What if it does all go to hell? Do I really care? It will surely not happen in my natural lifetime. What if the planet does become sterile? Science says life, even intelligent life, must exist elsewhere in the universe. So why do I care?
The universe is a really big. Or so, at least, we are told. By science, of course. When did we elevate science to a religion?
I don’t know the answer to that one. But I do think it obviously is. I remember this being a heated, running, debate on the very young internet back in the early nineties, I think it was. Yes, it was in 1993 that I took sabbatical in Guelph, Canada, and first discovered the internet. Did it really begin so recently? The answer to that I know. It is “yes.” When I first got on the web, there was no web. The web refers to the world wide web, or w.w.w., which no one knew anything about yet. We communicated via something whose name I now forget. It was VI, I think, for visual interface, or something like that. At the very best, it was cumbersome.
There were several bulletin boards I frequented in those days. Those were places on the internet where people could write about a topic and frequently get response from true experts in the subject. One of these boards had a thread entitled “Is science a religion?” It was a hotly debated subject. Even then I thought the answer obviously “yes,” but the debate was so heated one could clearly see the subject would probably last for generations. I assume it is still going on today.
At any rate, science, in this case, is being treated very much like a religion. You either believe in it, or you don’t.
Staying on the topic of whether I really care, though, and, if so, why? My relationship with my own three grandchildren is broken. It fell victim to a dispute between my son, Josh, and I of unknown origin. That I don’t know the origin of the dispute, clearly can’t say much good about me. But I don’t. Anyway, the relationship with the grandchildren is broken.
All I know is that everything seemed OK until Josh and his wife attacked me rather viciously on a visit to them on my way to Europe in 200 or 2001. I was as flabbergasted then as I am today. M.S. became an issue in my going to L.A., where they have lived for many years, and visiting became more difficult when they no longer welcomed me as as an in-home guest. I stopped traveling down to visit them shortly thereafter. At any rate, the grandchildren are now in their late teens and I haven’t seen them for at least twelve years. I doubt they have much of a memory of me. Every birthday I send a birthday gift, but I hardly exist to them anymore.
Bottom line is that I hardly know them and vice versa.
So do I have any right to care if my grandchildren are toast?
Perhaps the real question is less personal. What do I care if the planet goes sterile? The trees just seem totally blameless. If anything they’ve been doing their best to make things better. But climate change, should it run its full potential, could care less. Sterility means they will die too. Yes, this is much more important than anything we have ever encountered.
I think I care because so few seem to recognize how serious this is. Even if my fears are fears mostly of the worst case possible, the worst case is totally possible. Therefore the threat is the most important thing we have ever dealt with. As our climate denier President likes to say, “trust me.” I am a scientist and I know enough to say we have to start regarding this with due diligence. This is not something to be ignored.
What if I have no solution, or if the solution(s) I offer are inadequate, naive, or impractical? Well, I am not the only one who must come forward with ideas. Nor am I the smartest person to make suggestions. Everyone who addresses this problem is obligated to share their ideas. Even if the idea is not clearly worked out. Mostly we need to hear from the experts. Mars is a long way off. It is not at all Earth-like. To say it is the most Earth-like of the solar system’s planets, which it is, is not to say much.
Terraforming Mars will not be easy. There are scientists who devote their lives to the topic of how we might do exactly that. The most widely quoted current estimate of the time required to do it is three hundred years. Physicists everywhere were embarrassed when Steven Hawkins, himself a famous physicist, once publicly predicted it would only take about forty years. I’m no expert, but even I know that is simply ridiculous. The entire planet, which is about one-half the diameter of Earth, has to be made Earth-like. The ambient temperature would have to be raised some fifteen degrees Fahrenheit. At least. The atmosphere has to be thickened. By some hundred times, I think. The planet probably needs a magnetosphere. No one really knows how they would manufacture one. To do without it doesn’t seem possible. Many of the techniques needed to meet the demands of terraforming are totally untried or even beyond speculation.
All that seems agreed to so far is that the job will be very hard.
If we were to begin serious efforts to prepare a place to go to today, should this planet no longer be hospitable to life, it would take about three hundred years. And we couldn’t all go. But suppose we don’t have three hundred years to get ready. Suppose Earth becomes uninhabitable before that. Will we be able to move to a spaceship? Who goes? Who decides? How is the decision made? None of this sounds like a solution to me. This is a very bad situation. Excursions like electing Donald Trump President of the United States are not helpful.
Hoping Scientists are full of shit will not find solutions. Climate change is not going away just because we wish it is not happening. Worrying about the economy is very short-sighted. The economy is nothing compared to uninhabitability. This is more important than anything we have ever confronted before.