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Preparing for An Unfriendly Future (Climate Change, Authoritarianism, etc)


Maithanet
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Climate change is my professional field (emissions tracking and mitigation).  And for the past 25 years at least, it has been obvious that dramatic, concerted action is needed across the globe.  Such actions continue to not happen - instead we get a mix of half measures and outright refusal to do anything.  I understand the appeal of radical action (as @Conflicting Thought outlined) to "wake people up" to the urgency of the matter.  But I also know that you cannot solve climate change through violence.  Cooperation and trust are absolutely essential.  The idea that "we need to burn it all down" in govt to solve these big problems is completely backwards and will only make the problem unsolvable.

1 minute ago, Spockydog said:

It's my understanding that the technology exists today. But it runs on Helium-3.

If we can get that shit off the moon we're sorted. And it doesn't seem to me like it would take thirty years to get mining operations up and running. I mean, it's just there, right on the surface. 

I don't know much about cold fusion and even less about Helium-3.  But if the plan to solve climate change requires lunar mining, we are even more fucked than I thought. 

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6 minutes ago, Spockydog said:

It's my understanding that the technology exists today. But it runs on Helium-3.

All sorts of fusion technology exists. The technical challenge is that you are aiming for a net surplus of energy. The energy demands of pumping temperatures to a 100 million degrees Kelvin to overcome the Coloumbic barrier (I think it was 100 kev per nuclide for D-T fusion - someone can correct me if I'm wrong) is a serious problem in getting a positive net output.

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6 minutes ago, Maithanet said:

Society as a whole seems to have abdicated from confronting challenges, and instead assuming that they will go away.  Climate change requires a massive response, and it did not happen, is not happening, and has no real prospects to happen.  The impacts of climate change serve to make all other human challenges, such as rising authoritarianism, far more difficult to confront. 

I think the biggest two challenges to us as a species here is that 

1) the timescale for changes to be seen and experienced is too long. Typically we need to see 40 years plus into the future before change will be terrible (shorter timeframes for tipping points, though they are still unknown). That long gives us time to adapt to a "new normal" and people will still not see the problem. 

In this context, term limits of 4-6 years (where the goal is to stay in power, it seems) will exacerbate the problem through the simple fact that legislation to curb emissions (say) will be expensive in the short run, losing you the next election, while the benefit will only come into the picture way, way later.

2) Related to 1, really, but I think enough to make a point of its own: we're simply not wired to accept that our lifestyle will lead to such enormous changes. We've never experienced that, so it has to be wrong. Somehow. 

This one also branches into a third one, which is that reducing our consumption / accepting a lower ... call it "quality of life" is anathema to most.

So ... no ray of light, me.

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So things to do in general-

- Reduce debt and ownership as much as you can

- improve your health as much as you can

- make sure you can be a full citizen of wherever you are living or planning on living

- get involved in your local community and make as many local friends as you can

- try to avoid having a lot of pets 

- diversify your assets, globally if possible

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3 minutes ago, KalVsWade said:

So things to do in general-

- Reduce debt and ownership as much as you can

- improve your health as much as you can

- make sure you can be a full citizen of wherever you are living or planning on living

- get involved in your local community and make as many local friends as you can

- try to avoid having a lot of pets 

- diversify your assets, globally if possible

All of the above (except perhaps the avoiding pets) are things everyone should be doing whether or not they are worried about climate change and authoritarianism. 

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While I don’t think fusion power is the answer, I do believe technology, coupled with some political will, is our best hope. Stuff like offshore wind power, electric cars, energy storage of some sort, cheap solar, improved nuclear plants and other technological improvements have the potential to create a sustainable society. I write “some political will” because politicians’ hands are tied - they can only impose so burdensome policies before people get angry and vote them out. But I do believe some things can be done.

Let’s say for instance that the European Union imposes a carbon dioxide tax on all imports based on how much CO2 was released during their production. This will directly affect big export countries like China because they want to sell to Europe, and would find themselves at a disadvantage price-wise if they used coal power. So that would give them a huge incentive to go green. (This already happens with Chinese stuff being REACH and RoHS compliant, or following other European or American standards and regulations.)

Another fact that brings me much hope is that green energy sources can be pretty damn cheap. We have this huge blazing ball beaming us free energy from the sky and compared to that, fossil fuels and nuclear are ridiculously complicated. I both hope and believe that renewables will win out because they’ll be cheaper than the competition.

So to answer your original question - different risks should be handled in different ways. I think this is sort of like an airplane. The best way to avoid casualties is not to hand out parachutes to everyone, it’s to make sure the damn thing doesn’t crash in the first place. Keep voting, keep trying to convince your friends and family, keep doing whatever you can to help the situation.

I refuse to prepare for dystopia. I prefer to fight it.

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You avoid having too many pets (one is fine, maybe) because you will likely have to leave them at some point, and having more means either being less likely to leave a dangerous situation or more likely to abandon them to their death. 

Especially pets that require special care or environments. Or may not be allowed across country borders. 

Same is somewhat true for kids, mind you. 

Also, try and make sure you have a good supply and extra medication that you may need if possible. 

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7 minutes ago, Hereward said:

I’m not sure diversifying your assets globally is a great idea if you’re anticipating the collapse of the interconnected global economy.

I doubt I'll see it, but don't doubt it's coming.

And I don't see the resolve either, there's too much chaos. The green shift or some semblance thereof may be coming, but the arctic is opening up fast and oil will be here yet a while. The world isn't going to hold hands and sing peace a song. 

Naysaying is something I really dislike about myself. I find it very difficult to be hopeful on this front. Feels more like a discipline. 

Edited by JGP
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7 minutes ago, KalVsWade said:

I agree! But I'm not anticipating that. 

I am. We’re already seeing a movement towards relocating supply chains and domestic self-sufficiency, protecting economies from sanctions and economic warfare. To do that, you have to prevent capital flight. I’m old enough to remember the UK preventing people taking money and assets out of the country to avoid currency crises. These days, the only way to do that is to cut off access to international electronic transfers.

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5 minutes ago, Hereward said:

I am. We’re already seeing a movement towards relocating supply chains and domestic self-sufficiency, protecting economies from sanctions and economic warfare. To do that, you have to prevent capital flight. I’m old enough to remember the UK preventing people taking money and assets out of the country to avoid currency crises. These days, the only way to do that is to cut off access to international electronic transfers.

Fair. In that case I'd recommend having assets in your current country and assets in what you consider a more stable one. My thinking is that whatever your assets are and wherever they are, you can expect to lose or seriously impair at least one country which has them.

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I think it's abundantly clear that China is now more in favour of an invasion of Taiwan than not and has accepted the likelihood that doing so will mean severe economic damage and possibly a very damaging, large-scale (but still conventional) war with the United States and possibly other countries in the region (if not globally), with a secondary goal of evicting the United States from the entire Indo-Pacific region. Even attempting that will end the global economy as we know it, and force a huge number of countries away from doing business with China. That's a geopolitical and socio-economic event horizon which is difficult to fully see past.

I do think in general the future is less rosy than it may have appeared previously. I think if we had another 40 years' grace with climate change not getting dramatically worse or passing any more tipping points, than the combination of populations topping out and going into decline and the advent of greener technologies (even at their current lacklustre pace) would spare us the worst of the effects, but clearly that's not going to happen. In fact, various climate change events that were not expected to appear until the 2030s or 2040s are appearing much sooner than anticipated.

The real wake-up moment will be if we get a wet bulb temperature event that kills a large number of people, maybe in India or Africa, sparking mass migration. That might be the sign to take action on an even larger scale, but that will be far too late.

Iceland did just start up their first machine to extract CO2 from the atmosphere. The machine is geothermal-powered, quite technology-intensive, and is removing enough CO2 to offset the carbon output of about 600 cars annually. Brilliant proof-of-concept, but we need that scaled up in size a hundredfold yesterday and thousands more built globally if it's even vaguely to help.

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My take is a tad different.

I see the giant oil fields that powered pretty much everything since the middle of the last century as getting tapped out, and the 'replacement oil patches' are much smaller, much more dangerous to access (think 'Deepwater Horizon' with a thousand miles of oil slicks along the gulf coast) and most importantly, far more expensive than the old oil fields - meaning it's increasingly not worth the oil companies while to tap these fields unless prices are very, very high (meaning very expensive gasoline).  Coal? Coal has been on its way out for a while.

That 'permanently expensive' gasoline will 'force' a massive 'grass roots' surge towards electric vehicles and renewable energy - pretty much regardless of whatever nutjob or incompetent is in charge of the federal government. Other sites I go to feature vehement debates between EV owners and (mostly) conservatives who bitterly denounce EV's. The 'gas burner crowds' argument comes down to 'I don't like it, so there!' More and more folks are asking serious questions on those sites about the reality of EV ownership and alternative energy - things like battery life, range, and whatnot.

Worth noting that Trump's efforts to reduce gas milage and halt EV development bombed big time. Perhaps ironically, the far rights disdain for regulation may actually speed up this process by removing bureaucratic roadblocks. 

Come circa 2035-2040, the clear majority of vehicles and power plants in the US and elsewhere (?) will be 'green' regardless of the political end. Probably not enough to stall out climate change, but maybe enough to mitigate future damage. 

Locally, climate change brings...modest benefits...to Alaska with longer summers and warmer winters. Towards the end of my term delivering mail, several of my customers and others were taking advantage of this with small scale agricultural operations. I could see this resulting in a greatly expanded barley growing biz, and probably veggies like cabbage and potatoes as well.

 

 

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3 hours ago, Knight Of Winter said:

Without trying to sound like a condescending asshole, OP's statement could benefit from some historical perspective. Every generation thinks its own set of problems are so special and so uniquely bad; and is worried about potentially even worse stuff the future may hold; but fact of the matter is - we in 2022 are living better, more enlightened and safer lives than almost anyone ever in human history. And while I'm not downplaying the climate change which is greatest challenge today's civilization is facing - go back at any point in human history and you could make such bleak statement about the present and make ominous predictions about the future. Yet, each of these times, in worse circumstances than we now are in today; society somehow managed to survive and thrive. Just for reference:

- 20 years ago if would have been (also) climate change and terrorism on the rise.
- 50 years ago if would have been Cold War and far far more widespread authoritarianism and lack of democracy than today
- 80 years ago in would have been WWII
- 100 years ago it would have been WWI, followed by Great Recession
- 200 years ago, it would have been widespread poverty (by today's standards, most of then-population would be poor), along with slavery, colonization and constant wars
- beyond that, it's basically a state of permanent existential dangers: ever-present pandemics (without vaccines to prevent them or modern medicine to treat them); wars; poverty; no concept of universal human rights etc.

Really, looking from this perspective: what is it specifically about present day that makes our particular set of issues so unique and unsolvable; or to induce such pessimism?

steven pinker? is that you? JFC

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2 hours ago, DMC said:

I rarely find these threads worthwhile, but at least in this one I found out Kal hates pets.

If he really hated pets he would of reminded us “Pets, they make good eating.”

But he didn’t. 

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I believe what's best is discussing preparations with as many people as you can (neighbors, community, family, friends... etc).

It's coming, and it's coming fast. And by "it" I don't even mean catastrophic climate change (which is predicted to happen in a few decades), but the collapse of the interconnected global economy and the end of the "Western way of life," the breakdown of the international order, the descent into authoritarianism of numerous Western countries (the US and France are likely to elect neo-fascist leaders before the end of the decade), massive immigration waves from Southern/MENA countries, droughts and famines, strife and war... etc.
Climate change is bad enough, but because our species can't find a way to address it and no one in power seems willing to admit that there is no alternative to degrowth (we talk of "sobriety" here), we'll just slide into widespread conflict instead. The dominant ideology is so individualistic and materialistic that instead of placing limits on our desires (consumption) and "economic liberty," we'll fight each other for whatever's left of the planet.
The actual alternative is connection and community, or what Murray Bookchin called "communalism." Cooperation and trust are indeed the only way out of this. One useful way to think and talk about it is to see it as war time. There will be shortages (there already are), so as our governments struggle to adapt (implementing authoritarian measures), communities will have to rely on solidarity and local solutions to compensate for their deficiencies.

On the plus side, neoliberalism is dying, this despicable ideology has run its course. The bad news is that its death throes will be terrible, as the oligarchy uses everything it has to protect its privileges. It'll be difficult for left-minded folks to resist anger and frustration as many governments turn to far-right policies and use refugees as scapegoats rather than placing limits on the private property of the means of production. Hopefully, not all governments will do that, and a few "safe havens" will remain, where people can freely go back to focusing on their community rather than be forced to work for a dying system. Hopefully, a new form of political system will emerge within the next decades (in small nations first, no doubt) and spread.
As long as we don't start killing each other, it's just the end of neoliberalism (and probably of capitalism tbh). We'll transition to entirely new1 economic organisations that no longer work on greed and domination. As far as I'm concerned, the question is how long it'll take and how many people will die in the process. If we could find ways to save as many people as possible, that'd be great.

Edit: (1) I wrote "entirely new economic organisations" but I shouldn't have, because they'll really be variations on very old ones.

Edited by Rippounet
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3 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

I believe what's best is discussing preparations with as many people as you can (neighbors, community, family, friends... etc).

It's coming, and it's coming fast. And by "it" I don't even mean catastrophic climate change (which is predicted to happen in a few decades), but the collapse of the interconnected global economy and the end of the "Western way of life," the breakdown of the international order, the descent into authoritarianism of numerous Western countries (the US and France are likely to elect neo-fascist leaders before the end of the decade), massive immigration waves from Southern/MENA countries, droughts and famines, strife and war... etc.
Climate change is bad enough, but because our species can't find a way to address it and no one in power seems willing to admit that there is no alternative to degrowth (we talk of "sobriety" here), we'll just slide into widespread conflict instead. The dominant ideology is so individualistic and materialistic that instead of placing limits on our desires (consumption) and "economic liberty," we'll fight each other for whatever's left of the planet.
The actual alternative is connection and community, or what Murray Bookchin called "communalism." Cooperation and trust are indeed the only way out of this. One useful way to think and talk about it is to see it as war time. There will be shortages (there already are), so as our governments struggle to adapt (implementing authoritarian measures), communities will have to rely on solidarity and local solutions to compensate for their deficiencies.

On the plus side, neoliberalism is dying, this despicable ideology has run its course. The bad news is that its death throes will be terrible, as the oligarchy uses everything it has to protect its privileges. It'll be difficult for left-minded folks to resist anger and frustration as many governments turn to far-right policies and use refugees as scapegoats rather than placing limits on the private property of the means of production. Hopefully, not all governments will do that, and few "safe havens" remain, where people can freely go back to focusing on their community rather than be forced to work for a dying system. Hopefully, a new form of political system will emerge within the next decades (in small nations first, no doubt) and spread.
As long as we don't start killing each other, it's just the end of neoliberalism (and probably of capitalism tbh). We'll transition to entirely new economic organisations that no longer work on greed and domination. As far as I'm concerned, the question is how long it'll take and how many people will die in the process. If we could find ways to save as many people as possible, that'd be great.

We've had our disagreements, but I think this is accurate. 

The thing I fear most is (selfishly) that individual rights for Americans who aren't wealthy will be eviscerated further but the living standards won't decrease very much at all besides more and more random acts of violence as the decades drag on. I see this coming because the outrageous American military capacity is going to make insisting on terms of trade agreements very easy. And there will be so much violence involved in getting your groceries that nobody's gonna care what country we're bombing as long as the avocado and Disney+ content keeps rolling in.

In this way the descent to fascistic Empire is already well begun.

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