36 Comments

Terrifying

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Right on cue! A new paper on planetary boundaries. Not a single critical question in the Bloomberg article: https://substack.com/profile/42689243-tian-wen/note/c-16755422

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Frightening!

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When I see a very round number like 1.5 or especially 2.0, I treat it like a yellow flag. Not quite a red flag which ought to mean "stop there is something wrong here", but a yellow flag which means "caution, look carefully before accepting"

Round numbers are not automatically bad. If you didn't happen to know the speed of light and someone told you it was 300 million m/s, you ought to treat that is a yellow flag as it doesn't seem likely that it could be so round a number. If you look it up and find 299,792,458 meters per second, you can take comfort in knowing that it's not truly a round number, but three hundred million is a reasonable approximation for many calculations.

If someone were to tell you that 1.5° is not the exact limit, but a very careful calculation yields 1.52 or maybe 1.48, and it's convenient to round to 1.5, you could inspect the calculations and if satisfactory, accept the number. But that's not going to be the case. Try and track the number down and you'll find it's quite elusive.

The claim that:

> A rise of 1.5C is not an arbitrary number, it is not a political number. It is a planetary boundary.

is made because some people are asking the question, and this is a clumsy attempt to negate the suspicion that it is an arbitrary number, a political number. Stating that it's a planetary boundary leaves the impression that it's something very scientific. They are hoping that you will look at the term, assuming it is something that smart scientists know about, glance at the pretty graphics, and miss that all the words wrapped around the concept don't even hint at a calculation. Like faith, when you've deigned to express some question, the response is a word salad that sounds like a scientific statement, which you are not allowed to question.

Is there an amount of warming beyond which bad things will happen? I'm not suggesting that this is nonsense, but it's neither a soft limit like a sound barrier or hard barrier like the speed of light, it's a continuum. And not just a continuum of increasingly bad things, it's a continuum where modest amounts of warming are positive in some ways and negative in others, very plausibly with net positives for modest amounts of warming. There is some value at which the bad outcomes outweigh the good outcomes which isn't even the level at which one ought to take drastic action, it simply the level at which adaption becomes cost beneficial. There is a higher level which might require expensive mitigation efforts, and the hope is that you will assume this is 1.5 or maybe 2.0 but no one has demonstrated this in any rigorous way, they just assert it.

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“Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a creator of the notion of “planetary boundaries” asserts:

A rise of 1.5C is not an arbitrary number, it is not a political number. It is a planetary boundary.”

A blatant lie, that number was simply pulled from the air as anyone who reads knows.

Endless fraud and corruption, climate science.

But I repeat myself.

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I'm glad you’re digging in here. But I wonder whether it's worth worrying too much about the power of these foundations and other players to influence anything meaningful? Planetary boundaries, ESG, net zero - as well as contrasting visions of a high-energy, fossil-fueled future (Alex Epstein, e.g.) - are all playing in the gray space around long-term trajectories for human resource use that seem influenced mainly by technological innovations (from new battery tech to transparency-imposing satellite imagery). Just a quick thought.

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Money talks!

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As an example of how even our largest companies are being pushed by “non-state actors” into “climate justice” and abiding by the “1.5 degree limit” consider the following.

According to Barron’s story: "Environmental Activists Are Coming After Vanguard. Here’s Why." (search for the title on barrons.com)

Quoting from the article: “As part of Vanguard S.O.S.’s April 2022 launch, 107 environmental groups—including the Sierra Club in the U.S. and the Sunrise Project in Australia—representing some six million people sent an open letter to Vanguard CEO Tim Buckley, asking that the firm “tackle its climate problem comprehensively” by focusing on four goals: improving its proxy voting on environmental-related shareholder proposals, committing to the Paris climate agreement’s goal to reduce emissions enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, shifting investment policy to manage climate risk, and integrating “climate justice” into business decisions.”

On the Vanguard S.O.S website (https://vanguard-sos.com/about/) it only identifies 12 “partners”, so I don’t know how Baron’s arrives at its 107 environmental groups number, but maybe they helped pay for the ad.

The transcript of a TV ad - “Reaping What They’ve Sown”, up on cable television (including CNBC) and streaming platforms in Chester County, Pennsylvania, starting April 3rd - is shown below:

https://vanguard-sos.com/reapingwhattheyvesown/

All the work, the cut corners, it all felt worth it…

To be here with our grandchild.

Investing with Vanguard helped us seed our retirement dreams,

and now we’re reaping what they’ve sown.

I’m so sorry, little one.

Climate change is crushing those dreams. I hope it’s not too late.

When you save with Vanguard, you’re an owner…of catastrophic climate change.

If it’s bad for the environment, it’s bad for your retirement.

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> When you save with Vanguard, you’re an owner…of catastrophic climate change.

Sorry, but this is an oversimplification.

In the early 80s, I began saving for retirement. I researched the major players at the time, and reached the conclusion that Vanguard's approach best met my needs. This is years before Jim Hansen's carefully orchestrated stunt that many view as the beginning of the climate religion.

Some of the assets held by Vanguard in my name individual stocks, for which I exercise personally the proxy voting. Some were bonds, for which ESG related proxy voting doesn't even make sense.

In recent years Vanguard created some ESG oriented funds, to cater to clients who wished such funds. To the best of my knowledge, while Vanguard share the existence of these funds with me, I don't ever recall being encouraged to buy any. In any event,I never bought any.

Vanguard recently pulled out of the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative.

I do appreciate that you are pointing out how nonstate actors are trying to pressure Vanguard, but most of the claims I've seen are materially misleading. For example, Vanguard SOS says, "Vanguard has $300 billion invested in fossil fuels – making it the #1 or #2 biggest investor in fossil fuels worldwide." The clear implication is that Vanguard ought to rethink these holdings. However, in the best majority of cases, those holdings are the result of specific instructions by clients such as me. If I ask them to buy Exxon they buy Exxon. If there were ever to suggest that they prefer not to place that order, I'd move my money elsewhere.

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Perhaps we should just put Paul Ehrlich in charge of the planet. Anyone thinks this is a bunch of whooey needs to look at this video from the WEF 2023

https://www.weforum.org/videos/how-16-tipping-points-could-push-our-entire-planet-into-crisis These folks have an audience and speak with such confidence about something I venture they have rudimentary understanding of at best. This all reminds me of the Crighton paper "Aliens Cause Global Warming" and his discussion of the SEDI formula for extraterrestrial life. 10+ terms and none can be proven so what answer would you like.

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Here's some standard Whataboutism... Sure, there are powerful, unaccountable NGO's and other entities pursuing policies which are not always in the best interests of humanity as a whole. Meanwhile, there is a network of corporations, foundations and other entities which pursue policies that are not always in the best interests of humanity as a whole. The common element among all of these actors is that they are controlled by powerful, unaccountable oligarchs, each of whom are pursuing their own interests. As to the interests of the other classes? Well, these people are basically a useful nuisance and their interests are of little import in matters such as these.

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So, are there any planetary boundaries and if so, how we will find them before we reach a point of no return?

I assume that in order to answer this question we have to take a view on technological progress which is more of a prophecy than a forecast as we don't know a) what we have not discovered yet, b) whether we will discover it even if its discoverable and c) what is the timing of such discovery and how it interplays with any risks of irreversible change in climate which could be conducive to a large extinction event.

Pro-Malthusians argue that we cannot possibly know the answers to the questions above and as a result of that, its better to plan on the back of what we know today. An extreme version of that view is the doom & gloom Club of Rome prophecies. A very risk averse view promoting stasis.

Anti-Malthusians or techno-optimists (which I note dominate this forum) in essence assume that we will fix problems through technology faster than we create them as side effects of solving other problems. Again that's a prophecy. The argument used is of unbounded human creativity that helped us many times in the past and will save us in the future.

Broadly I agree with anti-Malthusian take as this is how we built our post-Enlightenment civilization. I do have one big caveat that I derive from a non-naïve application of precautionary principle - we must not destroy the means of error-correction in our attempt to correct errors / solve problems. This is particularly relevant in systemic issues like climate, contagions, AGI etc - we never really had this problem before. Perhaps nuclear in a MAD scenario is the exception.

I struggle however to answer how to translate this risk in practical decision-making both individually and at societal level. I asked Roger a question in AMA re how he thinks about this.

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May 23, 2023·edited May 23, 2023

I don't agree with your assessment. What you call the "anti-Malthusians" or "techno-optimists" are actually the Realists or Rationalists vs the Ideologues or Dogmatists. Continuing as we have successfully with proven technological development is the obvious and rational choice. Adjustments & priorities need to be shifted to take into account Climate Change, Pollution & Fossil Fuel depletion. But that really is nothing to be frightened of, in fact it is very straightforward and the tech has already been proven.

The main tech is as always Energy, the One & Only essential physical resource. We have been very successful with zero emissions Nuclear Fission. It's not rocket science. It's not Fusion. France replaced 88% of their domestic electricity supply with nuclear in 20yrs. And 40% of their total primary energy supply, that's 50yrs ago using ancient tech and construction methods. With partial fuel reprocessing they supply that energy with 5oz of natural uranium per person per year. Worth ~$15.

The USA was completing one NPP per month by 1974, if they had continued that, if the forced boycott had not happened, they would have been 100% clean electricity supply by 2000. Proven tech.

The Malthusians, the DeGrowthers, the Doomers are all promoting & putting our lives at risk depending on totally unproven Wind & Solar energy, in fact an irrational energy source. And other unproven tech, or already failed tech, like BEVs, agrofuels, Hydrogen, battery grid storage, biomass burning, organic farming, that is Techno-Optimism to the Extreme. They are putting the survival of human civilization at the risk of very dubious, in fact, absurd tech. Which also will do zip for the climate change problem. They obviously have a sinister ulterior motive quite different from their supposed Climate Change & the natural Environment narrative.

As for your Nuclear MAD scenario, it is these same bunch of Malthusian Overlords who have pushed this idiotic and deadly proxy war with Russia in the Ukraine. With Putin recently declaring they will no longer restrict Nuclear weapons usage as a response to the same. They emphatically WILL use them to protect their citizens and their territory. Does that include the annexed parts of Ukraine? Reckless endangerment of humanity by Psychopaths.

And as for your contagion. Pretty obvious to anyone who has studied the matter, the recent Plandemic was planned and deliberately carried out by these same Psychopaths. The virus was genetically manufactured. And deliberately released. And the absolutely insane response to it clearly had nefarious motives. So the Malthusians in power are obviously also Misanthropes. They seem to be pushing us to a World Feudal Totalitarian Socio-Economic system. Climate Change and the environment being a very lame justification.

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When will the eugenicists enter with their prescriptions?

The progressive notion that smart people can plan and decide everything has been debunked many times.

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If we really "follow the science," according to systems science, communities, nations, and societies are complex adaptive systems. They can be influenced but can't be controlled. The bigger they get the more fragile they become because their fragility is that of the most fragile member. Further, by increasing the interdependencies among their members, they become much more liable to ripple effects, e.g., a health event impacting the economy, education and even the social fabric of a nation.

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It would be interesting to circle back to the Club of Rome reports from 50 years ago. Same focus on limits, ("the limits of growth") and the impending disasters about to befall humanity. The green revolution the post-war period changed the equation completely. Without signing up to magical thinking about how technology will solve all problems, it is still important to keep an open mind about where innovation and adaptation can take us. I am constantly that commentators are not prepared to recognize the distance that we can travel technologically in 30 or 50 years. I say that as someone who was a participant in the pioneering years of the commercialization of information technology in the early 1970s and who marvels every day at the distance travelled in just 50 years.

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They have a sequel out to "The Limits of Growth":

Earth for All: A Survival Guide for Humanity

https://www.amazon.com/Earth-All-Survival-Guide-Humanity-ebook/dp/B0B3M6N78G/

Pure propaganda. High school level analysis. Imagine these Grifters actually claim their first book, The Limits of Growth, published in 1972, made accurate predictions. Which is not what critics have concluded, i.e. Bjorn Lomborg:

"... The Limits of Growth got it so wrong because its authors overlooked the greatest resource of all: our own resourcefulness. Population growth has been slowing since the late 1960s. Food supply has not collapsed (1.5 billion hectares of arable land are being used, but another 2.7 billion hectares are in reserve). Malnourishment has dropped by more than half, from 35% of the world’s population to under 16%.

Nor are we choking on pollution. Whereas the Club of Rome imagined an idyllic past with no particulate air pollution and happy farmers, and a future strangled by belching smokestacks, reality is entirely the reverse.

In 1900, when the global human population was 1.5 billion, almost three million people – roughly one in 500 – died each year from air pollution, mostly from wretched indoor air. Today, the risk has receded to one death per 2,000 people. While pollution still kills more people than malaria does, the mortality rate is falling, not rising.

Nonetheless, the mindset nurtured by The Limits to Growth continues to shape popular and elite thinking. Consider recycling, which is often just a feel-good gesture with little environmental benefit and significant cost. Paper, for example, typically comes from sustainable forests, not rainforests. The processing and government subsidies associated with recycling yield lower-quality paper to save a resource that is not threatened.

Likewise, fears of over-population framed self-destructive policies, such as China’s one-child policy and forced sterilization in India. And, while pesticides and other pollutants were seen to kill off perhaps half of humanity, well-regulated pesticides cause about 20 deaths each year in the US, whereas they have significant upsides in creating cheaper and more plentiful food.

Obsession with doom-and-gloom scenarios distracts us from the real global threats. Poverty is one of the greatest killers of all, while easily curable diseases still claim 15 million lives every year – 25% of all deaths.

The solution is economic growth. When lifted out of poverty, most people can afford to avoid infectious diseases. China has pulled more than 680 million people out of poverty in the last three decades, leading a worldwide poverty decline of almost a billion people. This has created massive improvements in health, longevity, and quality of life.

The four decades since The Limits of Growth have shown that we need more of it, not less. An expansion of trade, with estimated benefits exceeding $100 trillion annually toward the end of the century, would do thousands of times more good than timid feel-good policies that result from fear-mongering. But that requires abandoning an anti-growth mentality and using our enormous potential to create a brighter future..."

https://www.aei.org/carpe-diem/40-years-later-time-has-not-been-kind-to-the-limits-to-growth/

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That should be "constantly amazed".

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Reading the headline & last sentence propelled my mind to a book I've just read - Naomi Wolf's 'The Bodies of Others'.

Also, to https://theconversation.com/saving-humanity-heres-a-radical-approach-to-building-a-sustainable-and-just-society-205566#comment_2913474

Here's a slab of text https://tgk1946.com/2023/05/18/a-state-within-a-state/ that details the political organisation of a highly successful movement that grew within a democratic framework.

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German Green policy - "if you can't afford to burn coal you can help us out with climate change by freezing to death in the dark".

For a more or less complete rejection of such degrowth nonsense, former Vice Premier Liu He's address to the 2023 WEF crowd is worth a watch...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRjfygkP3rE

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All nine planetary boundaries are rather arbitrary and seem to rely primarily on subjective expert assessments.

https://anthroecology.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/brook_2018.pdf

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I’m guessing that “degrowth” does not mean that those who look to control us, will be trashing their jets, yachts, many mansions etc. Life for these folks will only get more luxurious because they will deserve it; a reward for saving humanity from its number one enemy, humanity.

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Yep, they turn up at their international conferences, even climate change ones, in their private jets.

They don't see anything inconsistent with it but if you want to drive a diesel car then you can't if you are a pleb.

At the IPCC Glasgow, I listened to a media apologist justifying why the big noises should be allowed to be so inconsistent. He basically said that they were important people, who were short of time, doing valuable work in the fight against climate change, so had to be given leeway.

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You got it. Virtue signaling for the super-rich. Typical Malthusian dogma. It is really even worse than Fascism. Even Hitler & Stalin didn't stoop that low.

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