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An Interview with Mother Earth on Climate Change

equator_morning

Mother Earth shows off a little, the Equator, October 2015

For the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of making an annual trip to the equator of our planet, spending a week or two absorbing the very different world of South America. One of the unexpected benefits is that I get to converse occasionally with Mother Earth herself.

Of course, we all know her to a certain degree, since She made us from scratch and provides for all of our needs for every second of our lives. But She actually keeps  Her eyes and ears down there, probably because that is where the greatest concentration of living things hang out. The Sun is at its most intense, and there is more biodiversity in a single square kilometer of Amazon rainforest than you’ll find in the entire United States.

So anyway, I ran into Her during a late-night walk through the jungles of Ecuador, and I was pleased that She granted me an interview. With the secret environmental mission of this blog in mind, I decided to focus most of my questions on climate change (global warming), since that is probably the biggest risk we’ll face over the next few generations. The transcript below recounts our conversation.

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Mother Earth Speaks up on Climate Change

Mr. Money Mustache: Thanks a lot for the interview, and thanks for everything you do. Your fine bounty is really what makes life worth living, for all of us.

Mother Earth: No problem, and thanks for caring. Since all living things are really just rearrangements of my own atoms, you are all my children, and thus my own reason for living as well.

MMM: So, how do you feel about all the damage we humans have been inflicting upon you in recent centuries? Are we at risk of destroying you?

Earth: (chuckles) Goodness, no! I’m far too big to ever be destroyed, short of being thrown into the Sun. But what you humans do risk, is destroying your own bountiful way of life.

Right now, your prosperity is provided by a plentiful supply of clean air, water, food, and energy. Although some of you like to take all the credit for this, it’s really my ecosystem that does all the hard work: the plants, animals, oceans, air currents, and especially the atmosphere. Without these services, you would lose your ability to create the food and products that form your current prosperity.

And due to your volatile, pissypants nature at times, even a slight drop in resource availability tends to cause major fighting, wars, and dictatorships.

I will be fine either way. And life will always find a way to flourish on my surface. Even some humans will probably continue to exist, since some of you are so damn clever. The question is simply how many billions of you will die in the great adjustment if you mess up the free ride you’re getting right now?

MMM: Sure, that makes sense. But pollution levels have been dropping in the richest countries as we enact better controls and technology. Won’t we eventually clean up our act?

Earth: Pollution is one thing: soot, chemicals, agricultural runoff in streams, radioactive materials. But these things wash away quickly as soon as you stop dumping them onto my surface. So yes, pollution controls have a quick effect on human wellbeing.

But what you’re missing is carbon. As in the surplus of carbon dioxide you’re pumping out through coal power plants, farms, chopping down billions of trees, and all your gas-burning machines. This has the potential to warm shit up around here, with bad results for you. By my odds, you’re already more than half way to emitting enough carbon dioxide to create that serious multi-billion-person disaster. But because it’s an exponential game, you’re within just a decade or two of reaching the end of it.

MMM: Carbon dioxide? But isn’t that a natural part of the environment? We all exhale it, plants inhale it, oceans absorb it, volcanoes belch it, and the concentrations have varied greatly throughout the history of the planet. And your climate has warmed and cooled many times in the past: during your Snowball phase about 650 million years ago, your entire surface, including the oceans and right down to the Equator, was frozen. At other times, there was subtropical vegetation on Antarctica. The first human inhabitation of North America itself was made possible by an ice bridge from Asia, which melted at the end of the recent ice age. Isn’t change just part of the program around here?

Earth: Well, you got part of it right:  Carbon dioxide controls the climate. The difference is how quickly you have cranked it up in the last blink of an eye. In the past, change happened over many thousands or millions of years. Even then, it was catastrophic to many species, killing out some, relocating others, and expanding those who were tough enough to survive and adapt.

In this case, you’ve gone apeshit overnight and are still cranking up the speed. This means a lightning-fast rise in temperature when you think in my time scale – faster than many plants and animals can adapt to. That will take a chunk out of your ecosystem, and remember that the ecosystem is the basis for your nice way of life. Without it, you’re no longer rich. The Ecosystem is the Economy.

earth_toilet_no

MMM: OK, so there is that. But maybe we can use our rapidly advancing technology to compensate. And the temperature thing couldn’t be that bad either, right? I live in Colorado, and a few extra degrees would be nice in the winter so I could plant some Avocado trees in my back yard. In fact, most of your land mass is in the North and fairly far from the equator, such that we might even end up with more productive land if the climate warmed. Canada and Russia are still mostly empty in their Northern reaches.

And what do you say about the naysayers who deny that global warming even exists, generally speaking up every time a bout of unusually cold weather strikes?

Earth: You sound like an oil executive right now. But let’s get things straight: first of all, we call it climate change because the changes are unpredictable and happen in various ways. On average, I am getting warmer. Fast. This means there is more energy in store, which lifts more water vapor from the ocean and pushes it around with stronger winds. Bigger storms, more intense snowfalls and rainfalls, more severe droughts, and just more surprises in general.

As for the warming of previously-frozen areas: this is true: you’ll get more farmland up there in the North. But more farmable land will probably mean even more natural ecosystems being chopped down. Meanwhile, you will also lose a lot of your best stuff down South as it becomes too hot or dry for farming.

And even more importantly, you’ll lose your current coastlines, where the most valuable cities are. Because even a tiny warming of the poles will melt enough ice to raise the entire sea by several feet. There’s enough ice on Greenland alone to raise all the oceans 20 feet. And guess what’s happening to Greenland right now? If you melt even a fraction of my big ice reserves, you will flood out billions of people, which will cause you great expense, famine, and fighting.

MMM: Funny you should mention more intense storms. Two years ago, my city of Longmont, Colorado received 12 inches of rain in a single storm. That’s about the amount of rain we normally get in an entire year. This caused the creek that runs through the town to swell into a giant brown river that swept away several people, washed away bridges and flooded a few hundred houses and businesses. This was a 500-year flood, which means it has never happened since any buildings larger than the teepees of the Native Americans were around. Maybe never at all – nobody knows.

It’s costing us about $175 million to rebuild from that one rainstorm alone, which is roughly $2000 per person, for every person in the city including the babies. I can’t help but wonder what other, better uses we could have put such a huge sum of money to use for. On a worldwide basis, storm damage is increasing rapidly and the cost is in the trillions.

Earth: You got it. Events like hurricane Katrina, Sandy, and your flood will all become much more common as the climate warms. It takes energy to move all that water around, and you’re just storing more energy when you trap heat with the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide. And the fancier your cities and houses are, the more expensive it gets when big storms wipe them out.

I can’t help but notice that your greater Miami area, one of the most expensive chunks of seaside infrastructure ever built by humans, sits right at sea level and could be completely underwater within a generation based on current ocean rise.

MMM: Shit.. maybe we had better try to slow down the climate change after all. But we’re more or less addicted to fossil fuels, as they do all the work for us. If we reduce their use, we slow our own economy. What can we do?

Earth: Nonsense! You’re talking in that Exxon voice again. There is enough energy in the sunlight that strikes my surface in an hour, to power your whole seven billion person belching smokestack of a world economy for more than a year. Of course you can’t harvest it all, or even one hundredth of it. But this is about a nine thousand-to-one safety margin, before you even get into any other source of power.

MMM: All right, let me go and run the numbers on this. Maybe there is a way that modern, smartphone-loving, jet-aircraft-flying humans can still achieve peace with our own planet while still maintaining a booming, high-tech economy, bring more prosperity and happier lives to the billion or more people still in deep poverty, and still be able to have just as much fun as we do right now.

Preview: this won’t be hard,  as I can’t help but run these numbers all the time. I have them tattoed on my back and written in crazy man lipstick on my bathroom mirror. So tune in for the next article where we’ll cover how to combine even more wealth with an almost-instantaneous stop to overheating the planet.

  • Zephyr911 March 15, 2016, 1:52 pm

    THIS. SO MUCH THIS.
    I like to say, “it’s the humanity, stupid”.
    We’re not going to kill the planet, but we stand a very real chance of killing ourselves, or at least ruining the fun for those who come after us. Let’s not do that.

    Reply
    • The Roamer March 15, 2016, 8:53 pm

      Exactly it has never been a concern that the earth would implode and destroy us all. But humans … Yep I have been much more concerned about that ever since reading a article by Jacob from ERE.

      He made it sound like we had already passed the point of no return. And that by 2050 things would be looking grim…. The news made feel pretty bad.I could not seem to apply the optimism gun.

      So I am hoping next article has some good news.

      Reply
  • Scott March 15, 2016, 2:06 pm

    I am curious if you or Mother Earth have seen Cowspiracy. The documentary suggests that the amount of carbon produced by burning fossil fuels is almost insignificant compared to the carbon footprint of modern agriculture. What is your perspective on this?

    Reply
    • Bike Bubba March 15, 2016, 2:12 pm

      I believe this is true. There was a scandal a while back where they were planting oil palms in the peat bogs of Indonesia, exposing all that peat to oxygen and releasing about as much carbon dioxide as was released by all of Western Europe. So plowing the soil can release a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide….and conversely, smart farming techniques can sequester huge amounts as well. I believe they estimate that the break even period for corn cultivation (when one starts from virgin prairie/forest) is something like 100 years using current methods.

      One thing you also need to be careful about is that certain ecosystems need to be grazed to be healthy, so you’ve got to be at least a little careful about what you do. It’s really fairly complex.

      Reply
      • Ralfeg7 March 16, 2016, 8:55 am

        You’re right, palm oil is destroying the rainforest, exposing peat grounds, and doing lots of other bad stuff (slavery, child labor, etc.). But guess what, we literally asked for it. Companies use palm oil because it is highly saturated, has a high melt point, and is much more stable than liquid oils. But there is this fantastic technology that exists that could solve all our problems, this technology takes liquid oil and turns it into solid fat! It’s a miracle technology that utilizes cheap and readily available soy and canola (north american oils) which have less impact to the environment that bulldozing the rain forest for palm. What is this miracle technology you ask? Hydrogenation. Yep, those pesky trans fats just happed to be our way out of the palm problem. In fact the U.S. used much less palm during the heyday of trans fats. It was all that public outcry about trans fats killing us and such that forced companies to switch to rainforest destroying palm. In my mind we have to choose between the lesser of two evils, a fat product that is less taxing on the environment but may shorten our lifespans by a few years. Or a tropical oil that is created by destroying the rainforest – enabaling child labor, and financing less than friendly governments. What would you choose?

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache March 16, 2016, 9:34 am

          Pretty interesting point Ralfeg. There are other choices too, like just not eating any of the processed foods that would use EITHER of these types of oils. I use a load of olive oil, butter, nuts, eggs, and so on for my fat sources.

          I also consume some organic Coconut oil (Costco) which might be contributing to a high environmental footprint. But it’s so nutritionally dense (10,320 calories for each 2.5 pound container), it seems promising because it’s so compact.

          Reply
          • vexed87 March 16, 2016, 10:24 am

            The palm oil problem is an easy one to solve, but it requires effort on everyone’s part, simple consumer choice. Kicking palm oil’s butt is not necessarily about manufacturer’s finding alternatives, there’s plenty, but consumers avoiding products that contain it.

            It’s consumer demand that drives the destruction of the rainforests.

            http://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/which-everyday-products-contain-palm-oil

            Above is a bunch of common uses of palm oil, what is the solution?

            In true MMM style, DIY the shit out of it. If you make it yourself, you know what went in it, you know it doesn’t have palm oil in it.

            Reply
          • Matthew Swanson March 16, 2016, 10:41 am

            What about adopting a vegan diet? I’m not sure there’s any change one can make that has as much positive environmental impact as that. It’s win-win everywhere, unless you’re a complainy-pants “bacon though” kind of person. Environment benefit. Health benefit. Ethical benefit.*

            * If you don’t buy into the “animals shouldn’t be raped/killed” argument, you can feed way more people on plants than animals so that probably has a positive moral component to it.

            Reply
            • Dave C March 16, 2016, 11:12 am

              Raped?! What feedlots are you visiting?

              Reply
              • Bob March 16, 2016, 2:45 pm

                I think Matthew is referring to animals needing to be almost constantly pregnant to support the industry. Some might argue it is “rape” if the animal isn’t breeding by its own free will.

                Just speculation though!

                Lab created meat to the rescue???

              • Matthew Swanson March 17, 2016, 9:27 am

                Thankfully not many, but Bob is right. Many of the practices in the dairy industry could be considered rape. But, as I mentioned, if the whole anti-animal cruelty thing isn’t your cup of tea, just ignore that and focus on the environmental aspects of what you eat and support. If you support the meat and dairy industry and want to call yourself an environmentalist, there are some pretty big problems with that.

                So eat more plants. Become healthier. Help the environment. Simple!

              • Dave C March 17, 2016, 1:00 pm

                OK that makes sense, though I’d call is something else – cruel indeed but perhaps not rape. A male forcing itself onto a female is not an uncommon phenomenon in the Animal Kingdom – but I’d have trouble equating that with “rape” as well, at least how us humans understand it.

                For me, a mostly vegetarian diet with meat indulgences works. I eat lots of eggs though.

                On the topic, and as you seem to be knowledgeable, any benefit in paying extra for those free-run eggs? Healthy/less-impactful/less-cruel alternative or marketing ploy?

              • Matthew Swanson March 17, 2016, 1:55 pm

                I’m not that knowledgeable about cage-free, but, like most things, am guessing the answer is “it depends.” I’m sure there are some idyllic farms out there where hens are treated humanely. But I think it’s mostly marketing around the semantics of not having a zillion chickens all caged up (and instead just having them crammed in an open area). There are a lot of case studies online calling BS on it. Here’s one example: http://www.humanemyth.org/cagefree.htm

              • Georgia March 23, 2016, 2:02 am

                About the free-range eggs question–of course it’s a marketing gimmick, much like EVERYTHING ELSE EVER is a marketing gimmick :) As we know, if somebody can make it into a gimmick, it’s gonna be made into a gimmick! BUT just because it’s a gimmick doesn’t make it not true. Free-range chickens are treated better in general than ones that have their beaks and wing tips chopped off and spend their whole lives eating nasty shit and being injected with scary shit and living in their own shit without being able to turn around or ever see the sun, EVER…but it isn’t hard to improve on that! My two cents (and there are two of ’em!) : find someone to provide your eggs whose farm you can visit, or whom you have met and can show you photos of their farm. It sounds like a lot of effort, but think about it–it’s a one-time deal and then for years to come you don’t have to waste mental energy debating over which eggs to buy at the grocery store! So much time saved! Second cent: why would you put something that’s been tortured, poisoned and raised in its own shit into your body? And would you want to put that sad creature’s woulda-been baby into your body? Cause if you don’t hate your body, you probably don’t want to eat anything that came within a mile of a sick sad battery hen.

            • Tony March 17, 2016, 8:32 am

              Have you heard of Memphis Meats? I’m interested to hear vegan/vegetarians thoughts about it? It’s totally lab grown. They take a sample from a living animal (basically a cotton swab type thing, nothing too harmful) and don’t have to interact with the animal again for a while.

              Do you think that this eliminates the ethical portion? No more slaughter or tight confines or any of that. The biggest plus for me, almost purely a carnivore, is the fact that the meat is not exposed to any sort of feces or contaminants.

              Reply
            • MandalayVA March 17, 2016, 9:16 am

              Um … you call chopping down rain forests, killing millions of small animals and insects (ever see what a harvester does to a gopher? I have. It’s not pretty), and lots of child labor “environment benefits?” No matter how you eat, something has to die so you can. Period.

              Reply
              • Matthew Swanson March 17, 2016, 1:59 pm

                I think most rain forests are being chopped down to create land for animal agriculture, not farmland.

            • phred March 17, 2016, 11:56 am

              All of us switching to a vegan diet will kill more animals than are killed now. Enough “new” land will have to be cleared for crop-raising that the habitat destruction will be horrendous.

              Reply
              • Matt March 17, 2016, 12:18 pm

                That’s pretty much entirely false. Most of the food that we currently grow goes to feed livestock for the meat/dairy industry.

                All those cows, pigs, and chickens eat a lot.

                I don’t have the exact numbers, but I’ve seen several sources claim that if humans ate all the food that we currently grow specifically to feed to livestock, something like 800 million to a billion people could be fed with no new farmland required.

                Feel free to look more into that if you’d like. Raising animals just to eat them is incredibly inefficient.

              • Frapa March 20, 2016, 7:07 am

                I think this is false. Lots of crops are grown to feed livestock and that takes up lots of place.

                The only think I’m worried about the vegan diet is the rebound effect. I think that if everyone ate vegan, we would be able to produce much more food. Thus the population would increase, because it is a natural law that abundance of food results in increased population. This would cancel out the reduced carbon footprint.

                Moreover I think that reduction of population is a quite difficult business that will take long time.

          • Stacy March 16, 2016, 10:45 am

            Dairy farms have large carbon footprints. A gallon of milk weighs 8.6 pounds and has a footprint of about 17.6 pounds of CO2 equivalent (Univ of Arkansas). It takes a little over 21 pounds of whole milk to make a pound of butter (USDA). So about 2 and 1/2 gallons of milk per pound of butter which is a footprint of about 44 pounds CO2 equivalent. I would be hesitant to call butter a sustainable choice.

            Reply
            • Mr. Money Mustache March 16, 2016, 12:20 pm

              Thanks for the numbers, Stacy. Assuming they are right for now, is that unreasonable? 1 gallon of whole milk is good for 2400 calories and 128 grams of protein: roughly a day’s calories for an adult and more than the average person needs for a day’s protein.

              A day’s food for the CO2 equivalent of burning about 0.9 gallons of gasoline. Most people burn more gas than this just doing nothing at all – driving an empty truck back and forth on the same stretch of land to transport just a single human body, for example.

              My only point here is that milk might still be a much more efficient source of high-quality protein than meat. However, there are surely even better ones. There’s the combination of rice and beans, or fish, or eggs, and many I haven’t even looked up yet. I’ve been working with my entomologist friend on a project involving cricket flour, for example.

              Reply
              • Stacy March 16, 2016, 3:21 pm

                My focus was on the fat sources mentioned; protein is another can of worms, but I’d agree with what you said about it above.. Although I’d note you didn’t mention hunted meat, which I’m assuming would even be better than dairy and some of the agribusiness crops too.

                Looking more deeply into the fat issue I found this interesting paper titled “The Environmental Impact of Palm Oil and Other Vegetable Oils”, some interesting facts and comparison charts there if anyone’s curious like me – http://palmoilis.mpob.gov.my/publications/POD/pod51-erich.pdf

              • Evan March 16, 2016, 7:39 pm

                You may want to reconsider your definition of “high quality” protein given the scientifically proven detrimental effects of animal protein.

                http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/protein/

                Essentially, animal protein increases the rate of ageing and increases the risk of cancer growth through the IGF-1 and mTOR pathways. This is in addition to the fact that animal products are a package deal, coming with all sorts of saturated fat and cholesterol as well as bio accumulated toxins.

                I think you might like a book called “How Not to Die” by Dr. Michael Greger. It sites over 1,000 peer-reviewed articles in explaining how to avoid the top killers through dietary intervention.

                I also think that you need to look beyond carbon when looking at the impact of food choices: rain forest destruction, grass land destruction, mass extinctions, water shortages, and the impending end of all significant marine life within the next 35 years are all important.

                Mother nature is not going to be able to bumble along if we go over a tipping point.

                The majority of the earth’s oxygen is converted from CO2 by plankton, which rely on nutrient upwelling by fish and marine mammals. What’s going to happen if there is no upwelling because there are no fish or marine mammals left? I don’t know, but I’m guessing it’s not going to be good.

                This is excluding all of the other considerations with animal products, such as the immeasurable suffering caused to animals, the fact that grains are being taken from countries with starving people to feed to animals (over 350 starve to death every hour while we feed 110 tons of grains to animals), as well as the massive health care crisis (heart disease and diabetes as well as many other chronic diseases are diseases directly related to animal product consumption).

                I hope you will consider all of this with an open mind.

                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2JytUitqB0

              • RDK March 17, 2016, 4:14 pm

                Unless your friend has an interest in the origin of words, I suspect he’s an entomologist, not an etymologist

              • Mr. Money Mustache March 17, 2016, 5:12 pm

                Curse that autocorrect! Thanks, I fixed it :-)

              • Davin March 19, 2016, 10:33 am

                I’ve been experimenting with alternative protein sources. Lately Beyond Meat (http://www.beyondmeat.com) has been my go-to. MUCH better taste than the older fake meat alternatives and none of the junk ingredients.

                It’s priced competitively (their goal is to be cheaper than meat) and I can find it at most of my local grocery stores.

                Check it out if you haven’t already.

            • Adam March 18, 2016, 11:24 am

              Evan, speaking from my experience with a MS in Nutrition and Metabolism, associations of meat and cancer are a complex topic. Certainly, processed meats are associated with the development of cancer – however, the association with unprocessed meats is less strong and is seriously confounded by lifestyle factors.

              With respect to saturated fat and cholesterol, this is currently a non-issue (especially the cholesterol, which has been removed from the 2015 dietary guidelines update). Biological magnification of toxins, similarly, is more of an issue for apex predator fish like Shark rather than red meat – though still, grass-fed organic meat is the way to go.

              When discussing “high-quality” protein, bodybuilders usually refer to meat and dairy because it’s nearly twice as bioavailable and thus a much greater bang for your buck, volume-wise. And we know higher protein intake in the context of a healthy diet keeps people lean and thus metabolically healthy. I challenge you to present a scientific study that says otherwise and in favor of veganism as strongly as you suggest.

              As for the environment and farming, which aspects of agriculture are the worst for the environment is hotly debated, but meat production does need to change to reduce the carbon footprint. But I’m less knowledgeable about some of those potential solutions.

              Reply
              • Evan March 18, 2016, 9:23 pm

                Challenge accepted.

                The cancer link is not particularly challenging to make. First, you can look at population studies that have consistently shown vegetarians and vegans to have a lower mortality rate from cancers, heart disease, all cause mortality, as well metabolic syndrome (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4073139/). If you think there are too many confounding factors, we can look at mechanistic data:

                With colorectal cancer you can look at the putrefaction of sulfur containing amino acids found in high concentrations in meat products into hydrogen sulfide, a carcinogen:

                K Windey, V De Preter, K Verbeke. Relevance of protein fermentation to gut health. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2012 Jan;56(1):184-96.

                SJ O’Keefe, M Kidd, G Espitalier-Noel, P Owira. Rarity of colon cancer in Africans is associated with low animal product consumption, not fiber. Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 May;94(5):1373-80.

                SJ O’Keefe, D Chung, N Mahmoud, AR Sepulveda, M Manafe, J Arch, H Adada, T van der Merwe. Why do African Americans get more colon cancer than Native Africans? J Nutr. 2007 Jan;137(1 Suppl):175S-182S.

                P Evenepoel, D Claus, B Geypens, M Hiele, K Geboes, P Rutgeerts, Y Ghoos. Amount and fate of egg protein escaping assimilation in the small intestine of humans. Am J Physiol. 1999 Nov;277(5 Pt 1):G935-43.

                SJ O’Keefe, et al. Products of the colonic microbiota mediate the effects of diet on colon cancer risk. J Nutr. 2009 Nov;139(11):2044-8.

                JH Cummings, MJ Hill, ES Bone, WJ Branch, DJ Jenkins. The effect of meat protein and dietary fiber on colonic function and metabolism. II. Bacterial metabolites in feces and urine. Am J Clin Nutr. 1979 Oct;32(10):2094-101.

                BS Reddy, EL Wynder. Large-bowel carcinogenesis: fecal constituents of populations with diverse incidence rates of colon cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1973 Jun;50(6):1437-42.

                A plant-based diet affects the gene expression in prostate cells that can reverse the progression of prostate cancer:

                Ornish D, Weidner G, Fair WR, Marlin R, Pettengill EB, Raisin CJ, Dunn-Emke S, Crutchfield L, Jacobs FN, Barnard RJ, Aronson WJ, McCormac P, McKnight DJ, Fein JD, Dnistrian AM, Weinstein J, Ngo TH, Mendell NR, Carroll PR. Intensive lifestyle changes may affect the progression of prostate cancer. J Urol., 174(3):1065-9; discussion 1069-70, 2005.

                R. J. Barnard, N. Kobayashi, and W. J. Aronson. Effect of diet and exercise intervention on the growth of prostate epithelial cells. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis., 11(4):362-366, 2008.

                Ornish D, Magbanua MJ, Weidner G, Weinberg V, Kemp C, Green C, Mattie MD, Marlin R, Simko J, Shinohara K, Haqq CM, Carroll PR. Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 17;105(24):8369-74, 2008.

                J. Frattaroli, G. Weidner, A. M. Dnistrian, C. Kemp, J. J. Daubenmier, R. O. Marlin, L. Crutcheld, L. Yglecias, P. R. Carroll, and D. Ornish. Clinical events in prostate cancer lifestyle trial: Results from two years of follow-up. Urology, 72(6):1319-1323, 2008.

                With breast cancer, you can look at the mutagenic compound heterocyclic amine PhiP that is found in cook and fried meat not to mention higher estrogen levels related to dairy consumption.

                R. D. Holland, T. Gehring, J. Taylor, B. G. Lake, N. J. Gooderham, R. J. Turesky. Formation of a mutagenic heterocyclic aromatic amine from creatinine in urine of meat eaters and vegetarians. Chem. Res. Toxicol. 2005 18(3):579 – 590

                S. E. Steck, M. M. Gaudet, S. M. Eng, J. A. Britton, S. L. Teitelbaum, A. I. Neugut, R. M. Santella, M. D. Gammon. Cooked meat and risk of breast cancer–lifetime versus recent dietary intake. Epidemiology 2007 18(3):373 – 382

                S. Rohrmann, S.-U. L. Jung, J. Linseisen, W. Pfau. Dietary intake of meat and meat-derived heterocyclic aromatic amines and their correlation with DNA adducts in female breast tissue. Mutagenesis 2009 24(2):127 – 132

                S. N. Lauber, S. Ali, N. J. Gooderham. The cooked food derived carcinogen 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b] pyridine is a potent oestrogen: A mechanistic basis for its tissue-specific carcinogenicity. Carcinogenesis 2004 25(12):2509 – 2517

                S. N. Lauber, N. J. Gooderham. The cooked meat-derived mammary carcinogen 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine promotes invasive behaviour of breast cancer cells. Toxicology 2011 279(1 – 3):139 – 145

                L. S. DeBruin, P. A. Martos, P. D. Josephy. Detection of PhIP (2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine) in the milk of healthy women. Chem. Res. Toxicol. 2001 14(11):1523 – 1528

                Rashmi Sinha, Deborah R. Gustafson, Martin Kulldorff, Wan-Qing Wen, James R. Cerhan, Wei Zheng. 2-Amino-1-methyl-6-phenylim-idazo[4,5-b]pyridine, a Carcinogen in High-Temperature-Cooked Meat, and Breast Cancer Risk. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2000 92(16):1352 – 1354

                P. Knekt, G. Steineck, R. Järvinen, T. Hakulinen, A. Aromaa. Intake of fried meat and risk of cancer: A follow-up study in Finland. Int. J. Cancer 1994 59(6):756 – 760

                A. Ronco, E. De Stefani, M. Mendilaharsu, H. Deneo-Pellegrini. Meat, fat and risk of breast cancer: A case-control study from Uruguay. Int. J. Cancer 1996 65(3):328 – 331

                I could go on, but let’s leave that argument for now.

                As for your cholesterol argument, citing that it has been removed from the dietary guidelines doesn’t mean anything given that most of the committee members at the USDA are conflicted by the food and beverage industries (https://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2010nl/jul/sc%20herman.indd.pdf). The removal of the guideline was likely based on a 2013 meta analysis study found here (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3900007/). If you take the time to read the 12 articles cited in the metaanalysis, you’ll find that eight are paid for by the American Egg Board, and three of the remaining for by other industry lobby groups. If you further read those 12 studies, you’ll find that 10 of 11 studies (one didn’t report) found an unfavorable relationship between dietary cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and 9 of 10 (two didn’t report) found an unfavorable relationship between dietary cholesterol and total cholesterol, leaving one lone study finding a favorable change. Many of the studies were not statistically significant because the egg industry knows to keep populations sizes low precisely to keep findings non-significant. That way they can headline that dietary cholesterol doesn’t impact blood cholesterol, even though it does. If you look at a broad section of studies on dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol, you’ll notice that non-industry funded studies drop off in the 1990s as the scientific consensus was clear. Simply speaking, funding agencies stopped funding the studies because it was so obvious that dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol are causally linked.

                As for the bio-accumulation of toxins in meat, you are correct that it is much worse in fish but it doesn’t need to get to the level of apex predator to cause problems in humans. Simply look at the neurotoxin beta-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) that accumulates in fish. It is now the best theory as to the cause of ALS. So on the broad scope of bio-accumulation of toxins in animal products, I think it’s difficult to argue that it is not a concern. If you look at glycotoxins, 95% of dietary sources of them come from meat, with especially high sources from land-based animals such as chickens. These are considered a significant contributor to metabolic syndrome.

                H Vlassara, W Cai, J Crandal, T Goldberg, R Oberstein, V Dardaine, M Peppa, EJ Rayfield. Inflammatory mediators are induced by dietary glycotoxins, a major risk factor for diabetic angiopathy. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Nov 26;99(24):15596-601.

                InterAct Consortium, B Bendinelli, D Palli, G Masala, SJ Sharp, MB Schulze, M Guevara, AD van der, F Sera, P Amiano, B Balkau, A Barricarte, H Boeing, FL Crowe, CC Dahm, G Dalmeijer, B de Lauzon-Guillain, R Egeberg, G Fagherazzi, PW Franks, V Krogh, JM Huerta, P Jakszyn, KT Khaw, K Li, A Mattiello, PM Nilsson, K Overvad, F Ricceri, O Rolandsson, MJ Sánchez, N Slimani, I Sluijs, AM Spijkerman, B Teucher, A Tjonneland, R Tumino, SW van den Berg, NG Forouh, C Langeberg, EJ Feskens, E Riboli, NJ Wareham. Association between dietary meat consumption and incident type 2 diabetes: the EPIC-InterAct study. Diabetologia. 2013
                Jan;56(1):47-59

                R Zoncu, A Efeyan, DM Sabatin. mTOR: from growth signal integration to cancer, diabetes and ageing. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2011 Jan;12(1):21-35

                EJ Feskens, D Sluik, GJ van Woudenbergh. Meat consumption, diabetes, and its complications. Curr Diab Rep. 2013 Apr;13(2):298-306

                MA Hyman MA. Environmental toxins, obesity, and diabetes: an emerging risk factor. Altern Ther Health Med. 2010 Mar-Apr;16(2):56-8

                M Peppa, T Goldberg, W Cai, E Rayfield, H Vlassara. Glycotoxins: a missing link in the “relationship of dietary fat and meat intake in relation to risk of type 2 diabetes in men”. Diabetes Care. 2002 Oct;25(10):1898-9

                BC Melnik. Leucine signaling in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes and obesity. World J Diabetes. 2012 Mar 15;3(3):38-53

                T Koschinsky, CJ He, T Mitsuhash, R Bucala, C Liu, C Buenting, K Heitmann, H Vlassara. Orally absorbed reactive glycation products (glycotoxins): an environmental risk factor in diabetic nephropathy. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Jun 10;94(12):6474-9

                DJ Magliano, VH Loh, JL Harding, J Botton, JE Shaw. Persistent organic pollutants and diabetes: a review of the epidemiological evidence. Diabetes Metab. 2014 Feb;40(1):1-14

                As for the “high-quality” protein argument, I don’t think it holds a lot of water. As long as you can keep a positive nitrogen balance, there isn’t really a huge benefit to “high quality” protein, especially given the IGF-1 and mTOR downsides. Positive nitrogen balance can easily be achieved on a vegan diet. If you’re worried about plasma protein levels, vegans have significantly higher levels than meat-eaters despite eating 20% less protein consumed:

                I. F. F. Benzie and S. Wachtel-Galor. Biomarkers in long-term vegetarian diets. Adv Clin Chem, 47:171–222, 2009.

                Second, the exercise physiology holy grail is reducing recovery time, not increasing muscle synthesis as muscle synthesis only last about 24 hours without the use of exogenous hormones. To decrease recovery time one needs to increase the intake of antioxidant rich foods and reduce the intake of pro-oxidative foods. In plain language, increase plant foods and decrease animal products and processed garbage. So the whole high-quality protein argument doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

                As for meat as a promoter of leanness, the science doesn’t back you up. Meat has been shown to increase weight gain, even controlled for calories (as well as other lifestyle factors).

                Vergnaud AC, Norat T, Romaguera D, Mouw T, May AM, Travier N, Luan J, Wareham N, Slimani N, Rinaldi S, Couto E, Clavel-Chapelon F, Boutron-Ruault MC, Cottet V, Palli D, Agnoli C, Panico S, Tumino R, Vineis P, Agudo A, Rodriguez L, Sanchez MJ, Amiano P, Barricarte A, Huerta JM, Key TJ, Spencer EA, Bueno-de-Mesquita B, Büchner FL, Orfanos P, Naska A, Trichopoulou A, Rohrmann S, Hermann S, Boeing H, Buijsse B, Johansson I, Hellstrom V, Manjer J, Wirfält E, Jakobsen MU, Overvad K, Tjonneland A, Halkjaer J, Lund E, Braaten T, Engeset D, Odysseos A, Riboli E, Peeters PH. Meat consumption and prospective weight change in participants of the EPIC-PANACEA study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Aug;92(2):398-407.

                Vegans have been shown to have the lowest BMI of any diet group.

                S. Tonstad, T. Butler, R. Yan, and G. E. Fraser. Type of vegetarian diet, body weight, and prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 32(5). 791-796, 2009.

                Let me know what you think or if you want any other citations.

          • Laura March 16, 2016, 11:51 am

            There is no need for oil of any kind in a healthful diet… oil is concentrated fat and doesn’t provide nutrition… nuts, seeds, avocados, etc. That’s all you need.

            Reply
            • Adam March 18, 2016, 11:27 am

              Even MMM has mentioned how cost-effective oils are, calorically.

              Also, your claim that all oils are unhealthy fat and have no nutrition (I assume you mean vitamins?) is just… wrong.

              Try olive oil. It’s a stunner.

              Reply
          • Purpleboarder March 17, 2016, 4:21 am

            Solazyme (now renamed TerraVia) is addressing this problem, by making food oils out of algae (made in tanks, and not taking up farming land). The sugar cane used takes up less land than Palm) check out “Thrive” cooking oil…..

            Reply
          • John March 17, 2016, 9:57 am

            Beware of ‘fake’ olive oil, usually cut with cheaper oils.

            UC Davis estimated that up to 70% of olive oil sold is adulterated in some way… cheap oil, and even chemical food coloring. Major brands are included in the UC Davis study.

            Reply
        • Bike Bubba March 17, 2016, 12:10 pm

          The Indonesian palm oil plantations were actually there to produce biodiesel, not food, for the most part. So saving the environment, so to speak, ended up trashing it–a rainforest and a bunch of carbon emissions.

          I’m all for environmentalism, but for the kind that can do math and science–sometimes, sad to say, that does not appear to be the case.

          Reply
        • Kir March 18, 2016, 11:07 am

          Animal fats. High smoke point, and yes — healthier for you than canola or soy. Comes from animals already being raised for food. A bit more costly, but again, price cannot be the sole consideration.

          Reply
    • Tom March 15, 2016, 2:18 pm

      Or the BBC special (on YouTube – The Great Global Warming Swindle) that says volcanos and the ocean are prime producers of CO2. Thoughts?

      Reply
      • Jacob March 16, 2016, 9:41 am

        Volcanoes and the ocean ARE prime producers of CO2, BUT humans are throwing off the balance. If volcanoes and oceans produce 100 CO2 (fake numbers, ignoring units) and the rainforests sequester 100 CO2, then everything is in balance. Now add humans who are adding 2 CO2 and all of the sudden things start to go out of whack.

        Reply
        • Stockbeard March 16, 2016, 12:37 pm

          Oh, who would have thought that the impact of compounding works for other things than my brokerage account?

          Reply
    • Tim March 15, 2016, 2:50 pm

      Interesting point. Kind of amazing how willing people are to ignore this aspect–or not that amazing at all, really, as it kind of forces people to look at their own behavior.

      Reply
    • Zack March 15, 2016, 3:31 pm

      Reply
    • Karen March 15, 2016, 3:35 pm

      YES! I came to the comments to say the same thing: Cowspiracy. It is a must watch. If you think reducing your shower time or driving a hybrid is important — you must look at animal agriculture. It is the BIGGEST contributor to global warming by far.

      Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than all transportation combined. And 55% of water consumption in the US. One hamburger requires 660 gallons of water to produce — equivalent to 2 months worth of showers. Not to mention methane the cows produce themselves which is far more destructive than CO2. And then there is rain forest destruction and the pollution caused by waste etc.

      If you care about the earth and consider yourself an environmentalist, you need to make the animal agriculture issue a huge priority in your every day life.

      Reply
      • Tom March 15, 2016, 10:22 pm

        “Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions”

        Where do you get this opinion? The FAO report that was recanted?

        9% for all agriculture, animal and plant, in the US
        https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources/agriculture.html

        A guy from the American Chemical Society estimates animal ag at 3% of world equivalent C02 emissions (most of animal ag’s contribution is CH4, which is much more potent than C02)
        http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/newsreleases/2010/march/eating-less-meat-and-dairy-products-wont-have-major-impact-on-global-warming.html

        “If you care about the earth and consider yourself an environmentalist, you need to make the animal agriculture issue a huge priority in your every day life.”

        That is completely incorrect.

        If you want to make a difference, as a rich country resident, you need to, in order:
        1. fly less
        2. drive less, by walking, biking, or taking public transit
        3. buy less shit

        http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/11/28/science/what-is-climate-change.html?_r=0

        This nytimes article clearly supports the truth I lay out above, which is that a single long flight is often equal in emissivity to the rest of a person’s entire lifestyle for an entire year. Yes, it also mentions eating less beef, but if you look at facts, you will see that [eating meat] vs [replacing those meat calories with vegetables] is at best a rounding error on a lifestyle’s carbon impact.

        Stop spreading disinformation about meat. It’s healthy and tasty and not worth discussing in the conversation, “what should we do about global warming?”

        Your comment on this blog is more harmful, in terms of emissions, than eating a hamburger vs an eggplant.

        Your comment uses some fossil-fuel generated electricity, will be hosted forever on MMM’s servers, and is made possible by the multi-trillion-dollar communications network called the Internet, which spews carbon, terraforms land, and destroys and divides habitats. You made the comment from a device that uses rare metals mined from all around the world, and components manufactured mostly in Asia.

        A hamburger does very similar harm by a fraction of one cow’s methane-emissive life plus fossil fuels to transport that delicious meat to the grocery or restaurant.

        The important issue is everyone finds these harms socially acceptable. If we want to fix this problem, we need to make flying and driving socially unacceptable, or invent electric airplanes.

        Reply
        • Andrea March 16, 2016, 2:12 am

          The figure is about animal agriculture is about right, my friend, although the details are slightly different (it’s not 18% of total emissions, as you point out). New data is coming out on that around mid year. It’s mainly the methane. When it comes out I can share with MMM if it would help?
          But tasty, oh yes I agree.
          Your number 1, 2 and 3 are also very important!
          Go well.

          Reply
        • Zephyr911 March 16, 2016, 11:00 am

          Those exist already. Two seaters tho.
          The best we’ll probably ever do for large commercial planes would be some flavor of biofuel.

          Reply
          • Eric March 16, 2016, 10:16 pm

            Better would be electric turbines, if we can get the energy to weight ratio of batteries high enough.

            Reply
        • Walker March 16, 2016, 2:00 pm

          I think the point you’re missing is that methane and other gases related to animal agriculture can be hundreds of times more potent greenhouse gases than CO2.

          Reply
        • scraggly March 17, 2016, 11:51 am

          While I agree that animal agriculture is overhyped as a cause of climate change (though I do think it has a non-negligible impact – since you seem to think meat is really delicious, you might want to check your biases and listen to what the smartest people who disagree with you think), I take issue with your “top 3” suggestions.

          Or, rather, I’d like to submit “0”:

          0) Apply political pressure to your government to implement environmentally sound policy. The most effective way to do this is usually to join an environmental organization in your area. Climate change is simply too big and pervasive of a problem for individuals alone to tackle – the cheap energy provided by fossil fuels is too enticing, especially for those who do not think long-term. We need our governments to commit to real action: implementing feasible public transit options and cycling infrastructure; taxing carbon emissions on fossil fuels and imported goods; closing access to public lands for fossil fuel extraction; shutting down power plants that rely on fossil fuels; funding research into alternative means energy production; and working with other governments to ensure that fossil fuel use ends as soon as possible. No amount of not getting on planes and not buying crap will create this pressure.

          This isn’t to say that we should fly to exotic locations with reckless abandon and buy one of everything down at the WalMart – reducing personal consumption does have a small impact. But more importantly, it sets an example for others to follow – it shows people that the good life is possible with less consumption, which opens them up to the possibility of accepting – and advocating for – measures such as carbon taxes and new power plant construction. But doing these things without advocating for change is like getting apple slices with your McD’s meal in an effort to lose weight: it’s a start, but if that’s all you ever do, you aren’t going to see results.

          Reply
        • phred March 17, 2016, 12:02 pm

          if cattle are grassfeed instead of grain fed is there then less methane produced

          Reply
          • Tom March 21, 2016, 11:19 am

            Probably, but STOP TALKING ABOUT REDUCING ANIMAL AG EMISSIONS. It isn’t significant!

            Fly less, drive less, and buy less,

            and

            Be part of the grid-wide solar adoption
            Contribute to the shift from petro-based transportation to biking/walking or electric vehicles.

            Reply
        • Bike Bubba March 17, 2016, 12:13 pm

          One correction; transit doesn’t actually save energy usage. The average mileage of a city bus is about 25 passenger-miles per gallon of diesel, comparable to what a diesel equipped Suburban with one person in it would get. That’s a lot lower than one “could” achieve in a perfect world, but keep in mind that a city bus is basically empty 3/4 of the time–outbound in the morning, inbound in the evening, and any time off peak. So you get about 25% of the potential mileage from transit because the bus, unlike my car or bike, doesn’t have the good sense to stay put when I’m not riding it.

          Reply
          • Adam March 18, 2016, 11:46 am

            But is that accounting for the number of passenger a bus transports or is the 3/4 empty just an approximation tacked onto it?

            Because if a bus hits 25 passenger-miles per g and that’s one vehicle for hundreds of people per day, isn’t that way better than a car even if you multiply by the (1/4) passenger load?

            Reply
          • Tom March 21, 2016, 11:30 am

            This could well be true.

            It’s difficult to measure, and your assumptions are almost certainly all wrong, but equally certainly your assumptions are most likely very close to correct.

            I personally also forego car ownership and ride bikes for the economy and health benefits, but because of the history of the US, there are car-style roads everywhere, and for virtually all Americans, the best near-term action is converting their cars and transit options to electric.

            Americans won’t ride bikes because there isn’t nice biking infrastructure, and governments aren’t building biking infrastructure because too few Americans are riding bikes. So in this sense, we are the change we want to see in the world, and we’re “voting” for better biking infrastructure every day by riding our bikes on the cars’ public infrastructure.

            The good news is, somewhere around 1-2 years ago, electric cars crossed the threshold of being “better” than ICE cars in almost every way, and range is becoming way beyond adequate across many 2016 and 2017 models.

            Now, we can sit back and watch as the adoption curve slowly replaces nasty and dangerous human-driven ICE cars with software-driven electric cars, which will make us all so much wealthier and harm the environment less.

            Reply
    • Kat March 15, 2016, 5:18 pm

      I was wondering when someone was going to bring up going vegetarian/vegan. I would assume that Mr. Money Mustache and his family are at least vegetarian?

      Reply
      • Debz March 15, 2016, 7:08 pm

        The last I read MMM was on the Paleo train and I think he still is…I might be wrong though. In the long run I am of the opinion that we can’t sustain the way we are doing things as far as animal agriculture . I’m not a vegetarian or vegan but I am increasingly cutting my consumption of animal products because of the impact on our environment as well as some of the potential negatives to my health. I wonder if MMM will stick to Paleo or go veg in the future? I’ve seen tedx talks by an anthropologist who was debunking the Paleo diet. It’s pretty interesting.

        Reply
        • scraggly March 17, 2016, 11:55 am

          IIRC, MMM does meat-lite paleo or something. Lots of veggies and nuts and beans, some meat, few simple starches. Imo, not really paleo, but a pretty good diet to follow in general. I might be wrong, though.

          Reply
        • Jean-Yves March 17, 2016, 3:20 pm

          the trend in paleo now is to eat real food, mostly plant, and a bit of animal produce. there is not one paleo diet, as there were not one single diet in the paleolitic era. Animal produce are best locally grown, grassfed etc.
          Cows that eat grass and drink water use zero fossile energy, produce less methane. So the problem is not vegan agains paleo, but industrial farming agains grassfed, organic farming.

          Reply
        • starlight March 17, 2016, 3:37 pm

          “Reducetarian” is a term I recently heard of as a way to describe those reducing animal product consumption. Here’s a link to the website: http://reducetarian.org/

          I like the accuracy of the label, because the terms Vegan and Vegetarian seem so loaded and often difficult to live by for most of us. Maybe MMM would consider himself a Reducetarian?

          Reply
    • Evan March 15, 2016, 7:02 pm

      I would love to hear MMM weigh in. I’ve seen Cowspiracy mentioned several times before in the comments of other articles and have yet to see a response. Going vegan would seem to match MMM’s ethos: not giving a shit about what the masses think and doing what makes logical sense. It’s better for the environment, better for the animals, better for our health, and better for the world’s 800 million undernourished people. We benefit in every conceivable way with no downside.

      Reply
      • Tim March 16, 2016, 8:56 am

        Evan, I’m totally with you, but as a vegetarian for 25 years, I’ve come to accept that most people just aren’t ready for the idea. It’s like going back to 1974 and announcing, “Hey, everybody! All restaurants, bars, and airplanes should be smoke-free!” Huh??!? Or going back to 1962 and announcing “I believe in marriage equality! Gay people should be able to marry, too!” People would think you’re nuts, regardless of whether you were right or not.

        The idea in particular that meat is “healthy” is a tough nut to crack. People think they need it for the protein. They’ll probably continue to think that for a long time. When the WHO classified meat as carcinogenic a few months back everybody got nervous for about two seconds and then went back to their usual routine.

        But yes, going veg is an incredibly Mustachian thing to do. If people would try it for a month they’d realize how easy it is to live without meat. That’s what happened to me 25 years ago. I was just testing it out. But it was so easy to do, and I felt so much better, that I never went back.

        Reply
        • Evan March 16, 2016, 7:46 pm

          Tim, thanks for the response. I totally agree with you. The idea of it is more scary than the actual reality of it. Here is video you might enjoy thinking of the WHO meat study:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ_vHbY7q_8

          Reply
        • Tyler March 18, 2016, 9:06 am

          I would like to posit the idea that eating meat is just fine as long as you front the land, time and monetary resources to raise it and butcher it yourself. I think if you could only eat the meat you could grow and butcher yourself, most people would eat less just as a way to stretch it out even more. Kind of a double whammy IMO and much like spending less in order to save more so that you need to save less. Any thoughts?

          Reply
          • Tim March 18, 2016, 12:42 pm

            Agree completely. Or hunting it. It’s factory farming that’s the real issue.

            Personally I wouldn’t hunt or kill it myself–I found to my surprise that was incredibly easy to do without. But if you want to make an ethical case for meat consumption, that’s the way to go.

            Reply
            • Tyler March 19, 2016, 10:03 am

              The unfortunate aspect of this idea is while I’m living in the city I’m not able to grow my own protein source(of animals) in my apartment but I also don’t really want to give up meat either. I fully intend to grow my own when I move out to the country though so hopefully I can offset my consumption now.

              Reply
      • phred March 17, 2016, 12:06 pm

        It may not be better for the environment. In the more brittle landscapes the absense of livestock interacting with the grasslands may turn that region into a desert. Alan Savory has written about this, and walks the talk

        Reply
        • Evan March 17, 2016, 6:50 pm

          I responded below to a similar comment about the poly-face agriculture/Alan Savory argument. The problem is with land-use. Current grazing methods are causing desertification. To switch to grazing methods that are less harmful, overall meat consumption would need to drop dramatically as the methods are less land efficient than factory farming. I also think there is an important distinction between animals and livestock. There’s no need to kill the animals that could restore an ecosystem to balance.

          I don’t think it’s a full assessment of the problem and impacts to say that because a few farmers using novel techniques are making progress means that being vegan isn’t better for the environment. Right now the vast majority of people eat factory farmed animal products which do have a large environmental impact. Thus I don’t think the argument follows. The only way to get poly-face farming to be more widely adopted is to take the pressure of land use by reducing meat consumption.

          I also don’t think that vegans are arguing for the removal of all animals from a ecosystem but rather for the restoration of an ecosystem to more natural conditions where wild ruminants could play the role they need to in restoring grasslands. Wouldn’t that be the ideal solution: farm plant foods on a fraction of the current land needed for animal agriculture and allow that remaining land to be restored to wild grasslands and forests, providing a large carbon sink.

          Reply
      • scraggly March 17, 2016, 12:10 pm

        This is my default response to Cowspiracy:

        http://newint.org/blog/2016/02/10/cowspiracy-stampeding-in-the-wrong-direction/

        Basically, I think animal agriculture is an important consideration in the handling of global warming and the environment in general – but I think it is vastly overhyped. I think this mostly comes from the crowd who are already vegan or vegetarian for ethical reasons. While they have some points as far as ethics, they seem to think this justifies overemphasizing the impact that meat production has on the environment, which I see as dishonest and detrimental to environmentalism in the long run.

        I think we definitely need to tackle factory farming as part of a larger environmental plan – but it isn’t the end-all-be-all of environmental protection by a long shot.

        Also, sidebar, it’s my policy to never ever trust a documentary. Documentaries exist, first and foremost, to entertain – if they aren’t entertaining, they don’t get funded, if they don’t get funded, they don’t exist. The easiest way for a documentary to create entertainment and prompt people to share it is by being a rage-machine, which gives the documentary an incentive to be very one-sided. Imo, if you are going to talk about a documentary at all, the responsible thing to do is to do a thorough search of the most intelligent criticisms of the film that you can find before trusting anything the doc says.

        Reply
    • Duncan Noble March 16, 2016, 1:27 pm

      Cowspiracy raises some important issues but is simply wrong on its headline number many people quote. That number is based on one study that has been discredited multiple times. Agriculture accounts for far less total carbon footprint than burning fossil fuels. Agriculture accounts for around 15% of total man made GHG emissions, not the much higher number used in Cowspiracy. For a more detailed discussion of this, plus some great suggestions on what you can do about it check out this article:

      http://climateandcapitalism.com/2016/02/13/22449/

      Excerpt:

      “So to anyone who’s been moved by Cowspiracy and wants to take action on animal agriculture, I have a few friendly suggestions:

      1. Don’t use the 51 per cent figure. Please. You’re making us all look bad.
      2. Please do go vegan, but remember that it won’t lead to political change by itself. Look for groups and campaigns that are pushing for meaningful action on this issue, or who have good, thoughtful strategies for challenging the culture of mass meat and dairy consumption in industrialized nations.
      3. Resist the temptation to just preach at everyone about veganism. Instead, be prepared to work with non-vegan groups and networks as part of a broader movement for fair and sustainable agriculture, especially those representing agricultural workers, small farmers and Southern communities (such as La Via Campesina).
      4. If you want more people to understand that animal agriculture is a significant part of the climate change picture, bear in mind that there are lots of good reasons why many people are focusing on the fossil fuel industry and it’s not an either/or issue. Fossil fuels are the biggest cause of climate change, and the companies that profit from them wield huge political power. We need to find ways to support each other’s causes and tackle all these problems together, rather than fight over which one is more important.
      5. Find meaningful ways to act in solidarity with people on the frontlines of this issue. For example, if you want to stop the mass felling of trees for cattle ranching and other destructive industries, one of the most effective things you can do is to support forest peoples in their struggle to defend their land rights.
      6. Turn up, join in, and help out. The UK Climate Camps – and their successors, the Reclaim the Power anti-fracking camps – have been challenging the fossil fuel industry since 2006, and have had entirely vegan kitchens for the whole of that time. This is largely due to the fact that enough vegan campaigners were practically involved from the beginning, making the case for animal-free cookery while also playing an active part in the camps themselves. This seems a far more effective way to win people over to the importance of livestock’s climate impact than posting snarky messages on strangers’ Facebook walls.

      Reply
      • Tim March 16, 2016, 4:18 pm

        The guy who wrote that is essentially a realist. Yes, he’s saying, it would be great if everyone went vegetarian or vegan, but that’s not going to happen, so what else can we do?

        And whatever statistical quirks might have turned up in that movie, it doesn’t take away from the basic point, that meat production ends up being a huge climate-change problem, and one that most people are completely oblivious to. It’s probably as big a problem as the entire transportation section, although quitting meat would actually have a better outcome, at least in the short-term, than quitting fossil-fuel-based transportation, since methane would cycle out of the atmosphere in a period of decades (as opposed to centuries for carbon dioxide).

        But as I said in some other post up there somewhere, people aren’t quite ready for this idea. Most people react by getting defensive, or by denying the existence of the problem. A very human reaction, probably, but unfortunately one that doesn’t do shit for the environment.

        Reply
    • Julia March 16, 2016, 5:00 pm

      It all depends on how your meat is sourced. Grazier Greg Judy in Missouri is producing beef with a negative carbon footprint. His land (his own property, plus several properties owned by others) is increasing its carbon sequestration every year. Depth of top soil is increasing, biodiversity is increasing, percent organic matter (that’s primarily carbon) in the soil is increasing, via intensively managed grazing. The cattle are improving the land. He’s not the only farmer doing this, but he’s one that I’ve met.

      Most meat in this country comes from horribly destructive systems, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Our great plains are made for ungulates in huge numbers, we just need more people to take on this way of ranching. Joel Salatin’s farm produces amazing quantities of food with a pretty small carbon footprint. Alan Savory explained how this works in his TED talk.

      Reply
      • Evan March 17, 2016, 7:37 am

        I agree that improper grazing is leading a massive problems with grasslands. With that said, if you do the math on switching to better grassland management techniques, it would need to be accompanied by a massive reduction in meat consumption to accomplish with the amount of land we have. I believe it’s between 6-12x less land efficient to us Joel Salatin’s techniques than a feed lot (I got in the same arguement with my brother and did the math). Given the increase in human population and affluence is expected to double meat consumption over the next several decades, each individual who is eating meat would need to cut consumption dramatically in order to make a system like this work (6 to 24x less meat consumption depending on assumptions).

        The danger with ideas and stories like this are that people use them to justify not making changes (not saying that is what you are doing, just making the point that it happens). They say, well “meat could have less of an impact, therefore it isn’t bad”. Or, “I want to support this farmer because they’re using better farming techniques” all the while not realizing that that farmer’s meat is sold out and less environmentally conscious consumers who are getting crowded out are eating regular meat. Essentially, overall meat consumption matters as it is the only thing that will allow farms to actually switch to sustainable agricultural practices. If you really want farmers to switch to better techniques, the best thing you can do is eat no animal products. This takes the pressure off the agricultural system and would allow farmers to move from feed lots and traditional grazing to better grazing rotation.

        I really admire that you are looking into issues like this and I encourage you to keep digging.

        Reply
        • Kevin March 19, 2016, 8:30 am

          Evan,

          Would you be willing to post your calculations about land use? I have read claims that intensive grazing would not require more space than feedlot production when you account for the vast acreage used for ceral grain production to supply feedlots. Also have seen claims that feedlot system uses less land. I am truly curious about the numbers, and it seems that if intensive grazing does sequester carbon in the soil as claimed, it could help reduce CO2 levels.

          Reply
          • Evan March 19, 2016, 9:20 pm

            Hi Kevin,

            I agree the grassland restoration will be key in reducing climate change. I would argue that restoring wild lands would do this with wild ruminants playing a key role (wouldn’t it be nice to see wild buffaloes and horses roaming the Great Plains).

            I have based my original calculation on the following document that stated feed lot farming as being about 12.6 times more land efficient than traditional grass fed animals (I totally get the source is biased). I saw a video (can’t find it now but it was about some Canadians applying the techniques) that said the farming technique was about twice as efficient as traditional grass fed methods. Hence the 6-12x. I think I saw somewhere that Joel claims much higher efficiencies. Again, couldn’t find the video but I could be totally wrong about this and am happy to be corrected. The doubling of meat consumption is from Richard Oppenlander’s talk which I have linked below. I haven’t independently verified the number but Oppenlander seems to be on pretty strong grounds if you back check him.

            I’ve done a bunch of research today and had mixed result. I had not initially realized that all cattle are grass fed for a portion of their lives then they move to the feed lot. It’s hard, if not impossible, to quantify the impact of this, but it would certainly help the argument that poly-face techniques are less inefficient (even factory farmed animals could use less land in that initial period with better techniques).

            Other than that, I noted a lot of mixed claims from a lot of blog type articles and a noted absence of high quality research (some claimed more methane production, some less). So, the only conclusion I can come to is that I frankly don’t know the difference in land use between factory farmed animals vs. grass fed vs. poly-face. I would love for all the people who claim poly-face style farming can save the world to actually produce the numbers and scientific research, but I haven’t seen that here, or online.

            I think I didn’t make my true point in my first post. So, if you’ll give me a little rope, let me get my thought out.

            My thought on the poly-face argument is that it is a red-herring. It is being used as an excuse not to take action.

            Essentially the argument goes as follow (and this is what I have seen in the comments here as well as people in real life that I’ve debated this with): poly-face farming techniques exist in the world, therefore eating meat is ok (it’s not environmentally damaging). When it’s presented like this, it’s fairly clear to see it as a fallacious argument. That would be like saying, electric cars exist, therefore driving doesn’t damage the environment. The fact that a minuscule group of farmers are using a novel technique is being used as a way to green-wash meat consumption. The people who use poly-face as a justification for meat are buying factory farmed meat all the time (at least that is my experience).

            The reality of our current food system at 7:35pm on March 19th, 2016 is that meat production and consumption is incredibly destructive. Contrary to MMM’s article, other measures of environmental sustainability matter. Bio-diversity matters, life in oceans matters, fresh water supply and usage matters, land use matters. On all these measures, animal products is incredibly destructive. As much as people here are nit-picking Cowspiracy, the overall impact of meat consumption is well illustrated in that documentary. Whether its 51% or 18% or 13% of CO2 production, what does it matter. The impact is bad, really bad. Rain forests are being destroyed, water shortages are getting worse, species are going extinct, every inch of wild space is being consumed, fish are being massacred, and yes, climate change is accelerating. The root cause of this is the insatiable demand for animal products.

            If one steps out of justifying existing behavior and looks for the truth, it really isn’t that hard to see.

            If you want to take real action to prevent these disasters from occurring, going vegan is the only rational course of action to take.

            One may argue that we need to support poly-face farmers or that poly-face doesn’t cause these problems. I disagree. Their meat is already being sold to consumers. If you buy their meat, some other consumer is going to buy factory farmed meat. One day, that might not be the case, but right now, it is. With growth in demand expect, I doubt that this will change any time soon. What matters right now is overall demand. By reducing overall demand, we have a chance at saving the planet.

            Plus, one must consider the health impacts of meat consumption. I’ve posted about the elsewhere here, but suffice it to say, meat consumption is the leading cause of heart disease and diabetes and a contributory factor to cancers and many other chronic diseases. The health care crisis now faced in North America is a diet crisis, with a huge portion of the cause meat consumption (the remaining being processed foods). If you disagree, please read “How Not to Die” by Dr. Michael Greger. It cites over 1,000 studies and summarized all of the relevant research on diet and disease related to America’s top killers.

            Perhaps most importantly, and least discussed, one must consider the animals in this equation. They suffer immensely (yes, even the grass-fed ones). One may attempt to justify that suffering, but the fact that farmed animals suffer is hard to deny (watch Earthlings if you doubt that).

            Putting it all together, animal products consumption doesn’t make a lot of sense. I encourage you to enter the moral fray. If you care about this planet, do the research (don’t take my word for it) and commit to taking real action based on what you find.

            I apologize if this was more than you asked for or more forceful that you might have expected. This is something that is very dear to me and something I am passionate about remedying in this world.

            Best of luck.

            http://www.beefissuesquarterly.com/beefissuesquarterly.aspx?id=4105

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2JytUitqB0

            Reply
            • Kevin March 20, 2016, 7:43 pm

              Evan,

              Thank you for a well thought out and thorough reply. Having watched Earthlings, Conspiracy, etc., my daughter went vegan recently, but I have not but am open. I did some googling and found some info on the subject but will have to post later. Again thanks for your response and no need to apologetic – your passion is commendable.

              Kevin

              Reply
  • David March 15, 2016, 2:13 pm

    After the Great Depression, the government pumped money into the economy to get people working, and a lot of that money was on infrastructure projects.

    I was really disappointed that we didn’t do the same after the recent recession, by building alternative energy infrastructure (like solar farms). It would’ve been a great opportunity.

    Unfortunately the recent oil prices are going to seriously set us back.

    Reply
    • Bike Bubba March 15, 2016, 2:47 pm

      David, look up funding for the U.S. Department of Energy. Our nation spends tens of billions of dollars every year on exactly what you’re talking about. I think the rub is that a lot of “earth friendly” projects aren’t as earth friendly as we’d have thought they were. Have you ever seen how much energy, for example, silicon foundries use–the kind of plant that makes solar panels and such? Getting more energy out of the solar panel or windmill than you put into making it is not a gimme, especially in northern latitudes.

      Reply
      • Mike March 15, 2016, 4:54 pm

        It takes less than 3 years for a solar panel to payback the energy from it’s production…they last 25-50 years. Here is a map based on European irradiance. The US is much better than Europe. http://c1cleantechnicacom.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/files/2013/12/energy-payback-solar-europe.png

        Reply
        • Marcia March 15, 2016, 5:12 pm

          But what about the waste? I’ve never actually looked into any statistics or studies. I’m not in the solar industry. But I am in the semiconductor industry, trying to “save energy”. It’s not just the energy to make the panels or devices. It’s the chemicals, the paper, the solvents, the silicon wafers, the metals, the packaging. The plastic boxes that I just stuffed into the recycling bin because nobody wants to reuse them.

          Reply
          • Steve March 16, 2016, 1:21 pm

            Which is why solar panels are now mostly made in China. They can dump the waste in somebody’s backyard or the nearest river.

            Reply
          • Bob March 16, 2016, 3:29 pm

            I agree. I’m never sure on the overall benefits of leaving (or figuratively leaving) the grid.

            Does my gasoline sipping Civic beat a Prius overall in terms of total earth-damage. Greed aside, can the power company produce power more cleanly overall. And so on.

            Reply
        • Bike Bubba March 17, 2016, 12:20 pm

          Not quite so fast. Now, let’s take into account the power added efficiency of coal fired power plants powering those silicon foundries in China of maybe 30%. Now we’re talking ten years or so, and that’s my best guess about the real long term reliability of these systems.

          (sorry, I’ve been doing electronics reliability for a living for nearly two decades, and have also kept track of how long my “long lasting” CF and LED bulbs last….for all but the best products, divide the rated lifetime by a factor of three to five and you’re closer to the truth)

          Reply
      • David March 15, 2016, 11:02 pm

        The amount of money pumped into the economy post-2007 was orders of magnitudes larger than the DoE’s total budget, much less the part that goes to alternative energies.

        Reply
  • Tom March 15, 2016, 2:16 pm

    Awwww MMM,

    Had to go there too? Disappointed and wondering how this relates to the purpose (I thought) of the blog, “Financial Freedom Through Badassity”.

    Oh well, maybe next post?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 15, 2016, 3:11 pm

      You might want to look more deeply into the “secret” purpose of this blog, Tom.

      It’s about living a better, more badass life. Sure, this makes you much wealthier, but it also gives you the power to shit less upon other people, because you are in a position of strength rather than the weaker one of being in debt or dependent on a job for money.

      Part of not shitting upon other people is ensuring our economy (aka ecosystem) remains in top working order for the long run.

      Reply
    • Troy March 15, 2016, 3:17 pm

      Financial: Fossil fuel energy costs are only going to rise; energy accounts for a significant percentage of most peoples’ budgets for operating their cars and powering and heating their homes, not to mention the additional costs packaged into food and other goods. Additionally, as MMM described in his post, there are tremendous costs to society in the form of these increased storms, the resulting damage to infrastructure, and the loss of arable land. Climate change is absolutely a financial issue.

      Freedom: I’m pretty sure the #1 rule here is “Ride a bike.” By doing so, you’re freeing yourself from the chains of the gas pump. But looking more broadly, what good is your freedom (to drive, to speak, to even walk around) if you’re doing it in a polluted, inhospitable environment?

      Badassity: What could possibly be more badass than acting as a steward of our amazing planet? Even though most of us can only do “little things” to help, even little things add up. If you’re skeptical, just imagine that every person simply threw their random trash down wherever they happened to be standing (or driving or biking), rather than into a garbage can. Everyone’s little actions, combined together, would result in a pretty nasty, trash-strewn neighborhood…

      Reply
  • Alex March 15, 2016, 2:20 pm

    Sigh…Us humans still have such big egos that we think our relatively small contributions of carbon are making a big difference in Mother Nature’s natural climate cycle. She has certainly been warmer in the past than she is now. She laughs at the idea that we are the main cause of or even a significant part of her climate changes. She also wonders how we could forget that Greenland didn’t always have that ice! After all, it was named Greenland for a reason….

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 15, 2016, 3:24 pm

      All right, thanks Alex – comments like this one always come up, so I’ll respond to just the first one.

      We’ve made an ENORMOUS change in the CO2 content of the atmosphere. A 33% increase and rising. There is now more than the planet has seen in at least the last 600,000 years.

      Earth is a huge chunk of rock, but the atmosphere itself is tiny. If you imagine us as a basketball, the layer of air thick enough to breathe (altitude 20,000 feet) is less than the thickness of a sheet of paper, perfectly formed to that basketball.

      But let’s set all of this aside, because it’s not even our area of expertise. There are tens of thousands of people who have made it their life’s work to measure and study exactly this question: is human activity significantly effecting the climate. They have answered overwhelmingly in the positive.

      Do you take it upon yourself to question the amount of fuel that SpaceX loads into each Falcon9 rocket before launch? No, because you’re not a rocket scientist. You wouldn’t even know where to start, until you got the education. And only about 1% of the population is even intelligent enough to graduate from such an educational program and get hired at SpaceX.

      So why, the fuck, do regular Joe Averages trolling around on various Websites and TV news shows suddenly feel they are qualified to question the human race’s cumulative work in Climate Science?

      If you want to question the work, get the education, do the research, publish and earn the peer reviews, and THEN COME BACK HERE WITH A LINK TO YOUR STUDY!!!

      These debates over science, whether they are climate, evolution, or whether the Earth is flat, are a huge distraction on the point here, which is using the best of current human knowledge to our advantage in becoming wealthy.

      Related post: Getting Rich with Science:
      http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2014/10/07/getting-rich-with-science/

      Reply
      • Bill March 15, 2016, 3:49 pm

        Speaking of Exxon, they seem to think it’s real: https://exxonmobil.com/Benelux-English/energy_climate.aspx

        Reply
      • Alex March 15, 2016, 4:27 pm

        Very fair point. And indeed, there are also scientists who live and breath this who don’t agree with the climate change hypothesis that the majority do.

        When one looks at the climate data, we first must discard any of the data that has been falsified or manipulated and focus on the unbiased data only. Unfortunately, it is more likely than not that a climate scientist who dares to go against the man-made climate change narrative after looking at their data risk losing their jobs/funding (which is an unfortunate financial bias in this whole debate). It has also been pointed out that there are many temperature monitoring stations that have been placed too close to man-made heat generating structures rather than isolated areas in nature where the data would be more accurate.

        But, like you said, I don’t work in this field and I am merely providing an alternate view that should also be considered just in case it happens to be true. Off the top of my head, a video of a presentation by Christopher Monckton caused me to take a step back and reconsider my beliefs on the climate change topic.

        I haven’t had a chance to read it, but I heard of a book put together by Mark Stein called Climate Change: The Facts that I hope to read soon.

        Either way I’m open minded. I’m just not completely convinced yet. Maybe as a libertarian I’m naturally skeptical of anything the government so strongly pushes.

        Reply
        • Alex March 15, 2016, 4:29 pm

          Of course, none of this changes the fact that I still bought a small economical car because I want to spend as little money as possible :) win-win for everyone!

          Reply
          • Rod March 16, 2016, 1:00 pm

            Alex, I am glad you’re open minded. A small economical car, walking and riding a bike gets the job done regardless whilst you figure out which side of the fence you sit on. I have noticed that pushing your views on people tends to lead to a push back rather than a genuine change in point of view. You are also right that there are those who feel in the current climate (no pun intended), by publishing data that goes against the man made climate change narrative, there is a risk to employment/funding etc. This is a shame as with all data available, we can make the best choices. Regardless of which side you sit on, an open debate matters. It reminds me of the low fat diet debate, where exactly the same thing happened and scientists who didn’t agree were also ridiculed. So hydrogenated vegetable oils became more popular and that didn’t go too well for us. In that case, the atmosphere of ridicule really let us down and still continues.
            If you don’t believe in the climate change science just yet, could you agree that there is really no down side to cleaning up our act compared to staying the current course? My work brings me into contact with a very broad range of people, many who are sceptical but we seems to agree on this last point. Its a great start and as you say, it gets everyone to a win-win.

            Reply
        • Andrew March 15, 2016, 6:19 pm

          Regarding your comments about scientists’ integrity and temperature monitoring stations, I’d like to point out that a few years ago a group of climate-skeptic scientists funded by the Koch brothers started a study of the temperature records. Surely they would have no problems disproving global warming right? But they ended up with almost exactly the same temperature record as all of the government-funded scientists.

          See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/opinion/the-conversion-of-a-climate-change-skeptic.html for more and https://tamino.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/berkeley-team-says-global-warming-not-due-to-urban-heating/ for some additional analysis.

          Reply
          • Adam March 16, 2016, 12:22 am

            That comment about Greenland made me laugh. According to accepted history, Greenland was discovered in AD 980 or thereabouts by a viking called Eric the Red who called it Greenland as a way of convincing settlers to come live there… an example of false advertising that still has people fooled to this day apparently.

            Reply
            • Tim March 16, 2016, 7:28 am

              I was hoping someone would address this! Thank you, Adam.

              Reply
            • Val March 16, 2016, 8:42 pm

              I’ve always found it hilarious that something like three generation of that family( Thorvald Asvaldsson, his son Erik the Red, and his grandson Leik Erikson) were exiled from various places for manslaughter and had to start new settlements, Norway to Iceland to Greenland to Newfoundland. It was some sort of awful family tradition.

              Reply
        • medusa March 15, 2016, 8:27 pm

          I wish fewer people fell for the, “I don’t know what this means, so it must mean __________”, which is rightly called the fallacy of ignorance in philosophy.

          Lord Monckton has been thoroughly, utterly debunked. Do actual research! Googling followed by confirmation bias – research makes not.

          Reply
      • Carl March 15, 2016, 8:51 pm

        Over three decades ago — 1985 to be exact — I came across a short article in Science which pointed out that carbon dioxide is not the predominant greenhouse gas. Water vapor is, by a large margin. So even though we have made significant increases in the amount of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, our relative impact on total greenhouse gases is far less.

        Yes, we can affect the climate. If Asia reaches the carbon consumption of the U.S. things could get serious at some point. Not sure when that point will be. Wisdom indicates avoiding the experiment if we can do so at a reasonable price.

        I’d love more bike lines because I like riding a bike, but I don’t like doing so on a narrow country road with trucks flying by at 55mph. (And I don’t like getting stuck behind a bike when I’m in a car.) I’d like to see a carbon tax so we could cut some other taxes. I’d like to see a honkin big tariff on OPEC oil so we wouldn’t be compelled as a nation to meddle in the Middle East. I’d like to see subsidized solar panels sent to places like Afghanistan so we could spread civilization without imposing a central government strong enough to protect power lines.

        There’s lots we could do about CO2 emissions which have negative net cost. Let’s do those and then revisit whether we should go into panic mode.

        Reply
        • Snor March 16, 2016, 1:38 am

          Water vapour is indeed the dominant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. The difference with CO2, methane, etc. is that water works mostly as an amplifier of climate change rather than as a driver. This is because the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere depends only on the temperature (thus initiating a feedback loop until a (new) steady state has been reached).

          You can find a more thorough explanation here: http://skepticalscience.com/water-vapor-greenhouse-gas-intermediate.htm

          Reply
          • Kristina March 16, 2016, 11:57 am

            Yes, water vapor is the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and also the fastest to disappear. It acts as an engine/driver for more intense and frequent storms, etc.

            On the other hand, CO2 can last up there for decades such contributes to a snowballing amplification effect as we continue to release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Further, methane can be 70 times as powerful as CO2 even, lasting in the atmosphere for hundreds of years.

            Reply
      • steve March 15, 2016, 8:54 pm

        MMM- Amen! I don’t get these head-in-the sand “I took high school science and watched fox news” naysayers. An overwhelming majority of real actual climate scientists with real actual PHDs agree that climate change is happening and is occurring. Just ask NASA (not that they know anything about planets or climate) …. http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

        Yet somehow 36% of Americans don’t see it as an issue – they probably still think the world is flat and they might fall of the edge (after all that is a scientific conspiracy too and the govt is just out to get us).

        Thanks for writing this, and not giving a crap what other people think. You knew it would offend some of your readership, but said screw it. That’s why I love reading your writing.

        Reply
      • Craig March 16, 2016, 9:26 am

        This. A million times over, this.

        I’ve said virtually the same exact thing to numerous climate change deniers. My favorite analogy is this one: if you go to 1000 doctors, and 980 of them say you have cancer and need a surgery, which will safely remove it and make you cancer-free and have a long life….do you get the surgery?

        OF COURSE YOU DO! If98% off fixated, board-certified doctors agree,you’re an idiot to go against their advice.

        And yet, people question climate change scientists and choose to believe Fox News, or an oil-industry-funded “study” over the ACTUAL experts.

        Mother Nature is similarly sick right now….and 98% of climate doctors agree that CO2 emissions are the primary problem. Why do people insist on arguing against the treatment??

        Reply
        • Sarah Jane March 16, 2016, 10:04 am

          This is a lovely analogy. Thank you. I’ll probably use it myself.

          Reply
        • Jordan March 16, 2016, 1:15 pm

          Not quite an apt analogy since the diagnosis of cancer is a pretty straightforward and documented procedure by the medical establishment. Whereas diagnosing the fate of our planet due to rising CO2 levels is a predictive assessment and not a diagnostic one. Nevertheless, I agree with you that experts on the subject have leg up on us in climate discussions.

          Reply
          • Mr. Frugal Toque March 17, 2016, 8:31 am

            I’m pretty sure there are about 2% of “cancer doctors” who will tell you cancer is either a natural mechanism you should let run it’s course, or that you can cure it with (choose one) a bleach enema, multivitamins, or drinking your own pee.

            Reply
        • HeadedWest March 16, 2016, 7:45 pm

          I am not a skeptic when it comes to climate change, but here in Texas I am surrounded by many highly intelligent people who dismiss its existence or its importance.  Some of these people are probably in the top 1% of the world in terms of intelligence.  I suspect their opinion has nothing to do with any analysis regarding the climate.  The fear, for so many, is this:  If you acknowledge that a small group of people (top scientists) understand an issue that the rest of society doesn’t (climate science), and you acknowledge that the issue could lead to an existential-type problem for humanity, and you acknowledge that action must be taken to address the problem, you have arrived at a point where the small group may be granted dictatorial powers over the general population in order to force changes in behavior.  These powers would inevitably be absolute -because any attempt to disagree with them would be dismissed as dangerous ignorance on the part of an Average Joe, who doesn’t understand science like the smart people do.

          I have read many predictions of what may happen to the earth in the coming decades as a result of fossil fuel burning.  I have also read some stories by George Orwell.  All are scary! I guess the question is, which is scarier to you?

          Many people I know don’t just deny climate change because they love their SUVs.  They deny it because they don’t fear it the same way they fear concentrated, abusive authority.  Scientifically, it doesn’t make it right.  But politically, it might help make it reality.

          Reply
          • Mr. Frugal Toque March 17, 2016, 8:36 am

            “Some of these people are probably in the top 1% of the world in terms of intelligence.”
            That’s great, but they’re not educated in the right field.
            Even Neil Degrasse Tyson, a super smart and well spoken guy – in the field of astronomy – made that ridiculous assertion about biological sex this past week.
            Look at the number of well-educated physicists who dismiss evolution for entirely ignorant reasons, or the number of “engineers” (who studied electricity and software) who suddenly became demolition experts after Sept 11. Look at all the well educated yuppies who think they can outsmart GPs on the subject of vaccination.
            People can be very intelligent and well educated and still say stupid things when they step outside their fields of expertise. The Dunning-Kruger effect works on smart people, too.

            Reply
            • HeadedWest March 17, 2016, 9:25 am

              You are 100% correct. My intent was to suggest that these denials are largely motivated by right-leaning political views, regarding the role of government in society. The denial doesn’t stem from any real insight into climate science.

              Reply
              • Mr. Frugal Toque March 17, 2016, 11:57 am

                Indeed. I meant my statement as a complement to yours: wise people are those that know what they don’t know.

          • starlight March 17, 2016, 4:33 pm

            HeadedWest, I think you hit the nail on the head here. The push back from climate change deniers largely comes from the fear of a forced change in living standards. People (and even many environmentalists) are reluctant or opposed to reductions in flying, driving, large homes, air conditioning, heating, having children, eating meat, high carbon employment, etc. Yet rationing these luxuries is precisely what, many argue, we need to do in order to avoid an epic humanitarian catastrophe. An effort this massive likely would involve a great increase in government power. Anyway, I look for to MMM’s future thoughts on how this would all play out. Would everyone on the planet get an equal share of carbon to emit? How do we implement the plan to save humanity? How much reduction is enough?

            Reply
      • Chris March 17, 2016, 6:31 am

        The “I’m not a scientist” argument is the dumbest thing going in our society today. The only thing that should follow that comment is , “therefore I must trust their conclusions.” How can someone say, “I’m not a scientist, but I think I’m qualified to say that thousands of them are corrupt and don’t know what they are doing.” That’s like saying, “I’ve never played basketball before and I’m not really a fan, but I don’t think that Michael Jordan guy was really any good.”

        Reply
    • Kyle March 16, 2016, 6:28 am

      Seems far more egotistical to claim thousands of climate scientist are wrong because “you say so.”

      Reply
    • EarthScienceTeacher March 16, 2016, 8:04 am

      Mm, breathing in that good oxygen? Well, thank your friends the humble blue-green algae, who over time managed to change the Earth’s atmosphere just by their respiration. (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/origin-of-oxygen-in-atmosphere/) If algae can globally and permanently change the Earth’s atmosphere, why can’t humans?

      It’s absolutely true that the Earth has been warmer and had higher and lower CO2 levels in the past, and that there have been at least 5 major, pre-human climate events. (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_periods_and_events_in_climate_history) However, the part that people seem to leave out is that every time one of these changes has occurred in the past, UP TO 60% OF EVERY LIVING THING ON EARTH HAS GONE EXTINCT! That’s why, on the graph in that link, you see those letters marking geologic time periods (you may remember the Jurassic, as one example). Geologic time is defined by substantially different fossils found in layers of the Earth–the fossil species that define these different periods in geologic time are different precisely BECAUSE the earlier ones were all killed by changing conditions on Earth.

      And, yes, there have been times in the past where Greenland had no ice (not why it has it’s name, by the way http://ancientstandard.com/2010/12/17/how-greenland-got-its-name/), but that time coincided with the ocean covering much of what is now the United States of America. (That’s why you can find fish fossils in Kansas.) The important point here is that the ocean covered Kansas BECAUSE that water was not bound up in ice sheets covering the poles + Greenland.

      Whether or not climate change is “natural” does not alter that fact that it has always been, without exaggerating, catastrophic for life on Earth. That being said, it’s quite easy to calculate how much CO2 is added to the atmosphere by human activity and see that it changes the atmosphere on a scale with previous extinction events. To quote a t-shirt I saw yesterday, it’s not bragging if you can back it up.

      (For an interesting/terrifying primer on what ancient climate and atmospheric change and may have meant for life on Earth, see “Under a Green Sky” by paleontologist, Peter Ward. https://orionmagazine.org/review/under-a-green-sky/)

      Reply
    • Barb March 16, 2016, 9:22 am

      Umm…..Greenland has always had ice. Eric the Red named it Green Land because he wanted to convince people to come and settle. When they got there and saw it was “not green”, they headed off to the new world.

      Reply
    • Kyle March 16, 2016, 12:01 pm

      I think arguing the validity of climate change science is missing the point, even if it turned out to be overblown. yes, We know Oil is a finite, non-renewable resource. We know we don’t need to use energy that causes greenhouse gasses on any scale near what we currently use. We know we’re fucking with the atmosphere and land in a large historically unnatural way no matter the source and we don’t know fully what its effect will be, that should be a good enough reason not to do it. We also know, historically, wars are generally started over control of land and resources. It makes sense to pursue renewable resources, build more efficient vehicles, buildings and industries, not to mention reduce waste. It’s all very obviously to the vast majority to be a good thing, so why bother arguing the validity of the science unless you’re for inefficiency, waste and global war over resources. The only people that I can see arguing are people that will see their business struggle or disappear as we move to a more efficient life, and those people should adapt or go out of business. Nothing stays the same forever.

      Reply
  • Kyle March 15, 2016, 2:27 pm

    I’ve been a big fan of the Rocky Mountain Institute since I learned about them 10 years ago, They’re pretty big in the world of high efficiency and showing ways businesses can reduce fossil fuel usage while turning a profit. Amory Lovins is a rock star in my eyes.

    I remember analyzing a documentary that was saying global warming is a bunch of bull, I found that if you looked into anything they talked about it was full of bad science with wrong conclusions. Maybe Big Oil paid them to make the documentary because I don’t know why anyone would twist data to create such

    Reply
  • Our Next Life March 15, 2016, 2:30 pm

    Love this. Those of us espousing frugality have a responsibility to talk about our impact on the planet, because that’s much more important than just saving money. And we need to force our lawmakers to stop being such F-ing idiots about climate change, and act already. We probably can’t halt it at this point, but we can at least slow it down so we can still keep our planet habitable.

    Reply
  • Nick March 15, 2016, 2:31 pm

    Ballsy. So, so necessary with all the misinformation out there.

    Reply
  • Bill March 15, 2016, 2:33 pm

    I am also a big fan of Earth. I just got back from Jamaica, where I realized that the locals don’t seem to realize that they are not “privileged” like us. Funny we go there to relax and get away from modern technology.

    Reply
  • Vasile March 15, 2016, 2:36 pm

    MMM, it seems that you are a Church of Global Warming goer now? :-)
    How does that fit with the living frugally and within ones means, without having to pay a BOGUS tax added by some New World Order clicque of PARASITES, who basically invent such nonsense and get rich without working, with imaginary taxes burdening us even more !?

    Reply
    • Josh March 16, 2016, 6:35 am

      But the intended result of a carbon tax is that everyone decides to ride bikes and install solar panels to avoid paying the tax. A carbon tax ideally raises absolutely zero tax revenue.

      Reply
    • Sarah Jane March 16, 2016, 10:14 am

      Taxes and religion are human inventions and, yes, we’ll likely need both after we’re done screwing up our planet. Maybe it still doesn’t have to go that way, but most will tell you that ship has sailed. It would have required proactive government policies starting 30 years ago. People just don’t get it: the longer we wait, the more burden we are forced to carry.

      Reply
    • Dean March 18, 2016, 8:43 am

      Right? Those same scientists base all of their research on the FALSE claim that the earth is ROUND! Any IDIOT can see that it’s FLAT.

      Reply
  • Vasile March 15, 2016, 2:37 pm

    And “Mother Earth” and “She”, are you joking right? Where is God in this picture!?

    Reply
    • Hotstreak March 15, 2016, 2:58 pm

      Existing only in the minds of select individuals, as always!

      Reply
      • Brian March 17, 2016, 3:17 pm

        Warren Buffet:

        “This issue bears a similarity to Pascal’s Wager on the Existence of God. Pascal, it may be recalled, argued that if there were only a tiny probability that God truly existed, it made sense to behave as if He did because the rewards could be infinite whereas the lack of belief risked eternal misery. Likewise, if there is only a 1 percent chance the planet is heading toward a truly major disaster and delay means passing a point of no return, inaction now is foolhardy.”

        Reply
        • Mr. Frugal Toque March 18, 2016, 7:12 am

          I’ve never bought Pascal’s Wager.
          On the religious side, there are too many religions which demand sole custody of your beliefs. You could try to follow them all (no pork AND no beef AND no meat on Fridays etc.) but you’d eventually find contradictory demands.
          On the scientific side, you can’t possibly spend money on every tiny possible thing that could go wrong with the world. You have to select the most plausible ones.
          What makes global warming different, however, is that the solution – burning less fossil fuel – is also good for us in a lot of other ways.
          What you’re essentially saying, if you complain about “global warming alarmism”, is that you’re afraid that we might reduce our pollution, reduce our dependence on middle east oil, reduce resource wars, reduce consumption … and it might all be for *NOTHING* if it turns out global warming was exaggerated.

          Reply
          • Dave C March 18, 2016, 11:04 am

            Reply
          • Brian March 18, 2016, 3:32 pm

            I’m not talking about Religion I’m talking about God, so the demands are much simpler, and though its a personal choice I see the risk so much worse for me if I don’t believe. In addition, believing has brought so much more to my life in so many different ways. But that is me.

            What energy resource we as a people utilize can also be a personal choice and in addition it can also be affected by government policy which often times is beyond one’s control. And I agree that certain choices of energy production over others can have benefits in many different ways beyond just providing power. I’m not an expert on climate but it seems to make sense to me to pursue clean energy technology even if we are at only the slightest risk environmentally or other. Though my feel is our risk is much greater than the slightest 1%.

            So what I’m really essentially saying is both Science and God can exist simultaneously if one chooses.

            Reply
            • Ryan March 19, 2016, 7:29 pm

              Brian–you wrote, “I see the risk so much worse for me if I don’t believe”.

              Do you believe in god because you are afraid of the consequences of disbelief?

              How do you sleep at night, knowing that there are dozens of versions of god where you are definitely doing the wrong thing(s), all the time?

              I’ve never understood this idea of a fear-based belief in a god. Belief might have brought some positive things into your life, but it seems there are a lot of seriously negative things that underwrite it (i.e. the idea that you’re going to be believe in a certain thing so that you don’t burn in hell forever!).

              Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 15, 2016, 3:48 pm

      So, Vasile is surprised that I don’t mention his or her personal deity in the context of carbon dioxide concentrations, but then refers to this branch of science as a “Church”?

      Maybe these two things, science and religion, could be acknowledged as things that serve different purposes in our lives.

      Many people get benefits from their religion because it comes packaged with community, family history, and a philosophy of life.

      But when you use it as a shield to protect yourself from scientific inquiry – actually measuring the world around you and writing down the results – you are not helping yourselves or your fellow humans.

      Reply
      • Karen March 15, 2016, 3:58 pm

        Man, I wish these comments had a like button ;) good reply MMM

        Reply
      • Margaux March 15, 2016, 4:26 pm

        I very much appreciate this reply, and thanks for writing a great blog.

        I know people have been bugging you about it for ages, but maybe some blog revenue could be used to hire someone to make it possible to upvote/downvote comments? This one and your response to the first naysayer need to be highlighted somehow!

        Reply
        • Brandon Curtis March 15, 2016, 8:15 pm

          I like this idea. It would be cool to have the ‘good comments’ (lots of likes, lots of controversy, something you manually decide to feature, whatever) float to the top!

          Reply
      • Chris March 15, 2016, 8:25 pm

        100% agree – belief in science and religion are not mutually exclusive. I’m a Christian and an engineer and like to believe that I can have both.

        I believe that God created the earth, the heavens, and all that lives and breathes here. I also think that he created us as guardians of his creation and it’s our responsibility to take that honor seriously and do right by our planet and the creatures on it.

        I don’t expect everyone to share that stance and we shouldn’t have to agree on the presence/absence of a divine creator to agree on the effect we are having on the planet.

        I didn’t take the lack of a mention of God in this post as a “miss”. We’re going to have people on both sides and it wasn’t really core to the discussion.

        Reply
        • Kyle March 16, 2016, 12:30 pm

          Belief in science and religion “can” be mutually exclusive when the use of religion excuses the void of science. As in “God created the earth, the heavens, and all that lives and breathes here.” This of course is in direct contradiction with evidence based science.

          Reply
        • Rachel Hershberg March 16, 2016, 1:13 pm

          Believing Jew, here, who can recognize a literary metaphor when I can see one.

          Reply
        • Chris March 17, 2016, 6:35 am

          Belief has nothing to do with science. Scientists do not “believe”, they conclude.

          As citizens we either agree with the concepts of scientific thought and study, or we don’t. If you don’t agree with climate change theories, then you don’t agree with gravity. It’s that simple.

          Reply
          • Philip March 18, 2016, 11:03 am

            Science actually requires, at times, the most “faith”. Certain physical constants can be measured, and are generally accepted as being constant. However, our UNDERSTANDING of those things changes dramatically as our ability to measure and study them changes. Just recently, evidence has been found to suggest that gravity, at least in proximity to black holes, is actually sinusoidal in nature, which would suggest the 9.8m/s2 is perhaps just an average of the actual force. Saying that our current understanding of climate change is 100% accurate, infallible, or unarguable is laughable at best. We simply understand what we can currently measure, and know. Still, I drive a hybrid : )

            Reply
            • Mr. Frugal Toque March 19, 2016, 7:07 am

              Our understanding “changes” in that it “improves”. It is very rare that scientific experiments completely reverse previous theories.
              “Gravity near black holes” is not sinusoidal. You have misunderstood the report on gravitational ripples, which are created by the *collision* of *two* black holes, not a single black hole.
              9.8 m/s^2 is not a measure of gravity. Nor is it a measure of “force”.
              F = ma (Force = mass x acceleration)
              “9.8 m/s^2” is a measure of the acceleration (a) due to gravity near the Earth’s surface, which is of course variable depending on altitude and latitude.
              The people who study gravity, like the people who study climate, know all of this, and much, much more than I know.
              And that’s why we let such people inform us of how reality works and how it affects us.

              Reply
      • Katie March 16, 2016, 6:36 am

        Thirty-foot high five, brother

        Reply
      • phred March 17, 2016, 12:17 pm

        The problem is that many use science as their religion. They will be adamant in their put-downs of the yokels. Then a new theory comes out which is diametrically opposed to their current understanding…
        Nuclear power was once thought to be just the cat’s pajamas

        Reply
        • Lauren March 17, 2016, 3:27 pm

          Science would never be considered a religion, because it’s willing to change its views based on facts. A theory is basically the truth because it’s been tested a multitude of times and still comes out as true. Nuclear power being the cat’s pajamas is not a theory, it was a hypothesis at best. Without the openness to being wrong, how do we ever make scientific advances?

          Here’s a video that might better explain…
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqk3TKuGNBA

          Reply
        • Kyle March 18, 2016, 8:01 am

          “Then a new theory comes out which is diametrically opposed to their current understanding…”

          Ain’t science grand? New theories based on new discoveries. Altering current theories based on new evidence. It’s a critical thinkers “heaven” (pun intended). Whereas religion requires the suspension of all critical thinking in favor of faith based belief of the supernatural. I love science.

          Reply
  • Heather Makowecki March 15, 2016, 2:38 pm

    MMM, I love reading your blog but I was sad to read this post. I am a Geologist…and yes, I work for an oil and gas company…and no, it isn’t Exxon. I am however first and foremost and earth scientist with a profound interest and understanding of the history of our beautiful earth. I have become very interested in the climate change debate and have done a lot of research, talking to experts and generally evaluating information on the topic. What I have personally come to believe is that, like you said, we are definitely destroying our environment. The human footprint on the earth is disgusting and our current rates of consumption of pretty much anything have blown way past sustainable. However, from a geological perspective anyway, CO2 is by not our biggest enemy. Right now our atmosphere is 0.4% CO2 (up from 0.3%) . It has gone up and we are the cause…this is undeniable by the data. What is far from proven, and to be honest not even very convincing is that this is having any measurable effect on global temperature. The data does show that recent years have warmed (but not steadily, and not very closely tied to CO2 increase) this warming is by no means unusual if you look back (and by this I mean on Geological standards so tens of thousands of years to hundreds of thousands of years to millions), there is nothing unusual about what has happened in recent years. Climate is mostly controlled (the data for this IS compelling) by various solar cycles, both in the strength of solar output and by Milankovitch cycles related to the orbit and the tilt of the earth. A recent conversation with a friend who is an amateur astronomer said that solar cycles are at a particular high now but should be at a low in the early 2020’s. He said if we don’t see a cooling period then, he might be convinced that there is something to CO2 and climate change. He also mentioned that at the same time things are warming here, there has been major ice melting on Mars…last time I looked there are no fossil fuels there…but we do share the same sun.
    Just a few ideas from a humble reader/earth Scientist.

    Reply
  • Travis March 15, 2016, 2:40 pm

    There was an article last year that shows a map of how much surface we need to cover in solar panels in order to power the world:

    http://www.techinsider.io/map-shows-solar-panels-to-power-the-earth-2015-9

    “If solar is 20% efficient (as it has been in lab tests) at turning solar energy into power, we’d only need to cover a land area about the size of Spain to power the entire Earth renewably in 2030.”

    Now if we can add in some good energy conservation measures (for example, by not taking unnecessary trips down to Ecuador), then perhaps we won’t even need that many solar panels.

    Reply
    • isaac March 15, 2016, 4:01 pm

      There may be some exceptions for people living in high rises and some other situations, but for the most part just covering the equator facing side of your dwelling’s roof with PV will more than meet all your energy needs except for transportation, and PV isn’t even always the most efficient/effective way to make use of solar energy.

      Reply
    • Bill March 15, 2016, 4:01 pm

      I suppose you want him to bicycle to Ecuador? I don’t think exceptional trips like that are the problem. One plane trip to Ecuador is offset about five times over by not driving 15k per year in a car, when considering passenger miles instead of the whole plane. Then consider that he goes there to inspire others to do the same.

      Reply
      • scraggly March 17, 2016, 1:15 pm

        I’m in favor of MMM cycling to Ecuador! I would totally read *all* of those blog posts. It would be a fantastic adventure!

        Reply
    • Brandon Curtis March 15, 2016, 8:23 pm

      You still need liquid fuels in certain applications for their immense energy density, but they can be synthesized sustainably once we have more electricity than we know what to do with.

      Reply
      • phred March 17, 2016, 12:21 pm

        It was water power and not liquid fuels that provided the energy density to refine uranium in WWII

        Reply
  • Snor March 15, 2016, 2:41 pm

    Hey MMM, great to see you write about climate change and the environment in general. I was trained as an environmental scientist and energy/climate is my current field of work, so there are about a gazillion things I’d like to say and add. But I’ll keep it to two things.

    First off, I think you nailed the perspective on this problem.

    Second, I’d like to point to a couple of resources about climate that I find useful:
    http://skepticalscience.com/argument.php: Has answers and scientific background on over a hundred arguments used by those who deny the existence/extent/impacts/etc. of climate change.
    http://www.carbontracker.org/: They look at the financial side of fossil fuels. A lot of the resources on their balance sheets will likely never be extracted, which means large risks for those who entrust their money to fossil fuel companies.
    – The book “Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” by Jared Diamond: not specifically about climate change, but it’s a look at (pre)historical societies which collapsed due to, amongst other things, environmental changes. It paints a picture of how quickly societies can collapse once things really start to go wrong.

    I’m really looking forward to your next post. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • Patrick March 15, 2016, 2:42 pm

    Has anyone here read The Ecotechnic Future by John Micheal Greer which argues that it is not actually possible to live the modern smartphone life on purely renewable energy? I thought it was fairly persuasive.

    Reply
  • Mr. Purpose March 15, 2016, 2:45 pm

    Honest question/critique:
    Isn’t equally disingenuous to write as though a rare flood in your hometown is caused by global warming as someone else saying that a cold winter proves otherwise? They are both strange happenstances, but also both just single pieces of data that could have happened at any point in the past 10,000 years. If you want to prove a trend, using single points of data only seems to validate naysayers using theirs.

    Reply
    • Andrew March 15, 2016, 6:08 pm

      This is a contentious issue in climate science. You certainly can’t say something like the flood was 100% caused by global warming (if you read carefully, MMM didn’t). With careful study, you may be able to say that global warming contributed to causing the flood (see for example http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/03/14/3759699/climate-change-extreme-events-study/). What you can definitely say, as MMM did, is that global warming makes events such as that particular flood more likely to occur.

      Reply
  • Jay X March 15, 2016, 2:45 pm

    I’m sure a lot of people have already told you this but you should run for political office. Seriously. You could easily be mayor of Longmont without breaking a sweat. We could use more engineers in office preaching optimism and logic.

    Reply
  • Tyler March 15, 2016, 2:51 pm

    Please let the solution be solar stirling engines!! Also, nasa worked on a project some years back where they powered 2 vehicles using a stirling engine the first wasn’t particularly efficient, but the second was competitive with comparable vehicles at the time and was more efficient. I don’t remember exactly how much more efficient, but I can’t even imagine how incredible the technology would be of research had continued and I honestly think the stirling engine powered vehicle would be a much stronger alternative to the internal combustion vehicles we use currently.

    http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19880002196.pdf

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=H_Vnxapd5fs

    I’m sure the other more “mature” readers here may have already come across this information, but I just find this so interesting that I had to share for anyone that hasn’t come across it.

    Reply
    • isaac March 15, 2016, 4:18 pm

      ? Without checking your links, isn’t NASA using the heat of radioactive decay to power their Sterling engines? We have used Sterling engines to power ships and whatnot, and though they aren’t internal combustion engines, they are still external combustion engines.

      Reply
      • Tyler March 16, 2016, 9:23 am

        Without sounding too snippy, maybe you should check the links before commenting. The youtube video at least is easily watchable in about 7 minutes because it is just about 7 1/2 minutes long;). Snip aside, I am not aware of NASA using radioactive decay to power stirling engines, but it makes sense how this is possible as long as the decaying substance can put of a substantially high amount of heat. While I do not claim to be an expert on the topic and I don’t have a substantial knowledge on chemistry, I’m not currently aware of any material that would generate enough heat via radioactive decay to power a stirling engine generator. I do know that in the past, the stirling engine was used as an alternative to steam engines. As far as I know this was due mainly to the high torque capabilities of the stirling engines and the fact that the steam engines at the time were not producing speeds faster than the “simpler” stirling engines at the time. The beauty for me in stirling engines, is that their power can come from any source, radioactive, combustive or otherwise. If you had taken the time to watch the video you would have recognized that at the time of the experiment, the stirling engine powered vehicle allowed for extreme flexibility in the fuel used. The tested fuels on the airforce flightline included gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The vehicle was reported to work equally well on any of these fuels. This was mainly due to the fact that the stirling is an external “combustion” engine and when deciding on a fuel you don’t need to specially, and expensively, design an engine to work with the specific make-up and limitations of a certain fuel(i.e. gasoline vs. diesel)The official report from NASA (Link 1) demonstrates a very clear improvement in fuel economy of vehicle in the second generation along with capabilities that matched the original internal combustion engines (read: top speed, 0-40 time, etc.). Taken together, these competitive features along with the superior flexibility offered when using an external combustion engine, seem to me to indicate stirling engine vehicle would have been the obvious mustachian choice then and even now excluding electric vehicle (and I’m not even convinced of this yet).

        All that said, stirling engines are not mandated to receive their heat solely from combustion. There are plenty of examples on youtube where store-bought and home-built stirling engines were powered by concentrated sunlight. Either from fresnel lenses or a concave surface covered in mirrors (I’m not sure exactly what the word I’m looking for here). I haven’t seen it myself, but my father came across plans for a solar stirling engine generator that could produce around 10,000kW and there was even a company, granted that went out of business, that was building some of these generators. Assuming its conductive properties are as advertised, we could even send a graphene “wire” down into the mantle and use the heat from there to power a stirling generator and realistically, we wouldn’t have to take up any more space than the generator itself required.

        Unfortunately, this whole rant is a bit of a moot point because stirling engines were thrown out around 30 years ago after NASA finished their experiments for some reason or another.

        Reply
        • Tyler March 16, 2016, 9:30 am

          I forgot to mention that after the testing was complete the oil used in the NASA test vehicles showed absolutely no sign of breakdown or contamination as normal internal combustion engines would. The second vehicle from the video was driven around 15,000 miles. This, incidentally, eliminates one of the major recurring maintenance, disposable, and environmental costs associated with all internal combustion engines.

          Reply
    • Brian March 17, 2016, 7:28 am

      Holy cow, I just fell into an internet black hole learning about Stirling engines and parabolic solar collectors. Soooo cool. I think I’m going to suggest a simple stirling engine to one of my kids as their next science fair project.

      Reply
      • Tyler March 17, 2016, 4:02 pm

        I definitely agree with that sentiment. Super cool technology!

        Reply
  • Kyle March 15, 2016, 3:02 pm

    Great read, and very thought-provoking. I believe it’s our responsibility to treat mother earth with respect, and hope my generation works towards doing so.

    Reply
  • LuckyOz March 15, 2016, 3:05 pm

    Making real change to impact global warming is a difficult societal issue. It is almost like Maslows hierarchy of needs. Once we are comfortable and have all our needs taken care of, we have the resources to invest in more environmentally friendly solutions. You don’t see many Prius’ in the hood or small town rural America.

    If we truly want to manage energy use, the price should significantly go up (ie through carbon tax). But then who tells poorer people they have to watch when they use electric. Those of us with a nice modern fridge, aren’t using much power at all, but cheaper older fridges would become much more expensive to run.

    Then what about water? If water prices go up, do poorer people have to start taking baths?

    The easiest way to allocate a limited resource is through cost. But in a society where we consider electric, gasoline, water, heat, as a need. Who ensures we don’t overuse?

    Reply
    • isaac March 15, 2016, 4:30 pm

      Keeping an old car in good running order is almost always going to be more eco-friendly than a new Prius/LEAF.

      Also, Prius only barely beats 3cyl 5spd Geo Metros on fuel economy, and realistically a Prius battery will never last long enough to justify that small fuel economy advantage. It is true that comparing Metros and Prii is stupid because the Metro is a subcompact and a Prius is comparatively huge, however the added utility of a Prius’s size is overwhelming unutilized making the comparison apt.

      Reply
  • Gino March 15, 2016, 3:18 pm

    Neither Earth nor Nature is our Mother. There is, however, a Creator God whose heavens declare His glory.

    Reply
    • A mom March 15, 2016, 3:29 pm

      Heard of poetic license?

      Also, I really do not understand why believing in God necessarily means we should not worry about climate change. We still need a place to live. Does believing in God also mean you don’t need to fix a hole in your roof?

      Reply
      • Troy March 15, 2016, 3:39 pm

        There are these people who refuse medical treatment and instead attempt to pray away their ailments. I’ve always wondered: do they go to the dentist? If not, do they brush their teeth? Why draw the line there?

        Reply
      • Barb March 16, 2016, 9:34 am

        Agreed. As a person of faith who is not Catholic, I recently read the Pope’s book on caring for our planet. Is a good read and free online. I actually would suggest that God expects us to care for his creations, including the planet we live in. Nowhere in the bible does it say, do what you will. It says you have dominion and are in charge. To me that implies responsibility, not license. Off my soapbox…….

        Reply
    • Kaye March 15, 2016, 4:43 pm

      “Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” -The Dude, hallowed be His name.

      Reply
      • Michael March 16, 2016, 4:50 pm

        Now there is one religion that really has its shit together, The Church of the Latter Day Dude

        Reply
  • Shannon March 15, 2016, 3:30 pm

    I think it is worth making a more explicit mention of the fact that specifically the meat, dairy, and other animal industries are some of the biggest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions and that one of the easiest ways each one of us can ensure we minimize our impact is to go vegetarian or vegan, or at least significantly limit our intake.

    Reply
    • Troy March 15, 2016, 3:38 pm

      Amen! Again, little things really add up when done by lots and lots of people.

      Reply
    • Karen March 15, 2016, 3:55 pm

      Thanks for bringing this up Shannon, I fully agree. More people need to watch Cowspiracy. Can you believe it takes 600 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger. I am vegan for the environmental reasons, and also animal cruelty which I personally believe is equally as important (I won’t go into that here, but watch Earthlings).

      Reply
      • Jonathan Poor March 15, 2016, 7:32 pm

        I don’t think being vegan / vegetarian gets you off the hook. The problem with meat isn’t the meat, it’s the grain fed to the animals, and the way the grain, particularly corn, was produced. If meat is produced in a pasture based system, it is much more eco-friendly. Compare the ecology of a pasture (lots of biodiversity) to the ecology of a soybean farm (mono-culture). There is even the idea that pastures can sequester carbon: when pasture is left to grow high, and then cattle come in and clip it down low, the perennial grass plants let go of their deep roots, leaving carbon in the ground. When the grass gets high again, the roots extend again into the ground. So leave open the possibility that eating less meat, produced in this more eco-conscious way, can be as effective a solution as giving meat up altogether.

        Check out the techniques and philosophy of Polyface Farm / Joel Salatin., who calls himself a grass farmer: cows pigs chickens….

        Reply
        • Julia March 16, 2016, 5:14 pm

          Another farmer to google is Greg Judy. He’s in Missouri, sequestering carbon in the soil via intensively managed grazing. There’s a cool TED talk by Alan Savory.

          Reply
        • Evan March 17, 2016, 7:54 am

          I don’t understand how vegan’s aren’t “off the hook”. How does the fact that a few farmers using novel farming techniques that is much more land intensive than factory farming make it so that vegans/vegetarians are some how making poor choices. Anyway, below is how I responded to a similar comment above.

          Copied from response above:

          I agree that improper grazing is leading a massive problems with grasslands. With that said, if you do the math on switching to better grassland management techniques, it would need to be accompanied by a massive reduction in meat consumption to accomplish with the amount of land we have. I believe it’s between 6-12x less land efficient to us Joel Salatin’s techniques than a feed lot (I got in the same arguement with my brother and did the math). Given the increase in human population and affluence is expected to double meat consumption over the next several decades, each individual who is eating meat would need to cut consumption dramatically in order to make a system like this work (6 to 24x less meat consumption depending on assumptions).

          The danger with ideas and stories like this are that people use them to justify not making changes (not saying that is what you are doing, just making the point that it happens). They say, well “meat could have less of an impact, therefore it isn’t bad”. Or, “I want to support this farmer because they’re using better farming techniques” all the while not realizing that that farmer’s meat is sold out and less environmentally conscious consumers who are getting crowded out are eating regular meat. Essentially, overall meat consumption matters as it is the only thing that will allow farms to actually switch to sustainable agricultural practices. If you really want farmers to switch to better techniques, the best thing you can do is eat no animal products. This takes the pressure off the agricultural system and would allow farmers to move from feed lots and traditional grazing to better grazing rotation.

          I really admire that you are looking into issues like this and I encourage you to keep digging.

          Reply
          • phred March 17, 2016, 12:28 pm

            Sustainable agriculture involves using manure as fertilizer. Without livestock the grains won’t grow unless you want to ramp up fossil-fueled fertilizer even more than the present

            Reply
            • Evan March 17, 2016, 7:00 pm

              Good story.

              Without the livestock we wouldn’t need to grow nearly as much grain given that the majority of grain is fed to livestock.

              Look up animal waste lagoons and see how much waste is really making it to fertilizer. Also look up ocean dead zones and see what all that “fertilizer” is doing to our oceans. The reality of factory farming has nothing to do with fertilizer for sustainable farming.

              Reply
    • Brandon Curtis March 15, 2016, 8:28 pm

      Energy, water, land use, ethics, health… there are a lot of compelling reasons to eat less meat.

      Reply
  • isaac March 15, 2016, 3:45 pm

    I’m not a trained economist by any stretch of the imagination, but I am pretty damn sure that the size of an economy and the EROEI of the energy resources utilized by said economy are correlated and it doesn’t matter how much power the Sun provides to the Earth’s surface if the EROEI sucks.

    Yes, I realize that home PV and grid wind are reaching price parity with other sources, but how much of this due to improvements in PV and wind and how much is declining EROEI on oil and coal?

    I don’t want to be (too) critical, economy is deeply dependent on ecology and at risk of killing its host (or at least compromising it to the point where it can no longer provide subsidence to parasites (us)) and this is a point that needs to be repeated tirelessly and beaten into peoples’ heads (and especially those of economists’ who appear on TV), but “booming” is probably setting unreasonable expectations that may be bad even if they weren’t.

    Reply
  • Nick March 15, 2016, 4:04 pm

    Mr. Money Mustache,

    After reading through the few comments here, I have noticed there is a lot of speculation on what is the cause of global warming. I think the fact is that it is happening, weather it is via fossil fuels, volcanoes, or agricultural activities (all the cows passing gas in the pasture!). What isn’t as passionately debated is the fact that we are here, what the hell are we going to do about it? We are much more exposed than a lot of people would be comfortable admitting, and it seems no one wants to do anything about it. Rising sea level isn’t even the immediate culprit, hurricanes and storm surge can have the ability to do just as much damage in any given year.

    Similar to your Miami example, a major portion of the nations infrastructure sits at near sea level in the Houston area. An area I used to call home. I lived on Galveston Island for a few years while working on a large new hospital there. During our down time, I spent a lot of time exploring the region and taking in the sights. One day, I ventured a bit inland to a place called Texas City and stood on top of a massive levy that protected a small portion of the nation’s critical infrastructure. I remember thinking that this short levy didn’t seem like it would be enough in the event of a hurricane, and it turns out I was right. The US is massively exposed here, and a “500 year hurricane” similar to the storm that hit you would cause massive damage to the region, and having broad reaching consequences for the country at large. I would highly recommend giving this inforgraphic / website / wake up call a look about some of the dangers that the nation faces immediately due to the warming of the world’s temperatures.

    https://projects.propublica.org/houston/ (I am no way affiliated with this but it’s too good to not share.)

    -Nick

    Reply
  • islwynn March 15, 2016, 4:54 pm

    Reply
  • Andrew March 15, 2016, 5:40 pm

    If any fellow readers have doubts about what MMM wrote, or any other aspect of the science, I really encourage you to check out http://skepticalscience.com/argument.php?f=percentage. They cover the science really well, and odds are they’ve already discussed/debunked whatever issue you may have.

    MMM-Thanks for writing this. I’m a climate scientist, and I can vouch for the accuracy of everything you’ve written.

    Reply
  • Heath March 15, 2016, 5:43 pm

    Solid, MMM!

    I like that Mother Earth points out that humans are merely threatening our own prosperity. Life will move on, regardless of our impacts. The planet’s ecosystem can and will change dramatically from the effects of the energy we’re pumping into it. It’s just a matter of whether we want to have a stable, high-tech human society, or whether we’re going to push ourselves back into some dark ages before we figure it out.

    Side note: the overall quality of many of these comments is a bit disappointing. Looks like some of our community members need some face punches :-)

    Think about it people: let’s brazenly assume that climate change isn’t real, and that humans have ZERO effect on our global ecosystem (ha!). Increasing renewable resource usage, lowering consumption, and increasing efficiency are all still AWESOME THINGS TO DO.

    Let’s get to it!

    Reply
  • Peak March 15, 2016, 5:44 pm

    I spoke with Mother Earth too, she said GO VEGAN! Animal agriculture is a bigger contributor to climate change than all forms of transportation combined.

    Reply
    • Julia March 16, 2016, 7:30 pm

      Only some forms of animal agriculture contribute to climate change. Animals are essential for regnerative agriculture and can lead to massive carbon sequestration. (See my previous comments.)

      Reply
      • Evan March 17, 2016, 8:01 am

        See above response to your other comments. Because a small group of farmers are using a novel farming technique does not mean that 99.9% of current animal product consumption is environmentally friendly. It also doesn’t mean that those techniques can be rolled out to the broader agricultural system without massive changes in demand.

        That’s like saying, bio-diesel is available somewhere in the world, therefore all diesel is environmentally friendly. Use lots of diesel.

        The argument doesn’t hang together.

        Reply
    • scraggly March 17, 2016, 1:25 pm

      While going vegan might be *better* than an individual’s current diet, I don’t really think this is a solution. Reduce consumption of animal products, for sure. But veganism, as an identity and culture, is one of the most disliked in the US. Don’t go vegan – you’ll just make people associate environmentalism with veganism, and turn them off of it.

      Reply
      • Evan March 17, 2016, 7:04 pm

        Disliked, just like abolitionist, women’s rights activities, civil rights activists, and LGBT activists.

        Reply
        • Tyler March 18, 2016, 9:24 am

          Evan, while I don’t necessarily agree with the sentiment outlined by scraggly, I think there’s a big difference between what you mention at what scraggly mentions. All of your examples are ones where people are fighting for equal rights. Rights which definitely need to be fought for. On the other hand, at this point in time, veganism is not a right to be fought for, it is a choice and in my opinion there is a big difference between a choice and a right that should be innate.

          Reply
  • Shan March 15, 2016, 5:50 pm

    Issac is right, it’s all about EROEI ( Energy Returned on Energy Invested). The idea that solar can power the entire globe is an interesting one, though it may be a bit disingenuous. I’m not sure. MM, has anyone done the math on what the solar panels that could potentially power the world would cost in term of materials available to build solar panels and the batteries they require, due to intermittency issues? In other words, how many rare earth minerals are involved for panels and associated batteries? Are there enough materials available for this social experiment, seeing as how they have to be replaced at some point. Oil is finite, and so are many others key materials needed for a global solar ramp up, including the change in infrastructure you would need, as we are largely dependent on a infrastructure designed for fossil fuels. A normal infrastructure transition to solar replacing all fossil fuels would take about 30 years on average, if we look to the past as an example. Are we robbing Peter to pay Paul in this game of musical chairs? These are the questions I would like answered. Though I will say, I think it will be the west that suffers most in this debacle, if we don’t get it together. We are the least prepared, maybe a weird form of poetic justice for using and hoarding all the world’s oil supplies ( disproportionate1 is more accurate), the invaluable energy source. I’ve lived and worked in developing countries for over 15 years, some places with no running water or electricity. These populations, by virtue of their poverty are already prepared for climate change. Their resiliency is built in so to speak. They’re already living Climate Change, without the help of critical infrastructure and the likes. They have their communities, their lanterns using local palm oil as fuel, and they largely exist as subsistence farmers. I remain hopeful MM, but I’m not sure we’ll win this race against climate change.

    Reply
    • Karen March 16, 2016, 12:17 am

      Sounds like you’ve been reading Kunstler. This (EROEI) is a very important practical question, and I’m keen to hear from anyone who can provide insight.

      It’s true that people in developing countries are generally quite resilient (I’ve lived in Nigeria, Mexico and Chile, and spent much time across the sub-continent). However, the challenges they will face from climate change will be overwhelming and tragic, making the ignorance and intransigence of people in the good ole US of A simply appalling.

      Reply
  • Andrew March 15, 2016, 6:15 pm

    It would cost the average American $15 per year to sequester all of one’s carbon: http://shindyapin.tumblr.com/post/141034501197/climate-change-solution-simplified

    Reply
  • Doug March 15, 2016, 6:45 pm

    MMM
    Love the blog, THANK YOU for writing an article every few weeks or so. I’m sorry that the demographics of the readers/commenters have become so sucky. Like, life sucking really.

    Please keep writting about whatever you want to write about! I don’t always agree, but I spend .05% the energy reading as you spend writing.

    Reply
  • Carl March 15, 2016, 8:34 pm

    Is global warming is a huge potential problem? Yes! In two decades? Not so sure about that. Just eyeball some of the temperature proxies along with global temperatures. Lots of noise there. Then note that we have a pathetically short overlap of proxy data and hard measurements, and many of our hard measurements are contaminated by urban island effects — correction of which requires some guesswork. Trying to extrapolate an extremely complicated nonlinear system from a tiny number of noisy starting points (in time) is only a few orts better than reading goat entrails.

    Are they growing wine grapes in England yet? Is Greenland green enough for Viking settlements yet? This quadrant of the planet has been significantly warmer within human memory and things didn’t go into positive feedback mode. So I’m not ready to panic yet. (I am game for a reasonable carbon tax and some other human friendly measures.)

    I am really, really bothered by the assertion that “climate change” will cause worse storms. Winds are not driven by absolute temperatures. They are driven by temperature differences. Since water vapor is the dominant greenhouse gas, the relative impact of putting CO2 into the atmosphere should be much higher at the poles than the equator. (Cold air holds very little water, even at 100% relative humidity.) To first order, adding CO2 to the atmosphere should make hurricanes weaker. On the other hand, my back of the envelope reasoning suggests that we could get significant glacier melt before temperatures change all that much here in the temperate zones.

    (OK, I am not a meteorologist. Maybe there is a higher order effect I’m not taking into account.)

    I am far more concerned about species loss than human loss for the initial changes. Farmers can change techniques and crops pretty darned quickly. Wild plants migrate much more slowly. Wild animals, somewhat in between. Still, I wouldn’t be so worried except for the fact that many animals have already been devastated down to critically low genetic diversity.

    One bit of good news: in the mountains dramatically different climates are within a day’s walk of each other. Even plants can likely “migrate” fast enough to keep up with likely warming rates in the mountains.

    Reply
    • BobTX March 16, 2016, 1:34 am

      Just a tweak: As an ecologist who has studied this stuff formally (and is appalled some of the other comments, but I’ve learned to limit my involvement to those that actually seem to be thinking about the issue, even if they are trying to explain the problem away with a bunch of arguments that don’t hold much scientific merit), your “bit of good news” is actually a lot more complicated that that.

      Species on the higher elevations of mountain ranges are actually already having trouble and being driven towards extinction in many cases because their ideal habitat is literally migrating off the top of the mountain (I’ve personally done the fieldwork on a study involving a group of species thought to be doomed over just the time scale you are debating – 20-40 years, even though they live in a habitat that has almost zero other human influences -no one really even goes to this kid of area). There are countless other well-studied examples of species or even whole ecosystems that are either already at the top of their mountains watching the last remains of their ideal habitat shrink away, or are near the top and marching right up to the same fate. Also, a lot of species of both animals and plants are looking like they actually are not keeping up with the elevation gain they need to keep up robust populations that are not prone to crashing. The same can be said of latitudinal change for other species.

      Reply
    • former player March 16, 2016, 2:44 am

      Are they growing grapes in England yet?

      Oh yes. English wines win a lot of international awards now. And as a specific example, the French champagne house Taittinger last year bought a 69 hectare Kentish apple orchard to turn into a vineyard.

      Really, if you can’t check such basic facts, why bother to write at all?

      Reply
    • Snor March 16, 2016, 3:03 am

      Hey Carl,

      Adding energy to a system like the atmosphere makes differences in temperature (and pressure) bigger, even if the average temperature between the latitudes becomes somewhat smaller. It’s these greater variations that drive an increase in the frequency and intensity of storms.

      Having said that, there is no way to tell which part of any storm or flood was caused by climate change. It’s only possible to study long term trends and see if you can pick the global warming signal up from those. You can read more about how that works for hurricanes here: http://skepticalscience.com/hurricanes-global-warming-intermediate.htm

      I agree that it’s not yet time to panic (its best never to panic of course). But global warming is being felt all over the world already, and these effects are likely to get quite a lot worse in the next 20 years. Even if we stop emitting CO2 today, there is a 5% chance we’ll overshoot 2 degrees Celcius due to the amount of warming that’s still in the pipeline.

      The pure temperature increase from anthropogenic global warming isn’t even the really scary part. Removing CO2 from the atmosphere is possible, even if it will cost us much more than what it brought us to burn fossil fuels. The truly frightening stuff are the feedback loops like methane release from melting permafrost, dieback of the amazon rainforest, melting of the Greenland ice sheet, changes in ocean circulations and loss of arctic sea ice.

      The problem with those is that each is thought to have a tipping point, beyond which the process is no longer stoppable. We have no way to know when these tipping points will be passed, so even the 2 degrees target is arbitrary. Especially permafrost melting is a dangerous one, since the amount of CO2 equivalents that may be released there is staggering.

      So climate change may become effectively unstoppable even before Vikings settle on Greenland again.

      Reply
      • Snor March 16, 2016, 3:07 am

        Hm, that was a bit gloomy, reading back. So let me add that I think that we have a good chance at beating this thing, despite the great risks we run. The Paris agreement and the actions being undertaken currently in (and by) many countries are a reason to be hopeful :).

        Reply
      • Carl March 16, 2016, 11:24 am

        Methinks the safest/quickest way to put the reverse on is to stir up some stagnant bits of the oceans using Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion. This is worth starting now, given that we need more fish than can be sustainably caught using today’s high tech hunter-gatherer approaches. Overfishing is clearly a problem now. No uncertainty there. And forcing billions of natural omnivores to become vegans is politically challenging to say the least.

        Reply
      • Carl March 16, 2016, 1:25 pm

        Time for a thermodynamics nitpick: CO2 does not add energy to the system. It reduces the energy loss. That is, it reduces the coupling between the atmosphere and its heat sink.

        You need a heat source and a heat sink to drive an engine.

        Reply
  • Jeffrey W March 15, 2016, 10:05 pm

    First time posting on the blog but I wanted to weigh in with some personal thoughts.

    Whether you believe in climate change or not is almost irrelevant. This argument can be rationally solved with a simple “if this, then that” game.

    If climate change is real and we take action to prevent further climate changes and promote a more sustainable humanity, we potentially stave off a major extinction event and help humanity support 9+ billion people with better agriculture, infrastructure, energy, and transportation.

    If climate change is not real and we take these same actions, we are no worse off than in the above situation. We make the planet more sustainable for more people while limiting the dependence on fossil fuels and providing possible energy sources for the future away from Earth.

    If climate change is real and we do not change our ways to become more sustainable, the downside could be extinction level events for humanity and other species that don’t adapt as rapidly as ourselves.

    Regardless of if you believe in climate change or not, there really is not be an argument against becoming a more sustainable and efficient society. Especially since the downside to being wrong about climate change occurring and not taking action affects all of humanity to such an extreme extent. If climate change is not happening and we make our society more sustainable, we still come out on top. Debate climate change all you want. What difference does it make to the fact that renewable energy and sustainable systems are the future??

    Reply
    • Zac March 16, 2016, 2:28 pm

      This is a good argument, Jeffrey!

      It reminds me of the Christian who once told me: “The atheist is probably right, but if he is then nothing happens when he dies and if the Preacher is right my bases are covered and I’m going to heaven”.

      So, by that logic, we should all believe in a deity because there is no downside when anyalysing this from the same, binary “Afterlife-only-consideration”. Maybe there is another consideration?

      At the risk of straying a bit from the topic at hand (because, for the record, I agree with your stance completely… Even the devil needs an advocate.) if we take a look at the Dark Ages of human civilization and history we find that much potential progress was stymied by similar thought processes (or lack thereof). The question of whether or not climate change is happening (it is) or whether or not it’s being primarily driven at an accelerated rate due to human activity (it is) is important to answer DECISICVELY for the sake of future progress. People need to make peace with the facts ABSOLUTELY in order to truly commit their lives towards the change.

      At this point in human history everybody KNOWS that cigarettes will kill you. In my grandparents time, people were not so sure… Jeffrey, I have news for you: SOME PEOPLE ACTUALLY STILL SMOKE.

      I know, I can’t believe it either. Now, at least, they have no rational, logical or factual argument to make defending their smoking. As a matter of fact, of my dozens of friends who consume tobacco habitually: only one (ONE!) defends his habit by saying he enjoys it and he’s going to keep it up until he dies of lung cancer. Every other friend says they’re “trying to quit, want to quit, etc. etc.”.

      So my conclusion is this: The facts are CLEAR. The truth is plain and people worldwide need to submit to logic and reason so that there IS no more “climate change debate”. There is no debate. There is climate change. Now, instead of wasting energy talking about “if it is”, we can spend our energy answering “what to do”.

      Hope this makes sense :) Again, I loved your post and I agree wholeheartedly with the changes you propose
      -Zac

      Reply
    • Heath March 16, 2016, 6:31 pm

      Exactly! I said this above as well, but you made a much more eloquent argument :-)

      Reply
  • Dr. Beard March 16, 2016, 2:00 am

    Interesting. I’m looking forward to your next article. Specifically, as someone that works in this field, I’m looking forward to seeing how you imagine the energy storage problem being resolved. Solar production is getting fairly inexpensive, and there is a clear trajectory towards being cost comparative to fossils. However, inexpensive, reliable, and environmentally forward energy storage (batteries) is still the missing piece. Which is why Elon Musk may find himself the first trillionaire if he gets around to solving that problem. Fundamentally, Tesla has nothing to do with fancy cars.

    Reply
    • Mr. 1500 March 16, 2016, 11:52 am

      Yes, the Gigafactory is the heart of Tesla. Musk has also hired on some big name battery researchers. Let’s hope that there’s another leap forward in battery technology brought to market within 10 years.

      Reply
  • ExxonMobil Mustachian March 16, 2016, 6:29 am

    Good thought-provoking article!

    Before I say anything negative, I will say that the issue with climate change really should be decoupled from energy efficiency.

    I am all for energy efficiency. Who wouldn’t be? It is something that everybody should want to strive for, right? Even the typical wasteful consumer understands the value of installing fluorescent bulbs over incandescent (usually).

    However, just because somebody might be uncertain (or even disagree) about climate change causes/effects doesn’t mean that they shouldbe inefficient with resources.

    Climate change is a very complex system that is not easily understood. Agreed, there are experts on climate change – and I’m not one of them – but that doesn’t mean that they are 100% right either. There are plenty of mysteries in this world that have yet to be fully understood… and I’m glad of that fact. How boring would it be if everything were figured out already!

    Now, I don’t think we should give up trying to understand the system of our global climate, but a lay person agreeing with an expert doesn’t make any more sense than if they were to disagree with them. Who are they to judge the accuracy of something that they themselves are not experts in?

    All this is just to say… let’s strive towards energy efficiency anyway, and keep trying to understand climate change too!

    Thank you for the many great articles!

    p.s. – When is the 2015 Annual Spending coming out??!!

    Reply
  • Heather M March 16, 2016, 8:26 am

    I am going to remain sitting on my fence for the time being but something else to consider here is that, even if all the CO2 predictions are true, the political focus on this one issue means that the public (who all seem to be one issue ponies) are missing the big picture. The big picture in my mind, CO2, cow farts and other emissions aside, is that there are simply too many humans and we all consume way too much. This is the bottom line behind most environmental, climate change predictions, human capital and even human conflict. Our insatiable demand for more and more and more is what is destroying our own habitat. Humans by nature want to progress, create, aquire and advance. It’s this nature that has made us get to where we are today (the good and the bad). We are also multiplying at a massive rate to where there are now more than 8 billion of us. All of these 8 billion want more money, more power and more stuff. Being a Mustacian and general minimalist, I still feel like our consumption in our house is massively out of whack. Even if we buy very little, “stuff” still floods through our doors from friends, family and other well meaning places like the preschool our children attend. All of this “stuff” which mostly has little to no “making life awesome factors” took energy to produce and will forever sit in the landfills or require energy to “recyle” it by burning fuel to make it into another form of “stuff” we don’t actually need. Aside from blogs like this though, I don’t know how you change the attitudes of the general public. You can’t get it into politics as no politician will win asking people to do less of what society sees as fueling their economy and their way of life.

    Reply
    • Dave March 16, 2016, 4:37 pm

      Heather, I have observed this as well. I cringe every week when I put our plastic bag full of garbage at the curb for the garbage truck driver to pick up and haul away from my house. Every week. Sometimes there are two bags. I buy shoes and clothing that wear out. I live in a climate that requires heat in the winter so I own a gas furnace. I turn on an air conditioner in the heat of summer. I have grown accustomed to these conveniences that no one is forcing me to turn off. The main reason I started riding a bike to work is because gas reached a price point 7-8 years ago that I finally refused to buy it to haul my self to my job. People resist change unless they have to change, or something really inspires them. I’ve tried to explain the benefits of biking for transportation to others, but they reject it as something they don’t need to do. I can’t blame them. I haven’t changed my grocery buying habits to reduce the amount of garbage my family discards each week. There is a social aspect to adopting Mustacian ideals whereby some folks don’t want to come across as being weird or different. I get it. I can get depressed about that when I get that vibe from others in my town, or my own house. “Dude, you’re nuts to ride your bike on a day like today! Don’t you own a car?”

      This blog is great, and I do enjoy reading it. I wonder though how many people really change their ways after they have read something here. People who buy in were probably already into the idea a little bit already. I mean I used to haul groceries on my bicycle when I was in college 30 years ago. I already like biking. I hope people change, but I’m skeptical. I’ve had conversations with folks about scarce resources and making changes to be resilient in the face of major life changes and more than one has responded that they’d rather just die off than to have to change their way of living. I guess their plan is to just use it all up until it’s gone, and then just quit. Many, many of the products produced today are products I really don’t need or want. I think I would be happier without discount/stuff stores, cell phones, cars, a job. Living to eat and poop and keep the human species alive would be my sole purpose. I can state this because I have the luxury of abundance and can look back somewhat critically at the excess in my life now and in the past. That’s when I think that maybe I was just born 150 years late. They didn’t know what they were missing.

      Reply
  • Pablito March 16, 2016, 8:35 am

    “The planet is fine. The people are fucked.” – George Carlin

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfJhPbFW6qk

    Reply
  • meep er March 16, 2016, 9:01 am

    Good to see you directly comment on Global Warming, MMM. Many of your readers are engineers, scientists (yours truly), teachers, and economists who have really taken the time to study the issue. Most of the posts above are truly thoughtful, and therefore very heartening, though one or two posters deserve a little Mustachian roughing up.

    I won’t bother writing about Milankovitch cycles, Ice Ages, inter-glacial periods, greenhouse theory, or the polemics of climate change. To me it’s a waste of time, as well as an obvious fallacy of logic, to argue against a fact, and the fact is that the planet is warming at an alarming rate. It is highly probable that human activity is accelerating the underlying natural processes.

    We have to adapt. Otherwise, like all the other hominid species, homo sapiens sapiens is at risk of extinction sooner than most of us would like to admit. And the reasons are right in front of us — at the most basic level, as mammals we depend on the planet for food, water, clean air, and space. And as the most social of all species, we depend on one another to keep the peace, trade ideas and resources, and grow the next generations. We won’t be able to do these things very well if oceans rise fast and temperatures cook the planet. We are, in fact, at risk.

    This is where smart and appropriate science, technology, and economic behavior come into play. And your blog, which is an educational website of first order, imo. As I have been saying for twenty years, “green is green,” meaning that smart use of resources can result in one becoming quite well off with fists, pockets, and accounts full of dollars. It’s no accident that you and the Mrs. have done very well. By using bikes for most local transportation, renovating a reasonably-sized home, installing radiant heat; by crushing stupid fears, encouraging toughness over lazy conveniences, promoting efficiency in the allocation of time and money; and by focusing on family, friends, health, and happiness…you are showing the way.

    Yep, green is green, and living that way will make people happy. And maybe, just maybe, it can extend both the quality of life and time on the planet for our fellow humans.

    I’m looking forward to the next post! Keep fighting the good fight, Pete.

    Reply
  • Jeff March 16, 2016, 9:37 am

    To those who are skeptical of mankind’s effect on climate change, maybe you’re overthinking things. You can watch all the documentaries or read all of the articles on the subject matter you can possibly absorb but the truth might be much simpler to observe with the naked eye. I would ask you to use your senses and just take a look at big cities such as Beijing or Los Angeles and the pollution that looms overhead, and then take a similar glance at places of relatively untouched nature such as Yosemite, Yellowstone or other protected forests or National Parks. Or better yet, just take a drive (or bike as MMM would suggest) outside the city limits into the great outdoors and that should tell you all you need to know. Smell the air, look at the surroundings and you can note the difference. For those of you who hike, backpack or camp, you know what I’m talking about. It’s that feeling when you get away from the city and arrive at your destination off the beaten path and take in that first breath of fresh air. There is definitely some degree of direct correlation to our modern industrial/habitual practices and the cumulative effect it has on the environment, to suggest otherwise is negligent.

    Reply
  • Edward March 16, 2016, 9:42 am

    Thankfully this, “I believe what I believe and science will never convince me otherwise because I’m a genius,” attitude seems to finally be slipping regarding earth issues. When it was much more predominant (4, 5 years ago?), I’d get into heated arguments with naysayers. I’d finally point out, “Even if you think it’s all fake, you can see brown smog in even small towns. Do you think breathing that is good for you? Do you think dead birds and fish they find all these plastic particles in is good for us? Is our ingesting it okay? Is the Pacific Garbage Island a beneficial place for us? Maybe we can eventually set up a colony there?” When they conceded, “No,” I’d say, “So, what’s the big problem then? What’s wrong with cutting emissions down and not acting like a total asshole towards the earth?”

    Reply
    • Carl March 16, 2016, 11:36 am

      Smog? Smog in the U.S. is WAY down from 40 years ago. Catalytic converters work. The EPA has done some things right.

      True, in some towns — including the one I live in — there is intermittent air pollution from people burning yard trash. This is a form of air pollution that has been around since before humans arrived. Pine barrens have to burn out. Pine straw doesn’t rot very well.

      Reply
      • Mr. Frugal Toque March 17, 2016, 7:46 am

        What you’re admitting here is that human beings do have a considerable effect on the environment.
        We do, indeed, produce enough pollution to alter the acidity of our rain and the breathability of our atmosphere. Remember leaded gasoline?
        Elsewhere, we have people claiming that it’s egotistical to believe that tiny, tiny humans have this capacity.

        Reply
    • Frugality Runs in the Family March 16, 2016, 11:58 am

      Two responses:

      1. What I notice, very frequently, is that I am urged to buy into climate change not because of what the science says, but because of what scientists say. There is a difference. Where are the experimental data that show that an increase in human-generated GHG actually caused higher temperatures? What I read over and over again is that higher temperatures followed higher GHG, therefore the first rise caused the second. But that’s not science; it’s a post hoc fallacy. I’m a lawyer and not a scientist, but I don’t need to be one to spot that. Do climate change believers have any better evidence than that?

      Another constant refrain is that “97%” of scientists believe the climate change message, ergo I should too. But 99% of scientists in the 1800’s believed that bacteria didn’t cause childbed fever, so they didn’t bother washing their hands when they went between the dissecting lab and the obstetrics ward. Probably hundreds of new mothers died in Vienna and Budapest hospitals as a result. When Ignaz Semmelweis (their version of a climate change denier) required his doctors to wash their hands, the 99% were so outraged that they got him fired and out on the street homeless. Much the same happened with Gallileo. In a nutshell, 97% of scientists aren’t always right when they aren’t supported by decent experimental evidence. Where is it?

      Please don’t just post links, but describe the actual experiments that show that increased GHG caused increased temperatures in the very complex real world (not just the comparatively simple lab), and not merely followed them.

      2. Edward asks what’s the harm in preventing pollution. My response: for people who read this blog, probably little harm. But the EPA’s new regulations on power plants, for example, threaten to shut down many functioning power plants in the US and require them to be replaced with expensive substitutes. This likely will result in brownouts and steep increases in power bills.

      Let’s say that your power bill goes up by $100 per month. For us, it’s just that much less into the early retirement fund–annoying, but manageable. But there are millions of Americans who would really suffer from that kind of burden. If you make $35,000 per year, live in an Eastern city and have to spend $1,200 more in after-tax dollars on utilities, forget about the retirement account at all. Maybe even forget the doctor’s visit. And that’s not counting the harm of brownouts.

      A hypothetical question, but the harm will be real to millions. Is it too much to ask, before inflicting that harm, that climate change theories be well-supported by reproducible experimental data?

      Reply
      • Kyle March 16, 2016, 1:09 pm

        1. Already Debunked myth
        http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-lags-temperature-intermediate.htm

        2. You’re power bill will rise regardless. New regulations will not increase your bill as much as you claim. That’s just being disingenuous. If you are truly mustachian, your energy use should be very minimal as it is. So even modest increases will be mostly negligible. Certainly no reason to “throw in the towel” on the planet.

        As to your question climate change theory is as well supported as other scientific theories, like gravity. Perhaps you should seek it out, rather than suggesting it doesn’t exist.

        Reply
      • Carl March 16, 2016, 4:07 pm

        We cannot do the experiment without doing The Experiment. The results might be unpleasant, as others have noticed.

        My argument is that we should be focusing for now on the cheap solutions. After we run out of the cheap solutions then we consider going into emergency mode. By then we will have more data. We might also have cheap alternative energy.

        Battery powered cars are still a high end luxury item for those who travel far. For toodling around city cores, battery powered cars with short ranges and low top speeds make perfectly good sense. The immediate justification is that the move the pollution out of the city (to power plants).

        Likewise, burning less petroleum makes sense because guaranteeing the supply is bloody expensive. If we instituted an oil import tariff purely for paying off the Gulf War expenses, you would see a lot fewer SUVs coming off the lots. This is fee for service government, not eco panic.

        There is also a developmental reason for importing less oil: we are rich enough to explore alternatives. India, China, and Africa are not. Let them buy Arab oil while we move on.

        There is a national defense/developmental reason for solar as well. Solar power is still expensive compared to First World utility power. In the more barbaric regions of the world, solar is cheaper. Solar works without good central government. A hundred billion dollars of overpriced Solyndra solar cells to Afghanistan would have been a bargain compared to the nation building efforts we tried.

        Reply
      • Mr. Frugal Toque March 17, 2016, 7:55 am

        “Please don’t just post links, but describe the actual experiments that show that increased GHG caused increased temperatures in the very complex real world (not just the comparatively simple lab), and not merely followed them.”

        This isn’t even the right question, or at least you’re not asking it properly.

        We don’t care about *temperatures*, per se, in proving this point. We care about heat reflection/retention.

        If the infra-red spectroscopy satellite records show that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere prevents infra-red light from escaping, that’s all you need to show. After that, it’s just a matter of figuring out how much energy (in the form of heat) is being retained. That explains the mechanism of global warming.

        And fortunately, proving this point has already been done:

        https://www.skepticalscience.com/empirical-evidence-for-co2-enhanced-greenhouse-effect.htm

        Reply
        • Frugality Runs in the Family March 17, 2016, 11:28 am

          Responses:
          1. I didn’t state a myth, I asked a question. How do you get around your argument being a post hoc fallacy? Where is the experimental evidence that higher GHG has caused higher temperatures in any significant way?

          2. Mr. Frugal Toque links to an interesting page that lays out what look like good arguments that CO2 is a “greenhouse gas.” I can accept this. I would be interested in any reliable evidence of what that has caused that isn’t just post hoc reasoning.

          3. On the effect of EPA regulations on power plants, see http://www.nreca.coop/epa-dramatically-underestimates-clean-power-plan-costs-to-electric-co-ops-new-nreca-analysis-finds/.

          On that page, the NRECA estimates that new power plants for electrical cooperatives alone can run up to $30 billion from 2022-2030. This isn’t pocket change, and we need to be responsible about the science before inflicting this on ratepayers. Probably few of them are mustachian, but shouldn’t we make sure the science is well supported before we send their electric bills through the roof?

          4. Carl: you make good, common sense arguments. I agree with them all.

          Reply
          • Mr. Frugal Toque March 17, 2016, 12:02 pm

            “2. Mr. Frugal Toque links to an interesting page that lays out what look like good arguments that CO2 is a “greenhouse gas.” I can accept this. I would be interested in any reliable evidence of what that has caused that isn’t just post hoc reasoning.”

            What is your standard of “reliable evidence”? As you’ve said, there are a lot of variables. When we take all the variables into account, we see the correlation between CO2 and temperature.
            But then you say “But you haven’t done a world wide experiment where ONLY CO2 changes and temperature goes with it!”
            Guess what?
            We can’t do that experiment.
            You’re insisting that we let the planet melt and only stop it once we’ve proven that it melted.
            The rest of us don’t agree.

            Reply
            • Frugality Runs in the Family March 18, 2016, 11:48 am

              “Reliable evidence” would be a reproducible experiment that is capable of falsifying the theory sought to be proved. If the experiment fails, that failure supports the theory. This is standard scientific method.

              The exact question is not whether increased CO2 causes a rise in temperatures or heat retention–it does–but how much? Some studies suggest that the answer is virtually none, e.g. http://principia-scientific.org/proven-negative-water-feedback-means-co2-climate-impact-irrelevant/.

              So do we ban coal power plants and rush out to buy boats, or sit back and consider the matter more calmly? I suggest that the latter course is reasonable, given the lack of evidence showing the specific effect CO2 actually has had on the climate, aside from post-hoc data.

              I do think that our society should reduce its oil consumption for other reasons that Carl lists above. I would even add one to them: our oil imports indirectly support radical terrorism. A good reason to reduce oil consumption, but no reason to put coal mines out of business as, for example, Hillary Clinton has threatened to do.

              Claims that waiting will “let the planet melt” commit the logical fallacy of begging the question. Increasingly desperate claims of higher temperatures do nothing to prove that increased CO2 production raises temperatures to a significant extent.

              Reply
  • Paul March 16, 2016, 9:46 am

    I tend to have a Stoic’s attitude toward “Climate Change”. Because it is something over which I have absolutely no control, I try my best not to worry about it. Plus, I’ve now lived long enough to have acquired a healthy dose of skepticism about predictions about what might happen decades in the future. Also, the entire debate about “Climate Change” has been hopelessly infected with politics on both sides.

    Reply
    • Sarah Jane March 16, 2016, 11:53 am

      Many of us have younger children and feel a deeply primal drive to keep the world safe for our offspring. As individuals we have no control -that is the unfortunate truth- but collectively, each of us doing the same routines and habits (i.e. driving, flying, consumer-based economic systems) we have a scaled impact big enough to change the thin veneer of atmosphere blanketing the planet. The reality is that it will take institutional change (business and government) to change the behavior of the collective because the scale. If it were a family issue it could be worked out in the family.. in a small community you could solve it with the city government… but this is literally an entire civilization, probably the biggest to date, that needs to be transformed. Of course YOU or I don’t have control, but we do have our place in the system. We all need to agree (and accept) that it’s a problem worth worrying about.

      Reply
      • Paul March 16, 2016, 12:40 pm

        My guess is that you are a good deal younger than me. Although, I have two young children even though I am well into my 50’s. I want to keep my children safe as well, but realistically there is no way to make the world “safe”.

        Here is a story to put things in perspective. When I was in junior high school in the late 70’s, during the middle east oil embargo, we were taught that the world’s oil supply would only last another 12-25 years. The majority of scientists at the time believed that at current consumption rates and based on predicted reserves, we would run out of oil in my lifetime. Such predictions, in hindsight, were preposterous. We have more oil today than we know what to do with. On a price adjusted basis oil is cheaper today than in the late 70’s.

        I strongly suspect that 40 years from now we will look back at the hysteria over “climate change” and see that it was much to do about little or nothing.

        Reply
        • Sarah Jane March 16, 2016, 3:53 pm

          I’m also old enough to have, for a period of time, freaked out that we were going to run out of oil with no affordable and available fuel alternative. I get it. However, what percentage of current fossil fuel production and reserves can be attributed to new technologies and techniques like hydraulic fracturing? To what degree has the increase in fuel efficiency and the upsurge in alternative fuel use affected demand? If the model is off by a decade or more it doesn’t mean that its premise is invalid. It might mean that there were changes in the variables. Unfortunately for us humans, geologic time scales are vastly, if not inconceivably, longer than our own. So if a process took 20 years longer than we had predicted for some it means it was flat out wrong. Indeed this is a very dangerous issue in regards to the causes of climate change, or rather, the inaction to do anything about it. The other thing that I’m not hearing in these comments is that climate change isn’t just measured by atmospheric researchers, but is finding consensus amongst many areas of science: a gamut of biologists, volcanologists, geologists, glaciologists.. they are all finding evidence of dramatic shifts that are consistent with what physicists and chemists have said about the molecular nature of carbon in its variant forms (including the acidification of the oceans…. and nobody has brought that up yet??? tisk-tisk..) The fundamental understanding of atmospheric carbon is really quite simple, it’s almost appalling simple, really. That we have to waste so much precious time and conversation on the “debate”.. a complete failure of our education and social systems to adapt in the face of the greatest threat we’ve encountered yet in written history.

          I really would love to laugh at myself in 40 years the way I laugh at religious nut jobs that make end of the world predictions. If only the alarm bells were sounded by extreme cultists and not sound-minded, heavily vetted PhDs from across the various Earth Sciences.

          Reply
          • Paul March 16, 2016, 4:22 pm

            Take a look at Michael Crichton’s book “State of Fear”. You do not have to read the entire book, just the appendices where he writes about global warming and how difficult it is to make predictions about what might happen many decades in the future. Do you not prove my point by responding about technological changes and the current supply of oil?

            At the turn of the 19th century what was the major pollution problem in large North American cities? It was likely horse manure. Were there folks doing calculations at the time warning that unless we did something about all these horses we were all going to be neck deep in horse shit in 20 years? The idea that in 50 or 100 years we will all be driving around in gasoline powered cars or still producing electricity with coal and natural gas is pure speculation. I won’t be around in 50 years, but if the advances are even close to the advances made in the last 50 or 100 years, we might be using transporters similar to what we now see in science fiction.

            Do you really believe carbon dioxide emissions are the “greatest threat we’ve encountered in written history”? That seems rather alarmist to me.

            Reply
            • Sarah Jane March 16, 2016, 5:58 pm

              Horse shit makes fine fertilizer.

              Reply
    • Acroy March 17, 2016, 11:22 am

      Bingo.
      It is outside my ‘circle of control’ and thus no need to worry about it.
      Each of us is charged with being a ‘good steward’. Buy little, waste less, be frugal.

      Reply
      • Paul March 17, 2016, 12:04 pm

        Exactly. If “Climate Change” were not an issue I’d be living my life the exact same way: frugally, simply, and attempting to be a good steward of what I have control over. In fact, I cannot think of one aspect of my life I would change if there were no such thing as “global warming” or “climate change”. I cannot think of anything more outside my circle of control than the climate of the planet now or 50 or 100 years in the future.

        Reply
  • Yermak Timofeyevich March 16, 2016, 10:02 am

    I don’t understand something. Why does the solution to fossil fuel use always have to be solar/wind/sea tide energy?
    We have a perfectly viable ready-to-use solution that does not involve massive pollution (either semi-conductors or noisy and finicky turbines) and a lot of pseudo-scientific back of the envelope what-if-we-only-covered Texas with solar panels calculations. It is called nuclear energy. France derives 75% of its electric energy from fission power plants. Nuclear power in France costs a sixth of the price of solar energy. It costs less than coal in the US.
    And for all the “this will end the world” naysayers – Fukushima or Chernobyl are old deprecated reactor designs. Newer designs are much safer.

    Reply
    • Eric March 16, 2016, 11:16 am

      Thank you. I’d be a lot less skeptical of the climate change political movement if nuclear power (and hydro) were being discussed more seriously and honestly.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache March 16, 2016, 12:56 pm

        I agree – nuclear power is AWESOME! We need to keep building it, advancing it, and fighting the NIMBYism/beauracracy that has made it more expensive and less safe.

        Reply
        • Myles March 16, 2016, 2:08 pm

          Have you heard of IMSR technology, Integral Molten Salt Reactors? A company called Terrestrial Energy (I won’t link it here but I suggest readers check out the company website for a really interesting and fairly understandable explanation of the technology).
          I realize that even “new” nuclear technologies are expensive, but when humanity is on the line, I have to imagine cost is almost inconsequential. When freedom and human lives were on the line during WWII, people sacrificed immensely because the alternative was even worse. That’s my way of saying the benefit of new nuclear probably justifies the cost.
          I like to imagine a 20 year future with a realistic energy mix using technologies that are basically availably to us TODAY. Natural gas used for home heating in Northern climates and cooking only, maybe a few peaker power plants for wind reliability. Renewables and hydro making up about 50% of electricity production and nuclear making up the other 50%. Airplanes can still use jet fuel but most vehicles could be electric. Omnivores can still eat meat but average world consumption of meat is cut by 25-50%. All the average MMM reader has to imagine is invoking a similar type of small step changes they have made to their lives, on a much larger, world wide energy production and consumption scale.
          …Maybe that’s traveling too far up the Utopian path so if anyone is thinking of responding with a comment to that effect, don’t bother. I’ve already heard that criticism in my own head.

          Reply
  • CapitalistRoader March 16, 2016, 10:05 am

    Look up “Doggerland”, the massive piece of land that used to connect the British Isles with Continental Europe. It disappeared ~ 10,000 years ago due to rising sea levels. Mankind weathered that tremendous climate change in its recent past and no doubt we’ll weather any future climate change just fine.

    And, as always, follow the money. The US alone spends >$20 billion a year on climate change research, providing a great financial incentive to keep the public whipped up in an Armageddon-like hysteria and funding levels up. This US president foresaw the danger of a federal government/academia conspiracy against citizens over 50 years ago:

    “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”
    President Dwight Eisenhower, 1960

    Reply
    • Andrew March 16, 2016, 5:03 pm

      Nope, if you would look up Doggerland you’d note that it sank slowly as a combination of sea-level rise due to the end of the glacial period, glacial isostatic adjustment (i.e. sinking land) and possibly a tsunami. It’s a poor indication of global scale climate change. And back then we didn’t have massive cities and millions of people living on the coasts within a few meters of sea level… now we do and we can’t afford to let the seas continue to rise.

      Your figure for spending on climate research is off by a factor of 10… it’s actually about $2 billion. http://www.gao.gov/key_issues/climate_change_funding_management/issue_summary.

      Furthermore, if you really want to follow the money, how do you feel about ExxonMobile and the Koch brothers and all of the other fossil fuel companies spending billions to prevent legislative action and spread propaganda to convince people that 97% of actual climate scientists are defrauding the public with a scheme so weak it can be disproven by silly bullshit about some land sinking 10,000 years ago?

      Reply
  • Frugal Bazooka March 16, 2016, 10:35 am

    Clever post Triple M. Tying environmental issues and concerns to economic growth and individual wealth is a good way to get the attention of those who are usually so focused on themselves that they don’t bother to see what’s going on around them. The question is, is the fear of losing wealth in the abstract (for now) enough of a motivation to change behavior? Or…is there a way to use capitalism to solve the problems you discuss? Despite the best of intentions, most govts will never be able to create enough laws and regulations to control the behaviors of the world. Finding a way to show people that changing behavior has an immediate and positive financial effect on their wealth would, I suspect, make the changing of bad habits happen rather quickly.
    An example of this was the selling of pollution credits in Calif. Finding a way to monetize good environmental behavior will surely beat well meaning legislation.
    We also have the unfortunate reality that while the West is moving towards better environmental policies, the developing world (esp those with massive populations) will continue to consume large amounts of oil as their economic growth continues to explode.

    Reply
  • Ike March 16, 2016, 10:53 am

    THANK YOU!!

    Reply
  • Koz March 16, 2016, 11:17 am

    Hi MMM,

    New reader to your website and really dig what you are writing and the information you are providing. I did have one question for you and maybe you have answered this in the past. On an older post you talk about the benefits of buying your food/ protein from Costco and large box retailers while avoiding higher cost stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Vitamin Cottage, etc… With this recent post regarding Mother Nature and the poor conditions that big box farmers have for their animals. Would it not be better for the environment, overall food and animals to pay a little more at stores like WF’s, Vitamin Cottage, to get grass fed/ free range meat?

    With Wal-Marts announcement of the Freedom Principals, it sounds like some are making improvements. Just would like your thought on this.

    Sorry if you have already answered this, thanks for the reply.

    Koz

    Reply
    • phred March 17, 2016, 12:42 pm

      It would be best to shop at farmers’ markets and join a CSA program. Buying free-range meats directly from the farmer allows the farm family to receive more of the food dollar that currently goes to the middleman. It would also cut down on packaging waste and transport costs.

      Reply
      • lurker March 20, 2016, 4:14 pm

        and the difference in taste is amazing…….had a hamburger the other day that smelled like steak as it was cooking and tasting better than any meat I have ever eaten…..and our farmer is a really cool lady to boot…….had her in for a glass of wine on meat delivery night and it was great to talk to her.

        Reply
      • Koz March 21, 2016, 11:10 am

        Thanks phred. I know a few people that have joined these programs. Will look into it.

        Reply
  • Aaron March 16, 2016, 11:24 am

    Sadly, while your home country listens to scientists, ours does not. Young earth creationism, climate denialism, anti-vaxers, anti-GMO conspiracy nuts, and “alternate medicine” is all the rage in the US, not only in our public, but in our elected representatives.

    Reply
  • Michelle March 16, 2016, 11:24 am

    You know, you almost had me fooled – I thought you really had scored an interview with Mother Earth. But then the curse words started showing up, and I knew it was a hoax! Shame on you!

    Actually, thanks for putting it in real language, with a practical, matter-of-fact tone.

    Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque March 17, 2016, 7:40 am

      I’m a little suspicious that MMM and Mother Earth are actually the same person
      1) They swear in the same way (shouldn’t Mother Earth have a different cursing style?)
      2) Their names both start with ‘M’.
      3) They’ve never been seen together (that most recent “wheelie” picture looks a little green-screenie to me)
      My skepticism aside, a pretty good interview otherwise.

      Reply
  • Jeff March 16, 2016, 11:36 am

    I’m taking the end of this article to mean MMM is adding solar panels to his house.

    Reply
  • Anna March 16, 2016, 11:41 am

    I realize this question has been raised before, but isn’t investing in the stock market tacitly participating in enriching corporations who contribute to global warming, income inequality, and the general havoc being wreaked on Mother Earth?

    Reply

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