Saturday, October 08, 2005

Sea level

A left-wing friend has sent me a link to a "nicely written and balanced" article about the climate in Antarctica. It starts with a subtitle "predictions vary from the catastrophic to the cataclysmic" and the rest is analogous - it is about a selective choice of places (especially the Peninsula which is about 2% of Antarctica) where ice is currently melting that are useful to support either the catastrophic or the cataclysmic predictions - which are the two choices that all of us apparently have. ;-)

It is the kind of articles that make me think where could I buy an object that varies from a revolver to a rifle. ;-) I didn't want to link the article itself because it's counterproductive to make an advertisement for crackpots but eventually an anonymous author of a comment convinced me to link it anyway. And because I want to minimize such interactions, I linked the article even though I believe it is wrong to promote such crackpots who already have enough publicity anyway.

Nevertheless, the article explains that we should be afraid that all major cities may be destroyed because the sea level will possibly rise by 80 meters; this is the expected rise if all of terrestrial ice melts. Say goodbye to New York, Rio, Bangkok, Boston, and all other major cities, the author recommends.

The author however does not explain when his "prediction" is gonna be realized. So let me mention that the "catastrophic" rise of the sea level due to the phenomenon we discuss - melting glaciers - was recently 0.42 millimeters per year. This figure is the most accurate and most averaged measure of the "global warming". Since the radius of Earth is 6,378 kilometers, you need 15 billion years - more than the age of the Universe - to make the increase match the radius. ;-) Yes, the Sun will already be gone.

Another little, more serious calculation shows that for his "prediction" of the 80 meter rise to be realized, he must hope that at least the same rate of increase will continue for 200,000 years. In reality, of course, it will be reverted roughly in several decades. But let's academically assume that the rise will continue. We will have 200,000 years to move the cities elsewhere. Even the corrupt Louisiana officials now need less than 1 day to evacuate New Orleans.

This is roughly 100 million times faster than what is needed. Do you want to push the numbers in a certain direction to increase the danger? Be my guest: my argument is robust with 8 more orders of magnitude on my side.

Or are you afraid of the buildings? Most of the buildings will have to be torn down in 200 years or so, not 200,000. Assuming that our grand-to-the-power-of-10,000-children won't be complete morons, they will build cities at safe enough places according to their data which do not have to coincide with the major cities we know today. No rational calculation can justify the worries about the effect of continuously rising sea levels on the major cities.

These worries exclusively control the minds of those who don't want to concentrate and do this simple arithmetics properly. Those who have absolutely no other problems to worry about because their parents have given them everything and the state sector is currently guaranteeing that their lives are full of wealth and safety. Those who only want to use these confused speculations for political goals - or to make them more visible as journalists in order to increase their paycheck. The people who actually need to do similar calculations - such as the Dutchmen - know very well that there is nothing special going on with the sea level right now and they have completely different concerns.

As Slawomir says in the comments, nature rules. If we want to "live", we better get out of its way. We can always move uphill. Or away from the earthquake areas like Kashmir where 20,000+ people died today. Away from various risks that cause such disasters almost every week. And away from the way of thinking that tries to make us investigate non-existent problems rather than the real ones.

1 comment:

  1. Lubos said:
    "As Slawomir says in the comments, nature rules. If we want to "live", we better get out of its way. We can always move uphill. Or away from the earthquake areas like Kashmir where 1300+ people died today. Away from various risks that cause such disasters almost every week. And away from the way of thinking that tries to make us investigate non-existent problems rather than the real ones."

    I completely disagree. Where would you want to move to, Lubos? There is simply no heaven on earth. If there are only 100 people on the earth today, they could probably choose one spot on the earth where there is absolutely minimum risk of disasters, and call it their home. The fact is the earth is littered with 60 billion people and any inhabitable corner has got to be inhabited already.

    The matter of fact is if there is one place more suitable for living than another, people will all fluck to it and crowd it to bring all the sickness of urbanization: polution, street gans and violence, unemployment and poverty, etc., until the point when the place becomes no better than any other place, then the flow of population stops and everything is in equilibrium.

    It just happens by fundamental principle, because people all want to move to better places until no one place is better than another. for one reason or another.

    From a broader point of view, the earth can only sustain a certain amount of population by its resources. When the resources are depleted and the population becomes too big to be sustainable, you bet any kind of natural or man made factors will come into play and keep the population in check, i.e., right below the threshold that the earth can support.

    It has been that way for billions of years. You can do a simple calculation, given just a 1% annual population growth, and starts a million years ago, the population would have grown to an astronomical scale if it had been left growing at that rate unchecked.

    That never happens. There are always things in exist to make sure the population will not reach a level too high for the earth to support. And no technology or science development, or other progress of civilization can change that. We are simply germs pitifully occupying every corner of the earth, regardless whether it is suitable to live or not.

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