Societal collapse

A couple of days ago, a letter was signed by a group of academics suggesting that

People who care about environmental and humanitarian issues should not be discouraged from discussing the risks of societal disruption or collapse.

I largely agree with this and it is certainly an improvement on suggestions that climate-induced societal collapse is now inevitable in the near term. I think we should be willing to discuss worst-case scenarios so as to, ideally, avoid them.

However, as pointed out quite forcefully on Twitter, what do people mean by societal collapse? Noone really seemed able to define it. Also, in what way would the impacts of climate change lead to something that we might reasonably describe as societal collapse? If these impacts materialise, is collapse unavoidable, or can we develop strategies for dealing with it? Is the impact the same everywhere, or are some regions more/less susceptible than others?

Also, as pointed out by Ambarish Karmalkar, this framing is typically presented by those from the global north. Ambarish highlighted an interview with Amitav Ghosh who suggests that

it’s no wonder the Western anxiety about climate change is focussed on social collapse and extinction. “I think Western people sense that the entire order is changing in ways that are extremely threatening to them,”

Some regions are clearly already feeling the impact of climate change, and yet some are invoking an ill-defined future societal collapse. We don’t need, in my opinion, to use some kind of future societal collapse in order to justify climate action now. As one of Stoat’s classic posts said if you can’t imagine anything between “catastrophic” and “nothing to worry about” then you’re not thinking.

I do think it’s worth considering some of the more extreme outcomes, but I also think we should be clear that these are worst-case scenarios, rather than outcomes that are likely. I also think that we should be careful of creating narratives that appeal to the western world’s anxieties about the future and, potentially, ignoring that climate change is already negatively impacting many parts of the world.

To be fair, this is a complex issue, so am willing to be convinced otherwise, but I do think that we should treat catastrophic narratives with caution.

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162 Responses to Societal collapse

  1. jacksmith4tx says:

    I have seen correlations with our current social disfunction and the experimental results of the mass psychoses categorized as the “Behavioral Sink Syndrome”. While the early research pioneered studies on small mammals (mice, birds & monkeys) the destructive patterns were also observed in larger herding species like pigs and cows. After some very discouraging results from experiments conducted in prisons most research has been stopped due to ethical concerns.

    In a sense, social media built the virtual walls and cages that was a critical factor in the dystopian “Mouse Utopia” outcomes.

  2. if you are an inhabitant of a first world nation and you flip the light switch in the morning and no light goes on, civilization collapse may have happened. If you run to the kitchen faucet, turn the valve and no water comes out, civilization collapse may have happened. If you then, pick up your phone to call about these failures and you can’t get a dial tone or signal, civilization may have collapsed.

    Grasping and know what civilization collapse is will be easy if it ever happens to us. There will be a lot of folks wandering around pointing their cell phones everywhere trying to get a signal. That habit will be reduced as folks starve or succumb to exposure, etc.

    To know more about how this proceeds from the moment it starts, we might need to check in with the Anasazi, or the Sumerians, or one of the other civilizations that have collapsed in the past.

    Here is a list of 14: https://ancientcivilizationsworld.com/collapsed/

    One solution to prevent being overrun by Mongols or other deplorables is to build a wall. China has some information on the long term success of that kind of thing. Israel and the US are trying out that approach today. Stay tuned.

    The reasonable discussion that you suggest is often derailed by folks who object to the idea of civilization collapse discussion and change the focus of the discussion to consideration of a few crank-types who feel the end is near. The end might be near, but it doesn’t seem likely. We will probably judge trudge along for quite a while arguing endlessly over the framing of these discussions

    Cheers

    Mike

  3. izen says:

    Yemen, parts of Africa, Syria, Nagorno-Karabash and some regions in S America show many signs of societal collapse. Not all of this is climate related, or at least not only climate related. Not all of it may be permanent. But there are a variety of regions that are no longer functioning as intact societies.

  4. Thank you for your wake up call to the existential threat industry.

    Our business hours are from the Climate Desk opening bell, to the closing of debate because closure is intersectional.

    Click.

  5. izen,
    I think that’s part of the issue. Some regions may already be experiencing be showing signs of climate-related collapse, so it’s not just about what might happen in future, but also what is already happening now. Also, these probably aren’t simply a consequence of climate change; there are many other factors that influence how we respond to these kind of impacts. So, I tend to think that we should be cautious of using terms like societal collapse. We should aim to be clear what it means, why we expect it might happen, and we could do about it (both in terms of avoiding the impacts that might lead to it, or developing strategies for dealing with it where these impacts to materialise).

  6. Ben McMillan says:

    One of the problems with collapse is that there is no obvious way to model it or quantify its likelihood.

    So you have doomers on one side claiming it is inevitable, and ‘reasonable centrists’ proclaiming it is very low probability, but none of them can actually quantify its likelihood.

    Clearly societies and civilisations can and do collapse, and this is actually moderately frequent; extra pressure from environmental degradation probably makes this worse. How do you say something useful beyond that though?

    I have some sympathy for the idea that climate change is worrying enough even without considering the poorly understood possibility of existential threats: however, if there are indeed existential threats of any significant likelihood, that can’t simply be ignored.

    Talking about imminent collapse is no more stupid, or ill-informed, than taking a fancy model like DICE and predicting that things will be basically fine when we warm by 5C.

    We may never have a very clear model of how and why collapse might happen and how much of that collapse to attribute to climate change. Until that point, should people discuss only clearly quantifiable things like mean temperature increase and sea level rise?

  7. Ben McMillan says:

    Also, there is broad agreement around heading for somewhere like a 1.5C or a 2C target. Especially 1.5C only makes sense if you think there is some kind of existential threat, so it isn’t just a fringe idea.

  8. Ben,

    Talking about imminent collapse is no more stupid, or ill-informed, than taking a fancy model like DICE and predicting that things will be basically fine when we warm by 5C.

    Yes, I agree. This is why I think we should be careful, both in terms of being clear as to what we mean, and acknowledging the rather large uncertainties.

  9. Ben,

    Also, there is broad agreement around heading for somewhere like a 1.5C or a 2C target. Especially 1.5C only makes sense if you think there is some kind of existential threat, so it isn’t just a fringe idea.

    I don’t entirely agree with this, in the sense that one could want to avoid something even if not doing so is not likely to be an existential threat. On the other hand, you could argue that greater than 4C of warming is likely to have such large negative impacts that we really do want to avoid warming by >4C. Given the various uncertainties, you could then argue that to be almost certain of avoiding >4C of warming would require a target of something like 1.5C – 2C.

  10. Jon Kirwan says:

    I think the meaning of terms will evolve as the discussions are engaged. The idea is clearer in natural sciences (physics), where the idea is to allow nature to show you where the demarcations exist.

    The recent change in meaning about what a “planet” means to those who care more about it as a matter of scientific study is an example here. The meaning of “planet” changed as our understanding of nature improved and we were finally able to “observe” a few clarifying demarcations which were then determined to be important enough to be elevated. The same is true across the entire span of science. In evolution, we didn’t know how it could be that the sun could have lasted long enough for observed variations. But many decades later we discovered fusion. And still later, we discovered a means by which genome copying could occur — another requirement — as well as mutation. Etc. Over time, the meaning of things evolve and improve. And this is part and parcel with shaping the ideas by which we think about the world, as well as shaping the meaning of words we use to communicate those ideas, too.

    I wouldn’t be so harsh as you, ATTP, in requiring an early meaning to phases such as “societal collapse.” We are in the early stages of understanding even what we may be talking about. Besides, none of this would happen all of a sudden. But instead, whatever we decide as important ideas (which will change over time) to use in thinking about the issues, they will not occur at the same time everywhere, nor in the same way. And likely, some of the ideas simply won’t apply well at all in some areas, while applying very well in others.

    Give it some time. Allow serious thinkers to apply their imaginations and their dedication to serious engagement and observation. Nothing is going to happen overnight. But if you decide the very discussion itself is too dangerous to have, at all, then we will surely learn very little to help us think better with improved ideas.

    I think it is high time that the entire subject matter gets the attention of some of our betters, without being stigmatized for even “going there” in the first place. We need some of our betters to be given some freedom to explore these frontiers and to help us evolve towards better ideas that we can use to think about the issues. And that will not happen if the very topic is considered forbidden because of our current state of ignorance about it.

    You can only imagine what may have happened had we not found a way to avoid having stakes driven into our jaws to silence us and/or being immolated just because someone may suggest the idea of planets around other stars or the idea that the Earth isn’t the center of the solar system. Etc.

  11. Jon,

    I wouldn’t be so harsh as you, ATTP, in requiring an early meaning to phases such as “societal collapse.” We are in the early stages of understanding even what we may be talking about.

    That’s a fair point. I do think, though, that it’s worth those who are promoting this narrative thinking about what they actually mean, and the conditions under which it may materialise.

  12. Bob Loblaw says:

    After reading this, I was over at CNN and saw this story on U.S. politics, voting, beliefs, etc (not climate related):

    https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/15/politics/voter-fraud-urban-myth/index.html

    Although I would hesitate to call what it describes as “societal collapse”, I would consider it to be a serious departure from what I would think of as a well-functioning society. It’s not just the developing countries where things are getting ugly.

  13. GregH says:

    I think talking about societal collapse as if it’s the only alternative is a sign of laziness. We’re too lazy to contemplate fixing the existing system, so that’s the most obvious outcome. It’s clean and final, and doesn’t require any work.

  14. can you drop the word “imminent” from your consideration of collapse? I think that pushes the discussion of collapse into a polarized area from which constructive discussion is more difficult. As others have pointed out, collapse is already happening, has happened in certain places. Those collapses may or may not have a lot to do with global warming, but they are real and create human misery and political upheaval that is dangerous to more beings.

  15. “Also, there is broad agreement around heading for somewhere like a 1.5C or a 2C target. Especially 1.5C only makes sense if you think there is some kind of existential threat, so it isn’t just a fringe idea.”

    I also don’t agree with this because it is clear that some human beings are suffering and a lot of various species are being pushed to the brink of extinction at the current levels of warming. To talk calmly and rationally about a broad agreement to head toward a 1.5 or 2 degree target is to betray your first world privilege that you believe will insulate you and yours from great suffering while ignoring or accepting the great suffering of other beings. I believe this is what folks are thinking about when they raise the issue of climate justice.

  16. Ben McMillan says:

    I’ll just note that the measures needed to meet a 1.5C target are pretty close to a war-footing style response, especially if you think negative emissions technology isn’t plausible: with a linear drop, need to go to zero emissions in 15 years.

    We’re already at 1.2C or so.

  17. Bob,
    Yes, I think there are things happening today that could lead to what we might call “societal collapse”. However, the causes are complex, and even though climate change can clearly exaccerbate such conditions, it’s probably more correctly a stressor than a direct cause. Of course, I don’t want to suggest that this means we shouldn’t be taking urgent action, but I do think we need to try and be clear about why we’re doing so and the consequences of failing to do so.

  18. Willard says:

    > To talk calmly and rationally about a broad agreement to head toward a 1.5 or 2 degree target is to betray your first world privilege

    Drop the mind probing, mike.

    I won’t ask twice.

  19. Ben,
    Yes, that is a fair point. Limiting warming to 1.5C is going to be very challenging and limiting it to 2C is not going to be much easier.

    I guess this is one reason why I think we should be cautious of promoting societal collapse narratives. Even thought limiting warming to 1.5C, or 2C, is going to be challenging, we’re still better of trying as hard as we can and (potentially) failing, than giving up. Warming of 2.5C is still likely to have less impact than warming of 3C, etc.

    Of course, we do also need to think about how we will deal with the impacts that may now be unavoidable, which – in a sense – will be thinking of how we manage these impacts in ways that don’t lead to what we might regard as some kind of societal collapse. So, I’m certainly not suggesting that we avoid discussing it, just suggesting that it be done with caution.

  20. As I just wrote at William Connelley’s blog, “I have thought for some time that those most activated by the threat of global warming have decided quite consciously to rope their concerns to others in hopes of expanding their support base.

    IIRC it started with biodiversity issues, where they peremptorily put global warming at the head of the list of threats to biodiversity, instead of at the tail end as a potential threat. Everyone sane knows that what Matt Ridley described as the Four Horsemen threatening biodiversity–habitat loss, pollution, introduction of alien species and over hunting/fishing, constitute more than 99% of the threat to various biomes. But suddenly global warming jumped the queue and at best was primus inter pares.”

    I have seen no figures, projections or analysis that indicate that societal collapse is guaranteed or even hastened by GAT rises of 1.5C or 2C. If there are such analyses or projections I would love to see them.

  21. Entropic man says:

    I suggest that a society is an environment in which people can safely have and raise children.

    If you can’t do that, society has collapsed, whatever else is going on.

  22. Eventual_Horizon says:

    As distracted and uninformed as we are in the West we have an innate understanding that with the great complexity of our civilization comes fragility and we are hopelessly far from self-sufficient. Our food comes from hundreds if not thousands of miles away. As professionals we are often hyper-specialized with none of the assortment of skills that were more the norm for people who didn’t have corner stores nevermind Amazon. We sip our tea and stare at our screens with the nagging sense that if things go south we are largely helpless to help ourselves.

    What does collapse look like? Probably nothing like you see in the movies. Crisis will multiply and things will get worse in stepwise fashion. But as the saying goes, we overestimate what can change in a year and underestimate the same over ten years. New normals will emerge and the human animal will accept what was previously unthinkable.

    And why shouldn’t things collapse. The biosphere is tapping out much like the aquifers that provide water to croplands in the US, India and elsewhere. Renewables remain an almost invisible sliver of the global energy mix. Established weather patterns are destabilizing. Carbon capture remains a fantasy technology. And the astonishingly stable climate of the holocene has just taken a sledgehammer hit. This isn’t doom and gloom, this is just what is.

  23. Tom,

    I have seen no figures, projections or analysis that indicate that societal collapse is guaranteed or even hastened by GAT rises of 1.5C or 2C. If there are such analyses or projections I would love to see them.

    I don’t think such analyses or projections do exist, which is why it’s a tricky topic to discuss. However, we’re not currently heading for 1.5C or 2C. Our current trajectory is more like 3C (+- 1C). I know that some think that climate sensitivity is low enough that we can easily limit warming to 2C, but the evidence for that is weak, and getting weaker by the day. Limiting warming to 1.5C, or 2C, would require pretty drastic action, starting now, which is kind of the key point. It’s not so much if 1.5C to 2C could cause societal collapse, but what would happen if either we’re unlucky and climate sensitivity turns out to be high, or we fail to reduce emissions, so that we warm by > 4C.

  24. ATTP, I don’t want this thread to be diverted to the usual back and forth on sensitivity, but surely you realize that when you write, “I know that some think that climate sensitivity is low enough that we can easily limit warming to 2C, but the evidence for that is weak, and getting weaker by the day” that you are reaching–unless you are talking about time frames much longer than this century.

    And I have no objection for talking about longer time frames, but I think appropriate caveats should be explicit.

  25. Tom,

    that you are reaching–unless you are talking about time frames much longer than this century.

    No, this is nonsense. Our current trajectory is 3C (+-1C) this century. To limit warming to 1.5C, or 2C, would require emitting substantially less than our current trajectory suggests that we will emit. I really don’t think you’re in a position to lecture others about including appropriate caveats.

  26. ATTP, we have not had a decade in the last century where temperature rises exceeded .19C.

  27. Willard says:

    > I don’t think such analyses or projections do exist

    Which is the point of asking for them. For instance:

    This is a burning question of mine ever since I started reading about climate change and I am yet to find a satisfactory answer. Perhaps, some esteemed physicists in this forum may be able to answer.

    What is the optimal global mean temperature?

    https://judithcurry.com/2020/12/07/the-blame-game-2/#comment-935899

  28. Tom,

    ATTP, we have not had a decade in the last century where temperature rises exceeded .19C.

    So what? The warming depends linearly on emissions, which have been increasing. This is not a situation where you can simply project past warming into the future. Future warming depends mostly on future emissions.

  29. Willard says:

    The comments have been fixed, Eventual.

    ***

    Perhaps we ought to add a no-Goldilocks clause to our Stoatness’ saying:

    [NO-GOLDILOCKS] If you can’t imagine anything non-luckwarm between “catastrophic” and “nothing to worry about” then you’re not thinking.

    Is this a sextuple negative or three double negatives?

  30. ATTP, you assert that warming depends linearly on emissions. I think that really is only an assertion. It would not violate physics or our understanding of the world to say that warming could be triggered by exceeding a certain level of emissions, or that a pulse of emissions could cause a warming response.

    It is warming. We are emitting greenhouse gases. There is more than a correlation here. The warming could be dramatic enough to cause unwanted consequences. It behooves us to mitigate what warming we can and to adapt to what warming we are unable to avoid. Efforts undertaken now will be easier, cheaper and more effective than efforts taken later.

    Surely that is enough to say.

  31. Tom,
    I didn’t assert that warming depends linearly on emissions (although this is what the evidence does indicate). I said that future warming depends mostly on future emissions. If you want to assert that the past warming trends are the best indicators of future warming, then some kind of argument as to why this is likely to be the case would be useful.

  32. History takes time, and one of its features is the perenniality of End Times rhetoric. We are just beginning to realize how suscepable postmodern causes are to recapitulating the structures of religious revivals. Climate denial and the revival of old -time ideologies under the guise of intersectionality may be flip sides of the same behavioral coin.

    This is as germane today as it was was apparent a generation ago , and two centiuries after the Millerites, the world still hosts groups of apocalyptics grimmer still:

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2020/12/beyond-fringe-on-prophets-of-doom-who.html

  33. Aw, c’mon ATTP. You wrote, “So what? The warming depends linearly on emissions, which have been increasing.”

    And then you wrote, “I didn’t assert that warming depends linearly on emissions (although this is what the evidence does indicate).”

    I believe the trend is running at about 1.7C per decade, actually, or about 8% of GAT at this point. I think emissions have been rising at a much faster rate.

    I sorta thought that most people were looking at concentrations rather than emissions as a key driver. That sorta makes sense to me as the five major CO2 sinks can vary in their efficiency quite a bit and it’s what’s left over after the sinks operate that blocks outgoing radiation, right?

    I mean, I don’t even get the chain of logic that would lead to thinking that warming would depend linearly on emissions. Yeah, more emissions, more warming. But linear?

  34. Ben McMillan says:

    I still think that being very worried that damage at a certain level of climate change might be much higher than “expected”, is a big part of the push for strong targets (independent of the uncertainty on climate sensitivity). e.g. is >4C really the point where things get scary? A lot of people (e.g. ecologists) clearly think things are already pretty dicey right now.

    In a way a quantified uncertainty (on sensitivity) is a lot less worrying than an unquantified one (on whether civilisations or individual humans will be OK in a >2C world). That is, the uncertainty in the damage function seems to me like the dominant source of uncertainty.

    There was a nice paper recently showing that in the face of ignorance, uncertainty and slow responses what you want to do is have a high carbon price now (or equivalently, strict carbon targets) until you learn how steep the damage function is, and how high climate sensitivity is.

    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2018.07.024

  35. Tom,

    Aw, c’mon ATTP. You wrote, “So what? The warming depends linearly on emissions, which have been increasing.”

    And then you wrote, “I didn’t assert that warming depends linearly on emissions (although this is what the evidence does indicate).”

    Fair enough, I forgot about the earlier comment. The point still stands; future warming depends mostly on future emissions. Projecting future warming using past trends is way too simple. If we reduce our emissions we’ll warm far less than if we continue increasing our emissions.

    I mean, I don’t even get the chain of logic that would lead to thinking that warming would depend linearly on emissions. Yeah, more emissions, more warming. But linear?

    This is because when you relate warming to emissions you need to consider both the warming feedbacks (i.e., how do the feedbacks amplify GHG-driven warming) and the carbon cycle feedbacks (how much of our emissions are taken up by the carbon sinks). Together they end up producing a relationship such that warming depends roughly linearly on emissions. This is, apparently, a pretty robust relationship.

    However, even if you don’t buy the linearity, it doesn’t really change that how much we warm in future will largely depend on how much we emit in future, not how fast we warmed in the past.

  36. Ben,

    is >4C really the point where things get scary? A lot of people (e.g. ecologists) clearly think things are already pretty dicey right now.

    I’m not suggesting that > 4C is where things get scary. I agree that there are plenty of potentially scary outcomes for warming levels well below this. I was mostly suggesting that if we’re going to define societal collapse in terms of collapse of some kind of global civilisation, I would be surprised if anything that extreme were to happen for warming levels below 4C (without any good justification for this, I will admit).

  37. Willard says:

    4C is a good contrarian cutoff, by which I mean that they stop responding at that point:

    I think we can agree that at 4C things might not get that lukewarm.

  38. I don’t consider 4C realistic, although I think it is within the realm of possibility. I don’t for one moment think that even 4C threatens extinction for humanity, or even the end of civilization. I don’t know if that’s an appropriate topic of conversation for this particular post, but if ATTP wants to know more I’d be happy to elaborate on why I feel that way.

  39. Chubbs says:

    Wonder how civilized we are if we let temps get to 4C. its not going to happen overnight.

  40. anoilman says:

    We should all just stick together, and pretend everything is OK. That’s what all the extinct species did.

  41. Tom,

    I don’t consider 4C realistic

    Yes, I realise this. I don’t know, though, why you think your hand-waving is somehow stronger than the actual research done by domain experts.

    I don’t for one moment think that even 4C threatens extinction for humanity, or even the end of civilization.

    I also don’t think it threatens extinction for humanity. I’m also not sure that it’s necessarily a threat to civilisation. I don’t even really know how to quantify this, but my point was that I wouldn’t expect this to become a risk unless we were to warm by more than 4C, which is now becoming less likely. This is not because 4C of warming is not realistic, but because we seem to be doing things to avoid emitting enough to undergo this level of warming.

  42. I don’t get it. What hand waving?

  43. Tom,

    I don’t consider 4C realistic

  44. How is that hand waving? You write right afterwards “This is not because 4C of warming is not realistic, but because we seem to be doing things to avoid emitting enough to undergo this level of warming.”

    I believe I was in the vanguard of those writing (and specifically on this blog) that our paltry mitigation efforts had already rendered RCP 8.5 moot and hence that 4C, while certainly physically possible, was receding in the rear-view mirror due to the retirement of coal stations, take-up of natural gas, a continuation of technological innovation and to a lesser extent renewables, etc. People on this blog, including you, fought me tooth and nail about something that seemed fairly obvious.

  45. Tom,
    Okay, so your argument is that 4C is unrealistic because we probably won’t emit enough to get there. For starters, even our current trajectory is 3C+-1C, which means a non-negligible chance of 4C of warming. So, even though RCP8.5 seems off the table, that doesn’t immediately mean that 4C of warming is unrealistic. I tend to agree that 4C of warming is becoming less and less likely, but that isn’t an obvious interpretation of your use of the term “realistic”.

    Also, I would suggest that your interpretation of any discussions we may have had about RCP8.5 are somewhat nuanced. There’s an unfortunate tendency amongst some to interpret any disagreement about considering RCP8.5 as suggesting that that means that the opponent thinks RCP8.5 is somehow likely. Very odd.

  46. Willard says:

    > How is that hand waving?

    There you go:

    I believe I was in the vanguard of those writing (and specifically on this blog) that our paltry mitigation efforts had already rendered RCP 8.5 moot and hence that 4C, while certainly physically possible, was receding in the rear-view mirror due to the retirement of coal stations, take-up of natural gas, a continuation of technological innovation and to a lesser extent renewables, etc.

    And that’s notwithstanding the goalposts moving between societal collapse, threatens extinction for humanity, and (“or even”!) the end of civilization.

  47. Eventual_Horizon says:

    I’m convinced climate change needs something more like the Saffir-Simpson scale for hurricanes. Which, I have to imagine, was invented in part because it’s difficult for people to comprehend that the force of wind is the square of its velocity. The destructive difference between 100 km/h and 120km/h is not 20%. One could keep the 1-5 scale (which happens to coincide with the range of degrees C) and swap to a roman numeral. e.g., we’re currently heading towards a Type IV future with widespread famines, large areas of the planet rendered uninhabitable etc.

    Otherwise people will never really grasp 2C vs 3C vs 4C when the same scale is used with a vastly wider range in their day-to-day. Plus things might be survivable at 2C but reach multiple tipping points at 2.5C. Plus 2.95C vs 3C is perceptually significant but a meaningless difference in reality.

    Related, the framing of the future into a binary “will civilization collapse yes/no” is unhelpful. It draws out a lot of unsubstantiated conjecture on a poorly defined question. Whose civilization? What constitutes civilization? Is North Korea a functioning “civilization”? If 800M people starve but wine is still being in New Zealand is “civilization” still standing?

  48. “There’s an unfortunate tendency amongst some to interpret any disagreement about considering RCP8.5 as suggesting that that means that the opponent thinks RCP8.5 is somehow likely. Very odd. ”

    That same kind of thing also happens with a lot of other discussions that opponents want to render off-limits, outside the overton window or effectively. I see that with discussion and consideration of civilization collapse, methane releases, abrupt warming scenarios, etc. Even when the framing and language is clear that the discussion is about high impact, low probability events where respect for the precautionary principle is warranted, the opponents often insert an adjective like imminent, massive or inevitable. Reframing the disagreement with these qualifiers is an effective means of derailing a reasonable discussion of topics worthy of discussion.

    I am happy to see you bring up and defend a well-bounded discussion of civilization collapse. I would suggest that history indicates that is common for civilizations to rise and fall, thus civilization collapse and recognition of that common historical process should be a starting point when raising the possibility that our civilization might collapse. I recognize that a lot of folks never recognize the common historical process when their own civilization is in question. Hits a little too close to home maybe. The reasons for collapse often relate to resource depletion, environmental change and the tendency of dominant civilizations to over-extend themselves a bit. At least that what I see when I review past collapses.

    In the realm of economics, I sometimes hear how monetary practice is modified when an economy has overheated and it appears the goal is to slow the economy without triggering a crash, to engineer a soft landing. That seems smart. I think that is roughly analogous to our industrial fuel situation with fossil fuels. I think we should keep thinking and talking about how to manage what we can to avoid a crash and to limit the suffering for beings in environments and locales where things have already collapsed if we subscribe to some moral philosophy about justice and the reduction of suffering. But I think there is a competing moral philosophy about how God or the market helps those who help themselves. Some synthesis of apparently competing ideas makes sense to me per Hegel’s dialectic. But that’s just me. I think that synthesis does not appeal to all.

    Cheers

    Mike

  49. Look, ATTP–I’m not trying to start a fight or continue old ones. When you write, “I do think it’s worth considering some of the more extreme outcomes, but I also think we should be clear that these are worst-case scenarios, rather than outcomes that are likely. I also think that we should be careful of creating narratives that appeal to the western world’s anxieties about the future and, potentially, ignoring that climate change is already negatively impacting many parts of the world.

    To be fair, this is a complex issue, so am willing to be convinced otherwise, but I do think that we should treat catastrophic narratives with caution” I agree with you.

    Like you (I think) I see precious little evidence of caution in how potentially catastrophic narratives are presented, such as the ever-popular news topic of impending collapse of the Greenland Ice Sheet as just one example, often visited, usually without the 3,000 year timeline required for understanding of the possibility. There are many more.

    When Ted Turner postulated that the human population would be reduced to a double handful of cannibals, I don’t think many took him seriously. But when ABC Television aired a prime time television special charting in animated fashion (in more than one sense of the word) societal collapse due to global warming, it ended up being me writing on the now extinct blog farm Examiner.com that scare stories were likely to impede, not accelerate, societal responses that I considered urgent to deal with climate change.

    I (among others) have tried to define ‘caution’ in communications. Sadly, I had already been saddled with the ‘denier’ label and my cautionary writings on caution were unheeded. Which is okay, I was just a minor blogger. But similar writing from people who had not been saddled with the label went unheeded as well. So we got similar panic attacks from things like methane clathrates, ad tedium.

  50. Tom,
    I do see plenty of caution in how some of these narratives are presented. Not everyone is as cautious as I think they probably should be, though. This, in my opinion, is a serious issue that I don’t think we’re doing enough to address. Even if I do disagree with some of the more catastrophic narratives, I still have more sympathy with them than I do for those who suggest that it’s not really all that big of an issue.

    I’m imagining that you see no particular issue with being listed as a contributor to cliscep?

  51. izen says:

    @-TF
    “… hence that 4C, while certainly physically possible, was receding in the rear-view mirror…”

    Globally this may be true. But IIRC polar amplification already has the temperature change inside the Arctic and Antarctic circles around 3C. In Antarctica that would seem to guarantee the continuing loss of the ice shelves. The Brunt is next apparently, with some rate of sea level rise somewhat on the high side of present projections.

    Many experts suspect that this change is now inevitable and accelerating with no change in our future emissions slowing the process, but continuing emissions further increasing it. Given that many of our major cities are coastal, civilisation, barring collapse, will be concerned with adaption to this rising sea level for the next few generations.

  52. Hi ATTP, not at all, not any more than when I posted guest articles on WUWT. Both venues were happy to let me try and persuade readers that a lukewarm position was the most logical approach. I don’t think I persuaded many, but a few pinched themselves and realized that in fact they had been lukewarmers all along and hadn’t realized it. Much like failed presidential candidate (and my favorite) Pete Buttigieg went on Fox repeatedly, realizing that some conservative viewers might have retained their views merely because they had never heard the other side of the story, I sought to fish where the fishes were.

    That TV show I mentioned previously was called ‘Earth 2100.’ In my only Wikipedia mention it quotes me as follows: ” Thomas Fuller, writing for Examiner.com, accused ABC of portraying “science fiction” as fact, and stating that: . . . when people realize (as they are realizing now) that temperatures are not going to climb every year, they are not going to remember what sober scientists say. They are going to think of Earth 2100 and other scare stories about catastrophe, and realize that they were lies. They will then completely tune out science and it will be impossible to even do the sensible things we can and should do.[9]

  53. Willard says:

    > Like you (I think) I see precious little evidence of caution in how potentially catastrophic narratives are presented

    Trying to peddle “but CAGW” may not be the most optimal way “not trying to start a fight or continue old ones.”

    It is after all the central square of the Climateball Bingo:

    https://climateball.net/but-cagw/

  54. I wonder how many of the Guardian letter signers read Nature Ecology and Evolution last August:

    Thresholds for ecological responses to global change do not emerge from empirical data

    Helmut Hillebrand ,Ian Donohue, W. Stanley Harpole , Dorothee Hodapp, Michal Kucera, Aleksandra M. Lewandowska, Julian Merder, Jose M. Montoya and Jan A. Freund

    To understand ecosystem responses to anthropogenic global change, a prevailing framework is the definition of threshold levels of pressure, above which response magnitudes and their variances increase disproportionately.

    However, we lack systematic quantitative evidence as to whether empirical data allow definition of such thresholds… We find that threshold transgressions were rarely detectable, either within or across meta-analyses. Instead, ecological responses were characterized mostly by progressively increasing magnitude and variance when pressure increased.

    Sensitivity analyses with modelled data revealed that minor variances in the response are sufficient to preclude the detection of thresholds from data, even if they are present. The simulations reinforced our contention that global change biology needs to abandon the general expectation that system properties allow defining thresholds as a way to manage nature under global change. Rather, highly variable responses, even under weak pres- sures, suggest that ‘safe-operating spaces’ are unlikely to be quantifiable….

    [Source:] https://epic.awi.de/id/eprint/53001/1/Helmut_et_al_2020.pdf

  55. Willard says:

    Those among us who despair about the state of Climateball might appreciate that things don’t look rosy amongst our favorite contrarians:

    It’s not just climate. The problem is, once we go to [Donald], or any other climate-related subject (we’ll always have Paris, as somebody on here said before me, but only until they re-ratify it) we tend to lose some admirable Cliscep contributors and lurkers. (The loss of the lurkers is an assumption on my part but it figures.)

    If that doesn’t make you despair, what will?

    https://cliscep.com/2020/12/06/despair

    Contrarians don’t always despair, but when they do they channel the ghost of Edmund Burke.

  56. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    > They will then completely tune out science and it will be impossible to even do the sensible things we can and should do.

    Intersting how confident people are about a specific causal mechanism being prevalent despite zero evidence that it actually explains much of anything at all.

    Argument by assertion. Is that a lukewarmer thang?

  57. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    > were likely to impede, not accelerate, societal responses that I considered urgent to deal with climate change.

    Your evidence is? Here’s a hint. You don’t have any.

    I get that there’s a certain common sense logic that over-selling will cause a kind of backlash. But the evidence of a different causal mechanism being explanatory is overwhelming. The evidence I’ve seen suggests that the effect of the causal mechanism about which you are so concernedis marginal at best. To the extent that your minor blogging has had ANY effect, my guess is that it has probably been to unwittingly contribute to the more predominant causal mechanism that leads to impeding progress policies that address the risks from climate change.

  58. Chubbs says:

    Not sure where Tom is getting his figures. Per the handy tool below, GISS is 0.22C/decade in the past 30 years and 0.40C in the past decade. Hardly lukewarm.

    http://www.ysbl.york.ac.uk/~cowtan/applets/trend/trend.html

  59. verytallguy says:

    Those among us who despair about the state of Climateball might appreciate that things don’t look rosy amongst our favorite contrarians:

    Verbosity and Mein Kampf seem to be the unifying themes there.

    I blame Willard. You *made* me look.

    (Actually, isn’t “The liberals made me do it” on the bingo card somewhere?)

  60. Marcus Rhodes says:

    Slightly offtopic but does anyone have any suggestions on reading for understanding the potential and limitations of constructing a global energy grid?

  61. Willard says:

    > isn’t “The liberals made me do it” on the bingo card somewhere?

    As I see it, the “liberulz” part would fit “but politics” and the You Made Me Do It would more a Manual thing:

    https://climateball.net/manual/

    You Made Me Do It is similar to You Go First and No U.

    A case could be made for “but hypocrisy,” but it’s not exactly the same move.

  62. anoilman says:

    Marcus… Its not possible. That’s probably where I’d start.

    A longer answer is that power lines aren’t that efficient, and they are very expensive. So you can’t just put solar panels around the equator and run lines out to the poles. That means we just need to think smaller.

    Geopolitics are a far far more complex issue when it comes to power grids. In Canada its not generally acceptable to rely on another province’s energy grid. International grid infrastructure often has similar concerns.

    Europe’s massive grid interconnects are probably the best example of overcoming these obstacles. However that grid is intended to help shift loads from region to region, and not outright supply different regions.

  63. ATTP:
    Thank you for coming to grips with those sounding alarms about the imminent danger of an horrendous collapse.

    As 31 years is a bit of a stretch for the word ‘imminent’, you really should share your views with former Vice Persident Gore, who announced on 1 May 1989:

    “My purpose is to sound an alarm, loudly and clearly, of imminent and grave danger, and to describe a strategy for confronting this crisis … the horrendous prospect of an ecological collapse. ”

    CF:
    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2015/04/a-war-against-fire.html

  64. Ben McMillan says:

    This is what “mainstream” opinion of the climate concerned looks like at the moment:

    Basically, it has gone from Gore saying there was an imminent threat, to a large fraction of people who think that bad things are happening right now.

    I think it is really the feeling that damage is already pretty severe and likely to rapidly get worse, rather that a concern about what might happen at 4C, that is driving many people to aim for 1.5C.

    People are more worried about unknown-unknowns in climate sensitivity and damages kicking in (not always in a terribly well-supported way) than the shape of the tail of IPCC sensitivity estimates. Obviously, they should be worried about that tail, but I think that argument won’t cut through. I think a more head on approach is needed, including a discussion of what damage we have evidence to expect. ‘Well, it will definitely be bad at 4C’ might cut it when arguing with inactivists, but not with doomers.

    I like the arguments in the OP though: the idea that damage is, and will be, patchy and inequitable, and fall largely on those not responsible for much emissions. Also that worrying primarily about the collapse of your own empire, may not have that much to do with environmentalism.

  65. Chubbs says:

    4C is so far away from where we are today, that no one, even scientists have a good handle on what it would be like. The notion that 4C is in the rear view mirror is strange to me. 1C is in the rear view mirror. Our climate in the future will be different than what we are familiar with. Its just a matter of how foreign we want to make the landscape.

    Above, Tom made the point that temperature hasn’t increased more than 0.19C/decade. First the statement is factually incorrect; but, more importantly it betrays a misunderstanding of climate impacts. We have already driven to the edge of our Holocene climate, from this point forward a linear increase in temperatures is going to lead to non-linear increase in climate impacts.

    What we have learned in the past 10 years is that getting off fossil fuels is easier than we had anticipated. Echoing Ben, I am all for focusing on the near-term. We are approaching tipping points in energy economics and climate. Our vision of the future is very foggy.

  66. Marcus Rhodes, looking at Europe would be the best primer for how to establish an interconnected energy grid.

    View at Medium.com

  67. Ben McMillan ”
    “Basically, it has gone from Gore saying there was an imminent threat, to a large fraction of people who think that bad things are happening right now.
    I think it is really the feeling that damage is already pretty severe and likely to rapidly get worse,..
    People are more worried about unknown-unknowns in climate sensitivity…”

    Just so, but this derives less from a few people reading climate science journals than 31 years of sustained popular climate evangelism at all levels from Sesame Street to the New Yorker and the United States Senate. If Al tends to sermonize, it’s because acquired his formidable set of stump preacher skills at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

    Few of the usual ClimateBall suspects bother merchandising doubt about climate sensitivity because the concept looms inconveniently small in both policy journalsand the popular imagination: uncertainty is anathema to both those in the business of advertising the Apocalypes, and those seekiing to analyse its avoidance.

  68. Willard says:

    One drive-by per thread, Russell.

    No need to double down with #ButReligion.

  69. izen says:

    @-Russell
    “…the Climate Desk or editing the social construction of #ClimateCrisis, playbook from having their propaganda called by its correct name.”

    But what name would that be ?
    If warming is not constrained then sea level rise on past evidence may be at least a metre by the end of the century.

    “…In this perspective, we discuss challenges faced in projecting sea-level change and discuss why the IPCC’s sea-level range for 2100 under strong warming is focused at the low end of possible outcomes. We argue outcomes above this range are far more probable than below it and discuss how decision makers may benefit from reframing IPCC’s terminology to avoid unintentionally masking worst-case scenarios.”

    shorturl.at/ijpuO

  70. mrkenfabian says:

    If economies are so fragile that commitment to zero emissions is fiercely resisted for fear of economic aka societal collapse – and that opposition is mobilised successfully in large part on that alarmist fear – how much more fragile in the face permanent, irrevocable climate change that impacts food security directly? I think it is not the lack of credibility that makes fears of societal collapse “alarmist”, but deliberate Doubt, Deny, Delay politicking cultivating fears of societal collapse.

    I think we are making bypasses around the partisan political pile-up, in large part because of the unexpected successes of renewable energy – which may have gotten initial funding by combination of empty gestures (at least we are doing something) and give em enough rope politics (don’t interrupt an enemy making a mistake) but were made to work because of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, who took the science on climate seriously, independently of green-left led climate activism. Which has only leaned green and left because those leaning right chose to oppose rather than lead and have refused to participate in good faith.

  71. Izen, from the NOAA: “Global sea level has been rising over the past century, and the rate has increased in recent decades. In 2014, global sea level was 2.6 inches above the 1993 average—the highest annual average in the satellite record (1993-present). Sea level continues to rise at a rate of about one-eighth of an inch per year.” https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/sealevel.html

    One-eighth of an inch is 3.175 millimeters. Should it continue at this breathtaking pace total sea rise through the end of the century will be 254 millimeters from today’ level, or 317 millimeters for the 21st century overall. In their most recent review of climate science, the IPCC estimated sea level rise of about 590 millimeters for the century, something you apparently think is an under-estimate.

    Obviously the rate may increase. But it hasn’t done so for the first fifth of this century.

  72. anoilman says:

    mrkenfabian: I think the arguments against doing something because of economics are alarmist. If you recall, when Kyoto was signed that was exactly what the argument was. Oil was what, $40 a barrel? (Carbon trading was going to add like $5 a barrel at the time?) And some years later oil hit $110 a barrel. (Oddly that’s when some companies started lay offs.. before the collapse… some were losing money.)

    At $110 a barrel, the global economy didn’t collapse. Instead we saw widespread gold fever for oil, and a huge interest in renewables. Solar Wind, Tesla(?) surged. I heard people on the radio complaining about spending $500 a month to drive into to work (from their countryside McMansions).

    Other arguments against change stipulate that renewables cost way too much, and those have consistently been wrong. (The faulty logic employed by naysayers is that nothing can be improved and economics do not exist. They believe engineers can do nothing, and cannot improve anything.. [Willard will probably edit this rant so I’ll stop now])

    Currently I feel that economics is driving change. The cost of extracting oil is increasing, and the cost of renewables is decreasing. This is a (sad) fact, and its a harsh reality for my industry to face.

    Lastly I think that most of the latest drivel about how renewables cost and how much is required to to provide a stable grid are just plain wrong. Its not easy, but clearly, times are changing.

  73. Everett F Sargent says:

    “People who care about environmental and humanitarian issues should not be discouraged from discussing the risks of societal disruption or collapse.”

    Yes, a discussion that fundamentalists, survivalists and bomb shelter owners have been wanting to have for a very long time …

    From the Rapture to War of the Worlds to Metropolis to The Shelter, dystopian thoughts have never gone out of favor. So why stop now? This one deserves a very fat goose egg for originality.

  74. Tom,
    Wow, after so many years, you still don’t get some really basic concepts.

  75. Chubbs says:

    Tom – The rate of sea level rise has increased this century, clearly evident now that the satellite record is long enough.

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027311772030034X

  76. Willard says:

    > This one deserves a very fat goose egg for originality.

    Not sure what is “this,” Everett, and I really don’t want to know.

    Appeals to fundamentalism go with “but religion.”

  77. Yes, ATTP, Original Sin and Immaculate Conception have never really made sense to me.

  78. Tom, me neither, but I am a big fan of trying to learn from past mistakes. YMMV, of course.

  79. ATTP, yes, I also try to learn from past mistakes. And I’ve made perhaps more than my share, although who’s counting.

    Normally I learn when someone points out my mistakes.

  80. Mal Adapted says:

    mrkenfabian:

    I think we are making bypasses around the partisan political pile-up, in large part because of the unexpected successes of renewable energy – which may have gotten initial funding by combination of empty gestures (at least we are doing something) and give em enough rope politics (don’t interrupt an enemy making a mistake) but were made to work because of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, who took the science on climate seriously, independently of green-left led climate activism. Which has only leaned green and left because those leaning right chose to oppose rather than lead and have refused to participate in good faith.

    Hmm, it’s true that politicians are masters of misdirection. In the US, initial funding may have been intended as an empty gesture by its bestowers. Yet all collective actions, at any scale, that reduced the costs of production and/or consumption of renewable energy, including support for basic and applied research and development, have helped drive its accelerating build-out. The enactment of such measures may reflect tacit recognition by at least some Republican legislators of voter concern about AGW, and the expectation of positive ROI to one or more of their constituents.

    OTOH, you’re right about the long Republican Party campaign to conflate conditional acceptance of the climate-science consensus with green-left ideology. IMHO that purely partisan triumph has delayed national decarbonization by decades, to the unholy enrichment of the Party’s financial backers. In a just world, GOP leaders would be held to account. The only problem is, half of the voters eagerly embrace AGW-denial themselves. To attribute that solely to top-down manipulation is to deny agency to half of my neighbors, which I can’t help feeling is profoundly anti-democratic. The voice of the people may not be the voice of God, but AFAICT there’s no higher authority 8^(. The US Constitution is not a suicide pact, however: it allows half of us to veto the choices of the other half. Actually, it requires only a bare plurality: minority rule de facto! Meanwhile the polycentric approach to decarbonization is progressing. I remain optimistic that climate realism will gain ascendency in my country before our society collapses.

  81. Chubbs, here is perhaps an opportunity for me to learn from my mistaken attitude–to wit, that sea level rise so far this century is sort of a ‘dog that didn’t bark’ phenomenon.

    The paper you link to cites 27 years of measurements, a time frame that in other circumstances would seem woefully short to me in terms of statistical significance.

    The paper says “Another advantage of the ESA data is that it is independent of the issues associated with the TOPEX altimeter which introduce a significant uncertainty to the first part of the record. GMSL based on ESA data on the 1991–2019 period within ± 82° latitude exhibit an acceleration of 0.095 ± 0.009 mm/yr2.”

    If I understand correctly, the paper seeks to improve our understanding of sea level rise by reconciling two sets of satellite measurements, TOPEX and another set compile by EuroSat. They do this after identifying fairly serious issues with TOPEX and note that the 1991 Pinatubo eruption cast a ‘shadow’ on both datasets which they attempt to correct for. They note a variety of other conditions that their paper has to take into account, such as seasonal and ‘inter-annual’ variability.

    They write, “The full ESA time-series results in an acceleration of 0.084 mm/yr2 which increases to 0.095 mm/yr2 when the region up to ± 82° latitude is included. This indicates that the high latitudes exhibit higher than average acceleration. The ESA and TPJ acceleration are surprisingly similar differing by as little as 0.004 mm/yr2.”

    In their discussion they continue, “Acceleration in GMSL is estimated from an altimetry record extended in both time and space compared with previous studies. Furthermore, we consolidate recent sea level acceleration estimates by introducing two individual altimetric data sets (TPJ and ESA time-series). We find that the estimated sea level accelerations agree within the margin of error. The accelerations are found to be 0.080 mm/yr2 (TJP data) and 0.084 mm/yr2 (ESA data) within the 66 parallel. This is lower than accelerations found by Nerem et al. (2018) 0.097 mm/yr2) and (WCRP et al., 2018, 0.10 mm/yr2), but we find it to be a consequence of the extended time-series.”

    So here’s where you (or other readers, or our host) can enlighten me. They do note an acceleration in sea-level rise, although it is slight. However, it appears to this lay, non-scientist that some of the acceleration stems from an increase of the area measured. Given the number of adjustments they note they have had to make, I come away from this paper with my views unchanged. I hope they continue their work and I profess to be open-minded on the topic–but the acceleration they note is minor, the corrections seem open to interpretation and one of the data sets they’re working from had to be corrected prior to use.

    I doubt if you would have called this to our attention or that ATTP would have been so contemptuous of my existence and understanding if that was the entire story. I would be pleased if you could contribute to a better understanding on my part.

  82. Tom,
    Sea level rise is a combination of thermal expansion and land ice melt. Both will depend on future emission pathways, but some land-ice melt may be already locked in. If we have currently have 3mm/yr with an acceleration of around 0.1mm/yr2, that would suggest 0.8m of sea level rise in a century. What was your projection?

  83. ATTP, I made no projection but cited the IPCC’s projection of 0.59m. (To be clear, I don’t believe that included the possibility of dynamic contributions from ice melt, something unexpected.)

  84. Tom,
    You said:

    One-eighth of an inch is 3.175 millimeters. Should it continue at this breathtaking pace total sea rise through the end of the century will be 254 millimeters from today’ level, or 317 millimeters for the 21st century overall. In their most recent review of climate science, the IPCC estimated sea level rise of about 590 millimeters for the century, something you apparently think is an under-estimate.

    Obviously the rate may increase. But it hasn’t done so for the first fifth of this century.

    That certainly seems like a projection. Also, you claim about the first fifth of this century would seem to be wrong (if it’s acceleration, it’s certainly increasing).

  85. Actually, if memory serves, I think the IPCC projected a range of 0.59m to 0.95m.

  86. ATTP, IIRC projections of 3.2mm SLR per year have been with us since 2010. So perhaps the acceleration was anticipated well in advance.

  87. Chubbs says:

    Just noodling some #. The satellite data average 3.3mm/year between 1993 and 2018 with a .08mm/year or .8mm/decade acceleration. That formula gives 3.3mm/year for the 2005 midpoint, and 1.2mm/year of acceleration since then, putting the current rate at 4.5 mm/year. If the same rate of acceleration, continued the rate of sea level rise would reach 6.9 mm/yr by 2050 and 10.9 mm/yr by 2100 and the total sea level rise for this century would be 0.71 meters.

  88. Chubbs, I’d be happy to accept that as a reasonable projection. I personally think it will be lower, but for planning purposes–seawalls, road and housing relocation, etc., I think that’s fine.

  89. Tom,
    What about uncertainties? For example, this?

  90. ATTP, as I mentioned above, the IPCC explicitly said that their projections did not include dynamic sea ice contributions (large scale melt from one of the major ice sheets).

    As a non-scientist lay person, that has not affected my thinking on SLR, as I don’t see evidence of such contributions being a factor any time in the next few centuries. My principal concern going in was the long-awaited destabilization of the WAIS for mechanical reasons mostly unrelated to climate change, but it seems to be holding fast.

  91. Yes, I did. I confess I was not too impressed by it. I’ll read it again and perhaps a light will dawn.

  92. Willard says:

    I will point at:

    [G1] I would be pleased if you could contribute to a better understanding on my part.

    and

    [G2] I confess I was not too impressed by it.

    That is all.

  93. To be specific, this sentence kind of destroyed my will to live, or treat their work with the same weight as I give the IPCC: “This is particular challenging to model, and IPCC write that a collapse may cause sea level to rise faster than the ‘likely range’, but also that this risk is essentially impossible to model (paraphrased). In order to quantify the risk we therefore had to look to other lines of evidence, and here we looked at an expert elicitation which quantified the subjective uncertainty within the community of ice-sheet experts.”

    But hey–if Joe Romm criticized their work it’s a point in their favor, at least in my book.

  94. I mean–quantifying subjective uncertainty? How does one do that?

  95. anoilman says:

    [Chill. -W]

    Vancouver Canada is planning to just pull back, and let the oceans ruin large swaths of land. Its not like they can adapt in any other way.
    https://vancouver.ca/green-vancouver/sea-level-rise.aspx

    I always find it scary to see that there’s people out there who’d push the button.

  96. Everett F Sargent says:

    I currently consider climate related societal collapse to be somewhat closer to science fiction than scientific fact. There is a mitigation pathway and an adaptation pathway and everything in between those two so-called limits. IMHO regardless of the paths taken and/or the paths not taken, societal collapse has been, is and always will be a subject of discussion.

    So the question is: What makes climate related societal collapse different from all other forms of societal collapse?

  97. anoilman says:

    Everett: Global Warming is just steroids for existing issues.

    I think anyone can see that fossil fuel companies feel threatened by the reality of global warming, and the need to reduce carbon emissions. As a result these companies have funded concerted efforts to cast dispersion and undermine legitimate scientific research. Now look at what is going on in the world today, there is a pretty clear correlation between, Global Warming Denial, and various other conservative echo chambers.. Covid denial.. anti mask.. the list goes on.

    Can I say, that Global Warming denial machine is driving an anti-mask movement? No. Can I say that its feeding into the hysteria… heck yeah. There is no doubt… steroids;
    https://www.desmogblog.com/covideniers-anti-science-covid-19-denial-overlaps-climate-denial

  98. Chubbs says:

    Tom

    Here is the 2019 Sea-Level Report Card (US only) from William & Mary Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences. Not as technical as the paper I linked above and easier to understand.

    “The key message from the 2019 report cards is a clear trend toward acceleration in rates of sea-level rise at 25 of our 32 tide-gauge stations. Acceleration can be a game changer in terms of impacts and planning, so we really need to pay heed to these patterns.”

    https://www.vims.edu/research/products/slrc/localities/nova/index.php

  99. Chubbs says:

    Oops wrong link (charts only). Here is the blog article.

    https://www.vims.edu/newsandevents/topstories/2020/slrc_2019.php

  100. Tom,

    I mean–quantifying subjective uncertainty? How does one do that?

    I don’t know, do you just assume there isn’t any?

  101. David B Benson says:

    There is a literature on subjective uncertainty; c.f.
    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12652-015-0265-z

  102. Evidently, civilization itself is highly dysgenic, so collapse is a forgone conclusion.
    Still, the rapidity, totality, and global expanse of current civilization is unprecedented.
    The ensuing dark ages may also be rapid, total, and global.

  103. I’ll offer a definition. Societal collapse is the dissolution of the majority of norms and institutions required for the operation of a society with nothing useful replacing them.

  104. David B Benson, thanks for the link. It is actually interesting and I’m sorry I can only view the abstract. But it has more to do with strategies for competitive situations and the abstract does not show how it can quantify subjective uncertainty. Rather, it offers potential strategies for overcoming it.

    ATTP, I thought that people just expanded their error bars.

    Chubb, I hope you’ll excuse my stubbornness on this issue. Given the elements that cause variation in our measurements, ranging from subsidence and rebound to currents and tidal changes, I am willing to accept as a preliminary hypothesis that sea level rise is accelerating, but even with multiple satellite data sets I’d like to see more data before leaning on it heavily.

  105. Willard says:

    > What makes climate related societal collapse different from all other forms of societal collapse?

    Once climatic conditions deteriorate, it’s hard to come back:

    More generally, recent research pointed to climate change as a key player in the decline and fall of historical societies in China, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas. In fact, paleoclimatogical temperature reconstruction suggests that historical periods of social unrest, societal collapse, and population crash and significant climate change often occurred simultaneously. A team of researchers from mainland China and Hong Kong were able to establish a causal connection between climate change and large-scale human crises in pre-industrial times. Short-term crises may be due to social problems, but climate change was the ultimate cause of major crises, starting with economic depressions.[22] Moreover, since agriculture is highly dependent on climate, any changes to the regional climate from the optimum can induce crop failures.[

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Societal_collapse

    It’s hard to think of any collapse that isn’t climate-related. Even the Black Death can be linked to climate:

    New evidence shows that the disease did not hide out in rats for centuries, as many have long thought. Instead, it’s possible the disease was reintroduced to Europe multiple times following Asian climate events.

    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/plague-pandemic-may-have-been-driven-climate-not-rats-180954378/

    The only alternative I see is genocide.

  106. Willard says “It’s hard to think of any collapse that isn’t climate-related.” Quite right.

    “Shifts in climate – both large and small – are at least partly responsible for the rise and fall of many ancient civilizations.”
    https://climate.nasa.gov/news/1010/climate-change-and-the-rise-and-fall-of-civilizations/

    One thing that is a bit different in our situation is that the civilization that might be at risk of collapse is global and the climate change that might pose the threat of bringing about a collapse is also global. I don’t make too much of that, it’s just the risk has jumped an order of magnitude from threatening a regional civilization to threatening a global civilization.

    So, who is a participant in the global civilization that might be under threat? I think one easy cut at that group would be to identify individuals who could access this blog and discussion are participants in the global civilization that might now be under threat. Could that grand global civilization collapse? Gosh! How could that happen? Why would we even consider the question?

    Cheers,

    Mike

  107. Tom,

    ATTP, I thought that people just expanded their error bars.

    No, I don’t think it’s simply expanding error bars. It’s, as I understand it, using other lines of evidence to try and determine by how much they should be expanded.

  108. David B Benson says:

    thomaswfuller2 — The link is merely illustrative of the existence of a literature.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty
    See especially Knightian uncertainty.

  109. Willard says:

    I added an objection related to collapses on my But CAGW page:

    https://climateball.net/but-cagw/

    I also added a note on the economic risks based on KenF’s earlier comment:

    If economies are so fragile that commitment to zero emissions is fiercely resisted for fear of economic aka societal collapse – and that opposition is mobilised successfully in large part on that alarmist fear – how much more fragile in the face permanent, irrevocable climate change that impacts food security directly? I think it is not the lack of credibility that makes fears of societal collapse “alarmist”, but deliberate Doubt, Deny, Delay politicking cultivating fears of societal collapse.

    Many thanks!

  110. David B. Benson, Knightian uncertainty is defined there as “lack of knowledge which is immeasurable and impossible to calculate.” Which returns me to my original question–how does one quantify subjective uncertainty?

  111. David B Benson says:

    thomaswfuller2 — You ask a most difficult question:
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/probability-interpret/
    provides a summary.

  112. Well, in terms of the subject we are discussing, I do not believe the attempts to quantify uncertainty meet any of the qualifying criteria in your most recent link:

    Admissibility. We say that an interpretation of a formal system is admissible if the meanings assigned to the primitive terms in the interpretation transform the formal axioms, and consequently all the theorems, into true statements. A fundamental requirement for probability concepts is to satisfy the mathematical relations specified by the calculus of probability…

    Ascertainability. This criterion requires that there be some method by which, in principle at least, we can ascertain values of probabilities. It merely expresses the fact that a concept of probability will be useless if it is impossible in principle to find out what the probabilities are…

    Applicability. The force of this criterion is best expressed in Bishop Butler’s famous aphorism, “Probability is the very guide of life.”…

  113. Chubbs says:

    Tom – Easy to google sea level rise acceleration. That is how I found the linked info. When someone tells me that sea level rise is not accelerating, I discount them as a reliable information source.

  114. Willard says:

    For some reason contrarians seldom go for but Satellites when discussing sea levels:

    In 1993, “satellite altimetry” was introduced as an additional way to measure sea levels across the globe.

    Altimeters are instruments attached to satellites that send high-frequency pulses down to Earth. By measuring the time taken for each pulse to bounce off the surface of the ocean and return back, the altimeter can calculate the sea level.

    Using this method, an accurate uninterrupted record of sea level changes has been made from 1993 (when altimetry was introduced) to the present day. Before this date, however, only tide gauge data exists.

    https://www.carbonbrief.org/global-sea-level-rise-began-accelerating-30-years-earlier-than-previously-thought

    I really wonder why.

  115. Willard says:

    I mean, it’s not like there aren’t concerns about buckets:

    I supervised the work of boatswain’s mates and boiler techs taking temperature readings with thermometers in buckets. And I will tell you now that if you want to make policy decisions based on such measurements you would be better served by flipping a coin.

    […]

    The responsibility of science and scientists is not buttressing the house of cards you and the IPCC have so carefully constructed. You purblind fools are in trouble for a reason–because you can’t stop pretending you have solid information that points unerringly in one direction. And anyone who sticks up their hand and says you are underplaying uncertainty in the data and over-reaching in your analysis inspires spittle-flecked rage and mouth foaming not seen since [But Religion].

    A rolling thunder of talking points.

  116. Everett F Sargent says:

    “It’s hard to think of any collapse that isn’t climate-related.”

    No, it is not. A whole hemisphere, North and South America + Caribbean starting in 1492. D’oh! I am still waiting for a real answer to my question. As of today’s technologies, aqua farming and greenhouses (e; g. the Dutch experience), to name but two examples.

    That whole page has climate as rather a small section even. I am not here to do your own thinking for you. :/

  117. Willard says:

    > I am not here to do your own thinking for you.

    In return, I am here to read my comments to you to the end:

    The only alternative I see is genocide.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2020/12/14/societal-collapse/#comment-185596

    Something something STEM reading skillz.

  118. Chubbs says:

    Generally agree with Everett, climate change is not a difficult problem. It is our difficulty in confronting it honestly and solving it that is more concerning.

  119. Everett F Sargent says:

    Does anyone here notice a trend …
    https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/natural-disaster-death-rates

    Oh and so-called genocide is too strong a word for what happened in the Americas (e. g. invasive diseases were the major cause). Not a student of history, I see. 😦 Yeah, that’s the ticket, Pizarro and all of two hundred Spaniards killed off all of the South and Central Americans!!!

  120. Willard says:

    > Oh and so-called genocide is too strong a word for what happened in the Americas.

    An edit war is awaiting you, resident history buff:

    It is estimated that during the initial Spanish conquest of the Americas up to eight million indigenous people died, primarily through the spread of Afro-Eurasian diseases, in a series of events that have been described as the first large-scale act of genocide of the modern era.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide_of_indigenous_peoples#Spanish_colonization_of_the_Americas

    Got to love STEM folks deploring that humanities chaps don’t stay in their lane, more so when they fale thy Wiki.

  121. mrkenfabian says:

    Willard, back a few comments – pleased to have contributed in some small way.

    It is clear that personal and business economic considerations can have a direct immediacy that broader climate change considerations don’t – and even sincere “I shouldn’t have to unless everyone else does too” (or “first”) easily morphs into a coalition of the unwilling; to my thinking competitive business practices, that reward short term cost avoidance makes good governance all the more essential. The old “only thing worse than not giving them what they think they want is giving it to them” quote comes to mind with respect to commerce and industry and their lobbying against climate responsibility and accountability.

    “Once climatic conditions deteriorate, it’s hard to come back”

    Whilst some regions look likely to be very exposed to direct climate impacts that will exceed any ability to adapt, good governance is key to keeping both mitigation and adaptation ahead of the impacts. The societal problems from the worst hit/badly managed regions will not conveniently stay confined.

    Hard enough to recover good governance and economic prosperity after it deteriorates but it seems to me the climate problem eats away at various forms of environmental capital that don’t replenish themselves and activities previously profitable cannot be sustained. Whether it is land lost to sea level rise or the dependability of seasonal conditions for agricultural production, we don’t get what is lost back by achieving zero emissions, but we do go on to lose much more by failing to achieve them.

  122. Everett F Sargent says:

    “primarily through the spread of Afro-Eurasian diseases”

    “(e. g. invasive diseases were the major cause)”

    No. :/ No edit war is necessary as I was right from the get go.

    Oh and you have taken up a rather odd and broad definition of genocide which appears to include any non-climatic events that leads to death or destruction of well anything organic or inorganic. I think you need to do some additional work on your conditionals.

  123. Everett F Sargent says:

    Oh and just to be clear, Eurotrash would have had to do the disease thingy ON PIRPOSE. I happen to think that medicine and knowledge thereof was much different back then for some rather obvious reasons.

  124. Willard says:

    Next you’ll argue that Spaniards did not kill Indians, Everett, only their guns and their germs did.

    Have more Wiki entries, after all tis the season:

    Beginning with the 1492 arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean and gaining control over more territory for over three centuries, the Spanish Empire would expand across the Caribbean Islands, half of South America, most of Central America and much of North America. It is estimated that during the colonial period (1492–1832), a total of 1.86 million Spaniards settled in the Americas and a further 3.5 million immigrated during the post-colonial era (1850–1950); the estimate is 250,000 in the 16th century, and most during the 18th century as immigration was encouraged by the new Bourbon Dynasty.[2]

    By contrast, the indigenous population plummeted by an estimated 80% in the first century and a half following Columbus’s voyages, primarily through the spread of disease, forced labor and slavery for resource extraction, and Missionization.[3][4] [5][6][1] This has been argued to be the first large-scale act of genocide in the modern era .[7][8][9]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_colonization_of_the_Americas

    This time I kept the footnotes so you won’t pretend it’s my definition or something, with or without ironic emoticons.

  125. Willard says:

    Unrelatedly, but interestingly:

    Human impacts prior to the Industrial Revolution are not well constrained. We investigate whether the decline in global atmospheric CO2 concentration by 7–10 ppm in the late 1500s and early 1600s which globally lowered surface air temperatures by 0.15∘C, were generated by natural forcing or were a result of the large-scale depopulation of the Americas after European arrival, subsequent land use change and secondary succession. We quantitatively review the evidence for (i) the pre-Columbian population size, (ii) their per capita land use, (iii) the post-1492 population loss, (iv) the resulting carbon uptake of the abandoned anthropogenic landscapes, and then compare these to potential natural drivers of global carbon declines of 7–10 ppm. […] Accounting for carbon cycle feedbacks plus LUC outside the Americas gives a total 5 ppm CO2 additional uptake into the land surface in the 1500s compared to the 1400s, 47–67% of the atmospheric CO2 decline. Furthermore, we show that the global carbon budget of the 1500s cannot be balanced until large-scale vegetation regeneration in the Americas is included. The Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas resulted in a human-driven global impact on the Earth System in the two centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution.

    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2018.12.004

  126. David B Benson says:

    https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/genocide
    Arguable that the great dying in the Americas was genocide on the part of the Spanish.

    But maybe we can just let it go, hmmm?

  127. Everett F Sargent says:

    I have.

  128. Willard says:

    Try this one, David:

    In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    – Killing members of the group;
    – Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    – Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    – Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    – Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide.shtml

    I don’t think you’d rely on Lexico for the definition of climate sensitivity. Why do you think that would suffice for (say) an undergraduate paper in anthropology?

    ***

    The idea that medicine and knowledge thereof was much different back then runs against facts such as the Mongols hurling pestilent cadavers over barricades a hundred years before Columbus was born. So there’s no need to appeal to some kind of shirt of Nessus. While Amherst comes to mind, the enormous difference between profiting from a collapse and trying to prevent it is all we need to judge crimes against humanity.

    The actual number of deaths is still a matter of debate: it’s not called the guerra de números for no reason. Even the epidemic cause remains unclear. My own rudimentary model leads me to believe that the Four Horsemen always ride together:

    The 16th century depopulation of Mexico constitutes one of the worst demographic catastrophes in human history. Although newly imported European and African diseases caused high mortality among the native population, the major 16th century population losses were caused by a series of epidemics of a hemorrhagic fever called Cocoliztli, a highly lethal disease unknown to both Aztec and European physicians during the colonial era. The cocoliztli epidemics occurred during the 16th century megadrought, when severe drought extended at times from central Mexico to the boreal forest of Canada, and from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast. The collapse of the cultures of the Classic Period seems also to have occurred during a time of severe drought.

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15922121/

    So yeah, even if we stack the deck in favor of some kind of Diamond hypothesis with the only remotely plausible case of an epidemiological collapse, Famine was still around.

  129. Everett F Sargent says:

    So, just for the record. Someone here thinks that all societal collapses are binary. Either these so-called societal collapses are all definitely climate related or these so-called societal collapses are genocide. We do have the original comment suggesting such. For the record mind you.

    “It’s hard to think of any collapse that isn’t climate-related. … The only alternative I see is genocide.”

    Is war the exact same thing as genocide? No. Are pandemics the exact same thing as genocide? No. If people move from Point A to Point B is that the exact same thing as genocide? No.

    Oh and for those who would appear to argue for the sole sake of argumentation, you might just want to stop digging. Just saying. /:

  130. Willard says:

    > Someone here thinks that all societal collapses are binary.

    Certainly not the one who holds that “the Four Horsemen always ride together.” Perhaps this someone, then:

    I currently consider climate related societal collapse to be somewhat closer to science fiction than scientific fact. There is a mitigation pathway and an adaptation pathway and everything in between those two so-called limits. IMHO regardless of the paths taken and/or the paths not taken, societal collapse has been, is and always will be a subject of discussion.

    You’ll never guess who that someone is, Everett.

    Probably the same someone who pretends to have let it go less than sixty minutes ago?

  131. David B Benson says:

    Willard — Lexico *is* the Oxford English Dictionary online.

    And also that was shotgun of you. Misaimed, South America was excluded.

    But I’ll not go on about, say, the Upper Rio Grande Pueblo peoples, which I have some knowledge.

  132. Willard says:

    > Lexico *is* the Oxford English Dictionary online.

    While Oxonians rule over some dictionaries–albeit not in the same way as the Académie Française–the United Nation rules over the **Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide**. So the question remains: why are you relying on parsomatics that should be left at Lucia’s?

    As far as misaimed shots are concerned, your armwaving about uncertainty led nowhere.

  133. David B Benson says:

    Willard — On the contrary, it led directly to an article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Which it appears you didn’t bother to skim, much less study.

    As for the UN, irrelevant to sixteenth century Americas. But maybe now you can drop it?

  134. Willard says:

    > As for the UN, irrelevant to sixteenth century Americas.

    Relevant to how **we** consider genocide, David, and way more relevant than your favorite Oxonians. An official report characterized the Canadian Indian Residential School System as a cultural genocide. This led to a series of official apologies, from the Canadian government up to the Vatican.

    And of course I read the Stanford entry. In fact I read it years ago. Which we both know you know, as you commented on the post.

    If your solution to how we quantify subjective uncertainty is “here is a bunch of paradoxes,” what have you solved exactly?

    ***

    The thread is about societal collapse. To equate it to the end of civilization runs against the reality that our specie survived many collapses already. This can only help those who would try to minimize the threat of AGW.

    The lore of our fathers still carry all we need to visualize the threat: Death, Famine, War, and Plague. These images don’t need to be specified. That’s not their job. But we could clarify the concept of societal collapse. All we need is to look in the relevant lichurchur. Same with any other concept, including the concept of genocide.

    That does not mean we’ll get a final answer. This isn’t an oracular work. What matters is what we find along the way.

    ***

    So I don’t get the reason behind all these innuendos. Why should I fear to learn anything about (e.g.) the Upper Rio Grande Pueblo peoples? As the Russians said in 1972, I’m here to learn, dammit!

  135. David B Benson says:

    Willard, no, you didn’t read
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/probability-interpret/
    which is about much more than Bayes approach.

    And yes, now there’s a new concept, “cultural genocide”. How is *that* defined, pray tell?

  136. Willard says:

    > no, you didn’t read

    Good grief, David.

    Cut the Reviewer 2 posturing, or at least don’t sealion me while indulging in it.

  137. David B Benson says:

    Willard — “sealion”?
    Could you please be explicit using ordinary American English?

  138. David B Benson says:

    Can’t find a good reference, so briefly: the indigenees of New Mexico escaped repeated major droughts by moving at least 4 times, ending up irrigating crops along the banks of the Rio Grand and some reliable tributaries.

    There they were when a group of Spaniards came north in 1610, insisting that the Pueblans give up their religion. Unwilling, they went to war with the Spaniards and chased them out for some time. Eventually the Fransiscans moderated so that the Pueblans practiced both their traditions but also Catholicism. This continued until at least the 1950s with the beginning of the major influx of gringos, including me, to northern New Mexico. I suppose that it still continues so.

    At no point in this history did epidemics of smallpox, etc., arise.

  139. Willard says:

    I collected many papers over the evening. Here’s one passage that might help me put the point across before I go to bed:

    Malnutrition provides the most obvious, and prevalent, demonstration of the links between social conditions, environmental conditions, and disease. In addition to causing deficiency diseases, such as rickets and pellagra, malnutrition increases susceptibility to infection. Some vitamin deficiencies cause skin breakdown, eroding the first barrier of defense against infection. Protein deficiencies impair both cellular and humoral responses. Malnutrition during infancy and childhood has particularly devastating effects on subsequent immune function. Certain diseases have more specific connections to nutrition. Malnutrition, especially vitamin A deficiency, increases mortality from measles. Malnourished children are more likely to die from chicken pox. Such interactions create “a vicious circle. Each episode of infection increases the need for calories and protein and at the same time causes anorexia; both of these aggravate the nutritional deficiency, making the patient even more susceptible to infection.” Understanding these relationships, scientists have realized that malnutrition “is the most common cause of secondary immunodeficiency in the world.”

    Historians have thoroughly documented the impact of malnutrition on disease susceptibility. Such connections have clear importance for American Indians, who faced both disease and social disorder following European colonization. As Cronon describes, villages disrupted by disease and social breakdown “often missed key phases in their annual subsistence cycles-the corn planting, say, or the fall hunt-and so were weakened when the next infection arrived.”‘ This would have been particularly damaging for the many populations that eked out only a precarious subsistence before European arrival. Although some writers have described American Indians living in bountiful harmony with their environment, archaeologists and physical anthropologists have shown that many groups were terribly malnourished. The accomplishments of the Mayan civilization might have been undone by climate change, crop failures, and famine. Disease, malnutrition, and violence made Mesoamerican cities as unhealthful as their medieval European counterparts, with life expectancies of 21 to 26 years. The Arikaras had life expectancies as low as 13.2 years. Careful study of skeletal remains has found widespread evidence of nutritional deficiencies, with health conditions worsening in the years before contact with Europeans. Baseline malnutrition, especially in the large agricultural societies in Mexico and the Andes, left American Indians vulnerable-at the outset-to European diseases. When the conditions of colonization disrupted subsistence, the situation only grew worse.

    DOI: 10.2307/3491697

    The Virgin Soils theory looks too simplistic and self-serving to stand on historical data alone.

    ***

    Looking at the list of epidemics:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_epidemics

    I was astonished by the HIV numbers.

  140. izen says:

    @-David
    “Can’t find a good reference…”

    The wiki gives a report that contradicts your assertions.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_New_Mexico
    They suffered high mortality because of infectious diseases unknowingly brought by the Spaniards, to which they had no immunity, and the exploitation that disrupted their societies. The struggle between the Franciscans and the civil government came to a head in the late 1650s. Governor Bernardo Lopez de Mendizabal and his subordinate Nicolas de Aguilar forbade the Franciscans to punish Indians or employ them without pay. They granted the Pueblo permission to practice their traditional dances and religious ceremonies. After the Franciscans protested, Lopez and Aguilar were arrested, turned over to the Inquisition, and tried in Mexico City. Thereafter, the Franciscans reigned supreme in the province.

  141. Willard says:

    How about:

    The Oxford Encyclopedia of Human Rights calls Spain’s invasion of the Americas the first large-scale genocide of the modern era. In the land that became Spanish colonies, at least eight million indigenous people were killed by Spanish massacres and European diseases. Across two continents, up to 95 percent of all people were killed.

    https://psmag.com/news/mexico-asked-spain-to-apologize-for-its-conquest-spain-said-no

  142. Spanish (and others) genocide in the new world? Is that horse dead yet? Like climate change, those who aren’t already convinced are unlikely to become convinced by additional facts and data. When folks can’t be budged, the problem may be controlled by ideology, not intellect.

  143. Everett F Sargent says:

    All roads lead to … climate change …
    European colonizers killed so many Native Americans that it changed the global climate, researchers say
    https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/01/world/european-colonization-climate-change-trnd/index.html

    Earth system impacts of the European arrival and Great Dying in the Americas after 1492
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277379118307261?via%3Dihub

    Global cooling has always been my preferred solution to global warming. Just sterilize the vast majority of homo sapiens to get their population down to below say one billion homo sapiens. Problem solved and noone die of unnatural causes, just, you know, castration. Sounds like a real weiner to me … watching Children of Men one more time …
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children_of_Men

    Oh and …

  144. I would be ok with offer of sterilization tied to universal basic income for life for people of child-bearing age with no offspring. Vasectomy and tubal ligation approach, not castration/hysterectomy.

  145. Willard says:

    > European colonizers killed so many Native Americans that it changed the global climate, researchers say

    The link under the “European settlers killed 56 million indigenous people” in that piece leads to the article I cited above. This is also the article cited in that Wiki section:

    According to geographers from University College London, the colonization of the Americas by Europeans killed so many people it resulted in climate change and global cooling.[28] UCL Geography Professor Mark Maslin, one of the co-authors of the study, says the large death toll also boosted the economies of Europe: “the depopulation of the Americas may have inadvertently allowed the Europeans to dominate the world. It also allowed for the Industrial Revolution and for Europeans to continue that domination.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide_of_indigenous_peoples#Indigenous_peoples_of_the_Americas_(pre-1948)

    That study refers to Denevan’s numbers, which have been obtained by a methodology disputed by minimalists such as Brooks. But from there I’m stuck as the table S1 isn’t at the Scientific Hub. Hence why I cited McCaa earlier, which looks like a fruitful entry point into the guerra de números.

    From there the simplest way forward was to look into PubMed’s similar citations. For instance, under 10.1016/j.mehy.2005.02.025 which I cited earlier, leads to various papers, and proeminently to Rodolpho’s research. Of note:

    Epidemic typhus is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia prowazekii and transmitted by body lice (Pediculus humanus corporis). This disease occurs where conditions are crowded and unsanitary. This disease accompanied war, famine, and poverty for centuries. Historical and proxy climate data indicate that drought was a major factor in the development of typhus epidemics in Mexico during 1655-1918. Evidence was found for 22 large typhus epidemics in central Mexico, and tree-ring chronologies were used to reconstruct moisture levels over central Mexico for the past 500 years. Below-average tree growth, reconstructed drought, and low crop yields occurred during 19 of these 22 typhus epidemics. Historical documents describe how drought created large numbers of environmental refugees that fled the famine-stricken countryside for food relief in towns. These refugees often ended up in improvised shelters in which crowding encouraged conditions necessary for spread of typhus.

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24564928/

    I’m not sure I want to start digging into studies into societal collapse. Others might wish to look. There is the Mayan one, the European Neolithic one, etc. One starting point for the (not too) theorical discussion of what’s a collapse could be this heterodox source:

    An eclectic group of scholars who met recently at the University of Cambridge argues that true social collapse is a rare phenomenon. They say that new data demonstrate that classic examples of massive collapse such as the disintegration of Egypt’s Old Kingdom, the end of the Classic Maya period, and the vanishing of pre-Columbian societies of the U.S. Southwest were neither sudden nor disastrous for all segments of their populations. Rome, for example, didn’t fall in a day; recent work underscores the fact that the sack of Rome was just one step in a long and complex spiral of decline that affected peoples of the empire differently. This emphasis on decline and transformation rather than abrupt fall represents something of a backlash against a recent spate of claims that environmental disasters, both natural and human-made, are the true culprits behind many ancient societal collapses.

    10.1126/science.330.6006.907

    From that standpoint in 2010 one could move up to more contemporary research, either by moving up papers citing this paper and papers citing those who cite it, or by going on the Scholar and entering “societal collapse” directly, e.g.:

    The collapse of large social systems, often referred to as “civilizations” or “empires,” is a well-known historical phenomenon, but its origins are the object of an unresolved debate. In this paper, we present a simple biophysical model which we link to the concept that societies collapse because of the “diminishing returns of complexity” proposed by Tainter (The collapse of complex societies, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1988). Our model is based on the description of a socio-economic system as a trophic chain of energy stocks which dissipate the energy potential of the available resources. The model is based on the idea that we observe that the exploitation of a non-renewable resource stock (“production”) has a strongly nonlinear relation with the complexity of the system, assumed to be proportional to the size of the stock termed “The Economy” (or “capital”), producing various trajectories of decline of the economy, in some cases rapid enough that they can be defined as “collapses.” The evolution of the relation of production and the economy produces a curve similar to the one proposed by Tainter, for the decline of a complex society.

    10.1007/s41247-018-0049-0

    I’m neither a fan of Ugo nor a fan of “true societal collapse” special pleading, but that’s all I got for now.

  146. Everett F Sargent says:

    W,

    The article (This one? “But from there I’m stuck as the table S1 isn’t at the Scientific Hub.”) is open access …
    Earth system impacts of the European arrival and Great Dying in the Americas after 1492
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277379118307261
    About half way down …
    Appendix A. Supplementary data
    “Download all supplementary files included with this article”

    Otherwise which article?

  147. Willard says:

    > is open access …

    Thanks.

    So here’s the data sources for Mexico:

    As one can see, the median is heavily influenced by Dobyns’ work, whose [biggest] numbers have been obtained by unknown means according to the authors. This may or may not matter much for their overview, as they included lots of medians from all over the American map.

  148. Chubbs says:

    Here is my contribution on prior civilizations. Roman tidal fish tanks were perfectly situated to benefit from the rising and falling tides; still are apparently (or close), but not much longer. Centuries from now they will be drowned under meters of sea water.

    https://harvardmagazine.com/2016/08/what-roman-ruins-reveal

  149. Joshua,
    Thanks, I hadn’t that. I was aware that Lemoine was going to publish some amazing debunking of the Flaxman paper, but I’m always a little suspicious of such extravagent claims. I think I mostly agree with Andrew Gelman.

  150. Willard says:

    phl’s gonna phl:

    > He is explicitly telling us that he is going to explain what the right, not “the more conservative on campus” (which in any case is way too vague a description to be useful), mean

    As if “the right” was precise enough to be useful in that context, so precise in fact that Les “explicitely” tells us he’s going to “explain” what it really means when it rips off its shirt on its social networks.

    Right. In the quote above, Les could advertize “the right” ur-argument to justify its daily victim bullying, or he could use it as a rhetorical device to hook his list of facts obtained through the intellectual standards which, according to him, should preclude troglodytes from expecting a false balance that would “mirror votes in the electoral college.”

    One interpretation portrays Les as an idiot. The other reduces Philippe’s rant to an inflated ignoratio elenchi.

    Tough choice.

    https://dailynous.com/2017/09/19/response-conservative-guest-post-philippe-lemoine/

    That’s a part of one of my comments, but the new website removed the ID to the comments.

  151. Mal Adapted says:

    Regarding the demographic disaster of the 16th century, I highly recommend Charles C. Mann’s 1491 (Second Edition): New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, published in 2006. He makes the point that no estimates of the pre-Columbian population of the Western Hemisphere are well-supported by data, leaving politics to sort demographers into “Low Counters” and “High Counters”. As of the date of his 2nd edition, he says:

    The High Counters seem to be winning the argument, at least for now. No definitive data exist, but the majority of the extant evidentiary scraps indicate it. “Most of the arrows point that direction,” Denevan told me. Zambardino, the coumputer scientist who decried the margins of error in these estimates, noted that evan an extremely conservative extrapolation of known figures would still project a precontact population in central Mexico alone at five to ten million, “a very high population, not only in terms of the sixteenth century, but indeed on any terms.” Even Henige, of Numbers from Nowhere, is no Low Counter. In Numbers from Nowhere, he argues that “perhaps 40 million throughout the Western Hemisphere” is a “not unreasonable figure”–putting him at the low end of the High Counters, but a High Counter nonetheless. Indeed, it is the same figure provided by Las Casas, patron saint of High Counters, foremost among the old Spanish sources whose estimates Henige spends many pages discounting.

    Mann thought 40 million was as good an estimate as any. The aforecited Koch et al. 2019 arrive at a figure of 60.5 million, with a range of 44.8–78.2 million. They estimate 56 million deaths by 1600. I only skimmed the article, but their methodology looks sound to my non-expert eye. I, for one, place moderate confidence in those numbers.

    A single death is a tragedy, so 56 million deaths is 56 million tragedies. Whatever the actual numbers, whether or not the conquistadores intended genocide, their brutal depredations and the diseases they brought with them caused the majority of those deaths. Despite contemporary voices of protest and occasional admonishment by their monarchs, individual adventurer got away with murder on a hemispheric scale, to the aggrandizement of those monarchs. Of course, after 1600, French, Dutch and English colonizers did their share; at least some of them did intend genocide, apparently. That’s been more or less the condition of the world, at least until the last half-century or so. Now we can view state-sanctioned brutal depredations anywhere, in real time, on Twitter and Instagram. Progress!

    With that: Happy N. Hemisphere mid-winter, the real reason for the season; shout out to S. H. mid-summer, too. The imminent end of two pestilences gives America, and the world, additional reason to rejoice!

  152. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Lemione is a great window into the parallels between the COVID discussion and the climate change discussion.

    Blur the details and you can see a “skeptic” talking.

  153. Mal Adapted says:

    Uh oh. In today’s NYTimes, a guest opinion by the author of a new peer-reviewed paper in Nature says (my emphasis):

    By any measure, the arrival of Europeans was catastrophic for Indigenous Americans. This is true whether the numbers of people were in the hundreds of thousands or millions — or for that matter, the tens of thousands. It is questionable to pin our judgments of human atrocities to a specific number. To learn from the past, it is crucial to be willing to accept new and compelling data when they become available.

    In the case of the pre-contact population of Hispaniola, such data have arrived. By analyzing the DNA of ancient Indigenous Caribbean people, a study published in Nature on Wednesday by one of us (Professor Reich) makes clear that the population of Hispaniola was no more than a few tens of thousands of people. Almost all prior estimates have been at least tenfold too large.

    IOW, there’s a consensus that European colonization of the Americas was a catastrophe for the indigenous people, but it appears too soon for consensus on precise numbers.

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