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Today, it is humans who are the asteroid

 
 
Reply Mon 8 Jul, 2019 08:24 pm
Written in 2014
https://chomsky.info/20140904/

The End of History?
The short, strange era of human civilization
would appear to be drawing to a close
Noam Chomsky
In These Times, September 4, 2014
It is not pleasant to contemplate the thoughts that must be passing through the mind of the Owl of Minerva as the dusk falls and she undertakes the task of interpreting the era of human civilization, which may now be approaching its inglorious end.

The era opened almost 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, stretching from the lands of the Tigris and Euphrates, through Phoenicia on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean to the Nile Valley, and from there to Greece and beyond. What is happening in this region provides painful lessons on the depths to which the species can descend.

The land of the Tigris and Euphrates has been the scene of unspeakable horrors in recent years. The George W. Bush-Tony Blair aggression in 2003, which many Iraqis compared to the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, was yet another lethal blow. It destroyed much of what survived the Bill Clinton-driven U.N. sanctions on Iraq, condemned as “genocidal” by the distinguished diplomats Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who administered them before resigning in protest. Halliday and von Sponeck’s devastating reports received the usual treatment accorded to unwanted facts.

One dreadful consequence of the U.S.-U.K. invasion is depicted in a New York Times “visual guide to the crisis in Iraq and Syria”: the radical change of Baghdad from mixed neighborhoods in 2003 to today’s sectarian enclaves trapped in bitter hatred. The conflicts ignited by the invasion have spread beyond and are now tearing the entire region to shreds.

Much of the Tigris-Euphrates area is in the hands of ISIS and its self-proclaimed Islamic State, a grim caricature of the extremist form of radical Islam that has its home in Saudi Arabia. Patrick Cockburn, a Middle East correspondent for The Independent and one of the best-informed analysts of ISIS, describes it as “a very horrible, in many ways fascist organization, very sectarian, kills anybody who doesn’t believe in their particular rigorous brand of Islam.”

Cockburn also points out the contradiction in the Western reaction to the emergence of ISIS: efforts to stem its advance in Iraq along with others to undermine the group’s major opponent in Syria, the brutal Bashar Assad regime. Meanwhile a major barrier to the spread of the ISIS plague to Lebanon is Hezbollah, a hated enemy of the U.S. and its Israeli ally. And to complicate the situation further, the U.S. and Iran now share a justified concern about the rise of the Islamic State, as do others in this highly conflicted region.

Egypt has plunged into some of its darkest days under a military dictatorship that continues to receive U.S. support. Egypt’s fate was not written in the stars. For centuries, alternative paths have been quite feasible, and not infrequently, a heavy imperial hand has barred the way.

After the renewed horrors of the past few weeks it should be unnecessary to comment on what emanates from Jerusalem, in remote history considered a moral center.

Eighty years ago, Martin Heidegger extolled Nazi Germany as providing the best hope for rescuing the glorious civilization of the Greeks from the barbarians of the East and West. Today, German bankers are crushing Greece under an economic regime designed to maintain their wealth and power.

The likely end of the era of civilization is foreshadowed in a new draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the generally conservative monitor of what is happening to the physical world.

The report concludes that increasing greenhouse gas emissions risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems” over the coming decades. The world is nearing the temperature when loss of the vast ice sheet over Greenland will be unstoppable. Along with melting Antarctic ice, that could raise sea levels to inundate major cities as well as coastal plains.

The era of civilization coincides closely with the geological epoch of the Holocene, beginning over 11,000 years ago. The previous Pleistocene epoch lasted 2.5 million years. Scientists now suggest that a new epoch began about 250 years ago, the Anthropocene, the period when human activity has had a dramatic impact on the physical world. The rate of change of geological epochs is hard to ignore.

One index of human impact is the extinction of species, now estimated to be at about the same rate as it was 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the Earth. That is the presumed cause for the ending of the age of the dinosaurs, which opened the way for small mammals to proliferate, and ultimately modern humans. Today, it is humans who are the asteroid, condemning much of life to extinction.

The IPCC report reaffirms that the “vast majority” of known fuel reserves must be left in the ground to avert intolerable risks to future generations. Meanwhile the major energy corporations make no secret of their goal of exploiting these reserves and discovering new ones.

A day before its summary of the IPCC conclusions, The New York Times reported that huge Midwestern grain stocks are rotting so that the products of the North Dakota oil boom can be shipped by rail to Asia and Europe.

One of the most feared consequences of anthropogenic global warming is the thawing of permafrost regions. A study in Science magazine warns that “even slightly warmer temperatures [less than anticipated in coming years] could start melting permafrost, which in turn threatens to trigger the release of huge amounts of greenhouse gases trapped in ice,” with possible “fatal consequences” for the global climate.

Arundhati Roy suggests that the “most appropriate metaphor for the insanity of our times” is the Siachen Glacier, where Indian and Pakistani soldiers have killed each other on the highest battlefield in the world. The glacier is now melting and revealing “thousands of empty artillery shells, empty fuel drums, ice axes, old boots, tents and every other kind of waste that thousands of warring human beings generate” in meaningless conflict. And as the glaciers melt, India and Pakistan face indescribable disaster.

Sad species. Poor Owl.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 10 • Views: 2,968 • Replies: 283

 
hightor
 
  2  
Reply Tue 9 Jul, 2019 08:49 am
Very succinctly put.

And developments in the years since this was written show that the rates of every negative trend — deforestation, plastic pollution, loss of species and habitats, the likelihood of Trump's re-election — are increasing.

We were warned and we had a chance. We blew it.

Take two Tylenol and call me in the morning.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Jul, 2019 09:23 am
@edgarblythe,
Aren't you both going to feel stupid in 500 years when the human race is going along fine on planet Earth

There have been prophets of doom since the ancient Assyrians in 2,500 BCE. The myth is always the same, humans are falling short and will pay for their sins.

I think climate change is an important issue, and one we should take seriously.

But the prophecies of doom are no more rational now than they were 5000 years ago.
RABEL222
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Jul, 2019 04:51 pm
@maxdancona,
Science disagrees with you. If we continue as we are huge climate changes are going to take place.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Jul, 2019 05:33 pm
@RABEL222,
I didn't know science had emotions. It isn't good to anthropomorphize science. Science is based on evidence and theories that are testable. Science is not based on myth or politics or prophecies of doom or hype.

It is not scientifically valid to say all life on Earth or even all human life is about to end. Yes there is climate change, and yes we are seeing a decline in species due to human activity.

But what you guys are saying is exaggerated, and frankly insane.
maxdancona
 
  3  
Reply Tue 9 Jul, 2019 05:35 pm
@edgarblythe,
It annoys me when people with a philosophical and political agenda try to turn science into a deity.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Tue 9 Jul, 2019 11:50 pm
@maxdancona,
so youre saying that science's ONLY job is to solely collect the data on our self induced extinction?
Im a scientist and I gotta call "bullshit", There is a host of "concerned this" and "Scientists for that". All are basically trying to use science to influence policy-makers , who, for the most part, mistrust science anyway..
Im a member of a few and I feel that Ive got a defined mission to inform and influence.


We each speak for ourselves, so that's my pitch and Im stickin with it.
hightor
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Jul, 2019 04:45 am
Breaching a “carbon threshold” could lead to mass extinction

Carbon dioxide emissions may trigger a reflex in the carbon cycle, with devastating consequences, study finds.

Quote:
In the brain, when neurons fire off electrical signals to their neighbors, this happens through an “all-or-none” response. The signal only happens once conditions in the cell breach a certain threshold.

Now an MIT researcher has observed a similar phenomenon in a completely different system: Earth’s carbon cycle.

Daniel Rothman, professor of geophysics and co-director of the Lorenz Center in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, has found that when the rate at which carbon dioxide enters the oceans pushes past a certain threshold — whether as the result of a sudden burst or a slow, steady influx — the Earth may respond with a runaway cascade of chemical feedbacks, leading to extreme ocean acidification that dramatically amplifies the effects of the original trigger.

This global reflex causes huge changes in the amount of carbon contained in the Earth’s oceans, and geologists can see evidence of these changes in layers of sediments preserved over hundreds of millions of years.

Rothman looked through these geologic records and observed that over the last 540 million years, the ocean’s store of carbon changed abruptly, then recovered, dozens of times in a fashion similar to the abrupt nature of a neuron spike. This “excitation” of the carbon cycle occurred most dramatically near the time of four of the five great mass extinctions in Earth’s history.

Scientists have attributed various triggers to these events, and they have assumed that the changes in ocean carbon that followed were proportional to the initial trigger — for instance, the smaller the trigger, the smaller the environmental fallout.

But Rothman says that’s not the case. It didn’t matter what initially caused the events; for roughly half the disruptions in his database, once they were set in motion, the rate at which carbon increased was essentially the same. Their characteristic rate is likely a property of the carbon cycle itself — not the triggers, because different triggers would operate at different rates.

What does this all have to do with our modern-day climate? Today’s oceans are absorbing carbon about an order of magnitude faster than the worst case in the geologic record — the end-Permian extinction. But humans have only been pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for hundreds of years, versus the tens of thousands of years or more that it took for volcanic eruptions or other disturbances to trigger the great environmental disruptions of the past. Might the modern increase of carbon be too brief to excite a major disruption?

According to Rothman, today we are “at the precipice of excitation,” and if it occurs, the resulting spike — as evidenced through ocean acidification, species die-offs, and more — is likely to be similar to past global catastrophes.

“Once we’re over the threshold, how we got there may not matter,” says Rothman, who is publishing his results this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Once you get over it, you’re dealing with how the Earth works, and it goes on its own ride.”

A carbon feedback

In 2017, Rothman made a dire prediction: By the end of this century, the planet is likely to reach a critical threshold, based on the rapid rate at which humans are adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. When we cross that threshold, we are likely to set in motion a freight train of consequences, potentially culminating in the Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

Rothman has since sought to better understand this prediction, and more generally, the way in which the carbon cycle responds once it’s pushed past a critical threshold. In the new paper, he has developed a simple mathematical model to represent the carbon cycle in the Earth’s upper ocean and how it might behave when this threshold is crossed.

Scientists know that when carbon dioxide from the atmosphere dissolves in seawater, it not only makes the oceans more acidic, but it also decreases the concentration of carbonate ions. When the carbonate ion concentration falls below a threshold, shells made of calcium carbonate dissolve. Organisms that make them fare poorly in such harsh conditions.

Shells, in addition to protecting marine life, provide a “ballast effect,” weighing organisms down and enabling them to sink to the ocean floor along with detrital organic carbon, effectively removing carbon dioxide from the upper ocean. But in a world of increasing carbon dioxide, fewer calcifying organisms should mean less carbon dioxide is removed.

“It’s a positive feedback,” Rothman says. “More carbon dioxide leads to more carbon dioxide. The question from a mathematical point of view is, is such a feedback enough to render the system unstable?”

“An inexorable rise”

Rothman captured this positive feedback in his new model, which comprises two differential equations that describe interactions between the various chemical constituents in the upper ocean. He then observed how the model responded as he pumped additional carbon dioxide into the system, at different rates and amounts.

He found that no matter the rate at which he added carbon dioxide to an already stable system, the carbon cycle in the upper ocean remained stable. In response to modest perturbations, the carbon cycle would go temporarily out of whack and experience a brief period of mild ocean acidification, but it would always return to its original state rather than oscillating into a new equilibrium.

When he introduced carbon dioxide at greater rates, he found that once the levels crossed a critical threshold, the carbon cycle reacted with a cascade of positive feedbacks that magnified the original trigger, causing the entire system to spike, in the form of severe ocean acidification. The system did, eventually, return to equilibrium, after tens of thousands of years in today’s oceans — an indication that, despite a violent reaction, the carbon cycle will resume its steady state.

This pattern matches the geological record, Rothman found. The characteristic rate exhibited by half his database results from excitations above, but near, the threshold. Environmental disruptions associated with mass extinction are outliers — they represent excitations well beyond the threshold. At least three of those cases may be related to sustained massive volcanism.

“When you go past a threshold, you get a free kick from the system responding by itself,” Rothman explains. “The system is on an inexorable rise. This is what excitability is, and how a neuron works too.”

Although carbon is entering the oceans today at an unprecedented rate, it is doing so over a geologically brief time. Rothman’s model predicts that the two effects cancel: Faster rates bring us closer to the threshold, but shorter durations move us away. Insofar as the threshold is concerned, the modern world is in roughly the same place it was during longer periods of massive volcanism.

In other words, if today’s human-induced emissions cross the threshold and continue beyond it, as Rothman predicts they soon will, the consequences may be just as severe as what the Earth experienced during its previous mass extinctions.

“It’s difficult to know how things will end up given what’s happening today,” Rothman says. “But we’re probably close to a critical threshold. Any spike would reach its maximum after about 10,000 years. Hopefully that would give us time to find a solution.”

“We already know that our CO2-emitting actions will have consequences for many millennia,” says Timothy Lenton, professor of climate change and earth systems science at the University of Exeter. “This study suggests those consequences could be much more dramatic than previously expected. If we push the Earth system too far, then it takes over and determines its own response — past that point there will be little we can do about it.”

This research was supported, in part, by NASA and the National Science Foundation.

mit

(links, references, citations, etc are available in the original article)
0 Replies
 
hightor
 
  2  
Reply Wed 10 Jul, 2019 04:50 am
@maxdancona,
Quote:

There have been prophets of doom since the ancient Assyrians in 2,500 BCE.

Yeah, and where are the Assyrians now?
Quote:
The myth is always the same, humans are falling short and will pay for their sins.

I don't recall reading any ancient myths about the carbon cycle.
maxdancona
 
  4  
Reply Wed 10 Jul, 2019 05:54 am
@farmerman,
Come on farmerman. This thread has nothing to do with science.

They are starting with a political agenda, and then cherry picking pop science articles to support their pre-existing conclusion.

Do you believe that it is a scientifically accurate prediction that human beings will be extinct in 100 years? This is a ridiculous claim they are making.

This is exagerrated hype, not science.

hightor
 
  2  
Reply Wed 10 Jul, 2019 07:25 am
@maxdancona,
Quote:
They are starting with a political agenda..

Who is this "they"?
Quote:
Do you believe that it is a scientifically accurate prediction that human beings will be extinct in 100 years?

I've never seen that claim made as an "accurate prediction". There are people who say that unless a concerted effort is made, the planet could be well on its way to conditions which would be inhospitable to life as we know it.

Ocean acidification isn't a joke. Neither are melting glaciers and thawing permafrost. I get the feeling that you, maxdancona, only notice the exaggerated hype and choose to ignore the science which gives rise to it and the more circumspect writings of researchers.
farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Wed 10 Jul, 2019 08:56 am
@maxdancona,
Im not following the entire thread I jut found your comment magisterially self-dealing. 100 years is a short time agreed, but if our climate begins to account for more and more associated deaths (s it already appears to be doing), and the loss of species traceable to a runaway climate(as it appears to be doing). Remember, we live on this planet subject to the rules of nature, and these rules seem to be rapidly changing to another norm.

When do you begin to worry?? when theres noone left to flip the switch??

Quote:
Come on farmerman. This thread has nothing to do with science
Its a personal "op-ed" posted and commented on by folks of all schools. SO WHAT?
I see good comments and some fear mongering. Perhaps we need to recognize the outright lies of the president who says that we are the "leader" in environmental stewardship. IS HE NUTZ?? (never mind,.).



0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  3  
Reply Wed 10 Jul, 2019 09:04 am
@hightor,
Science is the opposite of exaggerated hype. Science is a cautious enterprise... no question is settled until it can be confirmed, any claim must be testable and reproducible.

I understand that some scientists feel the need to indulge in hype in order to get non-scientists to take them seriously. I strongly disagree with this urge. It leads to a degradation of science and makes the public at large less scientifically literate. It is a distortion of how real science is done.

There are certain things that scientists have researched, tested and confirmed. These include human caused climate change, ocean acidification. But a scientist will stop there... and least in saying what "science says". Of course scientists have political opinion, but in this case they are talking as citizens rather than as experts.

The exaggerated hype is not "backed" by science. It is the opposite of science. Science looks for evidence and waits for a theory to be tested and confirmed or refuted) by multiple investigators. Exaggerated hype starts with an agenda, and then cherry-picks whatever data they can find to reach the conclusion they started with.
maxdancona
 
  3  
Reply Wed 10 Jul, 2019 09:13 am
@maxdancona,
I believe is to possible to support sound policies on human induced climate change and other environmental issues without the pseudo-scientific hype.

Human caused climate change is accepted science. It is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, and it will have serious consequences to humans and impacts on other life. What those consequences will be are the subject of well-written scientific papers and are still a matter that isn't certain.

I haven't seen a well-written, peer-reviewed, scientific paper suggesting the end of human life as we know it (I would be interested in seeing this).

It is important to separate real science from political hype.


0 Replies
 
hightor
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Jul, 2019 10:16 am
@maxdancona,
Quote:
Science is the opposite of exaggerated hype.

I'm well aware of that. I don't see scientists being guilty of this. And if journalists or lay people are concerned about current climatological change, there's nothing wrong with their sounding an alarm. This is done to spur the public to demand action from their leaders. It's worked pretty well in other countries. It hasn't worked that well here because political forces try to paint every warning as "exaggerated hype" and have done all they could to de-legitimize science itself. I know there are people making unsubstantiated or overblown claims but these people aren't scientists. If they have an "agenda" it is one provoked by very real concerns.
maxdancona
 
  2  
Reply Wed 10 Jul, 2019 11:24 am
@hightor,
The OP in this thread is suggesting the 'end of human civilization".

That isn't science. That is ridiculous. The problem is when people make these exagerrated claims based on pseuso-science, it makes it less likely that people will take real science seriously.

When political ideologies try to control science for their own uses, real science loses credibility and society pays the price.

Scientific studies show GMOs are safe for human consumption. Scientific studies show the human activity is impacting the climate.

If you only accept science when it supports your pre-existing political beliefs, then its only purpose is to tell you what you already believe. Real science doesn't have a political agenda.
farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Wed 10 Jul, 2019 12:46 pm
@maxdancona,
Quote:
Real science doesn't have a political agenda.
But many "real scientists " do. Just because Im a scientist doesnt mean that my citizenship is invalid.

As a scientist, I often remove my clerical collar and become a wild ass hair burning opinionated citizen, like anybody else.

I believe that you like to avoid arenas of public opinion .Sometimes the arena can get quite messy.

Im 180 from your stated position, I feel my training and experience requires me to get involved and "take sides".Often, you need to employ the 10 second rule to engage your opponents so you can affect the minds of decision makers.

Noam Chomsky is often like Dr Dawkins, they both stretch their competence to extremes for what they believe re righteous causes

maxdancona
 
  2  
Reply Wed 10 Jul, 2019 12:57 pm
@farmerman,
I don't mind having a political opinion.

However, when my side says something that is unsubstantiated or factually incorrect, I feel the need to stand up for accuracy.

Liberals like to pretend they are "fact-based". But they often aren't, and the modern left twists science to meet their ideological needs.

I will give you my opinion. I won't pretend my opinion is science.
edgarblythe
 
  2  
Reply Wed 10 Jul, 2019 01:01 pm
What good is science if you have to confine yourself to an ivory tower, particularly if the planet is in true peril? Is it political to wish to divert the probability of disaster? I would hate to think only one political spectrum wishes to survive.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Jul, 2019 01:55 pm
@maxdancona,
Quote:
However, when my side says something that is unsubstantiated or factually incorrect, I feel the need to stand up for accuracy.
. There, was that diffiicult? Argue the point, not the whole damn profession
 

 
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