How serious are earth's problems

How serious is the threat to humanity

  • Beyond hope; The planet is dying

    Votes: 2 3.8%
  • Catastrophic; Life as we know it will change fundamentally

    Votes: 6 11.5%
  • Serious; Significant changes will affect our way of life

    Votes: 23 44.2%
  • Of concern; Worthy of our attention and planning

    Votes: 10 19.2%
  • Not a concern; Life will go on without serious interruptions

    Votes: 11 21.2%

  • Total voters
    52
  • Poll closed .
  • #1
Ivan Seeking
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I was just curious how serious you all believe our problems may be, if at all. This is meant within the context of anthropogenic, or natural causes or processes - global climate change, pollution, despeciation, loss of habitat, chemistry changes such as ocean Ph levels, etc; and not to include chemical or nuclear warfare, or other similar intentional acts, or acts of terror. The seriousness is taken as a measure of the threat posed to humanity by one, some, or all concerns combined.

Edit: Consider the time frame of 50 - 500 years.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
hypatia
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Serious; Significant changes will affect our way of life

The world will change, and it will effect the way we live. When it will happen is anyones guess, but it has happened enough to know, it will happen again.
What will cause it, is also anyones guess. Perhaps one big even, or a series of smaller ones. All of our eco-systems are tied in with each other, I can see how a domino effect would happen.
 
  • #3
pattylou
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It used to be completely horrendous to me to consider that we might wipe out 10, 20, 30% of the species on the planet....

And I think we are. But now, I sort of am resigned to this stupidity. The more people prioritize some vague notion of sustained, eternal, economic growth over biodiversity, the less likely we are to try to curb our appetites for that sort of growth. And as I realize how much people prioritize economy growth, I begin to realize that no species (or precious few) will be considered worth saving.

Especially when the corporations run the elections.

Everyone needs a thneed. A thneed's a fine something that all people need. =sigh.=

On the plus side, we won't wipe out all the microorganisms, and that'll give us a leg up next time around.
 
  • #4
pattylou
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In case I wasn't clear, I value biodiversity in general over certain human societal quirks. So for example, terror attacks are awful, horrific, but do not concern me in the sustained way that deforestation does.
 
  • #5
Pengwuino
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What exactly is the "threat" though. There have been periods in Earth's life where humans wouldnt have anything close to a chance of living through and it was just part of a natural cycle. With that... you can say something will significantly affect our lives but we really cant do anything about it. Other things such as the theory of global warming can be significant but they surely can be planned for and 'solved' in a sense. So what exactly are we talking about?
 
  • #6
Ivan Seeking
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Pengwuino said:
What exactly is the "threat" though. There have been periods in Earth's life where humans wouldnt have anything close to a chance of living through and it was just part of a natural cycle. With that... you can say something will significantly affect our lives but we really cant do anything about it. Other things such as the theory of global warming can be significant but they surely can be planned for and 'solved' in a sense. So what exactly are we talking about?

We are talking about expectations for events, say within the next 50-500 years. I should have indicated a time frame. There has been a great deal of discussion about all of these subjects, but I was curious about the perception of the total impact that we can expect in the coming centuries. Obviously our expectations for the extreme future, say in terms of geologic time scales, are rather meaningless.
 
  • #7
wolram
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A dark industrialized world with no wild life and a few parks, humans have
polluted the rivers, oceans and land, global companies have all the political
clout and human life is cheap, thats progress.
 
  • #8
CobblyWorlds
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Hi Hypatia,

"When it will happen is anyones guess"

I think it's happening now. Whether or not the shift in the Arctic Oscillation (AO) is happening due to CFCs or CO2 causing strtospheric cooling. It seems to be the AO shift that is responsible for, amongst other things, the drought in parts of the mediterranean region. Indeed here in the UK rainfall patterns have changed.

It is reasonable to say that change has happened before, and nature re-adjusts. New niches open up and every mass extinction is a chance for species to adapt and fill the available niches.

But for those who 'like things as they are' it is a concern. I don't see the 'end of the world'. Indeed for those of us in rich nations like the UK Peak Oil is an issue that is more likely to affect us in our everyday lives than climate change.
 
  • #9
Pengwuino
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Watch, tomorrow nasa is going to come out and say theres a meteor going to hit us in a few days and thats teh end of that. I'm very pro-meteor. It'd make a lot of people look stupid and we'd for once be certain of how we're all going to die.
 
  • #10
CobblyWorlds
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Pengwuino, "I'm very pro-meteor." Does that mean you're some kind of mileniarist hoping for the wrath of God? ;)

Seriously, I suspect you are in favour of trying to track every near earth object that poses a threat. If so, I agree fully! Good insurance, low risk - high impact, an event to be avoided if we can.

"we'd for once be certain of how we're all going to die." As a 20+ a day smoker I've got a hunch as to how I'll go: Coughin' to the coffin. i.e. You could always take up smoking. ;)
 
  • #11
Pengwuino
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No, if i had my way, you'd die in the meteor attack next week. I Just want something to blow us all up. Dont have to worry about the middle east, oil prices, the supreme court, global warming (oh boy will there be some warming!)
 
  • #12
pattylou
303
0
The "meteor attack" LOL.

We Americans are hopeless.

Pengwuino, you do realize that meteors have no volition, don't you?

But I like your scenario. I always hated the idea of dying and leaving my kids, or having them die first, same with my husband ---- A meteor impact would solve all those problems!
 
  • #13
Marijn Blom
4
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-=Catastrophic; Life as we know it will change fundamentally=-

Why?
I don´t see humanity change over the next 500 odd years to a species that will look further into the future than say 10 years (talking about humanity as a whole, not the <10% that actually uses its brain for more than personal gain.)

So, in the end i think our greatest achievement will be changing life a we know it.

P.S. i got locked out of my old account due to a deleted mail acount, deleted cookie´s and a lost pw, this is the continuation of the account known as Marijn
 
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  • #14
Andre
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The question is a bit ambiguous but if it is concerning the near future of mankind, then it requires some serious attention. The big problem though is to figure out the right thing to do.
 
  • #15
Astronuc
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pattylou said:
But I like your scenario. I always hated the idea of dying and leaving my kids, or having them die first, same with my husband ---- A meteor impact would solve all those problems!
Now that is looking on the bright side of catastrophe. It sounds like Pengwuino is going through a nihilistic phase.

I voted 'of concern', because the current problems are 'solvable' assuming enough people really want to solve the problems.

Regardless of the state of humanity, the planet will exist. Presumably, between now and the next 4-5 billion years, the sun will go nova (unless theories of stellar evolution have changed) and all life on earth will cease. Where will mankind be then?

One of the biggest problems in humanity is greed and selfishness - it seems to be the root of many, perhaps most, problems.
 
  • #16
Andre
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Exactly, the total rate of testosterone per square mile is increasing and so does the natural agression. But other than that, We see the apparantly drastic events that show in the Greenland ice cores as "Dansgaard Oeschger" events, whatever they are. Now, could they have prevented humanity to build an early civilisation? And what if they occur again? How serious is that threat to humanity?
 
  • #17
sage
110
0
i have voted for serious. quite apart from global warming, nobody i believe has failed to notice that percentagewise natural ecosystems has become a minority and human induced artificial ecosystems dominate the world. this trend is unlikely to be reversed in the near future and would cause major long term changes in the global ecosystems and natural cycles. one thing is certain , evolution of cognitive species like humans is a watershed in the history of life and future of life on earth will no longer mirror its past history.
 
  • #18
I voted serious,

JMHO, global warming will change a few maps and possibly begin some extreme scenarios like that in the movie 'The day after tomorrow' over the next decade, pollution is making water, air and land more hazardous to our health, the decrease in biodiversity among micro and macro organisms could signal future problems with the food chain.
 
  • #19
WhiteWolf
62
0
It really isnt that serious. Humans can be copared to any other animal. When the popualion goes up, that habitat can only handle so large of a population. In this case, human has made the entire planet their habitat. So the population will grow exponentially until resources will run out. Unless interstellar travel becomes possible to safely alieviate the population boom, the poorer countries will fight amongst themselves and there will be staving people and proverty will rise. It is inevitable, nothing can be done except delay it for a small amount of time. Wars and famine will reduce the population, thus making it area habitable again only to repeat the cycle over and over again. It is a sad and depressing end, but there is nothing that can be done about it.
 
  • #20
This is just a toss up and because I hate to give in to defeatism type views but how about this? Those that we put into (or that have) positions of power (worldwide), start working together with one another not to rape the Earths resources and steal or seize resources from other countries, to draft policies that promote ecolgically safe and nonpolluting methods of industrial production, think about establising policies that open up dialogue between groups of people interested in making the world a better place for everyone not just ethinicities, nationalities or eliticists. (I know its a fantasy)
 
  • #21
WhiteWolf
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lol, yes it is, even if all nations collaborate, which is highly unlikely, the plain and simple truth is the everyone and everything consumes natural resources to some degree, when the is to much life then there is resources, those lives will end. We can see it in a petri dish that holds bacteria in a lab. They can exponentially multiply in an incredible short period of tine. But eventually, they suffocate in their own waste, they can no longer breathe, and their food supply is diminished. Their own population growth is killing the bacteria. No matter how much they work together, they will all die. All we can do is delay the inevitable. It has happened to the human race thousands of years ago, the only way to survive is to expand beyond their normal habitat into other locations, the problem now is there is nowhere to expand to now. (Unless of course as I stated earlier, interstellar travel becomes possible.)

But one other problem with the above arguement, lets say for a moment that the CO2 production from industries and people is causing GW, any combustion reaction creates CO2, solar power is just isnt economically plausible to convert the entire world to. Fire creates heat, which in turn create carbon dioxide. This is the sole source of industry and human technological advances. As the population grows, CO2 production can't stop.
 
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  • #22
Other sources of energy.

WW, while what you say is true for the time being, I think that there has been some breakthroughs in the science of cold fusion. There is a working cold fusion device called a nucleio-voltaic cell about the size of your hand (you can hold it in your hand).
I was reading about it in a magazine called 'Infinite Energy' here is the site: http://www.infinite-energy.com/

The current issue has scematics and a short article on the device.

Also I will add that the Earth has or had a phenomenal ecology with diverse biosystems that insures a continuation of life (perhaps without man) into the forseeable future.
 
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  • #23
WhiteWolf
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hmmm....that was a good site, thx. :biggrin:

But I guess it all depends on time and development of cold fusion. We are going to have to control fusion before we can compact it into a battery. :wink:

And then you also have to consider the price of such an endeavor. The less fortunate 3rd world countries may still have to rely on fossil fuels. And what if we cannot effectively control fusion power before our fossil fuel supply is exhausted? All the superpowers will collapse, as each and every one of their economies depend on it. One of several exceptions, although I hate to admit it, would be France, since they are dependent on nuclear fission. But if our economy collapses due to overpriced oil, then I fear that the future of discovering fusion will be gone for many decades, perhaps centuries after that. Can't do anything without money... :wink:

And yes, life on Earth will probably never die out, unless you have a really, really, really big nuclear war...lol. But then, even if all life is wiped off of it, there is always a chance that life will be recreated the very same way it did before. :tongue:

But again, that was a really good article and I already have high hopes for its success, I have always believed that mankind's future is going to be reliant of it.
 
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  • #24
Ivan Seeking
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Has Katrina already exluded the "Not a concern; Life will go on without serious interruptions" option? :biggrin:

Whether or not Katrina is connected to GCC, it seems that there is a lot to learn from Katrina about what might be expected in the future.
 
  • #25
Astronuc
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Ivan Seeking said:
Has Katrina already exluded the "Not a concern; Life will go on without serious interruptions" option? :biggrin:

Whether or not Katrina is connected to GCC, it seems that there is a lot to learn from Katrina about what might be expected in the future.

Well a Category 3 hurricane was supposed to hit New Orleans once every 2 or 3 centuries -
The levees were built to withstand only a Category 3 storm, something projections suggested would strike New Orleans only once every two or three centuries, the commander of the corps, Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock, told reporters in a conference call.
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=732139#post732139

And they just had a brush with a Category 4 - the 5th one in the last 153 years. Hmmm - Nature seems to beating the odds.

U.S. Mainland Hurricane Strikes by State, 1851-2004
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/paststate.shtml
where one will find during the period, Louisiana has had
17 Cat 1
14 Cat 2
13 Cat 3 (almost 1 per decade)
4 Cat 4 (almost most every 35-40 years)
1 Cat 5 (well that's close to one/century)
for a total of 49 hurricanes of which
18 are considered major (Cat 3 or greater)

Based on recent trends, it would appear the frequency will increase because the ocean temperatures have gradually increased.
 
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  • #26
Andre
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Based on recent trends, it would appear the frequency will increase because the ocean temperatures have gradually increased.

There is the important part. Ever seen a non reversed trend in the climate history of earth? What went up came down again every single time, regardless of how big the meteorite hit was or how strong the volcanic eruptions were,

it appears that many were aware of the dangers that faced NO. Previous storms have shown the vulnerability of that. But if you cut funds for maintenance on fortification of the infrastucture as I hear on CNN, then you should be surprised to meet disaster whenever the natural fertilizer collides with the supporter, be it in 500 years or yesterday.
 
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  • #27
Ivan Seeking
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I can't help but wonder if Katrina will turn out to have been the impetus for the first major population migration due to GCC.

The hurricane season is what, half over?
 
  • #28
Tide
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No. Leaving aside the question of whether global warming is even occuring, recent major migration due to climate change includes the hordes of people leaving the frigid northeast for the warmer climates of Florida, Arizona and Southern California - i.e. the global cooling of the 50's and 60's.

Then, of course, there were the mass migrations of gigantic herds of mammals to escape the advancing glaciers during the last ice age some 25,000 years ago. Thank goodness we're still emerging from that ice age - which I suppose does constitute global warming! :)
 
  • #29
Astronuc
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Well I suppose that the Earth does not have problems. People living on it do though, and part of the problem may be population density and the way people try to manipulate the environment.

The weather is what it is, but high population density can have adverse impact - e.g. deforestation (for buildings and agriculture) which can lead to desertification, which can spark periodic drought. Then through in earthquakes, volcanoes, storms (hurricanes, typhoons) and floods, and large portions of any dense population can be affected.

Perhaps humanity is out of balance with the natural world.
 
  • #30
Townsend
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Ivan Seeking said:
I can't help but wonder if Katrina will turn out to have been the impetus for the first major population migration due to GCC.

Oh dear...I hope not. :grumpy:
 
  • #31
Ivan Seeking
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Tide said:
No. Leaving aside the question of whether global warming is even occuring, recent major migration due to climate change includes the hordes of people leaving the frigid northeast for the warmer climates of Florida, Arizona and Southern California - i.e. the global cooling of the 50's and 60's.

Then, of course, there were the mass migrations of gigantic herds of mammals to escape the advancing glaciers during the last ice age some 25,000 years ago. Thank goodness we're still emerging from that ice age - which I suppose does constitute global warming! :)

Obviously I was talking about humans and your example brings up the question of numbers and defintions. But as for the point about the last ice age, this is a pedestrian view since it completely ignores the primary concern about GCC: The changes could far exceed normal variations and rates of change, and they may be doing so already.
 
  • #32
Andre
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We are now talking about a temperature trend of 0,6 degrees C per century. The correctness of this figure is highly dependent on historically insufficent sensors, data and algoritms. The now corrected lower tropopause trend as of 1979 is still significant lower than the surface trend which still doesn't give much support to greenhouse gas forcing being the significant driver.

Climate has always fluctuated, sea surface temperature -a likely major driver of hurricanes- as well. But air temperature is not the main driver of sea surface temperature, changing currents are, transporting and distributing heat. If the Thermohaline current slows down, the tropics are heating up, this is likely enhancing the conditions for hurricane forming. But would also be possible that higher air temperatures, with a lower vertical thermal gradient, suppress the forming of hurricanes. So attributing Katrina to global warming is a serious case of "affirming the consequent". There have been cat 5 storms in the past nowhere near any sign of global warming.

About the alleged ice ages, the formal scholar view about the temperature changes around 14,800 years ago, 12,900 ya and 11,670 ya is still thought to be 5-10 degrees Celsius per decade - natural causes. It isn't so, but anyway. How does that compare to the current 0,6 degrees celsius per century?
 
  • #33
Andre
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Check http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/opinion.cfm?id=1887012005 [Broken]:


A few quotes:

....
Since 1995 nature has conspired to make the Atlantic a little warmer and, ergo, stormier. But there is no linear temperature chart - in fact, a century's worth of data has shown no link to global warming. Consistent data gathered by weather planes since 1940 show that even the average of cyclones' peak intensity has eased from 41 to 38 metres a second over the last 50 years. Hurricanes are not only fewer, but milder. ..

It may infuriate those with a political point to make, especially as they head towards environmental summits. . ...

So the scare-mongering and cod science put about by political advisers and campaigners irritate professional meteorologists - such as Prof. William Gray, who issues the American hurricane forecast each year. Last week, he had this to say: "People who have a bias in favour of the argument that humans are making the globe warmer will push any data that suggests that humans are making hurricanes worse, but it just isn't so ... These are natural cycles."

Perhaps the last word should go to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which in 2001 found the "intensity and frequency" of storms "dominated by interdecadal variations... with no long-term trends evident." There is much to be gained, financially as well as politically, by pretending otherwise. The Association of British Insurers has warned that premiums may rise to prepare for greater storm damage from climate change.

Public fear (and private profit) can easily be whipped up by quoting (and commissioning) selective studies. It has become a lucrative branch of academia, encouraging computer-generated forecasts of apocalypse. Sir David has now been allocated £3.7bn of government cash - including £150m to make the UK "lead on climate change science", as if this were a compelling priority for taxpayers. To put this into perspective, this year's European Cancer Research Funding Survey showed the Department of Health spending £27.1 million on a disease responsible for one in four UK deaths.
 
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  • #34
WhiteWolf
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That is the one thing that no one seems to understand, temperatures can and will fluctuate at different and possibly unpredictable times. The hurricane Katrina was created due to the water in the Gulf of Mexico being abnormally warm, much warmer then it was in the Atlantic, that is why it became so violent in such a short period of time. If we were to compare Earth's weather patterns to that of....say....Mars, Katrina really doesnt seems so horrible. Earth has incredibly stable weather, and it is no reason to get all worried something that should occur naturally every 100 years...
 
  • #35
WW, theres the rub

you said
Earth has incredibly stable weather, and it is no reason to get all worried something that should occur naturally every 100 years...or so (my addition)

However, if these once in a 100 yr (or even half that) type phenomena happens say every (lets be generous) 3-4 yrs, wouldn't you have to agree that possibly something is happening out of the ordinary. :surprised

Would it take another series of F-4 and F-5 tornados ravaging the southern US (and F-1, 2 & 3 in the north), or an increase in the frequency of cat. 4 & 5 hurricanes to snap certain people out of their this is so normal kinda apathy. Stat. fluctuations can no longer be hid behind especially when faced with reality.
 
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