Breaking News – Part 2
The major news media took little note of a dire report from the largest scientific society on the planet, news about which was posted here 18 March, but fortunately, they finally got the message when yesterday the United Nations issued a sweeping report on the same subject. The U.N. announcement took note of a landmark new publication by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The new report is filled with sobering facts about what is happening to our climate now and offers predictions of what is likely to happen in the future. Coverage of the announcement was extensive in the major news media and many announcements and stories were posted on the internet, as can be seen with a web search on “UN Report On Climate Change 2014.” Continue reading
OPINION & REVIEW
Do you wonder how long the mostly fossil fueled electric utility industry can last, given their immense problems with existing nuclear power plants and the rising costs of planned new nukes? It is true that expensive new sources of petroleum have been found, but these are increasingly remote, difficult to find, hard to reach, and very expensive to extract, pump, and deliver. In consequence, the dollar and environmental costs to produce coal, oil, and even natural gas are rising and will continue to do so indefinitely.
If this were not bad enough, world population keeps growing and gigantic populations, which have been largely poor and in poverty, are increasingly better educated and enjoying better living conditions. The trend is certainly not universal, but the growths in India, China, Indonesia, and elsewhere are certainly noticed in board rooms around the world. The wealthy 1% are greedily and happily looking forward to their further rising incomes as demand soars and prices increase, producing greater profits for the fossil fuel industry. Governments may try to impose strict environmental controls but these are minor impediments in the minds of the wealthy industrialists. Plus, huge infusions of money from industry to political super PACS keep strict pollution laws and carbon taxes to a minimum. Continue reading
Two special postings today. First is a link to a major new AAAS statement on the scientific basis of global warming released today, 18 March 2014. This is followed by a 15 March 2014 short review, contributed to The Future of Humanity by Joe Bish of PMC on a NASA funded study of global industrial civilization’s future prospects.
Here’s the link to the AAAS statement: What scientists know about global warming
The largest scientific society in the world, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS, has assessed the current state of scientific knowledge on global warming. Due in part to concerns over a widespread lack of understanding and misrepresentations on this topic, AAAS has today released to the public a major statement and video about global warming, what its consequences might be, and what humanity needs to know and do about it.
Here’s the link to an earlier report on the NASA-funded study:
On Industrial Civilization Collapse
Editor Note: Sorry, the above link has become broken. We have to wait until the Elsevier journal Ecological Economics publishes the article described below.
The Joe Bish review follows.The study was done by the Universities of Maryland and Minnesota. The main report has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.
From “The Daily Email” of Population Media Center, 15 March 2014, by Joe Bish, Senior Population Communications Associate
Below I offer a hopefully reasoned rant about our current political milieu and request feedback from you, Dear Reader, to help me refine my arguments and correct any misconceptions.
When a person wants to do something that might have unintended or unwanted consequences, or to which someone or some group of people is opposed, one would think that the person should do at least some study of the likely costs and benefits of the action before making the decision.
If it is a relatively small matter affecting only them, then they might be granted some leeway to use more emotion than reason in making the decision. One might like to take a day or two off to have some fun, when it probably would be better to address current tasks that are relatively urgent and important. Perhaps there is a popular entertainer in town for a rare performance, so you decide that takes precedence over gathering your receipts and making a start on your tax return for next year.
When the decision or action brings real monetary or other benefits but might result in harm to people, the environment, or the future safety of civilization, then a serious quandary is presented. What happens next, how the person responds to the quandary, I contend, depends a lot on these factors: Continue reading
At the heart of science is curiosity about the universe in which we live. This is the motivation from which science was born. Curiosity remains the driving motivation behind it today.
Because we are sentient and somewhat intelligent creatures, many of us follow our curiosities with further observation. As children we learned/evolved to explore our world, test our bodies, and learn how best to navigate our surroundings. This process, especially the curiosity part of it, was critical to the proper developments of our bodies, our neurons, our muscles, our coordination, and the learned abilities to walk, talk, and think clearly.
Paul and Anne Ehrlich recently offered what is likely the latest, carefully considered assessment of our chances of avoiding a collapse of civilization. It began with the publication of their findings in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B with a paper titled, “Can a collapse of civilization be avoided?” A summary of the findings was published on a blog of the Millenium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB) hosted by Stanford University. I think you will find this assessment both interesting and sobering. Take a look at it.
 Ehrlich PR, Ehrlich AH. 2013. Can a collapse of civilization be avoided? Proceedings of the Royal Society B http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1754/20122845.
Senator Lamar Alexander was President of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville when I was a grad student there. He served as Governor of the State of Tennessee 1979-1991 and as the U.S. Secretary of Education 1991-1993. In 2001 he was named the Roy M. and Barbara Goodman Family Visiting Professor of Practice in Public Service at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. With such an august background, one might expect the Senator to be fairly literate about the facts of nuclear power in the U.S. and abroad.
In an email to me dated January 17, 2014, he pointed out that “wasteful wind subsidies” by the federal government to promote wind power as an alternative to fossil fuel in Tennessee does not produce sufficient return in Tennessee with its relatively low wind resource to justify the subsidy. He went on to claim that “Furthermore, windmills are destroying the environment in the name of saving the environment. For example, you can see their flashing lights for 20 miles, and you would have to stretch wind turbines the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, from Maine to Georgia, to equal the power produced by eight nuclear plants on one square mile each – and you would still need the nuclear plants or some other form of power generation for when the wind doesn’t blow.” Continue reading
If the Earth were tiny, much smaller than it is, and contained a reasonably small population, say a few hundred people, and were faced with a threat, we can envision how the people of the world would face it: Ten to twenty proven leaders of that population might get together as a group, ask for facts and evidence from the scientists, scholars, and experienced business and other informed people in the population, then put together an action plan they hope will avoid the danger, and finally rally the whole population around the plan and its execution. That is the rational, reasonable, logical way to deal with a crisis.
However, with an Earth as large and diverse as the current one, with huge populations separated by oceans, by races, by tribes, by cultures, and by language, plus variations in natural resource abundance, such a reasonable course of action seems fruitless. The United Nations was created to overcome that difficulty. But it lacks the teeth and coherence to carry out such a plan. It has prepared some good plans, but they don’t go anywhere close to the scale needed to solve the problem. Continue reading
This is perhaps the most confusing, complex, and debated topic on the political burner these days. As we enter the New Year, talk is increasing that the U.S. Congress seriously may take up a reform of U.S. immigration policy. I think it is not so complex and confusing. Let me explain my view and see what you have to say.
Humanity is possibly on the verge of species collapse. I know, most people absolutely do not want to accept this statement. Surely we can find ways to avoid this calamity. Well, possibly. But, the way we’re going, don’t count on it. If you are a doubter, please stay tuned for a later blog posting by me on “Bad Thinking—Wrongheaded Action.”
What I mean by collapse may not include extinction of humans from the Earth (but it could). What is clearly threatened is a painful, possibly abrupt, large decline of global population, with varying magnitudes by region, mainly as a result of knocking out many of “nature’s services.” These are ecosystems and other parts of nature necessary to support human life at the current population level of over 7 billion (and growing). They include the fresh water we drink, the food we eat, the minerals we extract from the Earth, and the supplementary energy sources we think we need to have a good life (beyond what comes from the sun automatically). If we knock out too many species, bees for example (critical to the pollination of our crops), human life will suffer, not just due to loss of our numbers in a fairly precipitous manner, but from a rapid change in the industrial way of life which will create incredible hardships, discomfort, and premature deaths. Continue reading
The U. S. military, always alert to threats facing our country, has been studying the alterations we humans are making to the biosphere, our life-support system. Military leaders have concluded what I have been saying for some time: The threats to our future from global warming and other serious human alterations of the planet are far more dangerous than any terrorist threat.
“This March, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, the commander of the United States Pacific Command, told security and foreign policy specialists in Cambridge, Mass., that global climate change was the greatest threat the United States faced — more dangerous than terrorism, Chinese hackers and North Korean nuclear missiles. Upheaval from increased temperatures, rising seas and radical destabilization ‘is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen…” he said, ‘that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.’’
“Locklear’s not alone. Tom Donilon, the national security adviser,said much the same thing in April, speaking to an audience at Columbia’s new Center on Global Energy Policy. James Clapper, director of national intelligence, told the Senate in March that ‘Extreme weather events (floods, droughts, heat waves) will increasingly disrupt food and energy markets, exacerbating state weakness, forcing human migrations, and triggering riots, civil disobedience, and vandalism.’ “
So wrote Roy Scranton, U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq, in an eloquent statement, recently published in the New York Times. Even the World Bank, no bastion of liberal do-goodism, presented a surprisingly dour assessment of the human predicament in its June 2013 report, “Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience.” Jim Young Kim, President of the World Bank Group, described the conclusions in a 4 minute YouTube video. Continue reading