Which is the bigger threat: PHA’s or GHG’s ?

This makes a lot of sense if you are a rational thinking person. I thought I’d alert WUWT readers to it. Below is a table from the front page of Spaceweather.com today, operated by NOAA and Dr. Tony Phillips.

Spaceweather-NEA-table

And this week, we saw what can happen when PHA’s come calling:

jupiter-impact-hst

So in light of that, I thought this article was rather interesting.

Death from the Skies = Boring, Sweat from GHGs = Sexy [Jonah Goldberg]

Published at The Corner, part of NRO

From a longtime reader:

Dear Jonah,

I thoroughly enjoyed your article today, and not just because you touched on an area where I worked – at least tangentially – for over a decade.  You are right, virtually nobody is doing the leg work on keeping track of all the debris and potentially nasty sized rocks out there compared to the number of people shrieking about our impending slightly warmer earth.  The big reason is that it isn’t very sexy work, unlike being a proponent of Anthropocentric Global Warming (AGW).  If you work on space debris, minor planet orbits and earth crossing orbits about the best you can hope for is getting to name a new rock nobody else saw, or maybe getting your name in the paper while being misquoted by some reporter who doesn’t have a clue about what preliminary results or margin of error means when he says that your recently discovered rock will destroy the earth in 2029.

By comparison if you use your computer model to predict that according to your model the earth might possibly warm by somewhere between 0.9 and 3.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2100 you get to hang out with Al Gore and Bono and morally scold the ignorant proles for driving their SUVs to pick up the kids from daycare as you jet off to Switzerland for another speaking engagement.  Of course there is one other distinction.  The guy cataloging rocks is actually doing science, and that’s hard work.

One of the problems many people, especially scientists, are starting to have with the AGW proponents is their use of shrill tone and authority of numbers to try to stifle debate.  Science is not consensus, and though there can be a scientific consensus that doesn’t constitute science either.  Computer models predicting conditions 50 years from now in a system as complex as the earth aren’t within spitting distance of science.  To be science something has to be testable and falsifiable. It must produce a predicted data point, interaction or outcome that is unique to the theory and can be verified or falsified.  Would you bet your future on the accuracy of day seven of a seven day weather forecast?  That is essentially what we are being told by the AGW proponents we absolutely must do without delay.  Of course I think the without delay part has more to do with “We must pass the stimulus without delay” or “We must pass healthcare without delay” considerations than any notion that waiting three or four years will actuall make any long term difference.

read the rest of the article at The Corner

h/t to Planet Gore

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152 thoughts on “Which is the bigger threat: PHA’s or GHG’s ?

  1. The only thing pressing about AGW is the incredible waste of resources given to it.

  2. (A-ha… I see a most cunning plan).

    A UN Address…

    We the United Nations (UN) are proposing a new world wide initiative – Titled “Space Guard” to defend the Earth from the catastrophic impact of PHAs.

    It has been the consensus of the best space and rocket scientists of the last 100 years that the number of observed PHAs has grown from 0 to 1067.

    This is an enormous rise in the number of PHAs and represents an unprecedented rise in the risk of a Catastrophic World Destroying Impact.

    The only viable solution is a “Space Guard” managed by the UN.

    A world wide “Safe Skies” levy will need to be paid to the UN to allow for the technical research, construction and staffing of “Space Guard” and associated “Safe Skies” systems.

    It is anticipated that the levy will be a small portion (not more than 1.5%) of all financial transactions carried out by the worlds banks.

    As an adjunct to the “Space Guard” and “Safe Skies” initiatives, a “Future Ark” initiative will also be put in place to safeguard the genetic future of the world.

    The “Future Ark” initiative will include a carefully, and scientifically selected group of diverse world citizens who will be provided a share of the aforementioned “Safe Skies” levy to ensure that they are always able to be moved to a safe place in the event of the activiation of the “Space Guard” initiative.

    In addition to the above, a further levy (of 1.2%) will be raised to fund a “Space Corps” – an elite military organisation with the express purpose of safeguarding the “Future Ark” selectees, and all associated assets of the Space Guard” and “Safe Skies” initiatives.

    We the UN are pleased to announce these initiatives for the welfare, not only of Humanity, but of all creatures who inhabit this precious world of ours.

    (parody)

  3. PHAs go boom so they don’t need as much hype plus they’re foreign to the Earth so the exotic factor comes into play. GHGs on the other hand are mundane and familiar so the thinking goes that they need a good marketing campaign. Human nature explains much.

  4. Lessee, a might (one in ten? Dunno.) happen Armageddon, versus a zero in ten Thermageddon…Yeah, no contest.

  5. We’ve got a much greater ability to actually do something about PHAs than Climate Change. There are side benefits too, like a real spacefaring capability for the human race.

    For an inspiring fictional tale about the possibilities read Michael Flynn’s 4 book “Firestar” series. Mike Flynn also co – authored “Fallen Angels” with Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle a cautionary tale of environmentalism gone mad… oh wait.

  6. We have a better chance of dying off when the end of the world happens per the Mayan calender than GHG causing our extinction. But to keep it on topic, my money is on the PHA’s by several lengths. Heck GHG doesn’t even show.

  7. But like the other (phantom) menace there is no technology available or even on the drawingboard that could do something about it, the main difference is that predicting the course of asteriod is solid science compared climatology trying to predict the past.

  8. “Would you bet your future on the accuracy of day seven of a seven day weather forecast?”

    My future? Not. A few bucks if you give me a plus or minus 10 degrees F. window. Maybe $100 if you make that window +/- 20 degrees.

    As for the title “Which is the bigger threat?”
    Try these: Democrats, Republicans, the Administration, the State Department, the EPA, the Energy Dept., The Dept. of Education, the . . .

  9. One very near miss would get our attention,or a Tunguska type incident.But, i hope that happens before the big one hits…

  10. I think we need to look at this danger to Mankind as if it is an updated version of the classic game of RPS.

    The Scissor team is represented by Mankind’s technology, which is always to blame for cutting Paper mercilessly and making a profit doing it.

    The Rock strikes the Scissor factory, breaking the assembly line to bits and leaving a smoking debris crater. This is just traditional ‘Rock beats Scissors’ but on a much larger scale. Against such a Big Rock, Mankind’s technology didn’t stand a chance.

    The GHG team picks Paper as its preferred weapon, as Paper is made from green trees which thrive on sequestering CO2. Paper thus tries to cover the Rock but the Rock is too large to be covered this time and thus strikes the Earth, burning all the forests that had sequestered carbon in earlier years. While at first the GHG team might try to argue a tie between burning paper and the Big Rock, in reality the dust and smoke from the impact and fires causes rapid cooling over the Earth.

    Thus with the Big Rock, it’s “game over.”

  11. Well, the zone around the Earth has been pretty well swept by the Earth-Möön system over the eons, so it’s unlikely we’re endangered by anything larger than, say, Al Gore. RUN!!!!!

  12. Scary thing is, Jupiter got hit again and all mankind saw was the scar on the surface after impact. I don’t think anybody saw that one coming. http://blogs.jpl.nasa.gov/?p=49 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I don’t know if it is true, but I read somewhere that there are more people working at a single McDonald’s than are watching for NEO ( Near Earth Objects ). Perhaps we should give this a re-think.

  13. Anybody got an good ideas about how to tax PHAs ?
    Will AIG will insure us against a “PHA encounter” ?
    What part of a PHA can we sell to Al Gore’s VC buddies ?

  14. Heh well AGW is now being replaced with AAM or Anthropogenic Atmospheric Modification. So “they” are going to move off the “global warming” issue and change to somehow waive their arms that the atmosphere is changing and that must be regulated … even if they can’t find any negative impact from it. So the rhetoric is going to change from a “scientific” discussion to a purely emotional discussion.

    See, CO2 is going up!
    Yeah, I see that.
    That’s BAD, we are changing the atmosphere!
    Uhm, bad in what way? How will that hurt us?
    Man! What’s wrong with you? We are CHANGING the ATMOSPHERE!
    Ok, replace all the coal plants with nuclear plants.
    NO WAY! NUKALER IS WAY BAD! 2-4-6-8 we don’t want to radiate!
    (eyes glaze over) …
    Oh, look! An asteroid!

  15. Graeme Rodaughan (20:38:29)

    2.7% of all transactions to get Al Gore and Bono on Fireball XL5 to destinations unknown sounds good to me; I’m in.

  16. Picking the lint from my belly button is more important than acting on AGW.

    As far as I am concerned, looking for space rocks while developing a space industry, building moon bases, exploring mars, the solar system and constructing massive telescope arrays on the moons surface and such like ….. all sounds much more exciting than flagellating oneself with an environmental superstition.

  17. I had understood that a lot of scientists ARE working on the path of PHAs and dealing with any that may hit us. Deflecting asteroids is not easy though and it will needs lots of taxpayers’ money and so you will have lost the support of most AGW [snip] already, whose main purpose for [snip] is because acting on any threats will hurt their bank balances. So it’s best to pretend they don’t exist.

    What;’s the latest on arctic ice, given that we have had a two year spell of relative solar inactivity ?

    Surely some mistake?

    Reply: It is far less work to delete rather than edit your posts. Don’t make me go there. ~ charles the moderator

  18. More time should be sprent finding and preparing for these PHA’s. The hit on Jupiter is a wakeup call. AGW is distracting needed attention from the real dangers: What’s Up in Outer Space.
    How’s about a Science Diet? Cut out the greasy AGW stuff, it’s bad for you.

  19. The AGW problem I think is solely the current hysteria about reducing CO2 in the atmosphere!

    Given science we’ve negative temperature feedback — not IPCC’s strong reinforcement. Then, if we can increase carbon dioxide by say 10 percent, or 50 percent, we may increase temperature with between +0.05 C and +0.2 C. If we’re doing that we’ll may delay the introduction of the next ice age (even if the start of an ice age isn‘t abrupt it‘s not at all something good).

    If a new ice age is partly enabled by positive feedback from the albedo from more ice (?), then we maybe able to delay early signs of the new ice age (gradually lower temperatures and increasing ice) for centuries.

    (The rapid end of an ice age seems definitely to be driven by dominating positive feedback, assumingly from this and other effects when ice melting.)

    Probably we’ll stop large scale burn of fossil fuel within say 500 or 1000 years, so I think we shall listen to e g Freeman Dyson about how to substantially (a lot!) increase CO2 levels without burning fossil fuel. The CO2 level between a few and several millions of years ago I think was good for plants and humans.

    CO2 is genuinely good.


    PS. We can’t do much about being in the “hot house”-, or in the “ice house” position in the Milky Way, so we probably can’t stop the coming ice ages.

  20. Thanks reviving this issue. I commented about it back in
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/07/20/thanks-neil-michael-and-buzz/#comments (18:40:53)
    but was soundly ignored by the preponderance of commentors who were sentimentally recalling the moonwalk, or who might have thought I was wielding British humor.

    Here are articles that address the recent Jupiter impact, and the inevitability of a collison:

    “Jupiter’s cosmic smash: what does it mean for Earth?”

    http://timesonline.typepad.com/science/2009/07/jupiters-cosmic-smash-what-does-it-mean-for-earth.html

    Will a Killer Asteroid Hit the Earth?
    “When it comes to asteroids’ wreaking disaster on Earth, the real question is not if, but when.

    http://impact.arc.nasa.gov/news_detail.cfm?ID=39

    I think that environmental groups will ignore the reality of an eventual impact because there’s no hidden agenda that can be leveraged, i.e. CO2, capitalism, overconsumption, industrialization, etc. It’s a rather stark choice, even though the time line is vague – will we live or die? Warmists will also insist that it’s a distraction from the “real” problem of global warming.

    Even though the present attitude is that nothing seems to be dangerously close, the truth is that the interrelationship of gravitational fields is too complex to be accurately modeled, given that many objects are undetected and constantly changing course. Funding for detection of NEOs was cut several years ago, but has been partially restored. Several groups are observing deep space for the hazard, but there isn’t an organized effort that would guarantee a high rate of confidence. Bottom line, the only warning we might have is a flash and explosion, and then…

  21. Wouldn’t it be ironic if we get wiped out by an asteroid which we could have prevented had we put the resources into asteroid defenses instead of killing each other all over the planet or worrying about the imagined AGW Hypothesis? Oh wait, not it wouldn’t be ironic since all of us would be dead, can’t have irony if there isn’t anyone around to think it ironic!

    To me it’s the height of irresponsible governing to not address this important real survival issue. Heck all the money put into worrying about a few extra tons of plant food (C02) could be used to save us from a real Extinction Level Event (ELE) smacking us dead without much warning. We need defenses ready to deploy in orbit of Earth, the Moon, or Sol.

  22. Nigel S (22:10:29) :

    Graeme Rodaughan (20:38:29)

    2.7% of all transactions to get Al Gore and Bono on Fireball XL5 to destinations unknown sounds good to me; I’m in.

    Send them on a mission to land on the Sun…

    With the Gore effect in place, the sun will cool and AGW will be over…

  23. This is such an important issue, as a civilization that lives in a dynamic solar system – its taken us so long to wake up and look around us. Thanks for posting it here. More people need to be aware of the issues of NEA’s and we need to encourage our species towards perparing for the inevitable and putting our minds to tackling the problem with viable solutions.

    Thanks again Anthony ! Are you the only scientist on the web who is awake ?

  24. One of the differences between climate science and astronomy is in astronomy the contribution of amateur’s is welcomed and appreciated by the professionals, where as the contribution of people like Anthony to climate science is considered an inconvenience to the professionals. I use the word professional in the literal interpretation of someone who is paid and amateur as someone who is not.

  25. Nigel S (22:10:29) :

    Fireball XL5, LOL.

    Don’t forget Super Car AND The Thunderbirds as well Nigel. Surely Captain Scarlet can be counted on too, he did the Mysterons in after all. However, If all else fails ‘Stingray’ could be re-activated along with the guys on Moon Base Alpha to setup a refuge with the Terrahawks up there in Space Precinct.
    There, that’s my childhood re-visited…

    Oh nearly forgot… Dr Who can simply enlist the aid of the ‘Mekon’, Will Robinson and Robbie the Robot to use a ‘time ray’ and divert Asteroid Thermageddon back into the ‘Twilight Zone’ where it will orbit ceaselessly around Al Gore and AGW trapped as they are in another dimension.

    Who are those men in white coats knocking on my door?

  26. The problem I have with the whole thing is that we are sort of putting the cart before the horse. As far as I know there is no actual plan in place for how to respond of we discover something inbound that is going to hit us in less than, say, 12 months. Is there a launch vehicle that could be readied in time? If so, what is it going to do when it gets there?

    Our strategy seems at this point to be “lets take inventory and if we see something, we will worry about what to do when we find it”. Which assumes we will have a boatload of time to figure it out and do something. What we have no plan for is something that we find today that is headed in and likely to hit before Christmas.

    Now of course there is no reason to worry about responding to something that is really huge and barreling in on a direct collision course because there will be nothing we can do about it. Then the questions become … what is the largest thing we CAN do anything about? And what would be the consequences of us not doing anything about it?

    So some Jupiter sized ball of ice flung out of some star system a billion years ago comes flying past the solar system too dim for us to see, disrupts the Oort cloud and sends a hail of comets in from outside the ecliptic … there isn’t going to be a darned thing we are going to be able to do anyway except hope they all miss.

    If there isn’t anything we can do, there is no sense looking. We should develop a response plan first else we are just tossing money at someone’s hobby horse.

  27. “Wouldn’t it be ironic if we get wiped out by an asteroid which we could have prevented had we put the resources into asteroid defenses instead of killing each other all over the planet or worrying about the imagined AGW Hypothesis?”

    It would even be more ironic if we did spend a bunch of money on asteroid defense and got wiped out by something anyway. You can spend money on something that *might* happen or you can spend money on what *is* happening.

    And you can recognize what you can’t do and not waste time and energy on it. If you can’t mitigate something larger than a certain size, then there is no sense looking at anything larger than that size. And if anything smaller than the size you can do anything about isn’t likely to cause a global catastrophe, there’s no sense worrying about that either.

    Have we actually defined what we can and can not do anything about? I would say that at this point it is extremely unlikely that we can do much about anything at all even if we detected it unless we have several years notice.

  28. I’d say neither: “Supervolcanoes” above hotspots (like the Yellowstone Caldera) may be a bigger threat than asteroids.

  29. Wasnt it a couple of months ago a large rock wizzed past the southern hemisphere taking everyone by suprise? Im actually pretty amazed that no one saw, or had on tracking something big enough to cause a scar on Jupiter like that.
    To answer someone above who mentioned that the earth clears its orbit. Make it present tense. Earth continues to clear its orbit and the cosmos keeps hurling things at us. Two strikes on Jupiter so far within a very short timeframe though. Maybe shes doin her job and attracting the really big stuff for us?

  30. There is a book by Immanuel Velikovsky titled “Worlds in Collision” first published in1950 (The copy I have is a 1972 19th edition).

    He hypothesises from his studies of the ancient world and the earliest manuscripts that Venus was originally a comet that eventually settled in its current orbit after creating much havoc on Earth and the rest of the solar system.
    Is it a reasonable interpretation of the Old Testament disasters or not I don’t know but it is an interesting read about the legends of the first civilisations.
    We will have to wait to test his hypothesis until man visits Mars and Venus and study the geology of our solar neighbours.

  31. When discussing Near Earth Objects, always Google first, and then post. Apparently we have already sent a probe to the asteroid Eros. Plans are underway for an Asteroid Defense System as we speak.

    Quotes from various articles:

    “What to do if an Earth-bound comet or asteroid is discovered? Early detection, preferably many years in advance, would enable us to send out exploratory spacecraft to determine the nature of the interloper, much like the spacecraft near’s current investigation of the asteroid Eros. Scientists at the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories are already dreaming up a variety of ingenious defenses against an incoming asteroid. Depending on its mass and composition, they would use tailor-made nuclear explosions to pulverize small asteroids or deflect larger ones. Given enough time, and under the proper circumstances, less drastic measures would be needed. Some schemes call for conventional explosives alone, or anchoring a rocket motor or a solar sail on an asteroid to alter its orbit enough to allow it to safely bypass Earth. ”

    “Scientists have proposed a variety of strategies to nudge an asteroid off course. The list is the stuff of science fiction and includes using lasers, mirrors or atomic weapons launched from Earth.”

    The following is bizarre, considering that we’ve been discussing the secrecy of data sources. What are they hiding? Where is the NEO mole?

    “The US military has abruptly ended an informal arrangement that allowed scientists access to data on incoming meteors from classified surveillance satellites. The change is a blow to the astronomers and planetary scientists who used the information to track space rocks, especially those that burn up over the oceans or in other remote locations. ”

    “For 15 years, scientists have benefited from data gleaned by U.S. classified satellites of natural fireball events in Earth’s atmosphere but a recent U.S. military policy decision now explicitly states that these observations are classified.”

    http://www.gyre.org/news/asteroid-defense

    With supervolcanoes bulging, and asteroids whistling through space, the debate over CO2 seems sillier than ever.

  32. The thing about asteroid impact is that it’s much more dramatic for film makers than AGW (unless they cheat and involve huge unphysical waves). It’s unfortunate that we can’t pick and choose the things we should be scared of — if we could I might be able to sell my unpublished short Hittile to Fantasy and SF: maybe it’ll turn out to be prescient after all. Building an asteroid shield would be major shot in the arm for engineering and as such would be a good thing. We’ll win the struggle against starvation and pollution by the efforts of engineers, not social engineers.

    The way to kill a rogue asteroid is by bashing it with as much weight as you can launch travelling as fast as you can manage. It’s the v squared in the half m v squared that does the work.

    (snip away….)

    ….
    Carradine watched the display.
    DATA EXPECTED IN THREE MINUTES.
    TWO.
    ONE.
    An ironic cheer went up when the hit box showed. A red line traced the path of the comet. It was two hundred thousand kilometres ahead of the Earth as it passed her orbit. Carradine let out a gust of breath. She was just wondering whether the whole thing had been set up for her benefit when Scott’s voice cut into her thoughts.
    “Hoplite to Guardian, I’ve got a confidence level charlie on that estimate. Why’s that?”
    The controller reached lazily for her switch.
    “It’s from Two only. Birdseye Three’s off for maintenance, One’s due up in five days. You’ll get confidence alfa in ten minutes when we’ve tracked it for a bit longer.”
    Confidence bravo was fifty thou out. Confidence alfa…
    “Well now. Just look at that,” said Scott’s voice. “It’s a bullseye.” The red dot was dead centre on the Earth.
    The chief controller slapped her hand on a palm-sized button beside her chair. Sirens sounded and a robot voice blared.
    “Alert, alert. Standby to launch.” Airlocks slammed shut all over the spinning wheel.
    ROUGH MAGIC lurched as the Hoplite blasted free.
    “Hoplite to Guardian, take cover. Hoplite slewing now. Firing in thirty seconds. Take cover.” The speakers took up the refrain. A controller grabbed Carradine. They fell together down some steps into a dingy hole below the seats. The woman’s face was wet with sweat.
    “If she blows up we’ll get zapped. Three metres of lead here.” They held their breath.
    Much later Carradine saw the holo of the launch, shot from Longstop. The Hoplite broke free of the wheel in an explosion of sparks and debris. She swung smoothly into position, then ignited her main engine. Bombs fired one after another, three a second, a searing glare that cut out all other vision, exploding just behind the huge buffer plate, enormous shock absorbers bouncing under the titanic strain of each impact. Hoplite stood on a pillar of flame and streaked away. Big as a supertanker, fifty years old, the hittile was up and running.

    ….

    JF

  33. Apparently we have already sent a probe to the asteroid Eros. Plans are underway for an Asteroid Defense System as we speak.

    Quotes from various articles:

    “What to do if an Earth-bound comet or asteroid is discovered? Early detection, preferably many years in advance, would enable us to send out exploratory spacecraft to determine the nature of the interloper, much like the spacecraft near’s current investigation of the asteroid Eros. Scientists at the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories are already dreaming up a variety of ingenious defenses against an incoming asteroid. Depending on its mass and composition, they would use tailor-made nuclear explosions to pulverize small asteroids or deflect larger ones. Given enough time, and under the proper circumstances, less drastic measures would be needed. Some schemes call for conventional explosives alone, or anchoring a rocket motor or a solar sail on an asteroid to alter its orbit enough to allow it to safely bypass Earth. ”

    “Scientists have proposed a variety of strategies to nudge an asteroid off course. The list is the stuff of science fiction and includes using lasers, mirrors or atomic weapons launched from Earth.”

    The following is bizarre, considering that we’ve been discussing the secrecy of data sources. What are they hiding? Where is the NEO mole?

    “The US military has abruptly ended an informal arrangement that allowed scientists access to data on incoming meteors from classified surveillance satellites. The change is a blow to the astronomers and planetary scientists who used the information to track space rocks, especially those that burn up over the oceans or in other remote locations.”

    “For 15 years, scientists have benefited from data gleaned by U.S. classified satellites of natural fireball events in Earth’s atmosphere but a recent U.S. military policy decision now explicitly states that these observations are classified.”

    http://www.gyre.org/news/asteroid-defense

    With supervolcanoes bulging, and asteroids whistling through space towards us, the debate over CO2 seems sillier than ever.

  34. Allan (02:18:23) :

    We have visited Venus and Mars remotely by robot and Velikovsky was as full of it when he wrote Worlds in Collision as he is today. Venus was not a comet and did not originate from Jupiter.

  35. What is it about the AGW debate and not other areas of science that attracts so much interest from the general public? Why are you here and why is it so important to you to prove it wrong (or right)? Why not other more contentious areas of science?

    I’ve heard talk about tax but let’s be honest you could disprove AGW tomorrow and ‘green tax’ would simple become regular tax. Government spending on climate change is comparatively tiny and much climate research will continue regardless. The small savings would easily disappear in the noise of government debt. At best a dollar or 2 each could be saved.

    Also heard people don’t want to be forced to change their lifestyle. Well it will happen anyway. Oil prices will continue to rise and, even if AGW isn’t the reason why, people are far more motivated by money. So you can be absolutely sure over the next 50years we will no longer rely on fossils fuels for energy anyway.

    Don’t get me wrong I think it’s great so many people are interested in science (despite the appalling abuses of science I’ve read) but why this issue?

  36. Asteroids are not so easy to blame on big corporations, western culture, or white people. Indeed, it will be the same scapegoated groups who save us from such a problem.

    That’s why global warming has gained so much traction. Fundamentally, it’s no different from the Duke Lacrosse Hoax.

    My opinion only.

  37. Shhhhhhh! When the AGW scam collapses we don’t want Al Gore getting any new funny ideas…

  38. I suggest that a new UN organization is formed “The Intergovernmental Panel on Comet And Asteroid Impact” IPCA.

    This is a serious and real threat. There exists scientific consensus that this threat is real and that catastrophic impacts will happen sometime in the future.
    That is a fact.

    Despite what the media and politicians tell us there is no scientific consensus on validity the on the theory on catastrophic AGW.
    In order for the CAGW theory to have real validity and to be considered to be a real threat one of these two conditions must be true, in my opinion.
    Either the global temperature variation show an increase that is above normal natural climate variability or there can be shown together with valid and actual measurements that there exist a strong positive feedback between CO2 and water vapor.

    As far as I know, none of these two conditions are true.
    So, should we take action on a threat that we know is real or for a threat that we don’t have evidence that it even exist?
    This leaves us with the real threat of catastrophic impacts.
    Consider this! During one year, this risk is very small, but if one considers a 10 year time span in the future the risk of a catastrophic impact increases by a staggering 900% compared for just one year.

    So what should be done?
    We don’t have technology to blow away or nuke asteroids today and if it is a comet that is going to hit us, coming from the Kuiper Belt, we may not have enough time to take any action to deflect it at all.
    So instead, we should prepare ourselves down here on Earth.
    One option is to build underground caves for the entire human population and to store food and energy supplies for up to 10 years so that we can reoccupy the Earth again after the dust have settled and the Sun can be seen again.

    I don’t know about the cost for doing this but it should be just a few 100 trillions of dollars, which we easily can borrow up.
    Because of our consumer guilt, China and India don’t have to pay for this. We in the developed world should offer the cash.

    Inaction is not an option!

  39. Well if we had to do something about a PHA given a few years’ warning there’s always time to dust off the plans for Project Orion.

    Time for the human race to grow up. It’s not “If the Sun dies” (thanks to Oriana Fallaci for that, it was the title of her book), it’s “long before the sun dies a large rock will hit the Earth and do untold damage.
    We aren’t a plague on Gaia, we are her immune and reproductive systems and it’s time we faced up to the job.

  40. No, no, no you Folks got it wrong!
    It’s OK if nature/universe modify/rearrange itself.

    Only pesky humans not allowed to do that.

  41. On examination of the beryllium-10 record it is obvious that there are spikes – and Paul LaViolette and others have examined the ice-core record for this isotope as an indicator of cosmic ray penetration and for inter-stellar dust, all signs of a breach of the planetary defences. Richard Firestone put together a convincing case that 13,500 years ago those defences were seriously breached by cometary debris – and it is possible that we are dealing with a cyclic event of varying severity – with the last such more minor breach in 5000BP.

    However, it one were to go looking for major threats more significant than AGW, the prime candidate is the Carrington event of 1859 – and the potential impact of a repeat today with vulnerable electrical grids and computer driven systems. The US National Academy of Sciences has just warned that we are not ready and it could take years to restore electrical grids. The world would face chaos – with collapsed communications, banking, trade, heating, water and food supplies.

    The Carrington event occurred during a relatively low solar cycle.

    These things are not readily predicted – but I would be alert if we see a major sunspot on or around August 1st (28 days after the appearance of the last sunspot with its X-ray flare). This will mean that last sunspot has maintained integrity for one solar rotation, and is beginning its spiral toward the equator. I don’t know if individual sunspots do maintain integrity through the spin-cycle, but if one produces a major flare close to the equator (and hence they occur near the maximum of the solar cycle) and at the base of the heliospheric current sheet – and more particular, in one of its spiral arms that connects to Earth – then the plasma-shock gets here in about 8 minutes! It would deliver a huge pulse.

    That type of event is relatively common compared to a major asteroid impact, but just as deadly in this modern electricity-dependent world. The danger period would be from autumn of next year onwards for about two years.

  42. “We in the developed world should offer the cash.”

    Socialist banking legislation has left the developed world severely bankrupt, we have no cash just empty promises from brain-dead (but charming) politicians.

  43. dennis ward (22:23:03) :

    “I had understood that a lot of scientists ARE working on the path of PHAs and dealing with any that may hit us. Deflecting asteroids is not easy though and it will needs lots of taxpayers’ money and so you will have lost the support of most AGW [snip] already, whose main purpose for [snip] is because acting on any threats will hurt their bank balances. So it’s best to pretend they don’t exist.

    What;’s the latest on arctic ice, given that we have had a two year spell of relative solar inactivity ?

    Surely some mistake?”

    No Dennis, it’s not a mistake.
    We are in a volcanic summer where blocking low pressure area’s create a situation where huge masses of ice are transported from the Arctic Sea into the Atlantic Ocean.

    This process is not related to any AGW because there is NO significant AGW.

    These are exactly the processes that cause further cooling of our oceans and you will experience significant effects this coming winter which will not only be harsh in the US and Canada but also in Europe.

    Obviously you first need a PHA to hit you on your head before you can start thinking straight about the true effects of GHG’s.

    You can download a pdf about the subject including detailed weather maps from icecap.us.
    It’s the bottom article at the left column.

    From Icecap.us Jul 28, 2009
    Aircraft Photos of Arctic Ice

    Thanks to Imelda and Edwin and Meteorologist Tim Kelley for photos from a flyover of northern end of Hudson’s Bay received last week. The photos were taken from northern Hudson Bay.

    The ice has been diminishing since the mid 1990s with the warm Atlantic AMO.
    The AMO turned cooler in 2008-09 resulting in some recovery.

    The ice is always on the move and is affected by both ocean temperatures from water entering the arctic from the Atlantic and Pacific and the low level flow pattern. The high latitude blocking over the arctic with low pressure over Siberia as we have seen this summer leads to clockwise flow that helps move ice out of the arctic into the Atlantic. See July surface pressure below (enlarged here).

    See more with larger images here. See also Tim’s post on the recent storm behaving semi tropical system of July 23-24, 2009 here.

  44. Jimmy Haigh:

    “I can see the headlines:
    “Asteroid on collision course with Earth. Is AGW to blame?”

    That statement woldn’t surprice me. I think such words are meant something else than they litterally says. I guess that the collective force, regulated by government can be an argument. (AGW alarmist Joachim Schellnhuber has said that AGW is 90% a social issue. OAttitude and collective politics to solve the supposed crisis; Schellnhuber has ben a central player in the preparation for Copenhagen, which our naive politicians without any questions follow.) “Deniers” can be accused to be against centralized rescue politics by force, and even to be the root cause for unwillingness to embrace such plitics. The accusations from the green AGW movement to not take AGW serious enough may imply an accusation to be on the wrong political stance. It’s all about politics, but not in a honest way, but through computer models’ scary fiction.

    The slandering video about Watts (full of false crappy “Watts friends ignore health risk from smoking”-propaganda) almost started with an accusation that Anthony’s friends are Rush Limbaugh and other far right wing radio talkshow hosts, and an accusation that deniers have pro free market agenda. A statements about politics is intrinsically irrelevant but it revealed that the maker of the Youtube video see the AGW issue as political issue (and that he’s anti-free market!). That video also ended with the words that nature don’t care about politics (after a supposedly horrifying reference to science showing that temperature increase affect 90% of nature (most often to the better, yes)).

    The accusation about extreme right wing politics among deniers (realists) is wrong, and reveals an extrem political position they have themselves. Those who are focused on left-right politics (which they get wrong) reveals that AGW is politics for them.

    Reflection on Potentially Hazardous Astroids: John Holdren, Paul Ehrlich, James Lovelock, and other population bomb theorists should see those as a blessing and salvation. Lovelock say that population reduction from a climate catastrophe is positive and good if it until 2100 reduce population to 1 billion people instead of 9 billion people. (AGW, part of environmentalism insanity/politics, by UN/IPCC dressed in science.)

    (I’m not denying that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, with a direct effect of about +1 degrees C at double concentration, but negative temperature feedback, reducing temperature increase, dominates, and the accumulation of CO2 isn’t obvious; IPCC hasn’t comment the reports in Segalstad’s invetory of reports about CO2’s lifetime in atmosphere.)

  45. Life is full of risks.
    As we have evolved as a highly technical species, we have mitigated most of those risks and… created new ones.

    We have created food security and in low places we have build coastal defenses to keep the sea out in case of a storm combined with a spring tide.
    At the same time we have developed Nuclear Weapons, a rising threat as more trigger happy (“button happy” would be more appropriate) countries acquired the technology making the threat of a big scale Nuclear Conflict more realistic as time goes by. No serious efforts to mitigate this threat are undertaken, especially because the USA now has a President who believes that a weak USA will allow him to make friends with the biggest thugs on earth.

    Today our political establishment of Three Hugging Gaia’s (THG’s) believe that WE, humanity, have become the biggest risk and decided to mitigate us.

    As most of us here believe this is a big mistake, I think the current trend to mitigate humanity on the false grounds of GHG’s causing run away global warming, a non existing problem, is the biggest threat of all.

    So I would like to suggest to add the current political threat of THG’s and the increasing probability of a Nuclear Conflict to the risk list and start the discussion again.

    Even if we have all the technology available to intercept and divert or destroy potential “killer” PHA’s, we will not have the time to stop one coming from the direction of the sun.

    Within 10 to 15 years from now we will be able to get an early warning for those PHA’s as well, but who cares to save a society that has decided to roll back it’s technological development to live in the Middle Ages again!

  46. Qoute of the week:

    “Would you bet your future on the accuracy of day seven of a seven day weather forecast?”

  47. John asked “What is it about the AGW debate and not other areas of science that attracts so much interest from the general public? Why are you here and why is it so important to you to prove it wrong (or right)? Why not other more contentious areas of science?hn asked ”

    John, AGW research, which by the way is mostly used to project future possible horror stories, is not the issue. Public policy like cap and trade is the issue. Now we are talking trillions of dollars, and massive impacts on life style, And for what reason are we doing this. The only true agreement in science is that the effect of cap and trade policy on AGW will be miniscule. The only possible motive left is social engineering on a world wide scale.

  48. There’s a rerun periodically on History I think, that discusses the common “threat to the planet” scenarios. Are you looking to compete with them? If so, you might as well get the big list. http://www.armageddononline.org/end_of_civilization.php . Personally, I think it’s a pretty boring topic. Might as well speculate that termites will develop superior intelligence and take over.

  49. I do remember seeing that the Faulkes Telescope project (schools can access large telescopes in Hawaii and Oz to do work with them) were running a project to detect NEOs . Maybe more people working on it than you thought :-)

  50. Clearification: The clip about Watts and deniers ended saying nature don’t care about the deniers’ right wing political agenda. (That nature don’t care about politics is correct and intuitive.) The video was (as usual) Soviet style propaganda, with its conspiracy attacks against the enemy/the opposing view (trying to silence it).

  51. If you are young and you need a fright, follow the progress of near earth object VK184. See for example

    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk/2007vk184.html

    where VK 184, due around year 2054, is the only object with a Torino scale above 1.

    Contrary to pop science belief, it is now too late to send the rockets with big nukes to blow it away. The time to do that was before we got all hot in the tube about AGW. It’s probably pushing technology anyhow as one would have to do several long range launches from space platforms that are not even on the drawing boards.

    We will hear more about NEOs as the technology to detect them improves. It’s not that alarmists are blowing up their importance, it’s more that the science of detection and plotting is improving.

    I understand that Victor Kilo 184 becomes more a worry each time new info comes in; there is now a credible probability that it will pass the earth closer than the Moon is. Its size has been better estimated when passing in front of a light object and it ain’t small.

  52. Brandon Dobson (22:35:39) :
    … the truth is that the interrelationship of gravitational fields is too complex to be accurately modeled, given that many objects are undetected and constantly changing course.

    Oh, come on, we can model the climate perfectly! I am sure modeling NEO’s should be a piece of cake!
    [/sarcoff]

  53. @ John (03:06:43) :

    Because it’s about “redistribution of wealth”, which translates to some tribes getting wealthier (better standard of living ) at the expense of others. The continuing struggle to be “King of the mountain”. Same as it’s always been. Not the absolute cost/tax.

  54. Global warming can make the impact of an asteroid more severe because heated gases offer less resistance to giant space rocks, so carbon taxation is even more justified now.

  55. Well, you have PHDs who mess with GHG, AGW, PHA and so forth but the biggest threat to humanity is the JDs.

  56. asteroid defense is much more likely to turn into asteroid offense. If you can deflect an asteroid out of earth’s way, you can deflect it into earth’s way.

    Why create a weapon that every mad dictator in the world will be trying to get control of?

  57. If anyone truly thinks we have the ability to do anything but bend over and kiss our butts goodbye in the event a real PHA becomes a real HA, they’ve been watching waaay too much television. Like with AGW, we continue to muddle along with the complete inability to appreciate scale in global and cosmic realities. It isn’t just about knowledge, its also about capacity. We’d have as much chance if everybody on the planet faced the incoming and simultaneously just blew.

  58. I can just imagine an article in New Scientist:
    “Scientists link metoerite falls with CO2 emissions”
    “A new study by a group of researchers at I. Tower University has indicated that increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere will increase meteorite strikes on earth” “Dr I.P. Seesee from the Centre de Atmos Feric claims that manmade global warming will decrease the density of the atmosphere, thus reducing the friction on incoming meteors. Dr Seesee said it is well known that global warming increases the amount of water vapour the atmosphere can hold, thus reducing the density of a given volume of air.”

  59. There is a major problem with a PHA.
    The issue is that the solar system is a web of gravitational attractors. When a PHA has a near miss with a gravity sink (think Jupiter), the orbit of the PHA is shifted. Multi-body problems do not have closed solutions; one must depend upon iteration. Furthermore, one PHA may interact with another PHA, changing orbits of both objects. This is unlikely but not impossible.
    Gathering precision data on PHA objects requires both telescope time and computer time. Small objects are dim, so large optics are needed. We get only two (of three) components of location from telescopes, so Gaussian techniques must be used to infer an orbit, requiring multiple observations.
    The recent collision of a PHA with Jupiter was apparently not predicted in advance.
    As for AGW, I think that by now the celebrated James Hansen model of 1980 has been rather thoroughly contradicted. A model which fails to make predictions which can be verified is a failed model.

  60. Deflecting a NEO is actually easy — the technique is known as a “gravity tractor”. All you need is to get it out there and match velocities several years out. Perfectly feasible if you launch say 3 for redundancy 20 years before anticipated impact. Gives 15 years to match orbits. At that point, 5 years to drag it into a clear miss orbit. Problem solved.

    OF COURSE if you fail to identify the NEO until only a year or so before impact then you are up the creek without the paddle.

  61. I think that trying to re-direct a NEO with our present technology is as much or more of a waste of time and money as trying to control the weather with CO2 level. At best we might be able to blow up an asteroid into a shotgun blast of smaller asteroids so we can impact a larger area of our planet.

  62. Geoff Sherrington (04:50:23) :

    If you are young and you need a fright, follow the progress of near earth object VK184. See for example

    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk/2007vk184.html

    where VK 184, due around year 2054, is the only object with a Torino scale above 1.

    Thanks for the link, Geoff. The problem, though, is that it was an aficionado the one who saw the impact on Jupiter. (who, btw, was a he, not a she, in roman mythology) That worries me a bit. There was another big piece of news on science magazines last month or a couple of months ago. The discovery of the soap bubble nebula, also made by an aficionado. If NASA, ESA, the Russian, the Chinese, Indian or Japanese space agencies don’t pick those things before amateurs do, chances are that a big object approaching Earth will remain unnoticed until it is too late, That is my impression. I am not an expert, though.

    On the other hand, if this VK184 object is coming home on 2054, maybe we can deviate its trajectory enough for the Earth to capture it and then build a space station on it. We may have the technology by that time, if we don’t spend our time and effort fighting against CO2.

  63. To me, there are threats that are much worse, most of which we can do nothing about. Critical deductive reasoning skills have been abandoned for the difficult choice of ‘paper or plastic’.

    So what do we do about the asteroid we find tomorrow that is coming towards earth? Probably trigger a rash of ‘science’ papers about the CO2 that will be released from the rocks and ocean and how bad that would be for earth’s greenhouse gas and the planet in general.

    Extinction of all life on earth is not an option, it’s a very real possibility.

  64. “It would even be more ironic if we did spend a bunch of money on asteroid defense and got wiped out by something anyway. You can spend money on something that *might* happen or you can spend money on what *is* happening.”

    As to your silly comment about defending against what is happening, if an asteroid or comet is on it’s way to us then it is happening now even if we don’t know about it!!!

    If you mean AGW by your comment about what is happening, that’s just at best climate mythology turned into theology… the science is inconclusive at this time and shakey at best due to bad data sources and statistical games and closed source political policies not to mention the outright politics of it.

    Well it’s not that hard really to defend against most asteroids and comets, just some basic physics and lots of engineering both of which we are actually quite good at given enough time. To save time and to be prepared in the event of a suddenly detected collision approach we need to get ready now.

    We know that a variety of asteroids consisting of loose gravel to hard iron exist in a range of sizes have us in their sights and could appear with days warning to years warning. Each of these might need a different solution or a combination of solutions to deflect or destroy. So let’s get defenses for all of these scenarios ready.

    It would be prudent to have nukes ready for those sudden approaches where a last ditch defense of blowing the thing(s) to pieces or off course might save us.

    Sure other methods too, including those innovative ones of gravity assist towing or landing on the thing and either detonating it or redirecting it with rockets (potentially fueled from the asteroid/comet itself).

    Heck if it’s made of any of the carbon rich gases or liquids such as methane then let’s put it in orbit of the moon or crash it into the moon so we can harvest it’s fuel and other resource potential on the moon for bases there or for import to Earth. (See the movie Moon or 2001 or Space 1999 for examples of moon bases).

    Be prepared as the motto goes.

  65. Graeme Rodaughan (20:38:29) — The first half of that was the beginning of “Rendezvous with Rama”. The second half’s Ark was in “Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.

  66. I think it likely that the one that gets us won’t be seen.

    Aircraft pilots will understand what I mean when I state the obvious that a mid-air is between aircraft whose pilots haven’t seen the other aircraft.

    As I said, that much is obvious. What isn’t so obvious is WHY they didn’t see each other.

    The reason is to do with the way our brains work in perceiving threats.

    We react to thinks that MOVE in our field of vision, two aircraft on a collision course are not perceived as moving because of the trigonometry of collisions.

    The object that is on a collision course remains static within the field of vision, only becoming larger, something that we are not so attuned to detect, this is to do with similar triangles as the two aircraft move along their courses.

    Airmiss incidents are when the two aircraft are on courses close enough to collision to render the movements in field of vision imperceptible.

    That’s why it’s unlikely we will see it coming, because it won’t be moving.

    DaveE.

  67. John (03:06:43) :
    “…What is it about the AGW debate and not other areas of science that attracts so much interest from the general public? Why are you here and why is it so important to you to prove it wrong (or right)? Why not other more contentious areas of science?….Don’t get me wrong I think it’s great so many people are interested in science (despite the appalling abuses of science I’ve read) but why this issue?…”

    John, There are two reasons. The first is the destruction of science. Thanks to the politicos “science” is no longer unbiased seeking of truth but a political football. This has major repercussions. For example “GMO” food was declared natural with no need for testing by “tame” scientists in the FDA and now we find major problems that may be caused by it such as bees and bats dying off not to mention sterility problems and super weeds.

    The second reason is AGW as well as the “food scares” and the “banking crisis” are being used to bankrupt the first world nations allowing the UN/bankers a major grab for power.

    Study up on the Federal Reserve Bank and its clones in other countries, the World bank/IMF SAPrograms and what the WTO Agreement on Ag has done to food quality (HACCP)
    to get you started:
    The World Bank/IMF structural adjustment programs http://www.50years.org/action/s26/factsheet2.html

    http://freedomprime.blogspot.com/2008/08/money-is-created-by-banks-evidence.html

    http://investment-blog.net/milton-friedman-nobel-prize-winning-economist-the-federal-reserve-definitely-caused-the-great-depression-by-contracting-the-amount-of-currency-in-circulation-by-one-third-from-1929-to-1933/

    “The Fed Note is essentially unsound. It is the worst currency and the most dangerous that this Country has ever known… They should not have made the Government [liable on the private] debts of individuals and corporations, and, least of all, on the private debts of foreigners.” http://home.hiwaay.net/~becraft/mcfadden.html
    Nine American Presidents have been the targets of assassination http://theruthlesstruth.com/wordpress/?p=742

    A PRIMER ON MONEY: Congressional COMMITTEE ON BANKING AND CURRENCY

    http://famguardian.org/Subjects/MoneyBanking/Money/patman-primer-on-money.pdf

    The “food safety bills” are similar to laws in Europe used to remove millions of farmers from their land so it can be taken over by corporations. http://yupfarming.blogspot.com/2009/05/food-safety-bills-more-dangerous-than_08.html

    This seems to be the grand plan for the USA: Obama’s Head Science Advisor mentioned “wildlands” in one of his speeches. The “Wildlands Project” was first conceived by Dave Foreman and H.R. 980 was first introduced in 1993 by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) http://www.utvguide.net/news/2009/05/massive-wilderness-bill-sounds-alarm-in.html

    AGW is just a part of the plan. In Sept. 14, 1994 David Rockefeller, speaking at the UN Business Council,.
    “This present window of opportunity, during which a truly peaceful and interdependent world order might be built, will not be open for too long – We are on the verge of a global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis and the nations will accept the New World Order.”
    What “ major crisis” could he be talking about? Skipping ahead to the present we find stories of “JP Morgan Chase to become Megabank” and “Analysts say JP Morgan Chase (the Rockefellers, Morgans and the Rothschilds) will emerge from the bank collapse as the big winner” We also find Monsanto (85% financial institutions owned) reported record earnings in 2008. The rest of the Ag Corporations are privately owned so no reports are available. Gee what a coincidence! the Ag companies and JP Morgan Chase all come up winners while the peons in the USA lose there jobs, their homes and now food costs and taxes are poised to soar thanks to the new laws.

    It is not a republic or a democracy “they” have in mind but feudalism.

    David Rockefeller praised the major media for their complicity in helping to facilitate the globalist agenda by saying,
    “We are grateful to the Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. . . . It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is now more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries.”

    I hope that puts AGW in the proper frame of reference for you.

  68. PHA’s? It’s all been done over and over again at the green, politically & environmentally correct NBC, the propaganda arm of GE.

    First they ran, on two Sunday’s, the plate tectonic disaster in which North America was split in two by a rift that ran from the Gulf of Mexico through Canada to the Arctic Ocean.

    This was followed (again on two Sunday’s) by another disaster in which a brown dwarf remnant (a PHA to end all PHA’s) impacted the moon and was drawing it to Earth and the total destruction of everything. No problem – have some scientists hop on a rocket to the moon, build a power plant, and expel the foreign object.

    This was then followed by another two Sunday special with a more traditional PHA about the size of Everest. No problem – we’ll just fire off all our nukes at it. Wait – how can rockets designed to just lob a package suddenly become able to keep going and going off into space? Hey, it’s television; you don’t expect any intelligence out of that box, do you? I missed the second half of this disaster epic – even my mind can only swallow so much … stuff. Slept through the whole second episode.

    The latest NBC disaster (some would say that their whole programming schedule is a disaster) is weather control gone bad, with the usual bad guys – business linked to the military. Gotta admit – it does have quite a number of comic moments. The weather control people keep firing off their rays into space, bouncing off satellites and crossing the skies, messing with planetary weather and the hapless weather forecasters haven’t got a clue (nothing new there).

    All that’s left to do is for NBC to air Gore’s AIT some Sunday night, to fit in with the rest of their disaster theme – hey, the man is his own walking disaster – we’ve heard of the “Gore-effect.”

  69. “That’s why it’s unlikely we will see it coming, because it won’t be moving.”

    Actually for PHA’s, because of the way orbital mechanics make things move in curves it will be moving against the background, right up until it’s much too late to do anything about it.

    And, unlike AGW, we *are* going to get hit. Definitely. 100%. For sure. The only question is when.

  70. Mathman said :

    “The recent collision of a PHA with Jupiter was apparently not predicted in advance.”

    That’s because we’re looking for NEOs (Near Earth Objects) not NJOs. Which anyway would be damn difficult to spot, essentially impossible if the object was an asteroid. Shoemaker Levy 9 was a comet and much more easy to see.

  71. Geoff Sherrington (04:50:23) :

    If you are young and you need a fright, follow the progress of near earth object VK184. See for example

    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk/2007vk184.html

    where VK 184, due around year 2054, is the only object with a Torino scale above 1.

    Contrary to pop science belief, it is now too late to send the rockets with big nukes to blow it away. The time to do that was before we got all hot in the tube about AGW. It’s probably pushing technology anyhow as one would have to do several long range launches from space platforms that are not even on the drawing boards. . .

    Forty-five years is a fair amount of time. The first 45 years of the 20th century saw the development of radio, aircraft, and the atom bomb. The second 45 years saw the computer, the microchip, and the beginnings of space travel. We could do a lot in the next 45 years, if we don’t hide our fearful heads in the AGW sand and if we don’t put the brakes on progress, as the neo-Luddites and eco-Marxists want us to.

    In addition to the gravity tractor that SunSword (06:12:43) mentions, there are other techniques possible, e.g. placing rocket engines directly on the offending asteroid or comet. It should not be terribly hard, for example, to build a portable system that mines the surface material of the body and ejects it in an high-velocity stream, thereby changing the angle of approach.

    Obviously, the longer we have before a predicted impact, the better our chances of success. That means (a) developing LEO and/or Lunar observatories for tracking NEOs, and (b) developing deep-space capability that will enable us to intercept probable dangers with plenty of lead time.

    Rather than trying to control ‘carbon’ in pursuit of entirely chimeric ends, I’d be willing to pay a small tax devoted to an Earth Shield. A side benefit will be mining the Asteroid Belt.

    As our Armed Forces say, “The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer.” Forty-five years is plenty of time, if we put our minds, money, and backs to it.

    /Mr Lynn

    PS Julian Flood (02:32:30): Sounds like a rip-roarin’ good tale. I’d like to read the whole thing.

  72. GHG’s are so much more important because we humans are causing them. We humans are not causing the PHA’s so our activities don’t need to be curtailed and taxed in order to prevent PHA’s. Humans are evil and harmful to all life on earth so naturally an impending doom caused by human activity is more romantic and far more hyped than one that is not caused by humans and therefore beyond our control.

    However, they will eventually figure out that the multitudes of humans are increasing the earth’s gravitational pull and THAT’s causing PHA’s to zero in on earth .. . . and you know how that story goes.

    Sometimes my imagination gets away with me

  73. More alarmism. Come on, Anthony. You’re better than this. Don’t stoop to the level of the AGWers.

  74. There are closer “asteroids” (etymology:”resembling stars”) which are by far more dangerous :-)

  75. Just throwing this out there. How about a cheap solution (relatively speaking). Attach a large solar sail to said object ( assuming of course that we have seen it coming). It will not have to move it off trajectory much, but over distances, not much is needed. I have spoken before of the construction of a space elevator ( or 3 around the equator as I like the Ramans notion of triple redundancy ). This would be just one more on top of many reasons this should be done. The technology for either is NOT out of reach even today. I, for one, would rather spend a trillion on a space elevator than to flush it down the toilet trying to stop a non-problem.

  76. Visits to asteroids:

    Spacecraft Deep Impact sent an impactor to hit asteroid Tempel 1 in 2006. Images of the event can be found via this link:

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/deepimpact/main/index.html

    The Hayabusa probe visited asteroid Itokawa in 2005 on a sampling attempt. This is thought to have failed and despite problems with the spacecraft, it is on its way back to Earth.

    http://www.jaxa.jp/press/2009/02/20090204_hayabusa_e.html

    The NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft visited and landed on asteroid Eros in 2001.

    http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/near.html

    Nasa’s DAWN spacecraft is currently on its way to orbit both Ceres and Vesta.

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/main/index.html

    More information about missions to space can be found here:

    http://www.nasa.gov/missions/current/index.html

  77. Cesar Vallejo’ s The Black Heralds:

    There are blows in life, so powerful… I don’t know!

    Blows like God’s hatred; as if before them,

    the undertow of everything suffered

    were to well up in the soul… I don’t know!

    They are few; but they exist… They open dark furrows

    in the most ferocious face and the most powerful loins.

    Perhaps they’re wooden horses of barbaric Attilas,

    or the black messengers that Death sends to us.

    They’re profound lapses of the soul’s Christs,

    of some adorable faith that Destiny blasphemes.

    Those bloodthirsty blows are cracklings of some

    bread that in the oven’s door burns up on us.

    And man.. Poor…poor man! He turns his eyes, as

    when a slap on the shoulder calls us by name;

    he turns his crazed eyes, and everything he’s lived

    wells up, like a pool of guilt, in his gaze.

    There are blows in life, so powerful… I don’t know!

  78. For those living in the UK, you can visit the Spaceguard Centre and see the work that is being done in the UK on Near Earth Objects.

    http://www.spaceguarduk.com/spaceguard

    When I last visited, they used a 14 inch refractor to do the meticulous/tedious work of plotting the orbit of newly discovered NEOs. No Goverment money. Relying solely on visitors, and interested individuals and companies.

    They are in the process of installing a 24 inch (61 cm) Schmidt Camera (it is the largest telescope in Wales) at the Spaceguard Centre to conduct a wide field sky survey to detect Near Earth Objects and other transient phenomena.

    I was lucky enough on my first visit to be the only person there and the owner focused the visit on my knowledge level. I had recently done a University Level course on planetary science and the search for life with a segment on asteroids, meteorites etc. I had my hand lens with me (I am taking a degree in Earth Sciences) and he let me examine many of the specimens he had.

    The centre is between Knighton and Ludlow in the Welsh Marches.

    Well worth a visit.

  79. “Which is the bigger threat: PHA’s or GHG’s ?”

    Considering the vast probability that GHG’s are not an actual real issue PHA clearly are a proven threat thus bigger by every measure.

  80. Sorry if this is too far afield…but I think it’s in the same vein.

    I seem to be the only one to be a little shocked at the cavalier response to the Swine flu by WHO and others. So many seem to say its boring, overhyped, etc.

    At various times estimated that 1/3, 50%, or the latest, 40% of the worlds populate will contract the Swine flu. Now it’s a very mild flu and I don’t think anyone can estimate the mortality rate accurately, but on the high end it may be 0.4%, but it’s probably lower.

    According to World Population http://www.ibiblio.org/lunarbin/worldpop the world population is about 6,930 million. So as many as 6,930 million * 0.004 ~= 28 million people may die. Assuming nothing changes this number is likely on the high side, perhaps by a factor of 10. But there is always the possibility of a more deadly mutation.

    If the mortality rate increases to 10-20%, that translates into 690-1380 million potential deaths.

    Can you imagine just giving up on almost 30 million people without a fight, while all of this commotion goes on about the possibility of some warming?

    MikeEE

  81. Gail Combs (07:14:03) :

    Thanks for your posting Gail.
    Do you believe there are still people who do not believe AGW is part of a conspiracy that will put us in (Green) Shackles?

    We are ruled by traitors.

  82. This topic is one of many answers to the “precautionary principle” argument for “doing something” about carbon dioxide emissions.

    Kath, thanks for the asteroid mission list.

  83. On moving asteroids:

    The problem with most of the ‘obvious’ methods* for changing the orbit of a large body like an asteroid is that asteroids rotate. Which makes controlling the thrust rather difficult.

    That’s why the gravity tractor idea is so appealing.

    * Such as using a solar sail, attaching rockets or using mass drivers to shoot rocks off the surface.

  84. The reason we missed the jupiter impact is because Eugene Shoemaker is no longer with us. Amateurs are responsible for most new discoveries in most scientific fields. Climatologists are the only ones who dismiss amateurs out of hand. They have done so at their own detriment.

  85. Annette (07:57:53) :

    “GHG’s are so much more important because we humans are causing them.”

    Eh? We humans also cause gardens with cutted grass and lots of other things. CO2 is a natural gas which has varied between 2200 ppm and 180 ppm the last 50 millions of years. Now CO2 levels are lower than ever. Do you got this, or do you want a proxy graph?

    CO2 doesn’t harm the environment, so if we are cause a slight increase of CO2 — or even doubling of CO2 (which is by no means likely) that isn’t either a problem. CO2 is a good gas for nature!

    The most CO2 can do is to increase temparature a few tenth of a degree Celsius. But if the climate system instead has reinforcing positive feedback for temperature — which no empirical data tells us; all ata tells us the opposite –, then CO2 may raise temperature with 2 degrees C, but that’s not dangerous either. It would be good; look at these temperature graphs from Greenland (Schwartz and Randall’s, and NASA’s) :

    The correlation in Al Gore’s CO2 and temperature graphs describes an opposite cause and effect to what Gore falsly told the viewers. No proxy data suggests that CO2 controls the global temperature.

    But the natural variation in low level cloud cover (LLC) — e g the reduced LLC by 5 percent between 1993 and 2001 — means a lot more in energy balance compared to all CO2 emissions since industrialization started. This is also the opinioin of several scientists working for in IPCC. I’ve heard Joyce Penner describing this.

    But, basically, I think you’re just like any other AGW promoters. I don’t for a second think that you are willing to seriously take any of these arguments into consideration. All you’ll do is to repeat your mantra with political implications. I’m bet you’ll maybe try to change focus on this discussion, or something like that, but you’ll not prove me wrong on this; you’ll not take my arguments seriously, and you will for sure repeat your mantra (with all its strong political implications eithin the framework of AGW in the environmentalism). This is what fascism looks like.

    If we are causing a supposedly dangerous (sic!) gas, CO2, we need to be forced to change our behavour = politics.

    No surprice your mantra is “we humans are causing them”. All historical periods 1-2 degrees C warmer than now has been better — if we can cause that warming it’s something positive. But that positive development wouldn’t imply politics.

  86. GHGs are heavier than Nitrogen and Oxygen, main components of the atmosphere (60% and 21%) another reason against the current belief that they are going up around saving warm to heat the atmosphere up:
    THE SUN: A MAGNETIC PLASMA DIFFUSER THAT CONTROLS EARTH’S CLIMATE O. Manuel
    Although Earth’s gravitational field is 330,000 times weaker than the Sun’s field, even here the lightest gas, Hydrogen, is sorted out and moved to the top of the atmosphere while heavier Carbon-dioxide gas is concentrated in low-lying places like Death Valley

  87. Report: Deflecting a Hazardous Near-Earth Object
    April 2009
    This short report on Near-Earth Object (NEO) hazard mitigation strategies was developed in response to a request for information by the U.S. National Research Council’s Space Sciences Board on December 17, 2008 and for the Planetary Defense Conference that took place 27-30 April 2009 in Granada Spain. Although we present example simulations for specific techniques that could be employed to deflect an Earth threatening NEO, our primary goal is to discuss some of the general principles and techniques that would be germane to all NEO deflection scenarios. This report summarizes work that was carried out in early 2009 and extends an earlier, more detailed study carried out in late 2008.
    The complete report is available here (Word Document – 316K)

    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/neo/pdc_paper.html

  88. @ Belaji:

    No, don’t kill yourself. That’s part of the goal. Fewer humans are easier to herd. Why do you think the Commies usually kill off so many of their own people?

  89. @Julian Flood (02:32:30) –

    I think you’d find a better market at Analog SF for that, not F&SF. Looks interesting – I’d like to see the whole story, myself.

    It might well take something like a nuclear-bomb powered interceptor to whack a PHA…

  90. G.Karst said :

    “The reason we missed the jupiter impact is because Eugene Shoemaker is no longer with us.”

    Gah! But we still have David Levy. Spotting these tiny objects at the distance of Jupiter (~630 million km at closest) is extremely difficult. Even Shoemaker-Levy 9 was only detected through a fluke.

  91. Magnus A (10:23:51) :

    Annette (07:57:53) :

    “GHG’s are so much more important because we humans are causing them.”

    Whoa buddy.

    Read the rest of what she says! I suspect your sarcasm/humour detector needs recalibrating.

    DaveE.

  92. “That’s why the gravity tractor idea is so appealing.”

    1. How many “gravity tractors” do we have right now ready for launch?

    2. How long would it take to get a gravity tractor ready for launch if we decided we needed one right now-ish?

    3. How many vehicles are there currently ready to launch said tractor?

    I am not interested in deflecting asteroids with the combined fantasy of a few million people. If we are actually going to deflect one, we better start building/testing something, otherwise all we are doing is piping sunshine.

    When have we built and tested something to learn how to operate a “gravity tractor”?

    You can’t deflect an asteroid with a report, though seeing the size of government reports, it might serve well enough as a “gravity tractor”.

  93. PHAs are natural. GHG-induced global warming is blamed on man. Of course GHG is the bigger threat!

  94. Ron de Haan (09:59:08) :

    Gail Combs (07:14:03) :

    “..Thanks for your posting Gail.
    Do you believe there are still people who do not believe AGW is part of a conspiracy that will put us in (Green) Shackles?..”

    Unfortunately yes. They are either those who truly believe the democratic party /socialists have our best interests at heart and there is no need to worry, after all socialism is the best system…. or those with their head in the sand who do not want to wake-up. Trying to get people to understand there are very intelligent evil people in the world can be very difficult.

    I grew up with one who was truly evil. He had an IQ over 200, now owns a corporation and has murdered at least 8 people. (3 attempts were made on my life while he was a kid and he succeeded in killing my father) The authorities will not touch him not even the IRS, believe me I tried. Money and Power are his gods, and oh yes he is a Marxist.

    Socialists can not believe someone would actually use their believe in Marxism to trick them into slavery despite several recent examples.

  95. OPEN QUESTION FOR ALL Sorry to be off topic but CO2 is not a disaster, it is a benefit. Does anyone know if any agency has done an economic report on the benefit of increased CO2 in the atmosphere?
    I have seen it estimated that the world crops currently grow about 15% more efficently due to the aerial fertlization of the planet.
    What would the global cost be in dollars to increase the worlds fresh water supply 15%? This is what would be required to grow the same amount of food we now produce if we had 280 ppm CO2 compared to the 380ppm we now have.

  96. “Would you bet your future on the accuracy of day seven of a seven day weather forecast?”
    Given the number of times this sumer where the forcast that morning was for high 80’s and 90’s and sun, and the real weather of the day was 70’s and low 80’s and cloudy, no I don’t think I put lot’s of stock in models. Now it has cooled off enough in Omaha that some of the trees have decided to pack it in for the year and the leaves are changing.

  97. Around the time Carl Sagan was running around touting The Next Ice Age (TM) he was also plugging the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, or SETI. As home computers became more popular, their owners were urged to leave them on and allow SETI’s computers to tap into them on background.

    I’ve asked this question before but never on this website: is it possible to set up a network similar to the SETI network but tasked to watch for NEO’s? Can computers be used in that fashion after Energy-Star has put them to sleep? Could such a network be made secure enough to satisfy interested yet identity-conscious people?

  98. G. Karst and NoAstronomer: Permit me to point out Carolyn Shoemaker is given equal credit for the discovery of Shoemaker-Levy 9 and in fact has discovered more comets than any other person. A quick scan of online sources has failed to reveal whether she is still committing astronomy at the age of 80. I certainly hope so.

  99. The biggest threat may be from those who are trying to save us from GHGs.

    I’m going to make it my life’s work to save us from those who are trying to save us.

  100. Gail Combs

    A remarkable post.

    Have you ever googled Agenda 21 and Sage? (the educational sidekick)

    That gives a fairly good summary of how the IPCC fits into the global picture.

    Tonyb

  101. IMPORTANT ARTICLE

    Jul 30, 2009
    The New Bluff in Climate Alarmism

    By Dr. David Evans

    Summary for Policymakers

    * Air temperatures have been falling for years. Satellites show that 1998 was the warmest recent year and that a cooling trend started in 2002.

    Even the land-based thermometer data, which is corrupted by artificial heating sources close to 89% of its thermometers and which is heavily “corrected”, now shows a cooling trend developing from 2006.

    Adjustments applied by NOAA to surface data.

    * The alarmists recently switched to ocean temperature to measure global warming.

    * The alarmists claim the world is still warming, that heat is building up in the oceans, and that the ocean temperature is rising and rising fast. These claims implicitly depend on a time period to say what a “trend” is, because temperatures fluctuate. The alarmists provide the context by showing trends of 20 to 50 years. This is a clever trick to reframe the debate, and essential to their case.

    * Ocean temperatures have only been measured properly from mid 2003, when the Argo network became operational. Over 3,000 Argo floats cover all the world’s oceans. They dive down to measure temperatures, then resurface to radio back the information. The previous XBT system did not monitor huge areas of ocean, did not go as deep, and was much less accurate.

    * Ocean temperatures are dropping slightly. The Argo data shows that the oceans have been cooling slightly since mid 2003. Our best data, from satellites and Argo, shows that the air and oceans have not warmed for at least five years. The world is now cooling slightly, so there is no heat accumulating. Some natural cooling force is currently stronger than the warming due to human emissions.

    * Short-term trends contradict the alarmist claims. Our best data, from satellites and Argo, shows that the air and oceans have not warmed for at least five years. The world is now cooling slightly, so there is no heat accumulating. Some natural cooling force is currently stronger than the warming due to human emissions.

    * Long-term trends contradict the alarmist claims. The world has been recovering from the little ice age, warming at a steady trend rate since 1750 with alternate warming and cooling oscillations of about 30 years. The pattern suggests we have just finished the last warming, and have entered a cooling period until about 2030.

    * The latest alarmist claims are a bluff. The alarmist claims only appear credible if trends shorter than 10 years or longer than 50 years are ignored. But it will take time to inform the public and politicians that the alarmist�s claims are baseless. With the US climate bill now being debated and the Copenhagen climate conference coming up in December 2009, they only need to make the public believe their schtick for a few months.

    * Problems with alarmist graphs of ocean heat. They omit Argo data by stopping in 2003, or contradict it by showing ocean warming continuing through 2006.

    The Latest Alarmist Claims are a Bluff

    The claims of the alarmists about rising ocean temperatures and accumulating heat are wrong in the short term and wrong in the long term. They appear credible only if you ignore trends shorter than 10 years and trends longer than 50 years. They crumble under analysis. But it will take time to inform the public and politicians that the alarmist�s claims are baseless. With the US climate bill now being debated and the Copenhagen climate conference coming up in December 2009, they only need to make the public believe their schtick for a few months. This is a bluff. See PDF here.

    http://www.icecap.us

  102. I wonder whether the “Anthropocentric” in the original post was deliberate or a Freudian slip?

  103. TonyB (14:55:26) :

    “…Have you ever googled Agenda 21 and Sage?…” Yes but I wanted to keep it fairly simple without sounding like a tin hat type.

    All you need to do is look at the bills introduced in Congress in the last decade, World Bank SAP and WTO to know someone really IS out to get us and the UN/WTO is backing them all the way.
    Checkout “guide to good farming practices” and “global diversity treaty” any military commander will tell you First secure the food and water supply….

  104. “As for the title “Which is the bigger threat?”
    Try these: Democrats, Republicans, the Administration, the State Department, the EPA, the Energy Dept., The Dept. of Education, the . . .”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  105. Plans are to find an asteroid to use as a launch pad for a exploration of Mars. If PHAs and AGW are such threats to man kinds survival, they had best find a Mars bound asteroid big enough for all of us.

  106. Gail Combs (12:43:04) :

    . . . I grew up with one who was truly evil. He had an IQ over 200, now owns a corporation and has murdered at least 8 people. (3 attempts were made on my life while he was a kid and he succeeded in killing my father) The authorities will not touch him not even the IRS, believe me I tried. Money and Power are his gods, and oh yes he is a Marxist. . .

    This is so completely off-topic that I shouldn’t even respond, but I don’t know whether to be appalled or incredulous. No doubt there are such people (sometimes I wonder if George Soros might not be one), but it is hard to believe that if someone murdered 8 people, at least by his own hand, that he would be still walking the streets.

    /Mr Lynn

  107. Michael (08:01:36) :

    “More alarmism. Come on, Anthony. You’re better than this. Don’t stoop to the level of the AGWers.”

    Being worried about something as likely as being hit by a meteorite/asteroid is OK. Being worried by ‘science’ fiction, like AGW, is irrational.

  108. “…but it is hard to believe that if someone murdered 8 people, at least by his own hand, that he would be still walking the streets….”

    Simple: Old relatives taken from hospitals or nursing homes to live with him. They then died 2-3 days after signing new wills leaving him everything (I checked). Dad was given 6 months by the doctor and lasted three weeks under his tender care… It wasn’t until much later that I compared notes with other relatives and I saw the pattern so testing for a drug overdose could not be done without cause.

    And sorry about the off topic but it is an excellent example of how money and power can corrupt absolutely.

  109. NoAstronomer (10:20:04) :
    On moving asteroids:
    The problem with most of the ‘obvious’ methods* for changing the orbit of a large body like an asteroid is that asteroids rotate. Which makes controlling the thrust rather difficult.
    That’s why the gravity tractor idea is so appealing. . .

    Assuming that the axis of rotation is not aimed at a rendezvous with our Earth, you could mount rockets or mass drivers at one of the poles.

    The gravity tractor is fine, but big asteroids would require big (or very dense) (at)tractors.

    If the body were spinning, I wonder if the rotational energy could be used to advantage. . . Attach a steel cable and let the asteroid wrap it around for a while, then apply a large electromagnet?

    crosspatch (12:13:59) :
    “That’s why the gravity tractor idea is so appealing.”

    1. How many “gravity tractors” do we have right now ready for launch?

    2. How long would it take to get a gravity tractor ready for launch if we decided we needed one right now-ish?

    3. How many vehicles are there currently ready to launch said tractor?

    I am not interested in deflecting asteroids with the combined fantasy of a few million people. If we are actually going to deflect one, we better start building/testing something, otherwise all we are doing is piping sunshine. . .

    Well, if we could get the governments of Europe and the United States off this cockamamie ‘carbon’ nonsense, maybe we could get them busy working on deep-space observational and interventional capabilities. Write your Congressmen, MP, and educate him!

    /Mr Lynn

  110. Just finished the mid-60’s version of “Lucifer’s Hammer” – certainly couldn’t be written that way, with those stereotypes – in today’s politically corrupt environment.

    Covers the people and environment of the survivors, and the victims, of a massive comet whose fragments land across the world.

  111. And, an amatuer Australian astrophotographer, Anthony Wesley, discovered this impact site on Jupiter. Power to the (amatuer) people…

  112. Re Near Earth Object VK 184 refrred to above, with year 2054 a rough date for concern.

    This object orbits quite close to the plane of the main planets and so its orbit is affected by planets. This makes prediction of its line of flight difficult. If you are going to expend huge $ to divert it, then you have to wait until you are certain of the probability of impact. Then you do the maths to find the keyhole as esplained in http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/neo/pdc_paper.html If the keyhole cannot be pinned down, then you can’t rendezvous with it at the most effective time.

    In any case, there is a possibility that the object will be travelling in the direction of Erath at this time. So, you have to send up “tractors” that appraoch it at its velocity of 15 kps, then reverse your interceptor, then speed it up again to catch up with the object, then slow it down again to run next door. This can take years. If, on the other hand, the object is travelling in its orbit away from earth at keyhole time, then you need a pretty fast set of rockets to catch it just at the right moment. These rockets would probably be needed to be fuelled and launched from space platforms, because if launched from earth, so much fuel is used up in escaping gravitation that little is left over to turn it into a greyhound.

    Another complication is that even if you can define a keyhole, it might be found before the orbit is influenced again by whatever planetary configuration there is at the time and how much each planet changes the orbit.

    Another complication is that for close work, the object needs rotational as well as positional data so there are a dozen or so parameters needed to define its movement in a Cartesian framework. More if it is losing weight like comets do, though this one looks like high density.

    If it passes close to earth it has a possibility of affecting weather, so it’s probably wise to include it in GCMs which are supposed to be wise in matters like this. The science is settled.

    In short, the problem for 2054 is beyond current capability. So there’s no point in getting alarmed about it. Just use it as a counter example to the “useful” precautionary principle. If you have more advanced science to add to this post, I’d be delighted to hear.

    I have not done the orbit calculations myself but I’m a bit familiar with methods and complications, always willing to learn more. It might all be incorrect, & I’d like to hear also if that is the case.

  113. How ironic it is that we humans are only here because of an asteroid impact 65 million years ago. The evolutionary fallout of this event was that the age of giant reptiles ended, and mammals were able to proliferate into the many branches that exist today. At the apex stands Homo Sapiens, omnivorous, adaptable, self-aware, master of mathematics, who looks up into the night sky with the knowledge that what the universe gives, it also takes away.

  114. If we are considering global scale natural disasters, perhaps first on the list is a ‘Carrington’ event super solar flare that may destroy our unprotected electric power grid to such an extent that several years would be required to repair the damage. At each 11-year solar maximum, it appears we could be playing a game of solar-roulette with a one chance in 45 of being hit.

    Next on the list would be a super-volcano eruption. I understand the Yellowstone Super-Volcano is now overdue for its next eruption — the USGS reports no real evidence of new activity.

    Perhaps on par with this would be a sub-extinction, minor asteroid impact.

  115. Geoff Sherrington (20:44:20) :

    In short, the problem for 2054 is beyond current capability. . .

    The operative word is ‘current’. If we put our minds to it, we could develop the capability.

    Spector (04:39:08) is right, too: We should also be working on plans and techniques for dealing with other probably catastrophes, though in the case of super-volcanoes and super solar flares, ‘dealing with’ means ‘detecting and reacting to’, not ‘preventing’.

    Again, the obsession with ‘climate change’ and ‘carbon’ is blinkering not only our politicians, but our scientists.

    /Mr Lynn

  116. Erratum: ‘Probably’ should be ‘probable’. Sure would be nice to be able to edit our comments. /Mr L

  117. I think the threat of terrorist attacks on food, water, and air are a much greater, probable, and immediate threat than either space debris or CO2. Plus the aftermath is far more devastating psychologically. Many tragedies (such as hurricanes and rocks falling from above) are dismissed as acts of God, or are so far removed from and not injurious to our day to day existence (IE CO2) that we pay them little mind. But terrorists are constantly probing for weaknesses in the infrastructure of human life in search for a satisfyingly messy and indiscriminately injurious route. Somewhere, every day, there is a terrorist attack taking place. We should be spending money (if we had any) on securing our food supply, water systems, and air space from terrorist access. We have not done so. Remember when the Rashneshes sprayed Salmonella poison on the salad bar in Oregon? Or the poison in pill bottles? That was such an easy act to do. Now think how easy it would be to put something bad for human consumption in a staple food item we all use across the US. I am not a terrorist and can think of dozens of ways. Who is to say that it has not already been done lately? And more than once? Remember the spinach thing? Peanut butter? Chips? But the report we get to read in the paper says nothing about a terrorist possibility. This is the real environmental threat and simply buries all else.

  118. In the case of super solar flares, it may be possible to gradually install extra protective measures to prevent severe damage to our electrical distribution systems.

    On another issue — major earthquakes — it has occurred to me that if we could reliably detect these events building up in advance, we might be able to mitigate the toll due to the element of surprise by pre-triggering them to occur at a time and date of our choice. This might be accomplished by setting off a huge explosion at a point of maximum tectonic stress. I think we would need to know a lot more than we do now for this to ever be attempted.

  119. Pamela Gray (13:47:26) :

    “I think the threat of terrorist attacks on food, water, and air are a much greater, probable, and immediate threat than either space debris or CO2. ”

    I’m with you there Pamela. I would put the two most pressing matters which should concern us today are religous extremism/terrorism) and overpopulation. A common theme of the AGW crowd is that we are damaging the planet for our children’s children. How about we take care of the real issues which affect us now as a priority?

    As my dear old Mum used to say: “take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves”. Or, to put it another way: take care of the present and the future will take care of itself.

  120. If we include anthropogenic (man-made) as well as physiogenic (natural) disasters, I would consider a general thermo-nuclear exchange and an accidental or intentionally bioengineered “Perfect Plague” — fast-spreading, incurable and always fatal — to be the two top threats.

    I believe the next Cascadia subduction zone earthquake and 100 ft high tsunami along the U. S. Pacific Northwest coast could result in a death toll that would dwarf any natural disaster of recent memory. Primarily, this would be due to the element of surprise.

    Depend on it, if our luck were to run out in 2012 or 2023 and we were all served up with another ‘Carrington Event’ Super Flare, the two most common things that people faced with living several years without electrical power would be saying would be “I never imagined anything like this could ever happen.” and “What do we do now?” But most likely, our luck will hold up, just as it has 13 times since 1859.

  121. NoAstronomer:
    Oh, bother:

    You are both right, of course. I certainly didn’t mean to detract anything from the fine work of Carolyn Shoemaker and David Levy. As a team they were remarkable.

  122. Back to Victor Kilo 184 and year 2054, it’s pointless to opine that other acts are more frightening. It’s not always “either/or” with preparation. In some cases, the event will occur, it’s just a matter of time when and where. With a probability of 1, it’s a bit hard to raise precautionary funds for problems with a lower probability. There WILL be another severe earthquake in the lifetime that remains for most adults. There is a significant probability, increasing as more obs come in, that a NEO will impact Earth. There is no great probability that Global Warming will cause a tipping point and global disaster. So we have here examples of 3 stages of certainty.

    The problem is that we are putting most money towards the least likely.

  123. According to the data on the Current Impact Risks table of the NASA Near Earth Object Program, we have a 99.966 percent chance that 2007 VK184 will miss the Earth on all four potential impacts from 2048 to 2057. I also calculate that we have a 98.5 percent net probability that all 243 objects listed on that table will miss the earth.

    The Yellowstone Super-Volcano “has produced three exceedingly large volcanic eruptions in the past 2.1 million years. In each of these cataclysmic events, enormous volumes of magma erupted at the surface and into the atmosphere…” These events have been characterized as equivalent to 1000 Mt. St. Helens type eruptions. I am sure that any such event will far exceed the worst case capacity of man to alter the chemistry of the atmosphere (AGW). The last Yellowstone super-eruption was, I understand, about 640,000 years ago, and the last asteroid extinction impact was 65,000,000 years ago. The last Super-Volcano to erupt was Toba, 74,000 years ago. I think we should set a high priority on detailed monitoring of these Super-Volcano hazards and estimating when they are next likely to erupt.

    As far as I can tell, there is no hard evidence that anthropogenic atmosphere change has seriously affected the climate. If the threat of a run-away greenhouse effect is real, they say, and we do not take action right now, we will see the world, as we know it, destroyed. And if we act and they were wrong, then all do is waste a few dollars. I do not think the issue is that cut and dried. The next few years should give us a clear signal of any such problem.

  124. I would say neither of those two mentioned hypotheticals is a threat. We can’t do anything about either one of them; so why should we waste time and money and other resources on either one.

    Statistically speaking; neither of those things is likely to happen; but I might get killed in a car crash going home tonight.

  125. I do think it is appropriate to take reasonable steps to monitor these known cataclysmic hazards and perhaps initiate some long-term measures to mitigate our vulnerability to them such as *gradually* building a network of interconnected, multipurpose underground shelters and setting up a revolving multi-year food reserve.

  126. Re Spector,

    Have another look at the ending of “Dr Strangelove”. It’s funnily pertinent. A genius of a film.

    I am not concerned with NEO VK 184 because I will be dead by then. Some inside information suggests that it’s looking like a closer encounter each time more data comes in. In rough terms, there is about a 1% probability that the separation will be closer than the moon, but I cannot support this contention with evidence except to say that it is from a usually reliable but non-public source. I will gladly corect this if given more evidence. I’m not accustomed to dealing in rumours.

    Governments are too busy scaring the natives with other matters and a Govenrment functions best when the voting populace runs scared. No room yet for a double feature.

  127. According to a BBC report, one or another supervolcano erupts about every 100,000 years. This is five to ten times more frequent than equivalent asteroid impacts.

    The Yellowstone Supervolcano has a caldera larger than twice the size of the island of Oahu. Beneath this, there is a huge magma chamber that has been accumulating a charge of subterranean gas for the last 640,000 years. If that process continues, as it most likely will, so much gas will accumulate that the frothy magma will punch through to the surface in a deadly cataclysm. As far as I know, this is not expected to happen any time soon.

    I think our fascination with asteroids is due to the fact that we can see these current low-probability hazards going by and the well known KT extinction event that killed off the dinosaurs.

  128. I agree.

    We do get hit by big meteorites now and then, such as the great Siberian, but bigger objects pose a much larger threat. Even so the chances are very small, and although we neither have a good enough look out to spot all the possible collisions nor good enough technology to deal with an approaching object at the moment we almost certainly will in the not too distant future.

    Whether our technology could develop enough to detect and deal with the dangers of a major eruption is less certain but given the rate of scientific, technical and economic progress who knows what we will be able to accomplish in the next century or two.

    It is unlikely we would ever be able to do anything about a close supernova or indeed a nearby galaxy going bang except to shelter, survive and adapt, I seem to recall Hoyle wrote a rather good book about that. He also wrote a less good one about the threat of the coming ice age: in fact his prescription would not work but we probably already have good enough technology and sufficient economic resources to deal with it if it should transpire.

    The point being that none of these are theoretical hazards, they have happened before and will again although the probability of any one, or indeed all happening in the next thousand years is tiny. And who knows what we will have achieved by the end of this millenium.

    Whereas the supposed risk of a tipping point causing a dangerous increase in global temperatures is pure ill founded speculation based on very simplistic ideas of how the climate behaves; with one or another absurd speculation. piled upon the next to predict catastrophe.

    It is similar to the amusement of childish minds who write therr names and addresses in their textobooks followed by the world, the solar system, the milky way and finally the universe. A perfectly good address of course but hardly useful.

    Any more than those wonderful calculations about one grain of wheat on the first square of the chessboard, two on the next, two times two on the next and so on: or the how quickly the growing lilies which multiply at a given rate will take over the pond and eventually the world.

    It is a superb example of arrogance and ignorance, arrogance in supposing our puny efforts could affect the global, as opposd to the local, climate in any way and utter ignorance of the vast natural forces which actually drive it and about which we know very little.

    It is a modern form of the ancient and constantly recurring belief in the End of Days, just dressed up in pseudo scientific claptrap rather than mysticism. But then charlatans have never scrupled to borrow the philosophy of an age to peddle their quackery so it is little surprise in a a scientific age they resort to this approach.

    Which is not to say there are not serious scientific researchers out there doing excellent work from which we will learn much in time when this hubbub has died down: as it surely will.

    Remember despite endless prophecies, forecastsand predictions the End of Days is always late to the point of never quite arriving. Not that this deters the believer, it is obviously some slight miscalculation over the precise date so its arrival is only postponed.

    But I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. Much less worry about it.

    Because until the End of Days the world will go on spinning and we will get by by adapting and improving our technology to meet our needs as we have always done: and very successfully too.

    Kindest Regards.

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