TCS Daily

Geopolitics of a Melting World

By Andrew Marszal - August 24, 2009 12:00 AM

The U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf reconvened on August 10th in New York to continue sifting through submissions made, according to the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, regarding proposed submarine territories of the world's coastal states.

It clear that many claims overlap, particularly in areas thought to be resource-rich or of particular strategic value. For this reason the "Arctic Five" (U.S., Canada, Russia, Denmark, Norway) met in Greenland last year to clarify their position - that the UN should have final say. In a movement being spearheaded by former Presidential candidate John Kerry, the US looks set to soon follow the other nations in ratifying the Law of the Sea. Last week's commencement of a joint US-Canadian mapping project to determine the extent of the continental shelf north of the Yukon/Alaska border, though nominally a scientific exercise, shows further evidence of willingness to play by these rules.

While such multi-lateral cooperation may seem rather harmonious, we should heed the British Telegraph journalist Geoffrey Lean's observation that this development "is rather more than it seems".

Last summer Russian Lieutenant General Vladimir Shamanov triggered alarm over his declaration that, in response to international reception to Russian seabed claims, the army had "immediately set out plans for troops that could be engaged in Arctic combat missions". This came one year after then-President Putin's decision to recommence fighter patrols over disputed Arctic territories, and the infamous Lomonosov Ridge flag-planting incident.

It isn't just the Russians raising the stakes. In 2007 Norway's General Diesen declared that military power "cannot be excluded" in support of political demands in the Arctic, while last month Denmark announced a new Arctic military command and task force.


The findings of the 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), jointly produced by governmental and scientific bodies, illuminate these terse statements. Its observations on the continued reduction of sea ice include improved access to marine resources and a likely increase in offshore oil and gas extraction projects. Tellingly, it also predicts "sovereignty, security and safety issues".

In a shifting Arctic environment both the North-West Passage and Northern Sea Route over Russia's long coastline may become viable options for large-scale international shipping. This has not gone unnoticed by world leaders, who will find themselves in fierce competition. Canadian and US officials, whilst showing solidarity over joint mapping projects, have disagreed over the Northwest Passage. Predictably, while Canada insists the route is domestic waters (a position rather supported by a glance at a map), the US government adamantly denotes it an international passage. The US has a similar ongoing disagreement with Russia over the Northern Sea Route.

And despite claims of scientific endeavor for its own sake, this sizing up of the North American continental shelf will appear more self-interested when the UN begins to carve up seabed resources according to data thus obtained. As one Canadian official candidly noted, such explorations determine "the best possible outer limit".

There is evidently cause for disagreement over access and resource issues; but how best to explain the recent Cold War-style grandstanding rhetoric, and even threat of politically-sanctioned violence?


Fundamentally the concept of a resource war isn't so far-fetched. Some notion of Africa's "blood diamonds" entailing conflict and human misery is well entrenched in the global consciousness, while suggestions that oil prices encouraged recent Western interventions in the Gulf, depending on one's position, carry a certain persuasiveness.

Against these not immodest precedents, a 2008 US Geological Survey (USGS) report estimated that some 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil reserves, and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, lie beneath the Arctic. Altogether this corresponds to "about 22 percent of the undiscovered, technically recoverable resources in the world".

With ever-higher burdens being placed on global resource supply chains, last year's spike in oil prices and continued fears over OPEC's stranglehold have whetted the appetites of speculators seeking the next Middle East. While the Arctic is unlikely to prove such a bountiful resource, Roger Howard notes in his forthcoming book Arctic Gold Rush1 the notable signature left on US foreign policy in the 1920s by a misguided belief that Central America and South-East Asia would soon usurp the Middle East's oil status.

In light of recent overt threats, the mere possibility of untold riches beneath the melting polar ice seems enough to provoke hostility from even the more placid of the world's northernmost states.

Strategic Spaces

By the same token, the uncertainty inherent to contesting "undiscovered" resources should disincline expensive warmongering from a purely economic standpoint. But as Howard notes, the additional element of strategic access is both rather more idiosyncratic, and much more volatile.

Though not immediately evident from any Mercator map, the Arctic offers the shortest route from North America to Russia. Good news for businessmen and tourists in our post-Cold War days perhaps, but also for navy vessels should Russia's newly reinvigorated and aggressive nationalism ever progress beyond mere rhetoric. This March a new strategy document from the Kremlin called the Arctic Russia's priority arena for "international and military security".

To draw apocalyptic scenarios from this is both sensationalist and redundant; US and Russian nuclear submarines have patrolled Arctic seas since the 1960s. But the world is no longer bipolar, and the diminishing need for expensive ice-breaker escorts will enable many more states to navigate the Arctic, perhaps rather sooner than the 2080 ACIA estimate.

A 2006 paper by Rob Huebert and Brooks B. Yeager recognized five types of shipping shortly to be abetted: international bulk transshipping; shipping associated with resource development; cruise vessels; fishing vessels; and naval vessels.

If the Arctic becomes an open ocean of international waters, no legal justification can stop the vessels of nefarious rogue state circling the back doorstep of some of the world's most insecure superpowers. Moreover these five categories may become indistinguishable, with all ships presenting a latent military threat.

This alone is cause for attention, and indeed concern. The US Navy has created a task force charged with examining how climate change might affect national security.

Equally permeable will be the boundary between state and private interests. The West already rues its loss of influence over African resources to Chinese commercial expansionism, but with Western coffers all but spent, Chinese firms could soon be invited to develop lucrative continental shelves, regardless of UN-mandated ownership.

For example, though it might not be countenanced on a national level, there are fears in Canada that newly-devolved territories might top up their federal allocations with a few billion Yuan through resource-extraction contracts. As anxious Canadian journalist Erling Friis-Baastad remarked earlier this month, "the stakes are too high to leave decisions about the North in the hands of a few local politicians".

The opening up of new strategic spaces, whether through new marine straits or on virgin oil and gas fields, demands a timely re-imagining of Arctic geopolitics. For nations such as the USA, which does not have a history of readily tolerating rogue regimes in its hemisphere, let alone on its doorstep, this may be a rude awakening.

A Very Cold War?

These arguments should not be taken as predictive. However, explanations are needed for escalating tensions over the Arctic in the current decade.

Resource competition is already apparent, but may not be the biggest threat to harmonious relations. The significance of an entire new ocean emerging on the West's doorstep, host to a wide range of conflicting interests, demands attention.

1 Arctic Gold Rush: The New Race for Tomorrow's Natural Resources by Roger Howard is out 3rd September from Continuum


If the USA won't drill off of CA or FL...
why should we care about the Arctic?

But how can this be?
"The findings of the 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), jointly produced by governmental and scientific bodies, illuminate these terse statements. Its observations on the continued reduction of sea ice include improved access to marine resources and a likely increase in offshore oil and gas extraction projects."

But Andrew, how can the sea ice continue being reduced if, as we know for a fact, the climate is not warming? This does not compute.

All we need do is just drill for more oil and burn more gas. After a couple of years this warm spell will just reverse itself, and we can go on just like before.

That is still the issue, why.
You assert man is causing 'global climate change' and therefore man can stop 'global climate change' when no such evidence, which you seem to demand elsewhere, exists.

how this can be??
Where does this author say that "we know for a fact, the climate is not warming"? I don't see any mention of anything like that.

He just says things like 'if' ice recedes enough for ships to go throuh. What the geo-political implications would be among the most interested states.

It's irrelevant to his article whether it's a temporary warming or more long term, or whether it might reverse.

Nothing to worry about, folks
The obvious thrust of the article is that the world IS melting-- and doing so precipitously.

This is in line with virtually the entire body of current theory and current observation. At our last ice minimum (August, 2008, one year ago next week), both the Northeast and Northwest Passages were open simultaneously. That is, for the first time in recorded history-- and in fact over the past 125,000 years-- we could completely circumnavigate the Arctic Ocean in open water, without having to break any ice.

Someone living in an information-free zone, however, might think this was just a rumor, or a prediction. They would be well informed to read more on the subject. Here's a start:

"The Northern Sea Route was opened by receding ice in 2005 but was closed by 2007. The amount of polar ice had receded to 2005 levels in August 2008. Images from the NASA Aqua satellite revealed that the last ice blockage of the Northern Sea Route in the Laptev Sea had melted by late August 2008, the first time in 125,000 years that both the Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route had been open simultaneously."

Only the oddball fringe fails consistently to make the obvious connection: that our spewing of greenhouse gases into the sky is curiously coincident with this trend.

"Roald Amundsen: Navigates Northwest Passage"
"Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) of Norway was the first person to successfully navigate the fabled Northwest Passage.

His journey took three years to complete - he and his crew had to wait while the frozen sea around them thawed enough to allow for navigation.

His little 47 ton fishing boat, Gjøa (pronounced "y-eu-a") was finally able to leave his Arctic base at Gjøahaven (today - Gjoa Haven, Nunavut), and on August 26, 1905 he and his 6-man crew encountered a ship bearing down on them from the west. They were through the Northwest Passage!"

"northern route, through the wide and deep Parry Channel, is still ice-clogged. "
"The Northwest Passage that Roald Amundsen navigated with great difficulty starting in 1903 is opening for the second year in a row, as shown in the AMSR-E sea ice product from the University of Bremen (Figure 4).

The most recent operational analysis from the Canadian Ice Service and the U.S. National Ice Center on August 8 showed a small section of Amundsen’s historic path still blocked by a 50-kilometer (31-mile) stretch of sea ice, although that should melt within the next few days.

Amundsen’s route requires sailing through treacherous narrow and shallow channels, making it impractical for deep-draft commercial ships. The more important northern route, through the wide and deep Parry Channel, is still ice-clogged. The northern route opened in mid-August last year; it may still open up before the end of this year's melt season."

Nothing to worry about
This comment, just like your last one is irrelevant to the point of his article.

He's just talking about what provisions govenments are taking about it.

National Security and the Threat of Climate Change
The US military, whose job it is to take things seriously, seems to be taking it seriously enough.

"Global climate change presents a serious national security threat which could impact Americans at home, impact US military operations, and heighten global tensions, according to a new study released by a blue-ribbon panel of retired admirals and generals from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines."

"Q. What climate science was considered in the drafting of “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change”?

"A. The MAB received numerous briefings on the available science on climate change, to include both empirical evidence of climate change that has already occurred and is occurring today, as well as projections of future climate change. They came to the conclusion that the evidence is sufficiently compelling and the consequences sufficiently grave that this issue requires substantially more analytical effort by the intelligence community and defense planners to mitigate and adapt to the potential threats of climate change."

Download the full report:

'Liberals' can't handle change?
Is it not interesting how these modern 'liberals' are so frightened of change?
One might begin to think they were really conservatives who demand the status quo.

Improvise, adapt and overcome.
That is the Marine Corp motto.

That is what the military does everyday, make contingency plans.

That is quite different than planning to take some action with unknown consequences in an attempt maintain a status quo.

Quite a coincidence
What the article acknowledges is that the warming trend is real and that governments around the globe are responding to it. This is a concession that prior to this point, TCS has refused to admit. The obvious fact is that the world is warming, and rapidly.

The other obvious fact is that the warming has been in tandem with our generation of excess skyborne greenhouse gases (that is, in excess of the absorptive capabilities of the surface. Gases that, by the laws of physics, must inexorably gather and retain heat from the sun.

Quite a coincidence, huh? What are the chances?

Correlaton is not causation.
Which is why NASA is planning to put a very precise satellite in orbit to measure the earth's radiation budget as their computer models have significant uncertainty. Too significant to prove what you claim.

Make no attempt to mitigate or prevent?
We know what we have to do. The only problem is, it just costs a lot of money.

THAT is the sole reason the people who put thoughts into your head don't want you to think it's preventable.

He's only talking about what certain parties are doing, just in case it lasts long enough to take advantage of, and consider their national rights policies. He doesn't concede, or acknowledge the whole controversy, just one small point about it.

A total global warming denier could just as well have written this article.

How do you control sunspots?
Historical data shows the earth has been experienced more dramatic climate extremes for millions of years without humans.
Everyday new data is collected and analyzed to show how something new affects the earth's radiation budget. Recently sunspot activity has been linked to an increase in cosmic rays which affect cloud cover. How do you plan to control the sun spots, or magnetic field or cosmic rays?

"The roots of the experiment can be traced as far back as two centuries, when the Astronomer Royal, William Herschel, noticed a correlation between sunspots and the price of wheat in England. This marked the first observation that Earth's climate may be affected by variations of the Sun. Solar-climate variability has remained a great puzzle since that time, despite an intensive scientific effort. During the ‘Little Ice Age’ around the 17th and 18th centuries, when sunspots all but disappeared for 70 years, the cosmic ray intensity increased and the climate cooled. This seems to be merely the latest of around a dozen similar events over the last ten thousand years. At present, there is no established reason for the brightness of the Sun to fluctuate on these time scales. The possibility of a direct influence on the climate of galactic cosmic rays (which are modulated by changes of the solar wind) is therefore attracting the interest of scientists."

Yeah, the US Military is just like any other government 'grant-*****'
in that they know they have to say the right things in order to secure funding. During the Clinton Administration, NASA made a big deal about 'Planet Earth' studies and the CIA pushed for environmental monitoring with their spy sats.

See, when you are a government grant-*****, you have to market yourself to the desires of whomever is in the White House, Roy.

Let's 'tax' it and make it all go away Roy!
"Only the oddball fringe fails consistently to make the obvious connection: that our spewing of greenhouse gases into the sky is curiously coincident with this trend."

You mean the CONSENSUS of scientists that agree that CO2 is a LAGGING indicator of global warming?

If CO2 is the symptom then how can it be the cause?

Socialists hate change
Once socialists achieve their goal of power and control they hate change and increasing it becomes the new one.
The Road to Serfdom and L. von Mises take this process on in many of their books.

An elementary confusion
Would that your understanding of climatology was the equal of your understanding of macroeconomics.

In the 'natural' world (that is, the world without humans) we find that after the end of a major ice advance there is a spike in atm CO2. And that when such an event occurs it reaches a max of approx 280 ppm. That is one observation.

In our technological age, natural processes are being overwhelmed by artificial, and novel, ones. And so we are in an entirely new ballgame. There has been no recent ice recession. But from industrial sources we find the CO2 content of the atmosphere to be up at 385-390 ppm-- and increasing at a rate of around 2 ppm per year with no end in sight.

That is cause for some alarm. Your befuddlement as to how this can be is misplaced. The two events are entirely dissimilar.

Some alarm!
"Let's try working backwards for a moment.

The Earth's greenhouse effect is commonly estimated at 33 °C and these calculations simply assume that to be true.

If water vapor accounts for 70% and clouds another 20% (making water 90% of total atmosphere greenhouse effect) then we have 10% left for carbon dioxide and the ubiquitous "other" GHGs.

Lindzen's 3.53 °C cooling potential for complete removal of CO2 would then seem to fit the bill fairly adequately at around 10.7% of the total effect (3.53/33), while there's really not room for the larger estimates. Note, however, that carbon dioxide is generally reckoned to account for between 4.2% and 8.4% of Earth's net greenhouse effect because water vapor and clouds also behave differently at different concentrations and temperatures (we warned you this wasn't linear).

On the other hand, if we assume Charnock and Shine are closer to the mark then ~36% of Earth's greenhouse effect must be driven by CO2 (12/33). This is intuitively unreasonable since water is both prolific and has absorption windows overlapping those of carbon dioxide to a large extent.

Water covers more than 70% of the globe and the lower atmosphere over water tends to be relatively well supplied with water both as vapor and clouds.

Water is the dominant absorber in wavelengths expected in the warmer regions, such as in the tropics where water is hugely prolific and where significant greenhouse warming occurs.

It simply does not seem reasonable to expect CO2 to preferentially absorb more than one-third of the available energy.

This suggests (but does not prove) that Lindzen is likely to be the nearest estimate from those we've plotted above.

Note that if you discount all other possible drivers of global temperature change -- meaning that humanity has completely taken over from all natural effects that were operating until that time (highly unlikely) -- then the estimate of Charnock & Shine neatly fits observed warming over the period.

If their massive estimate of net greenhouse effect from carbon dioxide is true then a worst case doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide will still only produce a total warming under 1.5 °C (and we're thought to be almost half-way there already). "

And in the long past...
...before the advanced grasses evolved, CO2 concentrations in the atmo was much higher and for hundreds of millions of years too.

The earth survived.

As far as a greenhouse gas is concerned, CO2 is a wimp. Now, if water vapor or methane was going up, I'd be on board right beside you. But they aren't.

A little bit of knowledge
Your comment is an example of a bit of knowledge half-baked. Atmospheric CO2 during the early Carboniferous was in fact quite high, about 1500 ppm.

Tropical forests grew in northern Greenland. Worldwide, continental margins were flooded. There was no winter anywhere. Not too bad, right?

Except that there was no human civilization concentrated around seacoasts worldwide, where we have most of our major cities, trade and industry.. about to be flooded by the transition from our present world back to that world. Should all these cities be flooded in the coming century worldwide wars over the future of humanity would be the result.

Populations in the hundreds of millions would be displaced. Bangla Desh is already on the cusp of this crisis, with 150 million people living exactly at sea level. There's no room for them anywhere else, and they're unlikely just to obligingly die for us. They wil fight.

Monsoons are beginning to shift. I doubt you are expert on the movements of the trade winds and major climatic oscillations. But Africa in particular is already experiencing huge shifts, with droughts where there are normally monsoon rains, and torrential rain during what are normally dry seasons. These effects also imperil the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of subsistence farmers already living on the margins.

When you combine this with resource exhaustion (principally fresh water) you understand the etiology of many of the wars already in process. That of Israel against Lebanon, for instance, is a fight to the death over the water in the Litani River.. which Israel understands it will require in order to continue beyond the next couple of decades.

"As far as a greenhouse gas is concerned, CO2 is a wimp. Now, if water vapor or methane was going up, I'd be on board right beside you. But they aren't."

There are obvious limitations in the amount of water vapor the atmosphere can hold. The big determinant is temperature. The warmer it gets, the more water vapor will be held in the air.

Also, water vapor retains heat. So when the sun is up it cools the ground by shielding it from incoming rays. And at night it warms the ground, holding heat in so it can't escape to the sky. Clear nights cool the earth, while clear days heat it. Water vapor is by no means as simple as the folks at junkscience would have you believe.

Now to methane. Contrary to whatever you may have read, it is rapidly being degassed from a number of sources.. most importantly, from melting permafrost and peat in the northern latitudes. And methane is roughly 20-25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than is CO2. You really should check this out, and examine the measured rise in atm methane since 1980. (Current level approx. 1800 ppb, rate of increase 10 ppb per year.)

Already, although atm. methane is only present in tiny amounts, its influence on climate is about half that of CO2.

You should read more broadly on this subject. And not place all your trust in faulty and deliberately misleading 'favored sources'.

And FEMA pays to rebuild homes on the Gulf coast.
Very smart.

" Small fluctuations in solar activity, large influence on the climate"
"The team first confirmed a theory that the slight increase in solar energy during the peak production of sunspots is absorbed by stratospheric ozone. The energy warms the air in the stratosphere over the tropics, where sunlight is most intense, while also stimulating the production of additional ozone there that absorbs even more solar energy. Since the stratosphere warms unevenly, with the most pronounced warming occurring at lower latitudes, stratospheric winds are altered and, through a chain of interconnected processes, end up strengthening tropical precipitation.

At the same time, the increased sunlight at solar maximum causes a slight warming of ocean surface waters across the subtropical Pacific, where Sun-blocking clouds are normally scarce. That small amount of extra heat leads to more evaporation, producing additional water vapor. In turn, the moisture is carried by trade winds to the normally rainy areas of the western tropical Pacific, fueling heavier rains and reinforcing the effects of the stratospheric mechanism.

The top-down influence of the stratosphere and the bottom-up influence of the ocean work together to intensify this loop and strengthen the trade winds. As more sunshine hits drier areas, these changes reinforce each other, leading to less clouds in the subtropics, allowing even more sunlight to reach the surface, and producing a positive feedback loop that further magnifies the climate response. "

Not one word about ghgs!

When the sea coasts actually RISE (like in the Al Gore movie)...
...then you will have credibility. Until then, they are just figments of computer models. Nothing more.

Excellent approach
It's like nuclear war-- no sense doing anything to avert it, we've never had one yet.

We should just wait until it develops, then try to fix it after the fact.

The Dalton Effect
"Not one word about ghgs!"

The article was not about the influence of greenhouse gases. It was about variability in the solar output. And you won't find a single climatologist anywhere who denies that solar variability has an influence on climate. The sun, after all, is responsible for nearly all our incoming heat.

The problem is, if you're trying to link observed climatic conditions with observed fluxes in the solar output, you can't find much. We just don't have the data! We barely have two full cycles-- that is, since 1978.

The limitation in your thinking (one I've pointed out innumerable times) is that you can only imagine there must be a single, sole cause of climate change. And if it's the sun, ipso facto, it can't be anything else.

In fact most scientists assume a small degree of warming from the sun, although they admit it's guesswork compared to other data. And the effect they assume is 1/4 to 1/5 the size of the change in GHGs.

But that, of course, is not addressed in this article. One thing I find curious. In the TCS forum it was I who first noticed the hiatus between Solar Cycle 24 and SC 25, and hypothesized that we would likely be in for a cooling effect, a mitigation of the longer warming trend, until SC 25 became firmly established. The Dalton Minimum has been near zero for the past two years. It really is quite an unusual phenomenon.

And in fact this summer has been cooler and wetter in these parts, where in a warming situation one would expect hotter and dryer. So we'll see.

Longer term, we're headed for a cliff.

What was the point you were trying to make? You've made no comment about this article, which seems to support nothing on any side of the debate.

To summarize, it says that as of August 11, 2008, the route Amundsen took was opening up, while the Parry Channel was still closed but might yet open. Which is not an unusual occurrence nowadays.

Your comment? Or is this tactic of yours like the filibustering senators of old, who used to read from the Washington telephone directory to pass the time while they held the floor?

You are the one who believes the one cause is man and you must do something.

the longer term
Would this 'longer term' be the same time frame that you've been telling us we're going to run out of resources?

Is it the same time frame for there being no bees to pollinate?

What other scare mongering scenarios did you have again? I forget the rest of them right now.

Bee death caused by corn syrup?
"Researchers have established the conditions that foster formation of potentially dangerous levels of a toxic substance in the high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that is often fed to honey bees"

"When exposed to warm temperatures, HFCS can form HMF and kill honeybees. Some researchers believe that HMF may be a factor in Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious disease that has killed at least one-third of the honeybee population in the United States."

Of course the government approves of high fructose corn syrup for soda but won't approve a natural, calorie free herb like stevia.

corn syrup deaths?
If it's true, and we know that the government subsidises the corn industry, and embargoes real sugar from overseas, then it would a government caused problem.

Like so many do-gooder liberal programs, they usually have terrible unintended consequences.

Anarchy would be better then, not only for people but also for bees. I expect PETA to take up the cause.

Actually the whole planet is a good cause to work for
The only intelligent form of life we know of is man. And one way we manifest our intelligence is to look for possible dangers and insulate ourselves from them.

That's why, when we first figured out that winter comes along once a year, we devised heavy clothing and shelter. Because we're thinking apes.

And most of us know the Sugar Plum Fairy won't always be there to protect us from harm. The most important things in life we must do for ourselves.

Risk assessment
"Would this 'longer term' be the same time frame that you've been telling us we're going to run out of resources?"

Yes. Consumption of resources is expanding exponentially, as is the number of mouths we will have to feed. Meanwhile nonrenewable resources are being used up at an astounding rate. And renewable ones are being used well beyond the capacity of those resources to renew themselves. These are the kinds of things information-based people are all too aware of.

You can turn your back on this knowledge.. but that doesn't cause the condition to cease to exist. The head in the sand approach does not address the question of how we will build the world our grandchildren will have to live in.

I think where you go wrong is in assuming that the purpose of this kind of thinking is to accrue political power, by frightening people into believing falsehoods. That's the line many of our artful PR people are selling you, and it's wrong. It serves their bottom line to have you skeptical about scientific fact. That way they can retire rich, and die before the problems show up.

The approach critical thinkers take is to identify potential problems before they occur, and head them off. And that's the whole of it. The field of assessing risks and costs is known as Risk Assessment.

Better to have millions make those decisions rather than an appointed few.
That is why the free markets work best. Billions of risk assessments are made everyday and people make choices to avoid the risk.
It has worked in nature for billions of years.

Yes, humans adapted to the earth.
We are even trying to find asteroids that could hit the earth. A danger that has been well documented and one that can be addressed by our technology.

What influences climate has not been established with certainty significant enough to risk 'fixing' without unintended consequences. Something you have cavalierly advocated, like spreading dust into the atmosphere to block the sun.

This guy has you pegged Roy.
It conforms to a broad view — long and fondly promoted by fans of Big Government — that capitalism is essentially short-sighted and greed-driven (just look at the subprime crisis!). This stance is not merely appealing to activist politicians and bureaucrats, it is pure gold for the vast and growing army of radical NGO environmental lobby groups, whose raison d’être — and fundraising — are closely related to the degree to which nature is seen to be “endangered.” It is also appealing to rent seeking businessmen who see the profit potential in the vast array of controls and subsidies."

"Nevertheless, most ordinary people reasonably imagine in the face of such a weight of “authority” that the case must be closed. It isn’t. For a start, the weight of authority is based on the political doctoring of studies that are in any case designed to countenance no other conclusion than that man-made carbon dioxide drives the climate. Moreover, the very fact that the theory’s promoters are so reluctant to actually engage in scientific debate (No time to talk. Must act!) is highly suspicious.

However, once you get people believing in “authority,” then you’re pretty much home and dry. Authority relieves us of the anxiety of uncertainty and the pain of thought. "

Don't think too hard Roy.

"skeptical about scientific fact"?
What I'm skeptical about is not science but unproven scare mongering. It's not science that we'll run out of any resource at all.

The critical thinkers take the approach that we've never run out of anything at all to date, but if something gets too expensive, what can we replace it with.

Here's an example, people in ancient Greece, which was covered with forests at the time, said that if they keep cutting them down there wouldn't be any materials for houses. Yet after the massive cutdowns there, Greeks still manage to build houses, they just use less wood for them.

What's the latest word on the bee situation?

The obvious question
Do you actually see a monolithic, centrally commanded government as being locked in mortal combat with all you brave, independent capitalists?

Habitat degradation
You're fully vested in the idea that we will never run out of anything important, because whenever we use up some resource we can always just find or invent some handy substitute.

Do I represent your view correctly?

This approach ignores the fact that what we do, as a species, is to replace surface acreage full of forests, grasslands, wetlands and living habitat with inert, nonliving structures. Constructions that at best have lawns, but little actual life left on them. And as we burn everything on the planet that contains carbon up for fuel, for weed and pest control, or just because it's in the way of some project, we reduce the amount of carbon tied up in living matter.. converting it into gaseous carbon dioxide.

It does in time become reconverted back into plant matter through photosynthesis. But human destruction of life has been proceeding at a faster rate than this reconversion of atmospheric gases back into life for some time now. The end state of this trend is clear.

Take a look at the places that used to be forested 2,000 years ago. Europe, Mesopotamia, India, Iran, Iraq.. all are now mostly bare, degraded dirt. Greece is a classic example. It used to be mostly deep forest. Now those patches of Caklifornia style maquis that remain are in the process of burning down to the bare dirt. And this has been happening all over the globe.

The Amazon Basin is in the process of being cleared to make room for biofuel crops, like sugar and soy. The remaining forests of Southeast Asia are being cleared to make pulpwood and oil palm plantations. Australia is dying to the point where they have accepted desertification as being their new normal.

War lays land waste faster than any other human process. And while new lands are cleared every year by the starving, to feed themselves, other lands are being wasted by 'smart bombs' and the destruction of villages. The processes of war ruin more land each year, while in my lifetime those parts of the planet I've witnessed have filled up with more and more people, living closer and closer together. Cities that used to have four and five million people, now have twenty and even thirty million.

In another century most of the planet will be used down to the dirt. Although I'm sure there will still remain some very expensive and fashionable homes for the fortunate. It just won't be the planet God designed.

"What's the latest word on the bee situation?"

You can google all the info you desire under "colony collapse disorder". We still don't know what factors contribute to it, or how it can be stopped. We know about as much about it as we knew about AIDS back in the late 1980s.

It's not just bees. Bats, which have been around for the past 60 million years, are seriously starting to die out. And frogs, who've been on the planet for 180 million years, are going fast. But we can do without all that stuff, right?

Better to convert it all to real estate, so we can make some money on it.

Every day.

Detroit is returning to its natural state quite rapidly.
The 'liberal' economic plan is working quite well to return developed property to nature.

habitats or...'gimme shelter'
I'm not at all fully invested in what you said. You said, "whenever we use up some resource", whereas I said, " when one gets to costly we switch to another". That's very different. Yours gives the false impression that the world has actually reun out of something already, when it hasn't.

There have only been local shortages, like the forest of Greece, and the Cedars of Lebanon, and the collapse of the norther cod fisheries(the ones micromanaged by the canadian government, and got ruined by them within a few decades after having been just fine for about 500 years).

That "the end state is clear" is not clear at all, it's only your crazy idea.

Indeed, even in the US, I've read that there's actually more forested area now than there was in the past 100+ years, since much former farm land has reverted to forest.

Another way to get more would be for you to buy a couple of vacant building lots, and just not build on them but plant some trees instead.

more for millions
Yes, this the 'fatal deceit' of the keynsians and marxists like Roy. They think that a handful of beaurocrats are able to make up for all those millions of decisions made everyday by people.

Visit Battle Road sometime near Concord, MA
A mural on the wall depicts the battle as the British retreated under fire from Concord to Boston.

One will note that 200+ years ago, most of the land was under cultivation with few trees. You can even see the stone walls that once marked out fields now overgrown with oak trees.

Now, the forests are thick as the farms were replaced by houses.

Detroit's a postindustrial wasteland
Obviously you've never been there. I have. Detroit is the opposite of natural habitat.

"Local shortages"
You imagine there's "the false impression that the world has actually reun out of something already, when it hasn't. There have only been local shortages, like the forest of Greece, and the Cedars of Lebanon, and the collapse of the norther cod fisheries.." etc.

Nothing could be further from the truth. From Spain across to China, the world used to be forested and fertile. Desertification has occurred over the past several thousand years, and now continues on into the world's remaining large tropical forests. It's only a matter of time that this net reduction in acreage arrives at zero.

And only an information deficit could leave you with the impression that it's only northern cod, out of all the world's fish. A census only a few years back found that stocks of most commercial species only stands at ten percent of historic population levels. That's truly alarming. Bluefin tuna are on the cusp of becoming extinct.. and in the next four years.

The oceans are emptying rapidly, due to the expanding requirement to provide protein to the world.

"Indeed, even in the US, I've read that there's actually more forested area now than there was in the past 100+ years, since much former farm land has reverted to forest."

A hundred years ago the great forests had already been cleared. So that would be true if forested land today was just greater than zero acres.

About 97% of western forests have been logged out, and now are not capable of sustaining more logging. In the east, however, your comment is quite true. Back in the 1930s there was virtually no forest left in NC, for example. It was all being farmed. And the Depression ran people off all those old family farms, so they reverted to forest.

Mostly softwood, they support a modest industry today in pulp and plywood. But even the paper industry's past its prime. Forests are being removed again today.. only to make way for the 21st century's big cash crop, housing subdivisions.

What makes all this possible is the removal of both food production and forestry overseas. On a global scale we are removing trees at a faster pace than at any time in history.. by a wide order of magnitude.

"Another way to get more would be for you to buy a couple of vacant building lots, and just not build on them but plant some trees instead."

It would be nice to be so rich. Farmland adjacent to expanding cities, today, is worth hundreds of thousands per acre. I was going to buy a 4-5 acre lot down on 401 to build a putt-putt.. but found they were asking $4 million for it.

The only strategy that works around here is farm trusts, where you agree not to sell to a nonfarmer in perpetuity, and in exchange get a waiver on your tax assessment. Otherwise, no one could afford to farm any more.

Explain the process
You say "Now, the forests are thick as the farms were replaced by houses."

So as the farms were sold off to developers, and packed shoulder to shoulder with expensive homes, the forests grew in thicker?

Do you mean that little fringe of windbreak separating one subdivision from the next? Is that where the bobcats and fisher martens are supposed to live? Neighborhood covenants would never allow them. You won't even find a box turtle in those kinds of tree screens.

local shortage of sense
How could 'nothing be further from the truth', when you try to counter my obeservation that the world has not run kout of anything at all, by saying, "it's only a matter of time...till zero"? That would be like saying, OK we havent, but will later on.

Another point of view regarding forested land is that there are some people in the world who don't like to live in forests, but in cities instead. Thus, places like NY and Hong Kong have more people than trees. You might try read the guru Jane Jacobs about how it's cities that create wealth and culture etc. It might be a surpires to you as well as EmZola that the kids of those rural oakies prefer living and working in the city around Google, not back on the farm.

Have you ever checked out what a mash the canadian government made out of the cod fisheries there? Their attitude is, whoops, slight miscalculation, but never mind, you're just banned from fishing any more.

I also dispute scare mongering stories about losses in the world. A lot of time it is a matter of some biases outfit like 'friends of the earth', or greenpeace, that will pick some number out of a hat, report it as fact, then all the lazy reporters all repeat the same lie. There have been instances when people have tried to trace down the numbers of say, species becoming extinct, acres of forest disappearing, etc. and they discover, lo and behold, the scare stories just weren't true.

Even your time scale scare is unbelievable. For example, there have been humans in Germany for about 50k years, yet the place is still about 1/3 forested. At that rate, when will the last tree be cut down?

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