Sunday, March 11, 2012

Earth 2100 Discussion

Takes 150+ minutes even without the science discussion

Earth 2100 Discussion Questions

Let's finish the movie as needed first

In small groups:

How would you
rate or critique
the movie itself?

     For example -
     What about the


      Should we all become

Story starts in 2009
   How has the movie's predictions,
   since 2009,
   tracked reality so far?

Here are some observations on this
(see youtube version LUWyDWEXH8U):

4:45-5:30 - 2012. Assessment?

6:47-7:20 - 2015. Assessment?

8:00-8:30 - 2015. Assessment?

9:40-10:05. Disruptive innovation from artificial meat:
Like grid parity for PV, there is "meat parity"

26:07- . This is unlikely but appeals to our worst fears.

28:01-29:30. The worst mass extinction was recently discovered to be by proliferation of methanosarcina organisms which took advantage of a previously unused resource. We are the first to take advantage of such a resource as well: information. So maybe we are like the methanosarcina, and the 62 million year cycle continues...

32:40-33:37: Famous example, but with a fatal flaw pointed out in the book Questioning Collapse

36:00-36:18: "...and a few books": what is wrong with this picture?

38:07-38:23: Remember "grid parity"? I think 2050 is too pessimistic for this scene!

41:11-42:00: See Greensburg in Wikipedia (article mentions Earth 2100). But this concept of small self-sufficient communities is attractive to some but problematic and unnecessary as well as economically regressive

45:30-45:45: Ties into technology decreasing in cost, also ties into grid parity. What we need: spray-on solar power paint. Solar power in a spray can.

46:55-46:15: Well, 2009 was before self-driving cars were invented...

46:35-46:48: the self-sufficient commune idea again. Arkansas was a popular destination for that a few decades ago. But what about agbots and such, which were not well developed or visible in 2009?

51:40- : The whole methane thing is reminiscent of the methanosarcina-induced mass extinction long ago. Methane is still a biologically untapped energy resource even now!

53:50- : What do you think of geoengineering solutions? We could check the proposals online...

55:11- : The concept of destroying the ozone layer has a precedent: freon.

56:40- : The barrier design is wrong. The Netherlands has had a working sea gate for decades. Holland is below sea level. The Dutch gov't made a sea wall after a disaster several decades ago.

One proposal is to copy the Dutch storm surge barrier
  • We live in Arkansas,
    • which is in the United States,
    • we are Americans and
    • speak English

  • Some people live in Holland
    • What is the elevation in Holland,
    • what country is it in,
    • what is the nationality of its people, and 
    • what language do they speak?

        North Sea flood of 1953
        Called the Delta Works (DutchDeltawerken)

            Includes the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier (Oosterscheldekering) 

            Also includes the Maeslant Barrier (Maeslantkering)
                 Wikipedia article
                 Video #1
                 Video #2
                 "Closure of the van Maeslantkering"
                        Video #3
                Video #4
                Video #5
               "Maeslant barrier" (aerial view)
                     Video #6   
              See also, query Maeslant

Ever see the doors of the lock of the Big Dam Bridge?

58:46- : After the movie was made, NYC did flood!
      What happened?
      Hurricane Sandy, 2012

1:00:50- : Well, Boston is already part of New England. Whatever.

1:03:50- : Transportation network shutdown might end civilization as we know it. Solution: local PV power, agbots everywhere, self-sufficient communities...

1:05:12- : What if the internet shut down? 10 years ago, a biggish deal but not that big. How big now?

1:09:25-1:09:40: I think building collapses will take awhile. And remember NYC did get flooded and no buildings fell down.

1:10:00- : Sounds a bit like some other products of the dystopian story theme in American culture. Examples?

More comments and questions

They had San Diego build salt water desalination plants
The family moves to a big city
   That's the trend worldwide
   Good, bad, or neither?

They say if climate change
is not controlled by 2015
it will be too late
   Will something happen by, say, 2016?
   Too late for what?

They said if
everyone eats an American diet
we'd need 4 Earths
to produce the food
   What should happen?
   What might happen?

They show a simulated
climate control summit
that fails
   What has happened before with international climate control agreements?
What about just moving north or inland?

2030: "shortages and high prices will be a fact of life"
   What do you think?

2040: Millions of desperate refugees trying to cross into the US

2060: NYC ("The Big Apple")
    What do people say about it?
    Could disease strike in a big way?

2070: Sea level up 3 feet
         Sea graph at
    What would happen if that happened?
2070: Massive methane spike
    What is methane?
    Where does it come from?
    Why might there be a spike?
    What would a spike cause?

2084: Society starts breaking down for real
    Disease shuts down transportation network
        What then?
        Can one prepare?

Temporary Digression...............

1. What is Science, Really? What is Pseudoscience?

(More discussion related to "Earth 2100")

Some initial comments and questions
before the general discussion

What is the difference between:

2. Math: 
prove new things 
     based on 
existing knowledge

Mathematical reasoning is:

  • 1+1=2
  • 2+2=4
  • Therefore, 
    • 1+1+1+1=4
    • (proof by substitution)

  • All men are mortal
  • Socrates is a man
  • Therefore, 
    • Socrates is mortal 
    • (proof by "syllogism")

  • Deduction can prove things
  • Mathematics uses deduction
  • Therefore, 
    • mathematics can prove things 
    • (proof by syllogism again!)

3. Science is different from math!

  • Science is based on:
    • induction
    • (not deduction)
  • All apples that break off the tree, 
    • fall down
  • Therefore, if I shake this apple tree,
    • and an apple breaks off,
    • it will fall down
  • Not a proof! 
    • Can you think of a counterexample?

  • That which goes up has always come down
  • Therefore, if I throw this up, it will come down
  • Not a proof! Can you think of a counterexample?

4. Science needs more than induction

Humankind has always sought reasons

Scientists call those reasons
       "theories" and "hypotheses"

Theories are the big ones
  • relativity
  • evolution
  • continental drift/plate tectonics

Hypotheses are the ---little--- ones
  • If the ground gets waterlogged,
    • water will get into my basement
  • IFSC students learn 
    • more employable things than physics majors

Conclusion. . .
Math proves; 
science does not prove!

Science disproves 
      (by refuting inductive "truths")

Science explains
     (using theories)

Science predicts
     (because the theories predict)

5. The phrase "scientific proof" makes no sense!
  • Science does not prove things!
  • It explains things and finds evidence
  • If only everyone actually knew that
  • Not just you, but also
    • reporters, 
    • spokespeople, 
    • politicians
    • the average person

6. Comments on Earth 2100

. . . Worst case scenario
      consistent with best science available

. . . The main cause depicted was

           global warming

. . . Secondary causes were

           deadly disease
           rising sea level
           poverty and hardship

. . . Effects were ultimately

           Governmental collapse
           Technological regression

. . . . . . So things could be that bad, but might not

7. Climate science uses theories
implemented as complex
computerized models
  • There are variations among 
    • different models
  • Their global warming computations make
    • different predictions

Almost all (never all, right?)
climate specialists agree:
  • Global warming is happening, will get worse, and is a serious problem
  • That is the consensus among climate scientists
  • No math-style deductive proof is possible

8. Politics and special interests 
are a different ball game

. . . Some economic interests 
      benefit most 
      if nothing is done

. . . . . . Naturally, they will impede change

. . . . . . . . . That is one case of
                  famous economist Adam Smith's  
                 "Invisible Hand"

9. Your turn: 
Earth 2100 further discussion

In small groups:

What technologies are envisioned 
and what are their plausibilities?

10. Ok, so How to Prevent a Global Warming Disaster?

. . .The hard way:
      reduce CO2 emissions

             Why is this hard to do?

. . .An easier way?
          What's that?

. . .Volcanoes are a clue
     Large volcanic eruptions cool the climate

. . .Mt. Pinatubo (Philippines), 1991
     Major eruption caused global cooling
     About a degree (F) for a few years

. . .Other eruptions associated with global cooling:
     Mt. Tambora, Indonesia (1815)
     Laki, Iceland (1783
     Krakatoa, Indonesia (1883)
     . . .and other smaller ones

. . .Why?
         Volcanoes emit CO2
        They emit SO2 as well
         SO2 causes cooling!
. . .What is SO2?

10a. Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)

Mixes with water vapor in stratosphere

Turns into sulfuric acid solution droplets

They block and reflect sunlight


. . .spectacular sunsets worldwide

. . .less sunlight reaches Earth

. . .Global cooling

So why not do it on purpose?

. . .Well, why not?

10b. Putting SO2 into the Stratosphere On Purpose

A gallon of liquified SO2,
every couple seconds,
would be enough
(some think)

SO2 is easy to make
. . .but how to get it high enough?

. . .stratosphere starts about 6 miles up

. . . . . .use lots of airplanes to spray it

. . . . . .use balloons with sprayers

. . . . . .would special guns work?

. . . . . .use a real long hose
but how to get the end of the hose up so high?
Let's try to design such a hose...


. . .much, much cheaper than reducing emissions


. . .would the technology really work?

. . .if the technology worked, would the SO2 really have the predicted effects?

. . .ozone layer damage

. . .ocean acidification

. . .people waste time gazing at the sunsets :)

10c. What should we do?

Environmentalists don't like SO2

Business interests deny global warming exists

Governments so far show no interest in SO2

What do you think?

10d. Another Way to Do the Same Thing

Spray sea water to make more clouds over the ocean

Salt particles nucleate water droplets

Cloudier skies result

Less sunshine warming the dark oceans

Need to persuade ships to spray as they go

11. What is the connection between 
epidemics and global warming?
  • Any diseases already spread to the US?
  • Any that may soon?

What are some tipping points to social stability?

  • Long-term blackouts
  • Transportation network breakdown
  • Where would you want to live if things went bad?
  • How about Arkansas?
  • Little Rock?

What can you do now?

12. Could Earth 2100 
really happen like that?

There are different cases:
   intermediate (many)

Earth 2100 depicts the worst case
   Probably won't be that bad
   But it is possible
   Hard to predict for sure: (Chaos (Lorenz) wheel as a garden water feature)
   Still, beachfront property cautiously

What signs portend a worst case scenario?
   CO2 is a relatively known factor
   CH4 (methane) is less so
   . . . but it has strong greenhouse effects
   If northern ice melts
   . . . and dark permafrost ground is exposed
   . . . and warms up from sunlight
   . . . and melts
   . . . and releases methane
   Then start worrying more
   If oceans start releasing methane
   . . . due to warming waters
   Then start worrying more

   No methane spike, no worst case
   . . . probably
   Bottom line:
   . . . watch for news on methane releases

13. Hyperpowers are historically limited in time
  • Mongolia
  • Rome
  • UK
  • US

We're #1!

But how can we stay that way?

14. What are the natural tendencies that 
cause hyperpowers to be time-limited?

  • Rigidity
  • Over-confidence from past successes
  • Inner rot

What can be done to prevent it or delay the inevitable? 

Why successful societies collapse

Earth 2100 quotes someone asking what
the person who cut down
the last palm tree on Easter Island
could have been thinking

That is straight out of Diamond's book

(Diamond appeared several times in the movie)

Easter Island, Rome, the Anasazi, the Mayans, the Greenland Norse, ...

No comments:

Post a Comment