VII. Pedia Sapiens: A Genesis Future on Earth and in the Heavens
A. The Old Earth: Our Critical Life Support Condition
Overpeck, Jonathan and Julia Cole. Abrupt Change in Earth’s Climate System. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. Vol. 31, 2006. Global climate change is misrepresented by the “warming” word, for much more is going on as this critically poised complex system is increasingly stressed. As it has done before, it can suddenly shift on the order of a decade to a warmer or colder state, with great disruptions of biospheric life. Indeed, the variation in hurricane frequency from several major ones in 2005 to almost none in 2006 could be an indication of such extreme swings.
Many aspects of Earth's climate system have changed abruptly in the past and are likely to change abruptly in the future. Although abrupt shifts in temperature are most dramatic in glacial climates, abrupt changes, resulting in an altered probability of drought, large floods, tropical storm landfall, and monsoon rainfall, are all important concerns even in the absence of significant anthropogenic climate forcing. Continued climate change will likely increase the probability of these types of abrupt change and also make abrupt changes in ocean circulation and sea level more likely. Although global warming may have already triggered abrupt change, current understanding and modeling capability is not sufficient to specify details of future abrupt climate change. Improved adaptation strategies are warranted, as well as efforts to avoid crossing climate change thresholds beyond which large abrupt changes in sea level, ocean circulation, and methane-clathrate release could greatly amplify the impacts of climate change. (Abstract)
Pearce, Fred. Doomsday Scenario. New Scientist. November 22, 2003. The environmental effects of last two centuries of the “Anthropocene” era are now having a precipitous global impact. Expectation of a gentle warming are misplaced. The quite real danger is that sudden and irreversible climate change will make the planet much less inhabitable for humans. An integrated Earth Observation System is noted which hopes to study and understand what is going in time.
Pearce, Fred. When the Rivers Run Dry: Water – the Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006. A British journalist reports that local and global water maintenance and husbandry is the critical, decisive factor in years to come with regard to a livable human habitat and survival. A survey article by FP, The Parched Planet, appeared in the February 25, 2006 issue of the New Scientist.
Pearce, Fred. With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change. Boston: Beacon Press, 2007. Our myopic, what-me-worry, mindset sees only a gradual warming of a few degrees over the next century, easily met by technical fixes. The actual scientific fact which needs a strident voice is that our biosphere is on the verge of an abrupt, catastrophic resetting of the global system to either a warmer or cooler state. Earth is a critically poised complex system, as Al Gore presciently wrote 15 years ago, which is now oscillating wildly out of control due to human impacts and may suddenly reset itself. The result will be not milder winters in the wealthy north, but erratic weather patterns which threaten the future fate of civilization. To climate expert Jim Hansen, for example, earth could become “another planet” not fit for human habitation.
Perkins, Sid. Sudden Chill. Science News. February 3, 2007. The danger exists that even a limited nuclear exchange, such as between India and Pakistan, could still precipitate a global weather calamity. The amount of combustible material in a large city like Bangalore, along with other mutually destroyed urban areas, could spew so much ash into the atmosphere as to darken and cool the whole planet.
That a nuclear winter could be triggered by a regional war is particularly ironic, adds Stephen Schneider, a climate scientist at Stanford University. A few decades ago, people were afraid that an all-out nuclear war between superpowers would trigger a climate catastrophe. Today, the United States and Russia could simply end up as helpless bystanders – who would nevertheless be left out in the cold. (74)
Porter, Eduardo. Planet-Cooling Technology May Be Earth’s Only Hope. New York Times. April 5, 2017. We enter this article among thousands to record the mounting distress that global climate has reached as a state of increasingly rapid, catastrophic change. Its basis is a Forum on U.S. Solar Geoengineering Research held in Washington in March which tried to gain some bearings and reasonable response.
Posner, Richard. Catastrophe: Risk and Response. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. A methodical working through the four main classes of potential terminal disasters: natural such as pandemics and asteroids, technology out of control, inordinate exhaustion of resources with a side effect of global climate change, and deliberate nuclear warfare, bioterrorism, and other niceties of a world civilization unable to realize its organic unity and purpose.
Rashid, Harunur, et al, eds. Abrupt Climate Change. Washington, DC: American Geophysical Union, 2011. With coeditors Leonid Polyak and Ellen Mosley-Thompson at the Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University, the proceedings of the APU 2009 Chapman Conference on mechanisms, millennial time scales, and extreme impacts of a global weather system with a long history of suddenly shifting to a new, unpredictable set point.
Reed, Betsy, ed.. Nothing Sacred: Women Respond to Religious Fundamentalism and Terror. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002. With the resurgence of intolerance in the Muslim world, throughout South Asia, and also in Christian countries, the brutalization of women is actually on the increase. Yet the path to peace begs for feminine values of conciliation, non-violence and community. Many papers address empowerment, literacy, justice and activism.
Robock, Alan and Owen Brian Toon. Local Nuclear War, Global Suffering. Scientific American. January, 2010. With the Cold War between the United States and Russia largely over, we were thought to be safe from its grave threat of a “nuclear winter” by a planet shrouded by debris from a full or large exchange. However these environmental scientists contend that with so many nuclear states popping up, even a regional war such as between India and Pakistan could still so disrupt the planetary atmosphere as to cause such a catastrophe for the biosphere.
Sagan, Scott. A Call for Global Nuclear Disarmament. Nature. 487/30, 2012. A Stanford University political scientist, who has been sounding this alarm for two decades, warns of a new cycle of clandestine proliferation, that we really ought to recognize, address and resolve. I don’t know if there is a relation, but I remember hearing Carl Sagan speak eloquently in the 1980s about nuclear winter, which in the 1990s was thought to be mostly abated. Again in these 2010s, ever bent on Armageddon, male monkeys with atomic arsenals can’t stop fighting over tribe and turf until all is ashes.
Sale, Peter. Our Dying Planet: An Ecologist's View of the Crisis We Face. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. Due in September, (the book not demise) a University of Windsor ecologist laments what appears to be, if not immediately remediated, an inexorable, precipitous decline and senescence of Earth’s life and human support systems. An example is fisheries, both for their own survival, and that of people. But an insidious cause, one might add, might be our cultural vacuity and loss of a nerve and will to live. This subject edition could be bracketed between two other 2011 UCP books: David Deamer’s First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began which alludes to an intrinsic drive and direction, and The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions. by Alex Rosenberg, Duke University philosophy chair, which buys into the pointless physics and aimless evolution view so as to praise a “nice nihilism.”
Coral reefs are on track to become the first ecosystem actually eliminated from the planet. So says leading ecologist Peter F. Sale in this crash course on the state of the planet. Sale draws from his own extensive work on coral reefs, and from recent research by other ecologists, to explore the many ways we are changing the earth and to explain why it matters. Weaving into the narrative his own firsthand field experiences around the world, Sale brings ecology alive while giving a solid understanding of the science at work behind today’s pressing environmental issues. He delves into topics including overfishing, deforestation, biodiversity loss, use of fossil fuels, population growth, and climate change while discussing the real consequences of our growing ecological footprint. Most important, this passionately written book emphasizes that a gloom-and-doom scenario is not inevitable, and as Sale explores alternative paths, he considers the ways in which science can help us realize a better future. (Publisher)