It’s the Anthropocene! But natural threats could still kill millions.

Guest essay by Larry Kummer. From the Fabius Maximus website.

Summary: While scientists debate if we live in the Anthropocene era, let’s not fall into delusions of grandeur. Natural forces can wipe away cities and destroy regions despite our impressive powers. We have prepared poorly or not at all for most of these. This is a luxury we can no longer afford.

“We don’t even plan for the past.”

Steven Mosher (member of Berkeley Earth), a comment posted at Climate Etc.

anthropecene

Some scientists have proposed designating the post-WWII era as the start of the Anthropocene, a new geologic time when humanity’s power becomes a major force shaping Earth’s geology. Here’s a good introduction by Paul Voosen in Science, describing the both sides of the issue.

If scientists decide to accept this proposal, it is vital not to misinterpret its meaning. Our power can reshape the surface of the world. We can destroy it quickly with nukes or slowly with pollution. Let’s not engage in delusions of grandeur. But we remain helpless before the ordinary processes of the Earth.

Eventually one of the certain-to-happen disasters will demonstrate our low place in the hierarchy of natural forces. We face a bewildering range of threats: a magnitude 9+ earthquake (such as these), a volcanic eruption of 7+ on the volcanic eruption index (such as these; VEI 8 is a supervolcano), a global pandemic (such as the 1918 flu or worse), a Category 5 cyclone (wind speed >157 mph, like these) hits a city, a powerful solar storm that wrecks the planet’s electronics (as a repeat of the 1859 Carrington Event would do), the impact of a largish asteroid or comet, or one of the many other perils of the Earth.

All these things have occurred in the past and will occur again. We lack the ability to predict their dates and locations — but we can prepare for them. But with a few exceptions we do not do so, as our ruling elites preferring to focus instead on threats with politically useful cures (i.e., those that justify increased government powers). That might be an expensive obsession.

Humanity faces many dangers, as it always has. For all our power we remain subject to nature’s whims. Our crowded world, sustained by complex global systems, could suffer a million deaths and vast physical damage. Failure to prepare rationally for the full spectrum of risks — natural and anthropogenic — is a luxury we can no longer afford. Our resources are limited, so we must use them wisely. See the next section for posts discussion how we can do so.

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For more information see all posts about shockwaves (high impact, low probability scenarios), and especially these …

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181 thoughts on “It’s the Anthropocene! But natural threats could still kill millions.

  1. Athropocene n., adj.

    [pertaining to] the epoch starting c. 1995CE, when the seeking of natural causes for natural effects came to be seen as a form of denialistic anti-science

    synonyms: Postnormal age, Supernatural epoch

  2. Humans overrate our power over and effect on nature. We suffer from hubris.

    A fraction of the trillions wasted allegedly combating the non-problem of global warming would have been much better spent on anti-asteroid and solar flare defenses. Worse than wasted when the squandered cost in insect-eating birds and bats destroyed by uneconomical and environmentally-damaging “Green Energy” projects is added in.

    • While there was probably more than one species of cyanobacterium during the Oxygen Catastrophe, those prokaryotes had the most disastrous effect of any organisms in planetary history. However the oxygen they released did finally lead to the evolution of animals.

      The Green Meanies don’t like humans, but surely they don’t oppose the existence of all animals. Who can hate sponges? We know that they like corals and polar bears. But they’re willing to sacrifice birds and bats along with human to their false god.

    • My favorite is the Plasticene: a time when all ideas are as formless and impermanent as modeling clay.

      • Plasticene for the win! Yea, they verily are the World’s 2,500 Top Scientists, for the very facts of nature are putty in their hands.

  3. Just FYI, the list of major volcanic events at Wiki looks a bit odd. Some of those eruptions are a long way from any point in the track of the Yellowstone hot spot, like McDermitt for example. That is unless they are assigning the entire Basin and Range vulcanism to the Yellowstone hot spot.

  4. Despite the fact that man allegedly started excercising a dominant impact on climate, we still can’t reach the extremes in either hot or cold that have been seen as recently as the last 10000 years.

  5. The best way to prepare mankind for possible natural disasters is to make sure we don’t put all of our collective marbles on a single planet.
    We need to start colonizing other planets.
    First in our own solar system. Then other solar systems.
    I’m assuming that in the next few hundred years we will develop technology that will make that easier. Even if it means multi-generational or sleeper ships.

    • If we and whatever comes after us can engineer the sun through its remaining time on the main sequence, then after it goes red giant, we won’t need to seek out other star systems.

      The asteroids provide a lot of Lebensraum. More than Mars.

      • I read a paper awhile back that proposed using asteroids in sling shot orbits to add energy to the earth so as to increase the diameter of the earth’s orbit, in order to compensate for the sun’s growing brightness as it progresses through the main sequence.
        If I remember the paper correctly, they thought 1 100 foot rock every 100 years would be sufficient.

      • For that matter, a one foot rock, straight down the gullet every year might be enough.
        Time it so that it hits the middle of the Pacific and make sure everyone knows the time so that no planes or ships are in the area at the time.
        1 foot in diameter isn’t big enough to punch through the atmosphere but it might be big enough to create a shock wave that might damage a plane directly underneath.

    • Before we start “colonizing” other planets, let’s find out how easy it is to colonize Antarctica or the bottom of the sea (or the peaks of the Himalayas). We have very tough terrestrial environments that are incipient killers. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try, but we need to have a clear head about, and some practice dealing with, the difficult problems that need to be solved.

      U.S. Army field equipment (e.g., Roland missile air defense system) is rated for operation at minus 40 degrees (Fahrenheit or Celsius, it doesn’t matter). To appreciate how cold that is, think of it as the sublimation temperature of dry ice. Where there is equipment, there must be operators. So far, we haven’t gone beyond human operators. Want to be one?

      • Michael,

        That’s a great point! Think of the lunar colony in Robert Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.” They raise wheat and ship it to Earth. That could more easily be done in mines on Earth. No shortage of air, water, or fertilizer. Easier transportation. Better conditions for the colonists.

        Ditto for colonizing asteroids — the “belters” found in so many science fiction novels.

        But the colonists would still have to be prisoners, I suspect. Wouldn’t be easy to get volunteers.

      • Another fact:
        Liquid Natural Gas – LNG – is routinely transported – mostly in large-ish ships – at about -158 C [the F does matter; it’s about – 228 F].
        An analogy.
        An exceptionally cold winter night in Croydon is -10 C [14F].
        A very hot summer’s day – near record – is 35 C [95F]
        So go down that 45 degree C difference from -10: once and you are at -55 C; twice, it’s -100C; three times, it is -145 C.
        Still not quite at LNG transport temperatures.
        What does LNG at -158 C [or anything else] do to steel structures?
        Much harm: serious amounts of harm in fact!
        They crack, loose strength and are rendered generally unfit for any further use.

        And interstellar space is a hundred, plus, degrees cooler still. Probably, I read, about 2,5 to 3 Kelvins – say about -270 C. Must go and check.

        Auto, with my feet firmly on the ground, mods. Ignore the final sally!

      • Before we colonize ocean bottoms and other planets, we ought to colonize solar orbits in O’Neal class space habitats. About as hard as building supertankers….

        Only real issue is cost of mass to orbit, but that is dropping.

        Oh, and I’d volunteer in a heartbeat to live in one, or a Lunar colony, or asteroid colony, or Mars..

        There is little problem finding the needed thousands of volunteers in a population of billions… all you need is 1 in a million or so…

    • How many other planets are there which are not already far more unlivable than is the earth under the worst of all reasonable non collision climate catastrophe scenarios.

      Once again it is a giant waste of resources.

      We don’t have access to enough affordable energy if hydrocarbons and even carbon are banned .

      Some idiots are talking about the very last fossil fuelled vehicle to ever be sold on this planet.

      Just imagine a battery-ized truck delivering groceries to your front door, or furniture to the store down the road.

      Oh, I forgot, those things are going to be downloaded from the cloud to your 3-D printer.

      G

      • G
        I haven’t got a 3D printer yet.
        Whatever its raw material, the material still has to be delivered [perhaps in a bucket – I don’t know].
        Now, probably the watermelons will have bucket-delivery devices powered by their individual windmills.
        Not sure how that will work, even with solar cells on board.
        Unless we can take air and dirt and convert them, magically, into wood, beef, wine etc.
        Was it Heinlein who said/wrote ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’?
        My grandfather , if returned to us, would think web-cams magic – yet I bet > 10% of the readers of WUWT have one or more for security.
        My father , if returned to us, would think some of the mobile devices’ apps magic.
        Half of us, at least, have smart-phones.
        I struggle with the apps and stuff . . . .
        I distrust contactless payment. Still.

        Auto, struggling to get both feet into the 21st century

  6. It is a bitch to set priorities, and responding to hysterical overstatements of risk is a sure way to blow money and time. I think the anti-GMO movement is yet another bit of gross overstatement.

  7. There is a very serious issue of an apparent attempt to bury the Antarctic Law Dome 18O isotope ice core reconstruction due to its politically incorrect Holocene reconstruction (most of Holocene several degrees warmer than now) is reported on Climate Audit. Steve MacIntyre reports persistent denial of access to data. Recent palaeo reviews e.g. the sinister Gergis inexplicably air-brush out Law Dome.

    https://climateaudit.org/2016/08/03/gergis-and-law-dome

    It seems the eventual goal is to wait till those who know of the Law Dome series to die off, then kill it.

    • The science establishment has become anti-scientific and pro-funding.

      There are too many proxies showing that the Holocene Climatic Optimum was warmer than now to suppress them all. Polar bears, for instance managed to survive and thrive during its thousands of summers (~5-8 Ka) with little or no Arctic sea ice. Ditto the Egyptian (4 Ka), Minoan (3 Ka), Roman (2 Ka) and Medieval (1 Ka) Warm Periods, all balmier and less icy than now.

      • Gabro

        The Holocene temperature record is perhaps one if the most important climate questions. Isotope records, ice core and others, paint a very different picture of Holocene optimum temperature several degrees higher than today, with several previous high temperature excursions also higher than today e.g. Minoan, Roman and Medieval warm periods. Shakun and Markott ironed the temperature record flat by mixing in dozens of unreliable and mutually contradictory midge and pollen “palaeo” records. I would argue for rejecting pollen and midges and focusing on isotope records only. At least they agree with eachother.

      • I’m mostly with you, however there are biological and other proxy data which with proper handling can be considered valid.

        And isotopes require careful calibration, as you know.

      • The problem with multi-proxy reconstructions will always be resolution, particularly when there is a diversity of resolutions, both temporal and temperature. The signal will inevitably be smeared, low frequency and have an attenuated amplitude range due to frequency loss.

        Multi-proxy reconstructions are valuable. However, they cannot be directly compared to instrumental temperatures unless they have been degraded to the multi-proxy resolution. This will inevitably flatten Hockey Sticks… so Mann and his ilk just splice the instrumental data onto the reconstruction.

        The people pushing for the Anthropocene are relying extensively on Marcott’s Hockey Stick.

        https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/01/08/run-away-the-anthropocene-has-arrived/

  8. The Holocene is an epoch describing the current interglacial. There are 5 periods (chronozones) within the Holocene. The latest is the Subatlantic from about 2.5 ka to present. Since we are still in the current interglacial perhaps it would be so much better to add a sixth chronozone and call it the Industrial. It would start at a point when human industry started to change the Planet. .

    • Humanity started to change the planet long before the Industrial Age, at least locally.

      For starters, we killed off much of the Pleistocene megafauna, then cut and burned down forests.

      • … then cut and burned down forests.

        Then we replanted them. Man is the only species that tries to remedy the environmental damage it does.

      • David and Bob,

        Yup and yup. Maybe we’ll eventually leave earth to a few hunter-gatherer tribes and most of us will venture out into space.

      • Gabro, September 16, 2016 at 1:09 pm
        Humans tend to know what they believe, rather than believe what they know. Those massive coal seams were megafauna felled and buried, not by the hand of man, but by natural forces.

      • Gabro,
        “we killed off much of the Pleistocene megafauna”
        Certainly – where said megafauna was ‘naif’ – not adjusted to the new, upright, super-predator, that could kill at a distance.
        Spears, Arrows, Traps – all probably took their toll/
        Only now have we extirpated the quagga.
        Elephants, despite their teeth: Rhinos, despite their horns, Hippos, Elk, Giraffe [not helped by yesterday’s ‘division into four species, not one, all still exist.
        Maybe not for very long, outside zoos and reserves, unhappily – but all, save the quagga, made it to the era of machine guns.

        Auto, trying to be aware of the past, whilst also aware of possible futures.

    • The Holocene should be demoted to a stage. Apart from human “dominance,” it’s no different than any of the preceding Late Pleistocene interglacial stages.

      • @David Middleton
        September 16, 2016 at 1:27 pm: Spot on, David. We are not even near to being the dominant lifeform eg plants, ants, termites etc..We can vanish with no lasting effect, unlike many natural processes. Idiotic hubris!

      • Well, it did start with the demise of the Pleistocene megafauna. If geologic intervals are to be based upon life characteristic of them, then a case can be made for the Holocene being different from say, the Eemian, or other prior interglacials.

        But geologically, I have to agree of course. The Pleistocene glaciations will resume.

      • Gabro,

        The difference was probably us. The megafauna would have dealt with the Holocene like they did with the Eemian (Sangamonian), if not for humans.

        I also have to wonder how distinct the Pleistocene-Holocene transition will appear in the fossil record. Most of the megafauna were wiped out at the species and genus level and were survived by similar relatives (elephants… lions and tigers and bears, oh my! (couldn’t resist)). This transition won’t likely be anywhere near as distinct as the Jurassic-Cretaceous transition, much less the Permian-Triassic or Cretaceous-Tertiary. I doubt it would even be close to the Pliocene-Pleistocene transition.

        One would think that the ICS would have a better grasp of the filtering effects of the Earth and Geologic Time.

      • David,

        Great point! Fortunately, some scientists have a clear understanding of humanity’s place in the world. James Lovelock developed the “Gaia” theory of planetary homeostasis. When asked about the likely effects of a nuclear war …

        “… he replied that it would have have very little effect. I said ‘But it could kill off every human!’ He replied ‘Well, yes, it might do that; but I was thinking of effects on the general biosphere.’”

        — From “Unclear Winter” by Charles Sheffield, published in New Destinies, Summer 1988.

      • David,

        I agree that the Holocene shouldn’t rate as an Epoch, but its onset is associated with a minor extinction event, probably largely caused by humans.

        Of course it doesn’t compare with the K/T mass extinction event, which wiped out whole superorders, orders and superfamilies. But the Pleistocene megafauna did indeed suffer genus and family level extinctions. If you include Australia, Madagascar, New Zealand and other oceanic island extinctions (both before and after the Pleistocene/Holocene transition, but associated with humans), then even some families, such as the thylacines (dog-like marsupials).

  9. Do the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) buried within the Earth represent a potential threat?

    Imagine if we could release that threat slowly over time, while also providing fuel and energy for human advancement. With the unintended consequence of re-introducing the base of the food chain back into the cycle of life.

    • What are you talking about–buried beneath the Earth? Coniferous trees exhale isoprene vapor, which greatly contributes to their flammability in hot weather. Turpentine is a pitch extract based on isoprenes. Welcome to the living world, which produces its own VOCs. (I would be cheating to remind everyone that petroleum seeps issue VOCs as a matter of course.) Skunk oil, anyone?

  10. Not could hit. Will hit.
    The Cascadia subduction zone stretches 700 miles from Vancouver BC to northern California. In the last 10000 years it has ruptured 41 times, a frequency of about 250 years. Average Richter 8+. 19 of the 41 were full fault ruptures (the whole 700 miles goes at in about 4.5 minutes), average Richter 9+. The last quake was a full fault rupture in 1700–known to the day and hour because the tsunami was so large it hit Japan hard, resulting in written records.
    So the Pacific NW is now overdue for the big one. Not maybe. The coast side will drop about 6 feet and the ocean side of the fault will rebound at least 30 feet. 30 years ago no one even knew the Cascadia existed, so almost none of the coastal construction in places like Portland, Seattle and Vancouver is earthquake hardened, and much sits in the certain tsunami zone (the PNW side of the 1700 quake tsunami averaged 60-100 feet high depending on where along the coast). Very different than Tohoku in Japan, where most contruction is earthquake hardened, and for centuries built mostly above historical tsunami levels. Tohoku killed 18000, mostly from the Richter 9 tsunami, despite Japan being ‘prepared’. The PNW is NOT prepared. Likely PNW deaths from a partial Cascadia rupture >100,000. Likely deaths from a full rupture >1000000. FEMA’s planning assumption is that everything west of interstate 5 will be wiped out completely. The tsunami will hit about 12 minutes after the quake; most will not have been able to evacuate.

    So lets worry about dubious future global warming in the Anthropocene instead.

    • Government just needs to pass some new taxes and regulations to combat plate tectonics… It would be just as useful as their war against the weather… {SARC}

      • DM
        Plus scores!!
        Scores and scores.
        Fortunately, wine glass and mouth were not in juxtaposition, otherwise – ‘New Monitor . . . .’

        Disappointing sign or two that T. May, PM here, may be considering a law about kids being thick, or lazy, or distracted. I am concerned T. May wants equal outcome, rather than equal opportunities – even into the thirties for folk, like me, that only ‘need’/want a degree when they’ve ben in the labour force a decade or two. Or forties or – if you can remember how to count to B I G numbers . . . .

        Auto – maturing nicely now!

    • Oh, great. I was planning on retiring in about 4 months, with most of my worries over. As it happens, I live a few miles east of Interstate 5 in the PNW (Federal Way). I don’t imagine that will help very much. And I had been congratulating myself that I did not settle in the Kent Valley, which is a known efflux path for pyroclastic and mud flows from an eruptive Mount Rainier.

      Any good thoughts on a concrete hardened bunker?

      • You might want to look into these type homes:

        http://www.monolithic.org/

        I seem to recall one along the gulf coast that was hit by a hurricane. The homeowners rode out the storm safely inside with friends, but the wrought iron stairs outside was torn off by the storm surge, iirc.

      • Wow. Pure genius. Thanks for the reference. I used to be fascinated by domed structures when I was much younger. Got disaffected when they started to look clunky.

    • The Japanese have many tsunami warning systems and if one watches the many videos the Japanese citizens made on You Tube, you can see many ran to high ground and thus, survived. The death toll would have been much higher if they didn’t heed the tsunami warnings. Also, it was fairly offshore so they had time to run but I fear the Cascadia tsunami will give no real warning to run uphill and in most places, uphill isn’t high enough for a major tsunami.

    • ristvan:

      30 years ago no one even knew the Cascadia existed, so almost none of the coastal construction in places like Portland, Seattle and Vancouver is earthquake hardened…

      I don’t think that is totally true. I did earthquake studies in university in the 60’s in Vancouver. The employee owned company I worked for did earthquake “hardening” of bridges and civil engineering structures for my entire engineering career from California to BC to Alaska and beyond.

      In the 60’s we were taught that the biggest issue might not be earthquake damage but slides and tsunami effects (and if it was during wet season, whole areas would be wiped out my mudslides. Hardening would be of little use in that case.)

      If/when the big one hits during the wet season in Vancouver, for example, the whole of the North Shore could slide into Burrard Inlet due to the angle of the bedrock on which the upper layers are sited. I believe Seattle may have the same issue.

      Think California mud slides with a big shaker added.

      Tsunamis are unquestionably a big deal, as we saw recently in Japan and not so long ago in Port Alberni and before that in the records of the coastal people along the Eastern Pacific per your references (and Juneau).

      You may be correct about the Cascadia in particular but we have known about the faulting from California to BC for a long time, at least since the 60’s though the Cascadia was thought to be inactive back then. Human time frame references are so short. Relativity and perspective.

      Thanks for the comment and summary. I went and refreshed my memory.

      The FEMA reference I found predicts only 13,000 deaths from a big Cascadia but lots of damage and lost transport affecting 3.5 million people.

      Your FEMA numbers seem more appropriate. I must be reading old information.

    • Ristvan: I agree that the COASTAL Pacific Northwest is extremely vulnerable to the tsunami that will follow a typical large earthquake in the Cascadia subduction zone, but the idea that everything west of I-5 could be wiped out with 12 minutes warning seems to be a vast exaggeration. Nevertheless, the death toll is likely to far exceed the 1245 people who died from Katrina, the worst US natural disaster in the last half century.

      IMO, the Japanese Tohoku 9.0 earthquake in 2011 is an excellent model for what the Pacific NW has a 50+% of experiencing in the next few centuries. The biggest exception is that the fault lies closer to the coast in the PNW providing a worst case of 30 minutes vs 1 hour to reach high ground. In Japan, 10 m above sea level provided safety almost everywhere, but the Japanese sea walls were all lower because their worst-case scenario planned for a weaker earthquake. Given the limited time to reach safer ground, many people (assuming they plan ahead) in the Pacific NW will face a difficult choice of trying to reach relative safety 30 feet above sea level (perhaps at the top of a strong building) or absolute safety 100 ft or more above sea level. The tsunami following the larger Sumatra earthquake reached that high. Governments and experts are much more comfortable defining locations which are absolutely safe – but unreachable in limited time – instead of reachable and relatively safe.

      The biggest populations centers with older building that might fail catastrophically are fairly far away from the fault itself.

  11. Consider for the moment the number of disasters we, as a species, have avoided.

    Malthus’ prediction of population crashes from food shortages is 218 years old. We must be doing something right to have reached seven billion people on this planet.

    How many years overdue is the Peak Oil point?

    True, we were not able to avoid the disasters of WWI and WWII. Nor did we avoid the Communism of Stalin and Mao that killed more humans than any other disaster. But we have recovered

    Surely is possible that we are getting closer to the cliff. See this image from “Limits to Growth, 40 years later.” http://www.thwink.org/sustain/glossary/images/SystemDynamics_LimitsToGrowthGraph40YearComparison.png

    Doomsdays have been predicted before. See The Doomsday Myth Which recounts 10 episodes over the past 10,000 years where we had serious resource shortages and we fixed them. It is a good read from a historical and economics angle.

    If you look closely at the Limits to Growth Resources line, Their actual and predicted lines are diverging significantly with very different slopes. This line is a key driver of the entire LTG model. So lessons from the Doomsday Myth are visible in that difference.

    • Stephen,

      “Their actual and predicted lines are diverging significantly with very different slopes.”

      For a forecast made in 1972 — a low-budget project with that era’s limited data, primitive computers, and early-stage modeling tools — that forecast looks like a home run. The authors of Limits strongly and repeatedly said that theirs was just a first cut at this project — not the final word.

      • Not a home run. Base hit at best.
        The first derivatives in the 70’s were mostly known it was the second and higher derivatives that were the contention, plus the assumptions on growth of resources due to technology.

        I do not have my 1978 copy handy — in a box somewhere.
        But CoR had many different scenarios. I don’t know which one is diagrammed above.

        My main point is that their model’s crash in resources and exponential growth in population we criticized when I was in grad school in ’78-80. as being too pessimistic.

      • Stephen,

        Was Limits as “base hit” or a “homer run” (an innovative and well-executed early cut at the problem)? You compare it to what we learned a decade or more later. I suggest a better comparison would be to other attempts at long-term global modeling.

        Did anyone do better at that time? If not, than it’s a home run IMO.

        As for the predicted crash — we haven’t reached that point in time, so cannot say that they are wrong. However, it seems unlikely. Still, a 1972 forecast of that scale has to be held to low standards. Getting a 60 or 70 year forecast of this kind right is probably difficult for us today.

        Most important, they accurately positioned their work — with due mention of its tentative nature as a first try. That alone deserves a blue ribbon award, and their example has been too-seldom followed by those following them (or even by some of their members, speaking on their own).

      • “Limits” was flat out wrong and based on bogus methods. It was the first bite at the Great Scare as social hearding device brought to you by The Club Of Rome… same folks pushing AGW.

        I had an entire class devoted to deconstructing that book (Econ 136, first version of the book, early 70s).

        The most fundamental problem is they simply projected exponential growth against fixed or at most linear growth resources. A bogus “model” at best. It ALWAYS finds crash and doom.

        Real resources have exponential growth with price rise and technical advances. ( We started using natural100 % native copper. Now we use fractional % ores.)

        Real populations grow with an S shaped curve.

        It, most importantly, completely ignored resource substitution. The stone age did not end for lack of stones… We have not run out of hay for our horses… despite our billions, we shifted to oil. The Great Tube Shortage avoided by transistors… Then the looming Lithium shortage for all those Tesla batteries ignores the just as good Sodium and Potassium Ion batterys waiting in the wings. Repeat infinitely…

        Oh, and per not there yet. BS. They predicted (can that projected crap) nat gas GONE in the 1980s and other stuff over the next 40 years. All in the rear view mirror now. But when caught out, make a new version with later dates…

        They also ignored technology advancement. Horizontal drilling and fracking, anyone? Basalt molded into rebar, replacing iron? Nuclear power and uranium from seawater give us electricity cheaper than wind for the next million years… and so much more. They all exist NOW.

        “Limits” is just barely computerized Malthusian Paranoia.

  12. Maybe these speculations would sell if turned into a book, and sold as “FICTION” ?

    My antidote for climate predictions:
    (1) Close eyes for video and/or plug both ears with fingers for audio, and
    (2) Hum the national anthem loud enough to silence climate scaremongers

    I am trying to figure out the purpose of this post and … I can’t.
    I believe it is time for author Larry Kummer to have his head examined.
    I’ve had my head examined, and they found nothing.

    I believe the biggest climate disaster of all, is failing to notice that the current climate is wonderful, and enjoying it, without worrying about some coming disaster.

    • R.G.: “I am trying to figure out the purpose of this post and … I can’t.
      I believe it is time for author Larry Kummer to have his head examined”

      Perhaps you should click on the “About” tab for this site! You would see this:
      “About Watts Up With That? News and commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology, and recent news by Anthony Watts”.

    • Richard,

      Can you provide some evidence that you read the post? Your comment gives the impression that you didn’t.

      “I believe the biggest climate disaster of all, is failing to notice that the current climate is wonderful, and enjoying it, without worrying about some coming disaster.”

      The word “climate” does not appear in the post, nor does it assume that scientists will — or should — declare this era the Anthropocene.

      “Maybe these speculations… ”

      This describes past natural disasters that are almost certain to repeat, eventually. That’s not “speculation.”

      “I’ve had my head examined, and they found nothing.”

      Your comment confirms this.

  13. Just because Humans are the only animal smart enough to be able to name Epochs, it doesn’t mean we are one.

    Yes, we’re leaving a mark but what difference does that make.

    • None at all… Since the end of the Anthropocene would have to be coincident with the end of us… No one will be around to name the next geologic age, epoch, period or eon.

    • So…should we say that the resultant geologic disfigurement from a meteor collision is an Epoch-mark?

      • Not just an epoch but an era. The last big meteorite impact marks the boundary between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras, ~66 Ma.

        We live in the Holocene Epoch of the Neogene Period of the Cenozoic Era of the Phanerozoic Eon. The dino-destroying impact occurred at the boundary of the Paleogene Period of the Cenozoic Era with the Cretaceous Period of the Mesozoic Era. At finer resolution, also the boundary of the Maastrichtian Age of the Late Cretaceous Epoch with the Danian of the Paleocene Epoch.

  14. How horrible when organisms change the planet.
    Like humans increasing atmospheric CO2 from 0.03 to 0.04%
    Like Silurian and Carboniferous plants and trees covering pristine arid deserts with humic soils.
    Like those slimy cyanobacteria who changed oxygen from 0 to 20% and oxidised all that iron.
    Maybe ecologically responsible geo-engineering should cut down all those trees, and reverse the oxygenation catastrophe also – return to earth its reducing oxygen free methane and CO2 dominated atmosphere.
    O wait …

    • I would say that “history” shows that–no matter what–human civilization remains to record its continued survival and flourishing.

  15. You cannot make a complex civilization fail-safe from collapse. In fact you might accelerate its collapse by dedicating too many resources trying.

    • Javier,

      Risk management is seldom about making things “fail-safe”. Nor is a binary task — we do or don’t. It’s about managing risks. Some can be avoided; most can be mitigated — always with an awareness of other use for our resources, rationally weighing costs vs. benefits.

      • We don’t do very well cost/benefit analysis when human lives are involved because we tend to think that human lives are priceless (curious concept when we are all destined to die). The result is layer upon layer of regulations, bureaucracy, jobs and resources dedicated to save a few people (often from themselves), expensive rescues, and escalating health costs. Soon the economy has problems to function from excessive drag and we wonder what’s wrong. We are building ourselves a system so expensive that we can’t afford it, so then we finance it with debt and pretend everything is fine.

        But I am sure you have yourself a good set of proposal to spend even more money to protect us from things that might never happen.

      • Javier,

        “We don’t do very well cost/benefit analysis when human lives are involved because we tend to think that human lives are priceless ”

        Corporations and governments routinely do this efficiently and coldly. The rare occasions that these hit the news sometimes produces outrage, and sometimes even produces action. But those are a tiny fraction of the countless cost-benefit calculations made very day — almost never assuming “human lives are priceless.”

      • Larry,

        For-profit corporations are effective in calculating risk/benefit ratios because we have to take risks to make money.

        Governments certainly have the ability to be effective; however they generally lack the proper motive. All too often, they will inflate the risks with fabricated metrics (Social Cost of Carbon, EROEI, etc.) and inflate the benefits with unverifiable metrics (x deaths to be averted); then compound this with discount rates that are nothing less than fraudulent. Since many, if not most, government policies are politically motivated, government has the exactly wrong motives and too little accountability to generate reliable cost/benefit ratios.

      • David,

        “Governments certainly have the ability to be effective; however they generally lack the proper motive.”

        In reality-land, right now, the massive “elite” corporations are what corrupts the motivations of those in Government, more than anything else, it seems to me. Do you want corporations (groups of people seeking more money) to rule over us? Why won’t that lead to virtual slavery for most of humanity? I see nothing at all standing in the way of that very thing, at this very moment . . besides Government; of, for, and by the people.

        You can play around all you like with labels, but if corporations become our ultimate rulers, they will become the rulers of “politics” too, obviously . .

        You can’t serve two masters, I’ve heard it said . . Which do corporations serve?

  16. “Our crowded world, sustained by complex global systems, could suffer a million deaths and vast physical damage. Failure to prepare rationally for the full spectrum of risks — natural and anthropogenic — is a luxury we can no longer afford. Our resources are limited, so we must use them wisely. See the next section for posts discussion how we can do so …”.
    ===========================================
    Will Larry save the world?
    Don’t miss the next installment (although from past posts I think I know where this is heading).

  17. Larry,

    “All these things have occurred in the past and will occur again. We lack the ability to predict their dates and locations — but we can prepare for them. But with a few exceptions we do not do so, as our ruling elites preferring to focus instead on threats with politically useful cures (i.e., those that justify increased government powers). That might be an expensive obsession.”

    Who is this “we” you speak of? The “ruling elites” does not include you or I, so please use the term “they” when discussing what the ruling elites are or have been up to. Otherwise, you generate the idea that “we” can somehow do this or that to prepare when by definition it’s up to the ruling elites . . Got to depose them first, or “we” have no such power, right?

    • John,

      You raise and important point, one of the core themes on the FM website (from which this is reposted).

      America is a Republic and as its citizens we have full responsibility for it — which is why I speak of “we”.
      I believe we are failing as citizens through our apathy and passivity. The political machinery the Founders gave us remains powerful, waiting only for us to power it with our effort.

      For more about this I recommend this post, You’ll find it worth your time.

    • Larery,

      “America is a Republic and as its citizens we have full responsibility for it ”

      Regardless of what the people are told by the Government and mass media? . . Didn’t employ our magical powers to force them all to truthfully inform us, eh Mr. Blame the Victims? ; )

      • PS~ You have successfully convinced me that you are an elitist, bent on helping the “ruling elites” avoid blame for what they’ve done. Your posts always made me suspect, but that blame the people no matter what is done to them crap sealed the deal.

      • John,

        (1) The Federalist papers discuss our responsibility at great length. It is ours, regardless of the circumstances and the odds. Previous generations of America overcame far greater problems with far greater odds.

        (2) “Regardless of what the people are told by the Government and mass media?”

        Yes, they lie to us often. See The Big List of Lies by our Leaders. Look at that list. After the lies were uncovered, how many of those leaders were penalized by the US public for their lies?

        A first step — simple in concept, difficult in practice — is for us to prioritize accurate information.

        Learning skepticism, an essential skill for citizenship in 21st century America.
        We cannot agree on simple facts and so cannot reform America.
        Our minds are addled, the result of skillful and expensive propaganda.
        Remembering is the first step to learning. Living in the now is ignorance.
        Swear allegiance to the truth as a step to reforming America.

        (3) “Didn’t employ our magical powers to force them all to truthfully inform us”

        Elections are held every two years.

        (4) “that blame the people no matter what”

        Poor baby. You have a good cry. Other Americans will work to reform America.

      • “Yes, they lie to us often.”

        And when a con artist successfully dupes some soft heated soul out of some money by claiming it’s for “charity”, you figure it’s the marks own fault . . right, Larry? Shoulda known better, eh? . . prolly got the money by illicit means and fate caught up with them, eh? Maybe they did some terrible stuff in a past life, and Karma balanced the scales of universal justice, as ever, eh, slick?

        Seriously, drop the judgmental all-knowing God routine, I suggest.

      • heh- i also recoil at evangelism in any form (even my own)- but it’s also true that the root of all evil dies if not watered.

      • I don’t see why “the love of money” would die if not watered, gnomish . . that one seems to be with us for the duration, so to speak ; )

      • i didn’t mean values of any kind, of course.
        i meant the real root of all evil, collectivism (the flip side of that coin being altruism)

      • Hmm . . I think “collectivism” is now just a tactical gimmick, not an actual goal of those employing the gimmick. They have no intention whatsoever of joining whatever “collective” they might pretend to be championing/erecting, so it would be no more a true “collective” than what typically happened throughout history, with a tiny elite ruling over a vast population of underlings . . it seems to me.

        I agree the tactic/false promise gives rise to very much evil, but the love of money is at the root of that particular evil still, I think.

      • perhaps my understanding of collectivism is different that yours?
        i think it is a strategy with innumerable tactics, beginning with indoctrination of children to accept sacrifice as a virtue. (sacrifice is the exchange of something of value for something of lesser value)
        the purpose of teaching altruism is to persuade the victim to voluntarily submit to predation and feel guilty if he won’t
        or maybe you are seeing only the collectivist fantasy as presented and not the reality: collectivism requires administration by elites and the administration consumes 90% of the values it acquires by means of this strategy without resorting to force, which is expensive and requires an enforcer who has to be paid – something that, while the money follows the same path and ends up in the same hands- has a very different appearance and tenor and is completely uneconomical.

      • you know what, johnknight?
        i read your comments more thoughtfully and i think you do understand the nature of collectivism.
        i think we are having a semantic quibble and actually agree completely.

        but that’s not what i was addressing, initially.
        you commented that “And when a con artist successfully dupes some soft heated soul out of some money by claiming it’s for “charity”, you figure it’s the marks own fault”

        and i want to question that perspective because – who is responsible for the product of your mind?
        who is responsible for what you think?
        who owns you?

        if the answer to all three questions is ‘I do.’ then why make an effort to absolve the owner for responsibility for his own beliefs, decisions and actions?

        if the answer to any of the questions is anything else- you have justified elitism, as i construe it.

        in other words, if you hire somebody to screw you and you got what you paid for where is justification for any complaint?

        and that puts the discussion into the realm of ‘what is a credible threat?’ this is something i’d like to explore further. is ‘monster under the bed’ a credible threat if somebody really believes in it?
        the nub of it: if you believe in the bogeyman- whose problem is that and who is responsible for dealing with it?

      • Gnomish,

        “but that’s not what i was addressing, initially.
        you commented that “And when a con artist successfully dupes some soft hea[r]ted ; ) soul out of some money by claiming it’s for “charity”, you figure it’s the marks own fault”

        and i want to question that perspective because – who is responsible for the product of your mind?”

        If you intentionally put a false idea into someone’s mind, you are responsible for it being there, naturally, it seems to me. It’s not the “product” of their mind, but yours.

        “if the answer to any of the questions is anything else- you have justified elitism, as i construe it.

        in other words, if you hire somebody to screw you and you got what you paid for where is justification for any complaint?”

        The “mark” in my example didn’t pay for someone to screw them . . that’s not what they paid for, it’s just what they got. I don’t see how my view of it would justify elitism . .

        e·lit·ism
        [əˈlēdˌizəm]
        NOUN

        the advocacy or existence of an elite as a dominating element in a system or society.
        the attitude or behavior of a person or group who regard themselves as belonging to an elite

        (oxford)

        To me, not seeing it in that simple way justifies us being ruled by elite con artists . . which is exactly what I think is “under the bed” . . don’t you?

      • hey! very good. there are a few items to discuss, now- but if you don’t mind, i’d like to take them one by one.

        “If you intentionally put a false idea into someone’s mind, you are responsible for it being there, naturally, it seems to me. It’s not the “product” of their mind, but yours.”

        here are some things i challenge you to reconcile re the principle embodied in that statement:

        1- if i tell you to jump in the lake and you do it- who is responsible for getting wet?
        2- if somebody causes harm to another, does this give you any claim whatsoever?
        3- if somebody has the inalienable right to own himself, his mind, the product of his labor- does he also get full responsibility for himself, his thougths and his deeds?

        if the answers to any of the above do not place all responsibility on the person who does the living, thinking and doing- how is this not a rationale for ‘brother’s keepering’ ? (the other name for elitism cuz it requires the premise of ‘big brother’)

      • gnomish,

        “but first- i have to remark that you qualified your statement with the word ‘intentionally’”

        I’m losing confidence in the potential that I am speaking to a truly rational person, honest . . I was speaking to someone who himself acknowledged that we have been lied to, a lot, by people in positions of authority . . and I spoke of a con artist deceiving someone, so, the intentionally aspect is a given, not something I added as an “escape clause”. It’s integral to what I was talking about.

        “1- if i tell you to jump in the lake and you do it- who is responsible for getting wet?”

        If you’re dressed as a firefighter, and yell at me that there is a bomb nearby about to go off; you are, right? If you brandish a gun and say you will shoot me if I don’t jump; you are, right? If I am desperate for money and you promise to pay me well; you are at least partially responsible, right?

        “so please stipulate that intentions are irrelevant for the purposes of our discussion.”

        No, absolutely not . . that’s integral to everything I said here . .

    • but first- i have to remark that you qualified your statement with the word ‘intentionally’
      this is the legendary escape clause that justifies anything. it’s what paves the road to hell, as they say.
      intentions are neither crimes (they give rise to no legitimate claim because they are not deeds) nor are they excuses for doing harm. intentions can not be claimed as damages nor can they absolve a perpetrator of responsibility for damages he may do with ‘the best intentions’
      so please stipulate that intentions are irrelevant for the purposes of our discussion.
      let us deal in objective facts, principles and not base anything on guessing what may be in the mind of somebody or anybody.

      • so you draw some kind of distinction with respect to responsibility for one’s actions based on intention, then?
        why?
        mind – i’m familiar with the argument and it’s a means of evading responsibility. there is no other point to it.
        it’s currency wherever excuses are coin. some people traffic in failure and that’s how that coin is minted.

        and you have arrived, now, where i said you would- at what constitutes a credible threat – what with bombs and guns, na?
        and i think you get the picture of what’s coming down the pike when you can not come up with a principle to defend.
        but i’m in a generous mood, so let me give you the news:
        all ethical matters can be resolved by examining just 2 things: ownership and damage.

        i don’t mind examining ‘extreme’ situations to test principles- but first you must have a grasp of the principles.
        if you do, then you won’t have any difficulty expressing them as i have done above.

        if something belongs to another person, you have no business messing with it- or do you imagine your business is otherwise? perhaps you don’t care to acknowledge rights?
        and if there is no damage, there is no claim. i’m sure you’ve heard of ‘victimless crime’, which is a self contradiction (at least if crime means doing wrong rather than simply disobeying somebody’s orders)

        but perhaps you are not clear on the nature of right and wrong?

        i think you have yet to examine the nature of ethics in depth. i think you are aware that you are not equipped to pursue this discussion further and wish to run away. i think you are used to being the smartest person in the room and you’re no longer in that room.
        you can’t lose confidence in anything but yourself- wanna blame me for that?
        and know that your intentions don’t matter a bit. you are what you do.
        and look what you are doing now.

  18. Another inevitable Ice Age will doom 99% of all humans. This is because when it happens and all Ice Ages happen rather suddenly, the Great Powers with nukes will destroy each other’s populations and habitable places and then glaciers will finish off much of Europe, all of Canada, the NE USA, etc. Then the survivors have to wait around 100,000 years for the next Interglacial to start civilization all over again.

    • Glaciations do not come suddenly. They are a very slow process. Deglaciations are a lot more sudden, meaning the Planet gets out of the glaciation in about 4,000 years. The process of getting into a glaciation is much slower and can take more than 10,000 years. Hollywood condenses that into a day, that’s probably why you are under the impression that they are a sudden event.

      • Are there any theories as to what, say, an RSS type temperature data set might look like over 200 to 500 years as it descended toward an ice age? My point being, what window on running averages would one look at and what might the amplitude of the noise in the temps look like. Just curious if anyone has done/ could even do something plausible looking based on the small bit if real historic data we have.

    • It takes a long time for the ice sheets to build up from snows not melting totally in summer. If the Laurentide Ice Sheet be 3280 meters thick, then it grows maybe only on average a foot per year for 10,000 years. The snow gets compressed into ice, then persists for about another 90,000 years until the next interglacial. But it melts off in just a few thousand years.

  19. If humans truly had the ability to shape climate and terraform Mars, real estate values would be climbing in Utah.

    After that happens, I’ll concede the “Anthropocene” is in ascendance.

  20. Hubriocene: Selff centered arrogant a-hole baby boomers that actually think their micro footprint on this world affects anything.

    • It’s not baby-boomers. The Anthropocene is a product of willfully unfocused thinking in service to Sociologists deluding themselves that they’re thinking important thoughts.

      The so-called scientists most playing into the Anthropocene nonsense are climatologists like Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt, neither of whom are baby boomers. Kevin Trenberth fits the boomer bill, as does James Hansen (leading edge perhaps), but Stefan Rahmstorf doesn’t nor does Ben Santer.

      So it’s not about generations. Its about incompetence.

      Sociology in general has been seduced by Critical Theory into fuzzy-minded but immensely satisfying grand sweeping pronouncements about society. It’s no surprise they should find a salubrious connection with climate scientists, who have likewise jettisoned analytical science in favor of nonsensically grandiose pronouncements. Both groups have abandoned the reductionist program of science, both groups put their conclusions before their analyses, both groups honor incompetents.

      The Anthropocene is their work-product.

      • “The Anthropocene is a product of willfully unfocused thinking in service to Sociologists deluding themselves that they’re thinking important thoughts.”

        In this article, the Anthropocene Age is a geological designation, in which humanity is said to be a major force in shaping earth’s geology.

        The Anthropocene Age scientific paradigm is not to be confused with the Anthropocene Age in terms of geology.

        Although…the Anthropocene Age scientific paradigm does require interdisciplinary study of the effect of man on the environment. So not just geology but all science, all arts, and all of the soft sciences, will participate and be guided by the ruling paradigm. And of course when there is a scientific paradigm shift, the past must be rewritten in light of the new paradigm.

        The aim is to blame every chemical, em wave, power source, and crop or domestic animal for triggering tipping points in the environment and for causing disease, and the goal sustainable development.

      • when the economy was based on manufacturing, things were different.
        then came the ‘blow m… er.. service economy’
        and then came the activism industry- of which blogs are one example.
        do you doubt?
        http://www.water-bar.org/
        makes your inner annelid do that reverse peristalsis thing, don’t it?

  21. When the next glaciation gets well under way and the continental shelves begin reappearing, the uncovered cities and villages will be a good marker for the start of the Anthropocene. I’d think that there would also be some of the earliest stone tools. As for the end marker, there will be another layer of stone tools. In between those boundary layers, will be a sandwich of copper, bronze, iron, steel tools and quixotic jumble of plastic and mixed-material devices.

  22. Tons of interesting comments here, my apologies if I’m duplicating someone else’s points; The disaster movies we saw around Y2K made a good sampling of possible extinction level events for humanity, and should have driven home the point that all our eggs are literally and figuratively in one basket: Earth.
    Business has a tool called gap analysis, which takes into account where we are and where we want to be, and tries to work out the intermediate steps. In our case, we want to work out what to do in order to survive until our tech improves to the point where we can travel to and live on other planets. An example of a no-no would be having so much orbital junk that planetary escape is no longer feasible. This should be a workable short-term goal….

  23. Well, if some freshly developed scientific species comes along in, say, 70 million years – say, 69.95 million years after the demise of us, those geologists will certainly be able to point to a very defined layer of some very unusual geological happening at that time. Further examination will prove that an advanced civilisation did indeed exist about 70 million years earlier – imagine the sensation in that future civilisation!

    And I am sure they will find a word to describe it – anthropocene is a good enough word.

    • I should have been more specific : I wrote “69.95 million years” – let me now correct that to 69.99995 million years from now. I completely forgot that mankind, because of climate change, will gone from the face of the earth very, very soon. Sorry!

  24. OT but worthy:

    W.P. Kinsella, the Alberta-born author of “Shoeless Joe,” the award-winning novel that became the film “Field of Dreams,” has died at 81.

    There is something very special about baseball – the great American game. Bill Kinsella captured the magic.

    Regards to all, Allan in Calgary

  25. The climate change we have been experiencing is caused by the sun and the oceans over which Mankind has no control. There is no real evidence that CO2 has any effect on climate. Our real ecological problem is Mankind’s out of control population. It is a problem that we do have the power to solve. If Mankind does not control his own population then Nature will, catastrophically.

  26. The human race lives in an increasingly complex world, and we are largely governed by scoundrels and imbeciles. Remedying this very serious problem is our greatest challenge, and we are doing a damned poor job.

    There are over 200 nations on our planet, and only about 10% of them have effective Rule of Law. These, not coincidentally, are the wealthy ones. The rest are poor, because without Rule of Law, and Respect for Rule of Law, prosperity withers. The populations in these poor countries live their days in fear of government brutality, hunger, disease, and the premature death of those they love.

    Even in the wealthy few nations, Rule of Law is under threat, because we continue to elect scoundrels and imbeciles. A prime example in the wealthy few is the widespread preoccupation with global warming hysteria, and the squandering of many trillions of dollars of scarce resources on this false crisis.

    The is no real global warming crisis, except in the minds of fools. The reason this is false crisis exists in the wealthy countries is that only the wealthy can afford to be this stupid. The poor countries are looking on, seeing how they can get a handout – most of which will go to enhancing the lavish lifestyles of their corrupt elite.

    A prime example of the stupidity of our politicians is their war against fossil fuels. Fully 86% of global primary energy is from fossil fuels – oil, coal, and natural gas. For most of us, fossil fuels keep our families from freezing and starving to death – it IS that simple.

    Despite trillions of dollars in wasted subsidies, only about 2% of global primary energy is from renewables, and even that figure is exaggerated. Intermittent wind and solar power are forced into the electrical grid ahead of much cheaper and more reliable conventional energy, resulting in increased electricity bills, increased winter mortality among the elderly and the poor, and destabilized electrical grids. Politicians, radical greens, scoundrels and imbeciles see this as a good thing (note: the aforementioned terms are not mutually exclusive).

    There are real problems in our world that demand our attention, but we are wasting our resources on the false crisis of global warming – in a world that is probably about to cool due to natural causes that we barely understand.

    Regards to all, Allan

    Notes:

    The following numbers are from the 2015 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, for the year 2014:
    http://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/pdf/energy-economics/statistical-review-2015/bp-statistical-review-of-world-energy-2015-primary-energy-section.pdf

    Global Primary Energy Consumption by Fuel is:
    86% Fossil Fuel (Oil, Coal and Natural Gas),
    4% Nuclear,
    7% Hydro,
    and 2% Renewables.

    That 2% for Renewables is vastly exaggerated, and would be less than 1% if intermittent wind and solar power were not forced into the electrical grid ahead of much cheaper and more reliable conventional power.

  27. I would respectfully suggest that we live in the Anthropomorphic Age. The age where we project our anxieties and hubris on to the world around us and see ourselves instead of recognize the vast natural processes that actually operate the world. For those afflicted, they don’t see natural processes in a storm or flood or heatwave
    They only see their inner fears and superstitious beliefs. Another good name that comes to mind when listening to the climate obsessed is “Age of Fools”.

  28. The misanthroposcene will ultimately be known as the human interglacial.

    The Yellowstone hot spot was very active during Laramide time in the Eocene.
    http://geosciencebigpicture.com/2013/10/12/yellowstone-hot-spot-or-not/

    The Cascadia subduction zone does not even register among worldwide Benioff zones of small earthquakes along the shear zones, and it is probably transitioning to strike slip.

    Yet it unquestionably has produced hugely destructive events.

    Here are some gps vector arrows scaled to motion rate.

  29. Our resources are limited, so we must use them wisely.

    In the mathematical sense that Earth is finite, this is accurate. However, from a human perspective, our resources are effectively unlimited, if we exploit them wisely.

    For centuries, Malthusians have trotted out one invisible bogeyman after another (Malthusians pre-date Malthus by at least a few thousand years). The disaster is just over the horizon, just around the corner or like a bear lurking in the woods.

    The Earth is finite; but humans have barely tapped its resources… We will still barely be tapping the Earth’s resources when we hit the 10 billion mark about 90 years down the road… And the Malthusians will still be warning us about the bear in the woods.

    The only thing the world has a genuine shortage of is honest and competent people in gov’t. Almost all of our problems are due to political interference with market forces.

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/01/25/the-simon-erlich-wager-at-seven-billion-people/

  30. a powerful solar storm that wrecks the planet’s electronics (as a repeat of the 1859 Carrington Event would do), the impact of a largish asteroid or comet, or one of the many other perils of the Earth.

    The advantage — or you could say the “preparedness” — in a country like the US during a natural disaster lies in its distribution and shipping.

    Places like Walmart and Home Depot have the most efficient shipping system in the world. In emergencies, this means that as soon as roads are passable, these trucks can arrive with food and with medical and building supplies. In some cases, before a storm hits or before record low temperatures hit, these stores stock up on supplies for that exact situation. People can board up their windows and buy bottled water, etc..

    Politicians, on the other hand, just show up for pictures after the fact, and hand out checks.

    So the take-home point is, the gas and diesel engines which can still function after an EMP or after a CME allow the most preparedness that can be expected, here on the planet earth. That means fossil fuel engines which can function without computer parts if needed.

  31. So where is the safest place to live on this earth? Not that I have a choice.
    Maybe the lunchroom at Carlsbad Cavern’s National Park, NM? It is 800 ft. below the surface.
    And I’m sure they have extra food stored away…if a Carrington Event occurred how would that event influence living there? I guess the elevator wouldn’t work…
    “It is now evident that Carlsbad Cavern was one of the last caves to be dissolved in the Guadalupe Mountains-around 4 to 6 million years ago.”
    It has survived for 4 to 6 million years, that’s a long time without having been hit by an asteroid, major earthquake, tsunami (of course), etc.

  32. I think one should be a little careful about interpreting the word “collapse”, and maybe not relegating all who use (or used) it to the tinfoil hat brigade. Population collapse is (or was) a respectable word in science until it got appropriated by the hatters. Nowadays scientists are sometimes more likely to use the word “decline” to avoid the doomster scenarios, but there are serious reasons to fear (hope, maybe) that a major decline in the human population lies in the not too distant future, a decline that would fit the word “collapse” as it is used in population dynamics.

    http://news.mit.edu/2013/warning-signs-of-population-collapse-0410

    If we observed any other natural population growing as the human one has done, what would we predict?

    Le Chatelier told us that a system under stress reacts in a direction to relieve the stress. In order to make predictions about the direction of reaction one must understand the dynamics of the components of the system. The least understood part of our system is between our ears. Most of our political systems and social assumptions are based on a “blank slate” understanding of human nature. These assumptions are being proven wrong every day, although there is yet a vigorous rear-guard defense being fought by the bien pensant.

    Events (such as the SMOD or an all-out nuclear launch) that would bring about a “Mad Max” future are extremely low probability. With existing and technically feasible weapons, events that would make a major dent in the human population require little more than “business as usual” unless one assumes that the relative peace of the last 70 years, the “Pax Americana,” marks a change in human behavior.

    In a Venn diagram of our current world there are two growing, but currently non-intersecting circles: those who have the technical ability to unleash major plagues, and those who would unleash them if only they could. What are the chances the circles will never intersect?

    http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/08/24/zika-is-just-the-first-front-in-the-21st-century-biowar/

    “Zika Is Just the First Front in the 21st Century Biowar”

    “Why a new era of synthetic biology could make the dangers of the atomic age seem quaint.”

    • fred,

      “If we observed any other natural population growing as the human one has done, what would we predict?”

      Just as the rapid rise in population hasn’t yet produced the collapse long predicted by doomsters from Malthus to The Population Bomb Ehlrich (1968) — so a decline in population need not produce the horrific consequences implied by “collapse.”

      Consider Japan. Japan’s government has worried about its overpopulation since the Meiji Restoration when they had about 3 million people (1868). They encouraged emigration to Korea, to no effect. They had 50 million in 1910, 100 million in 1967, and a peak in 2008 at 128 million — all crowded into a narrow urban belt along the coast.

      At their current level of fertility, by 2100 their population might be half of today’s, back to the level of 1930. If fertility continues to fall, population might fall to 60 million (1925) or even 50 million (1910). The effect on Japan’s environment would be wonderful. Japan could become a garden with the cleaner technology of that future era (a common question in grade-school history will be “Teacher, what is ‘pollution’?”).

      For more about this see:

      * Must our population grow to ensure prosperity?

      * A rocky road lies ahead to a far smaller world population.

      * For example: Why Japan can become an economic star of the 21st century.

  33. It is important not to send out a message of refusal to recognise any human impact on the environment. This is not scientifically defensible and risks portraying a reactionary nihilistic insularity in a way which further radicalises and provides ammunition to eco-activists. Increasing unhelpful polarisation.

    Concern for real human threats to the environment must be based on scientific reality, however, and not get sucked down the plughole of the Paul Ehrlich-esque grotesque and farsically erroneous doom prophecy simply based on very bad science. It’s not enough to have save-the-planet saintly motivation. We really have to get the science right. That is why the CO2 warming question most definitely is not settled. Those who would sweep scientific process and truth aside for the sake of the “cause” are serving only their own tribalistic narcissism and do no service to future generations.

  34. This line isn’t original with me, although I can’t immediately remember the source – but the name should be the ‘Adjust-o-cene’.

  35. Hubris, the most human of traits. We never seem to shake it, nor even think about it, but it never ceases to trip us up. Proving again and again how stupid we are.

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