Monday, September 19, 2016

Frank Fenner: "We're Going To Become Extinct," Eminent Scientist Says - by Cheryl Jones

Frank Fenner sees no hope for humans

This is the main body of the article. I tend to make large excerpts; I don't if I should try make them shorter, but I find it difficult to leave bits out when they seem important. I took out lots of interesting stuff in this one.   

"We're going to become extinct," the eminent scientist says. "Whatever we do now is too late."
He wrote his first papers on the environment in the early 1970s, when human impact was emerging as a big problem.
He says the Earth has entered the Anthropocene. Although it is not an official epoch on the geological timescale, the Anthropocene is entering scientific terminology. It spans the time since industrialisation, when our species started to rival ice ages and comet impacts in driving the climate on a planetary scale.
Fenner says the real trouble is the population explosion and "unbridled consumption".
The number of Homo sapiens is projected to exceed 6.9 billion this year, according to the UN. With delays in firm action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Fenner is pessimistic.
"We'll undergo the same fate as the people on Easter Island," he says. "Climate change is just at the very beginning. But we're seeing remarkable changes in the weather already.
"Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years," he says. "A lot of other animals will, too. It's an irreversible situation. I think it's too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off.
Fenner's colleague and long-time friend Stephen Boyden, a retired professor at the ANU, says there is deep pessimism among some ecologists, but others are more optimistic.
 "Frank may be right, but some of us still harbour the hope that there will come about an awareness of the situation and, as a result, the revolutionary changes necessary to achieve ecological sustainability," says Boyden, an immunologist who turned to human ecology later in his career.
"That's where Frank and I differ. We're both aware of the seriousness of the situation, but I don't accept that it's necessarily too late. While there's a glimmer of hope, it's worth working to solve the problem. We have the scientific knowledge to do it but we don't have the political will."


MRW said...

This is more Chicken Little horseshit.

Ben Johannson said...

This assessment does not include the planetary-scale poisoning of aquatic environments or near-depletion of ocean life that's already occurred.

We're not bright enough as a species to save ourselves; that kind of thinking and coordination on such a vast scale are beyond our evolved capacities.

Ignacio said...

I still have "hope". Future will be shit for majority of the population, think things becoming like large South American cities and India, with large sections of the population living in terrible conditions, but the population will stabilize around 9 bill in a few decades.

A lot of damage has been done and is irreversible, is not even about 'climate change' if you don't want to discuss it. It's factual that the biodiversity on earth has been shattered by human activity, we have undeniably started an extinction event of the same magnitude large systemic shocks had hundreds of millions of years ago. People may be in denial, but this is factual.

The implications of such radical changes in such small time frame are unknown and unpredictable, we will just find out over decades. Then there are deep societal and cultural changes that we don't understand the implications of, major urbanization and industrialization is celebrated, but almost no one is checking out what that causes to demographic and societal trends, how sustainable it is, etc.

The biggest issue I can think of is how complexity can pull things in one direction through feedback loops. I'm mainly thinking as a third world war eventually starting due to all the tensions started. A third world war would be certainly the nail in the coffin for us, it would serve as a catalyst to accelerate decay, maybe to a point of no return (although I find this much harder).

I'm almost certain we are entering a new period of "dark ages" and we are at very initial stages of civilizational collapse, which will play out during the next 100 years. Extinction is too much of a strong word though. But with major crisis comes major opportunities, though that won't make the losers in the situation happy (which will be most likely the majority amongst us).

I'm tempted to say the West could 'save' itself due to timing (demographically speaking we are in an advantage if we can manage the decline smartly enough), but that would be wishful thinking as it's undeniable that major crisis will produce major migratory shocks (as we have already seen) which will make most societies crumble or start a period of chaos and warfare (as said above).

Ultimately we may not be collectively intelligent enough to make it past the nuclear energy stage, an other specie which will have failed as probably there are many others in our universe which didn't make it, but there is always 'hope'.

The solutions are there, for those who seek them, if we get our collective asses to work (and that's the hard part). Doom saying though, won't fix it, it doesn't work, an other avenue of attack has to be found that most humans can engage with.

Kaivey said...

Do you remember the original Planet of the Apes film, where they saw the Statue of Liberty half buried in the sand? Well, I'll be long gone before it all goes wrong, and yet it still really bothers me. It's going to be really hard for them in the future.

I put out some good videos about solar, wind, and ocean wave power here recently. The technology is now fantastic.

What gets to me is all the deniers getting together with their junk science, or rather, zero science, when we could have invested in green energy a long time ago, reaping in massive profits by now, and we could have had ultra cheap energy and cars that run from batteries charged by solar energy, giving near unlimited mileage for next to nothing. And the cars would been technically brilliant. But it was all thrown away by the deniers. People with their heads stuck in the sand.

Ryan Harris said...

Spreading fear of scarcity rather than knowledge of how to live well and find abundance.
Existential insecurities over the illusion of stability in our reality are exaggerated by fear mongering. The really awful endings don't happen very often and are unpredictable. When we know, we avoid.

MRW said...

I put out some good videos about solar, wind, and ocean wave power here recently. The technology is now fantastic.

No, its not.
Google Engineers Explain Why They Stopped R&D in Renewable Energy
“This realization was frankly shocking.”
"Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today’s renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach," wrote Google's Ross Koningstein and David Fork in a piece published yesterday in IEEE's Spectrum.

Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs

All major American newspapers refused to carry this news. The Google scientists had to publish in the IEEE Journal, the electrical engineer's journal.

Kaivey, you have been duped by journalists and wishful thinkers who have neither the science and maths background to read a scientific paper, nor the thoroughness to learn what they don't know.

From the last article above:
Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear. All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms - and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.

Nobody does their bloody homework. At least two Google scientists, members of the original team, had the cajones to come forward three years after the four-year Google effort ended to admit what they discovered.

MRW said...

Spreading fear of scarcity rather than knowledge of how to live well and find abundance.

Exactly, Ryan. The latter attitude would automatically jumpstart innovative techniques in waste management (in the effort to end pollution) and applied nanotechnology.

I can't believe that we dump our computer refuse in Cameroon, despoiling that country, that we allow European countries to dump their nuclear radioactive waste in the near-shore fishing waters off Somalia, starving that fishing society (reason why there are Somali pirates).

We use landfills in the 21st C? Why?

Kaivey said...

You didn't watch the documentary I put out on solar, wind, and sea wave power, now the Chinese will make their fortunes out of these new technologies and we're stuck with old 19th century oil technology. And I thought the West were supposed to be full of entrepreneurs? Renewables now produce energy at half the cost of fossil fuels.

The Koch brothers have spent a fortune on climate change denial and you've fallen for it. They have no scientists, just bunch of mavericks and oddballs.

The point is, we should have invested more into Green energy research in the first place to get a cheaper fuel, and to get off our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. But that didn't suite the ruling elite, who make their money out of oil.

Magpie said...

Maybe you guys know better, and there are other arguments, but the arguments I have seen against solar- and wind-generated electricity resolve around their higher unit costs, compared to fossil fuels.

The idea is that a privately-owned business generating electricity with renewable sources would have to be subsidised with federal funds so that their electricity was affordable to the public, providing at the same time adequate returns to shareholders. That would make this too costly.

I would have thought that, as MMTers, you guys would have seen that arguments such as those hold no water, at least for nations with a fully fiat currency.

But there's more. Why on earth should electricity generation be trusted to private interests, in the first place? After all, this only places an additional and unnecessary constraint on renewable sources: they not only need to generate electricity reliably, they also need to guarantee some rich bastard profits.

And, in practice, the latter trumps the former.

Kaivey said...

'Google Engineers Explain Why They Stopped R&D in Renewable Energy'

And now the Chinese have invested in renewables and will gain the benefits instead. I thought the Google folk were supposed to be cutting edge entrepreneurs? It just shows that sometimes you need the government to get involved because the private sector only wants to invest short term.

MRW said...


You didn't watch the documentary I put out on solar, wind, and sea wave power

Yes, I did.

now the Chinese will make their fortunes out of these new technologies

The Chinese own and control 95-98% of ALL RARE EARTHS IN THE WORLD, from ore to final product. Starting in 2013, then put an export-quota on them to supply the world. It takes 40 tons of ore to create 2.5 kg of the rare earth magnets that so into ONE wind turbine. Not to mention, the Chinese control the rare earth metals required for military equipment and medical innovations, especially our own. We can thank Clinton for giving up our leadership in that manufacture in 1994.

The Koch brothers have spent a fortune on climate change denial and you've fallen for it.

I've never read a word they've written. Ever.

They have no scientists, just bunch of mavericks and oddballs.

Who, the Koch brothers?

MRW said...


And now the Chinese have invested in renewables and will gain the benefits instead.

Mark my words: the Chinese are going to use their recent agreement with Bozo-Obama to say, "Gee, we can't give you any more rare earths because we need them for ourselves. After all, we have over four times your population. So solly. Bye-bye." They bamboozled Obama, who has the judgment of a dead snake.

The Chinese are now building Ultra Super-Critical Coal-Fired Power Plants that produce 1.3 GW of energy compared to a nuclear plant of 1 GW. Footprint is small. No radiation danger. Reduces water usage because it's recyclable and does not need to steam. Revolutionary. It's what Germany, the greenest nation in Europe, is now building at a frantic rate.
Upgrade Coal Fired Power And Cut 15% Of Emissions – Where Is The Green Applause?
There is no renewable on planet earth at the moment that can run a power plant turbine. None.

You don't know how things work, Kaivey. You gotta' start there.

MRW said...

I agree, Magpie. Instead the Climate Change/Global Warming crew run out of Geneva are trying to get governments around the world to subsidize transnational private investors! Has anybody bothered to read the UNFCCC's financial website? Naaaah. That would be too much work and require too much investigative thinking. These transnational bankers know full well that the US could fund their efforts the way the banks got $29 trillion out of the Fed in 2009-2010 before Congress put a stop to it.

The #1 funder of global warming groups is the Rockefeller Brothers Fund: 200 of them.

Six said...

"Koningstein and Fork had a blunt message about their experience: "With 20/20 hindsight, we see that it didn’t go far enough."

Six said...

What does "So silly. Bye-bye." mean?

MRW said...


It was "So solly," not "So silly." Meaning "So Sorry." And meaning that the Chinese now intend to starve us of the necessary natural resources that we gave up dominion over. Especially ones we need to maintain our military might. We were the world leaders in rare earth tech in 1984, and we had developed mines from Phase One thru Phase Four with the scientists to go with Phase Four who knew what to do.

Six, over New Year's of 1979/1980, the Chinese held its first first "Sino-Australian Press Seminar" on behalf of the Australia-China Council and the All-China Journalists' Association, just before Chinese New Year in Feb. China announced that its 25-year plan was to relocate production from America to China. They intended to take our manufacturing base away from us.

They did it.

We Americans have no idea how the Chinese think. Zero. We make these crude and arrogant assessments of them as if they're a bunch of Neandertals who just reached the real world. Until recently we've treated them as a bunch of peasants who have to catch up to our way of thinking. I spent a considerable amount of time there since 2000, and I was fortunate enough to have a brilliant Chinese octagenarian to teach me some of these differences in thinking as I would encounter them. The Chinese only became communist in 1949 because they wanted their country back after the British effectively colonized them for a century and a half by using opium to destroy their social fabric, and they vowed (1) to stop it, and (2) even the score so that it could never happen again. The Chinese don't take revenge in the western sense. They will, however, defang their opponents, render them completely useless.

When I heard Obama crow about his recent "agreement," NOT a treaty you will note, with China recently, I said out loud: "You putz." And when I heard the Chinese language on the deal--which I can't quote now--I said, "You've been shadow-boxed."

MRW said...

Six, and we think China's threat is military. Jesus, we're stupid.

Bob said...

Renewables cannot be scaled?

MRW said...


They could if the resources they require for creation/manufacture could be scaled, but they can't. That's what the Google group discovered (I can't write its name because the html code in the middle of it, screws up this post.) That's the constraint. It all comes down to the applied science, where it truly can be life or death. Like the Challenger rocket that blew up. The O-Rings could not function correctly under a certain temperature (think the lower limit was 40 F) and it was colder that day in the part of the atmosphere where their function was critical. You can have the most amazing science in the world, and your models can be ostensibly flawless, but if there is an engineering constraint, you're screwed. I'm an engineering constraint kind of person. I gotta' know what can go wrong and what those consequences are. I would love what Kaivey sees as the future if everybody believed as he does, but I've spent seven years verifying if it is possible--I actually read original dull scientific papers and communicate with their authors when I need help understanding their turgid prose--and I, like the Google scientists, don't see it. I think the next energy technology is going to come out of nanotechnology, but that's another story.

These are the last grafs from the last link I give above, the one written by the Anton Lang, who was an Electricity and Electrical Trade Instructor for the Australian Air Force for 30 years.

Additional notes – Generation with solar or nuclear

Nuclear power plants typically have generators capable of driving huge generators capable of 1000MW+. They can do this because the nuclear process can make huge amounts of steam to drive a huge multi stage turbine, a lot larger than for a large scale coal fired unit. If you were to connect one of those 1000MW+ generators to a 70s’ technology coal fired unit, it would not even turn, because they could not make the steam to drive the turbine to spin the weight of that rotor.

The same applies with Concentrating Solar Power (CSP). You cannot connect one of those large coal fired generators to a solar plant, because the solar plant cannot make enough steam to drive the turbine needed to make the rotor rotate. You could have square miles of mirrors all focused to the one point to heat the compound to a molten state, which is then used to make steam, to drive the turbine, which drives the generator which produces the power. In fact, the best this CSP can manage is around 250MW, and even that is usually from 5 X 50MW generators. With the enormous added cost of heat diversion so they can (theoretically) generate power for the full 24 hours, they can only make enough steam to drive one of those 50MW generators. The best they have been able to do so far is around 18MW, and even that is not on a year round basis. Averaged over a full year, it works out at around a 66% CF, which equates to barely 16 hours a day. So on perhaps the day with the longest available sunlight in midsummer, it could run through the night and give a full 24 hours of full power, but in winter, even with heat diversion, even these units barely manage 8 hours equivalence at full power.

You ought to read about the so-called solar plant at Ivanpah.