess that they'd say "Eh, what's one degree?"

Not to mention that you (possibly deliberately?) misrepresented Campbell's statement. His focus for that analogy wasn't on the temperature change, but on population change. He was talking about prognostications for the results of the population growth that actually did happen. His point was not that people have historically feared climate change, but that we've always predicted future problems based on current levels of technology. Improved science and technology have led to a global population previously thought to be unsustainable (that question WAS on the minds of people in the 1900s) -- and science and technology may well come to our rescue again. His point makes sense; yours, not so much.

Campbell also, unlike you, mentions the value of the fear:

"Much of the literature, including the IPCC, has a tendency to alarmism (which is not necessarily wrong, we need to think about what bad things might happen), and this leads to an inaccurate impression that it is all cost and no benefit. "

Without some level of concern regarding a potential future problem, be it overpopulation or overheating, there's very little impetus to find a way to accommodate or prevent that problem. If we don't have some concern regarding global warming, peak oil, and the like, we wouldn't be developing some of the remarkable energy technology that's being worked on today.

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Anonymous Coward

Not exactly 0, no.

"There are, I believe, exactly 0 people living today who were alive in 1900, [...]"

The oldest living female and male are 114 and 113, resp., currently, sayeth wikipedia. That makes them 4 and 3 in 1900. So, no, not exactly 0. But close enough for your argument, I suppose.

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Coat

And that would make them...

... bed wetters at both ends of the time scale?

I know, I know...

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Risks and Benefits

Living in chilly Edmonton, Alberta, a change in global climate that might make it a more comfortable place, like Phoenix, Arizona, might not seem so bad. This, though, would be far worse than even the most drastic climate change predictions.

Even a tiny increase in temperature will mean that some obscure species of frog will not be able to crawl to a pond further north in time. There will be extinctions, there will be invasive species - and there will also be food problems, because people in tropical countries don't have the option of migration in today's world with rigid national borders. Changing agricultural practices and diet takes time, and while the efficiency of agriculture goes down as you approach the poles, it also goes down as you approach the Equator.

All these consequences, though, are indeed miniscule in comparison to those of giving up modern technology, and trying to feed the world through only natural power sources like draft animals.

So? Hasn't anyone heard of nuclear power? We can have our cake (lots of abundant energy for high tech) and eat it too (no carbon emissions to speak of).

But first we have to turn off the oil tap and make it pinch a bit before people will decide to stop listening to the anti-nuclear prophets of doom. Unlike the global warming prophets of doom, they're actually not worth listening to.

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FAIL

I really hate this debate

"Climate Changing" aka. Global Warming was a very poorly chosen symptom for facilitating political change.

The underlying threat to our species, is that our growth in numbers and technology has a catastrophic effect on all the other species on which we depend.

That we don't take things which are "free" and which do not "generate wealth" seriously (i.e. "who the hell gave animals the right to exist? They're not paying their taxes, and they're not doing anything useful" seems to be the cultural mentality bubbling away under the surface) . We just exploit the opportunity.

Long before things get too hot or cold, we'll have reduced the ecosystem in which we live to an impoverished, disease ridden shell in which all of nature's beauty has been butchered in the name of mankind's well-being.

There are many reasons for taking a dim view on that fact. Aesthetically, spiritually, and pragmatically... but I imagine that I'm pissing into the wind on a tech driven site like this where most contributors haven't experienced much beyond the confines of their cubicle.

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yup

Especially with allegations like "catastrophic effect on all other species on which we depend". It is of course true that my eating crown roast of lamb on Sunday implies a catastrophic event for one particular sheep preceded it (not to mention the poor veggies involved, and the rhubard that followed), but I suspect you have a hidden premiss along the lines of "an interconnectedness of everything"* (your "all"), so that a catastrophe for one is a catastrophe for all - despite the clear benefit to me.

* a tenet of pantheism. The metaphysics of pantheism is based on the assumption that all substances (the separate objects in the universe) are really one Substance. It is of course unprovable. Logically it implies a hurt to one (part of the) substance is a hurt to the Substance. To be consistent you should also support plant rights as well as animal rights.

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Anonymous Coward

Visit Chernobyl!

Nature's beauty is quite happily recolonising that area and it's turning into a nice wildlife park now we pesky humans have been removed. By way of contrast, nature lovers are happily supporting massive windmills in beauty spots, along with the access roads and infrastructure they need. Or preventing effective forest management, leading to increasing fuel loads, more severe fires and loss of biodiversity. Much of the time the people making the environmental policy decisions are urban cube dwellers and have an idealised view about what nature really is.

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WTF?

Three cheers for Chernobyl!

Obviously, what we need is many more just like that!

Windmills bad, "effective forest management" good! No access roads needed!

"Effective forest management". Just like "lifting a couple of billion people from messing about in the mud", the poor poor forests of the world had to wallow in squalor for millenia, barely able to survive, until we humans came to the rescue with clear cuts, replanted with monoculture tree farms, criss crossed with land slide causing top soil eroding access roads. So now the solution to all of our historical "effective forest management" is to do more of the same and expect a better outcome.

A real forest, as opposed to a tree farm, can handle forest fires just fine, in fact a real forest needs occasional forest fires to remain healthy. When there is a good mix of tree species and sizes, the large trees survive to reseed the forest naturally, in fact they are healthier with a little underbrush clearing once in a while. With a healthy biodiversity, it doesn't reach the firestorm proportions you see in our "effectively managed" forests, where all of the trees are the same size so they can all burn (and die) together. In a healthy natural forest, fires aren't so severe and much survives.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_ecology

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, same point really.

Yes, nature will do that just fine. _Treehuggers_, or even just the urbanites moving out to "beauty spots" won't have it, so we end up with forests that haven't seen a burn-out of excess fuel in decades, leading to ever more severe and thus damaging fires at the drop of a hat, that then get fought ever more fiercely to protect the urbanites' homes in the middle of the firebrush. And so on.

So yeah, if you put humans in the middle of forests that need a bit of a fire to remove excess so that the next time over it's another small fire, not a big one, then you need humans to manage the "effective forest management". At any rate it would be better to stop fighting forest fires as if they were a bad thing. I believe that was the point, too.

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effective forest management?

From what I"ve seen that would be clear cut the lot and plant a tree farm all in neat rows, all of the same fast growing species, only useful for making news print and butt wipe.

Hello Chinese Academy of Sciences, this is the government that gives you all your money, we would like a study that says we should burn more coal.

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Splendidly argued

Us Denialists will have the last laugh while we're being eaten by polar bears and penguins and whatnot.

The problem with both historians and climatologists is that they're the people who couldn't handle more academically rigorous subjects like Sports and Exercise Science, or even Social Anthropology. You don't see physicists bleating on about "ritual purposes" or engineers disclaiming "If our models are correct, but there's no way to be sure..."

If you can't test it, it ain't science, it's horoscopes with peer review.

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Thank you...

...for that last line. I don't know whether you came up with it yourself or quoted from somewhere else, but I'm definitely going to plagiarise it at some point in the future.

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Astronomy?

Unless you're some highly advanced, space faring race, it's not that easy carrying out astronomical experiments.

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You are clearly clueless about astronomy.

Studying it is one of the more demanding of the sciences, requiring a good understanding of physics and chemistry. In fact, the existing of helium was proven by Astronomer long before chemists here on Earth were able to synthesize it.

It also happens to be a good stomping ground for recognizing the severe limitations of climatology. Precisely because of our inability to move ourselves vast distances to better estimate distances to other stars, astronomy teaches the potential for erroneous projections based on a small observation set.

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Re : You are clearly clueless about astronomy

You are clearly clueless about chemistry - Helium is an element - you can't synthesis and element by chemistry.

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Coat

I hope the sea level rises quickly.

I'm about to put my house on the market and a nice coastal vista [tm] should help no end.

I'm sure my sun glasses are in here somewhere.

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WTF?

Oh no, change, aaaargh

So the climate changes. Some bits get colder, some hotter.

Maybe a few species get wiped out.

Who cares? Whether we can bollix the planet ourselves or not, a volcano, asteroid or solar events could just as easily do much, much worse.

Don't fear change, embrace it.

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Unhappy

Head in the sand

"if you'd asked people in 1900 what would happen if temperatures rose by one degree, you'd have got the same prognosis you hear from the "bedwetters" today: "hunger, war, migration, desertification and water shortages in 2010... "

Um, I guess you've not noticed but thats all actually happening.

If you watch the Spanish news you'll realise that the Saharan desert conditions are very gradually creeping north creating annal water shortages in mainland Spain.

Not to mention the noticeable de-stabilisation of El Niño creating annal floods and devastation in South America.

Oh, and the only reason that large scale agriculture is still feeding the population is because technology is so far keeping pace with the increasing number of threads to crops.

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Coat

What kind of water shortages?

"creating annal water shortages in mainland Spain"

Is that bad? Does Spain need anal water?

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Boffin

Nothing's that simple

The big question is: What is the cause?

Are there changes in the environment? Yes. Then again, there always are. Our planet is a dynamic system (the most dynamic in the solar system).

Are they normal? We don't know (No. We don't.).

Have such things happened in the past at times where man's influence on climate was practically nonexistent (nary impossible)? Yes. We have archeological/geological data.

So basically, at this point we simply don't have enough data to gauge humanity's influence on this phenomenon. We just don't. Period.

Does that mean we should ignore obvious things like, say, rampant pollution? No, but we shouldn't stop progress (in many cases *necessary* progress) because of superstitious fear, either.

I'm getting tired of everyone+dog pushing their agendas and theories based on jack-shit for hard facts.

But don't worry -- if 2012 doesn't kill us, HTML5 will surely save the day.

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Anonymous Coward

Man-made shortages, yes...

... but not because of global warmening. It's all the water being pumped out to the costa del sol to keep those golf courses green that's doing it. Water that would normally be used in central spain to maintain agriculture (or just sit there and make things nice and growable in general) is instead pumped out to feed a growing population of ex-pats and fantasy-land-dwellers who probably spend most of their time whining about the Berbers and how the world is so dreadful these days because just last week their massive pool was too cold to swim in by god and the golf course looked a bit peaky because they weren't watering it three times a day.

Like politics, all climate is local. Rather than look for the big global bugbear to explain a problem, first look for the local conditions. Spain is drying out because Spain is systematically removing all its water to feed a bunch of self-entitled pillocks.

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Adaptation vs. Mitigation

I agree with you that wealth and technology will provide a substantial shield against the effects of global climate change - but this is no reason to accept that we have to adapt to climate change, rather than trying to reduce it.

The structures underpinning our civilization have been constructed to take best (well, reasonable, anyway) advantage of the current climatic zones. Changes in global mean temperature will most likely lead to changes in these climatic zones, causing us to have to change crops, building designs (due to temperature/weather changes), land use, etc. Large changes in global mean temperature (such as entering another ice age) will also lead to large changes in sea level - which will require us to undertake massive reconstruction of our global transport links as current ports are either submerged, or left high and dry. All this is going to cost money. So, the question is: what would be the costs to our civilization of adaptation for the range of possible temperature changes that we may experience, and would the cost of reducing that change (either partially or fully) be less?

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: Adaptation vs. Mitigation

@David:

"So, the question is: what would be the costs to our civilization of adaptation for the range of possible temperature changes that we may experience, and would the cost of reducing that change (either partially or fully) be less?"

And the cost to others of hindering their economic development by x years - measurable in terms of infant mortality rates, for example. The problem in some places of the world is a lack of fossil fuel energy.

I heard Bob May this week arguing that the once mitigation is amortized over 50 years, the true cost is small. The same argument applies, of course, to adapation.

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Cost?

Don't forget to amortize that cost over the next 10,000 years...

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