Human race is doomed if we do not colonise the Moon and Mars, says Stephen Hawking 

Saving Life on Earth

GR: Hawking is right about the threat from an extinction-level meteorite strike, and it is certainly true that we are ruining this planet through overpopulation and global warming, but if we follow his advice, several thousand people will survive while billions will be left on Earth to die abruptly or slowly as events unfold. Hawking says we need to set up colonies with working ecosystems on the moon and mars within 30 and 50 years. Since our Earth-bound efforts to manipulate existing ecosystems have usually failed despite having a mature atmosphere that admits the correct light wavelengths for plants and animals to survive, the probability for failure to establish a working ecosystem on the moon or mars is very high. Do it in 30 or 50 years? Not even if all the Trumps on Earth were packed off to Alpha Centauri tomorrow.

We should follow Hawking’s advice and begin trying to establish extraterrestrial colonies, however the chance for our species’ survival would be much higher if we concentrated our efforts in preserving and protecting Earth’s existing ecosystems. And if that protection has to include an asteroid busting ray gun, well, we have only 30 to 50 years to get one built. Despite serious warnings by Hawking and others, we are making only feeble efforts to preserve and protect what we already have here on Earth.

Our situation reminds me of the behavior of Douglas Adams’ Golgafrinchan Arc B colonists when they reached Earth. Pure lunacy, but as embarrassingly accurate as the social events in Lord of the Flies. Must our species always be defined by its lowest common denominator? We need to raise our heads, look around, and comprehend the need to finance an emergency mission to save Earth and we need to do it now. All our humanitarian, entrepreneurial, and military goals are simply irrelevant if we do not.

Avoiding Human Extinction

Sarah Knapton, Science Editor for The Telegraph:  “The human race must start leaving Earth within 30 years to avoid being wiped out by over-population and climate change, Professor Stephen Hawking has warned.”

“Making an impassioned speech at the Starmus science festival in Trondheim, Norway, the astrophysicist said it was crucial to establish colonies on Mars and the Moon, and take a Noah’s Ark of plants, animals, fungi and insects, to start creating a new world.

“Prof Hawking said it was only a matter of time before the Earth as we know it is destroyed by an asteroid strike, soaring temperatures or over-population.

“He said that becoming a ‘cosmic sloth’ was not an option because ‘the threats are too big and too numerous.’

“I am convinced that humans need to leave earth. The Earth is becoming too small for us, our physical resources are being drained at an alarming rate. We have given our planet the disastrous gift of climate change, rising temperatures, the reducing of polar ice caps , deforestation and decimation of animal species.When we have reached similar crisis in or history there has usually been somewhere else to colonise. Columbus did it in 1492 when he discovered the new world. But now there is no new world. No Eutopia around the corner. We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds.”

Prof Hawking said it was important to begin colonising Mars and the Moon

 

“Prof Hawking told the audience that the Earth would eventually be hit by a devastating asteroid strike.

“This is not science fiction it is guaranteed by the laws of physics and probability, he said. To stay risks being annihilated. Spreading out into space will completely change the future of humanity. It  may also determine whether we have any future at all. Wherever we go we will need to build a civilisation, we will need to take the practical means of establishing a whole new ecosystem the will survive in an environment that know very little about and we will need to consider transporting several thousands of people, animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and insects.”

Prof Hawking said the Moon and Mars were the best sites to begin the first colonies, stating that a lunar base could be established within 30 years and a Martian outpost within 50. But he also suggested leaving the Solar System and venturing to our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, where scientists believe there exists a habitable planet known as Proxima B.” –Sarah Knapton (Human race is doomed if we do not colonise the Moon and Mars, says Stephen Hawking)

Billions to face ‘deadly threshold’ of heat extremes by 2100, finds study | Carbon Brief

GR: It is important to remember this feature of global warming. Lethal heatwaves are spotty now, but they will spread as the years pass. Having a strategy for surviving the heat is as important as having an emergency survival kit. When temperature reaches the lethal zone (graph below), shade and reduced activity become essential. Thank you Exxon.

The study below reported by Robert McSweeney for Carbon Brief, focuses on developed countries in northern mid latitudes. While right for the Europe and the U. S., it may need adjustment for application elsewhere. (To convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply by 1.8 (or 9/5) and add 32. For F to C, subtract 32 and divide by 1.8.)

Britons told to stay indoors during a heatwave, July 2014. Credit: Velar Grant / Alamy Stock Photo

“Up to three quarters of the world’s population could be at risk from deadly heat extremes by the end of the century, a new study suggests.

“The research finds that just under a third of the global population is currently exposed to heat extremes that have resulted in deaths in the past. This will increase as global temperatures rise.

“Keeping global warming to less than 2C above pre-industrial levels would limit the number at risk from potentially lethal heatwaves to around half of the global population.

“But, as other scientists tell Carbon Brief, studies into heat-related deaths have a number of challenges to overcome before their findings can become widely applicable across both developed and developing regions.

Lethal threshold

“Recent decades have seen some stark examples of how devastating heatwaves can be. For example, summer heat extremes caused more than 70,000 deaths across Europe in 2003, close to 11,000 in Moscow in 2010 (from both heat and air pollution), and around 740 in Chicago in 1995.

“The new study, published today in Nature Climate Change, suggests that the number of people at risk from such deadly heat extremes will rise in future.

“The researchers trawled through the peer-reviewed literature for studies published between 1980 and 2014 about heat-related deaths. This turned up 911 papers that covered almost 2,000 case studies from around the world. Of these case studies, 783 focused on specific heatwave events in specific cities.

“Using weather data, the researchers compared the conditions during those 783 events against those during other heatwaves in the same cities that didn’t cause deaths. On this basis, they found that the combination of average daily temperature and humidity were the best way to differentiate between lethal and non-lethal events. Co-author Dr Iain Caldwell, from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, explains to Carbon Brief:

“We were able to identify a threshold in temperature and humidity, above which conditions have become lethal in the past – we call this threshold the ‘deadly threshold’ in our paper.”

“You can see this in the chart below. The black crosses identify the reported temperature and humidity of lethal heat extremes, while the coloured hexagons show the conditions during non-lethal heatwaves. The red line indicates the “deadly” threshold above which all events caused deaths.” –Robert McSweeney (Billions to face ‘deadly threshold’ of heat extremes by 2100, finds study | Carbon Brief.)

Antarctica Is Melting, and Giant Ice Cracks Are Just the Start

GR: Glaciers are melting at the North Pole, the South Pole, and in mountains around the planet. Sea level is rising. If we stop adding greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere now, melting might stop within a few centuries. At that point, sea level will be more than 30 feet higher than it is now. If we continue to add greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere, we can expect 70 feet of sea-level rise before stability is reached. Stability at that point will occur because we will have stopped producing greenhouse gases–we will have little working technology left. Cutting emissions immediately is the only way we might limit the rise to 30 feet.

In East Antarctica, Australian researchers probe for crevasses on Totten Glacier—another one that has begun to look vulnerable—before deploying instruments to measure how fast it’s moving and thinning (photo by Camille Seaman).

As you will see as you read this article, critical measurements are underway to determine how fast the ice is melting. It is expensive to make the measurements that will give us the ability to predict and plan for rising sea level. Less money than presidential trips to Florida to play golf, but substantial amounts nevertheless. This is just the type of necessary spending the Trump administration (actually the corporatists controlling Congress) is intent on ending. Isn’t this a crime against nature and humanity?

Melting Antarctic Glaciers

(The following story appears in the July 2017 issue of National Geographic Magazine.)

“The massive iceberg poised to break off the Larsen C Ice Shelf may be a harbinger of a continent-wide collapse that would swamp coastal cities around the world.

“Seen from above, the Pine Island Ice Shelf is a slow-motion train wreck. Its buckled surface is scarred by thousands of large crevasses. Its edges are shredded by rifts a quarter mile across. In 2015 and 2016 a 225-square-mile chunk of it broke off the end and drifted away on the Amundsen Sea. The water there has warmed by more than a degree Fahrenheit over the past few decades, and the rate at which ice is melting and calving has quadrupled.

“On the Antarctic Peninsula, the warming has been far greater—nearly five degrees on average. That’s why a Delaware-size iceberg is poised to break off the Larsen C Ice Shelf and why smaller ice shelves on the peninsula have long since disintegrated entirely into the waters of the Weddell Sea. But around the Amundsen Sea, a thousand miles to the southwest on the Pacific coast of Antarctica, the glaciers are far larger and the stakes far higher. They affect the entire planet.

A startling sunset reddens the Lemaire Channel, off the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. The continent’s coastal ice is crumbling as the sea and air around it warm (photo by Camille Seaman).

 

“These are the fastest retreating glaciers on the face of the Earth,” says Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Rignot has studied the region for more than two decades, using radar from aircraft and satellites, and he believes the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is only a matter of time. The question is whether it will take 500 years or fewer than a hundred—and whether humanity will have time to prepare.

“We have to get these numbers right,” Rignot says. “But we have to be careful not to waste too much time doing that.”

“Getting the predictions right requires measurements that can be made only by going to the ice. In December 2012 a red-and-white Twin Otter plane skimmed low over the Pine Island Ice Shelf. The pilot dragged the plane’s skis through the snow, then lifted off and circled back to make sure he hadn’t uncovered any crevasses. After the plane landed, a single person disembarked. Tethered to the plane by a rope and harness, he probed the snow with an eight-foot rod.” –Douglas Fox–Photographs by Camille Seaman. (This story appears in the July 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine. Continue: Antarctica Is Melting, and Giant Ice Cracks Are Just the Start.)

The west side of the Antarctic Peninsula is warming several times faster than the rest of the planet. Ninety percent of its 674 glaciers are now in retreat and are calving more icebergs into the sea, like this one in Andvord Bay (photo by Camille Seaman).

Climate Change Is Shrinking the Colorado River

Predicted Growth of Drought in the U. S. Southwest

GR: Here’s a helpful article that explains the drought disaster that is spreading across the southwestern U. S. There’s nothing new here, but the discussion clarifies some issues and will help you prepare for the inevitable changes. The article has an optimistic message, but the science is clear, life will become steadily more difficult in the Southwest, people will move away, and most will be gone from Arizona and large areas of surrounding states by 2100. It is inescapably obvious that we need to redirect the energy devoted to development in the Southwest and the corresponding effort to conserve water to forcing an immediate end to fossil fuel use.

Projected Drought Intensity in the U. S.

Though I believe the future for the Southwest is bleak, there is one small hope that the article contains. The Southwest could become a solar power generator that might give some of the people the financial means to survive the drought. Of course, this does nothing to protect nature and wildlife in the region. I’ve posted 43 discussions of climate-change induced drought in this blog. Click here to scroll through stories about the coming megadrought that can no longer be avoided.

“The nation’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead on the Arizona/Nevada border and Lake Powell on the Arizona/Utah border, were brim full in the year 2000. Four short years later, they had lost enough water to supply California its legally apportioned share of Colorado River water for more than five years. Now, 17 years later, they still have not recovered.

“This ongoing, unprecedented event threatens water supplies to Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Denver, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque and some of the most productive agricultural lands anywhere in the world. It is critical to understand what is causing it so water managers can make realistic water use and conservation plans.

“While overuse has played a part, a significant portion of the reservoir decline is due to an ongoing drought, which started in 2000 and has led to substantial reductions in river flows. Most droughts are caused by a lack of precipitation. However, our published research shows that about one-third of the flow decline was likely due to higher temperatures in the Colorado River’s Upper Basin, which result from climate change.

“This distinction matters because climate change is causing long-term warming that will continue for centuries. As the current “hot drought” shows, climate change-induced warming has the potential to make all droughts more serious, turning what would have been modest droughts into severe ones, and severe ones into unprecedented ones.

The Colorado River is about 1,400 miles long and flows through seven U.S. states and into Mexico. The Upper Colorado River Basin supplies approximately 90 percent of the water for the entire basin. It originates as rain and snow in the Rocky and Wasatch mountains (Courtesy USGS).

 

How Climate change reduces river flow

“In our study, we found the period from 2000 to 2014 is the worst 15-year drought since 1906, when official flow measurements began. During these years, annual flows in the Colorado River averaged 19 percent below the 20th-century average.

“During a similar 15-year drought in the 1950s, annual flows declined by 18 percent. But during that drought, the region was drier: rainfall decreased by about 6 percent, compared to 4.5 percent between 2000 and 2014. Why, then, is the recent drought the most severe on record?

“The answer is simple: higher temperatures. From 2000 to 2014, temperatures in the Upper Basin, where most of the runoff that feeds the Colorado River is produced, were 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 20th-century average. This is why we call this event a hot drought. High temperatures continued in 2015 and 2016, as did less-than-average flows. Runoff in 2017 is expected to be above average, but this will only modestly improve reservoir volumes.” –Brad Udall and Jonathan Overpeck (Much more: Climate Change Is Shrinking the Colorado River – Indian Country Media Network.)