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Old 03-02-2014, 09:36 PM   #1
vtflyfish
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The Sixth Extinction

This is the title of a remarkable new book by Elizabeth Kolbert. If you are interested in the near and long term fate of our species this is a thought provoking read. And to any (hopefully few) climate change disbelievers, this should be mandatory reading.

To you disbelievers, a few facts. Note, these are facts and cannot be argued - you don't get an opinion any more than you get to have one on Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity or Schrodinger's Wave Equation.
  • How much Carbon dioxide has been emitted by mankind burning fossil fuels since we came into being? Answer: around 500 billion metric tons, almost all of it since the industrial revolution. The current rate is about 35 billion tons/year.
  • Where has all this CO2 gone? Answer: about 1/3 of it has gone into the ocean, forming Carbonic acid and lowering its Ph (note: say goodbye to the world's coral in your kid's lifetimes). Most of the rest remains in the atmosphere. And each CO2 molecule released by burning fossil fuels traps about 100,000 times more heat during its time in the atmosphere than the heat released in creating it.
  • So what? Answer: First, the scientific evidence is conclusive that this is the cause of global warming. Despite what you hear on Fox News, there is no debate in the scientific community. In fact, it was Nobel prizewinner Svante Arrhenius who first proposed the idea and cause of global warming, developing the basic equation for it in the 1890's. He thought it would take about 3,000 years (still a blink of the eye in geologic time). His mistake? He simply didn't anticipate the rate at which our species would burn fossil fuels. Second, global warming is one of three major consequences that contribute to mass extinction. The other two are directly killing off species and spreading invasive species into environments where they never existed before.
Mass extinction? Consider the previous five mass extinction events. Each took tens to hundreds of thousands of years and wiped out roughly half the existing species on earth at those times. The last major one happened to take out the mega-reptiles, tipping the balance in favor of mammals.

If man were not around the background extinction rate for all species would be roughly one every 700 years. We're seeing hundreds per year. Hawaii has roughly one a month. Think white nose syndrome and brown bats (the pathogen introduced by a visitor to Howe Caverns, not far from us). So we're on a course to reduce species diversity by the same amount in just a few human lifetimes. The background and detail on this in the book is simply fascinating.

What's more fascinating to me is our built-in difficulty in seeing events on our planet in the context of geologic time. Are we thus on a path to set the stage for our own extinction? Or are we more clever than that? Will we figure out ways to stay ahead of the curve, adapt and even thrive in our new environment?

And what changes can we foresee for our beloved Adirondacks? Thoughts and comments welcome. And go read the book!!!
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Old 03-03-2014, 04:39 AM   #2
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fox news is God.





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Old 03-03-2014, 07:22 AM   #3
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Thanks, I'll put it on my "to read" list right after 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds' by Charles Mackay.
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Old 03-03-2014, 09:48 AM   #4
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To you disbelievers, a few facts. Note, these are facts and cannot be argued - you don't get an opinion any more than you get to have one on Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity or Schrodinger's Wave Equation.

I stopped reading when I got to "you don't get an opinion."
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Old 03-03-2014, 09:53 AM   #5
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I stopped reading when I got to "you don't get an opinion."
Indeed an unfortunate inclusion.

Of course one "gets" an opinion.

Opinion on the background of the author and publisher for that matter, on the paradigm within which every tiny fact is interpreted, on the wording and tone of the book, heck, if you want to, you can have an opinion on the amount of C02 every internet post results in.

Personally, I have an "opinion" on Charles Darwin's Origin of Species.

Another very good book btw is "World Without Ice". In my opinion you will have an opinion of this book if you read it.

I will read that book as soon as I finish the one I'm re-reading, "Vital Dust", which is an origin-of-life book.
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Old 03-03-2014, 10:09 AM   #6
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I stopped reading when I got to "you don't get an opinion."
We shouldn't be surprised by that tone, since it's one espoused by Al Gore, John Kerry and a whole host of "believers". It has become the "new religion" of these people.
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Old 03-03-2014, 12:28 PM   #7
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I hope what he meant was "you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts", or something along those lines.

Our "opinions" have no effect on reality. Facts are, by definition, true whether you believe them or not. I can wish for something, or believe in something as hard as I want, but the universe does not care. A fact is the same for everybody.

So if he quotes statistics on atmospheric CO2 content and ocean pH, those are facts. You can buy a pH meter and drive down to the ocean and test it yourself. That pH meter doesn't care what your opinion is.

Let's say a group of scientists observes a species going extinct. They monitor the population for years as it declines, and finally it goes extinct. They search high and low and find no survivors. That's also a fact.

You can't wish that species back into existence. If your opinion is "that species isn't really extinct", good for you, you oblivious idiot. You are entitled to your opinions, as ill-informed and evidence-proof and disprovable as they may be. Go join the flat-earth society.
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Old 03-03-2014, 12:55 PM   #8
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Excellent post by the Professor.

There are hard facts such as the pH of a stream and say, the phosphate content of runoff from a field. However, how long do most facts remain naked? Ie. without spin and opinion being added. Spin and bias are often introduced as early as the conclusions section of the paper and the author may not even be aware of it. After all, believing is seeing.
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Old 03-03-2014, 01:05 PM   #9
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I'm going to pipe in with my 0.02. I know exactly what Mr. Fish is saying, and I have said my piece on some of the caveats of trying to understand such complex problems, but I'll come back to a few things.

First off, I too get very frustrated when people argue me about things that I deem fact. General relativity I deem, as far as I can tell, to be fact. I spent a few months calculating these things out and have seen the proof in the devices we use. The disclaimer here is, it is not necessarily correct, and ANY good scientist knows that. It is the best model we have to date.

If one is to look back into the past we can easily see that many models that seemed, at the time, to fit the data and be perfectly good explanations were judged to be incorrect or incomplete years later. This is my major caveat. I don't discredit the evidence. I don't doubt it completely, but I am skeptical of the models - the issue is what the models tell me is so scary that I can't help but error to the side of caution.

And we certainly can argue what appears to be evidence. It drives me insane at times, some seems so obvious to me, but that is part of science. We really need to scrutinize every measurement and be sure we are fitting the models to the proper data. It is so easy to make mistakes and misinterpret. So many believed that light was a wave for many years until Einstein was able to explain the photoelectric effect. And there are still many open holes even in quantum mechanics and gravity today that tell us there is something we don't understand.

I also tend to think evolution is so obvious that arguing that it is incorrect is like trying to argue that things to don't fall to the earth. You see it everyday in so many different ways it just took one person to put it a concise, scientific explanation. But it is still argued and will probably never be universally accepted. As much as every fiber in my being wants to say it is irrefutable fact, I know that there are holes, and I know that I should only accept it as a 'good enough' explanation until I find something better.

The fact is science evolves. Theories evolve. Models evolve. We invented the notion of evolution, maybe subconsciously from observing nature, but it is how we do it. We take the best 'facts' we can and try to piece them together to make sense of the world... sometimes these scenarios go 'extinct'.

And FWIW we are continually discovering new species. To say that one is definitively extinct is tough to do. Most likely, yes, it is correct. But to say with absolute Truth and certainty is very difficult.
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Old 03-03-2014, 01:07 PM   #10
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I hope what he meant was "you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts", or something along those lines.

Our "opinions" have no effect on reality. Facts are, by definition, true whether you believe them or not. I can wish for something, or believe in something as hard as I want, but the universe does not care. A fact is the same for everybody.

So if he quotes statistics on atmospheric CO2 content and ocean pH, those are facts. You can buy a pH meter and drive down to the ocean and test it yourself. That pH meter doesn't care what your opinion is.

Let's say a group of scientists observes a species going extinct. They monitor the population for years as it declines, and finally it goes extinct. They search high and low and find no survivors. That's also a fact.

You can't wish that species back into existence. If your opinion is "that species isn't really extinct", good for you, you oblivious idiot. You are entitled to your opinions, as ill-informed and evidence-proof and disprovable as they may be. Go join the flat-earth society.
Exactly where I was going. you said it much more rationally and eloquently.
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Old 03-03-2014, 01:08 PM   #11
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fox news is God.





.



Actually Rupert Murdoch believes he is God.

In his apparance before Congress he stated that he was not in the News business, he was in the Entetrtainment Business. He also stated that since he paid millions dollars in ayroll, his employees would report what he wanted them to and that facts had nothing to do with it.
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Old 03-03-2014, 01:10 PM   #12
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Thanks, I'll put it on my "to read" list right after 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds' by Charles Mackay.
And you'll get around to reading it when you pull your head out of the sand, right?

To NOT read someones opinion we might disagree on means one does not have an open mind. Someone who does not have an open mind and is unwilling to listen to all sides of an issue does not have the tools to make an informed decision. We can only make proper decisions when we have in our possession all the facts gathered from INFORMED sources.

To immediately rule out entertainment another informed opinion removes the ability to come to an informed conclusion.

And as a side note, Rupert Murdochs testimony before congress rules out Fox news an a reliable source of anything except Rupert Murdochs personal agenda.
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Old 03-03-2014, 01:20 PM   #13
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We shouldn't be surprised by that tone, since it's one espoused by Al Gore, John Kerry and a whole host of "believers". It has become the "new religion" of these people.
Including 99% of the scientific community led by climatologists. And actually there is more proof to support that religion than there is for Christianity.
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Old 03-03-2014, 01:40 PM   #14
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The real problem is that there are some truths that are "inconvenient" but I think that has been said before.

Remember, "Cigarettes are not a health risk"?
How about "America could never be attacked?"

Just because we don't want to believe something, it doesn't mean that it isn't true.

One FBI agent was convinced that the World Trade Center was going to be attacked again and that Osama Bin Ladin was the threat. He was ignored by the FBI and the Intelligence Community. We all know how that turned out. It was true and the ignorance of the agencies to consider other then what they wanted to believe was tragic.

That is the price of closed minds.
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Old 03-03-2014, 02:00 PM   #15
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That is the price of closed minds.
Hawk,

My point was that open minds do not accept everything readily, nor do they disregard it because other people do.

They try to understand it the best they can and formulate a scenario which makes the best sense to their understanding of the world. Believe it or not, everyone's is different, despite the 'facts'.

I wish it were easier, but it's not, and it's just part of human nature. And unfortunately, even the smartest of us is incapable of understanding such complexities... so in essence we are all just left to an opinion that may be somewhat loosely support by some 'facts'.

The world is very grey - some see it in black and white, but the harder you look, the more blurred it becomes.
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Old 03-03-2014, 02:12 PM   #16
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Including 99% of the scientific community led by climatologists. And actually there is more proof to support that religion than there is for Christianity.
That's not true. No true scientist would dare say the science is settled or the debate is over. People who say that are not scientists. Even the IPCC is open to true debate.
Manmade Climate change is a theory and future data will either lend further support or disprove it but it is certainly not settled. And debate is a healthy process of science so trying to suppress debate is anti-science too.

Sorry Redhawk I only watch Fox Sports. I too stopped reading the initial post midway so when the subsequent comment "Fox News is God" was made I wasn't sure if it was Pro or Con until I Googled Fox news to see they lean right.
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Old 03-03-2014, 03:16 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Professor Hobbit View Post

Our "opinions" have no effect on reality. Facts are, by definition, true whether you believe them or not. I can wish for something, or believe in something as hard as I want, but the universe does not care. A fact is the same for everybody.

So if he quotes statistics on atmospheric CO2 content and ocean pH, those are facts. You can buy a pH meter and drive down to the ocean and test it yourself. That pH meter doesn't care what your opinion is.
You are stating the obvious here. What is at issue is what is causing elevated levels - and that is very much up for debate, whether the "believers" like it or not. Whether it is solar activity, natural cycles, ocean currents, a myriad of other things, mankind induced change, or a combination of these factors.

I am old enough to remember Time Magazine publishing it's cover stories in the 70s about "How to Survive the coming Ice Age". When that didn't pan out, certain scientists in the 80s began the Global Warming drumbeat. Many of their dire predictions haven't come close to becoming true. And when they don't come true, the goalpost is shifted, i.e. Global Warming becomes Climate Change, the Polar Vortex happens, El Nino happens, etc, etc, etc.
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Old 03-03-2014, 03:21 PM   #18
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In Uncertain Science...Uncertain World the author explains how science moves forward based upon uncertainty. The opponents of say, climate change, pounce upon that normal and desirable uncertainty in order to smear the scientific community. Ie. if there is disagreement on any topic or subject they crow, "Aha! See? The scientists can't even agree amongst themselves!"
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Old 03-03-2014, 03:24 PM   #19
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to recap the reading list; which in my opinion is the topic under argu..discussion.

the Sixth Extinction
World Without Ice
Vital Dust

Any others? I think to be educated means continual reading.
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Old 03-03-2014, 03:29 PM   #20
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The Sixth Extinction isn't really about climate change, although it is mentioned. She wrote a whole other book about that a few years ago called "Field Notes from a Catastrophe" which is quite good, but probably a topic for another discussion. Actually, I have the feeling that topic has been discussed at great length on this forum before.

The Sixth Extinction deals more with all the other problems we cause, such as habitat loss, invasive species and introduced diseases, over-fishing, ocean acidification, etc... Death by a thousand cuts.
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