living standards closer to average…

A friend of mine posted recently about how concerned he was about living standards in the US approaching that of a Pakastani bricklayer because we are not investing in education to stay a technological leader.

Guess what? The standards are already going to be forced down and we maybe lucky to have the bricklayer standard of living. This is what global climate change is going to do to the US and the world.

The Greenland ice cap is doomed:

The Greenland ice sheet is all but doomed to melt away to nothing, according to a new modelling study. If it does melt, global sea levels will rise by seven metres, flooding most of the world’s coastal regions.

All but one forecast that the threshold for runaway melting on Greenland will be exceeded, in some cases as early as 2035.

Stop and think about this … 7 metres (20 feet) . How many major cities are within 20 feet of sea level? Well, how about most? New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans (what remains of it), San Francisco, Sacramento, Silicon Valley, Seattle, Venice, London… the entire country of Bangladesh, the entire state of Florida.

The “good news” about London is that the outer boroughs will be safe. The article then talks about an even more disasterous rise in sea-level:

  1. A 7m rise in sea levels if either the Greenland or the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melted.
  2. A 13m rise, if both the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheet melted.
  3. A remarkable 84m rise if the East Antarctic Ice Sheet also melted. Some experts believe there could be at least a one in 20 chance that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could melt some time in the next 200 years.

With these kind of sea-level changes what does that do for arable land? Most farmland is on floodplains, much will be flooded. A rising sea-level also brings salt-water encroachment into fresh water. With much of the fresh water lakes and rivers polluted, with a rising population this begins to sound an awful like many of the scenarios described in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.

Water wars, massive movements of refugees, wars, ecological collapse, population crashes…

Of course the sad thing is that all of our technology produces heat. And heat is the thing we will want less of in the future. But increasingly we will need technology in order to survive. The human race looks to be in a death-spiral unless we wake up… soon.

Instead what are we spending our time and treasure on? Iraq and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. We are trillions in debt. What happens if every other country is pulling money out of the U.S. economy in an attempt to protect their own by building massive levees to hold back the flood waters? The U.S. will be lucky to avoid Third-World status. But the good news is that the U.S. will not be frozen like Europe.

But we are unlikely to have much leftover for the latest iPod Nano

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3 Responses to living standards closer to average…

  1. Pat–

    Most of your links are broken.

    Past that, nowhere did I say “because we are not investing in education to stay a technological leader”– I happen to think we’re spending quite enough on education. The problem is that the educational system in this country is systemically broken (as are a number of the other large-scale systems in this country).

    Further investment? Waste of money. Fundamental systemic change seems to be required.

  2. patrick says:

    Hi Bill —

    I reread what you wrote and I did see that I misread with regards to the ‘investing in education’ statement. Considering how many times Mountain View Educational Foundation calls me asking for money to do things like art and music, I would say that we do need money in the educational system (but that certainly was not your comment)

    As far as the links go I just tested them and they seem to work. If you can give me an example it would help.

    But what did you think of the rest of the post: Did the climate argument hang together (even if you didn’t agree with it?)?

  3. Hi Pat says:

    Fundamentally, it doesn’t really hold together for me.

    It’s a scenario, but not especially plausible.

    Anytime someone tells me something like: the Greenland melting is 30 years away from becoming “runaway”, will take 1,000 years to occur, and will be unstoppable once it starts, I wonder if they’re related to Lord Kelvin (who, in addition to being a great physicist once declared, with utter certainty, that “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible”)

    Moreover, 30 year out predictions are tricky things– there was a wonderful Long Now seminar last year talking about global depopulation. And Stewart Brand, the guy who runs the Long Now, pointed out the obvious: 30 years ago we were worried about the calamities that would be induced by overpopulation; now we’re worried about the possibility of a depopulation spiralling into a feedback loop that causes the next dark ages.

    Best,

    Bill

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