Monday, 5 November 2018

QotD: "My general view is that our planet is a vast treasure house of resources that, properly used, will take us to the stars."

"My general view is that our planet is a vast treasure house of resources that, properly used, will take us to the stars. We shall colonise the inner planets, and mine the Asteroid Belt. We shall find cures for every illness and extend our lives. We shall uncover every remaining mystery of the natural world. During the past three centuries, much encouraging progress has been made. The curve is now turning almost vertical. It may be that, now and again, our scientific and technical progress throws up problems. If so, the solution is more scientific and technical progress. The only reasonable fear we should have is that the usual suspects will have their way, and return us to a past that [as a graduate in Ancient History and the Classical Languages] I am fully qualified to describe, and that I assure you was horrible in every respect." 
        ~ Sean Gabb, from his post 'The Environmental Scam: One Quick and Easy Response'


  1. ...and this is called Magical Thinking.

    Yes, the Club of Rome and others were wrong about Peak Oil. Yes, fracking means that more oil and gas than could be imagined back then are now flowing in the USA. The fact that human ingenuity is more than equal to the task of exploiting this "vast treasure house" is not in question. The problem is that the biosphere we live in, the only one we have available, is showing signs that it cannot absorb our excesses. 100-year storms and floods and droughts every year serve as examples.

    We only get one chance at this, let's be conservative. You as a professor of Classics knows that nobody can read Linear B today. Nobody knows what happened to the Mycenaeans, but it was probably pirates, right? Nobody will know 3,000 years from now what happened to us, but if nothing happens they also won't even form the question.

    1. "100-year storms and floods and droughts every year serve as examples."

      Please explain how we arrive at the designation of what a 100-year flood is. If you can do that, you know why this argument is bunk. Note that I'm not saying anything about climate change here; I'm addressing this specific line of reasoning. 100-year storms are worse. Droughts are particularly horrible lines of evidence, in the USA at least--see the history of the Great Plains and "rain follows the plow".

    2. Dinwar - Civil engineers stopped calling events 100 year storms a while ago, and instead referred to the same events having a 1% annual exceedance probability (AEP). This was to resolve confusion over how a 100 year storm could happen multiple times within a 100 year period.

      So it's possible to have 100 year events every year (for a year or three maybe), but statistically it's extremely unlikely as the years accumulate. I suppose what he's saying is that events that once happened every 100 years are now happening every year. But outside a few cherry picked examples (there will always be statistical freaks), I've seen no evidence it's common.

    3. Geologists still use the term. As do hydraulogists.

      You missed the point of my question, though. My point was to get HIM to question whether he knows enough to comment on this topic. If he can't define the term--and if he doesn't understand why having multiple hundred-year storms in a few decades isn't problematic--he is too ignorant of this topic to discuss it.

      100 year floods are more common these days, but the reason isn't global warming. It's pavement. We've altered the surface water flow patterns to the point where the terms drastically need re-defined. Even the maps are outdated most of the time.

  2. Well, no, I don't see "magical thinking" at all, not in the quote at the head of the page anyway.

    You are talking however about a 3000 year time scale. Which is fair. But you then suggest, or imply, that the biosphere faces unprecedented threats -- unprecedented, presumably, on a time scale even greater than that. So think for a moment (in the context of your reference to "magical thinking") what it means to then focus upon the threats implied by observing 1-in-*100 year* storm events ...


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