StarCraft® II

Will humanity be its own end?

Posts: 15
With technology and the human population growing exponentially, and given that many resources that allow industrial civilization to stay afloat are not infinite, doesn't it seem as though it can't be sustained?

There have been those who raised the question of peak oil, and then they found more of it. But in light of that, what happens when they don't? Oil may not be the end all, but it definitely counts for a lot when it is what powers the machines that allow for mass production of food - the only way that a small percentage of the earth's population can feed the majority. Driving to the supermarket or walking to the corner store is not what puts food on your table.

Approximately one billion people in the 19th century and near seven billion in the 21st. Medical innovation and increased lifespans. Illness is natural, people need to die. If everyone who was born lived to be over one hundred, and the population continued to rise as it is, I'm just wondering where the coming generations of humans and other life on earth could end up.

I wonder what real estate on Mars would go for.
Edited by Ferv on 10/6/2011 8:56 PM PDT
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They didn't simply "find more oil." They were able to exploit known reservoirs like the North Sea and the Athabasca/Peace River Oil Sands.

Medicine can only go so far. We've staved off the plagues that usually happen with overpopulation, but one will happen. It's why everyone loses their marbles every year when the new "trendy" virus is discovered, yet they usually have less morbidity than the common flu.

We are contributing to one of the largest extinction events ever. This dates back even to the fall of mammoths and most of the European predators. They didn't simply die off; they were overhunted/exterminated. Some groups of animals have taken advantage of the new niches, like raccoons, mice, rats or bats. Rodents especially have taken advantage. Amphibians are pretty much going to be crushed, not many are doing well/expanding, except in specific cases like the cane toad in Australia. There is even some preliminary evidence that it's cell phones which are causing Colony Collapse Disorder in Bees. If Bees die, we are pretty screwed, as they are the best and most prodigious pollinators of our crops.

Effectively, the quality of life will change. People likely won't kill themselves off, as they are too adaptable. A virus won't be able to do it either, since viruses actually lower their own morbidity in cases where it approaches 100% (the example of Myxomatosis in australian rabbits is a fine example of this).
Edited by Ponera on 10/7/2011 1:35 PM PDT
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Posts: 29
The real question is will there come a point where something lowers the human population enough so that it doesn't toxify the planet and make it impossible for us to survive?

Some thoughts:
Oil will eventually die out, assuming we don't find a viable alternative, a lot of things will crash. Shipping will die off, as you state agriculture as we know it will end. Electricity will become scarce. This would not destroy humanity, there are those who would become self sufficient (possible individuals, possibly communities). But a lot of people would not survive.

On the other hand, if current trends continue, we're bound to cause some event which will make this planet un-inhabitable by humans. Making the air too toxic to breath, the temperature too cold (or hot), doing something that will cause mass extinction (war, experiment, who knows). Even in this condition, we may survive, but again, there would be a huge reduction in population.
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There will be a viable alternative. Biofuels are pretty boss. It's just cheaper now to keep going with oil cause we already have that infrastructure full swing.

We will never make the planet un-inhabitable to humans. Humans have a retardedly high tolerance for variation in their local environment.
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Biofuels perhaps are the immediate future- they will transition between oil and solar, or whatever. Either way, the output from these algae is rather impressive.

Adaptability assumes that we can adapt by doing things like moving into a basement or using air conditioning. Perhaps even sweating or lying in the shade. Either way, it's pretty clear that early H. sapiens were able to handle searing heat, just look at where the data suggests they evolved, as well as where they had to move across in order to expand.

How do you know temperatures are going to keep increasing? Global "warming" is a tough nut to crack. Climate change, yes, but the data output is rather skewed. Firstly, the models we have now all predicted a 10 year rise when what actually happened (a colleague tells me) is a cooling trend. Even if this anecdotal evidence wasn't the perfect counter (lol), no model ever can take everything into account. I'd so hard to say that temperatures will keep rising when my city has had like 2 days over 30 Degrees C in the last 2 summers, compared with 35 to 42 when i was growing up. It all depends on the time scale. 100 years is a lot to anyone, but I'd prefer to look at climate in the thousands or tens of thousand.


Can you provide me any data to support anything you said? I have lurked enough to know you're bright, so I am trying my best not to come off like some overbearing !@#$% forge
Edited by Ponera on 10/11/2011 1:24 AM PDT
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Posts: 29
Bio fuels also have a very negative consequence, as they drive crop production away from feeding people. Imagine when fossil fuels run out, and like you said, bio fuels are probably our next best alternative. How many farmers are going to sell their crops to fuel producers (for more money) rather than grocers to feed the population. Greed brings on famine.

Human's don't inherently have very good survivability, all we have is our ingenuity, which will save some people. Take the heat example - we can adapt, we can build cooled housing. But all those people who cannot afford it will die. Think of all the shanty towns around the world, they barely afford a house at all - let alone air conditioning.

And, things like nuclear winter, or contaminating the air or water - these are things we can probably survive through, but again, a lot of the population will die.

Then there is singularity theory, wait until our technology produces an AI intelligence on par with humans, then watch the intelligence explosion. What will happen when humans aren't the smartest thing on the planet?
Edited by aepheus on 10/11/2011 6:38 AM PDT
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Your assertion that no model can 'take everything into account' is a bad one; there are people who's career it is to create precisely those sorts of models, and they do it very well.

That isn't true at all. Basically it depends on what dataset you look at and how you look at it to determine the answer. The bias is through the roof on just about every model. There isn't a way to take all the information into account because there is simply too much of it with a limited scope on the nuances of what the dataset means. I'm not arguing that climate change is happening, but specifically how will probably end up more of a hindsight thing as we learn how variables impact the whole picture. Another reason why the models haven't been very good: the short term ones predicted a rise when there has actually been generalized cooling and the long term ones are about one thousand years away from any meaningful data to determine how right or wrong they are. The further away the extrapolation is away from known data, the more unreliable it is.

A large issue in all this is just how much is anthropogenic. Natural cyclicity, both long and short term, is a major issue in this because of the shortness of the record we have. It wouldn't take much higher solar output, for example, to throw every model we have right out of the window.

Every serious, scientifically conducted, predictive model makes the claim that temperatures are at a thousand-year high, and still climbing rapidly. Local anecdotal claims as to cooler summers are irrelevant to a global metric.

Not true, according to my colleagues at University of Ottawa, we're actually at a ten year low right now. Not to mention all the data from one thousand years ago is inferred and a lot more generalized. How can this be reasonable when comparing temperature variances that cite a few degrees difference? It can't.

Glacier condition is considered one of the premier methods for assessing global climate - and in the past few years the glaciers have been in an all-out rout.

I know people harp on wikipedia as a source, but this is at least a nice mention of what I would say here. Yeah, glaciers are in full retreat, but it doesn't take much variance in order to nix a glacier. I work in the Rockies, I've seen it myself. So calling wolf on a dramatic climate shift based on glaciers is a bit overzealous and jumping of the gun. I'd say dramatic changes would be when the Laurentide ice sheet disappeared, rather than Emerald Glacier losing one foot of ice.

Their 4 lowest years by several orders of magnitude have all been the past 4 years, as the ice cover skews wildly down from the predicted volume for natural weather trends.

I'd ask for a source but it seems reasonable and I'm not a weenie.

As for 'moving into a basement or using air conditioning,' you're showing a bias for wealthier folks in industrialized countries. The basement isn't an option for people who have to work all day every day in the outdoors just to keep themselves and their families alive - and air conditioning is far from globally available. And it's some of the most poor areas which are going to be hit hardest by continuing rising heat-index.

I simply was just giving an example. Don't belabor the specificness of it, sheesh. If you want to get nitty and gritty, Humanity does have a wide range of ability to cope with climate. Hell, we evolved in the heat and humidity of the African Rift Valley and rapidly adapted to the harsh cold of the Russian Steppe. I'd say that's pretty decent evidence that we have a wide range of adaptability and that, while some places may become unlivable, it's unlikely that ALL places will become unlivable. We are kind of spoiled for choice in environments right now but it doesn't mean that has to be the status quo forever. Compared with a great deal of species, in the ballpark of 99%, we have a fantastic range in our tolerances. When our ability to innovate is combined with this, we stand a pretty good chance of being able to live somewhere. I'm kinda assuming there will be large scale population downsizing, but the premise is one of extinction vs not extinction.

There was a solid article on the heat-index problem itself in a recent New Scientist magazine; I can't remember the precise prediction off the top of my head, but in the next decade at the current rate of climate change, there will be literally half the USA which will experience lethal heat-index during the summer months, as well as huge areas in Africa, India, and other equatorial countries.

New Scientist is guilty of being a pop science magazine that dumbs down data/studies and overhypes results. It's a far cry from a reliable source, though it is a nice place to start. If you disagree, look at what you just wrote: in one decade half the USA will experience lethal heat-index during the summer months. That alone is an alarming amount, nevermind the other areas mentioned and implied. Look at the time scale: 10 years. Not to mention that the 10 year models for the last 20 years have been absolutely incorrect 100% of the time and extrapolating trends has been oafish, at best, by climate researchers because of the previously mentioned reasons. You're a smart guy, you should be more critical of articles like that about overhyped topics like this.

I see a lot of arm waiving going on, come to think of it. There is a lot of prediction, extrapolation and incomplete data with bias. There isn't a great deal of actual evidence for the simple reason that once you get your evidence, the climate change has already happened. On top of this, speculating on what areas will be unlivable based on extrapolated trends that harp on glacier melt? That isn't exactly capable of precision.
Edited by Ponera on 10/11/2011 9:27 AM PDT
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The question that is really important is how much of this is Anthropogenic. Yeah, CO2 output is up, but it's not like a period of vulcanism like the Deccan Traps wouldn't produce as much. I am really of a "lets wait and see", because alarmists are full blown retard mode. With such a small set of hard (not inferred) climate info to work with, it's tough to say what is what with any certainty.

We're also seeing climate swings in the other way, with some bitterly cold winters on the prairies in Canada. -52 C is what I have personally enjoyed. I think it's more of an issue with the extremes on both ends being worse, not just heat, with what appears to be a higher average temperature overall. I'm not overly concerned about it at this time, it's not like we didn't see massive warming at the end of the Pleistocene.
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Volcanic activity has put out peanuts of CO2 comparatively, to the millions of years of carbon sequestering which exists in oil fields.

I don't think you understand the scale of the Deccan Traps. We're talking KILOMETERS thick lava.
Check it out, it's short and definitely relates to the issue of CO2 and temperature rise. It's well noted, infact, that before the comet hit 65 Million years ago, ecosystem diversity was dropping. This climate change, from this massive vulcanism, is a good candidate for a contributing factor.

If volcanic activity was an explanation for any significant amount of current CO2 levels, or growth of CO2 levels, there would be spikes in the numbers after every eruption. There isn't. CO2 increase is a smooth climb.

I'm not saying it's a current one, I'm saying that massive CO2 emissions have happened naturally in the past and life persisted. Mind you, there was a pretty serious extinction event with of which was up to 75% (or more) of all life.

"Alarmists" are not in 'full blown retard mode,' people are alarmed because there is very good reason to -be- alarmed.

Al Gore is an example of an Alarmist. He is retard mode. Just as an example of what calibre I was referring to.

This is why I wish 'global warming' hadn't been used to describe it at first.

No kidding! Now conservative !@#$% think it's been discredited because of a misnomer. >:(

Bitterly cold winters are not a contra-indication of climate change - in fact, the record breaking winters are another symptom -of- climate change, as the change in the climate is leading to disruptions in weather systems, causing increased extremes across the board.

I know. Climate change is happening, but the amount that is Anthropogenic leaves a wide margin for error.
Edited by Ponera on 10/11/2011 5:42 PM PDT
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Posts: 105
id like to provide this link:

really intresting. id recommend anyone to check it out.
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Science fiction. It's all made up. Example: you will never remove religion while various religious groups offer spiritual reward for child spamming (see: duggars, mormons, some other christians, some muslims) and then make people into pariahs for leaving the church.
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I'm gonna go ahead and demand some legit sources for what you just said.

Honestly, I am not saying we aren't contributing. I am saying that claiming it's 100% humanities fault is just sloppy. Major climate changes have happened in the past, more frequently than most of the climate change alarmists or even strong supporters would give credit for. If you aren't convinced, just look at the End Pleistocene and what was happening there.

You can't simply just dismiss the Deccan Traps as an example. The fact that ecological diversity was in a tailspin during and immediately after is pretty plainly obvious in every fossil assemblage. Therefore, it was a potent contributing factor to the end cretaceous extinction event (with the final blow being the comet). Yes, that is a lot of CO2 output from mankind. Yes, that has an effect. It's entirely reasonable to compare the two, since massive vulcanism is pretty much the best analogy we have to look at what will happen to our own contemporary ecosystems with massive CO2 output.
Edited by Ponera on 10/13/2011 4:22 PM PDT
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Posts: 2,639
Arguing over climate change is dumb.

It's only a matter of time before the planet becomes uninhabitable due to some uncontrollable disaster. Geologic events happen. Biological events happen. Astronomical events happen.

Using technology to colonize the galaxy is the only way to prevent the eventual extinction of our species, and even then maybe not.
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ive read some of this im leaning towards astarai says becauase i am fairly confident that we are screwing over the planet however, I am also confident that no problem can withstand the immense power of concentrated thought. We have dug ourselves our own grave, and we are digging it deeper every day, however when the average winter day in alaska is 50 degrees fahrenheit i think we will realize what we have done and will do something to fix it. I just hope that when the problem is universally recognized that we come up with a cure for the problem, not just a patch to cover up the symptoms of the problem. However fors that is one of the dumbest responses I've ever heard to the problem of climate change, only trumped by "!@#$ the planet, well just nuke it [b]when[/b] it gets uppity with us" herp-a-derp. My aquetience acknowledged it was real and said who gives a crap.
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It's pretty self centered to think that we dominate climate change more than, say, the suns output. I never said we aren't having an impact, but it's narcissistic to say we are the cause. We are a contributing factor, much like in my example of the deccan traps.
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