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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.

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The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Global Warming Maps -- Going Deep

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Maps are now available which show how much of the coastline near you will be inundated if water levels change between one and fourteen meters. Simply go to the maps, expand the image to take in the entire planet, center the map on your area of interest, and zoom in. And, of course, change the sea level elevations to whichever height you find most illuminating.

Given that if Greenland melts down completely, sea levels will rise about 7 meters (20 to 22 feet), you can get a good idea of what that would do to the coastline near you. Of course, if Antarctica melts down as well, we're looking at a sea level rise of around 200 feet (nearly 70 meters).

The key thing to remember about these sea level rises is that while they sound frightening, our continents, unlike our islands, are mostly well above these altitudes. The truely terrifying thing about them is that most of the world's coastal cities are on, well, the seacoast.

And once a city is rendered uninhabitable by a combination of rising sea levels and factors such as storm surges from Katrina-plus weather events and brackish water seeping into their acquifers... well, all those people have to find someplace to go. Imagine virtually all of the world's coastal cities, towns, villages, suburbs, housing developments and independent homesteads having to be deserted over a period of a few years or less. Where do you think we will put that half of the human race either living in those coastal areas or in other regions where economies and agriculture have collapsed?

To be blunt, while we could very likely make provisions for most or all of these people, and take actions to reduce or avoid such devastating, widespread outcomes, we're not doing those things.

So what happens in a rich country like America when a single major city empties out because its electricity and fuel supplies got cut off and never restored and because it (unlike New York City) gets its water from pumping systems no longer in service? What happens when hundreds of thousands of people get in their cars and drive... to the next urban area facing a major strain on its resources? Especially when so many people will pick the towns and suburbs around that city as their next stop?

How many stores can be stripped bare, how many water tables exhausted, how many new populations forced to desert their homes and go looking for the necessities of life before that chain reaction spreads across much of the nation?

Answer 1: Answers will vary -- based on exactly how tenuous vital supply lines are at each location, and how robust their essential services -- food, water, power, health care, fuel, light manufacturing, etc -- are at those locations. If resources and key services are truly resilient over a large area, including its major urban locations, then it will likely survive. If not, and if the area is not particularly remote (Alaska, Nunavut/the Northwest Territories), then it will face serious risk of complete societal collapse.

Answer 2: For those of you who are wondering what I mean about cities becoming unlivable under full-blown global warming, here's a hint from the Atlanta Journal Constitution...

> Metro Atlanta normally receives an estimated 50 inches of rain annually. In 2007, less than 25 inches has fallen.

> Lake Lanier is 13 feet below full. Without more rain, it could drop to 31 feet below full by the end of the year —- a historic low.

> On the peak day in 2007, metro Atlanta used 583 million gallons of water from Lake Lanier and the upper Chattahoochee River.

Lake Lanier, metro Atlanta's main source of water, has about three months of storage left, according to state and federal officials.

That's three months before there's not enough water for more than 3 million metro Atlantans to take showers, flush their toilets and cook. Three months before there's not enough water in parts of the Chattahoochee River for power plants to generate electricity. Three months before part of the river runs dry.

Three months is the best guess by hydrologists with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch as the record-breaking drought parches much of the Southeast.


To sum up, for those not reading the article, Atlanta desperately needs rain in the next three months, or a very big new source of water, or it's facing an incredible shortfall. While this probably won't destroy the city the way a cutoff of fuel and/or electricity might in other worst-case scenarios, a collapse in water resources could devastate certain kinds of businesses and make life much harder for residents of the city.

And imagine, this is a major U.S. city (3.4 million people), not even that far south, actually at a relatively high elevation (over 1,000 feet), and most 'global warming alarmists' talk about the dangerous effects of climate change as being some time in the distant future. Perhaps 30 years off, or 50, or 100.

For those wondering, losing another major city with something like 6 times the population of New Orleans would be a Bad Thing.

Just so we're clear.

Unfortunate, but something to be aware of. And possibly to prepare for and seek to avoid, not just in Atlanta, but in urban areas near you. Because it looks like this discussion is about to become more than academic.

Here's a glimpse of southern Florida at 14 meters. Again, remember to look at this not just in terms of the exact sea level rise, but also in terms of what any major storm surge will do a community that is just above the waterline. And to remember this also in context of major water and energy shortages, massive agricultural disruptions and general economic implosion.

All of which are bad.

4 Comments:

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February 14, 2010 12:47 PM  
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