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Friday, February 4, 2011

PLANET EARTH AND HUMANITY AT A TIPPING POINT?

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth described the Tipping Point as follows:

     The tipping point is that threshold when all hell breaks loose, as 
     when water is heated to 212 degrees F, and liquid boils into vapor.

Are we now at this critical phase on Planet Earth for Humanity?  

The largest tropical cyclone (Yasi) in a century just blew through Queensland (Australia) and a monstrous winter storm with temperatures as low as 30 F below zero dropped up to 2 feet of snow through half of the USA, even canceling flights to Dallas, where the Super Bowl will be held on Sunday.  Trust me, weather will not stop the game, for spectators will find a way to get there and they can close the roof if necessary. Anyway, while scientists say these wild swings in weather are just what they are predicting, the average person trying to drive through these conditions can only hope for more global heating.

Well, its happening, as last year was the warmest ever.  The ten hottest years have occurred since 1998.  However, a Rasmussen poll this year indicated that 38% of American voters are not concerned about global warming, and worse, 60% felt that human activity was not the cause, anyway.  About two-thirds believe that renewable energy is the best investment for the country.  Yet you've got to wonder why in 2010, in the USA:


  2.  New geothermal facilities declined by 92% (only one 15 MW plant was built).

  3.  Shell pulled out of the partnership with Cellana in Hawaii to produce biofuels from algae.  Shell has given up on all fuels from algae initiatives.  Part of the reason is that the best that can done today (Solix) is a product that costs $33/gallon (nearly $1400/barrel, when oil costs less than $100/barrel).  Can we improve the process by more than a factor of 10?  Maybe yes, for there is a swarm of companies out there still trying.

Any hope for Congress making the right decisions?  Nope.  Here is a poll that explains why:



Yes, global warming was second from the bottom, getting a 26% rating.  Of course, this survey was taken by the American Enterprise Institute, which after Tucson tragedy reported that only 29% of respondents had negative feelings about the National Rifle Association and 77% believed that prayers helped Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords survive.  AEI is supposedly nonpartisan, but it represents current Republican thinking.

So, regarding our weather, we are not at the so-called tipping point for something like The Venus Syndrome.  Not even close, in fact.  However, as we continue to dither, at some point in the future we will reach that threshold and the tipping point...unless the following scenarios prevail.  

So much for Planet Earth, but regarding Humanity, the African and Middle Eastern revolution is showing that the tipping point has been reached and exceeded.  Many of these countries are Islamic, run by despots (and their family) for eons.  It does not matter if some of them have been halfway humanitarian, for just the appearance of  public justice in your general neighborhood succeeding is viral, and there will always be a critical mass angry enough in any country to galvanize the populace.  The combination of the virtual network and desperate people can be deadly.

If all this leads to the fall of Saudi Arabia, oil prices will shoot upwards, the economy will enter into a greater recession, if not depression, triggering even more dissatisfaction, leading to a spiral decline close to what some doomsdayers have been predicting as the beginning of the end of humanity as we have known it.  Mind you, society will survive, but that ridiculous notion of the world population, currently at nearly 7 billion, declining to only a billion, could well actually happen.  But not all is gloom, as the survivors will be in great shape to build a sustainable society in the 22nd century.  I'm ever the optimist.

I can be even more upbeat, for even under these really bad case conditions, the odds are that Humanity will likely remain at something close to 7 billion for a while, with American lifestyles for the current and next few generations almost surely dropping.  The plus side is that we will still be solvent, productive and the only world power.  China will get old and never become anything close to a supreme force, Russian will age and sink, Europe will fall in and out of bankruptcy, and global recovery will take a generation or two. All this turmoil will provide time for greener  technologies to be developed before Peak Oil strikes, carbon dioxide emissions will drop and the world could well become a better, but still warmer, place by 2100.  All in all, not exactly doomsday.

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The Dow Jones Industrials was +28 at 12,090, while world markets were mostly up.  Gold fell $4/toz to $1349, while NYMEX oil fell below $90/barrel and the Brent Spot under $100/barrel.

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2 comments:

L Chong said...

Hey Pat:


Wonderful and sobering post. If you still call yourself an optimist, then I better get out my kachina dolls and pray for an alternate reality! LOL,

PLANET EARTH AND HUMANITY said...

Yes, those doomsdayers are beginning to influence my thinking. The next few decades look ominous at this point for Hawaii, and to a lesser degree, the rest of the world. The USA will remain the only supreme force for generations to come. The good news is that Hawaii should be a great place to live by around the Year 2100.