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Science News

Forecasting Doomsday 854

Boccaccio writes "James Lovelock, the planetary scientist famous for his Gaia Theory, writes in today's Independent of his belief that it is already too late to divert an environmental catastrophe which will see much of human civilisation destroyed. Fearing it too late to be green, he instead suggests communities plan for survival in a Mad Max type world with limited resources ruled by violent warlords. "We have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realise how little time is left to act, and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilisation for as long as they can." He suggests we should be writing a practical guidebook printed on long lasting paper containing "the basic accumulated scientific knowledge of humanity.""
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Forecasting Doomsday

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:16PM (#14482880) Journal
    The climate centres around the world, which are the equivalent of the pathology lab of a hospital, have reported the Earth's physical condition, and the climate specialists see it as seriously ill, and soon to pass into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years. I have to tell you, as members of the Earth's family and an intimate part of it, that you and especially civilisation are in grave danger.
    I don't want to start a flamewar but isn't he being a little melodramatic?

    First off, the "climate centres" around the world aren't the equivalent to a pathology lab. This is a bad analogy. Pathology is a science that is fairly solid. There is a pathogen or there isn't, we may miss it but we sure are good at diagnosing it if you have it. More importantly, pathologists can agree with each other.

    With the status of the environment, no one agrees with anyone else. The world is ending on one end while the U.S. government isn't too concerned with it at the time. James Lovelock is certain we're doomed while Michael Chrichton [crichton-official.com] is giving speeches detailing environmentalism as a religion.

    Who do we believe? The physician or the author? I don't think either are adequately qualified to make the call.

    I can understand articles urging us to cut back on emissions or asking everyone to support the Kyoto Treaty. What I don't understand is how this article can be constructive. I read it and it tells me to drive to Wal-Mart as fast as possible and buy a gun and five shells so that I can rob said Wal-Mart of all guns and shells for my basement armory.

    I'm not sure whether to read this as honest opinion or a hilarious satire reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [imdb.com].

    Can anyone please tell me what Mr. Lovelock hoped to gain from this article other than creating hysteria among his fans and receiving "nut job" status from those who disagree with him?
    The Revenge of Gaia' is published by Penguin on 2 February.
    Oh, I'm sure that will be a fair and unbiased scientific look at the state of the environment that everyone will love. Why must people make such polarizing comments? Can't they see how many people they alienate with one fell swoop? He could have gotten the same message across without the drama.
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:17PM (#14482890) Homepage Journal
    And people think us Christ followers are bonkers.

    This Revenge of Gaia stuff is pure fiction -- but it does sell books. I've been called a doomer-and-gloomer for my opinions over the past 10 years. I'm an avid gold bug, I hate the idea of working as a salaried employee, and I believe in owning land both in urban areas as well as rural areas. You can buy 100 acres of land dirt cheap still in many parts of the U.S.

    I don't believe we'll see a Mad Max style world. There is so much land available in the entire globe that I don't see how warlords can use the strength of weapons to take over. The reason we see "chaos" in Somalia is because there is an existing infrastructure that people want to utilize. In this Gaia-chaos vision, there wouldn't be. People who survive would not be anywhere near the billions we have today, and a family of 10 can easily survive even on a near-desert piece of property.

    I don't believe we'll see the water of the world undrinkable, I don't believe we'll see the air of the world unbreathable. Humans are a minor part of the balance -- if we do something so bad that billions will perish, we won't be able to continue doing "harm" and the planet will recuperate itself -- quickly, too. The worst catastrophes that could happen would not necessarily be environmental ones but ones dealing with war. Anything we do slowly to the environment will be quickly absorbed and returned to normal -- the so called circle of life. It is the things we can do quickly that would be the most devastating. Nuclear wars come to mind as one possible catastrophe that we couldn't resolve in less than a century.

    Even if we did collapse into an chaotic anarchy (opposite of the capitalist anarchy that I promote), weapons wouldn't last without an infrastructure to maintain them. Once all the bullets are expelled or all the maintenance fluids are used up, most weapons are useless. You can't fight a global war with knives, and you can defend yourself much easier in communities against warlords if you take the machine guns and flamethrowers out of the equation. War is one of the most inefficient ways to gain wealth -- it requires millions of people deciding to give up their wealth in exchange for no profitable gain. In fact, I believe war requires democracy.

    I wish Julian Simon was still kicking. That guy would offer Lovelock a great debate (and likely win it, too). Simon showed that more people means more wealth, more innovation and long lives for everyone. Look at China. They were on the verge of overpopulation, but it wasn't the mass numbers that was killing them -- it was government and communism. The freer they get, the longer they live, the happier they live, and this lets them live long enough to get Parkinson's, cancers and other diseases that keep us from living forever. Communism offered them shortened lives with no reason to want to live -- freedom gives everyone a reason to work together to try to live longer together.

    In the end, I see the only doomsday here being empire and government. Nuclear war won't happen any other way. I don't believe we'll ever get to the Mad Max scenario unless we allow ourselves to continue to arm the elite with weapons of mass destruction. We should work at arming our own households, investing in bountiful properties, creating communities of people who love one another but are no adverse to profit or personal gain.

    The environment continues to fix itself -- yesterday's doomsdayers are silent because they were wrong. Today's will be silent tomorrow -- they'll be wrong, too.
  • Woohoo! Warlords! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by w.p.richardson ( 218394 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:18PM (#14482894) Homepage
    I can't wait! (Omits comment re: warlord overlords)
  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:19PM (#14482906)
    "I'd like to share a revelation I had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague, and we are the cure."
    - Agent Smith

    "Master Blaster run Bartertown!"
    - Master

    It's really too bad that James Lovelock is perceived as a bit of a nutball in the scientific community...global climate change is a real and accelerating problem (the duplicitious yammerings of the naysayers and industrial apologists notwithstanding), and it needs to have more serious attention focused upon it. I fear that all Lovelock's doomsaying will accomplish is the opposite.
  • I disagree.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ckwop ( 707653 ) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:21PM (#14482920) Homepage

    Billions of years ago, when the day was 23 hours long, there was no oxygen in the air and hence no ozone. The surface of the earth would have killed any land based animals pretty quickly.

    Over time, life transformed the atmosphere and soon after plants and animals started to come out of the sea and started to prosper on land. Billions of years past and today we're sat here with laptop's contemplating what to do about climate change. I personally think that a large chunk of climate change has been caused by humans. I also agree with the scientist that we've already past the point of no return - so the question is not how we can stop climate change but how we can cope with it.

    Personally, I think the climate disaster will be very bad for bio-diversity but have a negligable effect on humanity. I often go to Florida on my holiday from the foggy and cold waste lands of the UK :). The heat in Florida is at times unbearable but it matters not because air conditioning is in nearly every building. If I get too hot, I just go inside.

    As the oceans expand and the sea level rises, people will simply move further up the shore. When islands disappear, people will be unhappy but they quickly build new lives in new countries. When crops fail to grow in some countries they will replace the crops with others that grow in those climates. If they've really got money to burn they'll genetically engineer plants that are resistant to the heat. When oil prices start their long climb to unaffordability other technologies will take up the batton. Suddenly the economy will start to allocate resources to bypass the damage that the price-hike induces. Life will go on as normal.

    I think we're heading for a mass extinction event - of that I am certain - but is highly unlikely we will feel the pinch. These are interesting times to be alive.


  • Welcome to 2006 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:21PM (#14482923) Homepage Journal

    world with limited resources ruled by violent warlords.

    We're already there...
  • You mean like... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DRAGONWEEZEL ( 125809 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:21PM (#14482926) Homepage
    He suggests we should be writing a practical guidebook printed on long lasting paper containing "the basic accumulated scientific knowledge of humanity."

    So he means like my physics, math, and biology textbooks?
    My books will last forever...
    They are extremely heavy, have never / wont ever get used. They practically re-sealed themselves after I purchesed them from the bookstore!
  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:24PM (#14482943) Journal
    "Why must people make such polarizing comments? Can't they see how many people they alienate with one fell swoop? He could have gotten the same message across without the drama."

    Unfortunately, he probably couldn't, or at least not to as many people. Would this book have gotten coverage on Slashdot if it weren't so dramatic? Probably not. I'm not impugning Slashdot, it's just the nature of our society to pay attention to the ridiculous.

    An unfortunate consequence is that his brand of extremism is likely to make more realistic claims and analyses less acceptable to the mainstream.

    A fortunate possible consequence is that such extremism may shift the "center-of-opinion" towards (but not into) extremist alarmism -- which means that we may see some preventative (and hopefully even ameliorative) action.

    The fact is, though, alarmism sells. "End-of-the-world" prophets have always had their followings. And despite whatever message the author wants to get across, he's beholden to his publisher -- and sales are what Penguin's looking for.
  • by SIGFPE ( 97527 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:27PM (#14482981) Homepage
    Is there any connection between your two sentences? It seems about as relevant as saying "There have been people who play chess for years and yet French people will turn their noses up at British cooking."
  • by nmb3000 ( 741169 ) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:32PM (#14483022) Journal
    ...while Michael Chrichton is giving speeches detailing environmentalism as a religion.

    Not everybody cared for the book (as evidenced by some of the reviews [personally I found it quite refreshing, he made a lot of very interesting points]), but Crichton's recent novel State of Fear [amazon.com] dealt with almost this exact viewpoint. Individuals and "environmental" groups proclaiming doomsday just around the corner, and it's always our fault. Conveniently enough it's also right when they're having some sort of fundraiser or selling a new book.

    *cough* *cough*

    Give me a break. This guy is just the exact opposite as the niche of corporate types who really don't care if they dump toxic waste into the groundwater near a preschool.
  • by corbettw ( 214229 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:32PM (#14483027) Journal
    This is interesting:

    "It was ill luck that we started polluting at a time when the sun is too hot for comfort. We have given Gaia a fever and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma."

    So he's saying that the output of the sun is one part of the global warming phenomenon, and that human-caused pollution is another. I partially agree with this, though I think the sun has a bigger part of it than he might.

    But then he says:

    "By failing to see that the Earth regulates its climate and composition, we have blundered into trying to do it ourselves, acting as if we were in charge. By doing this, we condemn ourselves to the worst form of slavery. If we chose to be the stewards of the Earth, then we are responsible for keeping the atmosphere, the ocean and the land surface right for life. A task we would soon find impossible - and something before we treated Gaia so badly, she had freely done for us." (emphasis added)

    Wait, if it's "impossible" for us to regulate the environment, doesn't it logically follow it is equally impossible for us to change it?? He seems to be saying "We've destroyed it, but we don't have the power to fix it." That's completely inconsistent.
  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:37PM (#14483066) Homepage Journal
    ... or is it?

    It seems to me that humanity has a tendency to fall into two intellectual traps:

    1. Either the future is rosy and beautiful, and the best is ahead of us (for instance: Nanotechnologies and nano-factories will save the world! Fusion power is right around the corner!),
    2. Or The End of the World and Civilization As We Know It is right around the corner (for instance: Peak Oil! Planet Warming! Bird Flu! Grey Goo! Killer Asteroids!).

    I do believe both attitudes are just wrong. The future holds a lot of promises, but also a lot of challenges. There are international mechanisms in place to deal with global warming, for instance: that's what the Kyoto Protocol is all about.

    Peak Oil may be very bad -- I do expect a lot of economic suffering ahead -- but it may also be our best chance to get rid of polluting hydrocarbons, and turn to ultra-efficiency and renewable energies. These, in turn, will have the added effect of lowering global warming and overall pollution.

    Another example of this is nuclear war and MAD: it did not happen, probably because intelligent people on both sides understood the terrifying consequences. That also means we are stuck with thousands and thousands of nukes that need to be decommissioned and possibilities of proliferation, but that, too, can be taken care of.

    So: ignoring problems is just as bad as putting your head in the sand and pretending everything is A-OK. What Winston Churchill used to say about Americans really apply to the whole human race: "They will always choose the right solution... but only after trying every other one". We may suffer in the short run, but the nimbleness, adaptability and intelligence of human beings mean they will come out all right in the end. Our problem is that we always take the short view and the easy solution first, instead of the long-term view and making the necessary sacrifices right now, instead of tomorrow.
  • by StrawberryFrog ( 67065 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:37PM (#14483068) Homepage Journal
    "There is so much land available in the entire globe that I don't see how warlords can use the strength of weapons to take over"

    WTF? - that's a complete non-sequitur. How does there being lots of land stop weapons being useful. Here's a hint - it's hasn't up to now.
    Aside from that, so what if there's lots of land on earth? There are lots of people too. The density of people on the land is increasing, since the number of people is increasing, and the part of the land that is useful to us is decreasing (desertification, salination, erosion, pollution, etc)

    Humans are a minor part of the balance

    Not true anymore. Welcome to the anthropocene era [everything2.com].

    You can't fight a global war with knives, and you can defend yourself much easier in communities against warlords if you take the machine guns and flamethrowers out of the equation.

    Nobody said anything about a big "global war", just local war everywhere. Warlordism is implausible? Go look at the early history of ... anywhere.

    The environment continues to fix itself -- yesterday's doomsdayers are silent because they were wrong. Today's will be silent tomorrow -- they'll be wrong, too.

    The ones who weren't wrong weren't silent - the chap who successfully predicted the USA's peak oil, and has predicted the world's peak oil soon now. Anyway, that's another non-sequitur. It's equivalent to saying "The candle didn't go out this minute. Those who predicted that it would go out were wrong. Therefore it will never go out."
  • by MarkPNeyer ( 729607 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:40PM (#14483108)
    My connection is that anyone who believes in 'Intelligent Design' or 'Creationism' is considered an idiot and mocked for stupidity (Flying spaghetti monster) whereas people who said things like "In 1980 there will be massive riots due to starvation" and who continue to make such claims are still given the time of day.
  • Gaia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tony ( 765 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:45PM (#14483150) Journal
    Your comments are, for the most part, spot-on.

    "Gaia" is the "goddess earth". It is nothing more than blatant superstitious garbage with an enviro-friendly sheen.

    The term "Gaia" was borrowed from the ancient Greek gods, but no more so than Pluto or Mars. The concept is, that as cells make up an organism, and many organisms an ecosystem, many ecosystems make up a still larger system. "Gaia" sounds all new-agey, but in reality, it is nothing more than the extent of all life on earth.

    It's not superstitious garbage; it is quite valid to think that destroying the rain forest in Southeast Alaska will have profound effects on New York City, or Moscow for that matter. Then to imagine that the total biosphere can heal itself after a catastrophe is also valid. That is, the environment affects not only the evolution of species, but evolution of species also affects the environment.

    Gaia was, perhaps, a poor choice of terms. But "superecosystem" sounds stupid, and isn't as catchy, and doesn't intimate the self-regulating nature of the total biosphere.

    The thought that all life on earth is a single organism with conscious thought is a little silly. Not many people truly believe that, though. In my experience, most people believe in some weaker form of the Gaia hypothesis-- that even if we humans fuck up so badly we destroy our environment and kill off tens of thousands of species (including humanity), the earth will go on, heal itself, and new species will crop up to replace the old ones.

    Other than that: yeah, I think Sir Lovelock is being a bit extremist in his fears. It's kind of like during the five years leading up to 2000; too damned many people thought civilisation was going to collapse, when most of us in the IT trenches knew everything was going to be fine. The didn't stop Edward Yourdon from shooting off his mouth and selling some books, but there will always be people who expect the worst.

    The people who scare me, though, are those who want the worst to happen.
  • Film at Eleven (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crmartin ( 98227 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:46PM (#14483165)
    Jeez I'm old.

    I remember this same meme being around in the early 60's --- it was nuclear war then --- and in the mid-70's, with The Limits to Growth. Oh, and don't forget The Population Bomb. The expected date is always in the potential lifetime of younger readers, but comfortably in the future for older ones, and so far (note that you're reading this) it always fails to happen.

    Oh, and one other thing: the person pushing the theory is always selling something. A book, money for "further research," something.

    Hands on your wallets, kids.
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:50PM (#14483203) Homepage Journal
    I read Diamond's book! I believe that he makes a big mistake: he equates society with government. I don't.

    I believe oil will hit US$85 per barrel very soon, and then we'll see 2 decades of oil prices dropping. There is more oil still in the earth than all the oil we've taken out in history: we just need to find ways to get it out profitably. As the current oil model becomes outdated, we'll find new ones. I'm not worried. It is cheaper for me to get from A to B than any time in all of history -- this to me means that life is still getting better.

    Julian Simon showed that as the populations increase, the populations live better. Look at the Chinese -- they were on the verge of collapse as a society, but it wasn't the population that was the problem, it was the communism. Government creates artificial barriers to all markets -- farming, transportation, distribution and retail. All the taxes, tariffs, subsidies, and embargoes cause the problems China saw for decades. Now that they're taking in freedom, they're living longer, better and wealthier lives. The US government is killing us, not the US consumer. If the government would butt out, we could return to the days that an honest day's work reaps and honest day's pay. We don't have that today as our currency is constantly stolen through inflation, people don't enter their own businesses due to regulations and licensing, and we're uncompetitive as we don't work hard because government provides everything, cradle to grave.
  • by Fordiman ( 689627 ) * <fordiman.gmail@com> on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:54PM (#14483242) Homepage Journal
    Meh. Like before, he chooses an unfortunate way to point out what's true and obvious: by spelling out 'Doom'.

    Yes, the planet's gotten a bit hot. Stepping out in january wearing a spring jacket tells us that. (I AM skeptical about it being from CO2 production; I think it's much more likely due to the amount of heat and steam we produce as a society. The CO2 is a symptom, but atmospheric moisture is more self-inciting. Water vapor traps heat better than CO2 does, which causes more water vapor to form. Think about that next time you roll over a hill and see a power plant. In fact, think about how much heat you're producing when you flip on your air conditioner; yeah, it's cooling your house, but that's offset from its ass-end output heat. The difference is the heat from friction throughout the system - low in the pipes, hot from the motors.)

    Saying we'll live to see a post-apocolyptic hell is a bad way to put it. Mainly because: 1) it's never too late to avert an environmental disaster; it just costs more the longer you wait. and 2) he fails to realize how most people will react when seeing that (ie: eh, never mind. The guys a nutter.)

  • Re:I disagree.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Reverend Joe ( 324737 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @01:58PM (#14483285)
    This is where you're indisputably wrong:

    " ... we're heading for a mass extinction event ... "

    Anyone who actually studies the number of species on this planet and the rates of change in that number will be able to easily demonstrate to you that we're not headING for such a thing, we're already smack dab in the middle of one, caused by the continued (and rapidly accelerating) conversion of the planet's biomass into HUMAN mass ...
  • by thatguywhoiam ( 524290 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:02PM (#14483314)
    That's very scientific... You may be shocked to hear the Earth has been both much warmer and much cooler throughout history.

    No, not shocked. And what I said was definitely not scientific, merely anecdotal.

    However, it is worth noting that I really ought not to be able to notice significant changes to the climate within the span of my lifetime. And yet I find, very commonly (and again anecdotally - compare and contrast your own experiences) that the typical man-on-the-street view is that 'something is definitely up'. Don't you find that? Nearly everyone I talk to about the weather, at some point, shakes their head and expresses some concern about how it 'used to be' vs how it is now. And that's only in the cities. In the lower arctic circle, where they are watching the glaciers retreat and the permafrost declining [adn.com], and it is screwing with their hunting, what must they be saying? Have you noticed mountaintop snowcaps disappearing? [bbc.co.uk]

    What I find disingenuous about the old argument - the one that says 'earth has always changed' - is that it seems dismissive. Even if we aren't causing one iota of climate change, it is readily apparant that the Earth's weather is changing rapidly; shouldn't we be alarmed, even if we are not the cause of it? Saying "its natural" doesn't exactly make me feel better!

  • by Decaff ( 42676 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:02PM (#14483317)
    James Lovelock is certain we're doomed while Michael Chrichton is giving speeches detailing environmentalism as a religion.

    Who do we believe? The physician or the author? I don't think either are adequately qualified to make the call.

    Well, Lovelock is a respected expert in biology and climate, whereas Chrichton is an expert in writing.

    So who do we believe more about biology and climate? Not that hard a question, I think.

    However, I think Lovelock is being too dramatic. The point is that we have no idea what is going to happen with climate change. He is putting forward one extreme idea in which positive feedback runs riot and we get huge temperature rises. However, there are other possibilities, including one in which we may get severe local cooling in the North Atlantic.

    It is even possible (perhaps likely) that our activities have been masking an incipient ice age, and once the oil runs out (very soon) and we stop polluting, we could start to see significant global cooling.

    His point is that we are dealing with uncertainties and we have to start preparing for things right now, not in 10 or 20 years. I think his idea that civilization as a whole will collapse is absurd - in past centuries we have survived the loss of significant parts of our population (such as during the Black Death) and our culture continued - but that does not mean we should not be worried - we could be in for severe world-wide water and food shortages, and extremes of climate and flooding. We need to start looking for alternatives.
  • by operagost ( 62405 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:07PM (#14483367) Homepage Journal
    Stepping out in january wearing a spring jacket tells us that
    No it doesn't. It's not as if there wasn't an unusually warm January day in x region in the past.
  • by Alcilbiades ( 859596 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:07PM (#14483371)

    The reason that people scoff at Inteligent Design is that it ISN'T science. Science is predicated on testable theories that can change. ID is all about an unprovable entity creating nature as we currently know it. I am not going to debate whether it is possible that God/Aliens/FSM made the Universe but I do know it isn't science. What Intelligent Design is, is Philosophy. The major difference between ID and Big Bang is that it may be possible in the future to ammend the Big Bang theory but there is no way to change the ID "facts". So, yes "intellectuals" will listen to people that have theories with testable assumtions over people that just have "faith".

  • by silasthehobbit ( 626391 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:10PM (#14483396)
    There were people dying of starvation in the 1980's. And the 1990's. And there still are. I think the only reason they didn't riot was because they didn't have the energy as they hadn't eaten a proper meal for months.

    Not all of this is environmental - a lot of it is due to cash crops being grown in order to pay off debts to more developed nations - but when parts of Ethiopia don't have rain for a decade and the Sahara Desert gets bigger and bigger every year thus reducing the area on which you can grow arable crops, then you might have to think that part of it is.

    Without the Scandanavian countries telling the rest of Europe about acid rain - that didn't fall locally, but damaged the environment hundreds of miles away - who would have known and started looking for causes? Without scientists in Antarctica measuring the depth of the ice sheets, how would we know the global ocean temperature rise or what was causing it? Without satellite images showing the increasingly large hole in the ozone layer, how would we have known about the damage CFCs were causing?

    This article is suggesting one possible outcome of our current environmental effect. If this means that more people then work harder to stop that outcome from occurring that doesn't mean that the writer was wrong, it just means people have wised up to the fact that we've fucked the planet and need to do something serious about it, NOW.

    Mocking people for their religious beliefs - however cracked they are - really won't help stop the destruction to the environment humans are causing. And neither will whatever deity you happen to believe in.

    Whatever, mod me down, I'm getting used to it.

  • by Decaff ( 42676 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:14PM (#14483448)
    There's no guarantee that a few hundred years from now some tipping point could be reached that causes the atmosphere's composition to change in a way that could not be reversed without some massive effort (like having to build oxygen creation plants, or something).

    That isn't going to happen. If the atmosphere survived the impact of a huge asteroid (causing the extinction of the dinosaurs), with an energy equal to a million nuclear weapons, then we aren't going to have an irreversible impact.
  • Extremist Unite! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by howajo ( 707075 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:15PM (#14483454)
    The tragedy of this debate is that there seems to be no one to voice a rational position. There are The Ostriches who's greatest desire is to believe that they are safe and scoff at anything that suggest otherwise. There are the Industrial Interest who are more than willing to tell the Ostriches what they want to hear so that they can continue business as usual. There are the Chicken Littles who run screaming "The sky is falling" every time there is an extra inch of rain. Let me suggest a different position: We live in a complex system. Rational estimates say it is Very very old relative to our own lifespans. We are only reasonably aware of the last couple of thousand years of its operation. Everything else is speculation. We are aware (those of us who don't fall into the Ostrich category) that we are able to effect some changes to the system through our activities. We really have no idea how much of an impact we have had, or will have. It might be that everything is fine. It might be that all the bizarre weather from the last year means something is seriously wrong. I don't think anyone REALLY knows. While I don't think that "It's the end of the world", It seems to me that since we have access to only one "experiment", that maybe some extra caution is warranted. The old "better safe than sorry" position may be the smartest choice for anyone with a long view.
  • by clockwork_orange ( 888652 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:17PM (#14483476)
    by paper i mean a scientific, rather than a news paper. one environmentalists opinion even if he is well respected does not turn his melodramatic spiel into fact. The earth may be warming, but there is still no hard evidence that human kind is the cause. and lets not forget that we are still in an ice age!
  • Thank goodness! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WheelDweller ( 108946 ) <WheelDweller@@@gmail...com> on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:18PM (#14483492)
    One thing I've learned is to listen to predictions like this. Look at the long history of disasters diverted by relying on the scientists- The Hindenburg, the Plagues, and th 60's hippie movement. I remember hearing about 9/11 months before on TV, and changing my schedule. I was so close to buying into the Enron thing, when Neil Cavuto changed my mind. And other warnings kept me from going to school naked...no, wait- that was a dream.

    My point is, we *never* get warnings about the big stuff. And this is no exception. Remember the coming ice-age, and the population boom of the 1970s? No ice-age. Population has actually gone DOWN by a dangerous extent. I saw both mentioned in Barey Miller, in fact. I remember hearing how acid rain would make the finish on all cars corrode as early as 1975. And by 2000 we'd all have to live underground. This being told to me, a kid in the 5th grade. I was afraid.

    Yet somehow the same people who told us the Earth would be unable to support life in the 70's, still feel that way today. I suspect money is the quarry on this hunt.

    I'll admit there are temperature changes- the Earth is a dynamic system with lots of history that it changes all the time (See: the 1700s mini-ice age, for example). But to think humans are the cause of it, or have the slightest chance of changing it, is just silly.

    Go to Google. Zoom in on a town, find your house. Then notice the actual SCALE of our place on this planet. Now call your local HVAC technician and tell'em you want to install an A/C for the whole planet. Just try to figure out the BTUs. Imagine changing it, if we HAD to. Terraforming is a neat idea, but actually doing it someplace is at least 100 years away.

    Just relax; and remember that the Earth will never go away; it might not be like it is, but it will always be here. And so will be these predictions...
  • by kuriharu ( 756937 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:19PM (#14483493)
    James Lovelock, the planetary scientist famous for his Gaia Theory, writes in today's Independent of his belief that it is already too late to divert an environmental catastrophe which will see much of human civilisation destroyed. Fearing it too late to be green, he instead suggests communities plan for survival in a Mad Max type world with limited resources ruled by violent warlords. "

    This posting really seems below /.'s level. This has less to do with the environmental theories as it does speculating the world that follows environmental destruction. This isn't science, it's imagination.

    Incidentally, how would we prepare to survive in a "Mad Max" like world? We'd need guns and cars. Both use chemicals that supposedly destroy the environment. So it sounds like he's suggesting we should use a lot of the substances that allegedly would lead to our own destruction!

  • by nmb3000 ( 741169 ) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:19PM (#14483499) Journal
    Did you ever take history class in High school?

    Did you?

    Out of everybody, it was the British who came closest to taking over the entire world [hostkingdom.net], and their real estate only came to about 26% of the globe. Your Romans were only 17th with 4%.

    Since we have recently completely lost any semblance of morals

    Morals are sticky because they are simply the accepted standards of right and wrong for a given group. Some people say that Europeans are less moral than Americans because of infidelity, etc.

    (witness the implicit approval of torture in Gitmo and Iraq, as well as the use of nuclear weapons against other countries;

    Say what? The US has used just two nuclear weapons against another country and that was back in WWII. Are you going on about that, or has there been some new developments?

    have you heard anyone on the news saying nukes are definitely never going to be used? look back a decade or two and the tone is completely different).

    Just what we need. Give the brainless talking heads something else to "confirm". How can anyone say that nuclear weapons will "definitely never" be used? Do you honestly think that just because nobody has said it that we're somehow more likely to use them? Against who? Even if somebody did "confirm" it, do you think that would really mean anything?
  • by dfenstrate ( 202098 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `etartsnefd'> on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:25PM (#14483573)
    The pentagon commisions all kinds of studies and contigency plans, 99.999% of which will never see use. They just write them so that if x situation comes up, they have a plan ready.

    Getting worked up about what the pentagon has made plans for makes as much sense as getting worked up because your rural mechanic has the drum-brake removal tool for a Buggati Veyron.

    He's prepared in case one ever comes around with a brake problem, but how likely is he to see it?
  • by crimethinker ( 721591 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:26PM (#14483582)
    The Population Bomb, there's nostalgia for you. Something like half the population dying of famine, food riots among the remainder. I remember the food riots of the 1970's, don't you?

    Parent poster has it right - doom and gloom sells, whether the apocalypse is environmental or religious in nature. How many crackpots have declared that the Rapture is coming on such-and-such a date? The author of this book is not much different, he's just worshipping a different god/ess.


  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:26PM (#14483584) Journal
    "I believe that he makes a big mistake: he equates society with government."

    I not so sure about that -- Diamond says that government is a facet of society, and governmental collapse is a symptom of pending or occurring societal collapse. Government can also contribute to societal collapse, as it's actions or lack thereof directly affect the actions of the people in a society.

    As to "If the government would butt out, we could return to the days that an honest day's work reaps and honest day's pay."

    This is exactly the problem. Can't see the forest for the trees -- everyone doing what is in their immediate best interests (an honest day's pay) can result in dire consequences in the long run for the entire society.

    We need to wisely pick and choose what policies, restrictions, etc, we enact for ourselves, or else we'll burn out our resources and cause our own collapse. And how else do we enforce those policies except through government?

    My problem with Simon's analysis is that he looked at historic figures, typically over huge populations. Also, his calculations were based on societies that succeeded; by default, no failed societies were included (like the ones that Diamond examines). Also, historical models cannot be extrapolated to the future with certainty -- just because we've not yet hit the limit of sustainable resource use doesn't mean that no limit exists -- especially as our actions often decrease the supply of available resources.

    "There is more oil still in the earth than all the oil we've taken out in history: we just need to find ways to get it out profitably."

    Considering that we've only been using oil for less than two centuries, and that oil use is still increasing -- the fact that more remains than we've used is insignificant -- some details on that from DOE [doe.gov]. Note that other fossil fuels are picking up the slack for oil, since oil usage rates are increasing slower than they were a couple decades ago.

    "We don't have that today as our currency is constantly stolen through inflation, people don't enter their own businesses due to regulations and licensing, and we're uncompetitive as we don't work hard because government provides everything, cradle to grave.

    Little of this statement has to do with resource depletion and management, except for the claim that people don't enter business due to regulation and licensing. A lot of that regulation and licensing is there to prevent people from personally profiting in a manner that has a net bad effect on society. Restrictions on high-polluting mining methods, for a very visible and clear example. Regulation is a way for society to govern itself to do what it thinks is best. Which brings me back to my first point -- government is part of society. It's a primary method by which people impact the actions of others within their society.
  • by forand ( 530402 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:27PM (#14483591) Homepage
    How is it inconsistent to be able to destroy something but not be able to fix it. I can push a glass of the table very easily but putting all the pieces back is near impossbile. And even if I get it back to something that looks like a glass doesn't mean that it will hold water. There are many things in the world that we can have some effect on but very few that we can reliably control that effect. Weather is a very good example of this. We try and seed rain but don't have any control on where it goes after we made the clouds. Basically all I am saying is that there is a very large difference between ablity to cause change and ability to regulate. Change can be easy consistent regulation is very hard.
  • by marct22 ( 623561 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:28PM (#14483601)
    'Who do we believe? The physician or the author? I don't think either are adequately qualified to make the call.'

    Uh, they are both authors, one happens to also be a (ex-?) physicisn, the other a scientist. At least Lovelock writes about stuff that he not only got his degree in, but continues to study. Chrichton, on the other hand, may or may not have been a good physician, but generally has been a bad writer. I liked Andromeda Strain, although I read back when I was in high school. Jurassic Park was a better movie than book. Prey? Jeez,he got the physics all wrong. And the story sucked too.

    If he had some thoughts on medicine, human physiology, anything "doctor"y, I'd respect his opinions, I'm not a doctor. But if he had opinions on microprocessor design, then I'd probably believe a scientist who not only has degrees in physics and/or electrical engineering, etc. but also who still works in that field over an middling-to-average writer who writes pop books.

  • by mclaincausey ( 777353 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:29PM (#14483615) Homepage

    And people think us Christ followers are bonkers.

    I'm not saying you're bonkers, but you contradict yourself several times in this post and put forth some strange ideas. Also, before you call other people "bonkers," consider your faith in a god/man who allegedly, two thousand years ago, according to no official texts, and only to the writings of his followers (don't cite me the fabricated Josephus passage please), brought back dead people, healed the blind and leprous, and walked on water, then resurrected from the dead, each of which are unprecedented events in all of proven, reliable human history. You accept a patently ridiculous story with objectively much less probability of being true than what this guy is positing (at least in terms of the prediction, I'm not to familiar with the underlying Gaia framework), so think twice before you call him out--it kind of sounds silly.

    I hate the idea of working as a salaried employee

    Even if we did collapse into an chaotic anarchy (opposite of the capitalist anarchy that I promote),

    Obviously the two statements are contradictory enough to warrant an explanation. There is no such thing as a "capitalist anarchy." Anarcho-Capitalism is a fabricated ideology that is self-contradictory. All it means as far as I can tell is massive deregulation and civil libertarianism. That looks to me like a recipe for drug warlords, arms dealers, and crooked businessmen running roughshod over everyone. If you applied it to the current system without redistributing wealth, it would be catastrophic and unfair.

    Anarchy means the abolition of hierarchy. Capitalism is by definition a hierarchical system. Never the twain shall meet: they are mutually exclusive. You could call yourself a Libertarian (with a capital 'L'), in the sense of the Libertarian party, and perhaps in the sense of personal freedom. But with the former you would be pushing a Social Darwinist ideal, which seems at odds with your Christianity.

    creating communities of people who love one another but are no adverse to profit or personal gain

    But doesn't profit almost always come at someone else's expense? I understand there is a way that equal parties can exchange equal goods and mutually benefit, but "profit" and "personal gain" were, if anything, discouraged by Jesus. You call yourself a "Christ follower" and then talk about a gold fetish. Jesus was strictly ascetic, and it's supposedly the Christian credo to try to be as much like Christ as possible. That means that "you cannot serve God and wealth" and therefore should give away all your worldly possessions. Christians attempt all sorts of distortions and intellectual wild goose chases to get around this, but wealth and Christianity, and therefore Capitalism, are not just incompatible, but diametrically opposed explicitly by the Gospel's teachings.

    Simon showed that more people means more wealth, more innovation and long lives for everyone. Look at China. They were on the verge of overpopulation, but it wasn't the mass numbers that was killing them -- it was government and communism.

    This is so outlandishly detached from reality that I don't even know where to begin. China's in a heap of shit right now. Their growth is amazing, but it is also provably unsustainable. They appear to be in an intractable and dangerous situation, all BECAUSE of their massive population quickly transitioning from agrarianism to urban life. Furthermore, when oil starts running out, China and other (artificially) petro-agriculturally-inflated populations in the Third World will start dying by the millions due to starvation and sanitation issues.

    Communism offered them shortened lives with no reason to want to live -- freedom gives everyone a reason to work together to try to live longer together.

  • by Comboman ( 895500 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:32PM (#14483647)
    Who do we believe? The physician or the author? I don't think either are adequately qualified to make the call.

    Which one are you calling the physician and which one the author? Michael Crichton has an M.D. from Harvard Medical School and James Lovelock has a Ph.D. in medicine from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

    Both have writen books which makes them both authors, though Crichton's stuff is ever-so-slightly more believable (I'll buy resurrected dinosaurs over living planets, but both belong in the science-fiction section).

  • by PixelThis ( 690303 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:37PM (#14483703)
    Who do we believe? The physician or the author? I don't think either are adequately qualified to make the call.

    Well, Lovelock is a respected expert in biology and climate, whereas Chrichton is an expert in writing.

    I think Crichton is a bit more than an expert in writing. Here's a bio blurb from one of his books:

    Michael Crichton was born to John Henderson Crichton and Zula Miller Crichton and raised in Roslyn, Long Island, USA. He attended Harvard University, where he graduated summa cum laude in anthropology. He went on to teach anthropology at Cambridge in England, later returning to Massachusetts to gain an M.D. degree from Harvard Medical School. Crichton then served (1969-70) as a postdoctoral fellow at the Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Science in La Jolla, California, before taking up writing full time. Later, Crichton said of his decision: "To quit medicine to become a writer struck most people like quitting the Supreme Court to become a bail bondsman."
    We're talking about a expert writer with an exceptional scientific background.
  • by arodland ( 127775 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:38PM (#14483713)
    No, your point is still illusory. You can't judge James Lovelock's actions by my intentions, your intentions, or anyone else's. Only by his intentions and by the results of his actions. A statement like "He's doing it on purpose just as much as he's not", in this context, is completely and utterly worthless, and denies the existence of reality itself. As such, it's not even an argument, because it denies its own existence and its own truth.
  • Re:Film at Eleven (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ednopantz ( 467288 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:51PM (#14483859)
    There's obviously something really compelling about the idea of imminent apocalypse. People really want to believe that these are the end of times, whether because of divine intervention or ecological collapse. My theory is that people don't want to think that the world can get by without them.
  • by udowish ( 804631 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:02PM (#14483980) Journal
    too bad you don't realize you have already lost...sad
  • by phossie ( 118421 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:07PM (#14484023)
    "For every 10 "the sky is falling" articles I read, I see 10 "everything is OK" articles."

    Unfortunately, this is the result of equal publicity funding, not equal scientific opinion. I'm sorry I won't be providing you with a reference (but you didn't provide one either, so whatever) but I have the distinct impression that about 97% of climatologists and other scientists in related disciplines agree: we have a problem.

    "I see relatively cheap gas, so I believe that gas is not running out."

    This is a fundamental problem with the global economy and markets. Markets are interesting - they provide a metric for the value which *most monies* would assign to a given resource. "Most monies" refers to people weighted by their investable wealth. Unfortunately, as many past market events should demonstrate, these metrics don't necessarily have anything to do with reality. They have everything to do with perception and popular understanding, which may or may not be actually correct.

    As an analogy, consider presidential/PM elections. We elect people who are visible, or want to be elected, and who have the means and support to get elected. We don't necessarily elect the best possible leader because most of us may not know who that is, and that person may be lacking the accessories with which reaching the public is highly unlikely. On a large scale, elections have very little to do with absolute achievement in personal merit, and a lot to do with publicity. Obviously everyone would prefer to choose between the people best suited for the job, but that's not how it works. There are barriers to entry that has nothing to do with merit, qualifications, skills, or talent.

    "...geophysicist. He tells me they have no idea what is going on deeper than a few miles..."

    So based on this statement, the most rational course of action is to assume that one day the oil will go dry. By the same conservative logic, we should also assume that climate change is a real problem (not only future, I live in Alaska and we're seeing major effects *now*). In this way we can be prepared - maybe not for the worst, but at least for some case worse than the best. Because a large proportion of experts do agree, it's important that we take the possibilities they suggest seriously. I would say this even if the climate change people were a minority opinion and I disagreed with them.

    I don't understand how people claiming to be "conservative" can possibly think that doing nothing different is a rational course of action. A truly conservative viewpoint calls for considering all the possibilities and being prepared so that we are never faced with an actual crisis, but these pretenders are calling for ignoring a major [potential] problem because it's not hurting [them] badly enough [yet].

    Why in the world would you stake something as important as species survival on a best-case-scenario viewpoint? That makes no sense at all. Go read "Candide" and come back when you understand it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:10PM (#14484074)
    I can't believe the amount of ostrich head in the sand misguided optimism being shown on this thread. With dwindling resources and an amazingly fast expanding population in those areas of the world who have recently got a taste of middle class western styled existence, this outlook is more probable than not. Look,, this is a math problem. That's all it is, basic simple math. Take what energy and minerals and food resources are necessary to run the world NOW. Now extrapolate ten to twenty years in the future at present rates of expansion. Now add in the mad rush to use the best most bleeding edge tech by all large nations to build weapons systems. Does anyone actually read history any more? Have we forgotten that we as humans are no more psychologically or socially advanced than we were hundreds of years ago? Why did Japan attack pearl harbor, what did the US do first? What facilities did the allies bomb first across europe when they were able to get bomber fleets overhead with acceptable loss ratios? What kept the UK even fighting, and Russia? Where are the big wars being fought now, and what is the underlying critically important natural resource there? Are people also missing the actual evidence of huge climate change coming, regardless of causality? Does anyone even bother to read the headlines, let alone the articles?

    Ya'all are either feeling real damn lucky or are just ignoring geopolitical and geophysical realities. Step away from the videogame for a moment and LOOK at current reality.

    You are going to be seeing resource wars. We are in one now, a *big one*, whether you want to admit to it or not. Your inflated currencies and lifestyles are being financed by folks who want to shift emphasis to their own populations. How long do you think they are going to keep doing that? How long would YOU keep doing that, if a neighbor kept wanting you to loan him money, and all he had to pay you back was more IOUs?

    We have x-amount of resources and pretty soon we are going to need 3x but it don't exist and it never will. It ain't there, it just ain't. It's not only oil and strategic minerals, but actual food, because we are running out of clean water, or even half clean. You can't grow food in a desert with no water, or in a constant flood with too much water, or in areas that frost 11 months out of the year. You can't give an extra 2-3 billion people cars and electronic gadgets and homes with central heating and air conditioning, even "good mileage" cars, even "advanced energy efficient" homes, even "clean" low powered gadgets. Not when the projected demand that is looming is so fast and so large.

    There simply isn't enough "stuff" in the ground to pull this off.

    C'mon, THINK, what's the most likely outcome then? Are you seeing any rational leaders appearing on the world stage, in ANY big nation? Are humans becoming less greedy? Are you seeing any large militaries all over just standing down and disbanding because no one thinks they are needed? Are you seeing any less competition for all the planets resources? And you "market can solve anything" folks. When the "market" is going to be staring at near empty shelves based on demand, what do you think the ones who don't get anything are going to think and do? You ever seen a riot, even a small one? Did you check out what a pipsqueak hurricane can do, or an earthquake, when it's very limited in region? How about when some things hit that are planet wide? Where's your "backup" civilization infrastructre, you keep it on a shelf someplace or something I sure ain't seeing it, because *it doesn't exist*. Think all these folks will just accept the fact they are "too poor"? Think any humongous nation with an extra billion poor people screaming for something from their leaders is going to just hang around and go "oh well, them's the breaks" and quietly fade away just so you can keep getting fat? Huh?

    I repeat, this is a math problem, combined with plain vanilla human psychology. Parse it by past h
  • by joeldg ( 518249 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:14PM (#14484118) Homepage
    polar bears drowning all over, huge chunks of ice the size of rhode island falling off antartica, hurricanes destroying entire cities in the leading developed country... it is like watching a movie already, only thing missing is the statue of liberty sticking out of a glacier...

    as for us, we are screwing ourselves so fast it kind of hard not to notice it..
    you can only piss and shit in your own house for so long before it becomes unbearable and you end up catching some sickness and making a total wreck of the place.. if you look, you will see the corporations coming back in zipping up their pants..

    will it 'fully' happen in our lifetime? probably not, so who really cares.. plug your nose and let our kids clean up ..
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:27PM (#14484249) Homepage Journal
    I still learn every day from slashdot. I give the highest self-moderation to those who are listed as my foes, as they teach me the shortcomings of my beliefs and help me rejudge what I have previously accepted as fact.

    Would you say that a country as large as the US should be split into smaller countries that could be maintained and protected better?

    It used to be. I am a big fan of the Articles of Confederation, and I was a fan of the Constitution. Having 51 seperate States that are all self-sufficient is a great goal to return to. The idea of a central government was merely to do 3 things: Keep the States from hurting the People, defend against real intruders, and help facilitate trade with other countries. Now our central government is a tyrannical authoritarian imperialistic machine.

    Do you think that government has a right to own the land in it's territory or does it belong to the people of that country?

    Never. If we have a government, it should pay rent to property owners. The best way to "control" immigration is to end public welfare roles, reinforce the communities by downsizing the Federal and State government powers, and return property to private owners. If property is completely private, immigrants can only come if they're prepared to work and purchase their own land. Public property and welfare doles is what makes immigration bad today. If we could attract the most hard working immigrants, we could become the most prosperous nation again.
  • true enough but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bobalu ( 1921 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:32PM (#14484296)
    Incendiary foaming at the mouth "warnings of planetary illness" do our overall chances of mitigating the reality of human-caused global warming no good either. Extremists undercut the message for anyone more moderate, and more likely to actually effect change.

    I don't have anything against him flogging his book, at least he makes it pretty obvious. Just wish I'd thought of it.

    I'm also sympathetic to the view of the earth acting like a living organism, in fact you can make the same argument for the whole universe. But because it looks like that doesn't actually mean it is a living thing, although I'm not sure how you'd define it at that macro a level.

    The question is whether it actually gives a shit whether or not it's hospitable to life. As a member of the Church of the Utterly Indifferent God, somehow I doubt it. It certainly will be a problem for us though.

  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:32PM (#14484298) Journal
    At the end of the Permian era, 250 million years ago, there was the biggest mass extinction the earth had ever seen. 99% of all life died out. Think about how that must have been for any one of the creatures at the time.

    After the Permian came the dinosaurs, who were so successful that they ruled over the earth for 185 million years. Something bad happened at the end of the Jurassic period, some 65 million years ago, and most of the life on earth died off again, some 95% IIRC. Again, think about how extreme that must have been.

    Now, some 65 million years later, a species capable of abstract thought and who known cognitive history probably extends back some 35 000 years or more or so, is worrying about extinction.

    News flash, whether we live or die, as a species, does not matter. Enromous extinctions have happened in the past and they could happen again, except that it could be us the next time around, and in some 60 million years when the rats who survived will have evolved into suv driving, complaining, frightened, superstitious fools who don't accept that life is transient and that we have no special place on this earth and that god, if he exists, does not particularly favour us over, say cockroaches, or rats.
  • by Irvu ( 248207 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:49PM (#14484475)
    and bad fiction at that. In it he created cardboard "environmentalists" who sought to kill off large swaths of the earth's population as part of a tempter tantrum. One of his characters does nothing after being stabbed in the arm with a needle by some strange man and then dies, and yet he was supposed to be one of the best and brightest. The ringleader of the awful plot is has a man killed in the middle of Tower Bridge (the main bridge in London) at Noon and then stands over the corpse and yet doesn't get caught.

    Much has been made of his "references", and the idea that he has backed up his bad fiction. If you peruse them you will see that a) they are not exhaustive, b) they favor unjournaled papers by anti-global-warming researchers (no attempt it made to see the science only the editorializing) and c) they include odd references to books on witchcraft and papers (such as the argument that greenland was once warmer) which do not prove his case at all.

    The book was commissioned, bought, and paid for by Rupert Murdoch whose FoxNews network has made much of this money denying the state of the environment. Like Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter Michael Crichton has made himself a tool of Murdoch. He has a line to sell and won't let the truth stand in his way.

    If you want reasonable discussion of global warming go seek real scientists not an editorial hack. If you want a spy/crime novel go read some old Ian Flemming.
  • Re:I disagree.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by barkingcorndog ( 629651 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:51PM (#14484497)
    No one will starve, except for the people who remain under governments that provide low levels of economic freedom and high levels of corruption.

    So, you're basically saying that we're all doomed.
  • La la la etc (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smoker2 ( 750216 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:55PM (#14484542) Homepage Journal
    I've never seen so many posts that basically consist of - la la la la la la la la la (I can't hear you) la la la..... f*king grasshoppers !
  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @04:00PM (#14484596) Journal
    "So many problems we face today (war, empire expansion, taxation, regulations and licensing) can be solvd by keeping government away from fiat currency control -- ie a gold standard."

    So, you mean a world gold standard? If so, then we'd have states vying for control of a finite resource, while giving preferential status to those states capable of producing gold. If anything, we'd see worse manipulation of currency, since fewer players would have input. You're just replacing one type of currency manipulation with another. Look at the economic problems the gold rush in the US caused. "The Age of Gold" by HW Brands treats this subject, albeit tangentially.

    "I find that the best way to value oil prices is by investigating what the use of that oil produced."

    Sure, you want to look at oil cost of production, but the "price of oil" is not the same thing. What currency stabilization does is allow the price of oil to approximate oil cost of production (since the $ is theoretically tied to production), which is why everyone talks about oil in terms of USD (or soon, EUR, which is one reason why US Oil Cos. were happy we invaded Iraq... ask me if you want more info on that).

    "This leads me to believe that the cartels in control have better knowledge of the situation than the so called experts."

    There is nothing to say that we wouldn't be in even better shape if the cartels weren't in control. Also, the cartels haven't always done exactly as they pleased; so under the current situation, we have the cartels in control but influenced by other actors.

    Again though, a problem we have is that extrapolating past history to fossil fuels assumes that we'll have the similar market conditions, which I think is a big problem. FF supply is not infinite, getting more expensive as we have to hit up less easily availabe resevoirs -- supply is finite. Furthermore, a lot of the world's political structure is dependent on current FF production/consumption; when we shift away from FF, there will be upheaval. Will states, and societies, adapt? Sure -- but it won't be painless.

    I can't see a gold standard helping the situation much at all. I'm not a pure Keynesian, but I can't see how preventing states from taking action to stabilize their currency (and thus preventing self-feeding recessions) will result in a net increase in QOL, or even productivity, in the long run. Say naturally occurring drough or climate change caused major decreases in food production in the Western US -- how would a gold standard prevent inflation, when production drops while currency remains constant? And how would a gold standard keep that inflation from further reducing production? It's a downward spiral that would eventually result in revolution, IMO.
  • by raoul666 ( 870362 ) <pi.rocks@nosPaM.gmail.com> on Monday January 16, 2006 @04:05PM (#14484643)
    Yes, the planet's gotten a bit hot. Stepping out in january wearing a spring jacket tells us that.

    I have to disagree with that. First off, that could just be a few warmer-than-average years in a row. It's hard to tell the difference between that and a genuine climate change if you're just doing it by feel. Second, if you live in an urban area, especially one that's experienced growth since, say, your childhood, when you remember wearing those huge parkas (just an example, you could be different), it could be further urbanization that's causing the warming you're feeling. Not saying you're wrong, just that your own experience with your local climate might not parallel the global conditions.
  • Oh, the fun of it! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by InsaneProcessor ( 869563 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @04:36PM (#14484930)
    Oh yes, junk science. I just love this stuff. Anywhere from "we are destroying the ozone with man made CFCs" to "cars are the leading producers of polution". Let's forget about the sun and volcanic eruptions. Let us not concern oursevles with natural changes in the wind paths. Don't forget about the dangerous whole in the ozone.
    We have sooooooooo much evidence that all of the environmental problems are man made. We have millions of years of measured results to compare. We know so much about the world, that we are experts.
    Oh, what's that? We only have a very, very small fraction of the knowledge needed to make such conclusions? I am so sorry, I just confused the scientific community with somebody that really knows what is going on.
    The world is comming to an end alright, but there isn't a living soul that can tell when. There isn't anyone who even has a clue as to when anyone might even know.
    Has anyone considered a meteor shower that can wipe us all out?
  • Quotes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kenp2002 ( 545495 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @06:12PM (#14485802) Homepage Journal
    From the US:

    To Quote A Liberal: "It's Bush's Fault."

    To Quote A Conservative: "If you want it fixed vote for the green party. In the mean time enjoy having a job, low cost utilities, and the highest standard of living on Earth."

    To Quote A Hippie: "IF you don't eat sand you're killing mother earth!! Because eating animals is bad because they feel pain, and eating plants deprives mother earth of important C02 gobbling plants, and you certainly can't eat rocks as they are the very skin of our dear mother! Err. wait.... NO SAND NO SAND!"

    To Quote A Scientist: "We need money, we'll say whatever they (being the people that are funding them) want us to say."

    The Universe: "I don't give a shit if your planet blows up. I can always use another kupier belt there!"

    Change is the only constant. Change is amoral. Mar's doesn't care if there is nuclear waste all over it, neither does the moon, neither does Earth. Only the arrogance of man would allow a population to complain about climate change. We are an oddity, not the norm. Find me one other planet that even remotly resembles earth. Quite frankly perhaps we are setting the climate to what it is supposed to be, rather then what we THINK it should be. Perhaps something between Venus' and Mars' atmosphere.

    We are just as much a part of nature as any other animal and all things we do ARE NATURAL. Quite frankly I think it's man's nature to coat the planet in plastic and cement and I for one have no qualms in assisting in that endevor if that in fact is our purpose in life. Humans appear to be the only creatures that question their own actions, perhaps we should question what our definition of a proper planet should look like. So far my theory is pretty sound as we have yet to find a planet like ours....
  • by darrenf ( 746898 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @06:29PM (#14485991) Homepage
    A problem I see with your idea is that it again concentrates too much power into the hands of the few-- this time those who would prevent an otherwise reasonable law. You say it should be difficult for any but the most basically agreed-upon laws to pass at a Federal level. I would think that it would be virtually impossible to pass any laws at any level with your system, seeing as how the guy with the most guns relative to those around him is probably not going to have a problem with legalized murder.

    Of course, you could account for this by thresholding the required vote at some reasonable percentage; you could build in systems of checks and balances to distribute the power as evenly as possible. There are lots of ways one could augment this system to make it more reasonable, but the more you do so, the more similar your system begins to look to the one we already have.

    Human history has seen the rise and fall of many cultures and societies with wildly different values and structure. Like socialism, libertarianism, and many other alternative methods of social organization, the primary force which prevents our current society from functioning at its highest effeciency is not some fundamental flaw in its underlying logic, it's our own damned human nature.

    Bah, I had a great 'crocodile tears' quote to throw in here, but now I can't find it.
  • by mesocyclone ( 80188 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @07:16PM (#14486422) Homepage Journal
    Check the real credentials here, and the picture isn't as simple.

    Lovelock http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lovelock#Profes sional_career [wikipedia.org] is also an MD (like Chrichton) but without the post-doc work. MD post-doc work is the actual practice of science.

    Lovelock has spent his career inventing instruments (instrumentation, not science - he is a world class inventor in this area) and writing books. His comments referenced above indicate that he is far from science (or using metaphors without identifying them as such) win some of his important statements.

    Chrichton has spent his career writing books, some of which have involved a huge amount of in depth research (of the results of other scientists), for which he is well qualified.

    So I checked, last week, with a friend who is, in fact, a well regarded climate expert (PhD: Climatology. Current profession: Distinguished Professor, Climatology). I have known him long enough to have watched his views on this subject change from very cautious proponent of the anthropogenic hypothese to a cautious skeptic to a fervent skeptic.

    His comments (and those from two other experts I know who are also PhD's with lots of research time in Climatology) - paraphrased:

    The science of man-caused (anthropogenic) global warming is junk. The paleoclimatic data is of inadequate quality. Modeling is not reliable (he has done climate modeling and now is doing paleo work).

    Everyone agrees that planet is warming - it is recovering from a little ice age a few centuries ago.

    The hysteria over anthropogenic global warming is disappointing. So is the scare mongering by some scientists in the field.

    Now you probably need to be a climatologist (or have a very, very active interest, lots of time to read lots of papers, and deep knowledge of statistics and some of the methods in the papers) to understand the details of the criticism of paleoclimatology (hint: a couple of significant problems are tiny sample sizes which may show only local conditions, and the necessity of using indirect (proxy) measurements such as tree rings or isotope ratios, which may show an effect other than temperature change).

    To understand the problems with modeling is easier, since many of us have experience with computer modeling. I am not an expert on this, but I know a little bit about it. Global Circulation Model users make a large number of assumptions, because the models don't have enough spatial and temporal resolution, and reliable starting data is also too sparse. Thus the modelers have to "parameterize" them, and use sensitivity analyses to get some idea of how good the parameterizations are. Parameterization involves replacing the detailed modeling of things like mountain ranges with a number, or a set of numbers, to account for that range in whatever resolution cells it turns up in. Furthermore, we know that weather is chaotic - hence the GCM's for weather are simply not trustworthy beyond 5 days when one is lucky, and less than a day when one is not. Now extend to 100 years and you get a better idea of the problem. The only hope for GCM's is if climate is not chaotic (the integral of a chaotic function may not be chaotic... I believe) and that the models happen not to be sensitive to the known underlying chaos. Couple to this the lack of an adequate number of years of calibration data (i.e. paleoclimatic data) and you have a model that is:

    1) uncalibratable due to the lack of a long enough time series of reliable data (both for climate forcers and actual climate results)
    2) of low temporal and spatial resolution compared to some of the processes being modeled (hurricane formation, for example)
    3) inadequately initialized (low resolution, data quality, and the need for interpolation)
    4) full of guesses in the form of parameterization
    5) fighting chaos
    6) doing the equivalent of numerical integration, for a very l
  • by slashdot_commentator ( 444053 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @11:19PM (#14487794) Journal
    THEIR civilization collapsed. It is non-existent; expunged.

    Otherwise, why not ask a decendant about the siginificance of the stone faces? Oh wait, there aren't any to ask...

    The planet Earth is just as self enclosed as that island. A sign of intelligence is the ability to learn from other peoples' mistakes, rather than experiencing them first hand in order to learn them. With people like you, we're doomed.
  • by edunbar93 ( 141167 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @04:14AM (#14488813)
    It could mean the end of modern civilization and the death of billions

    No, it might mean the death of a few million that are at the top of the food chain, but the fact of the matter is, the teeming masses are already better set up to deal with a world that doesn't have the technology we have today. They're the ones who are already living without electricity or running water.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann