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Mon Feb 29, 2016, 10:17 AM

Nature: "Current models of climate economics assume that lives in the future are less important...

than lives today, a value judgement that is rarely scrutinized and difficult to defend..."

This language comes from a news feature "focus" article from Nature featured on this issues cover: Nature, Vol. 539 Iss. 7591 pg 397 (2016)

The issue, at least in its news and viewpoint sections, is devoted to reflections on scientists' need to reflect on how their work will impact future generations.

One "news" article asks the question, "Should parents edit their children's genes." Nature 530, 402405 (25 February 2016) It now seems perfectly technologically feasible to do so, owing to the invention of CRISPR-Cas, a technique using complementary genetic material to carry a protein which is a nuclease, designed to clip sections of DNA enabling the insertion of other genes.

This has very high potential to edit the genome in a very facile and efficient way, not only humans, but practically every other high species on the planet. Ultimately it is a technology by which humanity could, were it so inclined, design its own ecosystem and all of the creatures in it?

Were this technology fully developed when the embryo that ultimately became me, my parents might have considered snipping and replacing the gene for type II diabetes, which I apparently carry. Would I be me? Would I know that I wasn't me? Would I care?

My son, who just was admitted to a fairly prestigious art school, is dyslexic, generally associated with chromosome 18. Would I have been wide or foolish to edit it?

Of course, the implications go way beyond any particular individual, myself included. These are not easy questions to answer.

(One of two independent discoverers of CRISPR-Cas, Jennifer Doudna, wrote a wonderful rumination a few issues back, also in Nature on how ill equipped she was to deal with the ethical implications of her work, the emergence of which surprised her and got her to thinking in new ways: Genome-editing revolution: My whirlwind year with CRISPR (Nature 528, 469471 (24 December 2015))

One of the articles in the current issue also features a rumination on the Environmental issue before us, climate change. An economist, Nicolas Stern, authored an article titled Current climate models are grossly misleading. The point here is that climate models talking about a 2[sup]o[/sup]C increase is a global average, but the economic effects locally can hardly be expected to the same everywhere. The author writes:

Current economic models tend to underestimate seriously both the potential impacts of dangerous climate change and the wider benefits of a transition to low-carbon growth. There is an urgent need for a new generation of models that give a more accurate picture.

Dark impacts

...The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in 2013 and 2014, provided a comprehensive overview of the literature on the costs of action and inaction. But the assessment understated the limitations of the research done so far. Essentially, it reported on a body of literature that had systematically and grossly underestimated the risks of unmanaged climate change. Furthermore, that literature had failed to capture the learning processes and economies of scale involved in radical structural and technical change, and the benefits of reducing fossil-fuel pollution, protecting biodiversity and forests, and so on...


An article with a larger physical science focus was published a few weeks ago:

Allowable CO2 emissions based on regional and impact-related climate targets (Nature 529, 477483 (28 January 2016))

The authors show that a 2[sup]o[/sup]C "average" temperature increase in the climate is dominated by the relatively mild changes over the oceans; elsewhere the impacts will most extreme.

The following graphic demonstrates this:



Here's another plot from their paper:



The authors write:

This figure is compelling because it shows a clear linear relationship between cumulative CO2 emissions and a measure of the global climate response. The obvious consequences are (1) that every tonne of CO2 contributes about the same amount of global warming no matter when it is emitted, (2) that any target for the stabilization of ΔTglob implies a finite CO2 budget or quota that can be emitted, and (3) that global net emissions at some point need to be zero2, 3, 4, 5, 6.


"Every tonne contributes the same amount of global warming no matter when its emitted."

This includes tons emitted when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining. We may think we're doing something by mouthing mindless platitudes about how great wind and solar and other forms of so called "renewable energy" are, but we are lying to ourselves.

What we are doing isn't working; it isn't working at all.

2016 has been an unprecedented year, with the weekly data as compared to the same week the year before routinely being over 3 ppm higher. February 21, 2016, 3.33 ppm higher than the weekly average of 2015

I don't think we'll find the wherewithal to stop at 2C. It's going to be much worse.

Have a nice week.

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Reply Nature: "Current models of climate economics assume that lives in the future are less important... (Original post)
NNadir Feb 2016 OP
hatrack Feb 2016 #1
Erich Bloodaxe BSN Feb 2016 #2
NNadir Feb 2016 #3
Erich Bloodaxe BSN Feb 2016 #4
NNadir Feb 2016 #6
phantom power Feb 2016 #5
GliderGuider Mar 2016 #8
Nihil Mar 2016 #7

Response to NNadir (Original post)

Mon Feb 29, 2016, 10:22 AM

1. Well, in conventional economic terms, the more of something there is . .

. . . the less it's worth.

Given population trends in the last 200 years, I guess that's one short take on what a human life is "worth".

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Mon Feb 29, 2016, 10:32 AM

2. I should have known the eventual goal of the diatribe was to badmouth renewables.

And pump up the only type of fuel NNadir likes, nuclear.

The ONLY thing that will 'work' in the long run is fewer humans. We consume too much, and there are far too many of us. Energy is just one piece among many in which we've overwhelmed the world's ability to compensate for us.

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Response to Erich Bloodaxe BSN (Reply #2)

Mon Feb 29, 2016, 10:41 AM

3. So called "renewables" aren't working.

We spent two trillion bucks on them in the last ten years and the result is written in the atmosphere.

I am completely and totally, five or ten years out after rejecting the so called "renewable energy" industry perfectly satisfied that the only sustainable option for the future is in fact a nuclear powered future.

I read, and I have little respect for those who rather than finding out things, simply mouth mindless platitudes.

I feel no reason to apologize for my argument for nuclear energy, in fact, I am certain that history, should it survive fear and ignorance - which it may not, will bear me out on this score.

By the way, while you smugly argue for "fewer humans" you are working very hard for that outcome. Very hard. You may not be aware or consider that the reduction in population, which may have taken place by attrition - will almost certainly take place by catastrophe. I'm not sure you care.

I note that not many people complaining about population commit suicide.

Have a nice week.

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Response to NNadir (Reply #3)

Mon Feb 29, 2016, 10:49 AM

4. I haven't committed suicide, but I have deliberately remained childless.

And yes, if mankind can't control its urges to reproduce uncontrollably, nature most assuredly WILL take care of the problem catastrophically. And there's nothing to 'care' about there - it simply 'is'. We're well into our own extinction event, and I have to honestly say, I don't really expect humans to come out the other side. And since it's our own damn fault, I can't say that I have a lot of sympathy. I'm sparing that for all of the other species we're taking down with us.

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Response to Erich Bloodaxe BSN (Reply #4)

Mon Feb 29, 2016, 11:49 PM

6. Well, it may be quixotic, but since I KNOW there is another way, I feel an ethical...

...responsibility to state what might have been done to have saved what we have already lost, and what might be done to avoid losing that which has not yet been lost.

...and much has been lost, although much also remains. I remind you that we bourgeois brats are still here to announce our pedestrian concerns, and thus we remain, for better or worse.

I didn't deliberately remain childless; I have two sons. I had them when I believed in the future.

Now of course, I feel guilty about the world my generation is turning over to them but hopefully they will remain through a fair portion of this century with some ideas to save what might be saved of their world

From my perspective, it has never been sufficient to accept fear and ignorance and say, "that is how the world is."

Since I have set two human beings into the future, I am less inclined than ever to shut my mouth and say, for instance, "isn't renewable energy great!" and "it will fuel the world by 2050" or "by 2100" or some other time I deign to name when I conveniently will be dead.

We live in an awful generation, a generation that has the myopia, the hubris, the irresponsibility, that future generations will do what we have refused to do ourselves. We've pissed away a future that does not belong to us.

This, in case you missed it, was the point I believe the editor at Nature was making.

In the case of so called "renewable energy" we have destroyed huge swathes of China, for instance, mining unsustainable amounts of material - toxic materials, in order to tell ourselves a lie, a very big lie, that so called "renewable energy" was in fact, "renewable." It's not. And I don't care who doesn't like it when I say that; it is true, it is experimentally - in a tragic way - being demonstrated, and there is little time left and few resources left to conduct such a mindless experiment again and again and again or ever vaster scales, hoping that some day it will work. This "renewable energy" fantasy was insipid and unworkable, and should, if one reflects, been obviously been so, since humanity abandoned so called renewable energy near the beginning of the 19th century because up until that time, most people lived short, miserable lives of dire poverty.

The renewable energy schemes are not working. We blew past 400 ppm faster than we blew through 390 ppm, and that was faster than we blew through 380 ppm, all the while we were throwing the equivalent of the gross national product of more than 90% of the countries in the world at these failed schemes.

Maybe you don't have occasion to look a representative of the future in the eye and state those facts, but I must do so every time I sit down to a family dinner. And that is why I bother, in spite of all the whining here and elsewhere about how I fail to bow before the wind and solar god on my knees and prostrate myself in worship.

Have a nice day tomorrow.

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Mon Feb 29, 2016, 11:40 AM

5. Hyperbolic discounting of future consequences is probably programmed into our DNA

It's a good strategy, unless you happen to evolve the ability to take over the world and start strip-mining the planet.

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Response to phantom power (Reply #5)

Tue Mar 1, 2016, 08:26 AM

8. +1E100

 

Focus on the present, fuck the future. It's the way life works, and humans are no exception. The cerebral cortex and the thumbs put a bit of topspin on the ball, though...

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Tue Mar 1, 2016, 04:39 AM

7. K&R. That headline alone needs to be recognised far & wide.

 

> Nature: "Current models of climate economics assume that lives in the future
> are less important than lives today, a value judgement that is rarely scrutinized
> and difficult to defend..."

Personally, I'd take it further still (yet still be accurate):

"Current models of climate economics assume that lives in the future
are less important than short term profits today."


Thanks for posting that article.

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