Pretending to look knowingly.
This web site is dedicated to Greta Thunberg and to all who marched on Sept 20, 2019
Oil firms to pour extra 7m barrels per day into markets, data shows The top 50 fossil fuel firms will together produce the equivalent of 225bn metric tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018-30. Photograph: Adél Békefi/Getty Projected production surge in next 12 years to be led by Shell despite climate crisis Video: why we need political action to rein in the fossil fuel industry Timeline: Half a century of dither and denial by Jonathan Watts, Jillian Ambrose and Adam Vaughan Thu 10 Oct 2019 07.00 EDT Last modified on Thu 10 Oct 2019 13.05 EDT Shares 1,905 The world’s 50 biggest oil companies are poised to flood markets with an additional 7m barrels per day over the next decade, despite warnings from scientists that this will push global heating towards catastrophic levels. New research commissioned by the Guardian forecasts Shell and ExxonMobil will be among the leaders with a projected production increase of more than 35% between 2018 and 2030 – a sharper rise than over the previous 12 years. The acceleration is almost the opposite of the 45% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 that scientists say is necessary to have any chance of holding global heating at a relatively safe level of 1.5C. The projections are by Rystad Energy, a Norwegian consultancy regarded as the gold standard for data in the industry. The rising trend they reveal highlights how major players seem to be ignoring government promises, scientific alarms and a growing public outcry so they can pum
Coming: An Unliveable Earth
Greed, Inattention, Lack of Courage, Incompetance
Don’t Give a Damn
I have been following climate change for 15 years. I have been working on this web site for two years. I have rewritten the home page more times than I can count. It is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I scream in my sleep (when I can sleep).
We are having calamity after calamity with 1°C temperature rise. The Paris Accord set 1.5° as a target. There is zero possibility of achieving that and it will make the world’s weather considerable worse. The fall-back was 2.0°C. The chance of that has fallen virtually to zero by 2100. The best guess is about 3.0°C and at this point 4-5°C is more likely. You and I will not want to be here for that and our descendent will be cursing us.
For every article I have read, the closing words are we have to move faster. We are moving faster. We are increasing the carbon in the air. Two small nations have met theIR Paris targets. The world must have a climate authority that forces plans if necessary and stages events monthly to report in detail how well the nations are doing.
And we must face the fact that nuclear power and negative emissions costing trillians of dollars will be essential.
Damn it, it is our only planet. For 50 years the powers that be have ignored the problem and it may be too late. The most pessismestic views may be optomistic.
What kind of people are we?
The Congress of the United States should have impeached Donald Trump on Inaugation Day. He stole the election with Russias’s help.
What kind of people are we? I will tell you. We are the kind of people who deserve what is going to happen to them. Every member of congress is a criminal. Every newspaper, scientist (yes that's what I said), every one in the energy industries. They all knew the harm they were causing.
I am alone here. My only qualifications are 7 years at MIT. My only contributions was three lectures to the Thoreau Society and chewing out their director over lunch. That is it.
In the next section I will outline what should be done, as inadequate as it will be, and it will never be implemented buecause we have a government of. by, and for the rich. And like almost everyone else they don’t understand what is happening. And no one has made a real effort to inform them.
In 1988 James Hansen, a climate authority, addresed congress, and got President Bush’s attention, but Republicians quashed his climate program.
Public awareness increaased slowly until an incredible teanager names Greta Thunberg had the courzge to rouse the world to speak in plain and powerful words before the United Nations. Scientists issued dire predictions. But the mystery continued. The population gradually accepted the idea of climate change, but no one, no organization made enough of an impact to rouse the nation. And even the horrendous acts of nature failed also, except in causing catatrosphic damage. But after a few days or weeks, the only peoplee remembering were those whose lives had been destroyed. MIT ran a series of conferences and urged speedy action, somehow seeming oblivious that 30 years ago was the time for speedy action.
Are we doomed? That depends on many things among them what one means by doomed.
The beautiful, benign climate of 1950 is gone permanently. The waves are chopping away Cape Cod and the aberations in the weather range from negligable to catastrophic, with the catastrophic becoming much too regular.
But the real problem is no one is leading the major effort that might limit the damage. Everyone urges urgency but the politics of the world and the money flowing into the cofers of oil companies rule. I literally scream in my sleep, and sometimes even while half awake. The combination of the climate and the corrupt and demented politicians is not almost too much to bear, it is too much to bear. So far the catastrophes are only news. But it is news I understand too well and cannot bear to hear.
The CO2 in the atmophere is the highest it has been in the last million years, (see CO2 DATA) when the temperature was about 3° C before we built industries and poured out carbon dioxide. The oceans were about 15 feet higher.
Scientists know well that effects of 412 ppm CO2 combined with the enormous energy stored in the ocean will have further effect on the climate. What they are counting on is a rapid decline in emissions and a new equalibrium at a higher temperature. But this could easily be 3°C or higher. This would be catastrophic in its effect on the planet’s ability to offer places to live.
While many actions were initiated to help amelorate the effects (e.g. solar power, windmills), actions were not nearly sufficient nor planned and enforced to achieve the necessary result. When the brakes failed we let the train accelerate down hill with hope our primary response. An attempt was made in 1989 by President H.W. Bush in coorporation with the United Nations at least partly in response to a speech to Congress by James Hansen. However, a multitude of pressures and opinions eventually killed the effort. (Click HERE for a link to the original web article and HERE for a reproduction of the text.) This may well be viewed in the future as a pivitol point in the history of humanity, with perhaps John Sonunu playing a decisive roll.
Another attempt was that of Bill McKibben’s organization 350.org that proposed a carbon dioxide level of 350 ppm. This was reasonable in light of the earth’s average CO2 level of the past million years of about 260 ppm. However, this effort also was ineffective.
More recently Paris and Katovice attempted to set goals, but there was nothing to make national leaders to take action. These experiences and others point to the problem of comprehending climate change. Despite many horrific events such as heat waves, hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, these events remain difficult to relate to a developing planet-wide catastrophe. They are eposodic in space and time. They leave virtually everyone who should be playing a role unable to rouse either themselves or a nation or the world to the enormous changes necessary. India has built enormous solar capacity but only enough to accommodate growth.
An approximate picture of the future is the graph below. It is simply a one term exponential created by curve fitting to match as closely as possible NASA temperature data from 1860 to 2018. Most analysis use much shorter periods of time and appear more linear. The curve fitting suggests three key points: 1) we are near an inflection point of the temperature curve when the rate of increase will accelerate; 2) we likely have waited too long; 3) keeping on anything resembling the current track will be catastrophic. It reflects the fact that emissions have not been falling as needed and that any hope for a hospitable earth would require widespread use of nuclear power and large scale negative emissions an impossibility with attitudes as they are and at this late date. Could an effort resembling a declaration of war do the job. It would be a miracle. Unfortunate and avoidable nucleaar incidents have prejucided the public against nuclear power. And, despite MIT’s concept of prefab factory construction the cost remeains very high.
In other words, the best we can do is ameloriate what is happening and wait for the climate to eventually settle into equilibrium at a higher temperature with virtually all ice sheets melted and coastal cities flooded, among other disasters.
Even neglecting the impact of President Trump our civilization has met its match. All the drastic actions that should have been taken by scientists, politicians, media, etc. were not triggered by the nature of the problem: isloated in space and time so as to become, in a sense, invisible or too easy to postpone. Ill informed politicians (heads of science committees that do not believe in “science” for example), limited comprehension of very difficult science, and the singular driving force of successful modern economics, shareholder value, are insurmountable.
I ask myself does MIT have the stature and capability to lead a "war" effort and my answer is: if not MIT then who?
The greatest tragedy in the history of humanity is a combination of larceny, negligence and ignorance.
I have attempted to write this introduction at least three dozen times over the past year and three forths.
Now I suggest you click on the image above and watch the video from the Boston Globe. It should make you cry. It overwhelms me, but I have been crying for the past five years, so I just die a little more.
As I learned more and more about global warming and watched what our leaders, fossil fuel vendors, the press and even scientists either make it happen or let it happen I experienced a helpless fury which will be with me for the rest of my life.
The greatest tragedy in the history of humanity is a combination of larceny, negligence and ignorance.
It was not without warning. In 1959 Edward teller, a world reknowned physicist and ineventor of the hydrogen bomb addressed the 100th anniversary celebration of the oil industry. A quote is included below. But that is not the whole story. The industry itself was doing fine, honest research, came to the same conclusion and burried the results. And sixty years later, when the climate is on a rampage, almost everyone is still doing the same thing. Power and money in exchange for destruction of our planet and our civilization.
An hour or so ago I was reading a story in the Boston Globe about the ongoing destruction of Cape Cod, stories and pictures of places I had photographed and waters I had fished many times with our adopted son.
This may strike you “oh, it’s just an exposed hunk of land, a tourist attraction.”
It is that, but is a special place of beauty, nature and access to the ocean and it is being slowly devestated by a fierce ocean eating at the shore line and demolishing homes. But as bad as it is, it is mild compared to what hurricans and cyclones have done, and wildfires and floods and deadly heat waves and no water to drink and no food and mass migrations and more and more.
We knew this was coming, but as will most of the ravages of global warming it has come faster than anyone could have imagined including the brilliant but cautions scientists.
In this web site I try to try to cover a wider range of issues to put more perspective on what has happened. I expect few people will read it but it relieves a pressure to do something and is teaching me a great deal about life.
Click JUMP 2
Below: The history of the earth. The earth today.
Left: A gathering in Poland on Greta’s Day
Right-above: the major polluting countries. They either stop completely within 10 years, which means starting work today, or we are history.
Greta Thunberg’s eloquent speech at the United Nations will not have the effect needed.
Of all the sentences I could write, this is the one I have feared most: that despite clear warnings of the effect of emissions of greenhouse gasses, most segments of our society have failed to take the necessary actions and the disturbances to our climate continue to increase. .
Two warnings are particularly important, that of Edward Teller’s to the petroleum barons in 1959 and that of James Hansen’s to Congress in 1988. Each sounded a loud and clear warning. Dr. Tellers speech (an excepert is reproduced below) told the oil industry what it already knew from it’s own research. Dr. Hansen's was effectively ignored by President George W. Bush. It is clear to me that both of these reactions revealed a side of the human race so oblivious they will lead either to an inhabitable planet or one ravaged by horrendous weather events leading to incomprehensible suffering and a large reduction in population.
Edward Teller ~ 1959
"Ladies and gentlemen, I am to talk to you about energy in the future. ... And this, strangely, is the question of contaminating the atmosphere. [....] Whenever you burn conventional fuel, you create carbon dioxide. [....] The carbon dioxide is invisible, it is transparent, you can’t smell it, it is not dangerous to health, so why should one worry about it? "Carbon dioxide has a strange property. It transmits visible light but it absorbs the infrared radiation which is emitted from the earth. Its presence in the atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect [....] It has been calculated that a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. All the coastal cities would be covered, and since a considerable percentage of the human race lives in coastal regions, I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe."
And so, at its hundredth birthday party, American oil was warned of its civilization-destroying potential.
Renowned physicist Edward Teller addressed the oil industry’s 100 anniversary celebration in 1959. Below: Read what he said.
James Hansen ~ 1988
James Hansen addressing congress in 1988. President Bush made promises but did not produce results. This is likely the last time that an effective plan could have been put together and executed at reasonable cost.
“...the earth is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements.... simulations indicate the probability of extreme events....”
The Incredible Amounts of Money Made by Oil Companies
While Knowing They Were Adding Carbon to the Air
click on blue for the story of the money
Revenue of the top 10 oil companies as of September 2019
Rank Company Revenue (Billions of US Dollars) Country of Origin
1. Saudi Aramco 465.49 Saudi Arabia
2. Sinopec Group 448 China
3 China National Petroleum Corporation 428.62 China
4 Exxon Mobil 268.9 United States
5 Royal Dutch Shell 265 The Netherlands/United Kingdom
6 Kuwait Petroleum Corporation 251.94 Kuwait
7 BP 222.8 United Kingdom
8 Total SA 212 France
9 Lukoil 144.17 Russia
10 Eni 131.82 Italy
There Is A Moral Obligation
To Do What is Right.
I once had a very small company for printing and selling fine-art photographic prints. It was funded by so-call “angel investors,” people with enough money that the investment could never imperil their finances. The chairman of the group of investors once told me that the only thing that mattered was ”shareholder value.” In other words, as long as the stock price increased, nothing else mattered. I have since learned that a large portion of the world operates that way. Cigarette manufacturers knew they were killing people yet continued to sell hard, until government regulations started to interfere with the business. So now they go to eastern Europe and hand free cigarettes to teen agers knowing that many will become addicted. I consider this murder.
As we know, history repeats itself. In the long quote above from Edward Teller he is warning oil companies that carbon dioxide will harm the earth. This was in 1959. We now know that these same companies were doing research and coming to the same conclusion. They concealed the results. The murder victim was now the earth.
It is one of the great moral conundrums of all time, why companies that have and/or are making a great deal of money keep inflicting harm by making more. As of September 2019 the companies in the list above are pushing oil and gas, knowing exactly what harm they are doing. Not only that, they receive government subsidies. And they pay a great deal of money to the right people in the right places to continue to let them do this. And of course senators, congressmen and others of influence readily accept the payoffs. For us the consequence is that we may end up with a dead planet.
Risking Your Life
Because you love to do something.
The men who became astronauts were first fighter pilots, and then test pilots flying the most advanced aircraft (jet and rocket powered) in the world. Many died in the process. The best of the living volunteered to become astronauts.
One answer has been doing something for money versus doing something for love.
I have had several careers and they always involved doing something I loved. But once you marry into group of business people you may find people who do it just for the money, and nothing else matters.
My guess is that oilmen do it for the money, and that is their right. What is the mystery is that once they are wealthy and discover their business causes harm, they continue to do it.
The men discussed below could barely put food on the table being test pilots.
I have read the book, Rocket Men, that is the story of Apollo 8 when this first Earthrise photograph was made looking out of the corner of a window of the spacecraft.
Apollo 8 was mission to travel to the moon for the first time, go into orbit for several hours, and then return to earth. This mission was added at the last minute when it was realized it was necessary in order to meet President Kennedy’s time goal:
“By the end of the decade.”
The normal time for preparation for this extra mission would have been 6 months to a year. This mission had to happen in 2 months. There were 400,000 people working on the Apollo program. All the managers met and debated for days and finally gave the go-ahead. Everyone worked almost round-the-clock. Wives left husbands because they never saw them. Train and test, prepare and reherse over and over and over again.
Something the Russians tried and could not do went off perfectly.
Any engineer will tell you this should not have been possible.
We have never had to do anything like this since (except perhaps fight World War II). Until now. Except we do not want to leave the earth, we want to save it so we can stay here, and all our children and their descendants can stay here and enjoy their stay. And that billions of people can stay here and enjoy their lives.
Mattagodus Stream, Kingman, Maine, 1993
Despite the impressive protests, this is not an issue that can be debated for years for that is what I expect to happen. Even if politicians decide action is necessary, the need for funding is extremely great. Germany just announced a $60 billion program, which many consider inadequate.
For the greatest possibility of a livable planet we must:
1. Reduce emissions of all signifiant gasses very rapidly
2. Stop destruction of forests
3. Improve farming practices
4. Reduce the use of pastures for grazing
5. Stop all use of coal
6. Begin immediately serious research with large scale prototype negative emission systems
7. Figure out how to power such systems so they have a net positive benefit.
8. Do the truly impossible: Turn politicians into Apollo engineers: competent, capable, honest to a fault, determined. Do this and god has a special place for you in heaven.
A Challenge Unlike Any Before
What has been in the way, and what is now in the way.
There is almost no one in a position to size up the complete situation. Here is the list:
1. It is complicated. Keeping weather and climate separate is an approximation.
2. The time scale is enormous. It took millions of years to get the planet into an equilibrium state. Then we come along and for all intents and purposes through bombs of CO2. And keep throwing them.
3. What this does is essentially make the climate impossible to model. Equilibrium has been replaced by chaos, so the models keep missing anomolis events. An example is suddenly finding the oceans holding 40% more heat than expected.
4. Projections have almost always been optimistic. But there is a big problem here. To get people to do something you do not want to underestimate, but politics (Republicans) would cut off your legs at the knees if you overestimated anything.
5. Something in human psychology made greed grow worse and worse. Ronald Regan's first take cut and trickle down economics were the beginning of the end. We began a caravan of trucks moving wealth into the money bins of the already wealthy.
5. The ideology of small government and low taxes. This is insane because it only helps the wealthy who don't need the services the government provides. There is no justice built in nor is there a measure of life quality.
6. Educational quality is widely sacrificed. Rigorous science is rarely taught. The "well educated" (and this would include Barak Obama) think that because they have Ivy degrees they are “intelligent” whereas the quality of science education necessary to begin to understand today's world is missing. They received a fool’s diploma and did not know it.
7. This now spills into the media. The New York Times does a horrible job of reporting on climate change because no one on the editorial or publishing side understands science.
8. Scientists do not know how to communicate science. They also could not get themselves organized. There should have been a thousand or so marching on the capital. They wrote nice articles that only a few web readers saw.
9. We are seduced by windmills and solar panels. They are good and essential. But they are built too slowly and cannot pick up the load fast enough. But every solar panel we see makes us feel that we are getting there when in fact we are being lapped.10. Fosil fuel barons, knowing full well what is happening (and just like cigarette makers) keep pumping. Shareholder equity wins over any other measure (except executive salary).
10. Humanity is sick. There are no discussions of what the human experience can be outside of money. The essence of living is lost. And so are we.
Zero Emissions still leaves the carbon in the air.
So we have to clean the air: It is called negative emissions.
October 11, 2018
"The report, drafted in response to a request by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), evaluates the differences between a 1.5°C and a 2°C future and whether different emissions trajectories can achieve a future with less warming. It makes clear that we need a global commitment to move away from fossil fuels and also focus on the removal of carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere (not just reduction of future emissions) to prevent irreversible effects that would have devastating consequences across the globe. Such an approach is especially vital to the ocean, where achieving a 2°C future (the official goal of the Paris Accord) would still result in destructive changes to the ocean and coastal areas around the world. We can and must do better.
Why Is There No One With The Courage
The Oil, Gas and Coal companies, who have made billions knowingly poisening the air of the planet, must be held responsible for cleaning that air.
And why do governments subsidize fossil fuel companies over 1/2 trillion dollar each year? It is crime and corruption on a vast scale.
More Than You Want To Know
The new issue of Time Magazine describes a world I do not want to live in. It is, in fact, a world no one can live in becauses it will be too hot and will get hotter and hotter forever, eventually becoming a dead planet.
But we, all humans of every language and religion, have a moral obligation to the future, to our children and all their children to stop damaging the Earth now.
1. Get emissions down as fast as possible.
2. Remove the carbon we have added to help heal the earth.
3. Rise to the greatest challenge in the history of humanity.
4. And so, to succeed, become a better humanity.
We are standing on the edge of a crumbling cliff...but there are no other options.
It is a huge challenge, but there is no other way. We must rally as we did in World War II and the Apollo program, but now several times over. It is a challenge that America, returning to be leader of the world, must meet.
“This week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a jaw-dropping report that laid bare the choices that we must make to ensure a livable and equitable future in the face of climate change. Make no mistake: climate change is here now—we are living with it as more powerful hurricanes, worsening drought, melting glaciers and rising sea levels are affecting populations around the world at an ever faster pace. While nations have now stepped up to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Accord, the new UN requested report makes it abundantly clear that we must do more.
“The report, drafted in response to a request by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), evaluates the differences between a 1.5°C and a 2°C future and whether different emissions trajectories can achieve a future with less warming. It makes clear that we need a global commitment to move away from fossil fuels and also focus on the removal of carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere (not just reduction of future emissions) to prevent irreversible effects that would have devastating consequences across the globe. Such an approach is especially vital to the ocean, where achieving a 2°C future (the official goal of the Paris Accord) would still result in destructive changes to the ocean and coastal areas around the world. We can and must do better.”
Caring for the Earth
The Science Behind The Needs
Science is just reality understood and verified. With it nature becomes mathematics. To every real scientist it is the key to understanding the world, from stars to sand bars. We cannot survive without it.
The figures below show science applied to climate change:
Figure 1 shows us at the edge of a cliff in 2020. If we don't tame emissions, the temperature curve goes up faster and faster.
Figure 2 shows "scenarios" the IPCC has worked out as possibilities. If we do RCP 8.5 (the worst, business as usual) we might just as well throw in the towel. RCP 2.5 is idealistic, and would require a miraculous change in human behavior. Anything worse than 2.5 will still leave us in trouble, unless we do Negative Emissions.
This picture is of a galaxy similar to the Milky Way (which we cannot photograph because we are in it). The solar system is in one of the outer arms. There are about a thousand trillion trillion stars in a galaxy such as this.
Climate I ~ Give Up
I have felt for some time that this web site is becoming more and more an obituary for planet earth.
Jonathan Franzen's article on climate change in the September 8, 2019 issue of The New Yorker has to be the most infuriating and stupid piece about life, climate change or almost anything else I have ever read except that his attitude may well reflect reality. He is just saying we should give up.
As an engineer accustomed to thinking about risk and as an artist enamored of the landscape (wawrzonek.com) I find this, as well as all the other analysis effectively pussy footing when the whole damn planet is at stake to be demoralizing in the extreme. We did not pussy foot in World War II or the Apollo program and infinitely more is now at stake. Franzen amounts to "well nobody knows what's going to happen so let’s eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow I die."
From the first day I read about climate change 15 years ago I have been a pessimist, agonizing why we are not fixing it, and my agonizing exploded with the election of Trump and with the naiveté of the Paris Accords and the follow up Katowice meeting. And there have been many arguments trying to get around the human contribution, sun spots amoung many. This seems to have been put to bed well enough: Sun Spots: Scientific American.
I had to make a decision whether to play climate scientist and attempt to follow and understand all the arguments for one cause or another. I chose instead to be myself, which might be called an “engineering assessment.”
Engineers often have to size up complex situations quickly and arrive at a practical plan that minimizes risk and cost but gets the job done as rapidly as practical.
I know that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and my first qualitative impression is that I cannot believe that the amount of CO2 we have put into the air and are adding to every day is not having some effect. A detailed analysis is beyond my capability: I am not a climatologist and I don't have access to much of the data. So what would I like to know: I would like to know if there is a correlation between the earth’s temperature and the total amount of carbon dioxide in the air, and, how close is the correlation. When you cannot do an experiment you look for experiments that have already been done, and where the job is to get data and try to make sense of it.
There is an extraordinarily complete source of data on greenhouse gasses that covers virtually all situations: Our World Data. The curve below is the ”hockey stick” shape made infamous by Al Gore. However, it is exactly what we need to correlate carbon with temperature. To the right of it is my attempt to predict the future based on the hockey puck.
The pink curve is a smoothed version of the actual data and the blue curve is an extrapolation done by ”curve fitting.” It is a simplified look at what the future might be if we kept doing what we did to create the hockey stick. It is based on data going back to 1880 and suggests more of an exponential rise than looking at perhaps just a decade of recent data. So what do we make of this.
When I first read of climate change the issue that hit me was the presence of positive feedback, or self-reinforcing mechanisms such as the melting of the tundra to release methane, a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. And at the time, there were no obvious negative feedback mechanisms that might cool the earth. And finally there was the enormous amount of CO2 already added since the start of the industrial evolution plus the stunning amount being added every year.
Climate II ~ Risk Management
Negative Emissions: The Reality
There are multiple lessons to be learned from letting climate change get so far ahead of us.
But there is a fundamental problem: it is not just a few lessons but so many of the lessons a society needs to learn, one wonders if we are not back in medieval times.
It feels as if science has never been taught. It seems that as the opportunity to earn prodigious amounts of money has expanded that greed has expanded with it.
The ultimate philosophy of reciprocity does not seems to exist.
But most of all there seems to be an obliviousness to what the earth is. Certainly, virtually no one knows there are about 1011 stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. It is conceivable that the earth is the only planet that can support higher forms of life. In fact it seems as if oil barons, politicians (especially on the right) are zombies, greed and power hungry aliens of the living dead.
But liability is in plentiful supply: the media has either ignored the issue, lied about it or set a new standard of blasé. (I am going to leave D. Trump out of this since I consider him of a different species than homo sapiens.)
For negative emissions to work, research needs to start now, September 2019.
Most still evince a frightened optimism. I do not. I view this as a scientific problem whose risks have not been managed. We are wasting every minute, and no matter who wins the presidency in 2020, it is extremely likely that the speed of warming of the climate will outrun the speed of catching up of the president. It will take a phenomenal degree of awareness well before the first day in office, plus an army of baggage handlers to deal with what Trump has collected.
At 78 it is most unlikely that I will know the outcome. What I fear most is that my granddaughter will.
This is the kind of situation that screams “risk management,” which means, given that we are not making attempts to reduce CO2 emissions, what is the worst that could happen. Well, the worst is some combination of the calamities (drought, fire, storms, floods, heat waves, etc.) that we have already experienced leading to a planet that is less and less habitable, and conceivably uninhabitable. Was this certain? No. But it is like the plane you are flying in with smoke pouring out of both engines, you land as quickly as you can and do more analysis later.
As of September 2019 we are doing very little to improve the situation and a great deal to make it worse. That is the state of things and the question is what do we do now? More analysis is not likely to pay off since we have disturbed the climate so much that prediction is very difficult, and simple curves like mine suggest the worst case is possible.
So the only option is to do everything conceivable to improve the situation regardless of cost since nothing can cost more than loosing the planet as a place to live. And there appear to be a large number of obstacles to major improvement given Donald Trump as president. In simple terms, we are in deep trouble unless we want to take Franzen’s attitude: give up and break out the vodka.
One more comment, whether you take one of the optimistic scientific scenarios or one of the pessimistic ones, giving up feels like a betrayal of the creation that brought us here. And one more engineering experience: when the situation is complex and you do the morally correct course of giving it all you've got, surprises can happen that are both negative and positive.
In other words, we might make it to the airport and land the plane safely after all.
My attitude continues with an infinite appreciation for what the earth is, how spectacular a gift it is to humanity, followed by anger at the never look out the window attitude of the majority of humanity, an example of which is the joy of some that this is the "end time" and so a fulfillment of scripture. If no one were listening, what would follow would be a string of profanity like you have never heard.
1. The idea that we would risk the planet without an all out effort is morally reprehensible, because it was a gift to us and we are under an irrevocable obligation to care for it.
2. If you don't think the planet is precious enough to give it everything you have then get out of our bloody way.
3. If you don't feel like joining the fight you will be drafted.
4. If you are wealthy as a result of fleecing the poor through tax cuts, open your wallet or we will open it for you.
5. If you are the Walmart family with $124 billion you squeezed from minimum wage workers, open your wallet damn wide.
Climate III ~ Establishing Control
An Independent World Climate Authority
A Bipartisan Congress
In the Absence of a Functional US Government,
The European Union Should Assume Responsibility
1. The United States must elect a president and Congress that understand the enormity and urgency of the threat to the climate we depend on.
2. Because of its resources the United States should lead the effort against the climate, something akin to the Manhattan Project and Apollo program combined.
3. The Climate Authority must combine the best scientists, engineers and managers and the participation of all important world leaders.
4. As was the case with Manhatten and Apollo, no effort or expense or utilization of personnel was spared.
5. Priorities should be established along with short and long term plans.
1) Maximum effort to stop emissions with fair and just support to smaller countries.
2) A research effort to analyze the advantage of ultra-safe nuclear power generation.
3) A research effort to analyze the potential for implementation of negative emissions, with the goal of returning the earth to a CO2 level of 350 ppm.
4) Development of multi-lingual public education effort, including a social media campaign that is updated regularly, and perhaps a printed quality educational piece mailed to each household regularly. These should be dramatic, clear, easily understood and truthful.
5. Pray in whatever religion you believe or to the creation itself. This is the leadership challenge of all human history.
Besides the climate of the last 400,000 years having been torn to shreds by streams of greenhouse gasses, now politicians and fossil fuel barons of incomprehensible greed keep rising emissions when they should be taking a nosedive. (Australia has just concluded an enormous sale of coal).
Controlling these interests could become so difficult as to require the use of force. When greed takes over, belief in science or data or anything else rational disappears. So the worst case starts to feel probable and even likely.
I contend that nuclear power generation will be essential as soon as possible and the negative emissions will also be critical. And the way to get these is to start research now.
The slide show below uses older images, and is still terrifying.
In 1959, Edward Teller made the petroleum industry aware of the risks of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The petroleum industry did its own research and came to the same conclusion, but suppressed the information. Now some 70 years later, the level of carbon dioxide has reached 412 ppm and the fossil fuel suppliers are determined to burn as much of it as possible.i
1. The last time CO2 was this high was came during the Pliocene Epoch, which extended from about 5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago.
2. Although there have been many solar and wind projects the amount of CO2 continues to rise, since the emissions are dominated by power generation and transportation and so-called "renewables" do not begin to have enough capacity.
3. The two figures above illustrate the present problem. Fig 1 (above left) is an extrapolation by curve fitting of NASA temperature data from 1880 to 2018. It roughly matches the "business as usual" scenarios of various more formal studies. The second figure shows (upper lines) approximately what is happening, while the lower lines are what needs to be happening to hold temperature rise to something like the goals of the Paris Accords. The obvious conclusion is that we are not only not making progress, we are going backwards. The reason for the lack of progress is obvious: 1) no action plan has been agreed to; 2) no one is in charge; 3) president Trump is doing all he can to sabotage efforts at control.
4. Energy systems, such as the earth's climate, may come to an equilibrium given enough time which is what had happened over the previous 800,0000 years until about 1850.
5. At this point, with the invention of the steam engine, followed by electric power generation and automobiles was the equivalent of throwing many large bombs of CO2 into the system. This has upset the equilibrium to the point that it appears to me it does not make sense to talk about a "climate." The continued input of more CO2 and the beginnings of release of methane from the tunra make any pretense of equilibrium nonsence.
6. The climate is unstable and the management of emissions so lacking that there can be no pretense of bringing things under control without launch of a massive program.
If you do not believe in climate change, watch the slide show above. For the most part global warming simply makes what is already going to happen much worse, as with the recent hurricanes. This includes the accelerating of polar ice caps and the glaciers of Greenland. They might have melted slowly before, now they are melting faster than anyone expected. The result is a rise in sea level which will speed the flooding of coastal cities. We are passing through a dangerous time and emissions are going up strongly rather than taking a nose-dive as we need.
To an engineer (63, 65, 67) global warming has smelled of thermal runaway from day one with the report that heat from the greenhouse effect would melt the tundra and release methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane, in turn, would trap more heat, warming the atmosphere further. At some point, depending on “loop gain,” the rate of increase of temperature also begins to increase. Time runs faster and faster until there is no turning back. I read of this 15 years ago and my life has not been the same since.
All the while we seem to forget the Earth is our only home, it took billions of years to build, and moving is not an option, even just to the moon.
Despite a river of science revelations, our teaching curiculia strike me as medieval. Basic math of course, and contemporary language, history with various distortions, intentional or not, but science is still for the most part elective while the science requirement of an open mind and expectation of discovery is taught only by the best science teachers, and getting one is luck.
Greed is running as well as ever with carbon just a waste product to discard as waste products have always been. A new confidence that wealth and technology will save us is like a new toy, helpful in the crib, but not so much outside.
But most of all is a need to sense the urgency and accept that basic forces need to be changed now. This in turn demands an ability to speak to the unscientific.
But that is only at home in America and there is the rest of the planet to deal with complicated by thousands of thousand year old religions none with a trace of the scientific openess we need and all confindent that they were chosen to be the chosen, or just captured by greed like most others. What to do has never had more answers with less conficdence in their appropriateness.
What to do? We still don't have a plan but we do have the absolute opposite of a perfect plan holding the office that should be creating the perfect plan. (Oddly it reminds me of an epsode of M*A*S*H, with Charles Emerson Winschester III holding his precious french horn, it having just been run over by a very large vehicle, and now thinner than a pancake. Not a trump(et) but close enough.)
We do have countless articles predicting cataclysm and then nothing about what to do. It merits a “Titanic sized” headline on the front page of the Times. It gets comparatively nothing.
Somehow, the danger of our only home burning down, has never gotten 1/100 of the publicity it deserves. The New York Times did magazine features two years ago and before that very little. Perhaps the headline on the Time Magazine (not The Times Magazine) cover should have been a question, rather than a warning of how bad it is going to get: “Why are we letting the earth die?” followed by point by point obituaries.
It has always been just a matter of time and single digit degrees. 2100 and 2°C was the target. The fact that we were being pummeled at less than 1°C and that CO2 was at its highest level in 800,000 years and 42% higher than 1880 and the fossil fuel industry was doing everything conceivable to pump out more CO2 which is what is going on today has not been sufficcient to create enough fear to cause a coalition of concerned people to raise the flag high and start planning. THIS is catastrophe. This is not “getting it.” Perhaps it is some combination of greed and stupidity, for that would make sense for a fuel business. And it is not the UNIPCC which does not have at least the hint of an army in back of it. It negotiates at conferences one or more levels from the top. And one is too many.
However, I believe there is something more fundamental going on, and my guess is a predliction to believe something before we know anything and, in many if not most cases to keep believing it. It is a wall of acquired knowledge from dubious soures, fear of being overrun by obtuse explations beginning to believe that the outcome might be true. Or a lifetime of learning that god is in control of the climate and there is nothing to be done, except possibly enjoy the "end-times."
Climate V: An Intellectual Void
Science and engineering run in my family so they are a way of life. As I read of people who "do not believe in science," something has gone wrong. Not believing in science is like not believing in sunlight.
It is likely you would not be alive without it, a species with incredible talent doing all it can to kill itself off.
1. Few study science and those who do probably don't get a very good education.
2. There are no longer media like newspapers with big science sections and (I presume) PhD scientists trying to educate us. The New York Times does not even have a science editor or a writer with a science degree.
3. Scientists don't speak English even if it is not technical stuff. "It is highly likely..." means to the rest of us that we would bet our lives on it.
Climate VI: The Media
Science Reporting at the The New York Times
THE NEW YORK TIMES blames you and me for not stopping climate change.
Above is a screen shot from a New York Times promotion for a magazine issue on climate change. Below is a quote from Jacobin Magazine about the New York Times magazine story.
"Once upon a time, we almost solved climate change, but then human nature got in the way. This is the thesis of novelist Nathaniel Rich’s new article on climate change, comprising an entire issue of the New York Times Magazine, entitled “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change.” The decade in question is the 1980s, when, in Rich’s telling, a “handful of people” — a small group of scientists and policymakers, based entirely in the United States — nobly tried to save the rest of us from the doom now approaching. The story follows the environmental lobbyist Rafe Pomerance and the climate scientist James Hansen as they try to raise the alarm about the greenhouse effect, with help from some surprising allies — the occasional Republican senator and concerned representatives of oil companies. The climax comes in 1989 when the United States, under the “environmental president” George H. W. Bush, torpedoes a promising effort to reach an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions. From this narrow look at a brief period of American history, Rich draws the conclusion that we are all — “we” as in humanity, “we” as in the human species — to blame for the catastrophe that we failed to prevent. Interspersed with pictures of our beautiful, wounded planet, the thesis is laid out in stark pull quotes — “All the facts were known, and nothing stood in our way. Nothing, that is, except ourselves.” It is not the right conclusion. The 1980s were an important decade, but not for the reasons Rich thinks. He’s rightly gotten flak for letting the fossil-fuel industry and Republicans off the hook. But even beyond that, his narrative misses what actually happened in the decade in question: the eighties were when the new right consolidated power and limited democratic control over economic processes in order to reorganize capitalism in service of renewed growth. To turn around and lay the blame on democracy is perverse."
Climate and weather are extraordinarily difficult to understand. They are a combination of dozens of natural systems that we loosely divide into long term and short term and call them climate and weather. However, we have now taken a climate that took thousands of years to reach equalibrium, to establish itself into a relativly steady state interrupted only by ice ages. Then we introduce what is effectivly a time bomb of carbon dioxide.
In just a few decades we move carbon from 270ppm to 412ppm and continue to add more and more, while also releasing more and more methane. There is no longer enough time to make predictions with an exponential rise hanging over our heads and wondering what we have overlooked.
Now we also have humanity not prepared for comprehending such problems, a newspaper, The New York Times, that does a extremely poor job of covering the topic (it does not have a science editor) and then blames the public for not stopping climate change.
This is one of the most heinous derelections of duty in the history of mankind. I followed the Times for 15 years and can confirm that this is an understatement. But to try to cover up its neglect with a Sunday Magazine devoted to the topic that claims that "we," meaning you and I, could have stopped it decades ago is is brazen and pitiful. It is, of course, one of those situations where there is no backing up, no making good, no fine that will cover the damage, nothing expect a reading public (me) trying to find words adequate to the task, and there are none. And now feeling guilty for not writing something to someone, sometime before now.
The Times has one science journalist on its staff who does not have a science degree. (This information is from Wikipedia as of September 7, 2019.)
I have wondered about this for about 15 years, but did not research the topic until now, and I am flabergasted. What many would regard as the most prestegious newpaper in the United States I would expect to have one or more PhD scientsts on its full-time staff, a PhD science editor, and given what has been happening to the climate a team devoted to the topic.
Years ago I told my wife there should be a sizeable box on the front page with a black band around it and a weekly full page devoted to climate change.
After years of neglect it published in 2017 two magazines on climate change. The points they attempted to make was that it could have been stopped years ago. Following is a link to a video about one of the magazines: Magazine on Climate Change
"How Not to Talk About Climate Change BYALYSSA BATTISTONI, Jacobin."
It is infinitely complicated by assumptions about what education means. I heard a PhD professor in a light snow say ”See its snowing. What‘s this about climate change?” And perhaps that PhD history major/editor at the New Yorker considers himself well-educated without ever having taken one rigorous science course. Or scientists whose idea of panic is "it is highly likely...."
Even science or engineering majors at MIT may not learn what an open mind is.
As an engineer who has worked with high energy equipment, there is nothing quite like smoking, melting, components with a familiar smell of electronic disaster to create an appropriate paranoira when working with unknowns. And that includes the climate, for its energy is nearly infinte, and it combines opposites: fire and water, heat and cold, wind beyond imagination and the unexpected in unexpected quantity.
My mentor, Amar Bose, had nearly a fetish for not accepting conventional wisdom. He could be difficult to deal with, yet you learned there was no other way. And still somehow unbelievable destruction like hurricane Dorian, killing heat waves, unspeakable drought is not enough to put us on a war footing. Instead we have an unspeakablely dumb president and a congress for whom science is some kind of oddity rather than a way of verifying knowledge. We have 50,000 gun deaths compared to 12 in Japan, and view a barrier of smoke as if it were concrete.
There is a remote chance of pulling this out of the fire, but if Trump is reelected it will require an armed rebellion.
Climate VII: So Who Is At Fault?
We will restrict the fault to those who could have done something about it.
1. Scientists: focus on the doable as opposused to engineers who will try to solve anything. Scientists cannot be wrong and so don't ever say something that might backfire against them. And if they really believed, where was the 1000 scientist march on the White house 30 years ago, occupying the capital steps, etc.
2. The media. A bit like the scientists (at least the honest media). but not ready to raise a ruckus. The New York Times burries the news and then runs a Sunday Magazine Special with the pitiful absolution that we, you and I, could have stopped this 30 years ago. Horsehair shirts, bread and water, and dungeons for the editors and publisher and the same for all the other reasonable papers.
Religion. Flunk. Custodians of the earth. Evangelicals, double flunk. Absolving Trump because of some suspicious attactraction to Trump. This is a horror story. Glad because the end times are coming and we will (without raising a finger to help) be sbsolved, blessed, etc.9
Television: I don't watch it but I suspect it is just another item of news, just like the newspapers.
Engineers: A tough one, being in that category. It sure got my dander up when I first heard about it about 15 years ago. I did waste a lot of computer ink on this web site.
Artists. No. None of the right muscles.
Educators: Yes. Big Time. My alma mater (MIT) is running its first conferences on the topic this October 2019. It was voted the best engineering school in the world for 37 straight years by US News. Perhaps it is just too outlandish. No. It is jist too inconvient.
Al Gore. OK. But not completely. I attended one of the local group meetings and slide show years ago. The hockey stick slide show. I was a marketing manager at Bose Corporation and we had to commmunicate simple technology to consumers. We spent a quarter million dollars on a 15 minute nine projector slide show. Locked everyone in an acousticallly perfect room and had a man, Bob Petrucci, produce the shows. A genius. About 150 times better than Al Gore. We we lucky Bose had Bob (and me to a lesser extent.)
And, let us not forget the oilly business. Let them boil in it.
So that's the news from Lake Woe.
End of Section on Climate
The Cosmos: Birth and Rebirth
Milkweed: An explosion of seeds, a beautiful last act of a plant creating its own successors.
Difficult to photograph in the field, I brought this unusual double pod home to my studio. For six months I experimented with two strobe lights, one placed behind to shine through the beautiful white silk that would become the wings of the seeds when the wind was blowing. After a hundred or so Polariods with my 4x5 view camera I was ready for the final three exposures onto tranparency film. At the instant of the second exposure, the heat from the strobe behind caused a burst of flame lasting about one second and leaving nothing but the shells that had held the seeds. But I did capture the image I had hoped for. The Milkweed carries the accesion number 0001, the first in my collection.
The Holmdel antenna at Bell Labs
Click on the picture for a story about the cosmic background radiation.
Cosmic Background Radiation
"The cosmic microwave background (CMB, CMBR), in Big Bang cosmology, is electromagnetic radiation as a remnant from an early stage of the universe, also known as "relic radiation". The CMB is faint cosmic background radiation filling all space. It is an important source of data on the early universe because it is the oldest electromagnetic radiation in the universe, dating to the epoch of recombination. With a traditional optical telescope, the space between stars and galaxies (the background) is completely dark. However, a sufficiently sensitive radio telescope shows a faint background noise, or glow, almost isotropic, that is not associated with any star, galaxy, or other object. This glow is strongest in the microwave region of the radio spectrum. The accidental discovery of the CMB in 1964 by American radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson was the culmination of work initiated in the 1940s, and earned the discoverers the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics."
The “egg” image below is a result of two years of measurments of the cosmic background radition by a European Space Agency satellite. The long time is needed to add up signal by repeated "exposures," while the incohenent thermal noise inherent in any measurement, being random, adds at a slower rate. This is the highest resolution image of three satellites, the first two being Amerian. The colors are false although this is as much a photograph as any taken with a digital camera. The color variations correspond to variations in temperature of the CRB as small as 20 millionths of a degree and reveal a great deal about the structure of the universe. The image is considered highly reliable evidence of the big bang and is the basis of much theoritical study of the early universe.
A Two Year Integrated View of the Cosmic Background Radiation
Having received this comment innumberable times from my wife I thought I should address it directly. It is a good question, and when I first began thinking about it in the course of writing about global warming I had somewhat the same reaction. What difference does it make? Well, the answer is everything and nothing.
As long as the earth was circling the sun and the seasons were reliably changing it was easy to say it did not matter.
However, it always bugged me a bit that something so collosal as the birth of everything (ten thousand trillion, trillion stars) from something a trillionith trillionith the size of an atom must carry something like religious or philosophical or mystic weight.
Setting god aside, we have a few giant unknowns: why we exist, why the big bang happened, and what does death mean. There are others but either of these could occupy a lifetime or two of inquiry. And there is fourth: what is "life?" Not what is the meaning of life, but what is it? (The question will make more sense after I propose an answer.)
As to "who cares?" I will say I do for the simple reason that my life is intertwined with something more mindboggling than I can possibly comprehend, so I am curious why I am involved with this in any way. And I am curious how humans and the earth are one of the products of all this. Do I have answers? Mostly, but not entirely, no.
Understanding climate change must begin with an attempt to understand humankind. And understanding humankind must begin witn an attempt to understand the creation.
My feeling has been, from the time I started thinking about this 15 years ago that part of what makes the earth so precious is the nature of its origin.
Physists say (and have said to me personally) that there are millions of inhabited planets but setti (the search for extraterriestrial intelligence) has been listening using modern technology since 1980, detecting no meaningful signal. An important part of this may be the large number of characteristics of a planet necessary for the birth and life of humankind.
I would venture to say the a reasonable knowledge of the birth of the universe as scientifically understood is a tiny fraction of the population. This may seem insignificant since it is so extreme that there is an inclination to just dismiss it as the imagination of a few scientists. Yet evidence for it is clear, one piece
The universe was born in what is customarily known as the big bang (or what I prefer to call the "Grand Signularity" and untimately leads to humankind with brains capable of reconstrtufting the process (with some exceeptiong) the elements of this process (illutration at right.
This timeline and its steps are something most are not familiar with. However, everything, including space and time begin in the singulity and that includes the energy that eventually turns to mass and after about 10.8 billion years ends as human beings.
It also leads to the rest of the universe (weighing on the order of 1044kg, yet the singularity itself was the smallest thing that can exist being the length of the Plank distance and lasting the Plank time, each being a single quanta of mass and time.
Now comes the crux of the knowledge divides.
Does it mean anything to know that eveything there is was born in a space 10-34 cm in 10-44 seconds. For most people the answer is no, and for most people carrying on with life without this knowledge works just fine and I believe that is ompletely legimimate. After all it has gone on ever since the idea of god was conscieved. However, once it is known, and especially in the context of an endangered planet, it is so extreme that it makes me (at least) review my idea of what the existence of this planet means, and subsequently what existence means.
But when you are afraid that something really important may be taken from you, suddenly matters what it is and where it came from.
A spiral gallery similiar to our own Milky Way which cannot be photographed from this angle since we are locaated in one of the apiral arms.
From the Wikipedia article (click on the image to go to the article):
"The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains the Solar System, with the name describing the galaxy's appearance from Earth: a hazy band of light seen in the night sky formed from stars that cannot be individually distinguished by the naked eye. The term Milky Way is a translation of the Latin via lactea, from the Greek γαλαξίας κύκλος (galaxías kýklos, "milky circle"). From Earth, the Milky Way appears as a band because its disk-shaped structure is viewed from its outer rim. Galileo Galilei first resolved the band of light into individual stars with his telescope in 1610. Until the early 1920s, most astronomers thought that the Milky Way contained all the stars in the Universe. Following the 1920 Great Debate between the astronomers Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, observations by Edwin Hubble showed that the Milky Way is just one of many galaxies."
I had decided that the climate was a lost cause, until I read of the 400,000 people working on the Apollo program, an utter miracle of devotion, commitment and capability combined with an intensity of effort that boggles the mind.
For a long time I considered humanity the result of the not especially orderly, but definitely preordained process that led from the big bang to humanity.
As I thought about it once the singularity had done its work, the rest seemed inevitable. Energy leads to quarks. Quarks beome protons and neutrons. With gravity these become stars and then certain stars become supernovae.
Quoting from Wikipedia: "... Supernovae are a major source of elements in the interstellar medium from oxygen through to rubidium."
That is all there is to it, except now besides hydrogen and helium we have all the stable elements in the periodic table. It feels to me like magic has happened, for now anything can be created, or perhaps, born. With just helium and hydrogen, the universe is a bore. With oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and all the other stable elements we can make planets and pianos. Goats and golf balls. Green grass and sand. All the elements are there. I cannot help but feel the excitement of discovering worlds of many different kinds.
And of course we can make people, and societies and civilizations. The periodic table is the greatest gift we could receive. Except for "one" thing. I suspect, no I am certain that in the grand singularity was a giant set of constraints and infinite possibilities.
When I speak of this to others I often get a ho hum, as if that is just the way it is and what is the fuss all about. I remember Einstein discovered relatively with pencil and papar and a question: what does it mean for two things to happen at the same time. An utterly simple question that revealed so much.
The “Creation” I refer to above is the result of the appearance 11.75 billion years ago of eveerything out of nothing, neither space nor time had existed. A singularity is the smallest and shortest-lived thing that can be gave us the universe.
Strong evidence for the big bang is the cosmic background radiation, the very weak afterglow of the big bang itself (see picture caption above).
Two scientists from Bell Labs detected an almost perfectly uniform very weak microwave radiation that proved to be the cosmic background radiation.
The big bang was the smallest thing that can be (trillions of times smaller than an atom) appearing from nothing (nothing being no space and no time) and bringing to us a universe of 1022 stars.
It seems to me that the future of this planet needs and deserves this context, and I only barely touch on it here. Clicking on either of the two images above will link you to larger parts of the story. Clicking on
The Big Bang will bring you much more.
Sentience, what feels to me as the miracle of miracles, for it is the last piece that makes a human being who can experience the world. From a few photons on your retinas how can you "experience" that wall 20 feet away, know just where it is, how hard it is, how it formss the room. And when your your wife or husband comes into the range of your retinas and the same thing happens except it keeps moving and your retina and visual system in your brain keeps upwith it. My god. Who the hell worked this out.
Scientists can watch the brain cells but they cannot cross the barrier to sentience, but you can, and I think that is the ultimate gift. I think that the creation did not give it to us in its finished form, but as we awake and use this abiity more and more we become a part of the creation too and even add to it. This is Lang Lang playing it as an encore to a orcchestral concert conducted by Zubin Mehta. Click and listen, but watch too (full screen). Lang Lang, Chopin Polinaise Opus 53.
If you love this as much as I do, this is another fabulous experience: Vlaidmir Horowitz, 80 years old, in Moscow: Horowitz, Chopin Polonaise.
Evolution did not need that we move fingers this fast or write music this wonderful. I play this piece myself. Sixty five years ago I played it from memory in the annual recital my teacher, Rene Veau, put on every year. I was a sophmore in high school. Since then I have played the Chopin Polonaise Opus 53 at least 10,000 times, but not like this.
The Bottom Line
I know it seems impossible, after wandering the universie and time, to presume there is a bottom line. Well in science, I think this would be either a conjecture or a hypothesis.
The just above the bottom line is sentiencd. Without it, you are deaf and blind or unconscious. But it is not just that you hear and see, it is that there is a reaction, a feeling connected with the seeing and hearing. Sometimes, like looking at a wall, there isn't much. Other times, like hear your granddaughter say "granpy" for the first time, there is a lot.
But sentience is a fun-house mirror that you control, for "granpy" creates a feeling that requires a response that will create more sentience and more feeling, etc.
So the earth is a plaace for lots of sentiece and reflecting to happen. Without it there is none. So that is what we destroy. And that is Life. So if you don't ccafe abpit tje earytj you don't care about life. And that is the lowesty line.
I ask, what are you doing right now and what are you seeing and hearing. What has happened to you is so ordinary you do not realize it is virtually a magical miricle. It is called sentience, and it is your ability to experience everything that your retinas receive light from and your ear drums receive sound from.
Now you have to stop and think about what you are experiencing. From two perhaps 1/2" squares of light your brain gives you the experience not just of sight, but of anticipation. You know what touching that wall will feel like.
The modern study of genetics tells us there is little difference between humans.
Two differences that affect either action or rationalization. One is the spoken or unspoken differences between the poor and those that are born well-off. Studies have now shown that it is lack of stimulation, the emmersion in intelligent conversation that is the primary cause.
The second is the color of a persons skin that is determined by how far north ancestors migrated our of the intense sunlight of the equator, so that the dim light of the north made melin unneessary and "white supremacy was born." How utterly absurd that racist tribes that worship the lack of sunshine.
There is something fundamentally wrong with a civilization that cannot cooperate for its own survival. At present, humanity is divided by extremely strong self-interest. Companies work for "stockholder equity." Whether profit seeker or average working citizens, there is a fundamental lack of understanding on two ends: not understanding enough science to comprehend what is happening. This lack of comprehension goes back many decades. It reminds me of the mayhem the United States caused by starting wars in Vietnam and Iraq for no reasons except someone political or selfish. Rumsfeld was driven to demonstrate shock and awe.
(You will remember that decades ago cigarette companies knew smoking would shorten life spans but continued to push them and hide the health issues. And when finally congress put restrictions on sale, the same cigarette companies gave the cigarettes to teens in other countries to addict them.
The list, beside global warming is long. The useless Vietnam war. The totally disruptive second Iraq war (Rumsfeld wanted to demonstrate "shock and awe" and then dissolve the countries police and miletia leaving them with nothing to do but fight.
It is not appreciated the degree to which warring countries fail to educate their citizens to the point that they have s "life," a professional identity that is more important than killing.
And in the U.S. "lock em up" becomes a way of life for procecutors and judges. Three strikes and we have by far the highest incarceration rate in the world. (I will not get into guns.)
Civilization is not yet civilized. So when global warming colmes along it is dismissed. IT IS OUR ONLY PLANET, DAMN IT doesn't seem to get to anyone including the New York Times. It gave far more dramatifc coverage to the sinking of the Titanic.
Of course a huge problem is a misunderstanding of what science is, all kinds of science. With the Times burrying news at the bottom of page three and the average citizen doesn't have a clue. And then somehow the trumpet gets elected and million of people worship him. Now we have a farmer with a flock of chickens.
In the course of this futile venture I kept discovering things I thought everyone involved should know, when in fact it clearly seems they did not. The most important was to have an understanding of what "science" meant, for to an engineer/scientist it seems a bit like breathing or eating. There is no place to move in the sciences if you do not understand the basis for their existence and incredible frustration when they are misunderstood.
"Science" = "verified information" whatever the topic. However, it is easier said than done and justifying it has proved difficult. When one grows up with a soldering iron in one hand and one eye on an oscilloscope, verification seems as natural as breathing. Oscilloscopes are like eyes to see electrical signals and soldering irons are the tools that make the devices that move, modify and ultimately result in the utilization of the electrical devices being constructed (amplifiers, radio receivers and so forth in my case). Thousands upon thousands of "experiments" verify the verification process. It all hangs together, reinforces itself and produces something useful, and also does something beautiful if enough skill went into making the choices.
The science deals with very real world very accessable stuff and the verification was instant. It worked or it did not. It worked better...well in some cases that could be a close call, but one could always refine the process or decide it didn't matter beyond a certain point.
I went on to study electrical engineering at a good college and when I walked into my first lab it was "I'm home" and an A+ with a notebook hand lettered carefully in India ink. Needless to say, subsequent labs were more difficult, but always done with the same philosophies and always fun. And I cannot overemphasize the certitude connected with good work. Some were harder than others, but the certitude has not left me in the least in 2019 after a bachelor of science degree in 1963 (followed by two other degrees in 1965 and 1967) and then a very satisfying job to follow, which brings me to two topics I was reading about this morning that resulted in a slow boil and a deep depression.
The issue was the removal of regulations on methane gas and the apparent philosophy behind the decision. Methane to my growing knowledge about the atmosphere is worse than poison (DDT was a poison outlawed decades ago and from which I believe the natural world has fully recovered) in that it traps a vicious gas in the atmosphere, raises the temperture of the earth and raises holy hell with the entire environment. What triggered this writing was an article in the New Yorker that had arrived just before lunch about the conservative economists of the Chicago school and partcularly Milton Freedman. And now comes the crunch that has been destroying sleep for a year and a half.
Economics falls into the same categories as various philosophies and systems of government, and many fields of science including the most sacred which is physics. Scientists in physics speak of "theories of everything," and reducing everything to the "four forces" that theoritically govern everything, although that has not been proved so far, and I gradually concluded it was (excuse the expression) bullshit.
I suspect that in most if not all fields of learning there is a fairly strong tendency to work on the problems that appear to be subject to solving, and leaving the rest either as "an exercise for the student" or a future generation of scientists.
In the declation of independence, Jefferson used the phrase "pursuit of happiness." I do not know if he wrote further about what he ment by that. In modern economics, the measure of success is shareholder equity (or profit, or salery) but shareholder equity seems to be it.
I cannot, at this point, explain the vicious pursuit of money despite the harm it causes up to the point of the survival of all, except that must be left over from hunter gatherer days a need to hoard. Second I cannot explain the pursuit of extra billions on top of 10s or even hundreds of billions with no thought of what that money could do for the 90+% of the population that does not have suffienct funds for eating, housing, health care and more without working thant one or possibly two jobs.
The theme of this website is "inanothershoes" which in social psychology is called reciprocity. Here is how reciprocity is defined in Wikipedia:
In social psychology, reciprocity is a social norm of responding to a positive action with another positive action, rewarding kind actions. As a social construct, reciprocity means that in response to friendly actions, people are frequently much nicer and much more cooperative than predicted by the self-interest model; conversely, in response to hostile actions they are frequently much more nasty and even brutal.
"Reciprocity makes it possible to build continuing relationships and exchanges. Fukuyama  states that “If the institutions of democracy and capitalism are to work properly, they must coexist within certain premodern cultural habits that ensure their proper functioning” (p. 11). He goes on to say “Law, contract, and economic rationality and prosperity…. must as well be leavened with reciprocity, moral obligation, duty toward community, and trust…. The latter are not anachronisms in a modern society but rather the sine qua non of the latter’s success” (p. 11) According to the sociologist Alvin Gouldner (1960), this norm is nearly universal, and only a few members of society—the very young, the sick, or the old—are exempt from it. Reciprocal actions differ from altruistic actions in that reciprocal actions only follow from others' initial actions, while altruism is the unconditional act of social gift-giving without any hope or expectation of future positive responses. Some distinguish between ideal altruism (giving with no expectation of future reward) and reciprocal altruism (giving with limited expectation or the potential for expectation of future reward). For more information on this idea, see altruism or altruism (ethics).""
As well as not comprehending the unlimited pursuit of money, I cannot comprehend how this can be changed. At this time an "ideology" (which is irrational on the face of it) has hold of the America Republician Party: "Small government, low taxes." There is no justice built into this and its primary effect is to transfer as much moneyh as possible fro the poor to the rich. It is vicious, vile, villinous and immoral by any definition. It seems that a fungus carried by money has captured the minds of the well off and convinced tham that the "evil" of worthless, lazy poor justifies the pleasure of piling it on."
This brings us to a fundamental moral tipping point in humanity's concept of life. I contend that the surplus of money is an insult to the universe because it narrows its appreciation to a single dimension, leaving an infinity of creation ignored. Simultaneouslhy, the gift of sentience, that which is most prescious and, at it level in humans, unique is discarded. Since it is those with the most money that are causing the deteroration of the cliate, it may be that carbon dioxide is the fuel of the engine to hell.
Being a bit (small bit) of a poly math I experience life from a different perspectives. I have made photographs that have brought tears to other people's eyes. I have played Chopin that made me feel I was in touch with him through his work. I have worked in science and experienced how truth is revealed and confirmed. And I have heard heavenly music. In a small salon in Boston I heard an uncannely talented string quartet play Mozart and Brahms. I sat close to hear well and closed my eyes. It flashed through my mind, during the first long sustained note of the Mozart that I had gone to heaven.
Of the many hundreds of conerts I have heard by the worlds greatet orchestras or by the world's greatest soloists, this is the one sound that stays in my memory.
So all we can do is perhaps change how we educate disadvantaged children and try to stop the burning or even reverse its effects. And hope we realize very soon that whatever commmitment is needed, humanity more than rises to the occasion.
Man vs. Man vs. The Creation vs. Money
Where Is the Tipping Point? Where Is The Tripping Point?
I just learned of an extraordinary discussion between
Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert. This is the link.
To me this presents a puzzlement and the puzzlement is closely tied to ideology, particularly the conservative one of small government and low taxes. This is just the sort of perspective that drives me, of soldering iron education, nuts because there is nothing to be measured to verify if this ideology is working. To an engineer/scientists when someone advocates "low" the immediate response is "why not zero?" One can play with scenerios inlcuding doing away with the entire government (and of course the IRS) and, never having had this discussion, I presume that some kind of minimum is established but by whom and to what criteria which leads to some suspicion of something rotten, because the government makers become the deciders and the criteria is as low as can be done without creating an uprising and therefore the idea of "happiness" is left to float in the breeze because either no one thinks to ask or no one is in a position to ask. It has a parallel to the physicists and their four forces. In all my readings in physics, the birth of the cosmos, relativity and even quantum mechanics (got an A in that BTW) is there any reference to emotions, satisfaction, enjoyment or some measure, even qualitatively and so leaving the issues of why the big bang, the meaning of being alive, the idea of joy or enjoyment and all the things we are ostenibly working for replaced by shareholder equitity or an equivalent. And therefore, as is happening at this moment, the movement of wealth into Apple's coffers to the tune of 200 billion dollars or so just fine. Buy back some stock, raise the share price capioliinf on invention that can command a rather large profit profit, the question left hanging in the breeze is why some of the purchasers cannot afford health care, or posibly even a place to live. And a still less moral (ah! the first mention of a capitalistic no-no word) situation is the Walton family with I believe 125 billion in assets, low wages, no health care (hold the hours to 39), one million dollars per store in food stamps out of our taxpayer profits.
The bottom line: 1. The system is faulty, immoral and unfair; 2. Someone has failed to define a quantifiable "happiness" as a requisite part of the system, so as long as the rich can own congress (which they do), the the rest of us get screwed (should have posted a language warning sign).
So now where are we, now that we have begun to be particuar about happiness, someone is undoubtly screeming socialism, communism, redistribution of wealth, and so forth. And I begin thinking about about a word that will seem odd, one my mentor, friend, and boss, Amar Bose used to use often and will seem a bit odd (but maybe not). When we were designing loudspeakers he would insist what we had to do was concern ourselves with the "complete system," not just the speakers.
Well I am going to carry this quirky idea as far as I can (within the world of music). We need to take ito account not just the music system, but the room acoustics, the quality of the recording, and quality of the concert hall, orchestra, conductor, players, composer, instrument makers, teachers of composer, players, conductor and instrument makers and, last but not least, the ears and mind of the listener. And I choose music for a reason (partly because I am somewhat of one), but that music, when all these piecess are of the best and, to complete the evening as friends in the BSO would say to me "we were hot tonight" that the stockholder equity has been replaced by an impossible to describe and measure except in poetic language, a gift to the soul. And I am insisting that, laying my life down if necessary, that any economic, scientific, socialistic, capitalistic or any other kind of system or process or whatever, whose ultimate goal is not joy and satisfaction for the soul, is worthless. Which leaves us with one of the larger conundrumns in recorded history. How do we work toward this (assuming you all agree its a good idea which I doubt because I know that only a tiny percentage of the population has had the muscial experiences that I have been lucky enough to have. But if we, for the sake of argument, agree it is a good idea, what do we have to do.
It brings back a thought I used to have as a child: that when a child comes out of the womb, its the same day for every child, or, to close the circle, the same climate in which to breath and live freely for everyone. Bullshit of this being born into whatever, I want (why, nevermind, I just want it) every child to have what every other child has that will enable her or him to realize the potential of the spectacular mind the creation game him or her. Because, if there is a responsibility to humanity, where each of us inherited more or less the same genes, and we are born helpless, that it is the sacred, for want of a better word, responsibility of the human socity to provide this climate. How? To start, great schools and health care, and beyond that it is something we must assume we are smart enough to learn how to do without pissing off Milton Freedman and providing we and Donald Trump has not put any descent kind of climate out of our reach.
Parental Income Has Outsized Influence on Children’s Economic Future: Study Shows Persistence of Advantage More Pronounced Among Higher-Income Families; July 23, 2015, PEW CHARITABLE TRUST Topics: Economic Mobility Projects: Financial Security and Mobility
We should be building ultra-safe prefab nuclear power plants
that can also power desalinization plants.
Many places are out of water
while the American mid-west has had its worst flooding ever
and California is bracing for record setting wild fires.
Why are we not on a war footing, with
Manhatten projects and a strong
World Climate Authority?
Instead we are embarassing ourselves to history by
trembling before a pitiful, inept, lying, incompetant,
manipulating, dented, bent, broken and out of tune trumpet.
Many say they do not believe in science.
Science is not a thing apart from the world.
It is simply knowledge of the world, carefully verified.
Failure to think scientifically is to
sacrifice one's brain on the alter of timidiy and stuipidity.
Without science, we will lose
the Earth our children,
and our descents nie onto the 20th generation.
Without Clear Thinking, We Will Lose Everything.
Let Us Pray.