A Colby Community Web Site

Author: Tynan Hewes (Page 1 of 2)

Geoengineering: The Boomerang Solution to Climate Change

Tynan Hewes

Fleming

ST112WA

May 16, 2018

Geoengineering: The Boomerang Solution to Climate Change

 

Introduction

         Global climate change is one of the greatest issues to ever face humanity. Studies have found that global temperatures have been rising at an average rate of 0.17°C  per decade since 1970, largely due to carbon dioxide emissions (Dahlman, 2017). In a paper published by the IPCC, it was found that increasing temperatures have resulted in a loss of biodiversity, and have caused large-scale extinctions, especially among endemic species (IPCC, 2002).  Researchers also found that climate changes are resulting in droughts, which negatively affect agricultural industries, namely in the southwest United States (NASA, 2018). Fortunately, politicians are taking action to combat climate change through means such as renewable energy and environmental laws (Corner and Pidgeon, 2014). However, findings show that despite attempts to reduce carbon dioxide, we are still producing 25% more carbon dioxide than the predicted safe amount to avoid more extreme environmental damages (Khan, 2016). Clearly, more action needs to be taken to combat climate change. One proposed solution to the environmental crisis is geoengineering, a practice that uses technology to control the climate, which in turn allows humans to minimize or reverse climate change. This paper will specifically investigate aerosol loading, a subset of geoengineering; therefore, this paper will use the terms geoengineering and aerosol loading synonymously. Many proponents argue that geoengineering will be the solution to climate change; however, there are severe potential repercussions to engineering nature, including environmental degradation, negative economic consequences, and the moral hazard.  

         In order to understand the dangers of geoengineering, we must first understand what it is. Experts, like Alan Robock, explain that the idea behind aerosol loading is firing sulfates, which are a specific type of aerosol, into the atmosphere (Robock, et al., 2009). According to NASA, aerosols are highly reflective particles, produced from the burning of coal and oil (NASA, 2017). Experts in the field of geoengineering propose to use cannons and airplanes to fire sulfates into the atmosphere to increase earth’s albedo (Robock et al., 2009). Sulfates have an extremely high albedo, meaning they are highly reflective, and therefore can prevent the earth from absorbing some of the sun’s energy (NASA, 2017). Geoengineers propose that if they injected sulfates into the atmosphere more energy from the sun would be reflected back into space which would decrease global warming (Robock et al., 2009). Ideally, this would allow humanity to solve the issues of climate change by means of science and technology, rather than such things as reducing carbon dioxide output and consumption of goods. However, controlling the climate is exceptionally challenging, and perhaps impossible, so attempts to do so could have severe economic and environmental consequences (Robock, et al., 2009).

 

Effects on the Environment

         Aerosol loading is a highly imperfect science and would result in numerous negative environmental effects. The basis of geoengineering is disturbing the natural environment, especially the atmosphere, to prevent global warming. Humanity has already damaged the natural environment through burning fossil fuels and industrializing. Similarly, an alternative disruption to the environment will have the potential to affect the atmosphere and earth as well. While geoengineering does attempt to remedy some environmental issues, it also causes many others.

         One key concern of aerosol loading is that it would cause ozone depletion as a result of the increased number of aerosols entering the atmosphere (Robock et al., 2009). Ozone depletion would result in increased ultraviolet radiation (UVB) reaching the earth’s surface, which causes skin cancer and malignant melanoma development (EPA, 2016). Furthermore, UVB interferes with various other forms of biota by means of hindering plant development and interfering with biogeochemical systems, many of which are involved in natural carbon sequestration. Without this means of carbon sequestration, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere will increase, in turn, increasing the rate of global warming (EPA, 2016). In this case, not only would geoengineering negatively affect the health of humans and wildlife but it, in fact, has the potential for exacerbating the issue it is ultimately trying to stop: increasing global temperatures. Ozone depletion demonstrates the idea that controlling the environment would have severe environmental effects.

         Aerosol loading would also negatively impact renewable energy in the form of sunlight. While the purpose of aerosol loading is to reduce the amount of solar energy from entering the atmosphere to reduce global temperatures, this can also have direct negative effects. The sulfates injected into the atmosphere would cause the sunlight that came in contact with them to scatter and diffuse (Robock, et al., 2009). This would negatively impact solar generators because solar panels require the use of direct sunlight to properly function (Knier, n.d.). Stratospheric aerosols would decrease the amount of direct sunlight by 4 watts per every watt reflected out of the atmosphere (Murphy, 2009). This would be a serious setback against solar power, a growing source of renewable energy (Environmental Science, 2018). Currently, solar power is the fastest growing source of renewable energy, but if aerosols were injected into the atmosphere the future of renewable energy would be at risk (Nyhus, 2018). Geoengineering is designed to address environmental issues; however, by decreasing renewable energy potential, it would impede other attempts to address carbon dioxide emissions. Aerosol loading would cause the loss of a natural resource that provides for sustainable energy. For climate solutions to be effective, not only must they target an environmental problem, but they must also not interfere with current other established solutions.

         Aerosol loading would also increase the amount of acid rain, which would have detrimental effects on the environment. Increasing atmospheric aerosol content would result in more aerosols entering the troposphere, which would cause an increase of sulfuric acid in rain (MIT, 2009). When acid rain falls, it leaches aluminum out of the soil, which can be harmful to an array of plants and animals (EPA, 2017). Furthermore, when the sulfuric acid reaches waterways, it increases the acidity, which is detrimental to many species, especially those who cannot adapt to significant changes in pH, such as snails and clams (EPA, 2017). Acid rain also leaches essential nutrients from the soil, which is taxing on the growth and hardiness of plants, especially those in mountainous regions that lack a thick soil foundation (EPA, 2017). Furthermore, less successful plants would negatively affect the food industry. Already there is a food crisis across the globe, and decreasing the fitness of an array of plant species would limit the amount of food that could be produced across the globe (NASA, 2018). This demonstrates another way that aerosol loading could negatively impact environmental health.

         The science behind geoengineering is untested and unpredictable. Furthermore, it will negatively impact the earth’s environment, which, is, in fact, the thing it is meant to improve. Based on its environmental consequences alone, the implementation of it across the globe should be questioned. Furthermore, if it were ever to be implemented, and if it was decided after the fact that the environmental damages of it were outweighing the benefits, the cost would be immense. Aerosols cannot be removed from the atmosphere once injected, so the negative effects of geoengineering would continue after aerosol loading was terminated (Robock, 2008). Furthermore, if aerosol loading were terminated, there would be a climate shock which would result in global warming accelerating to a rate far greater than it is currently (Robock, 2008). Essentially, there is no going back. Unlike other attempts to combat environmental degradation and climate change, we cannot undo aerosol loading, and therefore the risks are too great.

 

Economic Consequences and Immediate Impacts of Aerosol Deployment

         The practice of geoengineering could be extremely economically costly and aerosol loading would have immediate environmental consequences, questioning whether it is the most efficient use of funds to target environmental issues (Robock, 2008). While some proponents of geoengineering claim that aerosol loading would be relatively inexpensive, there is evidence to refute this (Robock, et al., 2009). Cost estimates of firing sulfates into the atmosphere are as low as about 2 trillion dollars (Fleming, 2012; BLS, 2018). However, the cost of aerosol loading has not been definitively established, and economic estimates of large-scale governmental projects are almost always too low (Robock, 2008). Furthermore, economic estimates of aerosol loading neither include a monitoring system for the injected sulfates, nor considerations of environmental and industrial damage from albedo modification attempts (National Research Council, 2015). Atmospheric scientist, Jim Fleming, states that firing sulfates into the atmosphere would produce about 2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year (Fleming, 2012). Therefore, aerosol loading would increase the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to some degree directly after deployment.

         Geoengineering could result in reduced funds towards other attempts to mitigate climate change. According to economist Nicholas Stern, the current annual budget for climate change is only about 9 trillion dollars (Robock, 2008). Aerosol loading would take up a large percentage of this budget, assuming no additional money was given to target climate change. This could result in fewer funds for renewable energy and other carbon dioxide mitigation efforts. This cannot be afforded. Geoengineering is insufficient to protect natural environments, animal habitats, and sustainable food systems, and therefore cannot be counted on entirely to address environmental issues (Fleming, 2012).

         Geoengineering could also result in adverse economic consequences. Astronomers spend billions of dollars on observatories, and aerosol loading would render these stations useless as a result of the permanent pollution that they would cause above the telescopes (Robock, et al., 2009). This would limit future research in the field of astronomy and waste large sums of money that could otherwise be used for scientific advance. Aerosol loading would also necessitate more artificial light be given to plants, due to the decreased direct natural sunlight that would be entering the atmosphere (Robock, 2009). Finally decreased direct sunlight could negatively impact humans, as sunlight provides a source of vitamin D, and serves as an antidepressant. This could result in increased consumption of vitamin D and antidepressants supplements (Robock et al., 2009). Therefore, the potential economic consequences of geoengineering are too high to warrant the use of aerosol loading.

 

The Moral Hazard

         Geoengineering is positioned and touted as the technology that will solve all environmental issues, and because of this, it would likely decrease environmental action, causing the moral hazard. The moral hazard is the idea that because we are insured to some degree against a particular threat, we do not need to worry about that threat anymore (Lin, 2013). For example, not worrying about crashing your car because you have car insurance would demonstrate the moral hazard. In the case of geoengineering and climate change, insurance would be a metaphor for geoengineering, and car crashes would be a metaphor for climate change and environmental degradation. However, as demonstrated earlier, geoengineering alone cannot address all environmental issues, and will in fact negatively impact the environment in many ways.

         Geoengineering could disincentivize other governmental action to address climate change. Even though many politicians and scientists are aware of the moral hazard, they are still concerned about it with respect to climate change (Corner and Pidgeon, 2014). Environmental policy makers unanimously claim that geoengineering will only be a band-aid solution to climate change, and will not, in fact, address many environmental issues (Corner and Pidgeon, 2014). Despite this, environmental politicians worry that discussing geoengineering and considering its possibilities would distract them from making necessary policies concerning carbon dioxide outputs and other climate issues (Corner and Pidgeon, 2014). Supporting their concerns, studies show that geoengineering efforts and discussions would negatively impact climate legislation (Lin, 2013).  Geoengineering is very appealing to many people, despite the fact that it is a highly flawed solution to climate change. Having blind faith that geoengineering would address all environmental issues is extremely risky and impractical, yet people still support it, proving the existence of the moral hazard of geoengineering.

         The science and practice of geoengineering appear to be an easy solution to climate change to the public due to its psychological appeal of control. Studies in psychology show that having a sense of control over a situation is highly attractive to humans (Lin, 2013).  In a study conducted on random individuals, it was found that many participants thought geoengineering could be an effective solution to climate change. They came to this conclusion despite being informed on the technical difficulties and imperfections of geoengineering. Many of these participants also said that geoengineering would be easy to “switch off,” and that it would be highly “controllable” (Lin, 2013).  Sadly, terminating aerosol loading would not be an easy switch off, and would, in fact, result in accelerated global warming (Robock, 2008). Furthermore, claiming that the climate and climate engineering is controllable is a stretch. The climate is dynamic and unpredictable. Claiming that scientists who have never controlled the climate before will be able to do so is an overstatement of the abilities of these scientists. Nonetheless, people believe that geoengineering will allow humans to control the climate to a greater extent than is realistic.

         Many climate skeptics support geoengineering, likely because it appears an easy way to address climate change (Ellison, 2018). In February 2018, President Trump signed a budget to provide funds for geoengineering research in the United States. This action had bipartisan support and was especially favored by Republicans. After the budget was passed, Randy Weber, a Republican representative from Texas said that “the future is bright for geoengineering (Ellison, 2018). The fact that geoengineering is getting support from those who traditionally deny the existence of climate change is concerning (Koronowski, et al., 2018). President Trump is a renowned climate denier and has made the point of filling his cabinet with other climate deniers (Koronowski, et al., 2018). Furthermore, Trump and much of his cabinet have worked hard to dismantle research and environmental protection groups such as NASA and the EPA (Koronowski, et al., 2018). Why they would support something that is meant to target climate change is suspicious, and their motivation is not completely clear. Perhaps Trump and his cabinet thought that by supporting geoengineering research, the public and the government would release the pressure on them to address current environmental issues. Several business leaders, politicians, and world leaders have reached out to Trump to try to get him to act on climate change. Pope Francis, Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, and Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, are among many prominent world figures that have pressured Trump into fighting for environmental protection (Buncombe, et al., 2017). Perhaps the pressure from these world leaders, alongside public discontent, led him to support the geoengineering (Buncombe, et al., 2017). For the climate deniers in the government, geoengineering likely appears to be an easy solution to the climate situation. Supporting geoengineering would make the statement that they were addressing climate change, and could potentially decrease the pressure and criticism that they are receiving around environmental issues. Climate deniers are giving into the moral hazard. They are accepting geoengineering as a metaphorical seatbelt that will save the world from the car crash. However, just as seatbelts are not failsafe, neither is geoengineering. It will not address all environmental issues. It will be expensive. And finally, it will worsen much of the existing environmental crisis.

         The appeal of geoengineering is significant. It appears as a technological miracle that will solve key environmental issues without any mitigation efforts. However, the ramifications and costs of geoengineering are too great to consider it as a possibility. Therefore, contemplating the potential of it as a climate solution is a waste of time and resources. Geoengineering, would not only be a failed attempt at addressing climate issues, but it would, in fact, interfere with progress being made against climate change on an individual scale and in sectors such as environmental law and policy.

Conclusions

         The consequences of geoengineering that have been explored in this paper demonstrate just a few ways that it can negatively impact the environment and society (Radford, 2014; Murphy, 2009; Connolly, 2017; Robock et al., 2009). We know numerous ways geoengineering could backfire, however, there are likely far more ways that we simply do not know of because we do not fully understand the climate. There is no way of knowing what will happen when you try to alter an entire global system (Robock, 2009). The repercussions of geoengineering could be incredibly severe, far beyond what we already understand and expect.

         The solution to the climate crisis is not simple. Instead of investing in a few trillion dollar ideas to reverse climate change, we need to consider our own individual impact on the environment. We need to stop considering the environment as something under our control. On the contrary, we need to accept our place in the world as just one species among many that is trying to fit into its ecosystem. This means mitigating our consumption of energy and goods, both on an individual and governmental scale. We need to pass aggressive laws limiting consumption of all goods, especially those that emit fossil fuels. We need to stop trying to controlling the climate, and instead, focus on mitigating our impact on the planet.

 

Literature Cited

Biello, D. (2010, April 06). What Is Geoengineering and Why Is It Considered a Climate Change Solution? Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/geoengineering-and-climate-change/

 

BLS. (2018). CPI Inflation Calculator. Retrieved May 12, 2018, from https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm

 

Buncombe, Andrew, Mythili, Sampathkumar(2017, May 26). G7 summit: Leaders pressure Donald Trump on climate change pact – but President makes no promises. Retrieved April 27, 2018, from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-g7-climate-change-failure-paris-agreement-angela-merkel-a7758561.html

 

Connolly, Kate. (2017, October 14). Geoengineering is not a quick fix for climate change, experts warn Trump. Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/14/geoengineering-is-not-a-quick-fix-for-climate-change-experts-warn-trump

 

Corner, A., & Pidgeon, N. (2014). Geoengineering, climate change skepticism and the ‘moral hazard’ argument: An experimental study of UK public perceptions. The Royal Society. doi:10.1098/rsta.2014.0063. Retrieved May 01, 2018, from http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/372/2031/20140063

 

Ellison, K., E., Waisman, D., Drimonis, T., Visser, N., Weber, B., . . . Dylan Waisman & Tracy

Sherlock. (2018, March 30). What on Earth? Why climate change skeptics are backing geoengineering. Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://www.nationalobserver.com/2018/03/30/news/what-earth-why-climate-change-skeptics-are-backing-geoengineering

 

Environmental Science. (2018). Renewable Energy: All You Need to Know. Retrieved April 13, 2018, from https://www.environmentalscience.org/renewable-energy

 

EPA. (2016, December 28). Health and Environmental Effects of Ozone Layer Depletion. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from https://www.epa.gov/ozone-layer-protection/health-and-environmental-effects-ozone-layer-depletion

 

EPA. (2017, June 01). Effects of Acid Rain. Retrieved April 26, 2018, from https://www.epa.gov/acidrain/effects-acid-rain

 

Dahlman, L. (2017, September 11). Climate Change: Global Temperature | NOAA Climate.gov. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-temperature

 

Fleming, James. (2012), Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control, Columbia University Press, . ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/colby/detail.action?docID=908322.

 

Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo (2010). Global surface temperature change. Reviews of Geophysics, 48 (RG4004)

IPCC. (2002). Climate Change and Biodiversity. IPCC Technical Paper,5. Retrieved May 8, 2018, from https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/technical-papers/climate-changes-biodiversity-en.pdf.

 

Khan, Brian. (2016, November 03). The World Isn’t Doing Enough to Slow Climate Change. Retrieved April 13, 2018, from http://www.climatecentral.org/news/unep-report-climate-change-20846

 

Knier, G. (n.d.). How do Photovoltaics Work? Retrieved May 11, 2018, from https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2002/solarcells/

Koronowski, R., & Moser, C. (2018, February 1). Every climate denier in Trump’s cabinet. Retrieved April 27, 2018, from https://thinkprogress.org/trump-cabinet-climate-deniers-2ff87aba57ec/

 

Krugman, P. (2015, December 04). Republicans’ Climate Change Denial Denial. Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/04/opinion/republicans-climate-change-denial-denial.html

 

Lin, A. C. (2013). Does Geoengineering Present a Moral Hazard? Law: UC Davis. Retrieved April 5, 2018, from https://law.ucdavis.edu/faculty/lin/files/ELQ.MoralHazard.pdf

 

MIT. (2009, November 29). The Unintended Consequences of Sulfate Aerosols in the Troposphere and Lower Stratosphere. Retrieved April 26, 2018, from https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/civil-and-environmental-engineering/1-018j-ecology-i-the-earth-system-fall-2009/projects/MIT1_018JF09_sw_paper4.pdf

 

Murphy, D. M. (2009), Effect of stratospheric aerosols on direct sunlight and implications for concentrating solar power, Environ. Sci. Technol., 43(8), 2784 – 2786, doi:10.1021/es802206b.

http://www.csub.edu/~dbaron/Aines.pdf

 

NASA. (2017, August 07). Atmospheric Aerosols: What Are They, and Why Are They So Important? Retrieved May 8, 2018, from https://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/news/factsheets/Aerosols.html

 

NASA. (2018, May 08). Global Climate Change: Effects. Retrieved May 11, 2018, from https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/

 

National Research Council. (2015). Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/18988.

 

Nyhus, P. (2018, April). Energy 2. Lecture presented in Maine, Waterville.

 

Radford, T. (2014, December 01). Geoengineering Could Worsen Climate Change. Retrieved April 06, 2018, from https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/geoengineering-could-worsen-climate-change

 

Robock, A. (2008), 20 reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea, Bull. At. Sci., 64, 14 – 18, doi:10.2968/064002006.

 

Robock, A., Marquard, A., Kravitz, B., & Stenchikov, G. (2009). Benefits, risks, and costs of stratospheric geoengineering. Geophysical Research Letters,36(L19703). Retrieved April 3, 2018, from http://climate.envsci.rutgers.edu/pdf/2009GL039209.pdf

 

Wingington, D. (n.d.). Geoengineering Dangers Discussed By Officials, Agency Scientists And

Other Experts. Retrieved April 04, 2018, from http://www.geoengineeringwatch.org/geoengineering-dangers-discussed-by-officials-agency-scientists-and-other-experts/

The Benefits of Backward Biological Thinking

      Many people believe that the government and higher powers should not be able to influence the actions and liberties of biological beings; they believe it is immoral and cruel. However, even in our current society, many animals, humans included, have their liberties restricted and their actions and biological systems controlled. From genetically modified chickens to China’s one-child policy, there are and have been establishments controlling the biology and liberty of living beings. From a moral standpoint, many people are disturbed by these actions. However, limiting and modifying the biology and abilities of animals has undeniable benefits, such as reducing the human population, increasing food availability, and protecting endangered animals. By modifying biological systems through genetically modified organisms(GMOs), and establishing policies that limit population, there could be undeniable benefits for both society and the natural environment.

        Genetically modified organisms(GMOs) can provide food for those in need and can increase the well-being of the environment in doing so. Humanity has exceeded its carry capacity, resulting in famines and food-insecurities across the globe. Currently, nearly 800 million people across the globe are suffering from starvation (borgenproject.org). While food waste is largely to blame for this situation, a lack of available food across the globe is also a major cause of the crisis. Furthermore,  in an attempt to supply food to the growing population, many species are being over-hunted, particularly fish. Genetically modified organisms could allow for more efficient food production by increasing the size of the product and increasing its yield. For instance, genetically engineered salmon have recently been approved for consumption. Being far larger than traditional salmon, these fish not only provide more food for people, but they also decrease the draw and necessity of hunting natural salmon. In this way, a natural species is being preserved, and more food is made available to the public. Furthermore, an increasing number of crops are becoming genetically engineered, allowing for larger plants, pest resistance, and other desired traits. However, there is a serious controversy over the environmental ethics of GMOs, and there are concerns that GMOs will not be able to adapt to pest mutations. While these concerns are not unprecedented,  at their roots GMOs have serious potential to increase food production and have already proven the capability of outperforming natural crop varieties. Using genetic engineering, pesticides can be rendered unnecessary, which would greatly improve environmental health. Furthermore, due to the potential increased yield of GMOs, more land can be devoted to preserving natural habitats that would otherwise not exist if they were converted to farmland (nytimes.com). If more species and plant types were genetically modified, the potential food increase and preservation of species would be drastically increased.

        Enacting policies that would limit the number of children women can have would be highly beneficial for the environment and society. As a result of our ever-growing population, we are consuming more resources, namely fossil fuels, which cause climate change. Furthermore, the increasing human population is resulting in famines and food-insecurities across the globe.  If our population were to decrease, emissions and consumption would naturally decrease alongside, lessening environmental destruction. Many people argue that it is inhumane and ineffective to limit the number of children women can have. However, what is more important, the right to have more than one child, or the right for countless species to continue to survive on this planet, humans included? If people were only permitted to produce one child the environmental benefits would be incomparable. The single best way to decrease environmental degradation is decreasing the world’s population (ES118). If policies were enacted like the one-child policy in China,  there would be no death or pain involved in the reduction of the human population. Furthermore, if the population did decrease by this means, starvation and general consumption would decrease, causing existing humans to be able to use essential resources that they may otherwise not be able to have. Decreasing birth rates would cause no physical damage to anyone or anything; instead, it would result in vital environmental restoration and would improve the well-being of the human race.

        Biotechnology and biological control inevitably bring up the moral question: Is it okay to alter natural biology, and will its benefits outweigh the ramifications it could have on society? Controlling biology could drastically improve the well-being of our society and the world. However, research needs to be conducted on the dangers of specific technologies and policies that would control biology before they are implemented. With the pressing environmental crisis and climate change, humanity needs to come up with new solutions if it wishes to save the world from further environmental degradation. Biotechnology and policies regulating childbirth could solve this problem by increasing food production and decreasing the human population in a manner that avoids suffering.

Sources:

https://vittana.org/24-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-gmos

 

https://greengarageblog.org/13-main-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-gmos

 

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMhpr051833

 

https://borgenproject.org/how-many-people-are-starving-around-the-world/

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/20/business/genetically-engineered-salmon-approved-for-consumption.html

 

ES 118 Lecture

 

Emotional Robots: Useless and Dangerous

      Robots are real. This idea has severe, negative connotations for much of society. When many people think of robots they likely think of a Terminator-like being; a singularity with desires to raize humanity. Currently, that is not the status of artificial intelligence (AI). Instead, AI is used to aid humans by means such as informing us where restaurants are or driving us to certain locations. Artificial intelligence and robots play a key role in our society, and will likely become even more important as computer scientists make new discoveries. However, although the advancement of AI can prove useful, there is a limit that needs to be drawn: artificial emotion and highly advanced thought. It would be unwise for scientists to mimic the infamous Victor Frankenstein by creating beings capable of human emotion and thought. While robots that can perform tasks for humans are incredibly useful in society, creating robots capable of more complex thought and feelings of emotions is unnecessary and could result in controversy over robotic rights, and could potentially lead to human demise if the laws of robotics were overcome.

      Current robots are already incredibly useful, and advancing their cognitive abilities to have emotion and improved intelligence would reap no greater benefit. Robots are used in various industries. From working in automobile companies to building electronics, robots play a key role in our society (roboto). Why we would need more advanced robots, capable of achieving greater tasks is a mystery to me. Some people would argue that robots in their current state will never be as adept at unique problem solving as humans, and because of this, it could be useful to have more advanced robots. However, there is evidence that contradicts this claim. In the MIT Technology Review, they discussed an experiment where judges talked to a chatbot and a real human and had to determine which was which. In many cases the judges thought the chatbot was the real human and vice versa, proving the complex mental capacity and quick thinking of AI (MIT). Robots are already far more advanced than many people realize; they can do many things humans cannot and can appear more human than humans (MIT).  Robot emotion is becoming a very real possibility, and the outcomes of it could be devastating.

      If robots were to feel emotions, society would need to consider their rights as living beings, which could be detrimental to humanity. It is unjust and cruel to deny a living, caring thing certain treatments and activities. Therefore, robots with emotions and specific desires would be a severe weight on our society. Robots are designed to aid humans, and purely that.  If AI had emotions, they would have certain needs beyond what is needed for their basic function. If robots were to suddenly need food or fuel, or leisure time, or certain amenities, there would be a noticeable cost to society.  Furthermore, if the individual desires of AI conflicted with that of humans,  the consequences could be severe.

      Robots, enhanced with personal desires and emotion, could seek to destroy humanity if they felt that humanity’s existence was negatively affecting the earth. Robots are highly logical; they are created and given intelligence through clear, thought out code, that commands for highly specific actions. Therefore, to them, it may be rational to eradicate human life, as it is the logical action to do to improve the wellbeing of the earth. From bombing massive swaths of land to pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to causing the sixth mass extinction, human impact on the earth is clearly not positive (NASA). Robots could assess the pros and cons of human existence, and based on humanity’s current actions, it is likely that AI would find us to be a plague on earth that they would try to annihilate. 

      I will say it again: Robots are incredibly useful. Society would not be anywhere near where it is now without them. However, I think we should try to be content with the level of aid they give us now, and not strive to advance them further. Highly advanced robots that could be capable of emotion would be an extreme danger to society, which is why I caution scientists to consider where they are headed, and not make a mistake as costly as that of Victor Frankenstein; we do not want to create a being or beings that have desires that conflict with our own, as these conflictions could lead to a negative outcome. While many scientific inventions have furthered the human race, improved robotic thought and emotion would not be one of those inventions; it would be the atom bomb of the future. 

CITATIONS

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2731768/Robots-need-learn-value-human-life-dont-kill-Future-droids-murder-kindness-engineer-claims.html

http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=1&sid=ce5c2c3e-54d5-4379-aa74-ae3ad4fed39c%40sessionmgr104&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=125667871&db=a9h

http://robotobibok.com/review-exploring-various-uses-robots.html

MIT Technology Review. “The AI Issue”

http://theconversation.com/how-do-robots-see-the-world-51205

https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/

 

 

Geoengineering: The Boomerang Solution to Climate Change

 

Title

Geoengineering: The Boomerang Solution to Climate Change

 

  Critical Question

Why is geoengineering not an effective solution to combating climate change and environmental degradation?

 

Thesis

 Although geoengineering could mitigate and reverse certain causes and effects of climate change, there are severe potential repercussions to engineering nature which could, in fact, worsen the climate and environmental crisis.

 

   Brief Description

       Climate change is the most imminent crisis of our time and drastic action needs to be taken to combat it. Geoengineering is a technology-based solution to climate change and allows humanity to potentially solve the issues of climate change by means of science and technology, rather than by means reducing carbon dioxide output and consumption of goods.  One of the techniques of geoengineering is firing sulfates into the atmosphere to increase earth’s albedo. Higher albedo causes more energy from the sun to be reflected back into space, and in turn, decreases global warming. Geoengineering can also be used for carbon sequestration, a direct response to the surplus of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

      In my paper, I will be addressing how geoengineering could have extremely devastating effects on society and the world in general. Specifically, I will investigate the various potentially negative scientific and social effects of geoengineering. My topic fits under the STS umbrella because I will be investigating the effectiveness of technology in science, particularly geological and environmental science. Furthermore, society plays an exceptionally large role in climate change, and I will be arguing why they should work as a group to combat climate change,  instead of few scientists inventing technology to do so.

 

 Tentative Outline

        In my introduction I will briefly address how humans are causing climate change and environmental degradation. I will cover what action needs to be taken in order to reverse and mitigate our environmental impact. Next, I will introduce the different ways to decrease environmental impact, one of which is geoengineering. From there, I will explain some of the benefits of geoengineering, and its potential to combat climate change. Finally, I will present a summary of the dangers of geoengineering and state my thesis.

      In my body paragraphs, I will argue why geoengineering is not the solution to climate change. I will first present the various ways geoengineering could fail in terms of its technological functions. I will address how certain technologies could, in fact, worsen climate conditions. For example,  many of the outcomes of geoengineering are unpredictable and there are potentially severe repercussions of intentionally altering a large-scale global system. We have already engineered the climate by pumping carbon dioxide into it, and that has had severe consequences.  Therefore, intentionally altering the climate could prove just as, if not more, horrific. In the next section of my paper I will address the aspects of environmental degradation that geoengineering will not target to the necessary degree, including ocean acidification biodiversity loss. Going off that point I will introduce the “Moral Hazard” and address how geoengineering could reduce other environmental action, as it may seem unnecessary if people think technology can solve environmental issues alone. Based on the previous point I will demonstrate that even if geoengineering were to function as intended, it could still indirectly increase human-driven climate change and environmental degradation.

To conclude my paper I will restate the main points of my argument. I will place a particular emphasis on the question: do we want to let technology control nature? I will state my opinion that no we do not want that, and instead, we need to rely on cutting our carbon emissions and being more environmentally friendly to combat the environment and climate crisis.

 

                                                                                                                                            Bibliography

Biello, D. (2010, April 06). What Is Geoengineering and Why Is It Considered a Climate Change Solution? Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/geoengineering-and-climate-change/

Connolly, Kate. (2017, October 14). Geoengineering is not a quick fix for climate change, experts warn Trump. Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/14/geoengineering-is-not-a-quick-fix-for-climate-change-experts-warn-trump

Ellison, K., E., Waisman, D., Drimonis, T., Visser, N., Weber, B., . . . Dylan Waisman & Tracy Sherlock. (2018, March 30). What on Earth? Why climate change skeptics are backing geoengineering. Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://www.nationalobserver.com/2018/03/30/news/what-earth-why-climate-change-skeptics-are-backing-geoengineering

Krugman, P. (2015, December 04). Republicans’ Climate Change Denial Denial. Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/04/opinion/republicans-climate-change-denial-denial.html

Lin, A. C. (2013). Does Geoengineering Present a Moral Hazard? Law: UC Davis. Retrieved April 5, 2018, from https://law.ucdavis.edu/faculty/lin/files/ELQ.MoralHazard.pdf.

Robock, A., Marquard, A., Kravitz, B., & Stenchikov, G. (2009). Benefits, risks, and costs of stratospheric geoengineering. Geophysical Research Letters,36(L19703). Retrieved April 3, 2018, from http://climate.envsci.rutgers.edu/pdf/2009GL039209.pdf

Wingington, D. (n.d.). Geoengineering Dangers Discussed By Officials, Agency Scientists And Other Experts. Retrieved April 04, 2018, from http://www.geoengineeringwatch.org/geoengineering-dangers-discussed-by-officials-agency-scientists-and-other-experts/

Radford, T. (2014, December 01). Geoengineering Could Worsen Climate Change. Retrieved April 06, 2018, from https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/geoengineering-could-worsen-climate-change

Environmental Humanities: Connecting Two Cultures.

      Global temperatures are skyrocketing, species are going extinct, and our environment is experiencing rapid devasting changes. Currently, over 97% of climate scientists are in agreement that humans are the cause of climate change. These scientists strongly advocate that we need to take drastic action to prevent the alteration of our climate. However, only 45% percent of the public is in agreement that we, as a biological species, are causing these biogeochemical changes(ES 118). If less than half of the public believes in man-made climate change, it will be exceptionally difficult to fully address the climate issue. To best tackle the climate crisis, we need to bridge the gap between climate scientists and the general public; we need to connect the two cultures. By implementing a system of environmental humanities, along with the science, it will be possible to increase acceptance of climate change in our society.

       Environmental scientists are extremely capable of proving climate change, however, they fail to connect with much of society on this issue. Organizations, such as NASA and the EPA, have compiled innumerable graphs and datasets, demonstrating the effects of climate change(NASA, EPA). They have emphasized the point that there is nearly a perfect correlation between carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, largely emitted from man-made technology, and global temperature rise. Furthermore, climate scientists have posted articles and research papers on how increasing temperatures result in droughts, melting glaciers, and other factors that provide deadly for earth’s biota(NASA). Despite the mountain of evidence scientists have compiled on the reality and effects of climate change, it is not largely accepted by the public. This is a failure of scientists and the greater community; there is a void between the two. Many people have written on this issue. Namely, C.P. Snow addresses this lack of communication and acceptance in his book, “The Two Cultures.” In his book he discussed the divide between scientific community and others (Snow). The lack of understanding and connection between scientists and the rest of society decreases the effectivity and authority of scientific discoveries. Without this communication, scientific discoveries decrease their value as they cannot be implemented into society. For example, climate scientists have the evidence for climate change, yet more than half of the world’s population does not believe in it, begging the question of the necessity to change the way we express the issues of climate change. Currently, if you wish to find information regarding climate change, you need to turn to scientific magazines, journals, and videos. People, especially those not scientifically inclined, will likely not be overly concerned with the spouting of statistics and dry scientific research. It will take more of a well-rounded, humanities-based approach to convince them of the severity of the climate issue.

      Environmental humanities draws from the arts, and in this way connects with people and expresses climate change in a way that can be more accepted by the public. By studying and focusing on the relations between cultural, linguistic, and environmental relations, this topic touches on almost every essential academic aspect in society. In this way it has the potential to bridge the gap between scientists and the rest of society. There have been several artistic attempts to express the effects of climate change. John Quigley made an immense replica of the Vitruvian man on a melting glacier as a metaphor of the effect climate change has on humanity, in addition to nature(TIME). Furthermore, David Nye claims that our environmental crisis cannot be solved by technology and science alone. He says that addressing this issue will also require addressing the cultural and social effects of climate change(MIT). Environmental humanities allows us to understand how climate change is affecting humans directly, through means such as famine and natural disasters. Furthermore, it portrays these ideas visually and artistically, which can be an extremely powerful means of expressing the climate crisis. Alternatively, not only does environmental humanities increase the access to and understanding of climate change, but it also welcomes a wider variety of academics into the environmental field. By expanding environmental studies to include the humanities, people who are not scientifically minded can contribute to environmental protection. This in turn, will increase the publicity and access to the environmental studies, resulting in a larger percentage of the population engaged with and understanding climate issues.

      With the combination of environmental science and humanities, it is possible to increase the accessibility of information and knowledge on climate issues. Environmental humanities can portray the information provided by scientists in a way that is understandable and inclusive to the general community. If more people accept climate change as a reality, and accept its true effects, socially and scientifically, we can hazard to hope that society will make it a larger goal of theirs to address the climate crisis. By introducing the larger community to the environmental humanities, an alternative mechanism of addressing the issue of climate change, our society may have a chance at preserving a healthy and natural environment.

SOURCES

Climate Change Basics 12-14 March 2018File

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/environmental-humanities

https://www.epa.gov/

http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/09/08/artist-renders-giant-melting-vitruvian-man-on-arctic-ice/

 

“The Two Cultures” by C.P. Snow

Science: In need of women

         Women are not portrayed in scientific history. Whether, you are scrolling through books from the scientific revolution, or you are surfing the web for memes of scientists, all you are going to see is a bunch of old dudes poking around with their scientific instruments. This lack of portrayal of women in science is a result of men refusing to accept women into scientific society and thinking them less intelligent and less suitable to scientific pursuits. Clearly, they are wrong. Scientific prodigies such Joanne Simpson, and Caroline Herschel, for instance, were outperforming the majority of men in the field. Despite the small number of women scientists, without them, science would not be advanced to the point it is now. It is essential to increase the accessibility and inclusivity of science to women because women will improve the world with science in a way that men do not, and the outcomes of women in science will benefit the natural environment.

         It has been proven that women have different brains and ways of thinking than men, meaning they could come up with solutions that men may not be able to come to. Women have significantly thicker cortices than men, which have been associated with high scores in a variety of cognitive intelligence tests(Science Magazine). Why men would exclude women who are smarter than them in certain aspects is clearly not the result of women’s inferior intelligence. Philosophers, such as Aristotle, were mistaken in believing that men were smarter than women(womenpriests.org). The exclusion of women from science is based entirely on false beliefs of intelligence, feelings of insecurity, and a desire to be dominant over their female counterparts. These ideas are both trivial and backward. Besides from being morally corrupt and sexist, the scientific anomalies that could be achieved with the neurological differences of women should not be thrown away. Women’s brains are complementary to men’s in the respect that the hemispheres of the brain are more connected in women than in men(the guardian). This is not to say that women’s brains are better or worse than men’s, just different. If men and women were to work together in scientific fields it is probable that they could come to more solutions, and make more connections than had they limited their scientific peers to those of their own gender. Furthermore, women, purely based on biological differences, will have different scientific and moral viewpoints, both of which must be incorporated into the advancement of science and education to make it as successful as possible.

         Educated women, namely in science, will better their own lives, which will ultimately lessen environmental impacts. In areas with low education the birth rate is extremely high(NYTimes). Increased birth rates increase the population, resulting in an increased environmental impact from humans. It has been statistically proven that women with higher levels of education will have fewer children than their less educated counterparts(NYTimes). This makes sense. With an understanding of birth control and their own biology, they will be empowered to limit the number of children they have,  which will limit population growth. Furthermore, a large reason why people in developing areas have so many children is that they need their young to help them with manual labor as they grow old. However, when women enter the field of science, they have access to higher paying jobs, that require less physical work(Business Insider). This will allow them to work when they are older, and it will allow them to build more savings. As a result, the need for their children to take care of them as they age will disappear. As the necessity of children goes away, the rate of childbirth will go down, decreasing the global population, which will lessen environmental impacts(prb.org).

        The fact that women are excluded, to any degree, from science is outrageous. Why, based on gender alone, for that is all it is, should people be excluded from pursuing an academic pursuit? I would say the answer is the fear men have of losing their dominance over women. That, and the deeply ingrained train of thought in male society that, for whatever reason, women are not meant for science, and instead should stay home with their kids and cookies. This train of thought and feeling of insecurity needs to end. Women in science will better the world. They will complement the scientific ideas of men, and they will challenge and reinforce them in different ways. Women in science will better themselves by increasing their own personal wealth and knowledge, and they will benefit the natural world in doing so. So, for crying out loud, can we please include them in our scientific pursuits!?

Sources

 

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/dec/02/men-women-brains-wired-differently

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/study-finds-some-significant-differences-brains-men-and-women

http://www.womenpriests.org/traditio/infe_gre.asp

http://www.businessinsider.com/highest-paying-jobs-for-women-2015-10#13-nurse-practitioner-8

http://www.prb.org/Publications/Lesson-Plans/HumanPopulation/Environment.aspx

 

How to Make a Monster: 101

          It is inhumanly tall, with a mutilated and malformed physique, devoid of emotion or sympathy, it is a murderous fiend; this is the description the society in Mary Shelley’s novel gives to Frankenstein’s monster. Nowhere in their summary of the creature would society mention the creatures love, compassion, or heroic acts. They judged him based on his intimidating appearance, and when he did begin to murder, they blamed him for his actions, assuming that he was innately violent and cruel. Victor Frankenstein and others did not acknowledge the fact that their actions, their judgments, exclusivity, and hatred contributed to the monster committing crimes. The premature judgment of the monster is an allegory for the real world; criminals are judged based off of their actions alone, with little thought given as to why they were driven to their wrongdoing. Creatures are rarely born monsters, but rather, they are created when they are not given adequate parental guidance, are excluded from society, and experience excessive feelings of animosity.

          In Mary Shelley’s novel, and in the real world, beings struggle when they are not given adequate care, guidance, and love, leading to criminality. When Victor Frankenstein abandoned his creation, the result was disastrous; his monster was left alone, not knowing what to do, or how to live. Miraculously, he managed to survive, and become knowledgeable on his own. However, he still felt angry and injured by how Frankenstein, his father, had abandoned him, and so the monster ended up seeking revenge by killing all those that Victor held dear. Lack of care, let alone abandonment, has been proven to negatively affect children. Neglected children often have psychological disorders, depression, and struggle to have lasting relationships and friendships. Furthermore, these children are more likely to be prosecuted for juvenile delinquency (SPCC, 2014). If one is not loved and cared for, they would likely not love and care others, as no one set that example. Without guidance in social interactions, education, and life in general, it is impossible to thrive and fit into society, which can lead to resentment and anger. This is shown both with Frankenstein’s monster, and with neglected children; they are not loved, and as a result, they are angered and confused, leading them to commit crimes, which further distances them from society.

            When one is excluded and abused by society, naturally, they will want to rebel against it, which can have violent results. This case is clearly shown in Shelley’s novel. When Frankenstein’s monster, with the utmost politeness, tries to join the family living in the cottage, a man beats him viciously with a stick. Then, after rescuing a drowning girl, he is “rewarded” with her father shooting him. No matter how kind and helpful the creature was, society rejected him. Hopeless, he accepted that humanity would never do anything but despise him, so he began to hate humanity, and eventually became a murderer. The creature’s situation and reactions are also reflected in the real world. Mass murderers often feel victimized and removed from society, and as though the only way they can do anything meaningful and fulfilling is through slaughtering human beings (Stanford, 1994). Though disturbing and extreme, this reaction to being excluded is to be expected. Without positive societal relations, an individual will have no reason to care for the society, on the contrary, they will likely want revenge on its members for leaving them in such a miserable situation.

          Moods and feelings are infectious, and when one is exposed to a negative atmosphere for a majority of there lives, the outcome can calamitous, both for the individual and society. There is, in fact, a psychological term called the “emotional contagion,” a process by which moods and emotions are transferred from one person to another. This phenomenon is manifested in the case of Frankenstein’s monster. While he is initially benevolent, as he experiences more and more negative feelings, namely hatred and disgust, these feeling begin to rub off on him. This idea can also be clearly seen in marriages where, if one spouse is unhappy it will likely be that the other is unhappy as well. Additionally, people in prisons, who reside in environments filled with hatred and depression, are likely to be feeling those emotions themselves as a result of the “emotional contagion”(Lewandowski, 2018). If one were to experience exclusively negativity and unpleasant emotions, they would likely become desperate and angry, which could result in them acting on these feelings in the form of murder.

          Parental guidance and societal relations play an incredibly large role in the formation of creatures, good and bad. Humans and Frankenstein’s monster are not solitary creatures; they require love, compassion, and inclusion. If not given these things by their societies, they will be angry and resentful, and potentially, they will try to harm the societies that hurt them. So, while murderers are responsible for their actions, one must also consider what made the felon do what they did, and how that can be resolved. This does not mean locking them in prison, leaving them to rot alone and angry. It means reconciling with them, empathizing with them, and trying to understand them. I am not saying that we should let mass murderers run free in the streets. But, perhaps, we should consider their story, help them rehabilitate, and try to integrate them into society, something which they may have never been part of. There are dangers, and this issue is clearly not black and white, and nor is it easy. However, it is, without a doubt, of exceptional importance to try to communicate with and aid those who we may rather not associate with. For that is how to deconstruct a monster.

 

Literature Cited

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1797-1851. Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus : the 1818 Text. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.

 

SPCC, et al. (2014, July 17). Effects of Bad Parenting on Your Child. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://americanspcc.org/effects-bad-parenting-child/

 

Stanford University News Report. (1994, May 31). Graduate student examines America’s fascination with serial killers. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://web.stanford.edu/dept/news/pr/94/940531Arc4242.html

 

Lewandowski, G. W., Jr. (2018). Is a Bad Mood Contagious? Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-a-bad-mood-contagious/

 

Science, Technology, and The Lead Weight of Society.

  

        During the scientific revolution, nearly 500 years ago, budding scientists faced an even greater impediment than discovering the complex ideas and formulas of calculus: established societal beliefs. Not only were scientists making completely new discoveries with little prior scientific knowledge, but their discoveries largely went against societal beliefs and religion at the time. This draws a very similar parallel to the present day issue of climate change, in which much of society refuses to accept the scientific truth, limiting the true potential of it. The advancement of science has and continues to face challenges, not only from the mathematical and scientific problems themselves, but also the societal ones.

        During the start of the scientific revolution, religion provided all established knowledge, causing new scientific ideas to be controversial. As great philosophers began to comprehend the universe through astronomy, physics, and the other sciences, their discoveries started to go against the established doctrine. For instance, Copernicus’s idea that our solar system is heliocentric contradicted all previous understanding of our cosmos. Furthermore, Aristotle’s proposal that all life had intrinsic value was previously unheard of (librarypoint.org). These new scientific speculations strongly contradicted what was told in the bible. Therefore, it is to be expected that there would be upset at the introduction of these scientific ideas.  Think of it like this: if your explanation for all things physical had been written down clearly in a book, and the desires and tellings of God had been preached to you for your entire life, it is expected that you would be upset if someone told you everything you knew was wrong. Science did this very thing. It provided doubts about the presence of God by offering logical explanations to explain how else our cosmos functions. Therefore, these pioneering scientists were not only delving into new territories with no prior knowledge, but also they were going against what society wanted to believe. Society provided no guidance for the philosophers of the scientific revolution; on the contrary, they were doubted and questioned when they offered their conjectures on the universe. Despite this,  society has come to accept science as the established doctrine in today’s world. However, that is not to say that all science is fully accepted.

        Environmental science and climate change, both exceptionally valid, are questioned by 53% of the global community and the entire conservative party in the United States government (theguardian, ES118). This could be considered as the second scientific revolution. Despite exhaustive data and experimentation, many simply do not want to accept climate change as a reality. It could be that, like the scientific revolution discussed in Shapin’s book, the idea of climate change is too disruptive to our current society. I think, however, the reason people are fighting against the notion that the climate is changing, is a result of the inconvenience it would provide. For example, if Trump were to admit to the reality of climate change, his political influence through fossil fuel industries would decline (grist.org). Furthermore, accepting climate change as a reality would increase the societal pressure to reduce energy use, divest from fossil fuels, and decrease general consumption of goods such as plastics, cars, and processed foods. This is the barrier environmentalists must break through. People do not want to care about climate change; the things they would need to do and give up are too great. That said, progress is being made in the form of renewable energy and environmental policies. However, for humanity to better mitigate the effects of climate change, society must also accept it as a reality, as they accepted the scientific ideas established by scientists such as Aristotle and Galileo.

Societal resistance to science is not contained to just one time period. It is perpetual. There will constantly be new ideas and theories that will oppose established knowledge and beliefs. Society frequently doubts and refuses to accept science, even if all the evidence supports it. With an issue as serious and imminent as climate change, this is a critical challenge. While questioning science is important for accountability, it is important for society to accept science as it provides key solutions to our world’s problems.

 

Literature Cited

https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/

http://www.librarypoint.org/early_astronomers

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2015/oct/05/the-republican-party-stands-alone-in-climate-denial

https://moodle.colby.edu/mod/resource/view.php?id=182058

https://grist.org/politics/heres-why-the-gop-just-loves-fossil-fuels/

 

Technology: The Death of Humanity

      From basic spearheads and the discovery of fire, to firearms and the Internet, the coupling of humanity’s exceptional brain power and technology has led us to be, easily, the most dominant species on earth. Technology has helped us fend off predators, and, in turn, become predators. It has given us the power to harness electricity, travel long distances, and achieve various other feats we now take for granted.  Without it, we certainly would not have become the world’s most dominant species, with the lives of leisure we now possess Yet, while technology has allowed us to become so powerful, it also poses a significant danger to us. It is very feasible that humanity could meet its end as a result of nuclear warfare, artificial intelligence, or climate change.

       Nuclear weapons  could annihilate all life on earth, and several world leaders can control them with a press of a button. There are now enough nuclear weapons, largely controlled by the U.S. and Russia, to blow up the world several times over (Fung, 2013). The fact that our technology has advanced to such a degree that it literally has the capability of destroying all of humanity, along with the majority of earths biota, is terrifying, and nuclear weapons may be used for that very thing. Communications between U.S. president Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un have repeatedly involved nuclear threats. In response to one of Jong Un’s threats, Trump retaliated with “Will someone […] please inform [Kim Jong Un] that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his and my Button works!” (Baker, 2018). Why our country has allowed arguably the most devastating form of technology created to be a button’s press away from an arguably insane man is unconscionable and exceptionally dangerous. Nuclear weapons are extremely excessive; one blast could destroy an entire city with ease, and yet there is a robust supply of this technology. These bombs must be dismantled and destroyed before an emotionally irrational world leader presses a button and sends the world up in flames.

      It is also very possible for technology to end the world without any intentional human aid. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has repeatedly claimed that artificial intelligence could spell the end of humanity. He points out that, already, humans have begun to rely on the intelligence of computers, meaning that if these computers ever became sentient, they could outsmart humanity, and eventually take over the earth (Martin, 2017). Artificial intelligence seems to be on the verge of becoming a reality with the invention of programs such as Siri. It is very likely that a slightly more advanced program could have the capabilities of thinking for itself, which could lead it to rebel against its creators, causing a “Terminator” type apocalypse.

      Another, highly probable cause of human demise, is climate change, which is a result, almost entirely, of man-made technology. The burning of coal and gas has caused global temperature increases, which in turn is causing catastrophic weather patterns, droughts, and various other dangers. As a result of climate change, storms are become more powerful on a regular basis, leading to instant mortality in affected areas. A slower but no less significant effect of climate change is rising sea levels. Sea levels will rise up to four feet in the next eighty years, which could leave many coastal areas, such as New York City, underwater. Contrary, changing weather patterns are causing droughts, which is stripping areas of viable drinking water and agricultural resources, both essential to life (NASA, 2018). While technology has been used to aid human beings, it is also beginning to cause our demise, increasingly rapidly, as a result of climate change. “We’re in the midst of the greatest crisis humans have yet faced” (McKibben, 2017). Action needs to be taken to combat climate change, whether it be through a new form of technology, such as solar panels and wind turbines, or withdrawal from technology entirely. It is clear, however, that the technology we use in conjunction with fossil fuels needs to be eradicated to avoid dire consequences.

      Whether through nuclear weapons, climate change, or artificial intelligence, technology can easily cause the extinction of our species, along with many others. The solutions to these problems have varying levels of complexity. With regard to nuclear weapons, the most straightforward answer is to dismantle all of them immediately, before even one is used in combat. Artificial intelligence is a more complicated issue, as computers provide so much for society. It is wise to continue using computers, but computer scientists and engineers need to institute and control programming to eliminate any chance of AI becoming a reality. Climate change is the most complicated issue to address. Humanity needs to take drastic action to combat these changes, through both governmental policies and renewable energy. However, sadly due to the position we have put ourselves in, that may not be enough to combat all the effects of climate change. 

Literature Cited

Baker, Peter, and Mark Tackett. “Trump Says His ‘Nuclear Button’ Is ‘Much Bigger’ Than North Korea’s.”The New York Times, 2 Jan. 2018.

Earth Science Communications Team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The Consequences of Climate Change.” Edited by Holly Shaftel, NASA, 13 Feb. 2018.

Fung, Brian. “The Number of Times We Could Blow Up the Earth Is Once Again a Secret.”NTI, 2 July 2013.

Martin, Sean. “Humanity’s days are NUMBERED and AI will cause mass extinction, warns Stephen Hawking.”Express, 3 Nov. 2017.

McKibben, Bill. “The New Battle Plan for the Planet’s Climate Crisis.”Rolling Stone, 24 Jan. 2017.

« Older posts

© 2023 ST112 WA2018

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑