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Can Our Ocean Be Saved?

Chase Holding

5/6/18

Professor Fleming

STS W1

Can Our Ocean Be Saved?

 

Throughout history, humans have singlehandedly been the most detrimental species on planet earth. The Industrial Age in the early eighteenth century presented the world with its first real look at Climate Change. While environmental scientists have predominantly focused their studies on the increasing temperature due to Carbon emissions, the world is now faced with another issue; the excess amount of plastics and microplastics in the ocean. “Humanity’s plastic footprint is probably more dangerous than its carbon footprint”(US Deparment 2016). Not only has this form of pollution harmed marine life, but it has begun to affect human life as well. The ocean provides people with resources and more than half of the planet’s oxygen but is treated as a worldwide trash bin. Currently, there is no solution to dealing with the issue of microplastic and plastic pollution, however many environmentalists continue to search for one. While the more progressive countries are attempting to cut down on their plastic use, the amount of plastic debris in the ocean would take hundreds, maybe thousands of years to clean up. The best action an individual can do to help this issue is to influence others to reduce their plastic use. If our society cannot stop using disposable plastic or prevent it from accumulating in marine habitats, microplastics will kill off millions of species living in the ocean, and humans will start to suffer from the effects of this form of pollution.

 

The use of plastic in human societies worldwide has a massive impact on all forms of marine life. The ocean is Earth’s largest ecosystem and supports all planet life. Marine life provides the human race with over a sixth of the animal protein people eat. If society cannot stop polluting the oceans’ ecosystems, this source of food will either become depleted or be too poisonous to eat. Microplastics are the biggest culprit in poisoning fish and other species in the ocean. This form of degraded plastic is defined as small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long (Cho 2011). The reason microplastics are so dangerous stems from their size, but more importantly their quantity. There are anywhere from 93,000 to 236,000 metric tons of these tiny particles floating in the ocean (Parker 2017). They have turned the ocean into what scientists often call a “plastic soup.” With such an abundance of this material, it’s no surprise that there is a severe impact on marine life. One of the biggest reasons that fish and other species consume microplastics and plastic, in general, is because they smell similar to food. When pieces of plastic enter their bodies, they are not able to properly digest it, which in most cases leads to death. Over 100 million marine animals are killed each year solely from plastic debris in the ocean (Sea 2018). While not all of these deaths directly stem from the ingestion of plastic, the number of microplastics entering the ocean will continue to increase this number if society does not change its ways. Unfortunately, plastic is difficult to dispose of properly, so this will likely be an issue for hundreds of years. If the human society does not stop using plastic, soon enough marine life will become completely inedible. On top of this, the animals that so many people claim to love will become much rarer or even extinct. Humans are artificial in this sense because while so many people share a sense of love for marine life and the ocean, their everyday habits show no sense of regard for protecting them. People’s use of plastic in society over the past hundred years has left hundreds of thousands of tons of microplastics in the ocean, and with no sign of stopping plastic production, it is only a matter of time before many species go extinct or are completely poisonous to eat.

 

Much of the ocean’s current plastic and microplastic pollution is a direct result of a variety of the world’s largest rivers. When researching the effect of plastics and microplastics on the Ocean’s ecosystem, the first question that comes to mind is; how does this debris enter the ocean, and where is it coming from? Often time’s plastics are directly placed into the ocean within countries that have less access to recycling programs, however, a large fraction of marine plastic debris comes from rivers and other water sources that transport all forms of debris into the ocean. Environmental researcher, Christian Schmidt, believes that ten major rivers in Asia and Africa transport 88-95% of the global load of plastic (Schmidt 2018). To give a more specific number, Environmental Science & Technology, show that rivers collectively dump anywhere from 0.47 million to 2.75 million metric tons of plastic into the seas every year (Patel 2018). People often think polluting rivers is less detrimental than directly dumping plastic waste into the ocean; however, rivers carry trash and connect nearly all land surfaces with various oceans across the world.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171017110028.htm

While this illustration gives a simplistic view of the actual pollution process, it is essential for people to realize how detrimental it can be when industrial buildings and other factories are built around major rivers and other water sources. Not only do these rivers take in a large portion of mismanaged plastic waste, but also in many cases they are polluted with chemicals and other toxic waste. China, having the largest population, as well as two of the world’s largest rivers (the Yellow River, and the Yangtze), is not surprisingly predominantly blamed for the oceans’ plastic crisis. While there is currently no solution to the issue of river plastic pollution, governments must enforce stricter regulation in populated areas near rivers. If Schmidt is correct in stating that majority of this plastic is coming from rivers, governments and citizens across the world must focus their efforts on preventing mismanaged plastic waste from entering rivers.

 

Microplastic ingestion from marine life has a greater effect on human beings than most of society realizes. When viewing the effects of plastic pollution, most people initially think of the numerous species that are harmed by this issue. The vast majority of the human society puts off being environmentally friendly, as they believe these issues have no effect on them. Especially with regards to recycling, most people don’t realize that plastic pollution is coming back to harm the very ones who started the issue. As more marine life ingest microplastics, more humans are exposed to these dangerous materials.

http://plasticcontinents.com/2017/12/its-confirmed-plastic-is-now-in-our-food/

 

This image is a cycle that depicts not only how humans indirectly ingest plastic, but also how marine life and other animals do. When microplastics and other smaller forms of this debris either float to the bottom of the ocean or remain on the surface, small animals consume them. If the plastic filled animal isn’t killed initially, the animal might make its way up the food chain, eventually being consumed by either humans or other top predators. “A recent study by the University of Ghent in Belgium found human seafood eaters ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year with dozens of particles becoming embedded in tissues” (Knapton 2017) This is important for society to understand because while a lot of people believe that climate change and pollution is a problem for future generations, they are very wrong. If ingested in high enough quantities, scientists believe humans could face issues with fertility, poisoning, and genetic disruption (Knapton 2017). Heavy seafood eaters already have to be cautious about getting mercury poisoning from various species of fish, but not enough people realize they are likely consuming microplastics as well. It seems fitting in some aspects that the species, which is poisoning the ocean, is in turn poisoning itself. Unfortunately, this species is also destroying the ecosystem that harvests the most life and diversity on our planet. Currently, there are no reports of human casualties from ingesting microplastics, but as more plastic is dumped into the ocean, higher concentrations of these materials will be present in marine life. It is only a matter of time before humans begin to reap the effects of plastic ingestion, and while human illness or even death is something to be avoided at all cost, it might be the only idea that will create change in our society. Societies use of the ocean as a plastic trash bin has, in turn, led to human ingestion of microplastics from eating various species of marine animals.

 

Another question a lot of people have when researching microplastics and plastics is: where do these plastic go, and can we dispose of them? At this point in the paper, you hopefully understand that there is a lot of plastic in the ocean and that it is very dangerous. You also might be thinking, “I swim in the ocean all the time and never have seen evidence of the supposed hundreds of millions of tons of plastic waste in the ocean.” There is a reason that most people haven’t first hand witnessed this mass pollution. Plastic is predominantly widespread in the open ocean, but it is particularly concentrated in five major gyres –rotating currents of water– in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans (Weule 2017). These gyres consist of concentrated microplastics as well as other tiny fragments. The picture below depicts an extremely small fraction of a gyre.

http://srfer.com/pacific-garbage-patch-the-plastic-tragedy/

Some of the largest gyres in the world cover hundreds of kilometers of open water. Let that sink in. Hundreds of miles of ocean are essentially uninhabitable for marine life because the surface is covered with plastic. A large portion of the marine animals killed in the ocean originates from these gyres that form. Seagulls and other predators, which feed on fish, are affected by the gyres as well as they mistake the plastic and other surfaced debris as food. Another commonplace to find plastic is the coastline. “I think that that is something that people really don’t appreciate. The gyres may have a fair bit of plastic in them, but the coastal margin probably has much more”(Wuele 2017). The United States’ coasts are for the most part clean as people and various organizations opt to clean beaches in their local towns. Unfortunately, not all countries possess the same motives to clean their costs. Many towns in less affluent countries leave their plastic waste on the coastline hoping that the tide will take it out into the ocean. In countries such as Indonesia, this is very prevalent, as you will often time see large portions of plastic debris floating near the coast. This is similarly detrimental to marine life as well as other inland animals that consume the washed-up plastic. The sad reality of these places is that often times they simply do not have the resources to properly manage their waste. While beneficial in many ways for society, plastic is one of the hardest materials to dispose of, which is why it often ends up in the ocean. Especially in regions where you cannot recycle, plastics and even tiny microplastics take hundreds of years to decompose properly. The reasons they take so long to decompose stems from the strong carbon-carbon bonds that make up plastic (Wolchover 2011). “Nature doesn’t make things like that, so organisms have never seen that before”(Wolchover 2011). Kenneth Peters who is an organic geochemist believes that plastics take long to decompose because they are newly exposed to nature. The organisms that break down food and other materials such as wood have been evolving for billions of years, allowing them to be effective. Plastics have newly started affecting nature; therefore it will take a while before organisms are able to properly dispose of them. Sadly, the only action that would be more detrimental to the environment than polluting it with plastic would be burning it. People have often attempted to burn plastic in order to dispose of it for good, but this material lets off highly toxic chemicals, which can be detrimental to humans as well as the atmosphere. Similar to the other issues of pollution, the only solution would be to decrease plastic use, and attempt to fix the mess society has made in the last hundred years.

 

Planet Earth gifts humans and all other species around the world with endless beauty and nature, but time and time again society fails to treat it properly. Human nature has evolved over millions of years and is now filled with greed, and ignorance of the problems we are facing. Microplastics take hundreds of years to decompose and are some of the biggest issues for the environment in terms of marine and human impact, and yet most of the human society has made no intent to change its policies. Humans know that most plastic pollution originates from ten major rivers, and yet we do not stop polluting them. Images of gyres hundreds of miles wide flood world news and yet plastic straws are still served at restaurants. It is frightening that majority of the oceans’ plastic comes from regions that refuse to recycle even when they have the proper resources to do so. We live in a world filled with self-centered people, and industries that choose money over just about anything. Society has fooled us in this sense, twisting our priorities to focus solely on our own well-being. Even as I write this I realize I am not perfect. Plastic is difficult to avoid, and not everyone realizes how damaging the effects of microplastics are. I have spent much of my life in the ocean, and I intend to enjoy it for as long as I can. If we as a society cannot find alternatives to plastic, the ocean will no longer be a safe haven for millions of people worldwide. A world without an ocean and the diverse wildlife that inhabits it is not one that most people want to live in. “Many of us ask what can I, as one person, do, but history shows us that everything good and bad starts because somebody does something or does not do something”(Knight 2018). While an individual’s effort to not use plastic won’t have much effect on the environment, it’s their influence on others that creates change. The world is yours; what are you going to do with it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work Cited:

 

 

Cho, Renee. “Our Oceans: A Plastic Soup.” State of the Planet, 24 Feb. 2011,   blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2011/01/26/our-oceans-a-plastic-soup/.

 

“Information About Sea Turtles: Threats from Marine Debris – Sea Turtle      Conservancy.”Sea Turtle Conservancy, conserveturtles.org/information-sea-        turtles-threats-marine-debris/.

 

Knapton, Sarah. “Fish Eat Plastic in the Ocean Because It Smells like Food, Scientists             Discover.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 16 Aug. 2017,      www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/08/15/fish-eat-plastic-ocean-smells-     like-food-scientists-discover/.

 

Knight, J.D. “Ocean Conservation Quotes – Famous Sea Quotes on Sea and Sky.” Deep           Sea Creatures on Sea and Sky, www.seasky.org/quotes/sea-quotes-ocean-          conservation.html.

 

Parker, Laura. “Ocean Life Eats Tons of Plastic-Here’s Why That Matters.” National   Geographic, National Geographic Society, 18 Aug. 2017,             news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/08/ocean-life-eats-plastic-larvaceans-   anchovy-environment/.

 

Patel, Prachi. “Stemming the Plastic Tide: 10 Rivers Contribute Most of the Plastic in            the Oceans.” Scientific American, 1 Feb. 2018,             www.scientificamerican.com/article/stemming-the-plastic-tide-10-rivers-      contribute-most-of-the-plastic-in-the-oceans/.

 

Schmidt, Christian. “Export of Plastic Debris by Rivers into the Sea.” C&EN: WHAT’S             THAT STUFF? JELL-O, pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.7b02368.

 

US Department of Commerce, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric             Administration. “What Are Microplastics?” NOAA’s National Ocean Service,           13 Apr. 2016, oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html.

 

Weule, Genelle. “Plastic and How It Affects Our Oceans.” ABC News, Australian           Broadcasting Corporation, 27 Feb. 2017,             www.abc.net.au/news/science/2017-02-27/plastic-and-plastic-waste-          explained/8301316.

 

Wolchover, Natalie. “Why Doesn’t Plastic Biodegrade?” LiveScience, Purch, 2 Mar.     2011, www.livescience.com/33085-petroleum-derived-plastic-non-    biodegradable.html.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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/

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

Science: the second culture not to be underestimated

While anyone you ask on the street is highly unlikely to know the second law of thermodynamics off the top of their head, there is certainly a greater chance that they will have read a work of Shakespeare. Why is it that in general, people are less knowledgable in the sciences compared to the humanities? This is the question that CP Snow addresses in his lecture on the “Two Cultures”, where he outlines the divide between the “literary intellectuals” and the scientists.

CP Snow is right to suggest that the people in different schools of thought have a difficult time understanding each other, although it may be more than simply two different opinions. However, the important message of CP Snow’s lecture which is most relevant today is the lack of understanding of the field of science. This problem is very evident in our world today, and contributes to many social and political issues in our country.

When CP Snow compares knowing the second law of thermodynamics to having read a work of Shakespeare, he points out the societal expectation that exists to understand literary works, but not the laws of science. In all practicality, it may not be necessary to have read Shakespeare or to know what the second law of thermodynamics is in order to be a well rounded intellectual who can be an informed individual and contribute effectively to society. But his point is well made that people sometimes seem to regard the study of literature as more important than the study of science, for some unknown reason, as knowledge of science seems to be much more necessary to address current issues as well as appreciate the way the world works.

Science is becoming an increasingly important subject for the public to understand in our rapidly changing world. Today, Snow’s argument holds true in a sense that could not have yet been fully realized when he delivered his speech in 1959. The problem of global warming has just recently been recognized as a highly important issue in our world today, and in order to understand this problem, it is critical to have a solid understanding of science. It is unbelievable that so many current politicians and authority figures have such a minimal understanding of science. There is a lack of progress in scientific and especially environmental areas, because the policies that aid our environment are so often prevented from being implemented. This is due in part to the literary bias, or perhaps lack of understanding of science, by many politicians. And the reason why these people are able to occupy such influential and powerful positions is because of a lack of understanding of science of the voters and the general public.

Indeed, I always wondered why my high school required more English credits than it did science for graduation requirements. The problems emerging today warrant a necessary change for our education system in order to make science more valued. It is time for the societal literary precedent to give way to a more rounded education that emphasizes the science needed to understand current issues. It is necessary for everyone to become more educated in scientific fields in order to make these critical changes in our government and our world.

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

The Never-ending Scientific Revolution

Carter Liou

2/20/18

STS 112-WA

 

The Scientific Revolution was a period of intense debate between science and religion.   Prior to the Scientific Revolution, a majority of the European population was uneducated, and the little schooling that was accessible was closely regulated by the Roman Catholic Church.   Their scientific teachings were heavily influenced by biblical theory and the science that had been provided by the Ancient Greeks.  For example,  the geocentric system– which was accepted by Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and Ptolemy– argued that Earth was at the center of the universe and that the Sun, Moon, stars and other known planets all orbited Earth.  This way of of thinking was prevalent up until the Scientific Revolution, during which Nicolaus Copernicus developed the Copernican system that stated that the earth orbited the sun which was located at the center of the solar system.  In addition, the Bible also stated that the Sun and the Moon were perfect in form because they had been created in God’s image.  This idea was debunked by Italian philosopher Galileo who built a telescope which he used to examine sunspots and the craters of the moon.  The church, however, did not take these findings lightly as they continued to disregard the laws established by natural scientists throughout the Scientific Revolution.  

This debate continued long after such period in European history.  When Charles Darwin released his On the Origins of Species in 1859, he sparked a debate between the concepts of evolution and creationism that would carry on long after his death.  In 1925, the infamous Scopes Trial, where a highschool teacher named John T. Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution in a public school in Tennessee, brought attention to the rejection of evolution and whether or not it should be taught in schools.

Today it is appropriate to say that we have entered another Scientific Revolution; however, the central debate revolves more so around science with respect to political ideals.  A primary example is the ongoing dispute over the ethics of abortion.  This debate fosters two opposing views: pro-choice which believes that the woman has the right to terminate the fetus, and pro-life which believes that the fetus has the right to be born.  Many differences stem from the abortion debate such as when the fetus should be considered living and what methods of abortion are considered humane.  

The most influential and perhaps controversial debate is the argument over climate change.  Although a minority of the U.S. population does not believe in the legitimacy of rising temperatures on the surface of the Earth, most accept this to be unequivocal, and therefore the dispute focuses more so on whether or not human activity can be held responsible for the rising amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.   The pro-side argues that the burning of fossil fuels by humans should be responsible for this increase and that a halt in the usage of fossil fuels is essential to stopping climate change.  The con-side argues that greenhouse gas emissions due to human activity are to small to affect earth’s climate and that the increase in temperature is rather due to the sun.  The argument has been further stimulated after the United States, controversially, withdrew the from the Paris Accords under the presidency of Donald Trump.   

As we undergo this modern scientific revolution it is important to remember that science will always be met with some sort of opposing force.  In this sense, the scientific revolution is not finite.  The purpose of science is to discover the new–and frankly the new may seem daunting– but without change, the human race cannot improve on the mistakes that it has made in the past.  

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.

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