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"We're supposed to be smarter than lobsters". Why? Says who? How so?

Are we talking about whether we can defeat a lobster in a game of chess?

And who is "we"? Is this an individual comparison? Can person X get a higher score on the SAT than lobster Y?

Or is this a species "we"? Comparing the long term sum of individual lobster "decisions" to the long term sum of individual human "decisions", I'm pretty sure the objective observer would go with the lobsters. While lobsters, as a whole, may not have added much in the way of art and music, they also haven't warmed the climate, destroyed global ecosystems, instigated global extinctions, etc. I'm sure I'm not qualified to net that out, but simply as a layman's gut reaction it sure feels like maybe the lobsters have the superior track record, all things considered.

Maybe we (humans) are setting our sights too high. Maybe lobsters are out of our league. Perhaps the appropriate goal should be something like bacteria or viruses or rodents or mosquitos?

Or maybe it wouldn't matter at all because, at a species level, we all basically behave the same. We are all trying to maximize our consumption of accessible energy. Doing that produces waste. It just happens that humans figured out how to do it in such a way and at such a scale that it produces enormously more waste and destruction (especially when you include the increased population allowed by the ways we get access to energy). Perhaps we, the lobsters, and the rest are all just playing the same game. Maybe it has nothing to do with smart, just everything to do with life.

Still, in the positive impact bet between humans and lobsters.... take the crustacean. ;-)

Dave Cohen

Well, Brian,

Dr. Hansen says we can smoothly replace all fossil energy with renewables and, better yet, we can do so at no cost to ourselves (look at the quote I added at the top).

In fact, reducing your carbon footprint will become a money-maker in the world Hansen describes.

Needless to say, perhaps, but lobsters certainly couldn't have thought that up.

So, yes, there are profound differences between lobsters and humans.

-- Dave

Mike Roberts

One of the craziest notions that Hansen has is that "the economic studies that have been done" can possibly "show" anything. Economic studies? JFC

I tried to explain species behaviour to my 83 year old father-in-law and why humans aren't really doing anything that other species wouldn't do given the same opportunities. We can't really help ourselves. I think he actually got it, which is remarkable but which is also something almost everyone else doesn't get.

Thanks for your insights.


I took these facts off the internets, but they seem to check out and they seem to be pertinent.

A quarter of greenhouse gas emissions are caused directly by agriculture. Its estimated that agricultural output will have to increase by 50% to feed the population of ten billion people that everyone seems to expect. You can do the math. Essentially there is no way to cut greenhouse gas emissions if world population continues to increase. You can't do it if you take the source of a quarter of the emissions off the table.

Gail Tverberg has estimated that half of GDP growth is solely due to population growth. Now not only is an increasing population incompatible with cutting greenhouse gas emissions, you pretty much have to start reducing world population to get there. Lets say this is done the most gentle possible way, one child families for everyone. The world economy is pretty dependent on population growth to grow, so you see the world economy stagnate or even crash. We are seeing this in countries like Japan which are managing to reduce their populations. You pretty much are going to get a bunch of generations living in their parents' houses playing video games (if they are male) or spending all their time shopping (if they are female). Now I'm actually for going through this, the thing is that it is really the best case scenario.

I think the concept that we really need all this carbon output to produce enough food to feed billions tends to get lost in these discussions.

Mike Cooper

We almost certainly aren't smarter than lobsters. I think Douglas Adams got it right. The most intelligent species on the planet are dolphins (apologies to the mice, but they're aliens). All dolphins do is play, East fish, and have sex. Seems like a great idea to me.

Tony Noerpel

Mike, I was thinking that we do-gooders need to work on preserving the cetaceans as much as possible and not worry so much about trying to preserve Homo sapiens. :+)

To save ourselves:

We knew everything we needed to know about the human condition with high probability by 1980 (LTG, oil crises, population bomb, global warming, etc.). Indeed as we've just learned Exxon executives were aware of human-caused climate change and its dangers at that time. If we acted in 1980, we would have only had to cut emissions by 0.5% per year to stay under 2 degrees of warming with 67% probability which is doable. Now we would have to cut emissions by 7% per year which I agree would require sacrifice. The plot (figure 1 in the reference) looks rather grim. And yes 1.99 degrees is not better than 2.01 degrees anyway.

Soon there will be no chance to stay under 2 degrees, then 3...

Initially only the poor and poor countries will suffer but the rich will gain and from an economists point of view, total utility may still be maximized since the wealthy are doing so great so what's the problem? :+)


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