19 October 2015

This Week in Water

As the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris approaches, I want to change the format for this week's TWIW post and interject an argument and some editorial opinion. Normally, TWIW is a news aggregator replete with interesting links to issues and news about our planet's most important resource. If you want to take a look at past posts, simply click on the "This Week in Water" link in the "Labels" below.

Sometimes there is so much news that it becomes difficult to see the forest for the trees—or the ocean for the waves as the case may be. As with the last post about the discovery of evidence of flowing water on Mars, this week brings us three VERY BIG items and, in this instance, they deserve some discussion and thought.

Item #1—Exxon Evidence. Evidence has come to light that Exxon has had specific internal knowledge about the drastic, deleterious effects of man-made global warming since the 1980s—to wit, melting glaciers and polar ice and rising sea levels. Yet, internal documents show that the company used its vast marketing and political power not only to conceal this fact from the world but has been actively lying about it to its shareholders, the public, and regulators. In the meantime, it has used this knowledge to figure out how to improve its extraction of even more damaging fossil fuels from the earth. "Genocidal Behavior" and "Sociopathic Greed" hardly begin to describe this concerted series of potentially planet-murdering actions. In a truly free market with valid 'price discovery mechanisms', these costs would/should necessarily have to be borne by the company and figured into its balance sheet; yet Exxon-Mobil (and other fossil fuel extraction-based companies and their suppliers and supporters) continues to receive billions of dollars in U.S. tax breaks and subsidies and to profit from its criminally insane behavior while ignoring the public costs of their business. Questions about the viability of possible legal and/or political remedies are, hopefully, arising globally, though the damage may be irreparable. And the fact is there may be no specific laws to punish and remediate these companies' actions.

Item #2—Extinction Event. The planet is currently facing what scientists are calling its Sixth Great Extinction Event, and some are asking whether humans can survive this catastrophe. This results partially from a collapse of the food chain originating in our ocean ecosystems due to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and warming global climate.

Item #3—Extra-terrestrials? Back in 2010 I posted a piece about so-called Kardashev civilizations. [Go on, read it; it's pretty cool. It'll open in a new window. Besides, this post isn't going anywhere.] Now, astronomers have discovered an anomalous star in our galaxy some 1500 light years away that shows some signs that might be indicative of an alien civilization approaching a Type II Kardashev civilization, namely one which is able to harness the energy of a star to fuel its development. (By contrast, earth's civilization is ~0.7 on the Kardashev scale because we are barely beginning to capture solar, wind, hydro, and tidal power) One explanation for the behavior of light from this star is that there are advanced life forms constructing a Dyson Sphere around their sun. Of course, there are plenty of other hypotheses to be eliminated before anyone can claim this for certain. Still, it's potentially HUGE news—I mean, the biggest news in human history. (How does this relate to water, you might ask? If there is such a civilization, they must certainly have some form of watery world resources. Okay, it's tenuous, but it's such a huge piece of news I couldn't resist.)

One fairly straightforward conclusion to draw from these Items is that our planet's continued reliance on fossil fuels (due, mostly, to the economic and political power of the extraction industries) is killing us, and if we want to advance and perhaps even to survive as a civilization and possibly a species we need to change our behavior radically, moving to sustainable energy practices before it's too late. How this can seem even remotely controversial continues to baffle me.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

How this can seem even remotely controversial continues to baffle me.

The few with the most money have far too much power in our so-called democracy.

mistah charley, ph.d. said...

there seems a very small probability that our so-called democracy will limit the power of the billionaires, but right now it seems bernie sanders is our best hope - unlikely to prevail, admittedly - i have cemented my self-attributed status as a leftist and progressive by sending him money and putting a magnetic sticker "bernie 2016" on my car - i invite you to consider doing the same