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Thread: Environmental Collapse: when and how bad?

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  1. #1
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    Default Environmental Collapse: when and how bad?

    was going to reply to london underwater thread but maybe this information deserves its own.

    to me an Inconvenient Truth seems like giving Tylenol to a terminal brain cancer patient.

    here is some information regarding the secret Pentagon report on environmental collapse suppressed by the Bush administration, and leaked to British Intelligence, back in 2004, as well as the report itself.

    I first read it on Yahoo News, from which it mysteriously dissapeared a few days later. the only other publication which ran the story was Fortune, strange as it seems. there is talk of people getting arrested for spreading this still classified report, but it doesn't seem likely as it was very easy to find on the net.

    whether you think the Pentagon is an alarmist and paranoid group or not, I think it is good to be informed of their findings and position on this subject.

    would love to hear what you guys think. how big of a grain of salt do you think we should take with this?

    Summary article from Oberver

    the official Pentagon report - 22 page PDF

    observer's update

  2. #2
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    Not soon enough and worse than we think.

    Why do we need the Pentagon to tell us how bad things are?

    I know that things can get very bad but I don't really feel it in my gut. We are too comfortable and nothing we can do can prepare us (well...maybe travelling to some parts of Africa or similar disaster areas).

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    While it would obviously be dangerous to understate the potential severity of climate change (which this report clearly isn't doing), it could be equally dangerous to overstate it, as this would make it sound inevitable, which would lead to just the same laissez-faire attitude as understating it, with people thinking "Well what can we do? It's going to happen anyway...". What's needed is emphasis on the "This is what's going to happen if we carry on as we are..." aspect of these findings.

    Although, with the US as it is and China the way it's going, it's pretty doubtful that even that would make much difference.
    Last edited by Mr. Tea; 31-01-2007 at 07:02 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    What's needed is emphasis on the "This is what's going to happen if we carry on as we are..." aspect of these findings.

    Although, with the US as it is and China the way it's going, it's pretty doubtful that even that would make much difference.
    yes, the immobilization of perceived inevitability... I'm feeling a bit of that at the moment.

    the Nasa scientist last year responsible for the major Time article said "if it's business as usual for another 3 years it will be too late to avert major catastrophes". while others seem to think that we are well past the tipping point.

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    I'd be skeptical of the motivations behind a Pentagon report like this only because the agency is obsessed with perpetuating its claim to relevance (and all the funding that goes with that) by framing any geo-political concern in military terms. If climate change were to provoke a massive redirection of funds into related programs, then the Pentagon would want to make sure it maintained funding priority. And beyond the money thing, there are ancient, monomaniacal hawks in there who can't read the world through anything but arms and warfare ("climate change, eh? order us up so new nukes.").

    There are enough reports from credible environmental agencies and researchers that speak to how screwed we (potentially) are. I'd be surprised if the Pentagon somehow had the real inside track on the story though.

    Sometimes I worry that it's known by Western governments that we really are done for, but that we're not told out of fear of 'Children of Men'-style chaos. But such concentration and control of knowledge about the environment really isn't plausible.

    Side note: I find it interesting how this is always framed (in media, etc.) in terms of humans killing the planet when it's a case of humans killing ourselves along most other animal life by altering the planet. Earth, however, will go on, changed, but impervious to our absence.

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    There are 'major catastrophes' all the time, and none of them can be blamed on any one source - it's ridiculous to suggest, for example, that Hurricane Katrina was 'caused' by human emmissions/global warming to the point that "it wouldn't have happened if we'd lowered carbon emmissions ten years ago", or something like that. Hurricanes have always happened. But as climate change - in terms of *average* temperatures, rainfalls etc., which is what climate is - continues, these big events are going to get more and more common. So it'd perfectly reasonable to say "We wouldn't have had this many big storms this year if it hadn't been for carbon emmissions", that sort of thing.

    A niggling point, perhaps, but I think it's important to consider these things in statistical/probabilistic terms.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    We wouldn't have had this many big storms this year if it hadn't been for carbon emmissions
    12 of the 13 major storms of the 20th century happened after 1985. (sorry forget the source)

    Quote Originally Posted by gek-opel View Post
    The question then arises as to whether there are any stabilisation points after the tipping point which would leave a habitable earth?
    sure, I don't see why this shouldn't be assumed - that once the balance is restored, it will be a nice and cozy place for a long, long while, for those of us that are left standing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zhao View Post
    yes, the immobilization of perceived inevitability... I'm feeling a bit of that at the moment.

    the Nasa scientist last year responsible for the major Time article said "if it's business as usual for another 3 years it will be too late to avert major catastrophes". while others seem to think that we are well past the tipping point.
    The question then arises as to whether there are any stabilisation points after the tipping point which would leave a habitable earth?
    Last edited by gek-opel; 31-01-2007 at 07:13 PM.

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    Habitable for whom? The current human population? Twice that figure, or a tenth? Cockroaches and crust-forming lichens? Bear in mind that life has survived major extinction events that have wiped out the vast majority of species on Earth on a number of occasions in the past.

    I think we'd be "giving ourselves too much credit", so to speak, if we thought we could have that catastrophic an effect on the whole planet. That's not to say we couldn't fuck things up royally for many species, including ourselves. I don't think anything short of global thermonuclear war (and perhaps not even that) would render the planet unfit for *anything* to live on it, but things could get very hairy for us in the near future if we don't change our habits pretty sharpish. I also think "irreversible" is probably the wrong word, too - if we all disappeared, things would get back to how they were before we came along eventually, but it might take quite a long time.

    I would also assume that the recovery period (after we die out/revert to the stone age/invent a clean source of infinite free energy) would be in some way proportional to the severity of the human-caused climatic abberations.
    Last edited by Mr. Tea; 31-01-2007 at 07:20 PM.

  10. #10
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    it's all about the ice age that's a thousand years overdue. i would place all the money i have betting on that being the real cause of all the recent climatological troubles.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nomadologist View Post
    it's all about the ice age that's a thousand years overdue. i would place all the money i have betting on that being the real cause of all the recent climatological troubles.
    Ummm...come again?

  12. #12
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    ummm look up all the conditions that precede an ice age. look up when the last one happened. compare now to then. we're at 11,000 years since the last ice age. they usually come every 10,000.

    "global warming" is such a highly politicized bunch of crap most scientists have been VERY wary of just endorsing it as if it's indisputibly true. there could be even bigger problems than co2 emissions.

    and i'm not saying we shouldn't radically change the way we consume resources. i'm just saying the science is not all there yet and these things have all happened before. it's happening again right on cue.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nomadologist View Post
    ummm look up all the conditions that precede an ice age. look up when the last one happened. compare now to then. we're at 11,000 years since the last ice age. they usually come every 10,000.

    "global warming" is such a highly politicized bunch of crap most scientists have been VERY wary of just endorsing it as if it's indisputibly true. there could be even bigger problems than co2 emissions.

    and i'm not saying we shouldn't radically change the way we consume resources. i'm just saying the science is not all there yet and these things have all happened before. it's happening again right on cue.
    I'd have to disagree with that almost entirely. Firstly, I don't think ice ages happen like clockwork - they're to do with a whole host of factors, including variations in the Earth's orbit, which are non-linear and therefore erratic. The Wiki article says "Many glacial periods have occurred during the last few million years, initially at 40,000-year frequency but more recently at 100,000-year frequencies", so it seems rash to say we're 'overdue' one.

    Furthermore, ice ages happen over the course of thousands to tens of thousands of years, whereas the recent warming has been observed over the course of just a few decades. It's not so much the size of the change that's worrying (yet), it's the incredible rapidity of the onset.

    Finally, it's well known that global climate is linked to the composition of the atmosphere (which is how we reconstruct the Earth's ancient climate, after all), so isn't at least reasonable, verging on almost certain, to suppose that the enormous level of industiral development that's happened over the past century, not to mention the accompanying deforestation, is going to have a huge impact on climate?

  14. #14
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    if the pentagon says it, it must be true.

    i looked at that "leaked report." our scientists ack letters to donors are more confidential-looking than that pdf was...

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    I

    Finally, it's well known that global climate is linked to the composition of the atmosphere (which is how we reconstruct the Earth's ancient climate, after all), so isn't at least reasonable, verging on almost certain, to suppose that the enormous level of industiral development that's happened over the past century, not to mention the accompanying deforestation, is going to have a huge impact on climate?
    unfortunately, science isn't about "safe assumptions", it's about observable facts and reproducible lab results

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