US Railroads in the Lead on Climate Change Denial

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Anderson

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There's also been a recent flap over signs at Glacier National Park. Apparently the signs used to say that the glaciers would all be extinct by 2020, and...well, those signs quietly went away at the end of last year.

I think there are two major problems that have screwed one side of this discussion. The first is that there's nobody out there now like Richard Feynman or Carl Sagan who can really communicate ideas in a way that the "average person" can comprehend. The closest I can think of is Neil deGrasse Tyson. The second is that, after several decades of getting what I suspect were always 95th-99th percentile worst cases as "scare headlines" [1], there's a certain degree of numbness to it all that sets in, especially as many of those predictions don't pan out. I do suspect that some messy scenarios will start to play out (parts of Miami flooding come to mind; Norfolk, VA is having similar issues, but those issues are compounded by the local geology...as I understand it, a good chunk of Norfolk is sinking as well), but a few decades of (sincere if modestly errant) alarmist predictions have left a bit of a crater in trust.

[1] I recognize that in many cases, the proper caveats were attached to the articles, but those attachments were/are often put deep in the article and contradict the impulse of the headline.
 

BLNT

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I'm sure it's been said time and again (over hundreds/thousands of years), but what an effed up time we live in. Ignorance is not bliss, though if it makes you sleep better, more power to you... and good luck!

(note: this is not directed to any individual or any ideology... just screwed up humans in general!)
 

Anderson

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I'm sure it's been said time and again (over hundreds/thousands of years), but what an effed up time we live in. Ignorance is not bliss, though if it makes you sleep better, more power to you... and good luck!

(note: this is not directed to any individual or any ideology... just screwed up humans in general!)
I can't say whether ignorance is bliss or not in a vacuum, but there are times when it beats the snot out of knowing what's up.
 

jis

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That is why I always liked the "What Me Worry" guy in Mad Magazine :)
 

Barb Stout

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Regardless of whether the majority or minority of predictions are overblown, I still want to visit New Orleans before the levee infrastructure sinks below the ability of them to control flooding in New Orleans and also before Amtrak gets rid of the Sunset Limited which is how I want to get there. I have heard that the SSL is the "biggest loser" in terms of revenue, so have been concerned that Amtrak might get rid of it. I don't know why it's the biggest loser though.

I heard a prediction that the levee infrastructure is sinking (because it's heavy and the land is presumably soft) and in about 3 years will get to the point of having trouble in controlling the flooding. Let's see how that prediction holds "up". New Orleans has been on my bucket list almost my entire life and when Katrina hit, I thought that there was no point in going there after that, but now with flooding issues continuing to take chunks out of it and out of other coastal places, I decided I better go in this window between disasters.
 

v v

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Regardless of whether the majority or minority of predictions are overblown, I still want to visit New Orleans before the levee infrastructure sinks below the ability of them to control flooding in New Orleans and also before Amtrak gets rid of the Sunset Limited which is how I want to get there. I have heard that the SSL is the "biggest loser" in terms of revenue, so have been concerned that Amtrak might get rid of it. I don't know why it's the biggest loser though.

I heard a prediction that the levee infrastructure is sinking (because it's heavy and the land is presumably soft) and in about 3 years will get to the point of having trouble in controlling the flooding. Let's see how that prediction holds "up". New Orleans has been on my bucket list almost my entire life and when Katrina hit, I thought that there was no point in going there after that, but now with flooding issues continuing to take chunks out of it and out of other coastal places, I decided I better go in this window between disasters.
From a foreigner's point of view and someone not particularly attracted to party venues I have to write the New Orleans is one of the great places to visit in the world, we would go back again and again. Love the people and love the atmosphere. If you want to go to a party then NO is the place to go. And if you don't need a party it's still the place to go.

After Katrina they had Dutch engineers advising what could be done to save the city and surrounds for the future, and it is possible to save but the financial cost is high, too high for those that have to finance it maybe?

Was in Holland a few weeks ago and the main sea dike that prevents about 1/3 of the country from flooding is being strengthened and raised... to counter sea levels anticipated in 50 years time! Forward thinking people the Dutch and of course it's critical to their country's future.

We are taking the SSL on the Friday after the Gathering for the same reasons as you but only as far as Lake Charles this time. We have already taken that train through to NOL a couple of years ago, what a way to arrive.

Hope you get to do it...
 

flitcraft

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Jan 10, 2018
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I heard a prediction that the levee infrastructure is sinking (because it's heavy and the land is presumably soft) and in about 3 years will get to the point of having trouble in controlling the flooding. Let's see how that prediction holds "up". New Orleans has been on my bucket list almost my entire life and when Katrina hit, I thought that there was no point in going there after that, but now with flooding issues continuing to take chunks out of it and out of other coastal places, I decided I better go in this window between disasters.
Actually, as a former resident of New Orleans, I can attest to the fact that flooding has been an escalating problem in the city for three reasons. First, as you noted, the levees have been sinking over time due to the alluvial soil on which they were built, and rebuilding the levees isn't financially feasible. (Also, it wouldn't be prudent for other reasons, because the straitjacketing of the Mississippi by the existing levees is a major reason why the Louisiana delta is losing land at a significant rate.) Second, New Orleans is below sea level, which means that rain that falls must be pumped away. As more and more of the land area in the vicinity was paved over, less and less drainage was available, so that ordinary thunderstorms mean more localized flooding. (We ended up tearing out wall to wall carpeting twice due to flooding into our house till we finally got smart and went with tile and removable area rugs.) Third, the incidence of storms with unusually high amounts of rain fall has increased in recent years, so that localized flooding is more and more frequent.

All that said, New Orleans is very much worth a visit. The French Quarter and Garden District are justly famous, the restaurant scene has bounced back from Katrina, and taking a tour on the steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River should be on every tourists' itinerary. And the Sunset Limited is definitely an under-rated train--maybe not quite the scenic splendor of some, but compelling scenery nevertheless, including the final ascent up the Huey P. long Bridge!
 

BLNT

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Some older people get tired of hearing scientists and politicians crying wolf, and nothing happens. Some older folks remember the Newsweek article. In addition, here are a few other predictions by scientists and politicians that never came true.
https://cei.org/blog/wrong-again-50-years-failed-eco-pocalyptic-predictions
The devil's in the details, but it's the overall trend that counts.

Certainly "there are some very fine people on both sides" (sorry, had to throw that in there), and nobody can predict things with great certainty. Let us hope that common sense prevails - though history may not give up much comfort there!
 

MARC Rider

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Some older people get tired of hearing scientists and politicians crying wolf, and nothing happens. Some older folks remember the Newsweek article. In addition, here are a few other predictions by scientists and politicians that never came true.
https://cei.org/blog/wrong-again-50-years-failed-eco-pocalyptic-predictions
Let's say the Weather Service forecasts that the a Category 5 hurricane will make landfall in Miami on Thursday, and what happens is that a category 4 hurricane makes landfall in Ft. Lauderdale on Friday. Does that mean that the meteorologists who made the forecast are charlatans who are just "crying wolf?"

It's pretty clear that the burning of fossil fuels is causing a major disruption to global climate. The fact that someone forecast that the glaciers in Montana would all be melted by 2020 and they're not (and we still have 11 months for that to happen :) ) or alligators will be swimming in the Potomac by 2025 or whatever is irrelevant. Glaciers ARE melting, ranges of various plants and animals are moving around in the directions implied by the climate models. Average temperatures ARE increasing. All in the general manner that the climate scientists forecast.

It's real. Better get used it it.
 
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Matthew H Fish

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Some older people get tired of hearing scientists and politicians crying wolf, and nothing happens. Some older folks remember the Newsweek article. In addition, here are a few other predictions by scientists and politicians that never came true.
https://cei.org/blog/wrong-again-50-years-failed-eco-pocalyptic-predictions
The CEI is an industry-funded think tank.

This is a serious question, and I am not trying to be mean:

Do you lack critical thinking skills, or are you so cynical that you are hoping that we do?

This is a totally honest question. Do you know the difference between scientific consensus and propaganda? Do you know that an article in an ideologically-driven, industry-funded libertarian website is not going to sway the opinions of people who listen to scientific sources? Do you really believe we haven't seen sources of propaganda before? Or are you just trying to clutter up the discussion by throwing out chaff and distraction?
 

peteypablo

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Jul 17, 2015
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The CEI is an industry-funded think tank.

This is a serious question, and I am not trying to be mean:

Do you lack critical thinking skills, or are you so cynical that you are hoping that we do?

This is a totally honest question. Do you know the difference between scientific consensus and propaganda? Do you know that an article in an ideologically-driven, industry-funded libertarian website is not going to sway the opinions of people who listen to scientific sources? Do you really believe we haven't seen sources of propaganda before? Or are you just trying to clutter up the discussion by throwing out chaff and distraction?
I’m trying to understand your point. Are you agreeing that Al Gore was wrong and that there were lots of other over the top predictions that turned out to be wrong, but that the scientific consensus was more moderate and measured and has borne out by actual events? Fair enough. What’s the present scientific consensus? As far as I can tell, from drilling down to the actual IPCC reports, on the subject of sea level rise, the projection is that if we manage to completely abandon fossil fuel burning by 2030, sea level will rise 0.48 meters by 2100. And if things go to hell in a hand basket and we burn eight times as much coal by 2100, and Nigeria has a population of 1.2 billion (to cite just a few of the extreme assumptions) sea level will rise 0.84 meters by 2100. Is that worth abandoning fossil fuels over?

One needs only a basic understanding of math to recognize that, if global average temperatures are rising at an increasing rate, ice caps and sea level should also be rising at an increasing rate. So here’s a modest challenge: Find me a tidal gauge somewhere in the world that shows sea level rising at an increasing rate. One of the conditions of my challenge is that you search for them generically and look at them one by one. If you do find one, I bet it will be only after you have seen at least ten with no increase.

What’s your prediction? My prediction is we’re going to keep burning fossil fuels for decades and the IPCC will keep dialing back the dire nature of actual predictions, while left wing governments worldwide keep dialing the shrill tone of warnings, but that any predictions not worded like horoscopes - “I see stormy events in your future” - will not happen.

My personal measuring stick for when environmental groups really believe fossil fuels are destroying the planet: They embrace nuclear power and turn the cancel culture against anyone who fights nuclear power construction. It could happen. But I’m not holding my breath.
 

MARC Rider

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Apr 5, 2011
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I’m trying to understand your point. Are you agreeing that Al Gore was wrong and that there were lots of other over the top predictions that turned out to be wrong, but that the scientific consensus was more moderate and measured and has borne out by actual events? Fair enough. What’s the present scientific consensus? As far as I can tell, from drilling down to the actual IPCC reports, on the subject of sea level rise, the projection is that if we manage to completely abandon fossil fuel burning by 2030, sea level will rise 0.48 meters by 2100. And if things go to hell in a hand basket and we burn eight times as much coal by 2100, and Nigeria has a population of 1.2 billion (to cite just a few of the extreme assumptions) sea level will rise 0.84 meters by 2100. Is that worth abandoning fossil fuels over?

One needs only a basic understanding of math to recognize that, if global average temperatures are rising at an increasing rate, ice caps and sea level should also be rising at an increasing rate. So here’s a modest challenge: Find me a tidal gauge somewhere in the world that shows sea level rising at an increasing rate. One of the conditions of my challenge is that you search for them generically and look at them one by one. If you do find one, I bet it will be only after you have seen at least ten with no increase.

What’s your prediction? My prediction is we’re going to keep burning fossil fuels for decades and the IPCC will keep dialing back the dire nature of actual predictions, while left wing governments worldwide keep dialing the shrill tone of warnings, but that any predictions not worded like horoscopes - “I see stormy events in your future” - will not happen.

My personal measuring stick for when environmental groups really believe fossil fuels are destroying the planet: They embrace nuclear power and turn the cancel culture against anyone who fights nuclear power construction. It could happen. But I’m not holding my breath.
The present scientific consensus is that greenhouse gas emissions from humans are warming the globe. This is going to have a lot of undesirable consequences, from the human point of view. The exact natureand timing of the undesitable consequences are uncertain, but they will probably include stuff like killer heatwaves, killer storms, unexpected cold weather, movement of animal pests and diseases into places where they don't exist now, social and political unrest, and thse effects will happen in our lifetime.

And dismissively (and irrelevantly) name-dropping Al Gore won't prevent this stuff from happening.
 

jebr

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Moderator reminder:

This thread is for discussion specific to US railroads and climate change. It is not for climate change discussion broadly. All non-railroad-specific discussion of climate change must be in a new (or existing, if relevant) thread in The AU Lounge. Any further posts not abiding by this policy will be deleted.
 

peteypablo

Train Attendant
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Jul 17, 2015
Messages
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On the subject of the thread, which virtually no comments have touched on, I offer my opinion that US railroads are doing about all that can reasonably be expected to address CO2 emissions. They offer a very efficient means of transporting freight, which means their CO2 emissions are undoubtedly less than ground transportation alternatives, and far better than air transportation. They might switch from diesel to natural gas powered locomotives, and, if we ever come up with a way to make wind and solar power both reliable and competitive, they could electrify their lines to further reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Aside from that, I think expecting them to refuse to transport coal - which is close to half of their revenue - or construct a high speed rail network throughout the USA is pie in the sky dreaming, and conflates public and private. Of course, if you think climate change is an existential threat that is properly addressed only by government taking control of everything and rationing our CO2 production, you probably think barring railroads from transporting coal is just an obvious first step. I don't. I think it would cost us far more than it would benefit us.
 
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