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The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species 
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 The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species
The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species

Please use this thread to discuss the above chapter.



Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:25 pm
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Post Re: The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species
I've wanted to read this book since hearing about it a couple months ago. In talking about the fate of our species with Robert, it seemed that he was on the side of humans continuing to beat the odds against continuing to expand our economies and populations, through technical/industrial innovation. I, on the other hand, most often spoke about the dim prospects of humans becoming ever more dominant as a species. That, I thought (and still tend to think) just won't work; we'll collide with natural limits and completely degrade the planet in the process. Robert is set up to take the wizard's side, played by Norman Borlaug in Mann's book, and I'm representing the prophet, played by William Vogt. Unless, that is, either of us change our minds!

The first section of the chapter is titled "Special People," and those words might be used to summarize the message of the chapter. We are special people. We became special in the very process of becoming Sapiens. No other animal evolved the ability to display such amazing diversity of thought and personality, even though the variation in genome from person to person is extremely negligible. Our sense of our uniqueness is not an illusion in that regard.

But if we think we're a special species in being able to escape laws of natural selection, we are deluded. That, at least, is Mann's summary of the science that has described how species start slowly to increase, reach an inflection point of rapid growth, then hit another one of arrested growth, followed by steep decline. It's a deterministic view in spades. The thinking is that our species will gallop to the 10 billion mark and then plummet. Further, this "flat-S curve" is unavoidable--that is, defying it would be unnatural--unless in our specialness we also turn out to be the only species able to foresee the bad end and prevent it from happening. Seems unlikely that we can act locally on behalf of distant places and peoples, partly due to what economists call "the discount rate, which is their term for the way that humans almost always value the local, concrete, and immediate over the faraway, abstract, and distant in time. We care more about the broken stoplight up the street now than social unrest next year in Chechnya...." (36).

We've been told before that our population growth need not worry us so much because it will, inevitably, plateau at 10 billion or so. I haven't been aware that a die-off is the afterwards of that rise, though. We'll experience catastrophe because we will have run out of food and/or the microbes we'd been able to keep in check will overwhelm us, according to Mann. In following the pattern of so many other species, we'll just be demonstrating that we're nothing special.

Um, Merry Christmas.



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Fri Dec 13, 2019 3:50 pm
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Post Re: The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species
I’ll be in here as well, I’ll have my copy of TWaTP this weekend. It’ Take me a few days to get some chapters under my belt befor I jump in the discussion.

It seems to me that current political and corporate trends desire individual solutions to social dilemmas, that put at risk necessary rights of the community.



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Sat Dec 14, 2019 5:48 am
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Post Re: The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species
Taylor wrote:
I’ll be in here as well, I’ll have my copy of TWaTP this weekend. It’ Take me a few days to get some chapters under my belt befor I jump in the discussion.

It seems to me that current political and corporate trends desire individual solutions to social dilemmas, that put at risk necessary rights of the community.

Good to have you reading the book. The individual's role in sparing the planet from environmental ruin is part of the Wizard/Prophet argument. Is it up to each one of us to pursue lives that put as little pressure as possible on resources and don't increase CO2 in the atmosphere? Or should we instead be looking to maintain high individual standards of living through technology innovation and climate engineering? Government will be closely involved either way, in my opinion. Robert has said that with the wizard approach, market forces will prevail, so that we don't have to be subject to more government controls.

Does it have to be one way or the other? Or to put it another way, what if, as seems likely, both approaches are needed to address such an extreme problem? Will that be politically possible, since prophets and wizards have mutual strong disdain?



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Sat Dec 14, 2019 10:21 am
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Post Re: The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species
DWill wrote:
The individual's role in sparing the planet from environmental ruin is part of the Wizard/Prophet argument. Is it up to each one of us to pursue lives that put as little pressure as possible on resources and don't increase CO2 in the atmosphere? Or should we instead be looking to maintain high individual standards of living through technology innovation and climate engineering? Government will be closely involved either way, in my opinion. Robert has said that with the wizard approach, market forces will prevail, so that we don't have to be subject to more government controls. Does it have to be one way or the other? Or to put it another way, what if, as seems likely, both approaches are needed to address such an extreme problem? Will that be politically possible, since prophets and wizards have mutual strong disdain?
I have my copy of the book and just want to make some comments now before starting to read it. The UN Climate Conference in Madrid is revealing the hollowness of the progressive assumption that climate action must focus on cutting emissions, with the broad inability to present a future story that provides a plausible transition strategy from our current world to a sustainable system.

Governments are correctly pointing out that carbon offsetting must be central to climate policy. An offset is as good as an emission cut in terms of cooling physics, and is often safer, cheaper, and more durable, transparent and politically possible.

Yet there is furious opposition to this scientific observation from the political left, based on grossly irrational attitudes. A range of psychological neuroses feed into this confusion, such as the idea that what we do as individuals makes a difference to the climate through our personal carbon footprint, and the view that the best way to cooperate is to construct a united political front that sees itself as good, against enemies identified as evil. Both these attitudes are immensely popular, but from a wizard technology perspective of seeking practical ways to cool down the planet, both are profoundly wrong.

To achieve a sustainable global civilization, the world needs to work out how to remove more carbon from the air than total emissions, and then harness the momentum of that process to expand carbon removal to remove the dangerous trillion tonnes of CO2 that now commit the world to sea level rise and the host of other climate risks. Against that monumental necessary task, emission reduction is largely irrelevant. Decarbonisation retains its policy allure due to politics, not science.

Decarbonisation is just too small, slow, conflictual and costly compared to carbon removal. And pointing out that carbon removal is unproven is just stupid, since it is easily provable that decarbonisation alone cannot possibly stabilise the climate, so if we want a secure future it is carbon removal or bust.

However, a farcical joint climate justice statement by civil society groups condemns nature-based solutions to climate change such as carbon removal, showing how deeply toxic the political debate has become. The distinct impression they convey is they are inspired far more by their ability to mobilise ignorant supporters than by science.

While as the NGOs argue, there may be good reason to question current methods of biomass burning known as Bio Energy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), we should all welcome research into carbon storage technologies and ocean based climate restoration methods. The NGOs point out that “intended fossil fuel expansion by 2030 is at least 50% beyond a 2C target and 120% beyond what may be compatible with the global commitment to limit heating to 1.5C." but then reject the only thing that can overcome this problem, namely carbon removal technology.

This rejection is profoundly irrational and unscientific, and can only explained by the collective neuroses that I mentioned relating to personal carbon footprint and climate politics as class struggle.

A reason emission reduction retains such strong support among the activist cadre is that it harmonises with the mentality of the extreme political left, forming a weapon with which to wage class war, placing climate policy squarely within the old progressive thinking of left = good versus right = evil. Such polarised attitudes offer no hope as they are broadly rejected by voters, have no prospect of political success, and are based on wrong science. The popular united progressive front offers a lowest common denominator approach to policy, but loves to bully opponents with arrogant assertions that it represents revealed truth.

People who are serious about climate change need to distance themselves from the toxic left-wing culture of political polarisation. The activists are right in calling for “bold, transformative and immediate action”, but the only practical such action is research and development of climate restoration technology.

Greta Thunberg’s latest speech in Madrid, while making many important points, contains a basic mistake with her phrase “real zero emissions”, replacing the concept of net zero emissions.

Looking first at the sound parts of her speech, Thunberg shows the corruption of climate politics with her succinct explanation that claims about “net zero emissions” at a national level are basically fraudulent, since the national level accounting methods ignore international sources such as aviation and shipping, and the creative shifting of emissions offshore.

The problem with such language is that it makes the unscientific assumption that cooling produced by decarbonisation is somehow more effective and even morally better than cooling from climate interventions. It is a simple fact of physics that everything in the biosphere can be measured in terms of its effect on radiative forcing. The scientific approach to climate change is to find and promote those activities that most effectively cut radiative forcing. But emission reduction is only a tiny fraction of the cooling task, which will mainly have to be achieved through new technology. Thunberg is smart and sincere, but the ideas on offer from Extinction Rebellion offer no hope whatsoever of solving the climate emergency.


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Post Re: The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species
Wizard and Prophet: Prologue
The opening question is how our planet could possibly support ten billion people living on it this century. In one corner are the technological wizards, optimists who see ingenuity and innovation as capable of generating exponential growth in wealth. In the other corner are the environmental prophets, dour pessimists who foresee a decline in wealth as the only hope for the planet.

I stand with the wizards. Based on my own research into planetary ecology, I hold the view that biodiversity conservation will only be possible if enabled by a stable well governed growing global economy. There is a single key issue that will determine if such wizardry will be possible – the ocean.

The world ocean covers more than 70% of the planet surface, and has average depth of four kilometres, with total volume of 1.3 billion cubic kilometres. Mining the vast reserves of phosphate and nitrate and carbon that are dissolved in deep ocean water offers the prospect of an order of magnitude increase in world economic activity, enabling humans to move to the sea to create a 7F economy – using algae to produce fuel, food, feed, fish, fertilizer, forests and fibre. We will then be able to regulate atmospheric chemistry to control temperature and sea level, while also giving back vast areas of the continents to wild nature to enable animals and plants to flourish.

The starting point for this vision is the establishment of large scale ocean based algae farms, an idea that I have advocated for the last decade, but for which I have received almost no interest. The reasons for this lack of interest include my own failings, but also that this idea is such a fundamental transformation of human planetary existence as to seem impossible. And yet, its components are relatively simple in concept, especially the OMEGA idea of Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae, which NASA demonstrated through a $12m research program.

I would like to see the North Pacific Gyre converted into a floating city, managing an algae farm covering a million square kilometres of the world ocean. The produced algae would use emissions from coal fired power stations as its main CO2 feedstock, and would be pumped down to the bottom of the sea in enclosed plastic systems where pressure, heat and chemistry would convert it into a wide array of useful and valuable commodities. The need is for a high carbon future, not a low carbon future.

Considering the contrasting visions of William Vogt, the prophet of environmental constraint, and Norman Borlaug, the wizard of the Green Revolution, this global oceanic revolution incorporates key features of both sides. From Vogt, we have the focus on sustainability and biodiversity, while from Borlaug we have the focus on technological innovation as the only basis for planetary stability. The overall vision relies more on Borlaug’s emphasis on innovation than Vogt’s belief in cutting back, because the deliberate recession involved in cutting back creates far greater risks – of poverty and war – than does an emphasis on economic growth.

Vogt’s call to eat lower on the food chain may seem attractive, but the big risk is that it requires political autocracy, since people naturally desire higher levels of consumption. But his observation that consumption destroys the environment can be overcome through a reliance on the ocean, with its vast areas that are many times bigger than all the agricultural land of the planet put together.

Vogt’s philosophy presents an important critique of heedless material consumption, but also a spiritual call to touch the earth lightly that can be entirely compatible with the growth philosophy of Borlaug, if the growth focus is poured into education that enables cultural development in ways that maximise flourishing without destruction.

Mann contends that the dispute between Wizards and Prophets has become more vehement. I think that is because we don’t have any good wizards. The examples he gives, nuclear power, genetic engineering and desalination, don’t actually engage with the fundamental problem of stabilising the climate in ways that are compatible with economic growth, which really needs to be the core agenda for technological innovation. Mann shows how far the current debate is from the solution that I am proposing by citing the prophetic call to plant trees to suck carbon dioxide from the air. This fails on several fronts, being too small, slow, uncertain and expensive, requiring massive shift of cropland to forest, which is likely in a context of accelerating warming feedbacks to just burn down and wreck the whole project. By contrast an industrial approach to algae production can start in rivers, then rapidly scale up in sheltered waters before moving to the open sea, working in close cooperation with major industrial nations and industries who have clear incentive for such a goal to succeed.

Mann explains that the clash here is about spiritual values, contrasting a vision of the world as finite against a faith in inexhaustible possibilities. The world ocean has so much area, energy and resources that it offers prospect for an order of magnitude increase in the size of the world economy, while protecting planetary biodiversity into the bargain. That seems an unreal possibility, having our cake and eating it too, yet I have not seen any argument that suggests why it might be wrong, other than sheer incredulity.

Vogt sees the village as the essential basis of human community, while Borlaug imagines an urban metropolis fed by industrial agriculture. The challenge may be to find some way to integrate these contrasting visions, somehow retaining the need for local identity while also tapping the efficiencies of the emerging megalopolis that will be needed this century on the world oceans.


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Post Re: The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species
I hope several others will read the book and talk about it. Taylor says he will. It's not a debate between Robert and me. I think that would be a somewhat unequal debate, if you want to know the truth, because Robert is smarter on the science than I am. I mostly have questions, a little like the journalist author of this book, but of course not with his level of knowledge, either. I do admit to a strong values orientation toward the prophets. Mann is absolutely correct that the Borlaug/Vogt comparison isn't just one of different methods toward the end of saving the planet and our own species. It's also fundamentally about what is the good life, because following one man or the other leads to different ways of living.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Governments are correctly pointing out that carbon offsetting must be central to climate policy. An offset is as good as an emission cut in terms of cooling physics, and is often safer, cheaper, and more durable, transparent and politically possible.

No governments, clearly, are thinking of offsets instead of emission reductions, because they will know that increased emissions place a burden on the effectiveness of offsets. You can slow the rate of a bathtub filling by cutting a small hole in it, but if the volume from the faucet is only equal to that flowing out, you're not getting anywhere.
Quote:
Yet there is furious opposition to this scientific observation from the political left, based on grossly irrational attitudes. A range of psychological neuroses feed into this confusion, such as the idea that what we do as individuals makes a difference to the climate through our personal carbon footprint, and the view that the best way to cooperate is to construct a united political front that sees itself as good, against enemies identified as evil. Both these attitudes are immensely popular, but from a wizard technology perspective of seeking practical ways to cool down the planet, both are profoundly wrong.

It probably makes sense to reduce individual carbon footprints within a national regime that also includes carbon offsets. Can we put all eggs in one basket? If 10 million more homes in the U.S. that are situated favorably switch to rooftop solar, how much carbon emission would be prevented, after accounting for the emissions produced to make the solar panels? I'm just assuming that since the panels might serve for 30 years, the emissions from producing them would be significantly less than the emissions produced by the same homes being heated/cooled by fossil fuels. Then carbon offsets would have less work to do. While individuals are properly anxious about the climate, they aren't neurotic to think that they need to be part of the solution. The personal investment they make I would think will make them support most government initiatives to manage carbon, including offset programs.
Quote:
To achieve a sustainable global civilization, the world needs to work out how to remove more carbon from the air than total emissions, and then harness the momentum of that process to expand carbon removal to remove the dangerous trillion tonnes of CO2 that now commit the world to sea level rise and the host of other climate risks. Against that monumental necessary task, emission reduction is largely irrelevant. Decarbonisation retains its policy allure due to politics, not science.

Decarbonisation is just too small, slow, conflictual and costly compared to carbon removal. And pointing out that carbon removal is unproven is just stupid, since it is easily provable that decarbonisation alone cannot possibly stabilise the climate, so if we want a secure future it is carbon removal or bust.

Doesn't this assume undemonstrated capabilities for carbon removal? What is the time frame for such worldwide implementation of technologies? Emission reduction is best seen as a way to buy a little more time, decrease sea level rise by a little, while technologies to cool the planet can come on line. In operating this way, we'll achieve the necessary benefit of shoving fossil fuels into a minor place. They are not a long-term solution for energy, anyway.

The world is doing a piss-poor job of reducing emissions, that I'll give you. Does that record indicate that our human aspiration to bring a Western-style level of comfort and security to everyone simply can't be done without putting up more CO2? It's something Charles Mann is grappling with, and if it's true, then I guess you'd be right about removal being the only answer. But I'm not able to just say, screw it, let's go on burning highly concentrated carbon until it all runs out. We'll vacuum the CO2 out later. We'll have reports of 5%, 10% increases in emissions and be expected not to worry about them? When will offsets come on line greater than the emissions increase?
Quote:
However, a farcical joint climate justice statement by civil society groups condemns nature-based solutions to climate change such as carbon removal, showing how deeply toxic the political debate has become. The distinct impression they convey is they are inspired far more by their ability to mobilise ignorant supporters than by science.

Implying that "science" doesn't support efforts to reduce emissions is questionable, I think. Isn't ER still the main recommendation of climate authorities in general? So that those opposed to "nature-based solutions" (I don't like the term) aren't ignoring scientific opinion.
Quote:
While as the NGOs argue, there may be good reason to question current methods of biomass burning known as Bio Energy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), we should all welcome research into carbon storage technologies and ocean based climate restoration methods. The NGOs point out that “intended fossil fuel expansion by 2030 is at least 50% beyond a 2C target and 120% beyond what may be compatible with the global commitment to limit heating to 1.5C." but then reject the only thing that can overcome this problem, namely carbon removal technology.

In view of this apparent solidly objective statement, our disagreement may come down to whether emissions reduction is indeed counterproductive to or incompatible with carbon removal.
Quote:
This rejection is profoundly irrational and unscientific, and can only explained by the collective neuroses that I mentioned relating to personal carbon footprint and climate politics as class struggle.

OK, I'll go along in this case with "irrational and unscientific" if, indeed, individual footprint advocates demonize removal. I'm not sure how to establish that reaction beyond the impressionistic level, though. When you come into Marxist rhetoric I have to say, whoa. There is such abundant primary cause for climate change concern, that I think to imply that the footprint faction is a stalking horse for sticking it to the capitalist class, doesn't hold up.
Quote:
A reason emission reduction retains such strong support among the activist cadre is that it harmonises with the mentality of the extreme political left, forming a weapon with which to wage class war, placing climate policy squarely within the old progressive thinking of left = good versus right = evil. Such polarised attitudes offer no hope as they are broadly rejected by voters, have no prospect of political success, and are based on wrong science. The popular united progressive front offers a lowest common denominator approach to policy, but loves to bully opponents with arrogant assertions that it represents revealed truth.

Well, but the "polarized attitudes" would have to be that of the emissions-only crowd vs. that of the removal-only group, of which you are one. Otherwise I can't see polarization demonstrated in either side singly. But I don't see much left-right split in ER vs. removal, anyway. The real left/right divide is those who think AGW is real vs. those who deny it. On the right, you won't find support for any effective CO2 reduction, by whatever means.
Quote:
People who are serious about climate change need to distance themselves from the toxic left-wing culture of political polarisation. The activists are right in calling for “bold, transformative and immediate action”, but the only practical such action is research and development of climate restoration technology.

Without a right-wing advocating for any approach at all regarding climate change, I again don't think polarity exists as to means of CO2 reduction. The problem with supporting removal seems to be no significant momentum on that side, nothing for advocates to attach to.
Quote:
Greta Thunberg’s latest speech in Madrid, while making many important points, contains a basic mistake with her phrase “real zero emissions”, replacing the concept of net zero emissions.

Looking first at the sound parts of her speech, Thunberg shows the corruption of climate politics with her succinct explanation that claims about “net zero emissions” at a national level are basically fraudulent, since the national level accounting methods ignore international sources such as aviation and shipping, and the creative shifting of emissions offshore.

The problem with such language is that it makes the unscientific assumption that cooling produced by decarbonisation is somehow more effective and even morally better than cooling from climate interventions. It is a simple fact of physics that everything in the biosphere can be measured in terms of its effect on radiative forcing. The scientific approach to climate change is to find and promote those activities that most effectively cut radiative forcing. But emission reduction is only a tiny fraction of the cooling task, which will mainly have to be achieved through new technology. Thunberg is smart and sincere, but the ideas on offer from Extinction Rebellion offer no hope whatsoever of solving the climate emergency.

I would give the moral/ethical nod to decarbonization, but if it can't succeed on its own, the point is moot. The morality of one approach vs. the other is complicated. Weighing the risks of each is hard.



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Post Re: The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species
DWill wrote:
I hope several others will read the book and talk about it. Taylor says he will.
It is entirely possible and welcome for anyone to just participate on the basis of our conversation here without reading the book. Any questions or comments about the policy issues on this wizard/prophet debate can of course be usefully informed by the book, but can still proceed on the basis of general knowledge about environmental issues. So it would be great to see other people chipping in to the conversation.
DWill wrote:
It's not a debate between Robert and me. I think that would be a somewhat unequal debate, if you want to know the truth, because Robert is smarter on the science than I am. I mostly have questions, a little like the journalist author of this book, but of course not with his level of knowledge, either.
While many of my opinions are debatable, I prefer to consider the discussion as a conversation, working mutually to inform ourselves about the situation for the planetary environment and implications for how humanity can best respond. My view is that the world is way short of having such a sensible discussion, and it is natural that many people will have assumptions about these issues that don’t match with the facts, often just because no one has drawn attention to the factual basis for the issues, often due to political agendas getting in the way.
DWill wrote:
I do admit to a strong values orientation toward the prophets. Mann is absolutely correct that the Borlaug/Vogt comparison isn't just one of different methods toward the end of saving the planet and our own species. It's also fundamentally about what is the good life, because following one man or the other leads to different ways of living.
I also have a strong values orientation toward the prophets, in the sense that shifting toward a more simple and spiritual lifestyle with the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ philosophy lightens our footprint on the planet and encourages discussion of serious issues. But there has to be a balance based on evidence, and the problem is that the main ecological impacts are corporate and industrial, so even aggregated individual value shifts will only have minimal real impact.
DWill wrote:
No governments, clearly, are thinking of offsets instead of emission reductions, because they will know that increased emissions place a burden on the effectiveness of offsets.
That was actually the big debate at the Madrid climate talks. I read some arguments against offset credits along the lines that you describe, but their analysis seemed illogical. Climate Home News https://www.climatechangenews.com/2019/ ... te-change/ argued that weak rules for carbon trading could cause emissions to rise instead of fall, but the underlying issue seemed to be the same old moral hazard argument, that carbon trading would reduce pressure to decarbonise the economy. Governments do in fact see carbon emission offsets as replacing direct reductions, since it is often the case that it is cheaper, quicker and easier to purchase emission reductions from other countries than to force local industries to decarbonise.

My own work on atmospheric chemistry using iron salt aerosol is targeted to the emission offset market, so I have a direct interest in this debate. Converting methane into CO2 cuts its warming effect by 99%. So if a methane conversion technology can remove CO2 equivalent for say $10 per tonne, then it makes perfect sense for another industry that can only achieve removal for $20 per tonne to keep emitting while paying us to offset their emissions and scale up our technology to the gigatonne level needed for climate repair.
DWill wrote:
You can slow the rate of a bathtub filling by cutting a small hole in it, but if the volume from the faucet is only equal to that flowing out, you're not getting anywhere.
The best way to slow a bath with a tap stuck on is to pull the plug, if you can’t turn the tap off. That is the best analogy for our climate situation. The bath full of water is the 635 GT of carbon we have already added to the air, the flowing tap is the annual addition of 15 GTC, and the plug is carbon removal technology. Current prospects are roughly that the tap will be hard to turn down below 14 GTC, seeing the strong political opposition evidenced in Madrid. Carbon removal tech could potentially remove all the excess carbon even if emissions continue at the current rate. The difference from a bath plug is that carbon removal technology can increase exponentially, whereas a bath tub empties at a linear rate. My calculation is that if we work out how to remove half a gigaton of carbon in 2021, and then increase that by 12% per year, the world will reach net zero emissions in 2050 and will achieve climate restoration, the return to the Holocene atmosphere, by about 2070, all with no emission reduction.


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Post Re: The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species
Mann brings up the influence of Paul Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb” during Mann’s time in college. The reason I bring this up is that the profits have famously been wrong. This sets the debate back, it allows for the appearance of legitimate criticism of current events. Mann “Oscillates” between the wizards and profits. I am interested to learn how his “curiosity” is satisfied.

Personal anecdote: I am a Diesel and gasoline engine mechanic in the marine industry, There are no liberal boat owners. They own things that are the epitome of self centered thinking. This is an industry that provides nothing to the environment, typically these vessels are mobile hazmat sites. The owners show little respect for the water they claim to love. I am a strange dichotomy, on one hand I can tell a guy(boat owners are typically dudes) give me 25 grand and I can restore their catastrophically failed propulsion system or give me 35 grand and I can improve there system to a more fuel efficient one. Rarely are improvements chosen. The idea is, the owners understand the difference between having to pay for restoration and volunteering to pay for improvements. Like doctors of medicine, I am not the bearer good news. It’s a delicate position, because it is purely about money. I resent the industry that provides my paycheck though I must be good at what I’m doing, because I’m making a decent living, I like being in the faces of these guys and taking their money. These customers don’t walk away from me, they need me. They need me to justify or affirm their lifestyle.

My industry is a daily reminder of the uphill battle the Vogtians struggle with. There is innovation in this industry but that innovation is very expensive. It is limited to the wealthy who can afford expensive toys and adaption to a changing climate. They have the money to lobby state and federal agencies to reduce regulatory rules, that require lower emissions, and the regulation of fisheries. They push for more open access to fish for specific game that is at critically low stock. These competing industries, sport fishing and commercial fishing like most others prefer to “regulate” themselves.

Anyway, I am going to attempt to create my own take on the “Wizards and Profits” that brings something different to the table. :)



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Post Re: The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species
DWill wrote:
If 10 million more homes in the U.S. that are situated favorably switch to rooftop solar, how much carbon emission would be prevented, after accounting for the emissions produced to make the solar panels?
This is a good question to illustrate the scale of activity needed for climate stabilisation.

https://news.energysage.com/health-envi ... ar-energy/ says “In New York, the average home uses 6,864 kWh of electricity annually. Choosing a clean source of electricity like solar panels can eliminate the same amount of carbon emissions that would result from burning about 5,000 pounds of coal each year.”

Going with those numbers, and converting to metric (5000 lb = 2267 kg), the emissions from 5000 pounds of coal is 2267 x 2.86 = 6.5 tonnes of CO2. Multiplying that by ten million households switching to solar gives a saving of 65 million tonnes of CO2. That is less than 0.2% of world emissions, which are now about 40 billion tonnes of CO2/y.

Leaving aside the emissions from producing the panels, this illustrates the order of magnitude, ie that switching to solar and wind on a global scale (say 200 times this US figure), would displace fossil energy worth about 40% of emissions.

There are a few big problems here, firstly the one you mentioned of the need to also add the embedded emissions in the renewable manufacturing process. But the real problems are even bigger: we don’t know how much this new renewable energy will just add to the coal or how much it will 'eliminate', but the recent trend is for renewables to be additional.

In any case even if renewables did displace the previous emissions, it is an order of magnitude too small to slow down global warming. Achieving 40% global emission reduction would be a great thing in principle, but taking a step back, it is likely that the same reduction in radiative forcing (the technical term for the global warming potential of a greenhouse gas) can be achieved for a far lower cost in other ways, with potential to scale up even further to mine carbon at multiples of the emission amount.

An economic principle called Pareto optimisation says 20% of the cause produces 80% of the effects in many different situations. With climate change, the Pareto principle may indicate that geoengineering will be needed to deliver 80% of CO2 reduction, while decarbonisation will only provide the remaining 20% of carbon removal, at best. Decarbonisation is too small to address the climate crisis.

Analysis of the solution to climate change in terms of the Pareto Principle of system optimisation suggests that fixing the climate would require about 80% of the effect coming from geoengineering, and 20% from emission reduction. However, the focus is now upside down from these proportions, with almost all climate effort now devoted to the ineffectual work of decarbonisation. Unfortunately, current thinking is so far away from even engaging about whether this analysis might be true that it has no effect, like a heretic crying as a voice in the wilderness.

Much of the criticism of geoengineering focuses on whether it is politically acceptable, avoiding the argument that the current Emperor’s New Clothes policy of decarbonisation is a recipe for inevitable catastrophe. The United Nations is in a hole and they want to keep digging, ignoring the numbers.

Shifting the investment focus into carbon removal and albedo increase is the only climate solution. The current dominant climate paradigm of emission reduction resembles banging your head against a brick wall, promoting an imaginary solution that cannot possibly work, costs a lot and generates inevitable political backlash, delaying vital action. We have to work out how to walk around the wall. People criticise geoengineering as imaginary, but at least it has the merit of being a possible solution, whereas simple physical arithmetic shows that decarbonisation can only be a marginal factor in addressing the radiative forcing of committed warming.

Harari, in his great book Sapiens, explains that political ideology functions essentially as a religious cult, and is therefore very slow to take notice of any fact-based challenge. That means efforts to change political ideology have to engage with mythological springs of human motivation as part of constructing a viable and practical theory of change. Public sentiment comes from the irrational passions of mass psychology far more than from logic and evidence. We need to promote the dialogue needed to ask what is wrong with dominant ideological sentiments, or how the science community has allowed its passions to overrule reason.


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Post Re: The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species
Taylor wrote:
Mann brings up the influence of Paul Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb” during Mann’s time in college. The reason I bring this up is that the profits have famously been wrong. This sets the debate back, it allows for the appearance of legitimate criticism of current events. Mann “Oscillates” between the wizards and profits. I am interested to learn how his “curiosity” is satisfied.

It does really set a legitimate cause back when an expert makes a prediction of apocalypse occurring on a date certain. It was arrogant of Ehrlich to think he could predict the explosion of the population bomb. Although he and his publisher probably knew that otherwise sales wouldn't be great. So, when the predicted end of times doesn't happen, everyone goes, "Ehhh," and continues on without worry.
Quote:
Personal anecdote: I am a Diesel and gasoline engine mechanic in the marine industry, There are no liberal boat owners. They own things that are the epitome of self centered thinking. This is an industry that provides nothing to the environment, typically these vessels are mobile hazmat sites. The owners show little respect for the water they claim to love. I am a strange dichotomy, on one hand I can tell a guy(boat owners are typically dudes) give me 25 grand and I can restore their catastrophically failed propulsion system or give me 35 grand and I can improve there system to a more fuel efficient one. Rarely are improvements chosen. The idea is, the owners understand the difference between having to pay for restoration and volunteering to pay for improvements. Like doctors of medicine, I am not the bearer good news. It’s a delicate position, because it is purely about money. I resent the industry that provides my paycheck though I must be good at what I’m doing, because I’m making a decent living, I like being in the faces of these guys and taking their money. These customers don’t walk away from me, they need me. They need me to justify or affirm their lifestyle.

My industry is a daily reminder of the uphill battle the Vogtians struggle with. There is innovation in this industry but that innovation is very expensive. It is limited to the wealthy who can afford expensive toys and adaption to a changing climate. They have the money to lobby state and federal agencies to reduce regulatory rules, that require lower emissions, and the regulation of fisheries. They push for more open access to fish for specific game that is at critically low stock. These competing industries, sport fishing and commercial fishing like most others prefer to “regulate” themselves.

Anyway, I am going to attempt to create my own take on the “Wizards and Profits” that brings something different to the table. :)

You have a frontline view of the power of interests, even when the interest is only recreation. The gun lobby I think is largely also about the right of people to recreate as they choose. The self-defense justification for 2nd Amendment fundamentalism isn't the real main thing, IMO.

I suppose we have to accept the bad with the good when it comes to interest groups. The solar industry, for example, could become powerful enough to lobby against other forms of renewable energy. We see how the corn biofuel lobby has prevented challenges to its market, despite clear evidence that corn ethanol's benefits don't justify the pressure the industry puts on food prices.

Anyway, looking forward to your "own take" on all the wizards and prophets out there.



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Post Re: The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species
Robert Tulip wrote:
Wizard and Prophet: Prologue
Mann explains that the clash here is about spiritual values, contrasting a vision of the world as finite against a faith in inexhaustible possibilities. The world ocean has so much area, energy and resources that it offers prospect for an order of magnitude increase in the size of the world economy, while protecting planetary biodiversity into the bargain. That seems an unreal possibility, having our cake and eating it too, yet I have not seen any argument that suggests why it might be wrong, other than sheer incredulity.

Vogt sees the village as the essential basis of human community, while Borlaug imagines an urban metropolis fed by industrial agriculture. The challenge may be to find some way to integrate these contrasting visions, somehow retaining the need for local identity while also tapping the efficiencies of the emerging megalopolis that will be needed this century on the world oceans.

Conceding the land to other creatures is indeed the only way to prevent more species loss (at least on the land, if not in the oceans), but the objection to your vision might come from more than sheer incredulity. There are cultural and political barriers, about which I could speculate, as well as, probably, technical ones, which I shouldn't. I suppose some far-off scenario might include the move off the land, after who knows what calamities have befallen humankind. But to go from here to there, right now, isn't going to seem like an actual path that can be pursued, and the fact that you haven't seen a refutation of your idea might be simply that there has been no reason for authorities to think it needs to be done.

Having our cake and eating it too, is of course the wish I constantly see whenever faith is placed in wizard-like thinking. There is that blithe attitude that science and technology will neutralize any ill effects of our blob-like spread.



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Post Re: The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species
Chapter One pits the War of World Salvation as between the Dangerous and the Blinkered.

The Dangerous are the wizards who hope to ride the tiger of technological progress to sustain industrial civilization, while the Blinkered are the pious sciencalyptic prophets who call for a simpler and more equal life for all, but seem to regard homo sapien as a plague upon nature.

Do we protect the land or equip its occupants? Was the Green Revolution fighting arson with gasoline, as Vogt argued? Which is worse, to be a tree hugger nature fetishist or a techno-optimist apologist for hubris and folly?

What do we make of Vogt’s rejection of ringing debate, in favour of trying to get Borlaug shut down?

Are we just another species on the S bend of evolution? Like zebra mussels in the Hudson, is our population growing at epidemic rate, presaging an inevitable crash?


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Post Re: The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species
Nice capsule of the two sides, showing why we may have an intractable problem on our hands. There is much emotion at play, I might say more so on the prophet side. The wizards, as befits technologists, try to see the situation in starkly quantifiable terms and believe we must not be swayed by emotion, even the emotion of fear. Prophets act like people in love, in love with the rest of nature, who can't bear to see bonds broken between us and the web of living things. Warnings from myth ring in our ears, about humans who thought they could be masters of nature. We reject the Genesis command to have dominion, in favor of the simple message in the second Genesis creation account: God beheld his creation and saw that it was good. Maybe that is pure romanticism, and was right from the start of our rise as a species.

There was a moment in last night's presidential debate (the last) where I thought climate engineering might finally come up. The moderator noted expert opinion that even if UN emissions goals are met, we'll face severe consequences. "In view of that prediction," the moderator asked, "as president would you authorize an emergency fund to"-- and instead of citing a radical technical solution he went on, "relocate millions of people from cities in coastal areas?" Each of the candidates, not surprisingly, brushed off the dire prediction with rhetoric about succeeding in the battle by rejoining the Paris agreement, declaring an emergency, and so on. But I think the moderator's question points to the type of drastic action we're most likely to take, and in fact are in the process of taking. It's a reactive approach that probably has no greater chance of working than does climate engineering. It involves familiar logistics, though, instead of great unknowns. It raises less fear.



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Post Re: The Wizard and the Prophet (Ch. 1) State of the Species
Robert Tulip wrote:
DWill wrote:
If 10 million more homes in the U.S. that are situated favorably switch to rooftop solar, how much carbon emission would be prevented, after accounting for the emissions produced to make the solar panels?
This is a good question to illustrate the scale of activity needed for climate stabilisation.

https://news.energysage.com/health-envi ... ar-energy/ says “In New York, the average home uses 6,864 kWh of electricity annually. Choosing a clean source of electricity like solar panels can eliminate the same amount of carbon emissions that would result from burning about 5,000 pounds of coal each year.”

Going with those numbers, and converting to metric (5000 lb = 2267 kg), the emissions from 5000 pounds of coal is 2267 x 2.86 = 6.5 tonnes of CO2. Multiplying that by ten million households switching to solar gives a saving of 65 million tonnes of CO2. That is less than 0.2% of world emissions, which are now about 40 billion tonnes of CO2/y.

Leaving aside the emissions from producing the panels, this illustrates the order of magnitude, ie that switching to solar and wind on a global scale (say 200 times this US figure), would displace fossil energy worth about 40% of emissions.

There are a few big problems here, firstly the one you mentioned of the need to also add the embedded emissions in the renewable manufacturing process. But the real problems are even bigger: we don’t know how much this new renewable energy will just add to the coal or how much it will 'eliminate', but the recent trend is for renewables to be additional.

Thanks for working out the problem. Even such seemingly large-scale efforts might be mere drops in the bucket--if that. As you say, if renewables simply take the place of fossil power that would have otherwise come online, there is no net decrease in emissions, and probably even some increase yearly. There are about a million necessary but not sufficient actions on any agenda to blunt the effects of climate change. Carbon removal is even one of those, but it is a lot higher on ladder of effectiveness. That seems to be your main claim, and you've made it convincingly. CR speaks of a wizardly solution to the crisis, just as Borlaug's heroic creation of rust-resistant strains of wheat spoke of the same in terms of world hunger. However, from the view of 2019, few people I think see Vogt's prophet view as mistaken. Surely it was, and is, necessary to restore the earth's soil through control of erosion and care of soil, efforts requiring not high-tech but millions of individual inputs, similar to the role individuals need to play in creating more sustainable economies.

There exists on the prophet side a moralistic, religious feeling that we must repent of our ways in order to save the planet, to not sin as we have been sinning. I recognize that feeling in myself, but don't want to repudiate it. Carbon removal, if presented as our opportunity to roar along without needing to face consequences, will continue to find opposition on that basis alone. I think it necessary to add that The Wizard and the Prophet is not about climate change alone, but the whole menu of resource pressures created by expanding populations and greater consumption per each human being. Wizards can lay claim only to solutions that lessen problems for humans, making life better for more of us. That is a high aim, but evidence indicates that it can be achieved only at the further expense of the rest of life. Wizardry doesn't extend to manipulating ecosystems for their benefit. Vogt and Leopold were right in believing that ecosystems needed protection, not management. We're smart, but not that smart.



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