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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.


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.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

NASA Reports 10 Years to Climate "Tipping Point"

As noted by ABC News, NASA's latest report on global warming says:

Even "moderate additional" greenhouse emissions are likely to push Earth past "critical tipping points" with "dangerous consequences for the planet," according to research conducted by NASA and the Columbia University Earth Institute.

With just 10 more years of "business as usual" emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas, says the NASA/Columbia paper, "it becomes impractical" to avoid "disastrous effects."

Hearing this kind of report from NASA is particularly telling. The study's lead author is James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. And when that agency starts talking this gravely about global warming, despite the considerable hostility towards such discussions evidenced in the present Administration, we have reason to believe it is out of a sense of terrible urgency.

NASA forecasts effects including "increasingly rapid sea-level rise, increased frequency of droughts and floods, and increased stress on wildlife and plants due to rapidly shifting climate zones." But don't break out the champaigne yet, there's a few real problems on the way. And yes, NASA's take on this issue makes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report look carefree and jovial by comparison. They are talking bluntly about "strong amplifying feedbacks" driving Earth past "dangerous tipping points."

Scientists have been warning for several years that such tipping points are the greatest threat from manmade global warming — and what makes it potentially catastrophic for civilization.

As the tipping points pass, "there is an acceleration, potentially uncontrollable, of emissions of vast natural stores of greenhouse gas," according to Hansen, who reviewed the study for ABC News today.

Hansen explains that dangerous feedback loops are being tracked in various regions of the planet.

Many studies have reported feedback loops already observed in thawing tundra, seabeds and drying forests.

The article goes into further issues -- the disappearance of ice and snow that reflect sunlight back into space, the release of carbon from our thawing tundras, etc. And finally...

The study says that "only moderate additional climate forcing (which would mean only moderate additional warming from such emissions) is likely to set in motion the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet" — dubbed WAIS by polar scientists.

Many scientists say a disintegration of WAIS would mean catastrophically rapid sea-level rise.

Normally I would close on some ideas aimed at solving the problem in question. Today, though, I just wanted to get the word out and let others reflect on its urgency. So in closing, good night and good luck.

Future Imperative