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Why climate change is good for the world - Matt Ridley article


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I couldn't care less about rising ocean levels or temperature levels. Those are really non-issues when it comes to the damage climate change can cause.

 

And, before I say what I'm about to say, I want to mention that I do tend to lean much further right than left on most political issues.

 

With that being said, the real issues with global warming are the acidification of the ocean and, perhaps, much, much more scarily, ocean stratification and the re-creation of massive dead zones in the ocean, which could easily happen in the next fifty to a hundred years.  Most people aren't aware of these risks (perhaps because they require that oh-so-difficult second level thinking).  And they're absolutely terrifying.

 

Here's a great article in the Economist about it:

 

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21571386-global-warming-may-make-northernmost-ocean-less-productive-not-more

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I disagree with Ridley and think the article is silly.

 

Apparently the scientist he quotes believes you can forecast climate effects for the year 2080. Anyone who has ever looked at earnings projections by analysts or has fooled around with a DCF analysis should see the folly here. You can't forecast what will happen in a complex system like the climate.

 

It's funny that Ridley positively reviewed the book Antifragile by Taleb: http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323353204578128872051100906. In the last paragraph he said he would have to read it again and again. He'd better get to it, because he obviously did not get the message at the time he wrote this article.

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Apparently the scientist he quotes believes you can forecast climate effects for the year 2080. Anyone who has ever looked at earnings projections by analysts or has fooled around with a DCF analysis should see the folly here. You can't forecast what will happen in a complex system like the climate.

 

But this does, and should, apply to the IPCC as well.

 

The only tools scientists have are the data and their models.  The debate is about which interpretation is correct.  Ridley, along the Freeman Dyson, Tol, and others, perform an important service in publicizing a rational alternative interpretation that is drowned out by the mainstream media.  Listening to the hectoring tone of scientists like Al Gore, attempting to bully policymakers and the public into specific policy prescriptions by claiming the consensus is settled science, is almost enough for me to take the opposite side.

 

All in all, though, I'm inclined to believe the IPCC scientific consensus on the trajectory and effects of temperature change, with the caveat that science does not settle or advance by consensus.  However, even if the IPCC consensus is correct, I think Bjorn Lomberg's policy prescriptions are more practical and sensible, that it is better to spend trillions on severe problems that are more immediate with solutions more certain (like poverty, hunger, and disease in Africa),  than on something as uncertain as long-term climate change.

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I couldn't care less about rising ocean levels or temperature levels. Those are really non-issues when it comes to the damage climate change can cause.

 

And, before I say what I'm about to say, I want to mention that I do tend to lean much further right than left on most political issues.

 

With that being said, the real issues with global warming are the acidification of the ocean and, perhaps, much, much more scarily, ocean stratification and the re-creation of massive dead zones in the ocean, which could easily happen in the next fifty to a hundred years.  Most people aren't aware of these risks (perhaps because they require that oh-so-difficult second level thinking).  And they're absolutely terrifying.

 

Here's a great article in the Economist about it:

 

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21571386-global-warming-may-make-northernmost-ocean-less-productive-not-more

 

thanks for posting the link!

 

Cheers

Zorro

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Apparently the scientist he quotes believes you can forecast climate effects for the year 2080. Anyone who has ever looked at earnings projections by analysts or has fooled around with a DCF analysis should see the folly here. You can't forecast what will happen in a complex system like the climate.

 

But this does, and should, apply to the IPCC as well.

 

The only tools scientists have are the data and their models.  The debate is about which interpretation is correct.  Ridley, along the Freeman Dyson, Tol, and others, perform an important service in publicizing a rational alternative interpretation that is drowned out by the mainstream media.  Listening to the hectoring tone of scientists like Al Gore, attempting to bully policymakers and the public into specific policy prescriptions by claiming the consensus is settled science, is almost enough for me to take the opposite side.

 

All in all, though, I'm inclined to believe the IPCC scientific consensus on the trajectory and effects of temperature change, with the caveat that science does not settle or advance by consensus.  However, even if the IPCC consensus is correct, I think Bjorn Lomberg's policy prescriptions are more practical and sensible, that it is better to spend trillions on severe problems that are more immediate with solutions more certain (like poverty, hunger, and disease in Africa),  than on something as uncertain as long-term climate change.

 

I completely agree with your well written reply cobafdek.  I have tremendous respect for Dyson, Ridley and others who have the courage to tell the benefits of Global warming.  I think the reality is that in an extremely complex system with change it is very hard to predict and noone fully knows what will happen. If the last 300 million years are any guide life will adapt. 

 

Perhaps it has gotten better, but it seems like it is heretical to say global warming is good for xyz logical reasons.  And Europe sounds seems more certain that CO2 is a pollutant.

 

One funny aside - I sometimes order paper annuals from companies in Europe and they send these real thick annuals with 50 page sections of corporate sustainability which I find ironic.

 

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As Elon Musk put it, it's stupid to run a massive chemical experiment with our life-sustaining atmosphere. Even if some level of global warming was good, it's not like we're going to any specific level, we'd just plough through that level because of the massive inertia in the system.

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So I posted this to a Facebook group put together for students from my graduate school, and people threw a shit fit. You'd think I was reading Thus Spake Zarathustra in a church.

 

Is it really so radical a notion that investing resources to prevent climate change in the future has opportunity costs associated with it? (The current net benefit Ridley talks about can be reframed as an opportunity cost.)

 

Most people ended up decrying right wing lunacy without providing any substantive comments. It was... rather disheartening. Munger once said that you should spend a little time reading people you disagree with because it will help your thinking -- but I guess most people prefer the circlejerk of confirmation bias. :)

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So I posted this to a Facebook group put together for students from my graduate school, and people threw a shit fit. You'd think I was reading Thus Spake Zarathustra in a church.

 

Is it really so radical a notion that investing resources to prevent climate change in the future has opportunity costs associated with it? (The current net benefit Ridley talks about can be reframed as an opportunity cost.)

 

Most people ended up decrying right wing lunacy without providing any substantive comments. It was... rather disheartening. Munger once said that you should spend a little time reading people you disagree with because it will help your thinking -- but I guess most people prefer the circlejerk of confirmation bias. :)

 

I'm confused as to what your position is here (and the general position of that Facebook group)...

 

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So I posted this to a Facebook group put together for students from my graduate school, and people threw a shit fit. You'd think I was reading Thus Spake Zarathustra in a church.

 

Is it really so radical a notion that investing resources to prevent climate change in the future has opportunity costs associated with it? (The current net benefit Ridley talks about can be reframed as an opportunity cost.)

 

Most people ended up decrying right wing lunacy without providing any substantive comments. It was... rather disheartening. Munger once said that you should spend a little time reading people you disagree with because it will help your thinking -- but I guess most people prefer the circlejerk of confirmation bias. :)

 

I'm confused as to what your position is here (and the general position of that Facebook group)...

 

Does my position matter? :)

 

Apparently, to many former classmates, it did. I received PMs asking when I became a Republican. (For the record, before moving to DC, I owned a Prius & tried to get my dad to buy a Nissan Leaf because he doesn't drive much anyway. My parents now drive my Prius. My position is in accordance with the stereotype of Prius drivers.)

 

Yale's Business School (the group was set up for the 2014 & 2015 classes to communicate) has a lot of students who are joint degrees with their Forestry School and the entire school leans fairly eco-friendly.

 

Amazingly, or perhaps predictably, once I revealed my personal position, the rhetoric toned down a notch. And yet, should it have? Nothing had changed in what I had said -- only the perceptions of who was saying it.

 

Highly disappointing since we literally had a required class on avoiding these biases.

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So I posted this to a Facebook group put together for students from my graduate school, and people threw a shit fit. You'd think I was reading Thus Spake Zarathustra in a church.

 

Is it really so radical a notion that investing resources to prevent climate change in the future has opportunity costs associated with it? (The current net benefit Ridley talks about can be reframed as an opportunity cost.)

 

Most people ended up decrying right wing lunacy without providing any substantive comments. It was... rather disheartening. Munger once said that you should spend a little time reading people you disagree with because it will help your thinking -- but I guess most people prefer the circlejerk of confirmation bias. :)

 

I'm confused as to what your position is here (and the general position of that Facebook group)...

 

Does my position matter? :)

 

Apparently, to many former classmates, it did. I received PMs asking when I became a Republican. (For the record, before moving to DC, I owned a Prius & tried to get my dad to buy a Nissan Leaf because he doesn't drive much anyway. My parents now drive my Prius. My position is in accordance with the stereotype of Prius drivers.)

 

Yale's Business School (the group was set up for the 2014 & 2015 classes to communicate) has a lot of students who are joint degrees with their Forestry School and the entire school leans fairly eco-friendly.

 

Amazingly, or perhaps predictably, once I revealed my personal position, the rhetoric toned down a notch. And yet, should it have? Nothing had changed in what I had said -- only the perceptions of who was saying it.

 

Highly disappointing since we literally had a required class on avoiding these biases.

 

I'm chuckling because your clarification is as clear as Alan Greenspan!  Parsing all of the above, I guess you're on my side.  Not that it matters, as you say!

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So I posted this to a Facebook group put together for students from my graduate school, and people threw a shit fit. You'd think I was reading Thus Spake Zarathustra in a church.

 

Is it really so radical a notion that investing resources to prevent climate change in the future has opportunity costs associated with it? (The current net benefit Ridley talks about can be reframed as an opportunity cost.)

 

Most people ended up decrying right wing lunacy without providing any substantive comments. It was... rather disheartening. Munger once said that you should spend a little time reading people you disagree with because it will help your thinking -- but I guess most people prefer the circlejerk of confirmation bias. :)

 

I'm confused as to what your position is here (and the general position of that Facebook group)...

 

Does my position matter? :)

 

Apparently, to many former classmates, it did. I received PMs asking when I became a Republican. (For the record, before moving to DC, I owned a Prius & tried to get my dad to buy a Nissan Leaf because he doesn't drive much anyway. My parents now drive my Prius. My position is in accordance with the stereotype of Prius drivers.)

 

Yale's Business School (the group was set up for the 2014 & 2015 classes to communicate) has a lot of students who are joint degrees with their Forestry School and the entire school leans fairly eco-friendly.

 

Amazingly, or perhaps predictably, once I revealed my personal position, the rhetoric toned down a notch. And yet, should it have? Nothing had changed in what I had said -- only the perceptions of who was saying it.

 

Highly disappointing since we literally had a required class on avoiding these biases.

 

I'm chuckling because your clarification is as clear as Alan Greenspan!  Parsing all of the above, I guess you're on my side.  Not that it matters, as you say!

 

That was intentional. :)

 

A more clear statement of my position would be as follows:

 

Clearly, the world is warmer than it used to be. (Surface & Ocean.) It's stupid to claim otherwise.

 

However, it's unclear whether this will necessarily lead to calamitous outcomes. It's similarly stupid to claim otherwise.

 

The question I posed to the group, which went unanswered, and I guess I'll pose here as well is the following:

 

Imagine a completely flat surface and a machine that drops grains of sand onto it one at a time. Over time, you'll build a bit of a sand pile. At some point, each additional grain of sand will either (a) do nothing or (b) cause a landslide. It is difficult to know (1) which grain of sand will do it, (2) whether a landslide will happen and (3) if a landslide happens the general magnitude of the slide. (In mathematical circles, this is an Abelian sandpile problem.)

 

Now, this is a sandpile that exhibits self-organizing criticality with only two variables. Sand and gravity. If we can't figure this one out -- what makes us think that we can figure out the exact future states (or even probabilistic future states) for a much more difficult complex dynamical system, e.g. the climate? It's lunacy.

 

The less sophisticated question (in the same vein) is that if a meteorologist can't tell me if it's going to rain 365 days from now, then what makes anyone think that a climate scientist can tell me what the world looks like 100 years from now.

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So I posted this to a Facebook group put together for students from my graduate school, and people threw a shit fit. You'd think I was reading Thus Spake Zarathustra in a church.

 

Is it really so radical a notion that investing resources to prevent climate change in the future has opportunity costs associated with it? (The current net benefit Ridley talks about can be reframed as an opportunity cost.)

 

Most people ended up decrying right wing lunacy without providing any substantive comments. It was... rather disheartening. Munger once said that you should spend a little time reading people you disagree with because it will help your thinking -- but I guess most people prefer the circlejerk of confirmation bias. :)

 

I'm confused as to what your position is here (and the general position of that Facebook group)...

 

Does my position matter? :)

 

Apparently, to many former classmates, it did. I received PMs asking when I became a Republican. (For the record, before moving to DC, I owned a Prius & tried to get my dad to buy a Nissan Leaf because he doesn't drive much anyway. My parents now drive my Prius. My position is in accordance with the stereotype of Prius drivers.)

 

Yale's Business School (the group was set up for the 2014 & 2015 classes to communicate) has a lot of students who are joint degrees with their Forestry School and the entire school leans fairly eco-friendly.

 

Amazingly, or perhaps predictably, once I revealed my personal position, the rhetoric toned down a notch. And yet, should it have? Nothing had changed in what I had said -- only the perceptions of who was saying it.

 

Highly disappointing since we literally had a required class on avoiding these biases.

 

I'm chuckling because your clarification is as clear as Alan Greenspan!  Parsing all of the above, I guess you're on my side.  Not that it matters, as you say!

 

That was intentional. :)

 

A more clear statement of my position would be as follows:

 

Clearly, the world is warmer than it used to be. (Surface & Ocean.) It's stupid to claim otherwise.

 

However, it's unclear whether this will necessarily lead to calamitous outcomes. It's similarly stupid to claim otherwise.

 

The question I posed to the group, which went unanswered, and I guess I'll pose here as well is the following:

 

Imagine a completely flat surface and a machine that drops grains of sand onto it one at a time. Over time, you'll build a bit of a sand pile. At some point, each additional grain of sand will either (a) do nothing or (b) cause a landslide. It is difficult to know (1) which grain of sand will do it, (2) whether a landslide will happen and (3) if a landslide happens the general magnitude of the slide. (In mathematical circles, this is an Abelian sandpile problem.)

 

Now, this is a sandpile that exhibits self-organizing criticality with only two variables. Sand and gravity. If we can't figure this one out -- what makes us think that we can figure out the exact future states (or even probabilistic future states) for a much more difficult complex dynamical system, e.g. the climate? It's lunacy.

 

The less sophisticated question (in the same vein) is that if a meteorologist can't tell me if it's going to rain 365 days from now, then what makes anyone think that a climate scientist can tell me what the world looks like 100 years from now.

 

I think you either typed two extra numbers or you forgot the decimal point.  You must have meant: "If a meteorologist can't tell me if it's going to rain 3.65 days from now..."

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Do we know enough to act?

Skeptics argue that we should wait till climate models are completely certain before we act on reducing CO2 emissions. If we waited for 100% certainty, we would never act. Models are in a constant state of development to include more processes, rely on fewer approximations and increase their resolution as computer power develops. The complex and non-linear nature of climate means there will always be a process of refinement and improvement. The main point is we now know enough to act. Models have evolved to the point where they successfully predict long-term trends and are now developing the ability to predict more chaotic, short-term changes. Multiple lines of evidence, both modeled and empirical, tell us global temperatures will change 3°C with a doubling of CO2 (Knutti & Hegerl 2008).

 

Models don't need to be exact in every respect to give us an accurate overall trend and its major effects - and we have that now. If you knew there were a 90% chance you'd be in a car crash, you wouldn't get in the car (or at the very least, you'd wear a seatbelt). The IPCC concludes, with a greater than 90% probability, that humans are causing global warming. To wait for 100% certainty before acting is recklessly irresponsible.

 

From Skeptical Science here : http://skepticalscience.com/climate-models-intermediate.htm

 

Don't forge that climate is not weather guys, these are long term trends which are quite different.

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Alternatively, we can examine this from another angle. From the same article you posted...

 

While there are uncertainties with climate models, they successfully reproduce the past and have made predictions that have been subsequently confirmed by observations.

 

Take yourself out of the climate issue and think about this as a quant fund presentation instead. If I came to you with a quant trading algorithm and said, "It backtests really well, and it has a made a few good predictions," what would your response be? What questions might you bring to the table? How skeptical would you be?

 

Now, did you approach the climate issue with the same skepticism as the quant fund example? If not, why not?

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Do we know enough to act?

Skeptics argue that we should wait till climate models are completely certain before we act on reducing CO2 emissions. If we waited for 100% certainty, we would never act. Models are in a constant state of development to include more processes, rely on fewer approximations and increase their resolution as computer power develops. The complex and non-linear nature of climate means there will always be a process of refinement and improvement. The main point is we now know enough to act. Models have evolved to the point where they successfully predict long-term trends and are now developing the ability to predict more chaotic, short-term changes. Multiple lines of evidence, both modeled and empirical, tell us global temperatures will change 3°C with a doubling of CO2 (Knutti & Hegerl 2008).

 

Models don't need to be exact in every respect to give us an accurate overall trend and its major effects - and we have that now. If you knew there were a 90% chance you'd be in a car crash, you wouldn't get in the car (or at the very least, you'd wear a seatbelt). The IPCC concludes, with a greater than 90% probability, that humans are causing global warming. To wait for 100% certainty before acting is recklessly irresponsible.

 

From Skeptical Science here : http://skepticalscience.com/climate-models-intermediate.htm

 

Don't forge that climate is not weather guys, these are long term trends which are quite different.

 

Exactly and because there are far more variables and feedback paths, many known and many unknown, climate is far, far, far harder to predict with any accuracy than weather.  Which is the reason none of the doom and gloom predictions from 30, 20, or even 10 years ago have come to pass.  I'm not saying global warming is not happening (I don't want to be labeled a "denier" and ex-communicated from the Holy Church of the Environment), but the real answer is that we simply don't know what effect the increase CO2 in our atmosphere will have long term.  Discussing this with true believers is like discussing the existence of god.  The real answer is I don't know and, regardless of what you think, you don't know either.

 

 

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I don't have a position on this either way, but years ago I had a good friend who's father was a mining geologist.  The father's point of view was that climate change was a given, in that the earth goes through warming and cooling cycles.  To deny that was to deny history. 

 

The issue at play is whether human induced warming (if it's from humans and induced) will cause some issue that's abnormal to the earth's natural cycles.  We don't know that, but speculation is abundant.

 

The bigger issue to me is we have a few hundred years of history that we 'know' and that's familiar to us.  Anything that's different seems bad.  We want sameness.  The earth has been warmer in the past, but we didn't record that history so we don't know what it'll be like.  It might just be different, and humans like things that are the same.

 

Personally I wish the world were cooling, and cooling fast.  I love to ski and I'd like winters with a lot more natural snow.  I live in a very hilly area and on many runs I will day dream about poaching some hill nearby if there were a few feet of snow covering the fallen trees.

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So I posted this to a Facebook group put together for students from my graduate school, and people threw a shit fit. You'd think I was reading Thus Spake Zarathustra in a church.

 

Is it really so radical a notion that investing resources to prevent climate change in the future has opportunity costs associated with it? (The current net benefit Ridley talks about can be reframed as an opportunity cost.)

 

Most people ended up decrying right wing lunacy without providing any substantive comments. It was... rather disheartening. Munger once said that you should spend a little time reading people you disagree with because it will help your thinking -- but I guess most people prefer the circlejerk of confirmation bias. :)

 

I'm confused as to what your position is here (and the general position of that Facebook group)...

 

Does my position matter? :)

 

Apparently, to many former classmates, it did. I received PMs asking when I became a Republican. (For the record, before moving to DC, I owned a Prius & tried to get my dad to buy a Nissan Leaf because he doesn't drive much anyway. My parents now drive my Prius. My position is in accordance with the stereotype of Prius drivers.)

 

Yale's Business School (the group was set up for the 2014 & 2015 classes to communicate) has a lot of students who are joint degrees with their Forestry School and the entire school leans fairly eco-friendly.

 

Amazingly, or perhaps predictably, once I revealed my personal position, the rhetoric toned down a notch. And yet, should it have? Nothing had changed in what I had said -- only the perceptions of who was saying it.

 

Highly disappointing since we literally had a required class on avoiding these biases.

 

I'm chuckling because your clarification is as clear as Alan Greenspan!  Parsing all of the above, I guess you're on my side.  Not that it matters, as you say!

 

That was intentional. :)

 

A more clear statement of my position would be as follows:

 

Clearly, the world is warmer than it used to be. (Surface & Ocean.) It's stupid to claim otherwise.

 

However, it's unclear whether this will necessarily lead to calamitous outcomes. It's similarly stupid to claim otherwise.

 

The question I posed to the group, which went unanswered, and I guess I'll pose here as well is the following:

 

Imagine a completely flat surface and a machine that drops grains of sand onto it one at a time. Over time, you'll build a bit of a sand pile. At some point, each additional grain of sand will either (a) do nothing or (b) cause a landslide. It is difficult to know (1) which grain of sand will do it, (2) whether a landslide will happen and (3) if a landslide happens the general magnitude of the slide. (In mathematical circles, this is an Abelian sandpile problem.)

 

Now, this is a sandpile that exhibits self-organizing criticality with only two variables. Sand and gravity. If we can't figure this one out -- what makes us think that we can figure out the exact future states (or even probabilistic future states) for a much more difficult complex dynamical system, e.g. the climate? It's lunacy.

 

The less sophisticated question (in the same vein) is that if a meteorologist can't tell me if it's going to rain 365 days from now, then what makes anyone think that a climate scientist can tell me what the world looks like 100 years from now.

 

OK, I know this kind of debate rapidly become sterile, but still, I can't refrain myself to dive in one last time. I will try to answer merkhet question first and then adress my point of view on the subject. It would be so much easier for me to discuss about this in French, but I will give it a try, although it won't go as fluently as I would like.

 

On merkhet landslide question, I must admit I personally know people who do this kind of modelling using GPU and that is fascinating to look at soil particles interacting together..anyway.. I think in this case, we know for sure that there will be at some point, a landslide, and that by keeping adding sandgrain, we make pretty sure it will happen. The faster we add sandgrains, the faster we get a chance to get into big trouble. With our idea of continuously pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, we are doing the same. But nobody forces us to keep adding CO2. The idea is not to know when there will be a landslide, by which grain, but to get a good overview of the probability of the landslide according to our action and to estimate what this landslide could look like. Knowing that, we can take an informed decision to mitigate this calculated risk and why not revert it if possible. That could be a reasonable approach, no?

 

To everyone, my personal position on this matter is that considering everything we know so far about greenhouse effect, climate change and so on, I would rather not take the risk. I know the models are not perfect at all, but we can first look back on what we know. , So far, we have seen that greenhouse gas (let's simplify to CO2, or Co2 equivalent) are rising at a rate never seen in ages, we know there is great correlation between CO2 level in the atmosphere and average temperature in the atmosphere. So on a long term trend, there is quite no doubt that temperature will rise according to the increase in Co2 in the atmosphere. We also can measure quite accurately how much Co2 we pump in the atmosphere form our energy production, deforestation, transportation, agriculture, etc. We can then get a good estimate of Co2 emitted since the industrial revolution. So we know what we pump into the system, we know that this lead to a rapid increase in Co2 and we know that Co2 is quite well correlated to temperature. For me, this is quite dangerous just looking at this to pursue our action without questioning our habit. There are a lot of complex models out there looking at what could happen with this increase in temperature, but one thing is that they more or less all point toward the same direction. This should lead us to an increase in temperature, increase in the sea level, acidification of the oceans (already going on) and an increased probability of extreme events. Of course some change cold be positive, of course some will be negative. I'm not at all saying that the time we know is better and I just want to keep it that way. All I am saying is that observation and prediction from experiments and models show us an uncertain future, because everything else is changing at a timescale never seen before. There has been a lot of cycles in the history of the planet, but nothing happening at this rate. That is the great danger! Do we want to take the chance to wait, to be sure that nothing will happen if we don't change anything? We as a species have a formidable capacity of adaption, but what will happen to the biodiversity from which we got everything, no matter what you think. It could change all the food chains, all the landscape, deteriorate oceans so fast, etc. And, if we can tackle this big challenge could be a side question, because anyway, we will have to end our dependancy on fossil fuels as they are finite resources, like many resources we use in an incredible amount, and this is causing much more problems than GHG emissions like major healthcare problems, major environmental damages locally on site or elsewhere like in the case of oceans acidification. I would lie us to stop using petroleum as a way to produce electricity or move cars to keep it for plastic use and stuff like that. It is not like we can't do otherwise, today and in the future years. Why wait till it is too late, that the cost is incredibly high, because anyway, even if we stop emitting GHG today, there will be a lot of probable dangerous impact in the future according to today's models? All I am saying is that by trying to get out of our fossil fuel dependancy, we solve a lot of problems and in the meantime, we are reducing the risk of a high probability complicated future.

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