[Discussion] Climate Change

This thread is just to post interesting news, thoughts, opinions about climate change.

Yonder wrote:

On mobile so no links, but apparently a relatively small amount of seaweed extract in cow feed drastically limits their methane production. I also believe that a more natural diet (aka not a huge amount of corn) reduces methane production.

Interesting. Makes you wonder what would happen if we just ate less beef. What if cows just grazed. I doubt in the wild they graze on corn. (Yes, I know it’s a whole other thing what cows looked like when they were in the wild eons ago).

Lab-grown meat can not come soon enough. It's so close!

DSGamer wrote:

What if cows just grazed. I doubt in the wild they graze on corn. (Yes, I know it’s a whole other thing what cows looked like when they were in the wild eons ago).

We feed cows corn because corn is the cheapest thing around that will bulk them up.

Grass-fed beef is better all around--for the environment and for the cow-- but it costs a couple more dollars a pound.

Michael Pollan's "Power Steer" wrote:

We have come to think of ''cornfed'' as some kind of old-fashioned virtue; we shouldn't. Granted, a cornfed cow develops well-marbled flesh, giving it a taste and texture American consumers have learned to like. Yet this meat is demonstrably less healthy to eat, since it contains more saturated fat. A recent study in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the meat of grass-fed livestock not only had substantially less fat than grain-fed meat but that the type of fats found in grass-fed meat were much healthier. (Grass-fed meat has more omega 3 fatty acids and fewer omega 6, which is believed to promote heart disease; it also contains betacarotine and CLA, another ''good'' fat.) A growing body of research suggests that many of the health problems associated with eating beef are really problems with cornfed beef. In the same way ruminants have not evolved to eat grain, humans may not be well adapted to eating grain-fed animals. Yet the U.S.D.A.'s grading system continues to reward marbling -- that is, intermuscular fat -- and thus the feeding of corn to cows.

The economic logic behind corn is unassailable, and on a factory farm, there is no other kind. Calories are calories, and corn is the cheapest, most convenient source of calories. Of course the identical industrial logic -- protein is protein -- led to the feeding of rendered cow parts back to cows, a practice the F.D.A. banned in 1997 after scientists realized it was spreading mad-cow disease.

Make that mostly banned. The F.D.A.'s rules against feeding ruminant protein to ruminants make exceptions for ''blood products'' (even though they contain protein) and fat. Indeed, my steer has probably dined on beef tallow recycled from the very slaughterhouse he's heading to in June. ''Fat is fat,'' the feedlot manager shrugged when I raised an eyebrow.

F.D.A. rules still permit feedlots to feed nonruminant animal protein to cows. (Feather meal is an accepted cattle feed, as are pig and fish protein and chicken manure.) Some public-health advocates worry that since the bovine meat and bone meal that cows used to eat is now being fed to chickens, pigs and fish, infectious prions could find their way back into cattle when they eat the protein of the animals that have been eating them. To close this biological loophole, the F.D.A. is now considering tightening its feed rules.

Until mad-cow disease, remarkably few people in the cattle business, let alone the general public, comprehended the strange semicircular food chain that industrial agriculture had devised for cattle (and, in turn, for us). When I mentioned to Rich Blair that I'd been surprised to learn that cows were eating cows, he said, ''To tell the truth, it was kind of a shock to me too.'' Yet even today, ranchers don't ask many questions about feedlot menus. Not that the answers are so easy to come by. When I asked Poky's feedlot manager what exactly was in the protein supplement, he couldn't say. ''When we buy supplement, the supplier says it's 40 percent protein, but they don't specify beyond that.'' When I called the supplier, it wouldn't divulge all its ''proprietary ingredients'' but promised that animal parts weren't among them. Protein is pretty much still protein.

Compared with ground-up cow bones, corn seems positively wholesome. Yet it wreaks considerable havoc on bovine digestion. During my day at Poky, I spent an hour or two driving around the yard with Dr. Mel Metzen, the staff veterinarian. Metzen, a 1997 graduate of Kansas State's vet school, oversees a team of eight cowboys who spend their days riding the yard, spotting sick cows and bringing them in for treatment. A great many of their health problems can be traced to their diet. ''They're made to eat forage,'' Metzen said, ''and we're making them eat grain.''

Perhaps the most serious thing that can go wrong with a ruminant on corn is feedlot bloat. The rumen is always producing copious amounts of gas, which is normally expelled by belching during rumination. But when the diet contains too much starch and too little roughage, rumination all but stops, and a layer of foamy slime that can trap gas forms in the rumen. The rumen inflates like a balloon, pressing against the animal's lungs. Unless action is promptly taken to relieve the pressure (usually by forcing a hose down the animal's esophagus), the cow suffocates.

A corn diet can also give a cow acidosis. Unlike that in our own highly acidic stomachs, the normal pH of a rumen is neutral. Corn makes it unnaturally acidic, however, causing a kind of bovine heartburn, which in some cases can kill the animal but usually just makes it sick. Acidotic animals go off their feed, pant and salivate excessively, paw at their bellies and eat dirt. The condition can lead to diarrhea, ulcers, bloat, liver disease and a general weakening of the immune system that leaves the animal vulnerable to everything from pneumonia to feedlot polio.

Cows rarely live on feedlot diets for more than six months, which might be about as much as their digestive systems can tolerate. ''I don't know how long you could feed this ration before you'd see problems,'' Metzen said; another vet said that a sustained feedlot diet would eventually ''blow out their livers'' and kill them. As the acids eat away at the rumen wall, bacteria enter the bloodstream and collect in the liver. More than 13 percent of feedlot cattle are found at slaughter to have abscessed livers.

What keeps a feedlot animal healthy -- or healthy enough -- are antibiotics. Rumensin inhibits gas production in the rumen, helping to prevent bloat; tylosin reduces the incidence of liver infection. Most of the antibiotics sold in America end up in animal feed -- a practice that, it is now generally acknowledged, leads directly to the evolution of new antibiotic-resistant ''superbugs.'' In the debate over the use of antibiotics in agriculture, a distinction is usually made between clinical and nonclinical uses. Public-health advocates don't object to treating sick animals with antibiotics; they just don't want to see the drugs lose their efficacy because factory farms are feeding them to healthy animals to promote growth. But the use of antibiotics in feedlot cattle confounds this distinction. Here the drugs are plainly being used to treat sick animals, yet the animals probably wouldn't be sick if not for what we feed them.

Aside from potential ethical issues of how we raise and treat animals pretty much anything with a sentience quotient above bugs (or higher than bugs in the food chain) is environmentally disastrous and unstable.

From a greenhouse gas standpoint, corn-fed beef is just about the worst thing you could eat. Beef production is one of the most greenhouse-gas-intensive agricultural activities no matter how you do it, but corn is also one of the most greenhouse-gas-intensive crops because of the large amounts of nitrogen fertilizer that are typically required. From a climate standpoint, beef raised on anything other than corn is much better than beef raised on corn, especially a nitrogen-fixing crop like a legume or better yet, grass. I've never understood why we've put so much effort into finding a way to use corn for everything - it's cheap, yes, but that's partly because of the massive public dollars that have been poured into subsidies and R&D for corn. We didn't know it at the time, but it was a really bad plan in terms of climate change.

Beef in general is just about the worst food you can eat from a climate/sustainability standpoint. There is just no comparison in terms of the carbon footprint between cows and most other animals raised for protein. I once read a study that did a life cycle analysis on the greenhouse gas impact of beef production which concluded that reducing beef consumption by one meal per week would cause a greater improvement to one's greenhouse gas impacts than sourcing ALL of your food locally.

Cows are an efficient food source in at least one way: if it's grass-fed beef then they created food from something that most other farm animals raised as food (or humans) can't eat. This is much better than feeding them food that could be used for other things and has had tons of fertilizer applied to it.

Lucky the two cow farms I live between both let their cows graze, so the smell is never an issue except on days they're cleaning out manure.

Recent WaPo on beef substitution and sustainable groceries.

Yonder wrote:

On mobile so no links, but apparently a relatively small amount of seaweed extract in cow feed drastically limits their methane production. I also believe that a more natural diet (aka not a huge amount of corn) reduces methane production.

Here is a link btw. Tests in artificial cow stomachs found that supplementing the cow feed with 2% dried red seaweed cut methane production by 70%.

But where does the methane go? Cowspiracy!

What to do with all that methane --

Donald Trump accused of obstructing satellite research into climate change

President Trump has been accused of deliberately obstructing research on global warming after it emerged that a critically important technique for investigating sea-ice cover at the poles faces being blocked.

The row has erupted after a key polar satellite broke down a few days ago, leaving the US with only three ageing ones, each operating long past their shelf lives, to measure the Arctic’s dwindling ice cap. Scientists say there is no chance a new one can now be launched until 2023 or later. None of the current satellites will still be in operation then.

The crisis has been worsened because the US Congress this year insisted that a backup sea-ice probe had to be dismantled because it did not want to provide funds to keep it in storage. Congress is currently under the control of Republicans, who are antagonistic to climate science and the study of global warming.

Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), Volume I

This report is an authoritative assessment of the science of climate change, with a focus on the United States. It represents the first of two volumes of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, mandated by the Global Change Research Act of 1990.

The climate of the United States is strongly connected to the changing global climate. The statements below highlight past, current, and projected climate changes for the United States and the globe.

Global annually averaged surface air temperature has increased by about 1.8°F (1.0°C) over the last 115 years (1901–2016). This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization. The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, and the last three years have been the warmest years on record for the globe. These trends are expected to continue over climate timescales.

This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.

So what if we somehow convinced Republicans that climate change denial was actually a Liberal plot to make them all look bad. They like black flag ops and conspiracies so much. It would give them cover to say things like "we didn't really believe climate change wasn't real all along". Would that work? I mean, if, like, Zombie Reagan came back from the dead to say it?

I wish we could do something like that. Reagan hologram or something. Reagogram? Unfortunately I think the oil company execs that pay for those republican campaigns will convince them to keep denying anyway.

I'm sure The Market will start valuing and investing in these sorts of projects any day now.

[Quiet weeping.]

wordsmythe wrote:

I'm sure The Market will start valuing and investing in these sorts of projects any day now.

[Quiet weeping.]

Well, we could create some kind of insurance that will only pay out if Climate Change isn't real. You know how people sell Rapture Insurance that will take care of your pets for you in case you get taken by the Rapture? That is free money right there.

Also, you can pay me to find you proof of the Flat Earth.

So apparently Syria is signing on to the Paris climate agreement, which will make the US the only country not on board once Trump pulls us out. Such a disgrace. It'd be hilarious if it weren't so shameful and depressing.

USA: literally worse than Syria.

If you love Syria so much, why don't you move there!

Chairman_Mao wrote:

Stephen Hawking: Earth could become 'ball of fire'

Goodness gracious

Bring it on! At this point, I'd be happy with myself and the human race dying out. It deserves it.

In 2016 the Mercer family donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups whose sole purpose is to is to deny that man-made climate change is real or even a problem.

They gave $150,000 to C02 Coalition, a group whose stated purpose is to "educat[e] thought leaders, policy makers, and the public about the important contribution made by carbon dioxide to our lives and the economy" and to "engage in an informed and dispassionate discussion of climate change, humans’ role in the climate system, the limitations of climate models, and the consequences of mandated reductions in CO2 emission."

C02 Coalition's 2016 funding was $672,000 meaning the Mercer family's donation represented nearly a quarter of the foundation's operating budget.

BuzzFeed wrote:

These donations, which have not been previously reported, were on top of about $4 million that the Mercer family donated to groups that, although not solely focused on climate, do deny man-made climate change or oppose government action on curbing carbon emissions, including: the Media Research Center ($2 million), the Heartland Institute ($800,000), the Heritage Foundation ($500,000), the Cato Institute ($300,000), the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research ($200,000), and the Oregon Institute for Science and Medicine ($200,000).

It's exceptionally disturbing to realize that wealthy folks can spend their equivalent of seat cushion loose change to fund groups that tremendously muddy the public and policy discussion waters.

I don't get what the deal is with people like the Mercers. I mean they must absolutely be crazy unless their hedge fund is for energy companies. I get the greed but denying climate change when you are educated enough to know better and it doesn't benefit you at all makes no sense. I am trying to understand the logic and I just don't get it.
-Hannity and Limbaugh are obviously empowered by riling up their base on the issue.
"Energy Companies" benefit directly and have a storied history of buying Gobi sized deserts to put their heads in.
-Trump and his ilk are bubble boy myopic and cool aid drinking compliant.
-But the Mercers by all accounts are intelligent, not affiliated with energy and don't have zombie appeasing public persona. So the only other explanation is they bought into an ideology that is too easy to euphorically fly too close to the sun and has nowhere to go other than a fast track to paranoia and narcissism.
-Yet paranoia can only explain some of it (deep state) and narcissism (I know better than scientists) not much more.

You've answered your own question. Plenty of business sectors other than energy will be impacted by climate change mitigation policies, notably anything that involves shipping and transportation (i.e. everything tangible). Just because their "hedge funds" aren't in the energy sector don't mean they're not going to be affected.

The obvious answer is "because they think it's in their best interests", and when you're that rich, that translates to "because it's in the best interests of your business holdings".

Robert Mercer resigned as co-CEO and board member of Renaissance Technologies LLC back in November. He also sold his stake of Breitbart to his daughters.

He did so because because his (and his family's) politics--and the press attention they attracted--were negatively impacting the business: universities, retirement funds, and other institutional clients faced growing pressure to pull their investments from Renaissance.

In a letter to Renaissance employees Mercer said that he supports "conservatives who favor a smaller, less powerful government." That is likely enough reason to plow money into anti-climate change groups because there really isn't any solution to climate change that doesn't involve increased government regulation, oversight, and involvement (and higher taxes).

So Mercer, like many intelligent conservatives, short-circuits on issues like climate change. Rationally and intellectually they know it's serious and is going to cause tremendous amounts of disruption that, with government involvement, could be minimized and mitigated.

But they strongly feel that those levels of governmental intervention are bad. So the easiest thing to do is play the skeptic and claim that there's not enough information to make significant policy decisions about climate change. And if they can make a buck or two doing so, even better.

I have seen that exact short circuiting a couple times in real life.

"You know that climate change isn't real because people are just proposing fixes like taxing or government control. If it was a real problem then they would be proposing solutions that actually work."

Two out of three times the response to my obvious follow-up of "Well what solution would actually work then?" were

"I don't know, I'm not a scientist."

One time the other person actually had an alternative! "Just ban CO2 production if it's actually bad".

So, yeah, we're f*cked.

Although I just had an idea of something that could actually convince some of these people! Maybe we should start a Climate Change "Thoughts and Prayers" campaign on Facebook. That's one of them things that we do to totally and completely fix serious problems isn't it?

"Oh my gosh, the rising sea levels need my Thoughts AND my Prayers? This is more serious than I thought!"

The world will be ending and to their last breath they will deny that man had anything to do with it and how could anyone have realized?!

The sad part about it is that it's quite easy to make a strong case against government intervention in climate change without denying that it's happening, especially since the government figures prominently in the story of how we got into this particular situation. They are either too lazy to put in the intellectual work, unwilling to admit they were wrong, or both.

I'll bite, Aetius, can you please make the quite easy case for how climate change can be combated without government intervention?

Yonder wrote:

I'll bite, Aetius, can you please make the quite easy case for how climate change can be combated without government intervention?

Humanity shifting away from a profits-over-everything capitalist structure.

Sure. The basic thrust is that we need two major shifts to combat the majority of CO2 release - transitioning from coal / natural gas power plants to something carbon-neutral (or even negative), and drastically reducing the use of oil as a fuel (transportation, heating, etc). To accomplish that goal quickly and effectively, you need alternatives that are less expensive; if it becomes profitable to shutter old power plants and shift to renewables, safe nuclear, or whatever, it'll happen pretty quickly.

Unsurprisingly, the government is already intervening in those markets. In fact, as the article notes, government intervention is essentially propping up the entire coal industry and is crucial to the profitability of huge sections of the oil industry - and that's not counting indirect subsidies like road construction, cheap leases on government land, and utility monopolies. Some of these policies have been around for a hundred years or more, and together with other policies (rural electrification, for example) have distorted the markets to heavily favor oil and gas.

Removing those subsidies and price controls is all that's required to make coal, oil, and gas unprofitable, killing off the major sources of CO2. Combine that with removal of other regulatory barriers like utility monopolies, solar panel tariffs, NIMBY laws against wind farms, and the effective ban on nuclear reactors despite modern safe designs, and you have the recipe for a renaissance in power generation and transportation. There's already some cracks in the wall, like competitive wholesale power markets, but a lot more needs to be undone - and the Trump administration is making things worse with their additional tariffs.