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Reclaim the deserts through global warming

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Observations (well actually mostly just things I've heard):
- Many deserts used to be covered in vegetation
- All fossil fuels at one point were part of living plants or animals
- Deserts need more water.
- More rain requires more evaporation.
- A larger ocean surface area and a warmer ocean temperature will result in more evaporation.

I postulate that we have deserts now because there isn't enough carbon in the atmosphere for the plants that need to live there. Once we finish unearthing all that carbon that had been lost over the years, there will be more rain as well as more carbon dioxide available so the deserts will have a chance to bloom again. Of course if that happens, it could cause major disruption to our civilization due to rising ocean and frequent hurricanes (to name a couple side effects), as well as disrupting the ecosystem for many plants and animal that would need to migrate, adapt, or go extinct. However for the long term fate of life on this planet, unsequestering that carbon may be the best thing. Without human mining, carbon is continuously sequestered in the form of fossil fuels. Eventually the total carbon in the biosphere could decrease to the point where comparatively few carbon based life forms could survive on the planet. Eventually it could even become a dead planet. Maybe life finds a way, maybe not. From a naturalist point of view, death of the planet is probably inevitable anyway, but I don't see any harm in putting it off.

scad mientist, Sep 12 2013

Affect of increased CO2 on plant growth http://www.nature.c...-of-carbon-13254108
// growth under elevated CO2 decreases stomatal conductance of water by an average of 22% (Ainsworth & Rogers 2007). // [scad mientist, Sep 12 2013]

Tundra_20Treeline [FlyingToaster, Sep 12 2013]

LOTTO 6/49 http://www.olg.ca/l...e=lotto649#gameodds
For those interested in rcarty's story. [xaviergisz, Sep 13 2013]

Loss of grazing herds may be the cause of desertification. http://www.ted.com/...climate_change.html
[2 fries shy of a happy meal, Sep 14 2013]

Today's NY Times Guest Editorial RE: Overpopulation (NOT) http://www.nytimes....em.html?ref=opinion
[theircompetitor, Sep 14 2013]


       //I postulate that we have deserts now because there isn't enough carbon in the atmosphere for the plants that need to live there.//   

       An excellent postulate but, alas, utterly wrong. No plant is in want of CO2 (nor was it before we increased CO2 levels by some 25% or so). They need water in order to use this CO2, mainly because opening their stomata to get CO2 in also lets water out.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 12 2013

       Not that I know enough to argue, but if opening stomata is required to get CO2, and that results in water loss, it seems to me that if there was a higher CO2 concentration, the stomata would not have to open as wide or as frequently to get CO2, so there would be more water availableto react with the CO2. Of course it would then have to increase CO2 intake slightly, but it seems it could come to equilibrium at a point where it was using more CO2 and loosing less water.
scad mientist, Sep 12 2013

       Well, yes and no, apart from the yes.   

       Many desert plants use various tricks to get their CO2, such as taking it in during the night (when water loss is much less), and storing it in a backwater of metabolism until the day brings the sunlight necessary for photosynthesis. Such plants can reduce their water usage to very little above that needed for metabolism.   

       That's not to say that global warming might not increase rainfall in some areas, but the extra CO2 won't directly benefit desert vegetation. Bottom line: higher CO2 levels will probably not significantly help to plantify the deserts. The recent 25% rise in CO2 levels have been accompanied, generally, by increased rather than reduced desertification.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 12 2013

       Okay I found an article. It sounds like it supports what I said about stomata. They don't make a clear conclusoin, but it sounds like they are saying that plants will grow faster but may be slightly less nutritious. You may be correct that plants are not currently "in want" of CO2, but according to that article, increased CO2 could allow them to grow more and use less water.
scad mientist, Sep 12 2013

       Yes, the trend of desertification during CO2 increase does seem to run counter to this theory. It could indicate this theory is wrong, or it could indicate that some other effects are in play.
scad mientist, Sep 12 2013

       //increased CO2 could allow them to grow more and use less water.// For non-desert plants, certainly. But for desert plants, I doubt it.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 12 2013

       // But for desert plants, I doubt it. // yes that seems fairly likely.
scad mientist, Sep 12 2013

       One thought I had was that if radical environmentalists proposed a plan like this to burn all the hydrocarbons quickly for the purpose of improving the overall health of the biosphere at the cost of hurting human civilization, maybe the more short-sighted elements of the population might object and push to slow down the use of fossil fuels. Not likely since the really short term profits are too large.   

       <SOAPBOX> Personally I have very little faith in the ability of scientists to correctly predict something like global warming. I agree that greatly increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere doesn't seem like a really good idea since major changes in the composition of the air could potentially hurt the climate, our health, etc. In addition, I think it's a bad idea to use up a limited resource like fossil fuels too fast, not to mention the mess we make as we search for more and fast ways to pull them from the ground. Unfortunately it seems like the scientific community is too political/religious on this issue that global warming must be true. It seems like there’s an implicit agreement that this is the stick they're going to use to get everyone to stop burning through the oil reserves. Anyone who questions global warming must be some uneducated idiot who only cares about short term profits. It's like the scientific community thinks that everyone else is too stupid to handle the whole truth. But if there's some feedback mechanism in the biosphere that will prevent CO2 from actually causing global warming (like the current “pause” we are seeing), that just embarrasses the scientific community and then no one believes them at all. Also you end up with "solutions" to the carbon problem like sequestering CO2 or using natural gas instead of coal. If you take hydrocarbons from the ground, take oxygen from the atmosphere, produce CO2 and H2O, put the CO2 back in the ground, and pour the water in the ocean, the most noticeable effect is removing O2 from the biosphere. Personally that sounds even less sustainable that having too much CO2. I guess we can always use nuclear of solar power to split water when we run out of O2 to breath. Ignore that leftover hydrogen. We shouldn’t be proposing taxes on CO2 production. We should be taxing fossil fuel extraction, probably based on energy content, maybe adjusted somewhat for the amount of environmental damage done during extraction. People are saying that natural gas is cleaner than coal because it releases less CO2 per watt. I say it’s nice that the exhaust isn’t quite so stinky, but what if we look carefully to the total damage done from coal mining (which isn’t pretty) vs. hydraulic fracking, which seems like it could leave a lot of damage that won’t be good for future generations? Natural gas might come out ahead, and based on how fast we are doing it, it must be cheaper as well (unless the government is subsidizing that: it’s hard to keep track of what they’re up to), but at the most it is a stopgap measure in the energy supply and in no way is it any kind of solution. </SOAPBOX>   

       I guess that’s why I’m an engineer not a scientist. It’s usually pretty easy to tell if I’m right to not: does it work?
scad mientist, Sep 12 2013

       // It seems like there’s an implicit agreement that this is the stick they're going to use to get everyone to stop burning through the oil reserves.//   

       If we burn through even half of the remaining oil reserves (including shale oil) we'll experience catastrophic local changes making whole cities uninhabitable, forcing broad agricultural adaption, and driving many species extinct by pushing them out of their niches.   

       In the end there will be more arable land (with the use of fertilizer) but with yields increasing at amazing rates we don't need that as badly as people think. Another positive effect is increased habitability (for humans) of areas further from the equator. Another bad one is desertification caused by such things as land becoming too hot for its local flora .
Voice, Sep 13 2013

       Krakatoa is STILL affecting the climate. The absurdity and futility of ozymandian climate predictions when we are 100 years from horse and buggy (and the predicted horse manure crisis of the 30s) on the one end, and probably fifty from having a serious go at ending material scarcity, while literally, any minute a volcanic eruption could cool the planet by more than decades of global warming, should it even be concurring, continues to amaze.   

       The only thing that is worth worrying about is the reduction of human misery. Everything else is masturbation by the overfed and overindulged
theircompetitor, Sep 13 2013

       The most worthy thing to worry about is not the planet or the future of humanity, but our damn hell ass souls. I don't like the complacency that a diety is going to sort it out, or prayers or reciting incantations from a book are going to eternalize life. I'd like my eyes to open again one day after they supposedly close for good. This is a serious issue, waaaay more serious than some wet rock flying around in nothing at all. Sure, if science discovers that we are revived again on the same planet every million years or so, then fine, let's keep this rock shiny and new, but if it's lights out after a few decades of 9-5, who cares, let's guide this thing into the damn Sun.
rcarty, Sep 13 2013

       for that we need a lot of energy -- maybe a Dyson sphere -- to power the super computer that will house your (and everyone elses) soul. God will not do it, but we will, eventually.
theircompetitor, Sep 13 2013

       I hope it won't be too late to get a piece of that action. Right now my only hope is that the quantuum nature of dreams sort of signify there's something dreamlike we escape into.
rcarty, Sep 13 2013

       I used to be very committed to antipovery and environmentalism but now I'm almost 30 and pressure is on me to look out for my own self interest only. But like you, I don't really have a strong will to live either. So what is rational self interest to someone without the motivation to stay alive? It flies in the face of economic theory! It's bullshit. I can't care about money. In 2005 a store clerk stole a winning lottery ticket from me worth a million dollars. I had four numbers on a six number ticket - little did I know it was worth 5 percent of twenty million -- NOT the 5 dollars I received. I'll never see that money. No lie. Every working day since that moment has been an absurdity.   

       Anyway, the point you were making was you have lost motivation to stay alive. Prior to that the point I was making was our eternal lives have to be made more certain. The two points arn't unrelated, but to say you have lost motivation to live, doesn't necessarily mean you want to be dead for the remainder of all eternity. You're probably just tired of the meaninglessness, masses, machines, morons, etc of modern life.
rcarty, Sep 13 2013

       About the ticket, yes your thought about the value was why it was so easily stolen from me. I thought only a small amount aswell. It was Ontario 649 lottery.   

       I added more to what I wrote before I read your new annotation. Yes, you have made these points before over the years, and it is hard not to agree. Although it may be better for you mental health and enjoyment of your life to be less critical and adopt new values and attitudes. This might mean becoming someone that you loathe, but the forces you are ideologically adverse to are global in scale, are massively immovable, and you only crush yourself by even criticizing them. I'm not saying to put an application to become a manager, but maybe I am also, the change of position might bring a new perspective. But you will know as do I that it will only be healthy because you have become the disease instead of being plagued by it. You will be the parasitic leeches that feed on others, growing healthier each day, while those you feed on will either die by their own hand, or become leeches as you had done.   

rcarty, Sep 13 2013

       I've been following that situation closely in the news. Although I understand that using chemical weapons is a war crime, it should be the UN to act and not the US. First the UN condemns the action then says military action by US would be illegal. Something not right there. My opinion on the matter is to let as many rebels die as possible, and the USA to save their bombs, they might need them one day. But at the same time its clear the US wants Assad out, even though al quaeda will be making the vaccuum. Let the UN deal with war crimes exclusively. As for Russia I've always considered them in some ways a semi-secret ally of Isreal (two jewish agents gave russia the nuclear technology stolen from america and later executed - that's not the whole reason) and wonder what the real motives of alliance with Syria and Iran are. Likely to create global balance of power, but also cheap and regular oil for russias domestic economy. In some ways it seems the Syria crisis is going to be reolved without shots fired by the US.
rcarty, Sep 13 2013

       //In 2005 a store clerk stole a winning lottery ticket from me worth a million dollars. I had four numbers on a six number ticket - little did I know it was worth 5 percent of twenty million -- NOT the 5 dollars I received.//   

       From my understanding of the lottery, a ticket with 4 out of 6 numbers you would have got a *share* of 9% (according to the website) of the 'pool fund' (the pool fund is the money left over after the minor prizes have been paid). The chances of getting 4 numbers is 1 in 1,000. If they sold 10 million tickets at $2 a piece, then you would have shared your prize with 10,000 others tickets. I would have guessed your ticket to be worth less than $200. Clerk *could* have ripped you off a few hundred, but not a million.
xaviergisz, Sep 13 2013

       [bigsleep] -- We are living in the most exciting and interesting time to be alive, ever, both personally, and as a species. We are on the verge of profound discoveries in almost every branch of science, and perhaps no more than a generation or two from beating death itself, likely to discover off-planet life within a similar about of time, have the beginnings of private spaceflight, useful artificial intelligence and robotics.   

       So, hand this off to the next generation? Are you kidding? I'm a grandfather with two grandkids (admittedly a young grandfather) -- but I am still working seven days a week, it is too much fun.   

       Obama's mistake was becoming President. Like the astronomer that is disappointed by the discovery that it's a night job, he is now also learning that the Earth is flat. He should have stayed in the Senate, where having debates with yourself out-loud is expected, and does no permanent damage.
theircompetitor, Sep 13 2013

       You guys are sort of losing the meaning of the story in technicalities. To be honest I never found out how much the ticket was worth, but perhaps in light of this new information in future retellings I'll say half a million. Come on, it's my justifiable apathy story.
rcarty, Sep 13 2013

       Sorry but 30 is too early to have your existential mid-life crisis. I'd kill to be 30 again.   

       American foreign policy should be effectively directed in a way that results in Mr. Putin winning a peace prize by default.   

       And [tc], frankly, we're running out of stuff to burn. 50 years from ending material scarcity? Seriously?   

       There are a great many planets out there. Unfortunately, they are a long way from here, and the ones that are close just miss being able to sustain life in umpteen million different ways. Ending up as one of them doesn't seem to be a favorable outcome. That alone should teach us that this planet is fragile.
RayfordSteele, Sep 13 2013

       One interpretation of its high unlikelihood is that earths are scarce planets. People from earths, of which we each are possibilities, occur throughout solarsystems inside the gravitational masses of galaxies. Earths have not yet been verified as a reproducable phenomena, but in all probability earth and earthlike planets, exist in multitude, although people of earths are characterized by extreme existential alienation from the extreme separation of earths in space and time. This is illustrated by the religious beliefs of the people on the one known earth, that are far departed from the reality that possible lifeforms reoccur in the vastness of probabilities that space offers. The people of the one known earth can only speculate of contact with other earths, and some doubt that other earth like planets are likely and that this is the only planet like earth ever to occur or occur again. This is usually connected with a story from a book from the one who created everything, and the lord and saviour Jesus Christ. He saves everyone from dying forever, and he doesn't care what you did wrong, he already died for that. Alternately, people of earths will find that they will reoccur throught the infinite vastness of space, as earths, and indeed new spaces reoccur. People of earths rarely remember previous occurances, however it is fun to debate with people of earths over uncertainties related to the possibilty of the seemingly well precidented.
rcarty, Sep 14 2013

       //the lord and saviour Jesus Christ. He saves everyone from dying forever, and he doesn't care what you did wrong, he already died for that.   

       I've always thought that a little unscientific. For example, it would have been better to quantify the effect beforehand. I mean, would merely have going down with a nasty cough for a couple of days mean that everyone below murderer gets saved forever?
not_morrison_rm, Sep 14 2013

       50 may be a stretch, Ray, kind of depends on a confluence of two trends, the one towards the computational singularity and the one towards grey goo or other programmable matter variants. I could easily be 100 years off. But it's coming.   

       As to the planet, as I always say, the planet owes us a big one for the first dino killer we're going to move out of the way, so think of it as us living on a home equity line. The house is worth something, to be sure, but one's gotta eat.   

       We are fragile. The planet is a rock in space, and any sentimental value we attach is due to to a faulty extension of the same programming that makes a dog mark its territory.   

       Now clearly, if pollution, strip mining, etc increases human misery then there's a reason to restrict it, and obviously some level of regulation makes sense. But while one can easily point to rise of lung disease in Shanghai, one has to put that in context to the hundreds of millions of people that are now living above, and not below, the poverty line. Back to my original comment, worrying about coastlines in a 100 years is an indulgence only those that are already living above it can afford.   

       It makes all the capitalistic sense in the word to work on energy alternatives -- the riches, after all, would be unbound. Ditto for battery technologies. Electric cars make sense because of how much cheaper it would be to drive. Home solar and gas generating turbines make sense because they make the electric net more resilient. The smart house makes sense because it saves you money.   

       It makes absolutely zero sense to self-restrict energy use on a national level beyond the strategic (i.e. making sure some left in a pinch)
theircompetitor, Sep 14 2013

       // yes and no, apart from the yes. //   

       [marked for tagline]
BunsenHoneydew, Aug 10 2016

       Warming, schwarming, yes yes. But something more interesting:   

       /Without human mining, carbon is continuously sequestered in the form of fossil fuels/   

       The conclusion is that in ancient days there wasmore carbon in the atmosphere than there is now. At one point the atmosphere contained all the CO2 there now, all the CO2 that got taken up into iextant biomass, and all the CO2 that got sequestered as combustible reduced carbon (fossil fuels) AND carbonate minerals. Carbonate minerals alone represent crazy large amounts of carbon.   

       So either there used to be a boatload more carbon dioxide in the air, or available CO2 is being replenished / maintained by extraterrestrial or intraterrestrial sources.
bungston, Aug 10 2016


       " Okay I found an article. It sounds like it supports what I said "
normzone, Aug 10 2016

       Can we agree that there have been conditions on this planet in the past, an possible in the future that would be very undesirable? Looking to unpredictable factors to save us from predictable factors like greenhouse action or suggesting that the scientific concensus about the reality and causes of global warming is a conspiracy to conserve resources is fantastically wishful thinking (but you already knew that didn't you.)   

       Trolling is a result, not always harmful and not always intentional but this post is seeded by a deep lack of fundamental understanding of how plants work, how the atmosphere works, an seems thinly veiled trollery.
WcW, Aug 10 2016

       yes, we can agree on that not all conditions that occurred in the past are good in the future. Having said that, we cannot agree that warming, on anything like the scale that is happening, is a net negative, nor can we agree that any of the proposed solutions are realistic.
theircompetitor, Aug 10 2016

       I don't genuinely expect everyone to agree on any policy; thank heavens we don't operate on pure concensus. I do expect those expressing an increasingly abandoned viewpoint to do better than "we disagree" in terms of their case. And I'm sorry but "I don't know anything about it and I don't trust the people who do" isn't a strong case either.
WcW, Aug 11 2016


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