A new model indicates that transition to a sustainable energy civilization is much more complex than we'd imagined. Even well informed and well intentioned folks, it seems, are seriously seriously underestimating our challenge to survive.
"If we're not the universe's first civilization," Frank says, "that means there are likely to be rules for how the fate of a young civilization like our own progresses."
In order to illustrate how civilization-planet systems co-evolve, Frank and his collaborators developed a mathematical model to show ways in which a technologically advanced population and its planet might develop together.
"The point is to recognize that driving climate change may be something generic," Frank says. "The laws of physics demand that any young population, building an energy-intensive civilization like ours, is going to have feedback on its planet. Seeing climate change in this cosmic context may give us better insight into what's happening to us now and how to deal with it."
Using their mathematical model, the researchers found four potential scenarios that might occur in a civilization-planet system:...
The researchers created their models based in part on case studies of extinct civilizations, ...
The most sobering aspect of this topic to me was...
But if we allowed the civilization to switch to the low-impact energy resource, the collapse still happened in certain cases, even if it was delayed. The population would start to fall, then happily stabilize. But then, finally and suddenly, it rushed downward to extinction.
All of that happy talk of Tesla advances, for example at Robert Scribbler's blog, is meant to emotionally balance the tsunami of horrible political and environmental news of our unfolding 6th Extinction. In the context of Earth's complexity (such as feedback loops) and "inertia" (that global warming forcings take a decade to actually change temperature, require 100,000 years to reverse)our species prospects look more bleak than ever to me.
You might think switching from the high-impact energy source to the low-impact source would make things better. But for some trajectories, it didn’t matter. If the civilization used only the high-impact resource, the population reached a peak and then quickly dropped to zero. But if we allowed the civilization to switch to the low-impact energy resource, the collapse still happened in certain cases, even if it was delayed. The population would start to fall, then happily stabilize. But then, finally and suddenly, it rushed downward to extinction.
Ruth, a paraphrase of “What Jack says about....”
A mathematical model says more about the modelers than about the modeled.
That it’s reported in Science Daily matters.
Postscript: From the publication’s website:
”If you are a public information officer at a university or other research organization, and would like to submit your news releases for posting on ScienceDaily, please email them to: ....”
Some ‘journals’ are akin to vanity presses. SD appears to be legitimate.
One SD article includes the following:
“Dark matter is theorized as one of the basic constituents of the universe, five times more abundant than ordinary matter. But because the dark matter particles known as "weakly interacting massive particles," or "WIMPs," cannot be seen and seldom interact with ordinary matter, their existence has never been confirmed.”
PBS’s NOVA is NASA’s vanity press.
Unlike Science Daily, NOVA programs tell of dark matter, dark energy, black holes, etc as if they exist.
The Big Bang and religion lack evidence.
(As I often say, I don't "Like" the prospect that surviving as a species may be much more challenging than we had imagined, but do appreciate your sharing information!)
In the end, it doesn't matter much whether we manage to live in harmony with Earth's resources or not. Inevitably, as the Sun continues to increase its output, Earth in a few million years will become a 'super-Venus' with a molten crust and a surface pressure of about 270 modern atmospheres. If we don't find a way to survive away from Earth indefinitely, we are done for a lot sooner than the destruction of the Earth by the Sun going Red Giant...
Sean, I agree.
Homo Sapiens is Natural Selection’s presently-dominant species. In another blink of cosmic time a species better adapted to future circumstances will have replaced us.
Sheesh, another blow to humankind’s frail ego.
However, where is there evidence that the Sun is increasing its output?
Does cosmology’s Standard Model predict it?
In the Electric Universe model, the electrical stress at the Sun may either decrease or increase.
To me it matters a lot whether or not we manage to live in harmony with Earth's resources. The Earth becoming essentially uninhabitable within 50 to 100 years is quite different, in terms of human suffering versus fulfillment, than the sun becoming 10% brighter in a billion years and making it too hot here. With a few million years to spare I hope humanity might improve our knowledge and wisdom enough to transcend the physics challenge of the Sun getting hotter. If civilization collapses around the end of this century, with the expected 4°C rise, we have no hope of rising to our true potential. Near term catastrophe - pain, death, and the loss of hope - compared to maybe a billion years to do better, to be better. That matters much, Sean.
"..., we have no hope of rising to our true potential."
Ruth, I read some of what Riane Eisler wrote. What say you to the hypothesis that we--men, women and children--were at our true potential before we started killing each other over who owned which piece of land and who owned which woman?
We coevolve with our technology, Tom. I think our true potential will become more obvious when everybody is a world citizen. When each of us has a say in not only our own lives but in how the entire civilization is run. Co-operation on a global level will make ti possible for individual personal growth, empowerment. I also believe this will depend upon communication being two-way. In other words the powerful elites would have no secrets from the masses. This would control corruption and the sacrifice of the common good to advance personal or family or tribe or nation or religious supremacy. That hasn't happened. My vision for a sustainable civilization is quite radical, but I think it's coherent. Essentially the society would embrace not only equality and diversity and cooperation over violence, but also radical honesty/openness.
Thanks, Ruth; that's a vision we can hope and work for!
I have my optimist/pessimist brain working today. I/you/we experience the profound privilege of having been alive on the planet Earth for these few years. We read written histories of others who populated this sphere over historical time, we know of the great moments and horrid ones. We bear witness to the flourishing of a great civilization that reached the tipping point and slides into oblivion, just as so many others have risen and fallen.
It is not easy to participate in the downturn of culture and harder still to think of the future or lack of one for our children and their offspring. I have no idea how to prepare them for a heating planet. Just as my grandparents could not imagine a future of which I would become a part, neither can I guess the future of my grandchildren, or my great-grandchildren. My great-grandchildren are of an age when hormones take over their thinking and behavior, leaving them utterly oblivious to the trajectory of a Great Empire going into a fall.
It is my opinion that we have already reached the tipping point and no matter what we do, we cannot control the outcome of this change. I think the Earth will do just fine; sentient beings will not do so well.
If I am correct in my assessment of the future, what remains for me to do? Love! Powerfully and intelligently. There are many moments in the coming years fit for celebrations besides the equinoxes and solstices, there are birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, remembering of loved ones who have died. There are gardens to plant, tend, harvest, and preserve. Each seed and plant holds hope for the future; even if it is only another generation. Our pets, the feline, and canine varieties, as well as the budgies and whatever other creatures come into our lives, need attention.
I already grieve giving up my car even as I realize my mother and neither of my grandmothers had access to vehicles. I mourn the pending sale of my home, also as my mother and grandmothers had to leave their homes and become dependent on their children.
I am determined to be happy the rest of my life, no matter what happens.
Let's model that if we need it.
Thanks for your enlightening perspective, Joan.