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kevbo's avatar

Of what value is this new climate study that says much of the earth may become unihabitable in the next 300 years?

Asked by kevbo (23923 points ) May 11th, 2010 from iPhone

Link to university news release of study.

Principal investigator Matthew Huber acknowledges that the study cannot and does not account for:

1. the rates of global warming which are quote “difficult to know,”
2. future greenhouse gas-related behaviors of societies, and
3. future emission levels.

The study presumes quote “a wide greenhouse gas emissions pathway,” also acknowledged to be an uncertain presumption.

I get that mammals will die if the earth gets too hot. (Duh, no?) Perhaps it’s useful that this study has brought attention to wet bulb temperature as an important variable to measure. But it seems kind of silly to presume constant emissions over 300 years if we’ve already reached peak oil (assuming that’s true). Then there’s this quote—

“These temperatures haven’t been seen during the existence of hominids, but they did occur about 50 million years ago, and it is a legitimate possibility that the Earth could see such temperatures again,” Huber said. “If we consider these worst-case scenarios early enough, perhaps we can do something to address the risk through mitigation or new technological advancements that will allow us to adapt.”

So manmade global warming might recreate wet bulb temps not seen since the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum
. Are we really that good that we can recreate an event not seen in 50 million years? Don’t we already have the “technology to adapt” vis a vis solar, wind, etc., and isn’t technology what got us here in the first place?

How is this study, its implications, and its call to action (what @MattBrowne and others refer to as “the precautionary principle”) any different from Pascal’s Wager?

I’m genuinely interested in opinions that support the usefulness of this study. Please convince me if you are so inclined.

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10 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It is of some value because it gives a sense of urgency to the topic of whether or not humans are contributing to this kind of future.

marinelife's avatar

It makes it urgent that we respond and begin working on implementing technological advances now to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases and global warming.

Qingu's avatar

Wait, Pascal’s Wager is rather different. I think such studies are probably flawed, but for a completely different reason.

The study probably isn’t flawed in itself but rather treating it as a prognostication would be flawed, for the same reason that Malthusian population explosion scenarios were flawed. (Malthus predicted an overpopulated dystopia, based on exponential population growth that existed at the time of his study. The problem was, he assumed the rate of growth would remain the same; obviously it has not, and technological and cultural changes have mitigated overpopulation). The same basic idea applies to global warming doomsday scenarios: if we continue on the exact same path we are now, at the exact same rate, yes, it will probably be quite bad, but then we probably are not going to do that, so…

Pascal’s Wager, on the other hand, is an illogical argument… not even for the existence of a god, but rather for pretending to believe/have faith in a certain god because that god’s religion assumes a cost-benefit analysis that privileges said belief. Really, I fail to see any resemblance, superficial or otherwise…

xxii's avatar

It is different from Pascal’s Wager in that our ability to survive the future is contingent on our actions today. If we do something, we can change, and determine with relative certainty, the outcome of the “wager” (thus no longer making it a wager). The same does not apply to the question of whether God exists.

Qingu's avatar

Also, Pascal’s Wager is illogical because it fails to account for the equally plausible cost-benefit analyses of believing/not believing in the hundreds of other deities who aren’t Yahweh.

“You have everything to gain and nothing to lose if you believe in Yahweh… unless the real god turns out to be Marduk, Allah, Zeus, Xenu, etc. Then you’re equally screwed as the atheist.”

kevbo's avatar

@Qingu, I figured that was shaky, but I needed a starting point. The Malthus example is better. Thanks.

YoBob's avatar

Apparently those “wet bulb” guys don’t live in Austin, Texas where consecutive weeks of 100+ degree weather combined with often high humidity are not uncommon.

Nullo's avatar

After the last climate brouhaha, I don’t think that I’m ready to trust any climatologists.

Qingu's avatar

@Nullo, what brouhaha?

Are you referring to that single climate scientist manipulating the visualization of his data (i.e. not the data itself)? I recall, in a previous question, you said you’ve read “numerous articles” about malfeasance in climate science but never actually provided any citations except for one that wasn’t applicable.

mattbrowne's avatar

Publishing extreme alarmist views is counterproductive. The vast majority of reputable climatologists does not support a claim that the Earth may become uninhabitable in 300 years. The likelihood of such a scenario is probably equal to a large meteorite hitting Earth or a Yellowstone supervolcano eruption within the next 300 years.

Let’s focus on 2050 – 2100 and what can be done to leave the vast majority of ecosystems intact. And let’s focus on debunking conspiracy theories floated by the climate change denial movement. Let’s make it clear to everyone that the “climate change hoax” campaign is a hoax.

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