Don’t burn all the fossil fuels (yet)

Tom James @ 19-02-2009

icebergAccording to Professor Gary Shaffer of the University of Copenhagen we should stop burning fossil fuels now so that we will have enough coal, oil, and gas left when we need to fend off the next ice age over the next several hundred thousand years:

…for a management scenario whereby fossil fuel use was reduced globally by 20% in 2020 and 60% in 2050 (compared to 1990 levels), maximum global warming was less than one degree Celsius above present. Similar reductions in fossil fuel use have been proposed by various countries like Germany and Great Britain.

In this scenario, combustion pulses of large remaining fossil fuel reserves were then tailored to raise atmospheric CO2 content high and long enough to parry forcing of ice age onsets by summer radiation minima as long as possible. In this way our present equable interglacial climate was extended for about 500,000 years, three times as long as in the “business as usual” case.

Nice to see some people are cranking up their Buxton indices into the 100, 000 years range.

[via FuturePundit][image from nick  russill on flickr]


Dispatches from the Long Now

Tom Marcinko @ 14-11-2008

Some cool items from the Long Now Foundation:

Since we hope to build the space for the 10,000 Year Clock underground, for the last 10 years I have been collecting references and images of the great, ambitious, and or inspiring underground spaces and stonework of the world (in some cases they are also lessons of what not to do).

The pictures more than reward a click.

And if this project seems more than a little monkish, well, a wine seems appropriate:

Long Now’s eponymous red wine by the Pelissero winery was recently reviewed by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. … The labels are printed with archival inks on acid free paper and the corks are flame marked “Long Now”.

[Photo: Laughing Squid]


One wandering planet can ruin your whole day

Edward Willett @ 22-04-2008

Mars striking Earth This blog is called Futurismic, but mostly we just talk about the near future. Let’s take a look at the far future…say, a few tens of millions of years down the road.

New studies suggest that after 40 million years or so, there’s a small but not insignificant chance–one or two percent–that the solar system will lose its stability, and, Velikovsky-like, start throwing whole planets off on wandering courses through the rest of the system, where they just might crash into ours. (Via NewScientistSpace.)

Although no one can say for sure what will happen beyond that, new calculations are now providing a rough guide to the more distant future. These suggest that there is a 1 to 2% chance that Mercury’s orbit will get seriously out of whack within the next 5 billion years.

This would tend to destabilise the whole inner solar system and could lead to a catastrophic collision between Earth and either Mercury or Mars, wiping out any life still present at that time.

In the case of a smash-up with Mars, for example, “all life gets extinguished immediately, and Earth glows at the temperature of a red giant star for about 1000 years”, says Gregory Laughlin, a co-author of one of the studies at the University of California in Santa Cruz, US.

Interestingly enough, it might not be the first time that has happened:

Many scientists think a Mars-sized object bashed into Earth in the early solar system, throwing out debris that eventually formed the Moon.

Earth was heated to thousands of degrees by the impact, with an ocean of lava covering its surface. A future replay of that event would be disastrous, Laughlin says.

That last quote qualifies, I think, for understatement of the year.

(Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech.)

[tags]solar system, astronomy, catastrophes, far future[/tags]