Thursday, May 19, 2016

An Update on Climate Change

This article from Forbes is a bit alarming!

The long-time champion of Capitalism that it is, Forbes, like any publication, has a duty to inform its readership of what's taking place in the world they live in, a readership that might otherwise rely on so-called human ingenuity and market solutions to solve problems. There are plenty of proposals in the pipeline that aim to mitigate the effects of climate change and manage the current rapidly escalating situation. Some of these techno-fixes are already being deployed. But the rapidity with which the situation is unfolding should be quite interesting to us all, whether we are capitalistic entrepreneurs dreaming up geo-engineering tricks or not.

Let's take a look at two particularly interesting charts.

The first shows global temperature changes since 1850 by year and month.

2016 so far is such an outlier.

Consider the following inferences that can be made by looking at the chart above -
  1. From 1850 to about 1900, temperatures were actually cooler than pre-industrial civilization times, even though, officially, we were well into the era of industrial civilization. Notice the (barely visible) thin horizontal white line at the 0 degree mark on the vertical scale. That line represents what is generally called the baseline. Lines below that represent temperatures below the "average for pre-industrial times". Lines above that represent temperatures above the "average for pre-industrial times". It's normal to expect some lines to fall below and some to fall above the average.
  2. Until about 1930, the lines are much more crowded when compared to after 1930.
  3. The lines become increasingly sparse as we go up in the chart. That means temperatures are increasing at a higher and higher rate, which is the mark of an exponential function.
  4. We can make out which line represents 2015 (it ends at the same temp differential where 2016 begins) and likewise, we can see where 2014 ends (although it's hard to trace most of it in the spaghetti mix) because that's where 2015 begins. What these last three years of data say is quite fascinating - temperature increases are speeding up. Not only are temperatures increasing, but the rate at which they are increasing is in itself growing.
Now, there's the factor of 2016 being an El Nino year and the sudden rapid increase may be attributable to that. The trend we see so far may not continue into the future so we will just have to wait and see. But it's also likely that El Nino simply serves to set off a growth trend that's been in the making for a long time.

The other chart is really just another representation of this same data. It's an animation that shows how temperatures are spiraling out toward the often-stated hypothetical, political target of containing temperature increase to 2 degrees Celcius above baseline.

As before, we can see the increasing rate at which the spiral progresses outward as the years go by. 

Whether we take the abrupt jump of temperatures in 2016 as a sign of the beginning of Abrupt Climate Change is to a certain extent, a matter of opinion. But that's the data we have. Whether we're at the start of a new phase in climate change or not, high temperatures as those we have been seeing this year so far have the potential to set off processes that bring further higher temperatures.

We live in interesting times, to say the least. Let's not make the mistake of assuming that climate change is just an anomaly, a thorn on the otherwise rosy path of progress that civilization has afforded humanity over the last few hundred years. The dawn of industrial civilization, in hindsight, is instead yet another milestone on the long path of separation from nature that humanity has embarked on many thousands of years ago. Some say it began with agriculture, some say it began with the use of tools, or with the invention of language. The longer we go back, the more dramatic our present time would appear. But even if we consider the last 200 years, the changes we're seeing around us are truly monumental. Ocean acidification, Arctic and Antarctic sea ice loss, mass species collapse on land and in the oceans, wildfires that burn hotter and bigger, extreme weather events such as droughts and floods and the slowing of the jet stream are just some of the manifestations of a rapidly changing planet.

If this isn't a cause for concern in itself, what is? Perhaps the near-absence of a discussion of current events in the public discourse?

The Raw Deal

Over the months and years, I have been asked by a few readers to stay on the more positive side as I write new posts on this blog. I pondered this over and have come to a conclusion. What I write about and how I present it will not be influenced by how it lands for my readers. I appreciate the time you take to read and reflect on my writing. If what I write turns you off, please feel free to walk away. We all need to do what keeps us healthy and we all need to stop doing what takes us down.

From my end, I will strive to give you the raw deal, even if I think it will make you uncomfortable. The time to be politically correct is long gone now, if there was ever a good reason for it to begin with. I will not hesitate to tell you what I see is happening in the world around us and give you my observations and interpretations without sugar-coating them.

My next post will be an update on climate change. Abrupt Climate Change is here, it seems.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Conveniently Nature-Free

This newsletter from Vimeo, a popular Internet video site, landed in my inbox the other day...

It looks like the modern nerd/geek kids are joining the macho/jock men in proclaiming their independence from whatever it is they think "nature" is.

This worldview that we are just about done being at the mercy of nature and her capricious behavior is not that uncommon anymore. A few years ago, on an internal mailing list at Google, an employee asked why there's no policy of exterminating snakes that sometimes wander on to the campus. His argument was that humans don't need snakes anymore. He did get a flurry of responses taking him to task for his outrageous view, but truth be told, his worldview is not an exception among young city-dwellers. There is that discussion I overheard in a cafeteria, also at Google, where a couple of employees were wondering why anyone would need to step out of their climate-controlled environs in the near future.

The age of the "shut-ins" is here - - the people who take pride in never having to leave home. What do these people who stay home do all day? It turns out that many of them build smartphone apps that let people order all manner of delivery services so they can... stay home! DoorDash, one of those apps that lets one have food delivered to the doorstep advertises itself with “NEVER LEAVE HOME AGAIN.”!

For a long time, the Japanese have been so beset with a rising trend of young men isolating themselves in their rooms that the phenomenon has a name with its own Wikipedia entry - Hikikomori. "According to government figures released in 2010, there are 700,000 individuals living as hikikomori with an average age of 31. Additionally, the government estimates that 1.55 million people are on the verge of becoming hikikomori. While hikikomori is mostly a Japanese phenomenon, cases have been found in the United States, Morocco,OmanSpainItalySouth Korea and France. Recent research using the same standardized definition of hikikomori has found evidence of it existing in other countries as wide-ranging as the United States and India. However, considering that hikikomori adolescents are hidden away and their parents are often reluctant to talk about the problem, it is extremely difficult to gauge the number accurately." Well, yes, it's indeed hard to estimate their numbers because the're understandably loathe to answering the door when the census lady drops by!

What we are witnessing is a growing trend of humanity's separation from nature sometimes manifesting as a psychological condition. This trend has unmistakably been in place for at least the last 10,000 to 12,000 years. Key milestones along this path include the invention of agriculture, migration to villages, towns and then cities, the introduction of usury (interest-based money), the advent of the machine, the spread of Scientism, and now, the obsession with life extension technologies and colonization of Mars! Despite what modern culture would have one believe, all these developments and trends are antithetical to nature, and ultimately, as we are discovering, a sign of deep cultural rot.

How fashionable it has become to indulge in "conveniently nature-free activities"! As if there is such a thing to begin with! And will 4K Ultra HD will ever be a substitute for the real thing?