Predictions for the future: are we headed for a calamity?

Lately it seems pretty easy for me to convince myself that we have a global disaster on the horizon, as a result of population growth and climate change. The thought stream usually goes along the lines of:
The population is growing rapidly.
People consume energy.
We are getting more people, so we need more energy.
We are burning more carbon.
The climate effects of burning carbon probably have a delayed effect ( I don’t have a cite for this, this is just the thought stream in my head).
Climate change is a train that ain’t gonna stop any time soon.
We have decimated wildlife globally in recent decades at an unprecedented rate, and we are clearly in the midst of an anthropogenic mass extinction.
We are getting more droughts and this will get worse.
We are getting more floods and this will get worse.
The land that will become less productive for growing food, far exceeds the land that might become more productive, as a result of climate change.
We will have more mouths to feed and less land on which to grow food.
Food scarcity is going to become a much bigger problem globally.
Unrest in developing countries will increase and governments will become unstable.
Developing economies will suffer, and the suffering spreads to developed nations eventually, due to how interdependent the global economy is.
Mass migrations will be a common theme.
Generally bad times for everyone.

Like I said, this is a thought stream that I have sometimes. I am aware I don’t have a cite for any of it. I guess what I am looking for is a healthy debate on the merits of such an outlook. There are plenty of people on this board who know a lot more about the world than I do, and no one in my life right know seems to have a convincing countering opinion. But that doesn’t mean that such an opinion doesn’t exist, and the best place I know to find one is right here!

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It is not an unreasonable set of predictions.

They only thing I’d say on the other side is the population increase is not guaranteed. Not because some cataclysmic die-off is on the horizon, but because birthrates are dropping. People talk about this in the developed world as something terrible (“oh noes, who will pay our pensions?”, “oh noes there there more brown people than white people!”) but it really doesn’t have to be. And the same will happen in the developing world. Once you have an educated middle class (specifically educated female middle class) then people aren’t as keen on pumping out as many kids as possible early as possible.

If we can manage to get through the process without the whole thing collapsing, then I could totally see society emerging on the other side of it in a more sustainable, stable form.

Also should add, what you descibe (sans the global warming issue) is known as the Mathusian Catastrophe

Many commentators have pointed out that the only reason that it has not happen yet (it was originally proposed in 18th century). Is humans is the advances in agriculture enabled humans to make enough food to keep up with increasing populations (by burning fossil fuels, and using fertilizers) but that process can’t go on forever.

Temperature has been rising for awhile/ Climate related deaths have been decreasing.

Population has been increasing for awhile/ starvation has been decreasing.

Thank capitalism and keep it moving.

You tried that bullshit just a few days ago and it was addressed here. I suggest reading the cites provided.

Are climate related deaths decreasing or not? You are welcome to present evidence that they are not. So far you have not done so. Just because you choose to ignore positive effects of fossil fuel consumption, does not mean that anyone else should.

This is so laughably absurd that I think I’m just wasting my time.

Just for starters, Cato is a Koch brothers founded libertarian propaganda institute, and the author of that article, Patrick Michaels, is a well-known fucking moron and long-term global warming denier funded by oil and coal interests.

One can immediately dismiss any article that uses terms like “climate alarmism”, refers to AGW as a “vague but morally-charged question” (no, it’s a very specific scientific question that was fully defined and addressed by the latest IPCC assessments and backed by thousands of peer-reviewed studies), or this hilarious meme: “There is no intrinsically perfect global temperature and, if there was, we would expect it to be warmer. Until it became politically correct for temperature trends to warm, people around the world prayed for far more warming than we’ve experienced.” This is a dead give-away that the reader is being hoodwinked. The issue isn’t what average temperature we wish we had on earth, the issue is the tremendous and violent climate and biological catastrophes that are caused by the unprecedented rate of change, destabilizing global circulation systems and greatly exceeding the ability of the ecosystem to adapt – destabilizations that are poised to continue for thousands of years.

The climate chart he presents from HadCRUT is also subtly deceptive, which one can observe by looking at the real one – the temperature plateau he tries to represent after 1995 doesn’t actually exist, and he neglects to show another rapid upswing after 2010. And the “half degree” he refers to (which he forgets to mention is Celsius) is relative to the 1961-1990 mean, not relative to the beginning of industrialization. He also forgets to mention that CO2 levels are higher than they have been in more than at least one million years and are now at a level sufficient to completely disrupt the ice age cycles that have been part of the evolution of homo sapiens for longer than that.

It’s ironic that Michaels, who is truly one of the more idiotic of the denialists, talks about the entire premise of AGW being “vague” – which is based on peer-reviewed science – yet asserts completely useless statistics like “climate deaths” which can be arbitrarily defined to mean – or not mean – whatever the hell anybody wants – and which are subject to a multitude of extraneous factors like advances in technology and medicine that obscure the real impacts of climate change. Read the links and comments I posted here if you want to understand the issue. The effects on human life and quality of life are going to be universally catastrophic and in many places already are. If you just want to keep promulgating Koch brothers talking points, help yourself. I’m done.

Wow. Stellar tirade.

I posted the link purely for the handy chart that shows a steep drop off in climate related deaths. Perhaps the chart was created by another of your boogedymen that I’m not familiar with. You are still welcome to either launch another tirade against the creator of the chart or present evidence that climate related deaths are increasing. If it be the former, don’t trouble too much. I’ll catch it on your next late-night radio call-in.

The number of murders annually, worldwide, is essentially zero. This precipitous fall, clearly supported by any rational researcher you choose to ask, stands in stark contrast to the alarmists who claim that people are still ever murdered.

I choose to define “murder” as “intentional death by musketfire.”

I’m happy to provide a handy chart, if you need further convincing.

World population won’t keep growing forever. Once a nation obtains a per capita income around $5000, population tends to stabilize. Pretty much everywhere on earth outside of sub saharan Africa is at a stable population level.

World population is supposed to go from 7 billion to 10 billion this century. Of that, virtually all of it will occur in Sub Saharan Africa. The rest of the world will be stable population wise.

Not only that, but the population tends to decline when a nation obtains high income status.

But I’m not sure if that was your point. Your point is that energy demands will skyrocket, resulting in more carbon in the atmosphere resulting in a distorted environment that will open a can of worms.

That is true. But humanity has survived a lot of things with far fewer material and cognitive resources at our disposal to deal with our problems.

There will be unrest due to global warming, but it won’t end civilization.

When people talk about human population stabilizing, they ignore a key point. A natural ecology has inputs and outputs that balance in an equilibrium. The constituents of soil, rivers etc. will be roughly the same in one century as in the next. This is simply not the case when several billions of humans are using the planet for an expensive lifestyle.

Non-biodegradable waste is not stabilizing. The total weight of plastic in the ocean is predicted to exceed the weight of the oceans’ fish by 2050. One of several frightening videos on the topic. Optimists will say that man is clever and will solve this and other problems. If man is clever why did he allow this pollution in the first place?

The “natural” background rate of extinction is several dozen species per century. The current extinction rate is estimated as dozens of species per day. Extinct species don’t come back.

Groundwater levels are falling, by as much as 3 meters per year in parts of India.

Today’s agriculture is dependent on fertilizer; this dependence increases dramatically as diets shift to meat. Each year, mankind mines more than 200 million tons of phosphate rock. Rather than being recycled, most of this phosphorus drains off and ends up polluting parts of the ocean. The cost of fertilizer is already a major part of farmers’ budgets and is expected to continue increasing.

The world’s political and financial systems encourage corruption and strife, and scarcities will exacerbate conflicts. Is there reason to be optimistic about future geopolitics?

The idea that a population of 7 or 10 billion humans is sustainable in the long term is wishful thinking.

Horse driven carriage deaths also have decreased. Your point is asinine in the sense that it is actually a demonstration of better advances in climate and weather prediction: advances gained thanks to many of the same scientists that you try to ignore who are telling us that we need to stop polluting our atmosphere or more warming is coming.

What it also shows how silly your point is, is that when climate changes or weather can be predicted even better in the future and more lives are saved, the other effects of climate change are bound to affect societies in many ways, just the loss of territory due to ocean rise can tell us that we can prevent more deaths by predicting when a hurricane will come, but we are not so good at dealing with the increased numbers of refugees of disasters like that will become more intense in a warming world.

The 1970s called; they want their doom-and-gloom back.

And while you’re returning it, say “Hi” to Malthus for me.

Is this your interpretation of a convincing opinion?
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Humans are puny creatures that could not possibly generate major effects upon the Earth. Now, I will take you to Boulder, and we can go down to Hoover dam, where I will say that again.

I with Flyer on this one.

By most important metrics life is / has been getting better for most humans – poverty rates, health, life expectancy etc. Population is still increasing but is stabilizing as the developing world…develops.

Yes climate change is our biggest threat going forwards and we are not doing enough. And there’s no shortage of suffering in the world.
But there’s a difference between talking about the problems that exist and suggesting we’re trending towards disaster in general.

My personal take is that we’re facing some short term problems that will affect our lives in negative ways, not all due to climate.

  1. Climate change is moving water around in ways our infrastructure wasn’t designed for. Either too much causing floods, or too little for our reservoirs. It is possible that the changes have passed a tipping point and are unrecoverable no matter what we do.

  2. Worldwide debt levels are terrifying. The current amount of unpaid personal and government debt is unprecedented, AFAIK. I believe we have passed the point of no return on this, and it cannot be paid. A very large number of people aren’t going to get the teacher, firefighter, police, or company pension they’ve been expecting and governments are between a rock and a hard place on this. If the courts forbid pension reductions, and the voters won’t accept tax increases, then something (bad) will have to give.

  3. Cheap energy, as we now define it, is probably about over. Maybe 5 or even 10 years away, but the cost of obtaining fuel will inexorably rise as the fracking boom extracts the last easy to reach products. This rise will affect everyone, no matter how you commute to work.

  4. Changes in work, and in conducting business in general. The rise in automation is coming, the only questionable part is how fast. Add to this the use of “just in time” concepts for stocking, and we are becoming like an Army with extremely stretched and vulnerable supply lines. Nowadays we have to worry if the hurricane in Asia will destroy the only factory that makes computer chips (made up example). What if there’s only one place in the world that produces diabetes medicine? Our supplies are very vulnerable nowadays.

At a selfish level, I’ve tried to predict what these trends will cause at the local level, how it will affect my family and me, and have been trying to (sensibly) prepare for them. It is my belief we will all find our lifestyles are more expensive and less stable than in the past. I think an interesting thread would be “What are you doing to prepare for this?”.

If nobody can criticize the methodology of the chart creators or produce alternative data, I think we are done here.

Embarrassing analogy failures are not the stuff of compelling conversations.

Absolutely and then some. We are heading straight into catastrophic climate change and the extinction of most higher life forms, probably including ourselves. The reason is, to be bluntly honest, that human beings are irredeemably selfish, greedy, and stupid. They will do whatever is in their own personal shortest-term interests, which is exactly what is destroying us. But we certainly won’t stop. Not now, not ever, not even when everyone knows without the slightest doubt that we are killing ourselves and taking down the web of life with us. Nothing can stop us.

I would also like to point out that while optimists have the advantage of being happy, pessimists are far more often actually right.

Anyone who honestly believes that we aren’t heading for something really bad is, basically, whistling their way through the cemetery. Look at all the major markers that indicate how, long term, humanity is shaping up. That’s pretty much all you need to do.

Rather than some crazy homeless person holding a sign, no less than a super computer at MIT agrees with me.

MIT says computer predicts end of world by 2040