My short bio: David Zetland is a university lecturer at Leiden University College, where he teaches on the commons, economics, entrepreneurship, and sustainability. He has published over 20 academic articles and chapters, dozens of popular pieces, over 150 reviews (click on my name for these), two collections of climate-fiction short stories, and two books: The End of Abundance (2011), Living with Water Scarcity (2014). The 2 books and CliFi are FREE to download.

My Proof: My photo

Why I'm here I'm from California but have lived in Amsterdam (Netherlands) for 10 years. I have also traveled extensively. Climate change chaos (CC) has gone from theoretical to every-day bad news, and water is the "vector" through which CC is manifesting. We are facing an extreme need to adopt to drought, fires, floods, extreme temperatures, storms and the like. As a political economist, I have a lot of background in trying to understand where we are succeeding and failing. FYI, I won't talk much about mitigation (reducing CC forcing) as much as adaptation here, but it will come up.

Some background


Lol... I cross-posted to r/climateskeptics and got this: "What makes you feel your climate chaos BS is any different than the usual climate change BS?" Here's my response

Bedtime: It's 11p here (21:00 UTC) and I am checking out for now. I will come back am to answer other Qs. Many of you are asking good Qs, so I will do my best to give you something to think about. In the interim, definitely think about supporting your local community, as it's the best defence against climate chaos. (If you're thinking of moving to somewhere "safe," then consider its combination of natural and community resources. :). For more, check out my books, esp. the 2 Life Plus 2m volumes. Food for thought.

Last check-in (06:25 UTC): Just going to read/reply to new comments

Done (07:20 UTC): Thanks for all the great Qs!

Comments: 359 • Responses: 100  • Date: 

shaokim70 karma

Hallo, en bedankt voor de AMA!

How do you explain the persistent pushback against nuclear energy in the western world (North America and Europe), for such a long time, in an era where expansion seems to be the most attractive option when it comes to energy independence, economic considerations, climate change and health outcomes?

I live in Belgium myself, and Belgium's decision decades ago has been to power down all existing nuclear energy plants in 2025 and not replace them by newer designs, but rather, build gas plants instead.

The Green party has somehow been spearheading this, and there have been no alternatives presented by other parties in the past decades, even though the deadline for shutting down nuclear energy had been set in stone.

It seems strange at best for a green movement to pursue these kinds of solutions to ecological disaster, and be this virulently anti-nuclear, in Belgium, or Germany, and beyond, and it seems the western world is trying really hard not to say "nuclear power", even though expanding it seems like it would work hugely in their self-interest.

What other considerations are at play?

Thank you

davidzet108 karma

Graag gedaan ;)

I do not understand it either. In the US, there was a movie (China Syndrome) that was released within a month of "our" nuclear accident (Three Mile Island), where nobody died. In the movie, it was "nearly the end of the world." In Europe and Japan, the accidents have been worse but (in)direct deaths are a tiny fraction of those from, e.g., coal.

I think there's an active lobby from fossil fuel companies as well as a pathological fear of nuclear (as in "bombs") for many people. Yes, the waste needs to be stored "forever" but that's a problem for the future, unlike the CC NOW.

Given the threats we face, I think we will be forced to turn to nuclear, to desalinate water, for example, as the damages rise faster than we can afford...

entropicamericana29 karma

"Yes, there is a problem of accumulated greenhouse gases altering our planet's climate 'forever,' but that's a problem for the future, unlike the horse manure NOW." -Scientists 100+ years ago.

davidzet24 karma

Hahaha... Yes. And GHGs are the horse shit of today ;)

Too bad we don't have a car to rescue us!

W02T-14 karma

Why do we always talk about more power instead of increasing efficiency? Oh, sorry, I forgot. Only solutions that fit rich people’s greed.

davidzet4 karma

I didn't say "more power" and "a substitute for fossil fuels" works well here.

But rich people's greed (or the middle classes) is a real issue.

schabaschablusa41 karma

I'm from Germany. We have elections coming up and there is not a single party for expanding nuclear energy. Probably the sentiment in the general public is too much anti-nuclear that no politician wants to take the risk.

Also there are the following two scenarios

  1. everything keeps going as it it, thousands on people will die due to effects of global warming (e.g. floods) but it's not directly seen as anybody's fault
  2. the government builds nuclear plants, an accident happens and the government who made the decision is in deep shit

The likelihood of scenario 2 (nuclear catastrophe) is extremely low, however people absolutely will die if we keep on burning coal and dinosaur juice. But because of the responsibility problem we will never switch to nuclear.

The green party somehow seems to believe that everything will be fine as long as we go back to nature and that technology is somehow dangerous and harmful. The alternatives are conservative parties who think that everything should stay the way it is. Why is there no radical technocrat party?

Edit: Adding some more. It think the underlying psychological reason for this distorted risk perception is similar to why people believe that shark accidents are by far more likely than they actually are. If a nuclear plant explodes the news coverage is much higher compared to "yet another flood / wildfire / hurricane", therefore the risk is also perceived as much higher than appropriate.

davidzet30 karma

Excellent points. Pols and bureaucrats are indeed worried about "concentrated blame" so it's much easier to allow for "diffused ruin". The same is true about pro-active preparation (e.g., removing a city out of a flood zone) compared to rescuing that city when the flood arrives. Shallow impressions matter :(

Arkeros1 karma

A contemporary argument against building new nuclear plant that I've heard is that we can skip them by building true renewables like solar, wind and tidal plant. Do you know if the data backs this up or not, regardless of if it's actually done?

davidzet6 karma

I don't know. Renewables are def. faster/cheaper, but nuclear is good for "base power"

The cost is crazy. Nuclear needs a better risk/insurance policy.

PyroDesu5 karma

Renewables do not have the stability to take over the entire load of the power grid. Once the percentage starts to get too high, you start to see things like natural gas "peaker" plants on the rise to balance out the variability. There is no cost-effective grid-scale power storage solution that can be built wherever it is needed. Decentralizing the power grid is also not the solution, as it is both less efficient and places the burden of power production and storage infrastructure on individuals.

davidzet4 karma

True, but those issues can be compensated. Nuclear is an obvious tech in the combo. As for the "extra cost of inefficiency", that's the price (worth paying) to avoid GHG emissions that could make quality of life even LOWER.

Sarkos2 karma

There is no cost-effective grid-scale power storage solution that can be built wherever it is needed.

What about that giant battery that Tesla produced for Australia? I read that the initial investment had paid for itself.

davidzet2 karma

Yes, in peaking power. I think that battery has a total capacity of <10 min. It plays a pivotal role but it's not a central one.

masterjon_362 karma

I hear the factoid running around that 70% of climate change pollution is created by only a handful of companies. How true is this? Is it truly the fault of corporations, or do average citizens really do have a hand in all of these problems?

davidzet149 karma

This stat is true. Source. DM me if you can't get a PDF.

The issue is that these corps sell to citizens, so it's passthru.

OTOH, these corps (many of them state owned) can take action -- or be targeted by action -- so it's way more efficient to target them than 8 billion people.

masterjon_317 karma

This is very interesting, but it does make it feel like this would make things a bit harder. Do you believe anything can be done about this? I mean, some of the top producers are China and Saudi Arabia, I don't think they'd ever make any changes.

davidzet60 karma

My idea is that if you target "accountable" (e.g., Shell or BP) then THEY will lobby to get the others tied in ("competition")... via a snowball effect. Look up "milieudefensie" and its lawsuits against the Dutch govt' and Shell.

Useful-Ice641242 karma

How do you think it's possible to get a good balance between maintaining economic growth and fighting climate change?

davidzet82 karma

I'd start with carbon taxes as they distort actions the least. The money can be used to help the poorer "get along" or the costs of climate damages.

rjcarr24 karma

But wouldn't companies just shift emissions to countries that aren't regulated? I mean, we already do this in huge numbers.

davidzet34 karma

Yes, they will, but countries might start to see CO2 taxes as a source of revenue. Corrupt countries politicians will ALWAYS fuck over their citizens for money. That sucks.

Crushnaut17 karma

Or, you know, carbon tariffs..

davidzet22 karma

Those are very interesting. One of my students did a really good paper on carbon border taxes. Those can help.

Rediro_2 karma

Panamanian here, can confirm

davidzet2 karma

Yep. So sad how we fuck each other over. Humans can do miracles as teams but team work is damn hard (I teach this issue.)

JTuck333-3 karma

Agreed. Thus the call for smaller governments.

BreakingBaaaahhhhd1 karma

Or maybe less money? As in money out of politics and stop letting capitalists fuck everyone

davidzet2 karma

True. (You're all making good points.)

5Am4n7Hat0N935 karma

Where do developing countries fit into the adaptation picture, when many of them may suffer the hardest impacts of CC (most recent big one on the news: flood in Haiti?) and have much less resource to build new advanced infrastructure like the Dutch water management?

davidzet46 karma

Poorer (I don't like "developed" vs "developing") countries are screwed on the money side (can't compete in world markets), but they may have some advantages in terms of community, mobility (no expensive houses to defend) and natural resources. SOME African countries might do surprisingly well.

suhdaey7 karma

Could you explain which African countries might do well and your reasoning?

davidzet18 karma

There are 58. I haven't looked into details. I'd look at governance (corruption), renewable water resources vs consumption, food imports, forest cover, etc. There will be a ranking of sorts.

Pranay_Dogra31 karma

Hey man! I'm also a second year undergraduate student studying environmental sciences. Can you recommend some reasearch papers and books which might help me with my course ?

davidzet52 karma

I recommend BOOKS, as the papers are often fragments, and books give you perspective. Here are my reviews, so look and see (I recommend Sand County Almanac, for example)

Read the IPCC reports.

GlockTalk71030 karma

What can I as an individual actually do about CC?

Afireonthesnow49 karma

Adding on to what OP said here.

There are a lot of things you can do - lobby is a huge one. Join a group like Sierra Club, 350, Citizens Climate Lobby, Got Green etc. They can help train you how to engage with your representatives and are organized to actually get projects done. If you don't want to do this, CALL you're representatives and tell them to do more on climate, keep up to date with political news and be able to call on specific bills or issues. Right now call in support of the reconciliation bill and tell your rep to oppose line 3. You can also support carbon fees/taxes and a carbon standard. (That was a very American paragraph, sorry)

Locally, lobby for improved bike infrastructure and for healthy urban green spaces. Pressure the utility companies to improve their energy mix to green energy.

Donation is another big thing, money is easier than action for some people. Research into non profits you are passionate about, or donate to carbon offsets (make sure they are reputable). I personally donate to Rainforest Trust cause I have a big conservation passion. Through some orgs you can offset your emissions for a couple hundred dollars a year

For individual footprint, you put out ~12-16 tons of carbon every year. You can do a lot to minimize this bit even if you do get it down to 0 it's not a huge impact UNLESS you influence your neighbors/friends/family to make changes as well. The big hitters are lifestyle changes like using public transportation, or eating less meat. You can also attempt to move towards zero waste. If you open your house, insulate your attic, and a switch to a heat pump when it's time to change your AC or heater (unless you get your electrical from coal).

Learn to care for the land you inhabit. Grow native plants in your yard, ditch grass, ditch concrete, rewild your lawn. Reach out to indigenous communities or universities in your area if you want to learn more about the local ecosystems.

Volunteer on your community to improve resilience. Volunteer with whatever you're passionate about, a healthy community will be more equipped mentally, politically, and financially to deal with climate.

Finally, educate yourself so you can talk to others about climate confidently. I would recommend the podcasts How to Save a Planet and Matter of Degrees. Also the book project drawdown.

AlotaFaginas19 karma

For individual footprint, you put out ~12-16 tons of carbon every year. You can do a lot to minimize this bit even if you do get it down to 0 it's not a huge impact UNLESS you influence your neighbors/friends/family to make changes as well. The big hitters are lifestyle changes like using public transportation, or eating less meat. You can also attempt to move towards zero waste. If you open your house, insulate your attic, and a switch to a heat pump when it's time to change your AC or heater (unless you get your electrical from coal).

In Belgium they want everyone off fuel and gas for heating their homes and to switch to solar + heat pump.

They pushed people to buy solar panels and now fucked everyone by first giving too much subsidized money and did a complete 180 screwing over the people who are now building their houses.

Because of this you get 1/8th for your electricity that you produce (and not use) with your solarpanels and are forced to buy more expensive electricity when you need it for your heat pump. All while they are planning to close nuclear plant and start opening gas plants (all that while people at home will not be allowed to use gas to heat their homes in the future)

Staying on fossil fuels/gas as long as possible is for the most people the easiest or only option. All while they are forcing people to switch to EV's which will then push the price of electricity even higher.

I invested in solar panels and am now building my own house. The plan was solar panels + heat pump but if nothing is changing I will just have to buy/rent a gas tank cause buying an expensive heat pump that will use expensive electricity is just not possible. It doesn't make any sense financially and the government saying 'fuck you we'll be building gas plants' kinda makes me not want to pay extra while the government is not even doing the best thing for the environment.

It has to start from the top. Bullying the middle/lower class to be environment friendly while doing fuck all yourself isn't going to save the planet.

End of rant.

davidzet7 karma

Good rant, and you capture why "conversion" is soo hard: too fast, too top down. In Amsterdam, they want everyone off gas by 2040. Are they (noisily) raising the price of gas year by year, to push people to find CUSTOM (best fit for them) ways to adapt? No: Just lots of campaigns and tech. subsidies. I'm guessing they will waste $$$ around 2038 in a last ditch attempt to hit their targets.

davidzet4 karma

Great points. Thanks. I'll just underline the power of organising. It will not be individual action, but COLLECTIVE action that will make the biggest difference.

davidzet34 karma


Besides that, live in a community where ppl take care of each other, in need.

DressedUpNowhere2Go2 karma

Live in a dense city with good public transit and shops near homes. Places like NYC are great for the environment. Suburbs are terrible.

davidzet5 karma

Yes. The most important "footprint" is people/km2

SmokeEaterFD27 karma

I've seen some carbon capture technology come online of late(Carbon Engineering, Climeworks) and it seems like pulling CO2 from the atmosphere is key to limiting the effects of CC. Why aren't these technologies more broadly embraced as a stop gap between tree planting, kelp forests and other natural capturing techniques? Considering the timeline, shouldn't we be pulling CO2 from the atmosphere onscale now?

davidzet63 karma

Yes, we should be "pulling now" but re-forestation is WAY better (with a useful biodiversity side effect). Sadly, most CCS is funded by fossil companies/countries in an attempt to "burn then recapture" which is WAY less efficient compared to shifting to renewables.

I can't come up with the oil equivalent of "A stitch in time saves nine" :)

raatoraamro22 karma

This is not true. Planting forests is great, but the ipcc says that in order to stay below 1.5 or even 2 degrees warming we need levels of carbon drawdown way beyond the capacity of even massive forestry and soil carbon efforts.

We need large scale engineered draw down of co2. Are the technologies nascent? Yes. Do we have to do it anyway? Also yes.

Also-CCS = capturing co2 from the factory flue stack. Carbon removal (what the question is about) is about pulling it out of the air. Not the same thing and most carbon removal is NOT funded by fossil fuel. There are many scientists and start ups working on this.

Climate models show we need drawdown beyond natural solutions to avoid the worst of climate change.

To learn more:




davidzet43 karma

I agree that IPCC forecasts require CCS. That's why 1.5C is impossible (IMO) in terms of current progress (rising GHG emissions when we need -7%/year?!?)

I never said CCS is a bad idea. I said reforestation is a better idea/priority.

Reatbanana3 karma

that isn’t necessarily true for pre-combustion CO2 capture. one technology that comes to mind is the sorption enhanced water gas shift (SEWGS). it gives the ability to produce hydrogen for fuel through water gas shift and capture the CO2 under one single unit. by capturing the CO2, the reaction is able to produce more hydrogen and even reaching CO conversions of 99.5%.

this CCS technology can be used extensively in biohydrogen plants where household waste is produced into syngas, whilst making the process energy positive and feasible. so i dont think CCS is that bad of a technology if applied right. u/smokeeaterfd

davidzet13 karma

Again, CCS is part of the solution, but it's less efficient (cost wise) than (1) not emitting GHGs and (2) natural solutions (forestry)

raatoraamro3 karma

Agreed they need to be more widely embraced, and serve as a complement (not replacement) for emissions reductions.

In addition to those companies there are many startups working on this (though not enough-big problem), including some promising tech advancements which possibly eclipse those more established companies.

davidzet3 karma


BravoLimaPoppa23 karma

Alright, you're suddenly given the ear of world leaders at the G7. You're allowed to speak frankly and they're desperate enough to listen. What do you say to them?

davidzet47 karma

Tax carbon. You can use the revenue to help the poor (or bribe corporates) and the economy will "green" without micro management.

For more (not all to my taste), read Ministry for the Future (my review)

CannonCone18 karma

Do you have any advice or thoughts for people who are considering whether or not to have kids as the world slides into worsening climate chaos?

davidzet23 karma

Kids, like buying a house, are a personal decision.

I'm a fan of "Idiocracy", and its plot is sadly in line with what we see today.

Overall, I say "have kids if you want, don't have more kids than you want, and the government should help you with kids you have."

I personally don't have/want kids, b/c I value my personal time (on reddit!) more than taking care of (optional) others.

ICantThinkOfAName66716 karma

How do you think people will adjust to eating /significantly less meat and dairy?

davidzet29 karma

Easily. I've been vegetarian as well as vegan. It's more cultural than nutritional.

That said, no way a vegan law will be passed (that works). Cf, "prohibition"

Australopiteco7 karma

Cf, "prohibition"

Not sure if it went as poorly as people imagine it did. I thought this article was interesting:

Prohibition worked better than you think - Vox

davidzet7 karma

Ahh... Always more to read :)

mr_impastabowl12 karma

Are there any private industries tackling any number of climate change solutions that you're excited about?

Not to be cynical, but I feel like humanities best chance at global climate change will be new technologies that aren't currently tied to money or politics.

davidzet11 karma

Tech is a good industry. It faces a headwind with respect to fossil fuel companies. If FF could be forced to use tech to reduce GHGs (e.g., carbon taxes), then we'd be saved.

renegaderuminant10 karma

I hear farmers promoting regenerative agriculture—mob grazing, building organic matter—as a means to rebuild vegetation and therefore reclaim desertified areas. Is there any merit to this, or is it wasted effort in the fight against climate change?

davidzet14 karma

It's a waste with respect to CC but good for local soils. Since food security will be a MAJOR issue, cheer them on!

Afireonthesnow9 karma

It's not a waste in regards to climate change.... Regenerative ag will increase organic matter in soil, improving the soil structure and microbiome. This will rebuild our topsoil which will capture carbon (our current system is carbon positive even if you ignore the combine fuel) and allow for a much better crop with less fertalizer, which reduces high nitrogen runoff that's been destroying our oceans and leading to algae blooms that kill of hundreds of thousands of fish.

OP is right it's an environmental benefit first and foremost but that directly ties to climate change. It's all a big system and healthier environments are going to withstand climate change better than degraded ones. And if we can find a way to grow food on a piece of land that's suffering from drought, that increases our likelihood of keeping people where they live despite rising temperatures.

davidzet2 karma

You're right. I didn't mean "waste" as in "nothing" but as in "compared to other ways of mitigating GHGs" (e.g., carbon tax or more nuclear or regulating methane leaks). Your points on food sec and soil are important.

BurnerAcc202010 karma

Thank you for doing this!

There's a lot I could ask, but I'll limit it to the following: What do you consider the greatest information deficits in the climate adaptation field?

In fact, there are probably two ways to ask this question.

1) What would you say are the most important things climate adaptation researchers do not know yet, or do not know with sufficient degree of certainty? How can we improve and accelerate the existing research to address those?

2) What would you say are the most important things which the scientists know quite well already, but the general public does not? What communication strategies should be used to bridge that knowledge gap?

davidzet14 karma

On (1), the interaction between ocean and air that leads to bigger storms in surprising places.

On (2), the difference between mean and distribution, and the tipping points where we aren't going back (in the next 10k years).

BurnerAcc20204 karma

OK, thanks!

Personally, I assumed you would mention heatwaves in response to (1), after the recent heat dome in Canada led to another round of "models never predicted this!" articles (see here and here for some representative examples). Should I infer that we understand heatwaves better than those articles suggest, or that we simply understand storms even worse?

To put it another way: on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate our level of knowledge in regards to storms, and then in regards to heatwaves? I feel that this would be a useful reference.

And some more follow-up questions, if I may.

1) What do you think of the recent calls for accelerated investment into supercomputers in order to create superior "local-scale" climate models? The BBC article in my second link lists several such calls from prominent scientists: this article shows the perspective of supercomputing experts, where they also call for greater synthesis of research, and potentially even a "Manhattan Project for climate modeling". Would you say that this is something that should be on the political agenda in the countries which can afford to do so? For instance, the European Union started the Human Brain Project nearly a decade ago, at great expense and with almost no measurable results so far. Could it redirect its efforts into more advanced climate research instead, and is it something average citizens should be demanding on a political level alongside the general mitigation/adaptation measures?

2) When you say "the interaction between ocean and air", what are the main mechanisms and regions to watch out for? I know that much of the focus this past decade has been on the potential link between Arctic sea ice cover (or, more broadly, the temperatures in the Arctic in general) and extreme weather events in midlatitudes, to the point some online commentators now refer to the onset of ice-free conditions in near-religious terms (one example of many from reddit). From what I understand, the subject remains hotly debated in the scientific community, with multiple recent papers being both for (here( + here) and against (here + here the hypothesis. Another notable system is obviously the AMOC, although most research there so far appears focused on averages as opposed to extremes. Are there any other geographic areas you have in mind?

davidzet3 karma

You asked for "one". The heatwaves example is also relevant (and an unknown unknown!).

(1) Sure. Bring on the supercomputers, but we don't need precise models to know that GHGs are bad for local (global) conditions. My 2008 blog post on local

(2) AMOC is definitely on the plate. It motivated my Life+2m project. Back to the topic, ice, albedo, temp and flow are all relevant drivers of hurricanes, tornadoes, "atmospheric rivers," etc. My point is that a lot of water at once can fuck shit up fast (e.g., NYC last

Sharp questions. Thanks :)

Doc_Lazy10 karma

Is the industrial scaleability of electrolysis managable?

That is, I wonder about switching to green hydrogen as a fuel source, because merely refined hydrogen won't suffice.

edit: also thanks for the ama!

davidzet7 karma

Yes it's possible (in theory) but I haven't seen much scaling up from lab conditions.

millmatters9 karma

If money/visas weren't a factor, with the data and projections we have today, where would you move to avoid the worst direct impacts?

davidzet9 karma

I've commented already: where the mix of physical and social factors are best. CH, NZ and IS are often mentioned with respect to these two.

karen_h8 karma

Thank you for doing this. If you were to pick the best place to live in regards to climate change, where would it be? I’m in the USA and this question keeps me awake at night. Do I stay, do I leave the USA, what are my best options for weathering out the coming years (here and/or abroad).

davidzet17 karma

I've said many times in this AMA that you want local community. Those people will have your back, weather/climate/whatever.

Make friends :)

karen_h11 karma

I totally agree. I’ve got a great “tribe” where we hone basic zombie apocalypse skills. Gardening, beekeeping, metalsmithing, canning, preserving, building, fishing, foraging, etc.

We constantly have discussions on setting up a commune style situation (fondly call it our “art cult” 😂 or Baba Yaga community) where we share resources and labor. Half are married, others are single. We’re all between 30-70’s.

Currently we’re spread out - but thinking about moving to a place on a lake where we can do this. Oregon has been top of the list on and off, so has Colorado (we’re all US citizens) and we did look into living abroad as well (NZ). I’m worried due to wildfires and extreme weather. It’s so confusing where the best place for the next 50 year should be.

davidzet4 karma

Stay where you are and compare notes. Maybe have a few "bases" (so don't own too much land), as migration (to escape disaster and declines) will be more important.

irrelevantspeck7 karma

Is there any one country or place that you would regard as a model for climate actions, and what could they do more?

Also what can we do about countries developing, they seem to be more vulnerable, but as they develop surely that'll result in large increases in emissions?

And finally, thoughts on geoengineering?

davidzet11 karma

Geoengineering is going to happen, but it will be chaos.

Poor countries:

Model? Norway? But they are rich. Many indigenous people have the right idea (but they were forced to work with nature).

mattshonestreddit6 karma

Not sure if you're still answering questions, but today I'm going back to school into a sustainable business leadership program. Trying to imagine where it could take me. What kinds of jobs do you feel would have the largest impact on the environment and sustainability?

davidzet5 karma

Tough Q. Try to foster a sense of community. Take care of the weak. I know it's cliche, but "today you, tomorrow me, amigo"

NoTimeForInfinity6 karma

A large percentage of greenhouse gases are produced by housing. Have you seen any innovations you like in housing that are climate friendly or innovations that still allow room for nature?

davidzet9 karma

Smaller housing. Everything needs to be scaled down. My flat is 60m2 (600sq ft) and it's PLENTY big for 2, but many Americans are used to 2-3x as much per person. Less stuff is important.

Complex-Downtown6 karma

How can you engage people in such a terrifying subject? I find cc a highly stressful topic. I often find myself looking away as there is nothing I feel I can do and also I am complicit but have almost no choice. I am powerless. Can you recommend a YouTube channel that is not all fear and terror... More like a news aggregator for CC and not just bad news but one focused on the issues and the solutions, the specific politicians, actions being taken.

davidzet13 karma

Good Q. I like the response to one of XR's founders: "it's better to do something than nothing"

Personally, I do these AMAs. I teach. I work on my sailboat.

We're all gonna die. That doesn't mean misery and suicide. Find a reason to get out of bed every day.

bohreffect5 karma

What is fundamentally wrong with fossil fuel companies owning the complete carbon lifecycle through their own commercial carbon sequestration methods?

This kind of vertical integration has been shown time and time again to be overly difficult to manage profitably, and markets would certainly encourage others (e.g. forestry companies) to outcompete on the sequestration and capture side of the carbon lifecycle, but what is inherently wrong with fossil fuel companies reading the writing on the wall and participating in new net-carbon negative markets?

davidzet9 karma

Nothing wrong, as long as they need to compete on CCS. If they "own it", then it will be ignored/buried as they pursue profits.

bohreffect2 karma

Fair enough, admittedly I was surprised to see typically reactionary lines on "the fossil fuel companies" sprinkled amongst really thought provoking responses from you. The unexpected comments moving some of my thinking forward were a real gift, thank you.

Personally I'm hoping for carbon exchanges, so the almighty dollar encourages these companies to meaningfully pursue CCS. Given how trade politics have been evolving over the last decade I'm not confident group adoption of Pigouvian carbon taxes will be enough to do the job.

davidzet2 karma

CT can help... They are a useful indicator that will reinforce other actions. It's NOT going to be a question of individual responsibility (there's an interesting spin from the FF companies on that), but collective action. Taxes are not needed when the community has a sense of self, but that's hard these days :(

hipcheck235 karma

Hi David,

Which continents do you see as the most susceptible to the climate disasters of the next 50 years or so?

Do you see N. America's situation as potentially having an especially damaging effect on the US?

And how do you see the various countries of S. America dealing with it all?

davidzet12 karma

On a continental scale, we're seeing HUGE variations at the poles, but those places are used to huge variations (24h sun, 24h dark), so maybe the tropics are more at risk?

NA/US are already seeing lots of storms and "crazy" shit. SA has the same weather and worse governance, so they face issues. That said, poor people are more resilient (lower expectations, better community support), so they will do better psychologically, and maybe even economically.

hipcheck234 karma

Thanks for that!

davidzet4 karma

It's hard enough thinking "weather in 200 years" but "politics in 200 years" is nuts. VZ was the richest SA country in the 90s. Now it's the worst... after 20-30 years of "social" (more totalitarian) rule.

That's why CliFi (via SciFi) is important: tell a story with a plausible scenario.

Please send me your novel!

Charitard1235 karma

As somebody with a career in the commercial greenhouse industry who wants to one day move out to the country and grow my own food more, will that even be very feasible within my lifetime?

No matter what, I want to leave the Gulf Coast to do so, because the weather here is so violent and brutal even now. But where in the US would be the best place to go, when it comes to how the local climate will be impacted? I’d considered Oregon before or one of the states in that region, but all the wildfires on the news have me concerned now. It seems like there’s really no more wiggle room, between flood and drought, extreme heat and inhospitable cold. What’s your advice?

davidzet6 karma

Don't make any firm plans. Move somewhere "for a few years" to see how you like it. It's important to have community but also to NOT get too locked down. That's a balancing act.

Greenhouses will be more and more important. That's a GOOD job for CC.

Gnomesling4 karma

Everyone is focused on fossil fuels and plastic. What about our agriculture and fisheries? Methane from agriculture is a bigger pollutant than the fossil fuel industry and fisheries will cause the collapse of the biosphere. So my questions are:

  1. Is there any evidence that this kind of damage and destruction has the potential to be stopped quickly (within 10 years).
  2. If not - what is your realistic prediction for what the future of humanity and the planet going to be?

davidzet2 karma

You're right.

It can't be stopped, but it could be slowed (carbon taxes are effective, but regulations can help -- e.g., ending ag exemptions for pollution)

(2) It will be worse b/c we will fail to hit 10 (or 50 year) targets.

claire04 karma


davidzet25 karma

Too many extremes. A big mistake was talking about CC in terms of "averages" when it's the extremes (rain, heat, storms) that kill you.

We will be poorer than our parents.

_MyFeetSmell_3 karma

We are poorer than our parents.

davidzet3 karma

"It has begun"...

...but yeah, it's only going to get worse... for all generations

Thebestwithinus3 karma

Why do you think people in certain areas like California believe they can change their local climate? Do they not understand the concept of pollution from China affecting the entire world?

davidzet7 karma

Well, there are local climates that are affected by trees, water, etc.

The global trends (e.g., China) also matter, but they may not dominate.

melonbaby5 karma

This isn't California, but an example of temperature differences due to tree cover in my city are notable, up to 20 degrees in the summer. Planting trees can make a huge difference in areas that don't have any.

davidzet3 karma

And trees are really nice :)

thednc3 karma

To what extent should we adapt various disaster prone areas (of the US and otherwise), like wildfires in California, hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, etc. to their respective disasters vs. systematically beginning to move people, industries, and agriculture to other areas? And to what areas should they go?

davidzet9 karma

That's the tough question. FL needs to evacuate in the long term, as there's no way to build a wall when the water is coming from below. Storms pile on the misery. I think that the "rust belt" near the Great Lakes will repopulate due to good water supply. Some people will just hope to live with airco, but that's going to cost a lot and do nothing about the rest of the environment, which will turn into desert.

The strongest communities will do the best. There's a study from a heat wave in Chicago. Older people withOUT close neighbours died at a much higher rate than those with. Technology is useful but community is better.

GiveMyCommentsGold3 karma

That's the tough question. FL needs to evacuate in the long term, as there's no way to build a wall when the water is coming from below.

You literally live in a country that maintains a major part of its land under sea level due to sea walls and other technology. How can you say something that like this. It is one thing to say it might be too expensive to justify such a system, but it is clearly feasible.

davidzet8 karma

You need to study Dutch vs FL landmass.

FL is on limestone. NL is not.

I'm not claiming NL is "fine" (Its west -- the Randstad -- will be underwater by 2200), but FL is obviously sunk.

LeanAlpaca3 karma

Why does nobody talk about Karl Marx coining climate change?

davidzet2 karma

Same reason nobody talks about "minimum wage" -- it's a common term?

What did KM say?

schabaschablusa3 karma

I read somewhere that the projected ocean collapse is around 2050, is that true?

davidzet12 karma

Ocean corals will collapse by 2050. Acidification and ocean warming will just get worse. The shut down of major currents (e.g., Gulf Stream) will cause major havoc...

Turangaliila3 karma

Hi David! A question that's really been weighing on me the past year or so is:

How do you stay positive or stable when confronted with all of this?

I constantly find myself reading a particular report, study, or factoid and just feeling a spiral of depression and anxiety that can last anywhere from a night to a few days. I just constantly feel like the climate is getting worse and there's so little I can do on a personal level and it really stresses me out.

How do you and other people who study CC for a living avoid this?


davidzet4 karma

Have hobbies (me: woodworking and boats), and do things that matter (I clean the streets around my flat; I teach). Help people.

Thinking about CC is def. depressing. Action makes a difference.

Possible useful book: Shop Class as Soulcraft

Loubird3 karma

I have frequently seen many (nonacademic) articles suggesting people move to areas with more water and less prone to climate disasters. However, for most people in the world, this is often easier said than done. It isn't exactly easy for many people around the globe to just move to a new place if their home becomes a desert, gets burned down, or flooded. Poverty and anti-immigrant sentiments are both huge problems for relocation. What changes do you suggest to actually make this possible?

davidzet2 karma

You give a good summary of the issue.

Changes in migration policies would be good, but you know how (un)popular those are. Therefore, I think people will come (climate refugees), like it or not :(

Tarbel3 karma

What kind of future do you think we're headed towards in the next 50 years knowing the level of progress we have on combatting CC, barring any sudden advances or breakthroughs in technology that may help?

davidzet6 karma

We will be poorer "by a thousand cuts"

ItsBarvazi3 karma

Why do housing next to shores is stil expensive if its gonna drown in 15 years?

davidzet3 karma

A "bigger fool" will come buy it, is what people feel now.

Also many governments (e.g., FL) subsidise flood insurance, so folks don't pay a price reflecting their risk.

MeatEatersAreUgly2 karma

Will cutting meat from our diets help to mitigate the climate crisis in a meaningful way?

davidzet2 karma

If "our" means everyone, then yes. Even a 10% drop is a good thing.

pfeifits2 karma

In the United States we currently have rampant wild fires in the west and severe flooding in the southeast, along with a relatively empty reservoir in the Colorado River basin. What are your thoughts on the practicability of running a pipeline for water from the east to the west for times like these when one part of the nation is thirsty and the other is drowning?

davidzet8 karma

Pipelines for water are VERY cost-ineffective. (Water has 0.001% of the price/cost of oil.) It's cheaper to do desalination, but even that's a waste compared to doing less farming (fallowing land) and importing food from water-rich places.

Polimber2 karma

Oh yes, I understand NK has bigger issues, just recent example I read about.

Will if the answer is politicians, we are in fact fucked.

I worked in politics for the last 22 years and see that is not the route for a climate solution here in the states. One of the reasons I left.

Won't comment on politicians in other countries as I have no direct experience but I do have my judgements.

davidzet2 karma

Yep. It's a real bummer.

melonbaby-1 karma

Water is a resource that shouldn't even have a price tag.

davidzet1 karma

"resource" and "price" go together.

"right" does not.

You might like my FREE book, where I discuss the difference.

leggomahaggro2 karma

How discouraging is it to wake up to understand that everything you've fought for is basically being ignored and faced with people/politicians/corporations that do everything to fight against preservation?

davidzet7 karma

It sucks, but I never set out to start a cult, so I don't have any reason to be disappointed. I often make "I told you so" posts based on stuff I said years before. That's the job of an academic -- to consider causes, effects and possibilities. It's never been our job to act/implement (probably for the best).

There are 8 billion ppl on the planet, all chasing their dreams or fighting their devils. I've never assumed I could have anything like an impact on their actions.

So I focus on what I can do/influence (thus, teaching or woodwork :)

Hippopotamidaes2 karma

Especially in regard to IPCC reports, why are so many economists against sustainable changes? It seems there are a loud number of them who can’t seem to comprehend our economy can’t function if there’s no ecosystem for us to live and thrive in.

davidzet4 karma

DrJawn2 karma

There really is no way to turn off the machine and make this stop. Adaptation is the next step

What are some areas of the United States where you'd suggest building a new life that will be minimally effected by climate change?

davidzet17 karma

Look for strong communities, intact nature and good water supplies.

Filtermann3 karma

Isn't there a danger in inciting people to massively move to intact nature areas ?
Shouldn't we try instead to concentrate human activities and pollution ? Of course while making these areas livable for ourselves ?

davidzet2 karma

Yes. You're right, but "we" are not too good at holding back human tides :-\

obnubilated0 karma

Any examples come to mind?

davidzet1 karma

The US is big. Good excuse for a road trip?

LivingWalking2 karma

what do you recommend normal people do to help the world? im trying to do a garbage audit but i dont know much about recycling and wanna get a book on it

davidzet3 karma

Life simple (less consumption) and have lots of friends (support for less money)

prginocx2 karma

Global Warming is a global problem. How can we get russia, china and the MidEast countries on board with limiting any emissions ?

Seems clearly impossible to me, and without their cooperation nothing anyone else does will help.

davidzet2 karma

You're right. They need to see it in their interest. The reason I favor CO2 taxes, is that the revenue can be used locally (global cap and trade is too complex).

Carbon border adjustment taxes might push them to do it.

dauvaughnmoistrock2 karma

Should I consider buying a home in a place like Tucson or Phoenix or will there be no water there in the next decade or two? Thanks for doing this!!

davidzet2 karma

Rent as often as you can. Mobility is important.

I'd avoid AZ. They just lost a chunk of water on the Colorado.

wu_ming22 karma

Dear Dr Zetland,

thanks for this AMA. I found the working paper "The Environmental Bias of Trade Policy" from Dr Shapiro at the National Bureau of Economic Research in the US quite interesting. As example he wrote "global subsidy to CO2 emissions totals $550 to $800 billion dollars per year." and "The implicit subsidy I estimate, of $85 to $120 per ton of CO2" and "current trade policy is subsidizing pollution for political economy (not efficiency) reasons".

Did you conduct researches about the optimal price of a global carbon tax?

davidzet2 karma

I have not done this research, but the simple idea is start somewhere and raise it over time, as we see how industry/people adjust/react.

_MyFeetSmell_2 karma

Can we prevent the worst extremes of climate change, the expedient collapse of ecosystems globally, and the rapid loss of biodiversity and species extinction so long as the economic order (capitalism) doesn’t change?

Does our infrastructure, in the US, and also globally have the capacity and capability of dealing the the inevitable millions of climate refugees in just the next few years, and decade? Do you think western nations, particularly the US should be accountable/bear the burden for much of these refugees as they overwhelming take the lead in overall emissions in the past century and are responsible for plundering of the global south for resource extraction?

davidzet2 karma

Huge questions. The rich world is guilty but won't (can't) be forced to pay. They will face refugees... sometimes with walls and weapons. Moral failure.

Capitalism is part of the problem and can be the solution. It needs to be "directed" and gov't can use taxes/subsidies to do that. Subsidized fossil fuels and living in flood zones are examples of the opposite, sadly.

charliemuffin2 karma

  1. Should I get a 100% electrical car or hybrid? Will that help?

  2. Are the last ten years of wild forest fires in California and Australia due to bad climate change?

  3. What do you tell someone whose graduated from a top tier university in the u.s. in chemical engineering, listens to republican news stations and keeps saying climate change is not real?

davidzet2 karma

(1) Try not to get a car. If you get one, get a small one. Keep it for 20 years.

(2) Yes, IMO.

(3) Not much. Educated people can talk themselves into a corner. My GF did ChemEng and "it's hard to convince someone of X when their salary depends on not X" :(

NotUnpredictable2 karma

I don't have an environmental science degree, but want to help make a difference. Can you recommend a field I may be able to get a job in to help fight for the good cause?

davidzet2 karma

Work locally, for a utility or conservation district. Get real (hands on) experience.

RigobertaMenchu2 karma

Is it possible to get the citizens of the earth on board with fighting climate change WITHOUT the underlying threat of violence to do so? Will forcing people to "do the right thing" work?

In your opinion, what should be the consequences for people unwilling to make that change?

davidzet2 karma

Bah. It's hard to get people to cooperate now for future returns. We need an "alien invasion" type of immediate threat to get global cooperation and... if COVID is an example... then that doesn't even work.

dankmeeeem2 karma

Do you think the question of why Ice ages begin and end is as important as periods when the temperature increases? Do you think it would help convince people on the fence, if they had a better explanation as to why the climate shifts so dramatically without human intervention? Thank you

davidzet9 karma

Ice ages are important, but we're so far out of those boundaries that it's impossible (according to IPCC) to put much weight on those cycles in terms of our current conditions. Natural cycles (e.g., El Niño) will still matter but they will be buried by the human-driven trends.

dankmeeeem-2 karma

So you cant explain how or why global cooling events occur yet you are confident that those cycles are unimportant? Have you ever looked at a graph of avg temperatures that looks farther out than the 1920s?

Are you aware that some of humanity's worst extinction events were caused by cooling and not warming? Should we ignore these cycles?

davidzet10 karma

You linked to a 5 million year data set. Humans are 300k years old. Modern life is 200 years old (industrial revolution). My points are based on recent history. Of course "we" will survive in (coming) extreme conditions, but not all of us, and not at our current "not too hot, not too cold" lifestyle.

Cooling is def an issue (I was just in Iceland, where famines killed large % of the population) but the issue NOW is warming.

dankmeeeem3 karma

I apologize for my hostility in my previous response and appreciate you still answering my questions.

I dont mean to take the extremist camp of "some will survive". Ideally I'd like us to adapt fast enough to maintain most of our modern infrastructure. I guess my question is why the context of the climate before humans doesnt seem to matter? Surely these complex climate systems operated long before our existence, so couldnt we learn something from why Ice ages started and ended naturally?

Once again, I'm a full believer in climate change. I just think it would be a more convincing argument if someone was able to show us why previous Ice ages started and ended on their own. Because when the average person looks up "Climate during the Younger Dryas period" it becomes hard to think that humans are the ones in control.

davidzet6 karma

yes, there have been fluctuations up/down before humans were around. That's not the issue, but how will WE adapt to "brutal" conditions that are steady state as far as Earth is concerned, but "whoops, goodbye 15 million people" as far as humans are concerned. Bottom line is that this is bigger than "take an umbrella" or "wear thick socks".

Our entire world will need to focus on basic survival, and food supply crashes, wars and/or disappearing cities will NOT be acceptable.

iBrowseAtStarbucks6 karma

You might be interested to look into something called the Milankovitch Cycle. It’s an attempt to sequester certain factors leading to global climate change that range from human activity, to the angle at which the earth rotates.

There’s a lot of room for error in this analysis, but it’s still interested nevertheless.

davidzet5 karma

Heard of it. The issue is the "forcing" addition from GHG emissions, which are unknown in the past x million years of Earth history.

iBrowseAtStarbucks2 karma

That’s a big part of the “room for error” part of my comment.

davidzet3 karma

My bad. I should have said "unknown factor (in scale)" vs past x million years... It's relevant that Homo sapiens has only been around for 300k years. The Earth can handle +2/+5C, but can we?

I think not.

dankmeeeem0 karma

Milankovitch Cycle

Yes thank you for this. I've read about some of these effects in relation to the Ozone and polarization of the Earth. To me this is yet another complexity that seems to be ignored by the folks who only focus on the human-driven warming. If in the future we find that things such as the Earth's orbit effect the climate much more drastically and long term than humans, how are we going to fix things?

davidzet2 karma

See my reply above, with respect to "magnitude" -- as in we've never seen this.

yunoeconbro2 karma

Simple Question: Should water cost more?

davidzet2 karma

Yes. The price should reflect scarcity.

A recent paper of mine

Zetland, David (2021). "The role of prices in managing water scarcity" [open access]. Water Security 12(1):10pp. Abstract: Water scarcity turns into shortage when water supplies are mismatched with user demands. After clarifying the different social and private uses of water, I explain how to use prices to allocate treated ("utility") water among municipal and industrial users and untreated ("raw") water among irrigators. Assuming institutional capacity, successful management of water scarcity requires prices that constrain total demand and revenues that cover the cost of reliable supply. Public acceptance of effective water pricing requires that policies protect the poor and the environment, i.e., policies that prioritize "social water" over water competitively allocated among economic uses.

Patbach1 karma

There are those that say that climate is changing.

There are those who say climate isn't changing.

But my take is climate is changing at a faster rate than it is supposed to, because of humans... But it was going to change anyway eventually. I guess we can try to mitigate and slowdown the change but the change is inevitable, at some point, maybe it would ve taken 10times longer to reach that point, I admit, but those glacier were gonna melt eventually with or without humans.

I feel like, as humans, we are arrogant trying to think we'll control climate like that. And we're narrow minded because we didn't see the earth change over thousands or millions of years because of such short lifetime. Earth is insanely dynamic and it's constantly living through Insane climate changes and it drives me crazy seeing the environmental trend where people expect the earth to just stay the same... Earth has never done that before, why do we think it should?

I guess what I'm trying to say is we kinda fucked up where we released lots of carbon quickly in the atmosphere so we changed the speed at which change will occur, why not concentrate our effort into preparing for how the climate will change, because it will no matter what?

davidzet8 karma

Well, we've accelerated the change to WAY beyond the natural cycle. In its attempt to rebalance (anthropomorphizing here), the Earth is taking us on a roller coaster. Read this

PressedGarlic6 karma

I’m not a climate scientist but it seems pretty obvious that there is a massive difference between climate change over the course of 1 million years and climate change over the course of 100 years. Species can adapt and evolve over a long period of time.

davidzet6 karma


Patbach1 karma

There was 2miles of ice above North America 12,000years ago....

davidzet2 karma

"Part of" NA :)

Species moved down, then up. The change was WAY slower (1000x slower) than it is now...

SnooCrickets21281 karma

Do you see a day of reckoning approaching for various industries that are affecting the environment and contributing to CC? I live in a timber rich economy and between wildfires destroying crops and how unsustainable for soil health clear cutting is, I can only imagine that sooner or later there would be a change to practices.

davidzet6 karma

The karma question is interesting. Alberta is facing fires and floods but they are still praying for higher oil prices.

Farmers are going to run themselves out of business but it takes collective action (hard) to get them to "dial back" and be sustainable. In some cases (regulation, trading companies) that's possible, but most of the time we will be seeing competition leading to extinction, since many of these unsustainable activities are not "priced into decisions" (negative externalities).

It's good, OTOH, to see oil company share prices dropping (due to write downs on reserves). Less money means less power.

felixwatts1 karma

When should I sell my property in Amsterdam?

davidzet5 karma

When Jakarta goes down, start preparing. When Miami goes down, sell.

Ovenmittt1 karma

I wonder why it’s so uncommon and uncomfortable to talk about population levels in the last 20 to 30 years. Did people just give up because controlling people is just too hard? This is coming from a U of Minnesota Environmental Studies/Social Psychology graduate that ran away from environmental issues after learning how bad things were becoming 25 years ago. Learn how to change people’s actions and you can save the world.

Good luck to you David.

davidzet12 karma

Population is indeed an issue but consumption is a much bigger problem. India has 4x the US population but a fraction of its impact. But it's WAY harder to tell rich people (=90% of Americans, vs world consumption) to use less compared to the "too many poor [non-white] people" that many population people espouse (Hardin was a racist eugenicist)

Polimber1 karma

Realistically, how fucked are we?

North Korea is facing food shortages because of drought.

Wheat, corn and soy seemed to be heavily affected by drought and flooding in USA, China, Russia and somewhat in brasil.

Mediterranean climates, like California, which produce vast amounts of the veggies, fruits and nuts we all eat are also suffering.

Soon countries are going to limit their exports of all those foods (I belive Vietnam is already limiting rice exports and Russia is limiting wheat exports). Is there the capacity and economics to support adjusting food production to continue to feed the nearly 8 billion people on this planet?

davidzet9 karma

Fucked (poorer, lower life expectancy).

NK has management issues too!

You are right about falling food trade. That's the #1 risk to me. We CAN feed everyone (with less meat), but that won't happen if markets are blocked and land/water use is misdirected by politicians.

abitrolly1 karma

So, how many people we have now, and how many people we need to reach the balance? What should be the qualities of those people?

davidzet1 karma

Holding consumption constant? 1 billion is my guess. (not gonna happen)

valueape0 karma

Corporations now govern and write all* USA legislation ( dividing the spoils among themselves is what they call "governing"). Barring return of power to actual custodians of the commonweal, how can anything be done? Obama said the Affordable Healthcare Act wasn't even about healthcare, it was simply a check to see if anything not in the best selfish interest of the health insurance industry (or any entrenched industry) could still be effected. It seems no.

Edit: If only downvotes could change inconvenient facts

EDIT 2: * "All" is hyperbole. "As much as they want" if you like but the damage is the same

davidzet5 karma

The ACA was indeed a lobbyist's dream. That said, it's the politicians who are giving away all our assets to the corporations. I'd say less centralisation (from DC to the states) will help, as it costs 50x more in bribes when put into place.

OTOH, Alaska's oil fund is more progressive than, say, BLM subsidies to big ag and big oil. Norway has done a better job with its oil $, so send the resource money ("rents" to economists) to citizens, and they will get way more interested in better management.