Home > Uncategorized > And we are still doing nothing substantive to stop this

And we are still doing nothing substantive to stop this

from Ikonoclast  (originally a comment)

. . . what really counts is the amount of coal, oil and gas we are burning and thus how much CO2 we are releasing into the atmosphere. The benign Holocene is ending. Scientists have declared we have already entered a new era, the Anthropocene. The climate, and thus weather patterns, of the benign (for humans at least) Holocene were a resource for human civilization.

It is common mistake, and one I long made, to pay attention only to primary input resources. Thus we were obsessed about peak oil, peak coal and peak gas, imagining that the supply of these primary input resources would be the constraint for our global civilization, civilization being so energy dependent. However, it turns out that the major constraint on civilization involves not our inputs but our wastes. Our wastes wreck ecological, biosphere and geosphere systems.

Climate change is the best case in point of the above (though not the only case). Climate change melts ice caps and glaciers, raises sea levels, raises temperatures and exacerbates both floods and droughts, generating wilder swings between the two and periods where regional climate remains stuck longer in one phase. It changes growing seasons affecting food production.

It is extremely troubling that coal, oil and gas still contribute so much to our energy mix. To save the world from catastrophic climate change we should have already reduced our use to the point that we could reach zero use by 2030. We have already used up almost all of our carbon budget.



From the second link above;

“After doing the sums, humanity has only 95 billion of the original 1000 billion tonnes left to spend on carbon dioxide emissions. To put that in perspective, globally humans emit 10 billion tonnes of carbon every year.

That means that in less than 10 years, without dramatic action, humanity will have spent all of its remaining 2-degree budget. At that point, the chances of holding warming to 2 degrees will drop below 2/3, and we might as well flip a coin to estimate whether the climate will exceed boundaries maintained for over a million years.” – ANU, 6 May 2019.

That puts us at exceeding our carbon budget by 2029. And we are still doing nothing substantive to stop this. Indeed, CO2 emissions are still rising. When will people realize the emergency has already started?

  1. June 8, 2021 at 10:53 pm

    Best global initiative is the Fossil Non-Proliferation Treaty , now gathering major support and the Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy report going live tomorrow on http://www.ethicalmarkets.com on our Latest Headlines ( free sign up ), which I curate regularly.


  2. Edward Ross
    June 8, 2021 at 11:49 pm

    In the 1990s i worked in an open cut coal mine that had 12 seperate pits and in each pit there was 3 t0 4 seams with a range of quality and suitability of coal for steaming purposes. Thus if if a furnace was designed for a particular quality coal emissions were greatly reduced but not altogether eliminated. My concern here is i think firstly that we could greatly reduce pollution from coal fired furnaces while we develop alternatives. Secondly there is very little constructive work on developing carbon sinks, such as reforestation of the right kind of trees in the right place. Here i believe this reforestation has to be on a massive scale that exceeds the annual forest degradation. To put it simply i think we have to carefully look at the whole picture, not one corner of it Ted

    • June 9, 2021 at 1:15 am

      Hello Edward, I’ve started a small tree seedling nursery for the exact reasons you mention, plus food. Modern technical people are slowly losing touch with food production, transport and consumption. Early european arrivals had already lost the agricultural instincts they had before capitalist thugs privatized the land. Most people now are fed by semi-slaves and are propagandized to believe college grads should earn more than the people who feed them. I call it ironic entropy maximization leading to Earth equilibrium sans humans.

  3. John Jensen
    June 9, 2021 at 2:21 am

    Dear Iconoclast: Global warming and weather are very similar; We talk a lot about them but few of us personally ever actually do anything about them?
    1. Where is the global wide replanting of trees? (we could all be like Japan.)
    2. Where are the black roofs being replaced by white reflective roofs?
    3. Where are the black highways made into lighter colours?
    4. Where are the carbon scrubbers on coal plant chimneys?
    5. Where are all the co-generation plants and geothermal electricity generators?
    6. Why do we include burning wood as alternative energy when every city has banned wood burning?
    7. Where are all the carbon products being developed to replace concrete and other high energy intensive construction materials?
    8. Why is carbon not used as a fertilizer?
    9. Why are we not seeding the atmosphere with reflective dust every time a plane flies?
    10. Why are we allowing plastic pollution to kill off the oceans?
    11. Why is there no universal tax rate on carbon consumption?
    12. Why does the USA have the right to bleed their methane from oil/gas production directly into the atmosphere?
    13, And on and on – there are so many other things we can all do without choking off the energy economy and making everyone on the globe a lot poorer.
    To focus on just reducing the consumption of carbon based energy is the same as declaring a constant stay at home policy – don’t go anywhere, turn off the A/C, walk and ride a bike. That was our economy 120 years ago and that’s definitely not sustainable today.

    Reducing carbon emissions are not the only way to save the planet from overheating and you can’t really expect the government to shut down industries while we are just now tooling up for a 20 year high energy transition into a “Green” economy based on changing energy producing technologies based on active carbon sequestration, silicon wafers, copper and aluminum.

    I’m keeping my shares in coal companies because I know it’s here to stay for another 400 years unless we first change people’s daily habits and involve everyone in achieving the same long-term greener goals.

    • Ikonoclast
      June 9, 2021 at 2:49 am

      John Jensen,

      If humans attempt to burn coal for another 400 years, we will be extinct (or existing as small bands of stone age people) by 2121. In fact, same thing will happen if we attempt to burn coal for 40 more years.

      • John Jensen
        June 9, 2021 at 8:27 pm

        But, that’s just a guess/opinion on your part. There is no technological reason why we can not burn coal or any carbon fuel without negative effects on the environment – it’s just a matter of wanting to. The same with single-use plastic pollution. As soon as we really need to, things will be all cleaned up. Sometimes people have to be nearly choking to death before they quit doing it to themselves. And, I doubt nature really cares when we finally give in. “The Earth Abides” a great 1940’s pandemic novel.

  4. Ken Zimmerman
    June 9, 2021 at 7:59 am

    ‘However, it turns out that the major constraint on civilization involves not our inputs but our wastes. Our wastes wreck ecological, biosphere and geosphere systems. Climate change is the best case in point of the above (though not the only case). Climate change melts ice caps and glaciers, raises sea levels, raises temperatures and exacerbates both floods and droughts, generating wilder swings between the two and periods where regional climate remains stuck longer in one phase. It changes growing seasons affecting food production.

    It is extremely troubling that coal, oil and gas still contribute so much to our energy mix. To save the world from catastrophic climate change we should have already reduced our use to the point that we could reach zero use by 2030. We have already used up almost all of our carbon budget.”

    Ikonoclast, all correct. But it’s not the full story. Earth tends toward glacial periods (ice ages). Sapiens has survived several. In fact, the main reason we’re still in an inter-glacial right now is the CO2 above recent base periods in the atmosphere for the last several thousand tears. So, you see it is CO2 that has allowed human and related life to expand its numbers. CO2 now may be reaching a level dangerous for Sapiens and other species. Perhaps even help begin the next glacial period. This would be another test for human survival.  And as in the last glacial period, many humans would die but our species would likely survive.  And the planet would also continue with or without living things, including humans. If any of this caused Earth’s atmosphere to change on a more permanent basis, whether humans would or could adapt – biologically, genetically, socially – and thereby perhaps survive is an empirical concern. As noted by Carl Sagan, the rule of life is extinction. Although humans cannot know the future, they must still live in it. So, it behooves humans to treat it with great care. That humans fail in this is not news. In fact, human history is filled with humans choosing to endanger their and other species’ survival. I think we all welcome any and all efforts to change this pattern.  Keeping in mind that we can never be certain that the paths we choose can or will accomplish this goal. If history is a guide, every choice humans make is double edged. And we can’t be certain which edge will up at any moment

  5. John Jensen
    June 9, 2021 at 8:44 pm

    Ken Zimmerman: The best guess is that we are still 2000 years away from the next glacial period so we will first have to solve the energy crisis we are facing now before any climate change happens. It’s well to remember that annual deaths from the cold are still more frequent than deaths from heat and it’s 102F in Saudi Arabia today. It’s not all that important to the Earth that we survive – it’s not like we are the nicest species that ever evolved. For now it seems like we are using too much energy and wasting too much in the process – that’s our challenge. Perhaps fusion will be the answer – a safely contained small sun generating electricity would solve all sorts of problems – including actually migrating to Mars. Not that I think waste on another planet is the answer – staying here is good enough unless for some reason the sun begins to expand as it ages.

    • Ken Zimmerman
      June 10, 2021 at 8:20 am

      John, as I said the Earth should be in a glacial period now, based on the timing of previous glacial periods. Also, right now there is no energy crisis in terms of fossil fuels. These fuels are expected to last another 500 years or more. Biological and genetic evolution are teleological. They are not in pursuit of a goal. Rather, the random changes in these either improve the survival chance for a species or do not. Based on circumstances in place at a particular time. Social evolution (adaptability) is sometimes goal oriented but at other times is responses to circumstances. Or some combination of goals and circumstances.

      • John Jensen
        June 11, 2021 at 3:26 pm

        Ken: “Should be in a glacial period” is just wishful thinking, Just because we seem to have had cyclical inter-glacials over the past 2.5 million years does not mean that’s normal for the past and future 4.5 Bil years. Nobody knows what’s a normal interglacial as we have had plate techtonics at work for most of Earth’s life and had extended periods of no glacial periods. And I didn’t mean that we are reaching a “peak” (shortage) carbon period – just that humans are having a crisis around carbon based fuel use – they seem to think that it absolutely must be clean whereas nature spouts off dirty volcanoes at will. I mean, just because we are conscious of our Earthly reality does not mean we are the “chosen species” by nature. I’m pretty sure the Earth considers us to just be “free riders” and could care less if we live or die – it’s not a moral universe.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        June 12, 2021 at 7:11 am

        John, my statement about glacial periods is based solely on Earth’s history since humans emerged on the planet. As to humans’ relationship with the Earth, that has changed markedly over that last 2 million years. Clearly the current relationship is primarily commercial/commodity on the side of humans.

      • John Jensen
        June 14, 2021 at 9:33 pm

        I’m not sure what humans you are talking now? If you mean modern humans (Homo Sapiens) they have only been here for as much as maybe 200,000 years so maybe those humans experienced 2 or 3 interglacial periods and that first interglacial was quite short. We can’t average out only 3 interglacials to produce a reliable and predictable average. About 1.2 millions years ago we started into our present glacial/interglacial cycles with an average cycle of around around 100,000 years (+/- 40,000 years). The first Glacial was very long with land only thawed within a band close to the equator – it may have lasted 800,000 years with the North and south caps and continents alternating in ice severity. Pre-humans back then may have already been walking around on hind legs for only 5 million years. And then we started into the 8 cycles interglacial we now have sparsely documented. Glaciers before 400,000 years ago wiped out much of the data from the ice ages before that. Even from the present to 800,000 years ago we really only had about 3 actual interglacial thaws (like this one) and those first 3 thaw periods were short – maybe 5-8 thousand years. My Point: nobody really knows when ice ages should start and end – for all we know this one is for another 50.000 years.

        When I said I’m guessing 2000 years to the next ice age I’m just giving guesses I heard from others. Not only don’t we know much about interglacials, we don’t don’t know how, or why, they start or stop. Maybe tilt, high CO2/Methane/cosmic rays or maybe the Earth moves further from the sun. Just like in economics – everyone has a theory and we may spout off the accepted theory and think it’s fact. And, lots of theories based on one or two samples are doomed to not replicate – we already know that. Like the theory that CO2 always causes warming – it may be wrong with as it’s only based on 1 long synthesized sample. They only have one set of numbers to work with and most of those numbers are theoretical proxies (made up). One Earth at one time does not make a fact for predicting past or future Earths or time to the next ice age – so we just can’t assume that past interglacials were like ours. And, just because we think there is a correlation between CO2 and heating, we don’t really know if there are not a 3rd or a 10th variable that are the “actual” cause of global warming. And that’s why I came up with a practical list of things we could also DO! Plant trees, white foofs, etc.

        Predictions are really hard! My personal guess is that we are stuck in this warming interglacial for another 10,000 years. And, we eventually learn to cooperate with each other and gradually learn to mange both the atmosphere and the ocean. We will likely learn a lot from the Mars Colony – if the colonists live long enough.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        June 15, 2021 at 8:51 am

        John. It’s a bit more complex regarding human evolution. The first humans (genus Homo) emerged in Africa around two-three million years ago, long before the modern humans known as Homo sapiens appeared on the same continent. There’s a lot anthropologists still don’t know about how different groups of humans interacted and mated with each other over this long stretch of prehistory. Thanks to new archaeological and genealogical research, they’re starting to fill in some of the blanks.

        A “human” is anyone who belongs to the genus Homo (Latin for “man”). One of the earliest known humans is Homo habilis, or “handy man,” who lived about 2.4 million to 1.4 million years ago in Eastern and Southern Africa. Others include Homo rudolfensis, who lived in Eastern Africa about 1.9 million to 1.8 million years ago (its name comes from its discovery in East Rudolph, Kenya); and Homo erectus, the “upright man” who ranged from Southern Africa all the way to modern-day China and Indonesia from about 1.89 million to 110,000 years ago. Homo Sapiens (us) came on the scene 200,000 to 250,000 years ago.

        In addition to these early humans, researchers have found evidence of an unknown ‘superarchaic’ group that separated from other humans in Africa around two million years ago. These superarchaic humans mated with the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans, according to a paper published in Science Advances in February 2020. This marks the earliest known instance of human groups mating with each other—something we know happened a lot more later on.

        For the Cenozoic period, which began about 70 million years ago and continues today, evidence derived from marine sediments provide a detailed, and fairly continuous, record for climate change. This record indicates decreasing deep-water temperature, along with the build-up of continental ice sheets. Much of this deep-water cooling occurred in three major steps about 36, 15 and 3 million years ago—the most recent of which continues today.

        During the present ice age, glaciers have advanced and retreated over 20 times, often blanketing North America with ice. Our climate today is actually a warm interval between these many periods of glaciation. The result at least in part, say some climate scientists of the extra CO2 in the atmosphere over the last several hundred years. The most recent period of glaciation, which many people think of as the “Ice Age,” was at its height approximately 20,000 years ago.

        Although the exact causes for ice ages, and the glacial cycles within them, have not been proven, they are most likely the result of a complicated dynamic interaction between such things as solar output, distance of the Earth from the sun, position and height of the continents, ocean circulation, and the composition of the atmosphere.

  6. Edward Ross
    June 11, 2021 at 12:14 am

    On the subject of waste i get my fish from a one man fish truck at my door. Some of my family were good amature fishermen not only for the enjoyment but to supplement the family food supply. for these reasons nothing was wasted for example after the fish was filleted some of the parts that were left over after the filleting were smoked and backbones and heads were used to make soup. The other day i asked the fish vendor if he could get any of those left overs. his reply was the had tried but his customers were not interested, he then made the further comment that it was amazing how much good food was wasted because it was argued it was not economical to process it. Furthermore modern generations were not aware that with a little effort these rejected parts of the fish could be very tasty and nutritious. Here i think back to my early life in NZ how the Maori and pacific people wasted nothing of the fish. Here on the sunshine coast of Queensland the food bank does a lot to collect food that would otherwise be wasted and help people that need it. The point here is that sure we need to look after our oceans and fish stocks but why waste so much of it and that includes the way very large trawlers net everything, then throw back a tremendous amount of unmarketable dead fish. My argument here is that is one of the many areas that needs to be rectified to create a sustainable future. Ted

    • June 11, 2021 at 11:21 am

      Ted, with family in both NZ and Queensland I appreciated this, and would like to extend the argument about wasting good food to not being able any longer to buy in Britain what were always favourite dishes in our North: things like pig’s heads and trotters, liver, offal and tripe. Some still appears with “value added” in processed foods like brawn, tongue, French patés and Scots haggis, but not only is food being wasted: young and old alike are being deprived of the fun and challenge of making the best of it. Largely, it seems to me, from educators thinking learning about how things are done in science and economics is more important than learning how to do things for oneself.

  7. June 11, 2021 at 3:39 pm

    Back to John Jensen’s very thought provoking list of all the things we could be doing and aren’t, the very first – about my not planting trees – perhaps touches me most. I’d love to plant more trees, but the problem, given the existing legal situation on property rights – is where? We actually have some remnants of common land locally, but that is managed by so-called Conservators who (forgetting the need for anti-Trust legislation) have recently changed their name to Trustees. Far from planting trees on our behalf, these are much more interested in chopping them down to preserve the view to encourage visitors for our hospitality industry. Again, I’d love to have a more reflective solar panel roof, but our house is the wrong shape, and white roofs don’t comply with planning regulations here. Being 84 I’ve just “driven down” a hill on an astonishingly black newly re-tarmacked road and wondered whether this was the current idea for resolving the waste plastics issue. I personally don’t have a coal plant in my back garden, so no scrubbers, etc. So rather than beating our breasts or ridiculing others, I think we need to be asking the question, Why? and addressing the answers to that.

    On “I’m keeping my shares in coal companies because I know it’s here to stay for another 400 years unless we first change people’s daily habits and involve everyone in achieving the same long-term greener goals”. So why are YOU not changing your daily habits: to stop gambling not only with coal shares but all nominal ‘shares’ of other people’s ‘debt’, and whether you or Ikonoclast is right? Are you addicted to gambling? From the evidence I’ve seen explaining the sudden start of the last Ice Age, and what I see happening in the arctic right now, I’d rather fail safe and agree with Ike and Ken: that your “best guesses” – about technology becoming able to beat the carbon entropy trap and the next ice age being 2000 years off – are not very good. That way I’ve at least got a motive for trying to do something to help If I get a chance.

    • John Jensen
      June 12, 2021 at 1:32 am

      Dave Taylor: When I said “us” I meant us in getting all politicians looking for alternatives to starving people of energy. We can’t punish the 3rd world. Surely there are lots of public policies we can employ to reduce heat dissipation and fuel use, reflecting roofing, roof gardens, insulation, roads, trees, plastics and so on. These are easy things to deal with, green improvements in them don’t upset people and we know energy use will increase no matter what fuel we use – coal is not going away it’s less tha 2 cents per kilowatt hour. Like it or not we have an energy based economy and choking it off will not work. And, we can’t replace it with renewables because we lack storage capacity for still days and dark nights.

      On the matter of owning coal shares (TECK.B) and coal handlers (WTE) – I can’t personally do anything about who buys coal, where supplies come from or whether it is burned in the USA or China (Germany is just adding new coal plants). I can’t possibly legislate that! I can’t affect company profits or public attitudes by me “not” buying their shares. Even a run on share prices will not reduce their profits and it does not affect buyers – if anything it makes the fuel cheaper. But, my portfolio risk is reduced by adding coal and coal shippers and I’m not so dumb as to avoid their marginal benefits. Doing dumb things for myself does not reduce CO2 or warming. I was more complaining about the SUV drivers that use gasoline to drive to pipeline protests day after day and then burn tons of wood in oil barrels to stay warm while they are protesting. But, they are not environmentalist the rest of the year. So let’s start looking at all the alternative ways we can chill the Earth – that automatically reduces fuel use.

      I just doubled up on both of my coal stocks because it makes no sense for me to be against selling coal produced in North America since it provides lots of jobs for our community and Province. You see, I personally live on top of huge plateau with mountains of coal and so do most of our Province’s inhabitants – it used to be an inland ocean bottom so coal is everywhere. It sticks out in every river valley along with the dinosaur bones. Producing and selling our cheap and energy efficient coal should not stop – why not? Because, it’s better we sell ours rather than miners in Russia – we have a competitive advantage in our strip mined convenient supplies, Russia is not a Democracy and we are much cleaner at it. Coal is not the problem – it’s the carbon pollution and the lack of technology in using it and that has to be fixed. There is nothing wrong with plastics either. I want my stuff packaged although I was perfectly happy with paper. So what should we do? We could have our governments mandate that it be bio-degradable. It’s very important that we look at reducing carbon and pollution but it’s equally important that we don’t deprive people of cheap energy in an “energy” based economy. Starving people is not an alternative and I don’t want to deprive the public of clean packaging, electric cars or hydrogen trucks either. I believe that depriving consumers in a land of plenty is not an effective approach at creating a reduction in CO2 and a white asphalt roof works as well as a black one – in fact, it reduces the need for air conditioning in addition to reflecting the sun back into space.

      My point was that there are lots of effective and efficient ways to reduce carbon and pollution besides making everyone energy deprived. We can get more involved in politics and globally legislate carbon scrubbers on coal generating stacks, we can harvest the excess CO2 ad make vodka from it and the manufacturing of degradable packaging appeals to everyone. We could easily subsidize tree planting (we used to) and we can legislate road and roof colour. And those are pretty easy things to do that don’t deprive people of the energy needed in their daily lives.

      As an aside, I doubled my money on shares of a traditional packaging firm over the last year while losing 10% on the largest firm making biodegradable plastics packaging. Whenever I do try to hedge my bets it seems pretty clear to me that the “green side” is losing my money. Until we all become much more involved in political action, collecting taxes and “regulating” everything the carbon problem will stagnate. So far, all we really do is agitate for changes but don’t deal with the overall process of actually getting it done. Why not mandate bioplastic and fund that bioplastics firm until it catches on. That’s what we do with pharmaceuticals – and they keep the profits. Where are all those publicly funded task forces that could be making changes using higher taxes on the rich to fund things like biodegradable plastics? If we can upgrade our infrastructure for the next greener generation we should start doing it now.

      • June 15, 2021 at 9:37 am

        John, apart from obvious disagreement on what ‘shares’ are, I was agreeing with you, but sharing the problems I had personally experienced trying to respond.

        This also to say that I’ll be disappearing for a while. It’s not that I’ve lost interest but I will be away visiting family.

  8. John Jensen
    June 15, 2021 at 8:23 pm

    This from NASA: “The presence of later (smaller) warming events of a global scale, such as the Elmo horizon (aka ETM2), has led to the hypothesis that the events repeat on a regular basis, driven by maxima in the 400,000 and 100,000 year eccentricity cycles in the Earth’s orbit. The current warming period is expected to last another 50,000 years due to a minimum in the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit. Orbital increase in insolation (and thus temperature) would force the system over a threshold and unleash positive feedbacks.[66]”

    You have to love science because everything you thought you knew is likely just “pseudo Science” or Charlatanism” (remember the Piltdown man?). Charlatans are people who invent science by first having a silly idea and then finding the funding and the data to prove it. All with the purpose of proving their idea is right. So if I go searching for stories to prove my idea I can easily find “pseudo science” to prove it. But then it doesn’t mean they are actual facts. When we don’t have actual data we tend to make it up (proxies) and then we promote that pseudo data as facts. My Point: Most of what we know is mostly is up from someone’s idea of how they think things should be. Did you hear about dark matter? Maybe there is no such thing.

    We can likely be fairly certain that the oceans range in temperatures by 2C degrees up and down – on average. But, then there are reports of where oceans dropped 7C degrees (how many other anomolies are there that we have not discovered yet) during some stated era. Is either story a fact? I don’t know, And you don’t know either. I’ve gotten pretty skeptical of science. So, pick your your favourite story and go with that one for climate, human evolution and everything else we call scientific fact. If you can support it with math (not stats) I’m more impressed. But, without the math it’s just a favourite story (or truncated data) and “confirmation bias” on our part. Having said that, our DNA includes a number of clues to our past but then it’s subject to “survivor bias” = we can only study the evidence that survived on the Earth’s surface that remains to be explored – after all, our planet’s surface is constantly subducted and erupted. I lived long enough to watch my fence posts be absorbed by the soil around them). There was a Chinese theory that Chinese people are unique and developed spontaneously in China a few million years ago but then when we test their DNA it’s just like ours and like ourselves there is still that common 1.2% of shared DNA with Chimps – or whatever ape. And, we also have traces of Neanderthals and Cro Magnon in that DNA but then we don’t have enough dead ancient copses to get a totally clear picture of their evolution – perhaps they evolved from Lemus and us from chimps – who knows?

    And, it really doesn’t matter much. We still have to switch to white roofs with reflective solar panels, plant trees and put in scrubbers on carbon fuel stacks. With a timeline of thousands of years to go before the next ice age we may as well get started doing something positive. In other words, we need to each do our part in maintaining our common environment as individuals and as political societies we need leaders to lead us to do the right thing for our planet.


    • Ken Zimmerman
      June 16, 2021 at 8:40 am

      John, great. What were you drinking or smoking when you wrote this?

      • John Jensen
        June 16, 2021 at 3:52 pm

        I figure I was smoking and drinking much better stuff than your stuff. I take all this “so called” research with a grain of salt. Nothing to do with glacial periods is for certain. I’ve been studying this stuff since my first physics course in 1972 and there is so much variation in published research results that everything depends on what confirms your own biases. Is NASA right? If so, then this interglacial has another 50,000 years to go. But, a large comet could change all of that.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        June 17, 2021 at 11:59 am

        John, I agree. Our knowledge base is not yet at a place that we can use it fully to protect ourselves.

        This seems well accepted by those who study ‘ice ages.’

        An ice age is a time where a significant amount of the Earth’s water is locked up on land in continental glaciers.

        During the last ice age, which finished about 12,000 years ago, enormous ice masses covered huge swathes of land now inhabited by millions of people.

        Canada and the northern USA were completely covered in ice, as was the whole of northern Europe and northern Asia.

        At the moment the Earth is in an interglacial period – a short warmer period between glacial (or ice age) periods.

        The Earth has been alternating between long ice ages and shorter interglacial periods for around 2.6 million years.

        For the last million years or so these have been happening roughly every 100,000 years – around 90,000 years of ice age followed by a roughly 10,000 year interglacial warm period.

        There is not agreement on causes and when the next glacial period will begin. Or whether humans can or will survive it when it does come.

      • John Jensen
        June 17, 2021 at 7:28 pm

        Actually, we probably can’t agree on much of that either as we know about the Old North Trail that snaked up along the Eastern slopes of the Rockies (where I lived for 40 years) and which was likely connected to the land Bridge across to Asia. That was likely used as much as 40,000 years ago by migrants to North America from Asia. And many of the latest migrations out of Africa were as long as 70,000 years ago (perhaps even during the interglacial before this one). Meaning that oddball weather patterns also occurred along with glacial periods that produced North-South and East-West green corridors that we may still be unaware of. Also, depending on whether you call it “Glaciation periods” or “Ice Ages” matters as well. Some theories are indicating that “The Ice Age” proper began 40 million years ago and the Earth has experienced a variety of glaciation periods within that and culminating in what we have experienced over the past 2.5 mil years. .

        And, glacial periods did not stop us from becoming Homo Sapiens and discovering farming in the Fertile Triangle as much as 12,000 years ago and again 2000 years later. But, none of that is a personal disagreement with you, it’s just too difficult to completely unravel the Earth’s past.


  9. Ken Zimmerman
    June 18, 2021 at 11:31 am

    John, I don’t have deep knowledge of the old north trail. But I am of course aware of it and its history. And of course we are never certain about our understanding of Earth’s history. But I believe the outline of that history I laid out about glacial periods and warm periods is workably correct so far as the connections with human history . And that glacial periods did not stop human evolution was the point of my comments. But without the warm periods it’s unlikely in my view that humans could have achieved worldwide domination.

    • John Jensen
      June 18, 2021 at 8:40 pm

      Ken: Agreed! From Jared Diamond book (Guns, Germs and Steel), I’m assuming we were evolving primarily from the Rift Valley and it was us walking upright and developing tools associated with hunting and travel that propelled us to move in and around the glaciers and from DNA samples we even found other humanoids attractive as wives and mates. We were obviously built and equipped for travel and reproduction – we are just now tapering off. We don’t really know much about our past outside of the Rift Valley and my point in mentioning the old North Trail was that for some reason glaciers did not develop in straight lines. Meaning that North-South routes also became available as much as 200,000 years ago. Our migration routes have been traced out by DNA tracing so we now know that major movements out of Africa followed Eastern coastal routes around 70,000 years ago and when we find earlier evidence of people (like in the Philippines) it points to even earlier migrations when other green corridors opened up.

      Nasa says 50,000 years before the next predictable ice period. And. In the long-term our globe is likely headed for a deep freeze since the North American Continent is gradually drifting over top of the North Pole. That means that all our familiar ocean currents and weather patterns are forced to change. There has never been a time when both poles were covered by continents. So, unless we can learn to hang in there on an ice covered planet we won’t likely be around for as long as the Dinosaurs were. So my point there was that we can’t really make reliable predictions about interglacial lengths from past cycles – too many other variables are at work.

      The “Life and Death of Planet Earth” is a great geological history – very readable. The other one on mostly Canada is “Canada Rocks”. That book told me that the last Glacier in N.A. was in the Ungava peninsula in Quebec (still decompressing from the weight), Canada. So, if all of a sudden that area fills back up with ice then that might be a sign that we can predict glacial periods. However, until I see that sort of glacial replication sign I’m continuing to doubt that ice ages are predictable from past interglacials. We are better off using our axis angle and orbit distance from the sun – like NASA. I never noticed any regular patterns in glaciation over the past 5 million years. The CO2 and temperature variables seem to correlate during the last Million years but the resolution, the scale of measurement is so low that we can’t easily tell which one leads or lags the other. Most of our time proxies have a scale in thousands of years – not centuries. So, if instead CO2 actually follows heat by anywhere from 1-1000 years, then there are huge problems with warming theories. So, I’m still in favour of planting trees, white roofs, scrubbers and so on – even if that seems like just re-arranging the chairs on the Titanic. It’s something we can each do and with a lot more vegetation and lot less pollution we can at least sit in the shade to keep cool in 20 years.

  10. Ken Zimmerman
    June 19, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    For the last 5,000 years or so the relationship between Homo Sapiens and the planet has been a troubled one. That has been the consequence of the one aspect of Sapiens that distinguishes it from all other species, including other members of the Homo genus. And that allowed it to become the dominant species on the planet.. That one aspect is imagination. Sapiens has for 5,000 years imagined itself more important than all the other things with which it is involved. More important than the Earth, than the other living things, more important than the gods. Sapiens has as it sees it conquered everything. Except its own destruction from all its conquests.

    • John Jensen
      June 19, 2021 at 4:01 pm

      I know what you mean but climate change is not really caused by our arrogance any more than Dinosaurs caused their own demise by size, quantity and a large comet strike. “The Earth Abides” is a great little book written by George Stewart in the 1940’s and is about living in San Francisco and experiencing what he figured would happen to civilization during and following a pandemic. His point was that the Earth is self-correcting. No matter what we do the Earth will correct our numbers and put us back on a new path. If we make it too warm the Earth may set off enough volcanoes to create a few years of Nuclear Winters or kill off the oceans for a few centuries which in turn kills off a few billion humans. That’s not because the Earth is vindictive. The Earth is simply on its own somewhat chaotic and random pattern of evolution driven by “entropy” and eventually becoming a dead cold planet like Mars. There is nothing we can do about that eventuality – except to become kind and generous greenhouse keepers in the meantime (back to the tree planting and reflective roofs). I rather liked H. G. Wells’ Time Machine for his prediction of the cruel machine tenders living underground (Republicans?) and the innocent, kindly sharing and beautiful people being kept on the Earth’s surface as their food supply (Democrats?). In the end, what people do with the Earth while we are here is politically up to us but the Earth doesn’t really care – it just carries on in its own path and most likely ending with 10 ppm CO2, grass and cockroaches before being swallowed up by our super-nova Sun (See: The Life and Death of Planet Earth).

      • Ken Zimmerman
        June 20, 2021 at 11:39 am

        John. Homeostasis has its limits. The Earth has never been static. Nothing really is. Relationships influence the entities involved in the relationship. Over the last century, humans have littered the oceans with plastic, pumped CO2 into the air and raked fertilisers across the land. The impact of our species is so severe and so enduring that the current geological time period could soon be declared the “Anthropocene.” This was the recommendation of a group of scientists in 2016. The announcement was the product of years of work and, arguably, arrived on the shoulders of centuries of scientific and philosophical grappling with the idea of humanity’s role in shaping the world. Human activity has transformed the Earth – but scientists are divided about whether this is really a turning point in geological history.

        “It was February 2000 and the Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen was sitting in a meeting room in Cuernavaca, Mexico, stewing quietly. Five years earlier, Crutzen and two colleagues had been awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry for proving that the ozone layer, which shields the planet from ultraviolet light, was thinning at the poles because of rising concentrations of industrial gas. Now he was attending a meeting of scientists who studied the planet’s oceans, land surfaces and atmosphere. As the scientists presented their findings, most of which described dramatic planetary changes, Crutzen shifted in his seat. “You could see he was getting agitated. He wasn’t happy,” Will Steffen, a chemist who organised the meeting, told me recently.

        What finally tipped Crutzen over the edge was a presentation by a group of scientists that focused on the Holocene, the geological epoch that began around 11,700 years ago and continues to the present day. After Crutzen heard the word Holocene for the umpteenth time, he lost it. “He stopped everybody and said: ‘Stop saying the Holocene! We’re not in the Holocene any more,’” Steffen recalled. But then Crutzen stalled. The outburst had not been premeditated, but now all eyes were on him. So he blurted out a name for a new epoch. A combination of anthropos, the Greek for “human”, and “-cene”, the suffix used in names of geological epochs, “Anthropocene” at least sounded academic. Steffen made a note.”

        In 2021, the new epoch designation is accepted by scientists with the exception of geologists.

      • John Jensen
        June 20, 2021 at 4:26 pm

        I said the Earth abides. And of course, it abides in accordance with it’s own path. It has a roughly 9 billion year path set by whatever the rules of this Solar System are and it is presently about half way through that history. Is it stationary? Of course not! It started as a molten ball and ends as a lifeless cold rock – it ages and changes along with whatever our solar system experiences. For a complete Biography (according to geology and astrobiologists) see: “The Life and Death of Planet Earth”

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