Thursday Throughput: Comparing Catastrophes

Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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13 Responses

  1. George Turner says:

    Science News: Daily CO2 emissions dropped by 17% in early April

    In June emissions apparently rebounded to 5% below 2019 levels, with China returning to pre-pandemic emissions levels. But this month China’s cars all washed away in a giant flood, so maybe they’ve dropped again.Report

  2. Oscar Gordon says:

    Regarding the vaccine, IIRC it’s development and the mechanism by which it will work are rather new. It was designed mostly with computers once the genome was sequenced, and it won’t be a neutered version of the virus, but something closer to gene therapy, where the immune system is directly instructed how to make the necessary antibodies, rather than waiting for the body to figure it out on it’s own.Report

  3. North says:

    Yeah environmentalism is very deeply a luxury movement and that is reflected in the worldview of most environmentalists. “How we are fighting Covid is a lot like what we have to do to fight global warming only for global warming it’s permanent” they earnestly say thinking about comfortable white collar jobs commuting from home. Meanwhile the masses, looking at the mass unemployment and looming immiseration that Covid is imposing say “this but permanent? Fuck global temperatures, fire up the coal plants!” And that’s just in the developed world. The gap between what the environmentalists want and what the masses want is even worse in poorer countries.Report

  4. But it is true that the techniques honed over decades to deny the importance of global warning have been found equally useful for COVID.Report

  5. Michael Cain says:

    The counter-argument, I think, is to compare worst cases as laid out by experts. The worst case for global warming is the end of global civilization as we know it. The worst case for COVID-19 appears to be that 2% of the population dies, skewed heavily towards (in the developed world, at least) non-productive retirees like me.

    Granted, I’m a pessimist. As long-time readers know, I’m pessimistic enough on the subject to believe that consequences of trying to deal with global warming will be major contributors to a split of the US into two or more countries 40 or so years out.Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to Michael Cain says:

      The problem is there seems to be a high level of hysteria in many of these estimates They assume we’re all going to stand around and die without doing anything. For example look at that “twice that high” link.

      Malaria running rampant figures in there. The US already has areas that would allow malaria to run rampant if we didn’t beat it with a club every time it shows up. Odds are greater that it will simply be a dead disease by 2030 than it will be running around the world unrestrained. The world has some brilliant ways to exterminate malaria’s host insects in the next decade or so.

      Similarly mass amounts of people will die of starvation because no one will act.

      A lot of these are bad Sci Fiction plots like a T-rex running around New York. Without movie plot armor, someone shoots it and it dies.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter says:

        Doesn’t Bruce Scheiner do a ‘Bad movie plot’ contest every year?Report

      • As I said, I’m a pessimist.

        OTOH, perhaps not as pessimistic as I should be. With my system guy’s hat on, I am inclined to say, “Economists and their ilk don’t acknowledge the possibility of death by a thousand cuts.” This year everything from the Texas Panhandle to southern Nebraska was too dry for the third year in a row and the wheat farmers there were bankrupt. Next year three big hurricanes hit and the remaining freshwater aquifers in South Florida were contaminated so the equivalent of Miami/Dade County had to be relocated. The year after 50M Bangladeshis arrived on the West Coast demanding a place to live and jobs. The year after that Congress decided they would rather fund the last three carrier strike groups than spend that money on electricity generation that didn’t require cooling water and Texas’s economy collapsed after 12 weeks of rolling blackouts. Two years later there was a massive corn failure because the new hybrids could tolerate a 2 °C hotter summer, but not 2.5 °C. The next year saw wheat failures in all of the US, Argentina, and Australia and 40M starving people from MENA “invaded” Europe.

        I may be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. But the climate change optimists have to be right about how everything can be handled. If they’re wrong once, cascading failure mode.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to Michael Cain says:

          We already have a navy that can shoot people.

          RE: Food
          If the corn fails we’ll eat wheat and (hopefully) use less corn in fuel. If corn and wheat fail then we’ll eat something else. We produce TWICE as much food as we need and we’re not trying very hard.

          RE: Texas’s economy collapsed after 12 weeks of rolling blackouts
          Then fire the current set of politicians and put ones in place that will approve power plants.

          Humans live our lives on a crazy fast time scale compared to GW.

          There are actual problems with GW, acidification of oceans, rising of oceans, a few others.

          They’re actually overshadowed by the self inflicted problems. Hurricanes are a problem only because we’ve put cities everywhere on the coast so they’ll hit something. We had hurricanes long before GW, they won’t go away if we grow a little more slowly.

          RE: If they’re wrong once, cascading failure mode.
          How many hurricanes need to hit us before the country falls apart? I doubt even one a week would do it.Report