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posted by n1 on Thursday October 30 2014, @04:59PM   Printer-friendly
from the taking-personal-responsibility-for-humanities-failings dept.

The NYT reports that Naomi Oreskes, an historian of science at Harvard University, is attracting wide notice these days for a work of science fiction called “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future,” that takes the point of view of an historian in 2393 explaining how “the Great Collapse of 2093” occurred. “Without spoiling the story,” Oreskes said in an interview, “I can tell you that a lot of what happens — floods, droughts, mass migrations, the end of humanity in Africa and Australia — is the result of inaction to very clear warnings” about climate change caused by humans." Dramatizing the science in ways traditional nonfiction cannot, the book reasserts the importance of scientists and the work they do and reveals the self-serving interests of the so called “carbon combustion complex” that have turned the practice of science into political fodder.

Oreskes argues that scientists failed us, and in a very particular way: They failed us by being too conservative. Scientists today know full well that the "95 percent confidence limit" is merely a convention, not a law of the universe. Nonetheless, this convention, the historian suggests, leads scientists to be far too cautious, far too easily disrupted by the doubt-mongering of denialists, and far too unwilling to shout from the rooftops what they all knew was happening. "Western scientists built an intellectual culture based on the premise that it was worse to fool oneself into believing in something that did not exist than not to believe in something that did."

Why target scientists in particular in this book? Simply because a distant future historian would target scientists too, says Oreskes. "If you think about historians who write about the collapse of the Roman Empire, or the collapse of the Mayans or the Incans, it's always about trying to understand all of the factors that contributed," Oreskes says. "So we felt that we had to say something about scientists."

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 30 2014, @05:17PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 30 2014, @05:17PM (#111592)

    Their rampant use of wood fueled camp fires caused a ice age

    What? You should probably re-read your comments before posting...

    Hint: Wood fires have almost no effect on global climate. Carbon in trees is part of the biosphere and hence the carbon cycle. It has not been sequestered. This is why plating trees to "offset CO2 emissions" is ridicules, unless they plan to ram these trees down the frack holes in 40 years.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 30 2014, @05:32PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 30 2014, @05:32PM (#111601)


  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 30 2014, @05:51PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 30 2014, @05:51PM (#111611)

    Let no sarcasm be lost upon this group.

  • (Score: 1) by Entropy on Thursday October 30 2014, @08:33PM

    by Entropy (4228) on Thursday October 30 2014, @08:33PM (#111663)

    Well then the only possible lesson in light of your clear wisdom is they should have run around less. Running has been proven to increase CO2 output.

  • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Thursday October 30 2014, @09:21PM

    by Grishnakh (2831) on Thursday October 30 2014, @09:21PM (#111676)

    That's BS.

    Planting trees does a lot to sequester carbon; as long as it's tied up in a tree, it isn't floating around in the atmosphere in the form of CO2. Of course, trees don't last that long, but they do usually last many decades, and frequently centuries. When they die, the carbon is released (either quickly, in the case of fire, or slowly, in the case of decomposition by microbes; I can walk around in parks near me and see tree trunks that are years old). If there's more trees alive at any point, then there's more carbon being locked up in them overall. So yes, planting trees does help things, but it's a temporary fix: you have to keep planting them, make sure they have land to grow in, and not just chop them down later and use the land for apartment buildings.

    There's two carbon cycles, the short cycle and the long cycle. Trees are in the short cycle: when you burn wood, you're releasing carbon that hasn't sequestered for that long (a century at most, usually). Oil is in the long cycle: when you burn oil, you're releasing carbon that's been sequestered for eons. So the effect is much worse for the latter, though we could make up for it some by allocating more room for forests and planting more trees everywhere (and then not just using them for more firewood too).

    • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Friday October 31 2014, @12:08AM

      by FatPhil (863) <reversethis-{if.fdsa} {ta} {tnelyos-cp}> on Friday October 31 2014, @12:08AM (#111730) Homepage
      Add to that the fact that if there's any charcoal left over after burning the wood, the nett result is that there's less carbon put back in the atmosphere than there was taken out of the atmosphere when the tree was alive. Of course, a few barbies later, and the cycle completes...

      However, I'm not sure you were replying to BS, you were probably replying to a throwaway quip.
      Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
  • (Score: 2) by cyrano on Friday October 31 2014, @07:30PM

    by cyrano (1034) on Friday October 31 2014, @07:30PM (#112019) Homepage

    About half of the dioxin in our atmosphere comes from burning wood...

    To state that woodfires have no impact on global climate may be true, may be not, but there's a lot more to healthy living than global climate...

    The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear. - Kali []