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Almost a Time for Panic – Part 1

On the topic of global warming, I’m a pessimist. I’m afraid the human animal is not evolutionarily prepared to understand and deal with the problem we face today. We’re capable of producing scientists that can see the problem, analyze it and recommended solutions. But frankly put, as a race, humans carry too much other evolutionary baggage to make it possible to shepherd themselves through the crisis. It’s not that we’re too stupid to see it coming or deal with it; it’s that we have other attributes that have served us well for tens of thousands of years that will prevent us from successfully dealing with the impending doom.

Greed, avarice and the ability to deny the inevitable have served us well in our old tribal environments, but they won’t get us through the current crisis. The inhabitants of the Easter Islands have given us strong evidence that human beings won’t sacrifice temporal pleasures for long term survival. It would be great to interview some of these people, but sadly they no longer exist. They “consumed” themselves into nonexistence. 

Global warming is real. It threatens civilization, maybe even the existence of the human race itself. There are questions as to the rate at which we’re moving toward disaster. There are questions as to exactly how much humans are contributing to global warming. Questions remain as to the ultimate course the consequences of global warming will follow. But there can be no question as to whether or not it is real. It is. Those that deny it are fools.

If I’m such a pessimist, why write on the topic? Hell if I know. With any luck at all, maybe I’m wrong and we can pull civilization out of its nosedive. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have a great-great-grandchild that stumbles on some of my writing and proudly says “Hey! We’re related to a guy helped turn things around.”

There’s plenty written on the subject of global warming, so much so that many people have become anesthetized by the sheer volume of it. But an alarming buzz of environmental catastrophes and impending signs of doom permeate the news and keep bringing global warming to the fore. Despite humanity’s best efforts to ignore and deny its existence, real world events keep reminding us with an increasing frequency. I wonder what ran through the minds of the last survivors of the Easter Islands. Did they deny it to the end or did they cloak their failures in a belief in a God that was executing his will and was taking them to a better place?

If the question of global warming is too big for humanity to tackle, it’s certainly too big for Allen Sherpa to confront in a brief essay. But there are a couple of foci in the issue I feel compelled to address. I’d say I’m not a scientist, but the truth is both educationally and experientially I am a scientist. I do not pretend to have all of the answers; I don’t even have all of the questions. But I am enough of a scientist to understand the basic issues and run the basic math. I am also enough of a scientist to understand (as opposed to “believe”) that we have a very real and serious problem.

Over the course of the next two or three days, I’ll talk about a couple of what I view as the most important issues related to understanding global warming. I’ll do my best to avoid the tech-talk and won’t resort to any mathematics (although I must confess, I’ve always enjoyed alternative solutions to 2nd order Bessel function using advanced numeric methods).

I’ll do my best to restrict the discussion to three fundamental issues. The first being a basic understanding of “tipping points” and why that understanding is critical to our survival. The second is a superficial analysis of the arguments presented by naive individuals and groups that espouse views that global warming either doesn’t exist or if it does exist has no appreciable human component as its cause. Finally, I’ll talk briefly about the fundamentals of the undeniable arguments in support of the grim reality of global warming.

If I were the type of person that believed in the concept of a non-relational good and evil, I would be certain those arguing against the existence of global warming were truly the voices of evil. I hope to say something that is good.

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