Sunday, June 5, 2011

The scope of survival

This news is from Canberra Times, dated 4 June 2011:
“Australian National University has confirmed it moved several high-profile climate scientists, economists and policy researchers into more secure buildings, following explicit threats to their personal safety….
More than 30 researchers across Australia ranging from ecologists and environmental policy experts to meteorologists and atmospheric physicists told The Canberra Times they are receiving a stream of abusive emails threatening violence, sexual assault, public smear campaigns and attacks on family members.”

As bitter truths about our approach to the tipping point in climate change are unveiled by scientists, and governments sluggishly but nevertheless close in to intervene, the carbon lobby is becoming more aggressive in their tactics.

Regardless of how bitter confrontations are going to be, there is no escaping from science. Science is telling us by as close as 2100 our planet will be warmed up by 2-4°C. 2°C rise is certain regardless of what we do now.

The consequences are dire. There are various scenarios depending on timing of intermittent tipping points such as effects of release of CO2 from the vast permafrost of Siberia, driven by temperature rise in Arctic, which at nearly 4°C is three to for times than the average. For example, a 4°C rise would kill off 85% of the Amazon rainforest, a 2°C rise now seen as inevitable would kill of 20-40%. Sea levels can rise up to 70 meters.

These things will happen.

Our genes copy themselves. The quality of being copied by a Darwinian selection process is what drives life on Earth. Life has a sense of space and change. Sense of change led to emergence of concept of time in humans. Our gene setup endlessly reconfigures itself; generations who can better exploit the information gained by knowing space and time, survive best.

“If that vast fire over the far mountain range isn't likely to effect my tribe now, I should probably not worry, and go by my everyday business of hunting. Only if the fire seems to be closing in I should think about moving, but then this hunting ground and nearby water seem too good to give up so perhaps I should stay.”

There is always room for failure in judgement of space and time. The fire could be advancing much faster than our humanoid ancestor thinks. In that case his tribe will be engulfed in flames.

When our humanoid ancestors walked in savannas of Africa 2.3 - 2.4 million years ago, their genes’ scope of survival was limited to their immediate vicinity, perhaps within a diameter of tens of kilometers for each group.

Today our capacity to comprehend space and time is much widened. We now know what is going on in every part of the world. We started to make sense of what made us, we look at skies and our universe’s distant past. With science our capacity to accurately reflect on future and farther increased.

Despite these advancements our judgements about survival strategies are still largely affected by selfish interests.

Humanity now is divided roughly in two. Those who think “Well, it’s not going to happen in my lifetime, so I don’t care”, and those who worry about their grandchildren and their grandchildren’s future.

People in the first group think much like our ancestor watching the fire in distant mountain range. People in the second group are super humans who have the capacity to extend humanity’s survival beyond stars.


Requiem For A Species - Clive Hamilton

Canberra Times - News

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