The Philosophy of Global Warming

If you are interested in the relationship between the human species and the rest of life on Earth, individual and collective human purpose, evolution, cosmology, the nature of reality, astrology, spirituality, and how all of this relates to global warming & the environmental crisis of modernity, then I am sure that you will like my new book 'The Philosophy of Global Warming'. In the post below I have provided the book description, the list of contents and the first two sections of the book. You can find out how to get hold of the book by clicking on this link:

The Philosophy of Global Warming

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Ahead of the Curve

The debates between those who believe that geoengineering the temperature of the atmosphere of the Earth is an inevitability, and those who believe it can be avoided, seems set to intensify in the near future.

The philosophical view that I have been developing is a broad view which sees the current epoch of technological development as a particular stage in the evolution of a 'successful' life-inhabiting planet. By taking such a broad approach, and by seeing that this stage is actually in the interests of the totality of life on Earth, I have been able to provide a particular perspective on these debates. It is clear to me that life on Earth is currently in a great state of excitement as it brings forth the technological armour which will help to ensure its future existence. To cut straight to the conclusion, this means that the existing geoengineering debates can be seen from a different perspective. The 'inevitability' of geoengineering should not be seen, as it traditionally is, as a 'last resort', as something which is a bad thing, as something which only has to be resorted to because of the damage that humans have done due to their 'selfish ways'. For sure, all this might be true. But there is a bigger picture, and in this picture we can see the cosmic inevitability of the outcome. We can see that this 'inevitable outcome' is a 'good thing' which is in the interests of life.

The geoengineering debate is typically framed in terms of how human societies, and their environmental impacts, could change in the immediate future. Some might assert: "we can change, we can reduce our future impacts to such an extent that geoengineering can be avoided". Those who are pro-geoengineering reply that: "this is exceedingly unlikely". The debate is thus framed around how much human societies can change their future environmental impacts. In my books I have tried to convince the reader that geoengineering the temperature of the atmosphere is the goal which life has striven for for millions and millions of years. From this perspective it is an inevitability. The only question is when people en masse realise that this is so. My different perspective on the debate seems to be 'ahead of the curve'. I am glad to see a gradually increasing realisation of the inevitability. Hopefully, soon there will also be a growing realisation that such an outcome is not something to be undertaken with regret, but that it is an outcome which is a cause of celebration for all life on Earth.

Here are some examples of the growing realisation of the inevitability:

1   In the recently released Tulsa Law Review (Volume 46, Spring 2011, No. 2) Jay Michaelson gives a paper entitled: "Geoengineering and Climate Management: From Marginality to Inevitability".

2    In May 2012 there is to be a conference at the University of Oxford (Institute for Science and Ethics) entitled: "Geoengineering: Science, politics and ethics". This is the conference introduction:

"With the failure of international negotiations, global greenhouse gas emissions are now on a trajectory that is worse than the worst-case scenario. As a result, climate scientists are beginning to contemplate a response to climate change that has previously been taboo, geoengineering—the intentional, enduring, large-scale manipulation of the Earth’s climate system. This series of six lectures will cover the broad range of issues raised by the emergence of climate engineering as a response to climate change."

As is normally the case, the geoengineering "result" is seen as a response to "failure". Instead, let us see the result as a cause for celebration, as the outcome which life has been seeking to attain for a very long time!


Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Some Objections and Misinterpretations

In my last post I provided the outline for my latest book:

Today I would like to briefly outline some common misinterpretations and objections which have arisen from this outline.

1   How can you claim that the idea that "the rest of the planet's biodiversity can do very well without us" is completely and utterly wrong, given that life did just fine for 4 billion years without us?

My reply to this is as follows:

Consider a human who is presently existing without food (a 'hunger strike'). I assert that "this human cannot exist without food". You say (quite correctly) "this person hasn't eaten for 3 days. You are wrong. They can exist without food." This isn't going to convince me. I'm still going to believe that "this human cannot exist without food". It is a claim not about the past, but about the non-immediate future.

2   Humans are 'obviously' a destroying species. Thousands of species are driven to extinction through human activities each and every day.

My reply to this is as follows:

I don't deny this. However, it is also obvious that that the human species is a 'saving' species; consider all of the conservation efforts which are currently going on around the world. Some human activities are 'destructive activities' and some are 'saviour activities'. The important question is which is the most fundamental activity and which is the most superficial activity.

In other words: Is the human species fundamentally destructive and superficially 'saviour'? Or: Is the human species fundamentally 'saviour' and superficially destructive? I don't deny the 'obvious' destruction; I make the case that it is 'superficial'.

3   Geoengineering is not necessary and is too dangerous.

My reply to this is as follows:

Many people seem to be 'scared' by the term geoengineering. In my early writings I did not use the term. Now I only use the term to refer to one particular type of activity; an activity which seems to be required if the human species and other complex life-forms are to have a 'long-term' future. This activity is simply to take intentional actions to counterbalance past 'unintentional' actions.

In other words, the human species has made massive 'unforeseen' changes to the biogeochemical cycles of the Earth. These changes have lengthy time-lags. The effects of the changes that have been made have barely become manifest yet. For example, a massive amount of the carbon which was previously stored 'safely' under the surface of the Earth has been moved, by humans, to a temporary storage area in the oceanic thermohaline circulation. The time-lags involved mean that almost all of the carbon which has been moved since the start of the industrial revolution has not made its way out of the thermohaline yet. When it does - from between around the years 2050-2150 the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere is likely to shoot upwards to a level which is not conducive for the existence of either the human species or other complex life-forms. For more on this see:

The damage has been done. No 'traditional' responses can stop this from happening. By 'traditional' responses I mean things such as:

Sustainable Development

The 3 R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Sustainable Retreat

Even a complete halt on all human activities would not stop this from happening. What can stop this from happening?

The human species can take intentional actions to counterbalance the unforeseen effects of its previous activities. These activities were to release carbon from its underground storage areas to the thermohaline, and soon to the atmosphere (as it leaves the thermohaline). So, at its simplest, these intentional actions entail taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. We are already making good progress at working out how to do this effectively. This ability to offset the changes that we have unintentionally made would mean that when the carbon emerges from the thermohaline that we will be able to maintain the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and thereby control the temperature of the atmosphere. In so doing we would both be saving ourselves and saving a plethora of non-human life-forms.

This is geoengineering. The future of the human species, and these other life-forms, seems to depend on it; it seems to be necessary. And it doesn't seem to me to be particularly 'scary', something we should be terrified about. This is not to say that it a very simple thing to do. However, simply counterbalancing what we have already done is not so 'dangerous' and 'complex' as many make out. Indeed, the danger has already been created; this is the solution. Compared to some of the things that we can do, such as sending technological creations to the planet Mars, such counterbalancing measures seem relatively simple.

Looking further into the future, this ability to regulate the temperature of the atmosphere will enable the human species to save itself, and other complex life-forms, from the main threat to the existence of life on Earth in the future. This threat is the phenomenon of non-human-induced global warming. The solution to the immediate threat of human-induced global warming is also the solution to the longer term threat of non-human-induced global warming (arising from the increasing output of the Sun). However, other more-ingenious technological solutions are likely to be required in the distant future, such as 'blocking' some of the solar input before it is able to enter the Earth's atmosphere.

As we imagine the Earth in the future, a planet on which life is flourishing - thousands of years into the future, hundreds of thousands of years into the future, millions of years into the future - we can see that all of the wonderfully interesting and complex life-forms that exist owe their existence to their technological saviour: the human species.