With the exception of a handful of astronauts, all of us will spend every day of our lives on this planet we call Earth, but we rarely give it much thought. In the past five years, several individuals and organizations have been shouting at the top of their lungs to warn us that "the end is near if we don't do something radical and soon." Their messages appear to have gotten our attention. But have you taken the time to evaluate what they are saying, check to see if it makes any sense, or are you simply being motivated to action by their well-intentioned passion?
Some facts about the Earth
It is always nice to start by gathering some facts, the ones listed below you can find online published by the National Geographic Society, which is considered one of the top 25 most trusted brand names in North America. According to National Geographic:
- The Earth is 4.543 Billion years old (plus or minus about 50 million years)
- The oldest rock samples found have been dated at about 4 billion years old
- The Earth has a diameter of approximately 7926 miles measured at the equator
- Its diameter is the largest there because of equatorial bulge (which most people over 50 will confirm is a real phenomenon)
- The Earth consists of three layers, the crust, which is the planet's surface; the mantle, which lies below the crust and is hot and plastic; and the core, which is the densest inner part.
- The crust, which includes the land and the oceans, has an average depth of approximately 25 miles.
- Man has never been able to drill deep enough to extend beneath the Earth's crust. We have hypothesized, deduced, or calculated everything we know about beneath the crust but not observed.
One of the other great quotes from the National Geographic webpage makes the following statement: "The Earth's crust contains all of the life known in the universe."
Now that truly is an incredibly sweeping statement. But it may be more of a statement about what we don’t know, than what we do know.
I am sure that at least some of these facts were a surprise to many of you, not because you are ignorant, but because the Earth will continue to support you and hold you to its surface, thanks to gravity, whether you know these facts or not!
Think about it, if you were to look at a cross section of the planet, the things we actually have hands on knowledge about are limited to the “shell” that is just 25 miles thick around a sphere that is 7,926 miles across!
There is a lot we don’t know.
To The Mantle
To increase our knowledge of the planet, in 2005 a group of scientists set out to drill a hole into the sea bed in an effort to reach the Mohorovicic discontinuity, the place where the crust meets the mantle. The drilling site was 24,644 feet below sea level giving them over a four mile head start. The hole took over 8 weeks to drill and they never did get to the mantle. The rocks they were able to bring up to the surface did provide new information about the planets composition. The leader of the expedition, Jay Miller of Texas A&M University said, “Each time we drill a hole, we learn that the Earth’s structure is more complex and our understanding of how the Earth evolved is changing accordingly.
I have found no reports of anyone drilling down to the mantle of the Earth to this very day. Another interesting fact is that the deeper you go into the Earth, the higher the temperature gets. This has been observed at diamond mines deep under the deserts in South Africa where at a depth of 2.5 miles the temperature is 131 degrees! But scientists have given us a formula that equates every mile you dig down temperature will increase by 15 degrees.
When It Was Cooler, Much Cooler
And while we are speaking about temperatures, may I call your attention to Ice Ages. Those are periods in the Earth's history when the temperature on our planet dropped so low that the glaciers we associate with the North and South Poles grew to such immense proportions that they covered the vast majority of the Earth's surface! According to National Geographic, there have been at least five Ice Ages in our planet's history.
The most recent Ice Age began about 2.6 million years ago and ended about 12,000 years ago. If you could have looked down on the Earth from space during that time known as the Pleistocene Epoch, you would have seen more than half the planet covered in ice.
On the North American continent, the ice on the East coast came down to approximately Washington DC. On the West Coast, virtually all of California was covered by a glacier! That world would have looked very different than the one we know today.
There were people on Earth during that time. They did not have any major cities; they did not have any large industrial installations. They may have learned to use fire to cook and heat their caves.
Bad Decisions Based On Bad Assumptions?
But ask yourself, what caused the increase in temperatures 12,000 years ago that resulted in the glaciers retreating from Washington DC well north to Greenland?
It could not have been the CO2 released from human endeavors! If it was due to increased CO2 in the atmosphere, it must have come as the result of some natural process. And, if we cannot think of a natural process that would provide that much CO2, than the significant increase in the temperature of the Earth for the thousands of years it took to make those gigantic ice shelves retreat must have been the result of some other naturally occurring process. Perhaps one that was not even on this plant, but something that took place on our Sun?
I raise this point because we are now making dramatic decisions on how we will provide power for our lives, how we will design buildings, factories, automobiles, airplanes, and any number of devices we use every day with the very specific objective of reducing their output of CO2 into the atmosphere to stop the increase our global temperature!
It is a noble objective, but is it going to solve a problem? Because I can tell you, it will certainly change the way we all live in the next 25 years. Our systems and economies are based on burning petroleum. It has served us well. I do believe we should work to be more efficient, consume less, and even reduce our CO2 output. But, are we making bad decisions based on bad assumptions?
Let me bring up one more point. It has to do with data. I saved a copy of an article from USA Today published on August 16, 2019.
Its headline read, "July was the Earth's hottest month on record." That is a scary headline. According to the National Atmospheric Administration, the article said that the global temperature for July was 62.13 degrees F, which was 1.71 degrees higher than the average for the 20th century. It beat the previous recorded warmest month on record, which was July 2016.
Those were truly horrifying facts! But do you have any idea for how long global weather temperatures have been recorded? Our record system for scientifically recording weather statistics goes all the way back to 1880! It means we know with some degree of accuracy what the temperatures around the world have been for just about 140 years! That is 140 years out of the 4.543 billion-year history of our planet. Or, 140 years of the 12,000 years since the last Ice Age ended. We are making tremendous changes in our way of life based on a thin stream of facts.
I deeply believe in Buckminster Fuller's concept of Spaceship Earth. I think that we should do more with less. We should work to reduce the amount of CO2 we generate due to using fossil fuels. But I think we need to carefully consider how we intend to do that and do it at a pace where the change does not create massive unemployment, destroy successful companies, and create hardships for families and individuals. Because we may face rolling blackouts as our renewable power grid cannot pick up the load that our carbon-based power plants comfortably carried.
In the most recent regulations coming out of Washington and the EU, fossil fuels have been widely condemned. Motor vehicles in the future will be electric by law.
But, where is the electricity going to come from, and there are some applications where batteries are the wrong answer. If we are going to change from fossil fuels to new forms of power, should we not at least give consideration to energy produced from the most abundant element in the universe? Hydrogen!
Could this be the answer?
Hydrogen is not found in caves or at the bottom of wells, but it is abundant. We know several ways to make it commercially usable. It can be utilized either as a carbon-free fuel in internal combustion engines or as a fuel in electricity-producing fuel cells. It can also effectively store electricity from natural sources like solar and wind generators when the production from those systems is higher than the load. Hydrogen has enormous potential, but it is virtually overlooked as people rush to make a binary decision between harmful fossil fuels and good electricity. It is not a binary decision. There should be at least three legs on this stool.
What is the moral of this story?
Each of us needs to be better educated on Climate, Earth Science, and Energy Science. Then, we need to engage with politicians to see that the decisions they are making are not based on incomplete or false information. These are important, but not easy decisions. We should all participate in making them.
- Negotiators in Vienna established two working groups - one to compile the sanctions the US needs to lift and the other to inventory the constraints that Iran must readopt to return to compliance.
-- the US will remove sanctions that are not a part of the original deal,
-- effectively dismantling Trump's "sanction walls."
-- which are more than 1,500
- Campaigning begins for Iran's June 18 presidential election, increasing pressure on Ayatollah Khomeini to make concessions to lift the current economic sanctions.
- Negotiations are ongoing in Geneva; talks between Iran and the U.S. aim to end by May.
- The Mail Online obtained hundreds of thousands of texts and emails from a laptop allegedly owned by Hunter Biden and revealed on Thursday that experts had analyzed data from the device and found its contents to be authentic.
- The experts concluded, 'The operating system timestamps appear to be authentic, and no evidence was found to suggest that the timestamps or data were altered or manufactured,' the report said. 'No indications were found that would suggest the data was manufactured.'
- In Kim Jung Un's recent address to his party, he announced his new five-year economic plan for North Korea.
"Improving the people's living standards ... even in the worst-ever situation in which we have to overcome unprecedentedly numerous challenges depends on the role played by the cells, the grassroots organizations of the party," Kim said.
- North Korea has so far rejected the Biden administration's overture for talks with regards to lifting economic sanctions, saying that Washington must discard its "hostile" policies first.
- The North Korean dictator dialed up the pressure by resuming ballistic missile tests last month after a year-long pause.
- The situation in Myanmar is becoming direr, with nationals fleeing the country amid violence against civilians in the aftermath of a military coup.
- For years, India and Myanmar have had a Free Movement Regime in place, allowing local people on each side to travel up to 16km (10 miles) on the other side and remain there for a maximum of 14 days.
- However, now the border has been closed.
- Without decisive action from the United States, Myanmar may fall under its neighbor China's direct influence.
- Somalian Ambassador to China addresses Africa's US and China strategy
- Based on lessons learned from the Cold War, he wrote, "we need to present a united front and establish fast-reacting protocols to prevent possible skirmishes between the two superpowers from taking place on African soil as they try to reassert their influence."
- China has been building infrastructure while the United States has supported African nations with aid and strategic security.
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