~ PROLOGUE ~ HOW I MET THE CLIMATE ~ THE MEANING OF SCIENCE ~ THE STATE OF THE CLIMATE ~ BEGINNING
ONE CHANCE ~ TRIBES ~ SENTIENCE ~
~ AGONY ~ LETTER TO PRESIDENT REIF OF MIT
WHO IS AT FAULT ~ CRITIQUE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES ~
WORLD CLIMATE AUTHORITY ~ A BIT OF BIO ~ APOLLO 8 ~ EPILOGUE
WHEN ALL THE ELEMENTS in a natural system (such as the earth) have settled into a continuous (although not featureless) state, either completely steady or moving through repitious cycles the system is said to be in a state of equalibrum. It will not usually leave this state without a disturbance. In this case the disturbance was the addition of the species homo sapiens.
The earth had been stable for about 600,000 years and remained so even with the arrival (by evolution) of humans who were organized in hunter-gatherer tribes. However humans turned out to be a complex, intelligent, energetic and creative species. The tribes which tended to compete and war with each other followed the behavoir patterns of their ancester species. As long as these tribes lived by hunting and gathering food, there was no significant disturbance in the earth's equalibrium. However, the species was intelligent and began a revolution with the development of agritulture
THIS WAS FUNDAMENTAL for it left the greater part of the population unemployed, for food production was now much more efficient. However the unemployed humans still carried with them the genes for agressiveness and intelligence that had enabled them to thrive as hunter-gatherers. And I suspect that those that became devoted to agriculture were the less quarrelsome and ambitious of the species.
The unemployed humans could well have continued to hunt and gather, but given their high intelligence and agressiveness they began building civilization, starting at about 10,000 BCE and in full swing by about 5,000 BCE.
What followed is an oft-told tale of religion, the progression from multiple and not necessarily reliable gods, to monotheism, with a supposedly all-powerful supreme being in charge. However, there evolved numerous supreme beings and these provided the basis for new kinds of tribes. Wars, superstitions, early technology followed, accompanied by significant suffering from war and disease.
AFTER MANY CENTURIES, including especially the dark ages, humanity's intllect led to the enlightenment, and that in turned led to a flowering of technology and to earth-shaking developments in the need for and use of energy. I think of James Watt and the steam engine as the beginning of this era with the steam engine and its offshoots providing the disturbance that upset the equilibrium of energy and the environment.
Unfortunately the earth had enormous reservoirs of many forms of fossil fuels that could be burned for energy, which was fine except the burning produced carbon dioxide which gradually (at first) and then more rapidly warmed thr earth through the "greenhouse" effect which trapped the heat.
And so begins the topic of this website, for there is now enough carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) to upset the thermal equilibrium of the earth and to threathen it s
TURNING POINTS in history are not common, but this turning point is unique in the history of our planet and the history of our species, homo sapiens.
Its first appearance before the public was by NASA climate scientist James Hansen in 1988. He warned that the earth was warming and in the absence of firm action, the eventual outcome could be a cataclsiam. Human nature not having evolved significantly, the challenge of humanity was to to find a way avoid the cataclism. At this point it is not clear that it will be avoided for humanity is also troubled by unexpected and very troublesome political developments.