1. 70
  1.  

  2. 19

    I just want to point out that planting trees is the worst kind of CO2 compensation.

    • Young trees don’t absorb as much CO2 as old ones
    • Planting trees does not actually change the fact that we are emitting too much CO2.
    • There are not a general solution in the sense that everyone could just compensate with trees and everything is fine

    It is better to compensate via an investment in green and sustainable projects

    1. 32

      I just want to point out that planting trees is the worst kind of CO2 compensation.

      The benefits of the tree are for tomorrow not today and aren’t purely for CO2 sequestration. You also reduce/mitigate things like desertification, help change local climate, provide future nesting area for birds etc…

      Don’t let a good thing like planting trees stop you from doing so because it alone won’t fix CO2. We need multi pronged approaches. And given how many trees are dying now due to fires, I can’t get behind not trying to plant more to fix the after effects of us not dealing with CO2 in the atmosphere.

      1. 10

        I disagree. While planting a few trees won’t have an immediate effect, it has a few nice properties:

        1. It’s easy: provided you have a sapling and a shovel you can do it. Or even easier, donate to something like Trees for all and have somebody else do it at a much larger scale.
        2. We can do it today
        3. It benefits nature as a whole, e.g. by providing nesting space for birds
        4. It’s probably the least prone to corruption, misuse of funds, or some other form of “damage” to others.
        5. Provided they are taken care for (or just left alone), a forest can last for more or less forever (at least here in The Netherlands where we don’t have massive wildfires and what not). I think wind turbines only last 2-3 decades or so.

        Of course there are far more effective ways, such as banning cars and massive investments in public transportation. But these methods tend to be very political, take years to complete, usually are horribly expensive, and may be prone to misuse.

        A random recent example: a wind park was built in The Netherlands, with enough energy to provide 300k-something homes with electricity. The Dutch government invested something like €600 million, with the promise that locals would get (IIRC) a discount. This would be a huge benefit for the environment, as a few birds flying into a wind turbine is worth saving tons of CO2.

        Except it all went to a (newly built) data centre from Microsoft. All of it. This in spite of The Netherlands lagging behind massively when it comes to adopting renewable energy sources.

        For reference, that €600 million would’ve been enough for roughly 96 000 trees according to the Trees for All website. The exact amount of CO2 this can store is hard to calculate. A statistic I found on a few websites is roughly 20KG of CO2 per tree per year. At 96 000 trees that would translate to 1 920 000 KG (2 116 tons) of CO2 per year.

        Of course it would’ve been even better to just give the wind park to citizens as originally intended, but this is just an example to show that planting trees can be very effective.

        1. 2

          Provided they are taken care for (or just left alone), a forest can last for more or less forever (at least here in The Netherlands where we don’t have massive wildfires and what not). I think wind turbines only last 2-3 decades or so.

          Not only in the netherlands, but pretty much everywhere. While still natural events, most present days wildfires, or at least their scale, are very much a result of replacing naturally occurring forest with vast areas of monoculture of trees for wood production purposes. Covering thousands of acres with pines, spruces and eucalyptus in places like south europe, south africa or california is essentially turning land into a gigantic fuse. Before man-made forests, such trees had to share the space with leafy trees such as oak, chestnut, acer, birch, cherry, etc. These are not only less flammable themselves, they also provide thicker shadow, retaining more humidity and allow for less flammable smaller plants to grow below their canopy.

          You also forgot a very important plus for trees: their impact on human life quality. Few things are more therapeutic than taking a walk on a quite forest. And even in the city or indoors, humans naturally need proximity with nature.

        2. 8

          But it doesn’t hurt, right? If we would plant as much as we cut, we’d still help a lot – or this wouldn’t hold?

          1. 5

            Yes, a small amount. See https://savingnature.com/offset-your-carbon-footprint-carbon-calculator/, then multiply the results by a few billion people per year.

          2. 2

            Not only that, but most of these “we plant trees for you” operations are planting tree farms that would have been planted anyways. They’re also monocultures that don’t support ecosystems the way a real forest would, but I think people get this image of a proper forest when they hear about these things—and it ain’t so.

            1. 2

              It’s not the best but it’s certainly not the worst. It ranks higher in CO2 reduction than buying a carbon offset for example.

              What most companies don’t realise is that it’s not enough to be carbon neutral, they need to be carbon negative and actively reduce the level of CO2 rather than maintain it. The heating effects of elevated CO2 are cumulative.

              1. 2

                Thanks I didn’t know this.

                1. 15

                  Edit: this is in reply to GP.

                  Obviously, the need to plant trees arises from the fact that we have destroyed huge areas of forest and woodland already and should try to re-establish the balance of co2 absorption.

                  Literally every single old tree has been a young tree once. You need to plant trees and let them grow old. By your logic there could never be any benifit of planting a tree, carbon wise. You don’t need to cut down an old tree to plant a new one. An old tree plus a young tree abdorve more co2 than the old one alone. I am not sure what you are trying to point out with your first bullet point.

                  Although I absolutely agree with your second and third point. And that applies to most modern “solutions”. There is this idea that we just switch do PV panels, or electric cars or plant a bunch of trees and everything is fine. While the problem is much more deep rooted in the very concept of our current modern society.

                  1. 5

                    I totally agree, but the conservation and planting of trees and the compensation of everyone‘s CO2 emissions are two different problems in my opinion. I cant just hit a stranger in the face and pay the medical bills.

                    1. 4

                      Yes, I think it’s clear that both these problems should be worked on. Too much CO2, and too little trees.

                2. 1

                  We have too many trees here. You can adopt some of them

                3. 31

                  I’ll microoptimize my personal site once all proof-of-work blockchains are abolished.

                  1. 26

                    I get your point, but also… Be the change you want to see.

                    1. 11

                      I think by running this calculator on my site I generated more CO2 than the supposed 1-2 visitors per month do while visiting my page.

                      Also this example calculations. While neat, completely useless. When I move the visitors to 19500 per month it jumps to “2 trees” everything below that is “1 tree”. Well, yes, sure, that’s only a factor of 1000…

                      1. 2

                        Presumably the article author has more traffic than that.

                        1. 1

                          I certainly hope so, but this more related to what gerikson said, also note the last line of the post:

                          What’s the carbon footprint of your website? What steps will you take to reduce it?

                      2. 6

                        I’m very sceptical of the calculator but it says my personal site would use 8kWh with 10k visitors per year. 1 watt per hour.

                        That’s nothing!! Focus on things in your life which matter, e.g. if you don’t run your air conditioner as much, you’d easily save 8kWh in just a couple of days.

                        Or don’t eat a steak and you’re able to run my website for like 4 years.

                      3. 8

                        @yarmo & @cos

                        Both your point postulate that micro-optimizing your personnal website is significant to “save the planet”.

                        Not going into politics here, but from a computer-science point of view everything is about trade-off.

                        Is the effort spent optimizing your personnal website has a valuable impact on the problem your trying to solve ?

                        One could argue that personnal websites are definitely not a significant part of the energy used nowadays, and far lower than blockchains related stuff.

                        That’s how I understand @gerikson point of view.

                        But then again, it does not forbid you to optimize your website if you feel like it.

                        1. 4

                          Is the effort spent optimizing your personnal website has a valuable impact on the problem your trying to solve ?

                          One could argue that personnal websites are definitely not a significant part of the energy used nowadays, and far lower than blockchains related stuff.

                          To take a counter point, you frame your point as coming from a computer-science point of view, but you didn’t acknowledge that a lot of innovation in CS happens via grass routes movements where individuals work on a problem, and then industry adopts those solutions. If people start optimizing their personal sites, maybe they will take what they’ve learned on their own time and start doing it more at their job as well, maybe those people present their work at reducing COGS by reducing energy usage for some Top 500 websites. That could have real impact on the industry via knock-on effects. In my point of view this is how we as individuals can effect change in the industry, by working on problems and helping to disseminate them to the masses.

                          1. 3

                            a lot of innovation in CS happens via grass routes movements where individuals work on a problem, and then industry adopts those solutions.

                            Industries adopt a solution not just because its trendy or because the common people use it, but more propably because this a profitable solution.

                            I understand your point, but that is a lot of “maybe”.

                            1. 3

                              Industries adopt a solution not just because its trendy or because the common people use it, but more propably because this a profitable solution.

                              The point is that you can increase profits by reducing the energy consumption of the software you are running in your own, or co-located data centers. Many companies throw money at the problem instead, people who have experience tuning for lower energy usage are, and will continue to be valuable assets to their teams. Practicing on your own projects is a useful and worthwhile exercise.

                              I understand your point, but that is a lot of “maybe”.

                              ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

                          2. 2

                            Both your point postulate that micro-optimizing your personnal website is significant to “save the planet”.

                            Actually, what I said is quite literally the opposite. Micro-optimizing my website will not save the planet. But if I’m not willing to go the extra mile, how can I expect a larger website with significant climate impact to do that without being a hypocrite?

                            1. 1

                              Hi @yarnmo,

                              @puffnfresh answer what I would say too.

                              And like I said previously, that should not stop you from doing it !

                            2. 1

                              Both your point postulate that micro-optimizing your personnal website is significant to “save the planet”.

                              Nope. My point is that the existence of worse offenders does not let you off the hook for your offenses. If you voluntarily maintain an excessively inefficient system which can be easily optimized, that’s on you. Just because there exist others who maintain massively more inefficient systems, that does not excuse the inefficiency of yours.

                              Is the effort spent optimizing your personnal website has a valuable impact on the problem your trying to solve ?

                              The effort is minimal. In the case of a personal website, what is one trying to solve? Sharing their identity and ideas with the world? Why should that ever require layer upon layer of excessively wasteful JavaScript-heavy frameworks?

                              One could argue that personnal websites are definitely not a significant part of the energy used nowadays, and far lower than blockchains related stuff.

                              Yes, this is necessarily true. However, it is irrelevant to the point I was making. If you care about waste, then reduce waste. Don’t wait to reduce waste until those more wasteful reduce theirs.

                            3. 10

                              Yeah! And I’ll ride my bike to work once all trucks are abolished! And I’ll stop littering once all illegal dumpers are prosecuted! And I’ll recycle my plastics once all oil refineries are shut down! And I’ll go vegan once all poachers are lynched!

                            4. 7

                              Without any changes, I’m scoring quite okay : https://www.websitecarbon.com/website/raymii-org/

                              • Hurrah! This web page is cleaner than 94% of web pages tested
                              • Only 0.06g of CO2 is produced every time someone visits this web page.
                              • Over a year, with 10,000 monthly page views, this web page produces
                              • 7.39kg of CO2 equivalent. The same weight as 0.05 sumo wrestlers and as much CO2 as boiling water for 1,001 cups of tea
                              • 1 tree This web page emits the amount of carbon that 1 tree absorbs in a year.
                              • 16kWh of energy That’s enough electricity to drive an electric car 100km.
                              1. 7

                                I just redesigned my site to use less resources, including images. Beat you by 4 percentage points :-)

                                1. 4

                                  I redesigned mine quite a while back and while I wish I could say I beat both of you the best I can do is as tie between @johnaj and I. https://www.websitecarbon.com/website/jeremy-marzhillstudios-com/

                                  1. 2

                                    I also redesigned mine awhile back in the name of speed and simplicity. I guess that’s good for the environment because apparently I beat everyone ever: https://www.websitecarbon.com/website/cosmo-red/

                                    1. 4

                                      Haha that’s cool, I wonder what type of car that is, I want one:

                                      • 0kWh of energy
                                      • That’s enough electricity to drive an electric car 2km.
                                      1. 3

                                        Maybe it’s got a sail? It’s a sailcar!

                                      2. 3

                                        My results tell me my car would move 1km further, but I’m using sustainable energy, so who wins that?

                                        1. 2

                                          Heh, I vote for you. Where do you host your website?

                                          1. 3

                                            Strato, but mainly because I get 200GB for 5 Euro a month.

                                  2. 4

                                    I have a small personal, statically-generated blog which managed to score 99% by emitting 0.00g.

                                    https://www.websitecarbon.com/website/danso.ca

                                    Which makes me wonder about the methodology, obviously.

                                    A weakness of this method is that it does not account for the cost of building the website from the markdown and Haskell source files. Compiling a program is not free, nor is running it. But maybe that cost is negligible compared to serving the website after it’s made?

                                  3. 7

                                    These kind of analysis are useful, but I believe they could be more effective if they were targeted at the crypto crowd who fill the planet with arguably useless computers churning 24/7 :(

                                    1. 4

                                      Great to see this topic being discussed. Can anyone point me to data or studies on the impact of data centers, and especially industrial scale ML and AI specifically on energy/emissions?

                                      1. 4

                                        This reminds me very much of the solar-powered magazine.

                                        1. 5

                                          Source: greenpeace

                                          Can’t you find a worse source? The website just lost my trust.

                                          1. 2

                                            What makes you distrust them?

                                            1. 1

                                              It’s a eco raiders orgs. One example: they against GMO.

                                          2. 3

                                            Turning off JS saves electricity.

                                            1. 3

                                              Nearly 1/3 of all internet traffic is pornography. Maybe we should focus on the lowest-hanging fruit.

                                              1. 4

                                                I can imagine that needless video-conferencing is also a contributing factor, especially with all the online classes/lectures/meetings over the last few months.

                                                1. 2

                                                  I guess needless video-conferencing is much better than needless in-person meetings (by car, train or airplane). Can porn similarly be replaced be actual sex to reduce the carbon footprint? Maybe just replace video porn with still pictures or written erotica (read on eink, like kindle).

                                                  1. 2

                                                    Video-conferencing can at least more often than not be replaced by auto-conferencing, and perhaps a slide-show that isn’t transmitted in a video format.

                                                2. 2

                                                  Got a source for that? As far as streaming entertainment goes, YouTube and Netflix seem to make up the plurality. As of 2018, YouTube and Netflix combined make up about 26.4% of all global internet traffic.

                                                  1. 1

                                                    Various pornographic websites are certianly visited more frequently than Netflix, but the statistics seem to vary. I found this estimate claiming somewhere between 4%-30%. But either way, there are more problems than just bandwidth usage.

                                                3. 4

                                                  I never had much respect for alarmism. We’ve had it, in regard to climate, for decades, and I only too well remember Al Gore warning us in 2008 of an ice-free Arctic by 2013, just to give one of many examples. Greta Thunberg is the next up-and-coming generation of climate alarmists and given we do in fact have a global warming, the human factor is yet to be assessed (consider we are easing out of a small ice-age that just, out of chance, had its lowest point in the mid 1800’s when humans started measuring temperatures systematically).

                                                  However, I still wholeheartedly support renewable energy and resource savings, because we live on a finite planet with finite resources. We should do anything to save resources and energy, but not fall in panic over it or embrace ridiculous measures that are not sustainable in the long term. Maybe it’s needed to push the majority of people, but as a rational person I feel insulted by this.

                                                  Measuring everything in “CO2 emissions” is valid, but for a different reason, in my opinion, than to mitigate the effects on the atmosphere: The carbon we emit comes from fossil fuels, which are one finite resource I think should not be “wasted”. Given “CO2 emissions” directly correlate with carbon-based fuel-consumption, it may be a bit mislabeled, but generally valid.

                                                  In terms of web development: Stop bloating your websites with too much CSS, JavaScript and excessive markup and reduce the transferred weight, but don’t panic over it or say that a website is “killing the planet”. This is an industry-wide problem and needs to be solved at scale. When this doesn’t change, your website won’t make much of a difference compared to the few major players.

                                                  1. 16

                                                    the human factor is yet to be assessed

                                                    I thought that in 2020 it is a common knowledge that humans are without a doubt responsible for global climate crisis. And temperatures are measured also by other means than direct ones. That includes geological ones.

                                                    1. 3

                                                      Indeed only a fool would say that we humans, who affect the planet in so many profound ways, have no influence on the climate. The question is: How much? An everlasting ethos, in my opinion, is resource-saving, but it needs to be balanced so we don’t throw away what we’ve achieved as a species.

                                                      1. 11

                                                        What is missing in this analysis by Carbon Brief? Most of the current natural phenomena actually contribute to global cooldown and work in our favour. Humanity carbon footprint managed to beat even that.

                                                        1. 4

                                                          Climate is extremely complex, and one can’t really predict most things. I may bring out a strawman here, but how can we be so certain about centennial climate predictions (2°C-goal until 2100, for instance) when our sophisticated climate models can’t even accurately predict next week’s weather?

                                                          But as I said in my first comment, my biggest problem is the alarmism and I’m not even denying the human influence on world climate. So I’m actually on your side and demanding the same things, only with a different viewpoint.

                                                          1. 9

                                                            how can we be so certain about centennial climate predictions (2°C-goal until 2100, for instance) when our sophisticated climate models can’t even accurately predict next week’s weather?

                                                            Because weather and climate are not the same. We can’t model turbulent flow in fluid systems, but we can predict when they change from laminar to turbulent on a piece of paper. We can’t model how chemical reactions actually work at an atomic level, but whether or not they should take place is another simple calculation. We can’t model daily changes in the stock market, but long-term finance trends are at least vaguely approachable.

                                                            1. 16

                                                              I’m not even denying the human influence on world climate.

                                                              you said, “the human factor is yet to be assessed,” when it has been assessed again and again by many well-funded organizations. that’s denial, bucko

                                                              1. 1

                                                                No, it’s not denial and science is not a religion. Assessment means studying an effect, and I still do not think that the foregone conclusion of 100% human influence is substantial. It’s less than that, but not 0%, which would make me a denier.

                                                                1. 1

                                                                  Assessment means studying an effect

                                                                  so by “the human factor is yet to be assessed,” did you mean that the effect has not been studied? are you not denying that the human factor has been studied?

                                                                  typically the category of “denial” doesn’t mean you think a claim has a 0% chance of being correct; most people are not 100% certain of anything and the concept of denial is broader than that in common speech. organizations of scientists studying climate change are very confident that it is largely human caused; if your confidence in that claim is somewhere nominally above 0%, it would still mean you think it is most likely untrue, and you would be denying it.

                                                                  1. 1

                                                                    An effect can be heavily studied but still inconclusively. From what I’ve seen and read, the human factor is obviously there and not only marginally above 0%, most probably way beyond that, but I wouldn’t zero out other factors either. If that means denial to you, then we obviously have different definitions of the word.

                                                                    1. 1

                                                                      saying the human factor hasn’t been assessed casts doubt on it. now you are saying it is “obviously there” which is quite different.

                                                                1. 5

                                                                  The only thing I can do, as an individual, is to adapt, prepare and overcome. In my initial comment, I already mentioned an example for wrong alarmist predictions, and they even date back to the 60’s! Moving the fence pole and saying the arctic ice will have disappeared in the next n years won’t help bring me on board. Al Gore back then cited “irrefutable” science and I remember being presented his movie in school, but his predictions all proved to be wrong.

                                                                  Still, we are on the same side, kel: Our footprints are unsustainably large, and I as an individual strive to reduce it whenever I can. The truth is, though, that even Germany, which only contributes 2% to global carbon emissions, doesn’t play much a role here, and the big players need systemic change.

                                                                  It’s funny, actually, given this pretty much rings with the individual argument of slimming down your website: When Google, Youtube, Medium, etc. don’t move along, it doesn’t make much of a difference.

                                                                  1. 11

                                                                    The only thing I can do, as an individual, is to adapt, prepare and overcome.

                                                                    It is both frustrating and liberating how little influence an individual has. However, in the moment you decided to post a number of comments on this site, you contribute to the public opinion forming process. I think that this gives you much more influence than immediately obvious. Discussions on sites like lobste.rs are read by many people, and every reader is potentially influenced by the opinions you or anyone else express here. And with great power comes great responsibility ;-) With that in mind, I am glad that other commenters challenged your initial comments about climate “alarmism” and prompted you to clarify them.

                                                                    1. 7

                                                                      germany is the most powerful state in the european pole of the tripolar world economic system. it has much to say about how other countries it is economically tied to are allowed and enabled to industrialize and maintain their standard of living. germans own plenty of carbon-emitting capital in countries that don’t have the same level of regulation, and they need to be made accountable for the effect they have on the world.

                                                              2. 3

                                                                so we don’t throw away what we’ve achieved as a species

                                                                Do you truly think silly performative ecological politics are going to “throw away” your first world niceties or are you talking about how ecological collapse will likely trigger progressively even more massive failures in supply chains as we inevitably blow through 1.5C

                                                                1. 3

                                                                  There’s more to the world than economics, e.g. achievements in human rights and freedoms. But I don’t want to go too off-topic here (we are on Lobste.rs, after all).

                                                                  1. 5

                                                                    achievements in human rights and freedoms

                                                                    None of this will matter when people living in most affected areas – that are suffering from climate crisis already (thanks to droughts, lands becoming effectively uninhabitable etc.), not to mention what will happen in the following years – will come to our first world demanding a place to live. And we will point our guns at them. As one of the commenters said: “Desperate people will do desperate things”. And all of this will happen over years, decades. Painstakingly.

                                                                    Unfortunately some people will write it off as plain alarmism while dismissing well proven scientific position. And the position is: I want to have good news but it looks really fucking bad. I’d love to ignore all those facts just to live a happier life but I find it hard. It saddens me deeply that behind that facade of freethinking, you pretty much made up your mind for good. I do not mean to insult you. It’s just the way you speak in all your comments that makes me think that way. I hope I am wrong. Eh, shame.

                                                                    One could consider famous Newsroom piece about climate change as an alarmism but unfortunately it seems to be very on point.

                                                            2. 9

                                                              The planet will be fine. It’s the people who are fucked.

                                                              George Carlin

                                                              I almost want to agree with you, except that underestimating the impact of climate change has already cost society massively and climbing.

                                                              Firstly, if you believe that our current rate of temperature change is historically typical, there’s an xkcd comic for you.

                                                              I will go as far as to say that to consider climate change an existential threat are perhaps looking at it the wrong way. But I’m not about to start undermining their cause in this way because people tend toward apathy toward long-term threats and the cost of underestimating climate change is far greater than the risk of overestimating it. Climate change has already begun to have direct costs, both monetary and humanitarian.

                                                              As an example of monetary cost, in Gore’s documentary he presents a demonstration of rising sea levels around Manhattan Island and makes a point that the September 11 memorial site will be below sea level.

                                                              This might be true, but below sea level does not mean underwater. The flooding projection makes the assumption that humans are either going to do nothing about it and drown or are going to pack up New York and leave. I think neither scenario is likely.

                                                              What will happen is that the rising sea level will be mitigated. The city will build huge-scale water-control mechanisms (such as levees). The cost of living on the island will rise sharply. Once in a while, this system will fail, temporarily flooding the homes of millions of people. They will bail it out and go on living.

                                                              Not so bad, right? The catch is that the projected cost of this, in purely financial terms, is predicted to vastly outweigh the cost of reducing pollution now. And we don’t need to hit discrete targets to see a benefit – every gram of CO2 that we don’t emit today will reduce the amount of water in a nearly-certain future flooding event.

                                                              This is beside the humanitarian cost.

                                                              Climate change does not come without opportunities. Likely, the farming season in Canada and Russia will lengthen, leading to more food produced in those countries. Cool, but meanwhile in other places, the drought season will lengthen. People won’t be magically transported from one place to another; there are logistical, political, and sociological obstacles. People stuck in those regions will become increasingly desperate, and desperate people do desperate people things. With today’s weapons technology, that’s the kind of situation that really could lead to humanity’s extinction.

                                                              So please be careful with the point-of-view that you present. You might not be wrong, but contributing to a culture that underestimates the oncoming danger is exactly what got us here in the first place.

                                                              1. 5

                                                                I’m not denying the danger or playing it down, and we can see current effects of global warming. We humans must adapt to it, or else we will perish. It would not be far-fetched to assume that this global warming might even lead to more famines that can kill millions of people.

                                                                The problem I see is the focus on CO2, but resource usage has many forms. Many people find pleasure in buying EVs, while charging them with coal power and not really reducing their footprint a lot (new smartphone every year, lots of technological turnover, lots of flights, etc.). I’m sure half of the people accusing me of “playing it down” have a much larger “CO2 footprint” (I’d rather call it resource footprint) than I do.

                                                              2. 9

                                                                The climate has not changed like this before in human timescales. https://xkcd.com/1732/

                                                                Today, denying human-induced climate change requires more than disagreeing with the scientific consensus on future predictions, it requires denying current events. The climate crisis is already here, and it already has a death toll.

                                                                The good news is that you don’t need to update your understanding and stop swallowing narratives produced by fossil fuel corporations, although we could certainly use all the help we can get. You just need to get out of the way of people like Greta who are taking meaningful action to avert the climate crisis on a systemic level. If you live in the US, Sunrise Movement are extremely effective young organizers who deserve your respect. If all you have to offer is sniping from the sidelines, maybe you should rethink your contributions. Have you actually done anything to make the world a better place, or do you just complain about people who do the work?

                                                                1. 5

                                                                  Given the many factors influencing climate itself and the models built to predict it, studies greatly diverge from each other. Big fossil fuel corporations cite the least-alarmist ones, and environmental extremists cite the most-alarmist ones. As always, the truth lies in the middle.

                                                                  It’s a great shame that people die from this, given it’s a negative effect of the fact that the entire industrial age (including urbanization and expansion) was built on the assumptions of a small ice age that we had until the 1850’s and 1900’s. The increasingly warm global temperature has its toll.

                                                                  My favourite example is the nordic spruce, which is the main tree for corporate wood production in Germany. It originally comes from the mountains, but was increasingly used during the industrialization and planted in normal plane land, which worked because the weather was still relatively cool. The few degrees of warming leads to a massive weakness of the trees, and our German forests, which are substantially made up of spruce monocultures, are infected with numerous diseases and pests because of this.

                                                                  Over the years I’ve read so many alarmist reports by big scientific players which proved to be completely false, which is okay. Scientists can err, especially with something as multivariate as climate. My view is that we should not only look at “CO2 emissions” as a mantra, but adapt to the changing climate (diversify forests, etc.) instead of turning this into yet another speculator’s paradise with CO2-certificates which help nothing but shift wealth.

                                                                  The real damning truth is the following: I live in Germany, and if one flipped a switch that would wipe Germany and all its inhabitants from the face of the earth, the global CO2 emissions would only drop by 2%. As always, it’s the big players (USA, China, etc.) that need to change systemically.

                                                                  Have you actually done anything to make the world a better place, or do you just complain about people who do the work?

                                                                  Not to sound too harsh, but I basically don’t matter, just like the individual Chinese or US person matters. Electronic vehicles won’t make a difference, because CO2 emissions are just offset to developing countries where the battery-components are mined and processed. Charging an EV in Germany means coal power, no matter how much you buy “eco” electricity, as it’s just a big shuffling on the energy market.

                                                                  I do my part not buying a phone or computer every year, driving a used car (Diesel), which is still more environmentally friendly than buying a new car which needs to be produced in the first place, buying regional, etc. These things, as an individual, make much more of a difference than buying a Tesla and continuing living the large lifestyle most people have gotten used to.

                                                                  1. 11

                                                                    As always, the truth lies in the middle.

                                                                    I want to call out this both-sides-ism. Basic shifting of the Overton Window can cause you to believe insane things if you assume that the truth always lies in the middle. Reasonable positions can seem extreme if you live in a society that, for example, has been shaped by fossil fuel billionaires for decades.

                                                                    It’s also wrong to ignore worst-case scenarios.

                                                                    There has been a great deal of discussion around the IPCC reports, which are very conservative (by which I mean cautious about only making predictions and proposals for which they have a great deal of evidence). Unlikely but catastrophic possibilities, such as the terrifying world without clouds scenario, also deserve attention. Beyond that are the “unknown unknowns”, the disaster scenarios that our scientists are not clever enough (or do not have the data) to anticipate.

                                                                    Global nuclear war or dinosaur killer asteroid impacts may seem unlikely today, but if we do not prepare for and take steps to avoid such cataclysms, someday we will get a very bad dice roll and reap the consequences.

                                                                    In other words, the obvious predictable results of global heating on our current trajectory are bad enough, and I do not consider discussing them to be alarmism, but edge cases that might be reasonably seen as alarmism I feel are underappreciated, rather than overpublicized as you seem to believe.

                                                                    In other words, the truth, rather than lying in the middle, might be significantly worse than any messaging from the mainstream climate movement suggests.

                                                                    1. 6

                                                                      I’ll just say that personal consumption habits are not what I’m talking about, although I can see why you would bring them up, given the article we are commenting on is about changing personal website design.

                                                                      Sustainability, and justice for those who suffer most in the climate crisis, will require changing how our society functions. It will require accounting for the true costs of our actions, and I’m not convinced that capitalism as we know it will ever hold corporations accountable for their negative externalities. It will require political change, on a local, national and global level. It will require grassroots direct action from the people. You as an individual can do little, but collectively I assure you we can change the world, for the better instead of for the worse.

                                                                      1. 6

                                                                        The role of the collective against the individual is of course a truism. The real costs of a product are often hard to reflect on. One good example is sustainably produced meat, which costs 6 times more than “normal” meat you can buy at the supermarket. Reducing meat consumption to once a week (instead of almost every day, which is insane) would greatly reduce the footprint of an individual, but I don’t hear greenpeace talking about reducing meat intake, even though it makes up 28% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

                                                                        Instead, we are told to “change society” and accept new legislation that fundamentally change not only our economies, which deserve some reform in many places, but also individual freedoms for questionable benefit other than certain profiteers in certain sectors.

                                                                        So I hope I didn’t come across as someone denying the effects of climate change. Instead, I don’t like the alarmism, which has been often debunked in the last decades, only to sell extreme political measures. A much more effective approach would be, I think, to urge people to reduce their resource footprint and allow them to make the right choices.

                                                                        To give an example, maybe the EU could stop funding mass-meat-production if they really cared about this topic at all. Because this stuff really undermines the credibility of the entire climate “movement”.

                                                                  2. 2

                                                                    (consider we are easing out of a small ice-age that just, out of chance, had its lowest point in the mid 1800’s when humans started measuring temperatures systematically).

                                                                    Have any sources so I can read more about this? First I’ve heard of this.

                                                                    1. 4

                                                                      Sure! There is a great paper called “Using Patterns of Recurring Climate Cycles to Predict Future Climate Changes” by Easterbrook et. al. (published in Evidence-Based Climate Science (Second Edition), 2016) which is sadly paywalled and I can’t fully share here, but there’s a great figure in it that shows temperature-readings from tree-rings in China.

                                                                      Between 800 and 1200, we had the global medieval warm period, which allowed people for instance to grow wine in England and is the reason why Greenland is called “green” land (because it wasn’t covered in ice when the vikings discovered around 900-1000). The temperatures were normal between 1200 and 1600, but were then followed by a “Little Ice Age” between 1600 and 1900. In general, one can indeed see that global temperatures are rising above the average over the last 2000 years, but it’s nothing unusual.

                                                                      To give one more example: Glaciers receding in Norway, due to the currently observable global warming, reveal tree logs and trading paths roughly from the Roman ages used between 300 and 1500. If you look at the aforementioned figure, this pretty much coincides with the extremely warm period beginning around 300. Even though it went below around 700, it never really go into a cold area which would’ve let the glacier “recover”, explaining that it has been used until 1500 when the next cold period (the Little Ice Age) started.

                                                                      I hope this was helpful to you!

                                                                      1. 6

                                                                        It sounds like you’re arguing that the current global temperature rise is not due to humans, or is just a natural temperature cycle coming to an end, which is extremely wrong. The slight cooling period you’re talking about did happen, but as of now both the speed and projected magnitude of the current temperature changes are unprecedented in human history.

                                                                        We can argue all day about specifically how bad things are going to get given the temperature rise, and how much someone’s stupid little personal website is going to contribute to it, but the fact that the temperature rise is man-made and is changing faster than any global temperature change ever in human history is supported by enough broad scientific consensus to be pretty much indisputable.

                                                                        1. 4

                                                                          This is a placeholder reply so I don’t forget (immediately quite busy), but there is no evidence the pre-industrial era “little ice age” was a global phenomenon.

                                                                          1. 4

                                                                            That could very well be! What I cited were results from Europe and Asia, and I would not be surprised if it turned out differently in other places of the world.

                                                                      1. 2

                                                                        I think this is interesting, and should perhaps be applied to programming languages as well.

                                                                        Hyper-inefficient programming languages like Ruby, Python, Haskell, etc. produce far more CO2 than, for example, C.

                                                                        1. 5

                                                                          Hyper-inefficient programming languages like Ruby, Python, Haskell

                                                                          I hope you realize that Haskell’s performance is much closer to C than Python. Haskell usually ranks around the likes of Java in language benchmarks. Either way you look at it, it doesn’t deserve being called “Hyper-inefficient”…

                                                                          1. 3

                                                                            I think it depends on how much energy is used developing and compiling code vs energy used during all times the program is run. I expect that equivalent C and Haskell programs take similar amounts of energy to run, and that the Haskell one takes a lot more energy to compile, but less time (and therefore less idle-time energy) to develop. This would make them similarly energy-expensive for most use-cases.

                                                                            Scripting languages may require less develop-time energy, but more run-time energy. If run only a few times, they’d use less energy than would be spent writing, compiling, debugging, and running a C program. Run many times, they would lose out to the finished C program.

                                                                            1. 3

                                                                              That’s actually a very relevant point. My first reaction to your comment was, “but who cares, you build only once”, but that’s not true. I have a beefy laptop that I’ve bought specifically to support a comfortable Haskell development experience. The IDE tooling continuously compiles your code behind the scenes. Then my team also has a very beefy EC2 instance that serves as a CI environment, it builds all the branches all the time. Then we’re also employing various ways of deploying the application and that also means it gets built in various ways per release image. All of that probably adds up to an energy consumption amount that’s comparable to a significant number of users running the application.

                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                Then we should include maintenance cost as well. I believe that in a lifetime of a program the energy put into the initial development is only a part, most probably a smaller part, of the energy needed to maintain it: bug fixing, updates, etc. In this case, theoretically, Haskell should have an advantage, because the language, due to its type safety restrictions, will force you to make less mistakes, in design and in terms of bugs. I don’t have any numbers to support these claims, it’s just gut feeling, so don’t take it too serious.

                                                                            2. 4

                                                                              There actually have been studies on that question, eg: https://greenlab.di.uminho.pt/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/sleFinal.pdf

                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                I love that paper. If you’re looking for a quick heuristic, energy efficiency strongly correlates with performance. Compare those numbers to these: https://benchmarksgame-team.pages.debian.net/benchmarksgame/which-programs-are-fastest.html

                                                                            3. 1

                                                                              It’s crazy to think how much the fossil fuel industry’s propaganda of pushing blame on to the individual has worked. Heck, we think our websites are killing the planet, when only about 70% of emissions can be attributed to only 100 fossil fuel companies.

                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                Your link does not support your argument nearly as well as you appear to think it does.

                                                                                By the logic you employ here, I don’t produce any emissions when I drive my car, since some other company dug up the oil and refined it into petrol. Perhaps the US army doesn’t kill anyone either; those kills belong to the mining companies that supplied the metal for the bullets.

                                                                                Yes, 100 companies dug up 70% of the fossil fuels. Mining is a capital intensive activity; I’m surprised there are as many as that.

                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                  You’re being nothing more than facetious.

                                                                                  What I’m saying is not that individuals don’t have any blame, but that individuals don’t have all that blame. In fact, industry documents themselves reveal the propaganda.

                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                    Yeah, but the joke is made to point out the ridiculousness. The “100 companies” line is utterly facile. It’s a misrepresentation of the truth so severe it’s hard to imagine it isn’t deliberate.

                                                                                    I’m not going to defend the “individual action” model (as you rightly point out, it’s deliberate propaganda to fight change), serious enforcement is the only way it’ll happen, and it’s cheaper overall to target the few capital-intensive groups for that enforcement vs tracking down every place the product is used.