Global warming or global stunning?

     Concerning science, superstition and a confusion of objectives

by A. Autino

Climatic changes: CO2 is only 0.03% of the atmosphere

Does humanity need "to abandon Earth, in order to colonize other planets?"

Growth vs. Decline

The least harmful way

Climatic changes: CO2 is only 0.03% of the atmosphere

When a prestigious association like the Nobel Prize Committee decides to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore, for his commitment to the environment, it means that something is really wrong with the world. The media concentration on the (true or presumed) global warming problem is reaching high levels, and the matter seems by now to be transcending the scientific dimension and even the political one, to assume even religious characteristics. This is not surprising, after all, in a world where a "Church of Maradona" exists, and has by nowacquired 40 thousand "believers". Gore himself has stated that the climate’ problem "is not just a political matter, but now a moral matter". As far as the seriousness of his search is concerned, it is commensurate with the efforts of the IPCC, the intergovernmental committee created by the U.N., in order to study climatic changes. And, in fact, the IPCC was also honored, with the Nobel Peace Prize, together with Al Gore, for the same "achievements".

As for the movie "An inconvenient truth", produced by Al Gore, the High Court of London judged it unsuitable to be shown in the schools, becauseit is full of errors, and, furthermore, in advocating an apocalyptic vision, completely incompatible with any didactic and educational ends.

The IPCC panel of experts and scientists created by the U.N., as Prof. Vincenzo Zappalà (author of the article "Climate Changes and the Limits of Science") reminds us, allowed no serious Solar Science expert to sit on the Panel . The position of the astronomical research community is in fact nearly unanimous: the whole solar system is currently being affected by a heating phase, due to the activity cycles of our star. On the other hand we ought to reflect that the percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is only 0.03%: even a really exceptional increase (let’s say a doubling) could have very little influence on global temperature (even if we conceded that it was really an important greenhouse gas, which it isn’t!). Much greater, for example, is the contribution of the steam from H2O.

As things stand, even if we completely stopped the production of greenhouse gases, our sacrifice would be completely insignificsnt, and global warming phase, if any, would continue nearly unaltered. Furthermore, by abdicating our technological development and capacities, we would then be completely defenseless in the face of the effects of natural climatic changes.

But Mr. Gore’s crusade is even more glaringly founded upon the mystification of scientific data. Analyzing the diagram of the course of the temperature and of CO2 in the last 650.000 years, we can see that the two diagrams are correlated, it is true; but the course of the CO2 follows that of temperature (with a 800 year delay), and not the opposite! The intentional confusion between cause and effect between CO2 and planetary temperature seems to me an enormous, and even unlikely, step: is it possible that the political power is so arrogant nowadays as not to fear any denial by the scientific community? Is it possible that the scientific community is so intimidated and enslaved as to keep silent in the face of such swindles? The matter of the breakup of the glaciers is more contradictory and debatable: there are signs of progressive breakup of some glaciers, and there is evidence of growth and thickening of other perennial ices. After all the glaciers were not always static in the past . Chronicles report that, since 1300 to 1400 the Alpine glaciers were so small, that some ethnic groups (Walser) were allowed to migrate, through the highest Alpine passes (when entirely deprived of snow and ice sheets!). By such routes they reach ed the Aosta Valley, Valsesia and Val d’Ossola.

Why then has this strong current of blame against human activities developed, whereby we humans are labelled the principal agent responsible for climatic change? Why is climatic change now proclaimed as a ”given”, as an incontrovertible truth, when it is anything but a cut and dried Truth? Why do they vitiate scientific data, by excluding entire communities of researchers from their debates, for fear of uncomfortable denials? Among the motivations of the “Climate Change” community, we can certainly can discern the self- interest of people who have smelled profit in ecology business, but the main bug is philosophical, and thrives in our western concepts, that always push us to make impossible choices between white or black alternative absolutes, when reality is almost never white or black, but made of million of different colors.

The demand to identify a "devil", responsible for all the evil – including those springing from our psyche, since, as we well know, the "malignant one" deceitfully acts at our subconscious level – is evidently stronger than any ethical impulse. On the other hand, the stubborn wish for revenge by ideologues who have by now despaired of models of an “alternative society”, continues to challenge the (admittedly imperfect) western democracies, though without having any alternative to propose. When such tendencies in the West are combined, any “Cause” becomes good, even the hope that a possible collapse of the democratic system might resurrect old ideologies now rendered obsolete by historical experience and by social changes. By the way, this completely negative political approach (which, unfortunately, we know all too well in Italy), pretends to absolve its promoters from any responsibilities. Responsibilities are, instead of course inevitably incurred instead, by anyone who tries to propose improvements to present day society. Gore is a defeated politician who, by his own admission, dedicated himself to Environmentalism due to the great defeat which he suffered, 7 years ago, at the hands of Mr. G. W. Bush. Obviously, in this specific case, the Bush Administration proceeded to earn every possible criticism in full: from the notorious electoral plots, to the lies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, to its disastrous warmonger politics, which have almost succeeded to bringing even a strong economy like the US to its knees.

Certainly, in of planetary crusades such as the Al Gore’s, political reasons are the prime movers. The degree of acceptance by the tax-payers of the concept of taxation (such a definition itself is troubling, since it looks a lot like "cows to be milked"!) is changing, to a large extent, in the post-industrial world. The establishment therefore strives to find new “rationales”, which could reconcile the chickens to continue laying their golden eggs. What could be better then a sound planetary bugbear? Here’s rising CO2, available just at the right time ! Perhaps those doesn't frequently travel to London haven’t yet noticed (in Milano they will begin working soon), new heavy taxes are being levied on motorists entering the city enter the cities (in Milano, they will soon follow suit. We are continually being treated to lectures about about carbon-tax, eco-taxes and various others "new" models of taxation. All of this is no longer confined to politicians like Pecoraro Scanio, who can only wave ecologist placards carrying various NO-TAV’s, NO-NUC’s, NO-HERE and NO-THERE slogans. Through the government, such characters are in in perfect agreement with the Berlusconi government, and between them they have forced Prof. Rubbia to go to work in Spain with his new solar plant design . Nowadays matters are becoming radically more serious, when international players of Al Gore’s stature enter the arena. The various geniuses of finance, both creative and rigorist, are rubbing their hands in glee at the imminent prospect of the fat revenues, that will soon be within their grasp, on the back of popular credulity! I don't mean to offend the intelligence of the TDF’ readers: I’m sure that nobody in our circle really expects that such "small fiscal treasures" (or big ones) will then be even partly used to finance the search for mythical alternative energy sources, nor that finally one day they will announce a serious programme of incentives for the birth of the space economy- the only environmental and energy programme that could really be effective in the middle-long term .

Much blame can probably be laid at the door of endemic philosophical, and by now also scientific, weakness of the postindustrial western world. We’re still unable to see our planet in a cosmic ecological context: we are trapped by a stubborn pre-Copernican vision of a terrestrial ecosystem closed, limited and impermeable, cocooned from the rest of the universe. We are incapable of appreciating the interface between Earth and the Cosmos and the enormous quantity of materials and energy which cross it every instant. The above are heavy limitations, for our culture. We should succeed in shaking them off as soon as possible, or we will become irremediably obsolete denizens of the global village.

I think the above considerations are appropriate, when we face the erection of planet-sized "swindles". Having said that, once the problem was correctly reformulated in its scientific terms, I am not quite sure that 0.03% was entirely accurate, as scientific data. I am also rather sceptical about the real extent of our scientific knowledge, methods, measuring tools, as to the possibility of determining the real causes of global warming (if any) and of climatic changes (if any). We could insist on measuring what we believe to be the main causes of a phenomenon, neglecting other hidden variables that may enter the equation which trigger other processes, quite opposite those we are concerned about and are trying to observe .

After all the urgent task is not perhaps to verify the causes of such phenomena so much as it is to : (i) to verify its existence and (ii) to decide about possible countermeasures to adopt.

However, the discussion on the causes is relevant, too. Should we verify that human activities are not the main cause of the phenomenon, the activity related to point (ii) countermeasures like the ones envisaged by the Kyoto protocol could be quietly discarded (or at least considered as a lower priority).

However, both confirmation of the existence and of the main causes of climatic changes could take too long, for the adoption of possible countermeasures.

So, what should we do? At this point a criterion of "precaution" is to be considered. Finally realizing our substantial ignorance as well as slight ability to affect the issue, we should follow the least harmful course, among the possiblities. But, before pursuing this crucial point further, I would like to dispose of some false dichotomies, and try to sketch a more realistic vision of the problem. It is very important, in fact, to carefully define from what perspective we are looking at the problems of our civilization, and also at the environmental problem. The environmental problem, for the astronautic humanists, is in fact part of a greater problem: how to assure the continuation of human civilization and its evolution?

Does humanity need "to abandon Earth, in order to colonize other planets?"

Posed in these terms, this question causes goose-flesh to any sincere astro-humanist. Unfortunately this is the question that Al Gore suggested, during his recent discourse held in Paris, where he introduced his already quoted movie, to President Sarkozy and to an exceptional audience of high level of ministers and personalities of the French political gotha. Evidently echoing existing political discussions in the United States (all of these is science fiction in Europe, maybe in a little less so in France ), Gore stated: "some people think that, in order to solve the environmental problem, we should colonize other planets!".

Obviously, if I was to answer the question, without chance for discussion: "do you think that colonization of other planets could help to solve the environmental problem?" I would give the same answer as the one, quoted by Gore: "definitely yes!".

But the question is very badly put, and it reflects a crude way to approach the debate on the so-called space option. Gore well knows that, here in Europe, space affairs are very far from anyone’s political agenda l. Therefore he takes advantage of this by shooting indifferent and unhelpful broadsides on this matter. In a rather transparent way Gore is trying to “unify all objectives " behind his environmental crusade.

This would be, according to him, a great opportunity: the ultimate imperial vision, and later to ostracise all those do not slavishly follow him.

No advocate of astronautics, from Tsiolkowsky, to O'Neil, to Ehricke, up to the present days, and including ourselves (if we may humbly and undeservedly to compare ourselves with the philosophical fathers of astro-humanism), ever spoke of abandoning Earth to colonize other planets. I cannot, obviously, speak for any dolt that Mr.

Gore chose to quote, but that doesn't change the issue: whether it was right for Mr Gore to quote, and in Europe, the most extreme fringes of the Trans-Atlantic environmental pro-space movements? Obviously, here in Italy, to think about a Pecoraro Scanio supporting space colonization would make the chickens laugh. However, the fact remains that the concept of abandonment is completely foreign to any sincere supporter of the human expansion into extraterrestrial space.

As mentioned above, for the astronautic humanists (I don't dare to say for humanists tout-court, even if it should be so, indeed), the environmental problem is not the main problem. To assure the continuation of the human civilization is the main problem, instead. The environmental problem is, eventually, part of the problem of civilization. Expanding itself in the solar system our civilization -- and I stick with the concept of civilization, and not so much of species -- would grow sound bases for its own continuation and evolution.

Scattering the seed in a greater ecological niche, greater possibilities would be given for cultural and biological diversification, assuring therefore much greater opportuntiy for evolution. As a matter of Insurance, construction of self-sufficient installations for settlements on other celestial bodies, or also in artificial structures built in orbit or at the Lagrange points, would drastically decrease the possibilities of extinction due to cosmic or local catastrophes. On the issue of the human encumbrance on this planet, to access space and resources different from those of the Mother planet, would allow "Mummy" to "take some breath". When her children are grown, it is a good thing for them to go somewhere else, or will she always have to their wash their underpantses, up to when they will be 50 years old??!? The matter must be seen this way: humanity is grown up, it is now time to take up a new home on some other planet. In doing so, Terrestrial Civilization (the “Pregnant Earth”) will give life to a Solar Civilization.

The solar civilization would obviously include Earth, not abandon her! Who is the degenerate child that abandons his mother, never goes to see her, and doesn't take care about her? I know that the cynics – the ones who always want to be the "coolest" -- will say "any child." But it is not so; most children care for mother, they go to see her, though she may be a grumbler. Living on other planets, having experience of artificial ecosystems, setting up terraforming processes, would also help us to understand more about the way the ecosystems work, and tobe better stewards of natural environments on this planet (maintenance of beautiful environments, healthy and suitable for our civilization, of course, and so not necessarily "unaltered natural " environments). Moving part of our industrial development off Earth would bring an inevitable lightening of our burden to this planet. The colonization of the solar system, therefore, would probably bring, also, an improvement of the ecological state of this planet.

But, as I have said, this is not our main problem.

Growth vs. Decline

Since our first duty -- as an intelligent life form -- is toward our kind, our main duty is to assure the continuation of our civilization, and therefore its evolution. Why do we always need to consider together these two categories, the continuation of the civilization and its evolution? Because the one doesn't survive without the other . Civilization can continue only if it keeps on evolving, otherwise it would implode, and go back to barbarism and even beyond, to animal status. The evolution of civilization is possible only if its ethics will evolve. The ethical evolution is possible only if enough resources exist, to assure comfort, health and education, at least in perspective, to all the members of society.

A society that is not able to produce wealth for all its members is condemned to be "governed" by characters who presume to ration the poverty impartially between everyone -- obviously reserving to themselves, to their own families and their own valvassoris, all necessities and more! From this we can clearly deduce that the continuation of civilization requires an increasing economy, able to work with endless resources. The continuation of civilization is possible only if civilization can and will grow . The Opposite, a stable civilization – or, better, a stagnant one -- is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. For ten billion humans the energetic and material resources of the solar system are practically endless, and the same can be said for 100 billion humans, and perhaps also for 1000 billion. Can you imagine what a cornucopia of ideas could be composed by 1000 billion intelligences? And such a great market? Even now, when we consider the thousands of people which can nowadays purchase a Ferrari in China, this thought stimulates entrepreneurial ideas on a scale beyond the imaginations of a few decades ago. However, it also worries us, because we are well aware of the milited resources of this planet, and the mining of ferrous materials and copper by the Chinese enterprises is quickly bringing an unbearable upsurge of the prices of such materials. The development of China and India is fascinating, but is alos frightening, because we are so near to the bars of the cage, or rather to the limit of the resources of this planet. Let’s think, instead, about a horizon of development no more limited by the finite character of the resources of this planet.

But, in the world, very few people, unfortunately, seem to reason on this wavelength. The philosophy that is more and more gaining ground, in the post-industrial world, is one of the industrial dcline. It is a philosophy that uses climatic changes and pollution as pretexts, because its real aim is to justify atruly negative ideological position: that the free market system leads to catastrophe. It is interesting to notice that, from the ideological point of view, this vision is significantly more pessimistic than the marxist vision itself: for Marx the development of the productive powers ineluctably led to the social progress on one hand, and to the elimination of some contradictions among the classes, with the final advent of a classes-less and stateless society (!). We cannot say that all of this is not happening, though not in the way anticipated and wished by the Marxists (for the Leninists, the socialist phase should ineluctably precede the utopian extinction of the state). Catastrophism came very much later. The tragedy is that, though no alternative political or social projects exist (anymore), the barriers between the old social classes are unfortunately more persistent than the classes themselves.

The true realisation of what even a beginning of industrial decline in terms of reduction of opportunities for orders, committments and employment would mean doesn’t exist. Who in their daily experience with banking, clients and commercial negotiations, has instead, under his/her own skin, an appreciation of the real emerging monster threatening our civilisation : Decline . In the general ignorance, often delusion, astronautics, the only true engine of strong industrial development of this age, continues to escape recognition.

And space tourism, the widely unsuspected real potential catalyst of the space economy, is treated as an amusing and garrulous eccentricity for rich annoyed people. Yet, if we come to understand that the true ideological adversary to be fought is Decline, then we realize that the real conflicts are not the ones that we can see every day in tv, on this side of Atlantic Ocean as much as on the other (and who knows what our Chinese and Indian co-planetaries are seeing?). In order to reach to aim high, we also need to be on the human kind’ side, and opposed to those who daily try to combine, so to speak, lunch and dinner on the surface of this planet. To accept Decline means to commit to authoritarianism and barbarity. If there is abundance, we will easily find new more equitable and loyal systems to divide it among us. If there is only poverty, … everyone can draw his/her own conclusions from this unhappy outcome.

After all, it is a movie that we have seen already too many times.

The least harmful way

From all the above considerations, it is evident that: 

  1. we can’t be sure at all that a global warming process really exists; 

  2. we can’t be sure at all that our industrial activities have a meaningful impact on the course of our planetary climate; 

  3. we don't have enough scientific knowledge nor measuring tools to allow us to determine with certainty the real nature of the phenomena neither to identify their underlying causes.

However, we observe that: some great glaciers are sensitively reducing, and the ice sheets of the arctic polar region are melting (a proof is the recent opening of the northwestern passage, that is exercising minds among the states interested in such routes); the process of desertification progressively concerns geographical areas that a little while ago were characterized by moderate climates; other situations of environmental decay exist: the pollution caused by our activities in fact, even if it doesn’t impact the planetary climate, surely has ill-omened effects on our health.

Even if caused by natural causes – such as the variability in the cycle of solar activities -- the hypothetical global warming would not change its character, from "devil" to "angelic benefactor". Just as natural radioactivity is not less harmful than that produced by nuclear plants of old conception, the increase in planetary temperature can have disastrous effects in a lot of regions of the planet, particularly ones already suffering from water shortage. Perhaps in other regions – the colder ones -- such a process could also bring benefits, thanks to moderate climate mostly (let’s remember when England produced wine).

Besides, as the already quoted Zappalà’s article well clarifies, to foresee the future course of the planetary temperature is at least as difficult as to guess the meteorological forecasts! It could be, for instance, that, if it was true that the terrestrial ecosystem is a continuous self-ruling process (please see the David Buth’s paper "Gaian Science, Philosophy, Spirituality and the Rainbow Way"), it could react to the greater solar heating by a reaction in the opposite direction, in order to maintain an hypothetical temperature "set point". A very simple reaction, caused by the heat, is the increase of the clouds (to quote one of the most popular bugbears, the feared nuclear winter would be provoked by the clouds of radioactive fallaut, that would stop the solar irradiation for years). Let's not forget that, just a few decades ago, a new glacial period was expected in the near future: a possible global warming caused by human activities was therefore seen as a benediction! The first assessment to be done is obviously an estimation of the potential damages that could be caused by sudden climatic change processes, whatever their direction. A serious risk assessment activity, obviously according to our actual scientific knowledges, is needed.

From the point of view that mostly interests us – the desirability of the continuation and development of civilization -- it is clear that such processes arouse remarkable concerns . If, for instance, the polar ices were to melt, increasing the seas level, while desertification affected more and more wide regions on the remaining land surface, the available living space for us struggling seven billion humans striving, is destined to decrease. Alternatively, if a new glaciation age was near, this could equally jeopardize our possibilities for survival and evolution in the critical context of a population of 10 billion individuals.

We have seen that, for us, growth and development are essential, a conditio sine qua non for the ethical evolution to which we aspire, and for so many reasons cannot be derogated anymore. By itself, therefore, the risk of huge climatic changes is very serious, and it could also reveal itself as a "show stopping" condition, or rather a condition able to contribute to stopping our process of growth. But, if we also came to conclude that the eventuality of an environmental collapse due to our growth is not so near, it remains true, that the dramatic limitation of energy and raw materials on our mother planet makes it advisable undertake without further delays the way to the stars. We will owe therefore to formulate and to adopt serious and effective countermeasures.

Every threat, obviously, has different severity: if it is foreseen in time, and if we are able to take suitable countermeasures, we can say that the threat serves as a stimulus to some positive evolutionary footstep. If not understood in time, or if inadequate countermeasures are adopted, the threat reveals itself instead as terminally destructive. Unfortunately only History can make the definitive judgment, as to whether the threat served as a profit stimulus or as a merciless killer, after the event. Therefore, arguing about the presumed utility of the threats, or worse welcoming the threats, hoping to profit from them, it is a worse than useless exercise, and can subsequently confuse ideas, where clarity is already in short supply.

In the face of doubt about the real severity of the environmental threats, we humans have to apply a wise principle of precaution, with the priority objectives (in order) to:

  1. prevent the further reduction of living space and resources for the development of our civilization;

  2. achieve new living space and resources for development;

  3. achieve nearly boundless energy, by collecting the solar energy available in space;

  4. increase our safety, by diversifying into cosmic sites for our development;

  5. relieve in due time this planet from the burden represented by our existence as a sentient species.

The five above statements lead us in one only direction: upward, without further delays.

Links

Climate change and the limits of science - by V. Zappalà

Solar energy from space: a good reason to start the colonization of the near Earth space - by A. Cavallo

Other comments on the climate change (some English and some Italian languages comments) 

The Dyson Freeman's "heresy" - posted by Luisa Spairani  (Italian Language)

But the environmental problem does exist - by Alberto Cavallo (Italian Language)

To design poverty out of the Solar System - by Kim Peart - by Kim Peart

Space Technologies can solve the problem - by Daniel Christlein - by Daniel Christlein

Solar activity and cosmic rays cannot be taxed... - by Michael Martin-Smith - by Michael Martin-Smith

 [English version revised by Michael Martin-Smith]

 [001.AA.TDF.2007 - 02.12.2007]