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Waiting around for humanity to wake up

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Feb. 8th, 2004 | 07:56 pm

I foolishly spent too much time this weekend reading about various challenges that are serious threats to our civilization. My personal favorite is Peak Oil, though thankfully peak oil would help prevent collapse from climate change.


The major paths to destruction involving peak oil are our civilization being unability to move resources, react to disasters, produce goods, and most importantly make chemical fertilizers.

The major paths from climate change involve Europe and New England freezing, other parts of the world getting warmer and far more severe weather. For example torrential downpours followed by baking heat, such as Europe this past year.

Then of course there's just the problems of water and soil depletion. The book How to grow more vegetables... claimed that our top soil might only last 40-80 more years.

Without water or topsoil, there's no agriculture, and therefore lots of starving people.


On a more positive note I read a paper Advanced Technology Paths to Global Climate Stability: Energy for a Greenhouse Planet in science (1 Nov 2002) Vol 298 Number 5595, We currently use about 12 terawatts, they estimated with conservation and population control we could probably live in the range 10-30 terawatts.

The good news is solar could probably meet our needs, especially solar thermal power plants (which can be 30% efficient at converting sunlight into power.)

The bad news is it means that every engine that currently burns fossil fuels will need to be replaced.

The really bad news is converting would require a serious commitment that we don't currently seem to be showing.

My prediction is that we'll smack into global resource limits, we'll have a die-off, and if we're lucky we'll quickly adapt and start actually implementing the various solutions to the worlds environmental problems. If we're unlucky, we'll start nuking ourselves over the remaining scraps of arable land, clean water, and fossil fuel.

Needless to say it's rather difficult to be all that enthused about ones work when you're expecting civilization to start collapsing sometime soon. (Though really it could be anywhere from now to twenty years from now. Or further if we get our act together).

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