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The embedded infrastructure and reduced land area, the unpredictability and the CUMULATIVE effect of these changes which are not what we have faced in the past. It is everything together. We might cope with one at a time. They are coming together.

The most important killer is the agricultural impact. Having enough water or then having too much water, to grow crops in the quantities that we are accustomed to do. Losing good lowland cropland that is the first thing to go underwater. Farms at higher elevation become correspondingly more valuable, but the soil there is not nearly as rich.

This is going to hammer India and China, and it isn't going to be cheap for the USA either.

There are two "certainties" that we can't innovate out of... we will still need a lot of energy to grow food, because that's what we have already built a big dependency on. You hark back to farming 101 and yeah... we've changed a lot since then, but always in the direction of using MORE fertilizer, pesticide and energy and we're going to have less of all of them.

The second is that we will have less water to work with when we try to grow a crop in India (where the meltwaters from the mountains will disappear) or China or the USA (which is still having a drought last I heard). GM can give us drought resistant crops but not enough for what is coming. We also don't have the water to Frack with. The energy supply equation changes even if you wanted to burn the hydrocarbons.

You make a second point about re-building/moving energy infrastructure, which I do not agree with. There are two issues here. The first is that the population distribution will be changing rapidly, with people moving into regions that are less impossible for humans to live in, abandoning cities with coastlines changing with sea level rise and all the rest that go with that. You dismissed this with the expected lifetime of a power plant. The failure is in the details.

Every part of the power grid changes.

Every water supply system.

Every sewage system and a lot of manufacturing capacity.

The power output for a given plant is reduced as the temperature of the cooling system goes up.

Massive amounts of housing built in vulnerable areas become useless.

Rails and Roads built close to the water get a bit TOO close to it. Routes between cities are disrupted... new infrastructure has to be built from scratch higher up,

It is not JUST the energy infrastructure, it is almost ALL infrastructure... in every country on the planet... all at the same time, and at the same time as people are going hungry.


We have a limited understanding of what will happen at 2 degrees. Bad but not fatal changes are expected. We have a much more complete understanding of plus 4. I think you mistake this, uncertainty at the two degree target is real enough, but at 4 there is common agreement that we have a far more certain negative outcome.

I understand this as an Engineering problem, but also as a gestalt. The energy deficits, sea level rises and infrastructure losses and costs represent an immense loss of capability and flexibility for our species. .. but it is not the individual problems. We could manage any single one of them. It is the problems coming together.

There isn't a rescue from any of the technologies you mention... there will be no country untouched by these events and able to help the others. The one technology that could work is unlikely as you didn't think of it and you are pretty bright, and not someone I regard as a fool.


You are optimistic about the robustness of civilization.

Understandable, as we've never seen one collapse. Nobody living has. Even I have a hard time visualizing it on a nice spring day here.

Yet the model I carry around in my head (We all have one, some are more complex than others), of the planet and human civilization, its energy needs and its food consumption and all the rest doesn't leave so much room for disbelief. There is no certainty about which problem will take us down, but no question that we can fall and if we hit plus 4 degrees for any significant length of time, we will.

We are tightening the limits on ourselves much faster than any adaptation we can create can possibly work.

You can always find someone to doubt. The world is full of economists and other cornucopian followers. The scientists however, are really scared, and they have better models and better understanding of them than most of us. YMMV. I call it as I see it.
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