From a human perspective this planet’s surface appears craggy, coarse, and jagged from it’s highest mountain to it’s deepest sea… In reality it is smoother than a cue ball...
According to the World Pool-Billiard Association, a pool ball is 2.25 inches in diameter, and has a tolerance of +/- 0.005 inches. In other words, it must have no pits or bumps more than 0.005 inches in height. That's pretty smooth. The ratio of the size of an allowable bump to the size of the ball is 0.005/2.25 = about 0.002.
The Earth has a diameter of about 12,735 kilometers (...). Using the smoothness ratio from above, the Earth would be an acceptable pool ball if it had no bumps (mountains) or pits (trenches) more than 12,735 km x 0.00222 = about 28 km in size.
The highest point on Earth is the top of Mt. Everest, at 8.85 km. The deepest point on Earth is the Marianas Trench, at about 11 km deep.
Our biosphere is a layer 12.33 miles thick, just 15 thousandths of the Earth’s diameter, on a surface of 196.9 million square miles...
Each of us is currently around 3,960 miles from the center of the Earth’s core and about 60 miles away from outer space. Our little blue planet is spinning at 1,000 mph, orbiting the Sun going 67 times faster, while racing a half a million mph around the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, which is itself speeding at 1.3 million mph through space among 200 billion other galaxies strewn across the universe…
All life forms ever discovered, living or extinct, have inhabited a thin film... on the surface of a wet and wobbly cue ball... one self centered astronomical unit away from the Sun.
Every plant, animal, fungus, microbe, and bug that ever lived. Every organism that ever breathed, or grew, or photosynthesized, or divided itself, or reproduced, or took a shit. Including you and me and all the fucking trees... Spent the last 4 billion years as ingredients in an ever simmering Earth stew…
For the first 4 billion years of human evolution our ancestors managed to avoid polluting the only available planet...
Humans today destroy a net 5 million hectacres of forest, add 37 billion metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere, and facilitate the extinction of between 10,000 and 100,000 species each year...
Despite humanity’s many technological advances, we can only manage a well-informed guess at the true extent of life on Earth: 8.7 million species, according to the most commonly cited figure, with other estimates ranging between 5.3 million and one trillion.
There is greater certainty about the decline of biodiversity that human behaviour is driving, with species dying off as much as 1,000 times more frequently than before the arrival of humans 60m years ago, as one study suggests.
“Humanity will eventually pay a very high price for the decimation of the only assemblage of life that we know of in the universe,” scientists Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R Ehrlich and Rodolfo Dirzo wrote in a 2017 paper, warning of a sixth mass extinction of life on Earth.
Our species amounts to a tiny fraction of all life on this planet, yet no other species impacts the biosphere like we do...
Our World In Data
Humans comprise a very small share of life on Earth — 0.01% of the total, and 2.5% of animal biomass [...].
But we are also responsible for the animals we raise. Humans alone may seem insignificant, but our hunger for raising livestock means we have played a major role in shifting the balance of animal life: livestock account for 4% of animal biomass.
Livestock accounts for more biomass than all humans on Earth; more than 50% greater than humans.
And livestock accounts for much more than all wildlife: Wild mammals and birds collectively account for only 0.38% — livestock therefore outweighs wild mammals and birds by a factor of ten.
There’s been an 85% decline in wild terrestrial biomass since the rise of humans and in the meantime humans and their livestock have replaced them eight times over...
We are in the middle of a mass extinction event...
The Holocene extinction, otherwise referred to as the sixth mass extinction or Anthropocene extinction, is an ongoing extinction event of species during the present Holocene epoch (with the more recent time sometimes called Anthropocene) as a result of human activity. The included extinctions span numerous families of bacteria, fungi, plants and animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates. With widespread degradation of highly biodiverse habitats such as coral reefs and rainforests, as well as other areas, the vast majority of these extinctions are thought to be undocumented, as the species are undiscovered at the time of their extinction, or no one has yet discovered their extinction. The current rate of extinction of species is estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than natural background extinction rates.
The idea that our biosphere could be duplicated on another planet is more than just science fiction, it is ludicrous fantasy…
What Earth-like means in astronomy textbooks and what it means to someone considering their survival prospects on a distant world are two vastly different things. We don’t just need a planet roughly the same size and temperature as Earth; we need a planet that spent billions of years evolving with us. We depend completely on the billions of other living organisms that make up Earth’s biosphere. Without them, we cannot survive. Astronomical observations and Earth’s geological record are clear: the only planet that can support us is the one we evolved with. There is no plan B. There is no planet B.
(P)roposals for terraforming Mars into a world suitable for long-term human habitation abound. Mars is further from the Sun than Earth, so it would require significantly more greenhouse gases to achieve a temperature similar to Earth’s. Thickening the atmosphere by releasing CO2 in the Martian surface is the most popular ‘solution’ to the thin atmosphere on Mars. However, every suggested method of releasing the carbon stored in Mars requires technology and resources far beyond what we are currently capable of. What’s more, a recent NASA study determined that there isn’t even enough CO2 on Mars to warm it sufficiently.
Even if we could find enough CO2, we would still be left with an atmosphere we couldn’t breathe. Earth’s atmosphere contains only 0.04 per cent CO2, and we cannot tolerate an atmosphere high in CO2. For an atmosphere with Earth’s atmospheric pressure, CO2 levels as high as 1 per cent can cause drowsiness in humans, and once we reach levels of 10 per cent CO2, we will suffocate even if there is abundant oxygen. The proposed absolute best-case scenario for terraforming Mars leaves us with an atmosphere we are incapable of breathing; and achieving it is well beyond our current technological and economic capabilities.
While I was looking away from Earth, and turned towards the rest of the universe, I didn’t feel connection; I didn’t feel attraction. What I understood, in the clearest possible way, was that we were living on a tiny oasis of life, surrounded by an immensity of death. I didn’t see infinite possibilities of worlds to explore, of adventures to have, or living creatures to connect with. I saw the deepest darkness I could have ever imagined, contrasting starkly with the welcoming warmth of our nurturing home planet.
This was an immensely powerful awakening for me. It filled me with sadness. I realised that we had spent decades, if not centuries, being obsessed with looking away, with looking outside. I played my part in popularising the idea that space was the final frontier. But I had to get to space to understand that Earth is, and will remain, our only home. And that we have been ravaging it, relentlessly, making it uninhabitable.
[...] During my lifetime, this world has changed faster than for any generation before us. We are now at an ecological tipping point. Without the bold leadership that the times require, we are facing further climate breakdown and ecosystems collapsing before our eyes, with as many as one million species at risk of extinction, according to the latest scientific assessments.
I was the oldest man to go to space. I worry about the world my grandchildren will be living in when they are my age. My generation is leaving them a planet that might pretty soon be barely livable for many of Earth’s inhabitants. My experience in space filled me with sadness, but also with a strong resolve. I don’t want my grandchildren to simply survive. I want them, as an old friend used to say, to be able to live long and prosper.
But there’s no reason to give up hope…
Three “super-tipping points” for climate action could trigger a cascade of decarbonisation across the global economy, according to a report.
Relatively small policy interventions on electric cars, plant-based alternatives to meat and green fertilisers would lead to unstoppable growth in those sectors, the experts said.
But the boost this would give to battery and hydrogen production would mean crucial knock-on benefits for other sectors including energy storage and aviation.
Urgent emissions cuts are needed to avoid irreversible climate breakdown and the experts say the super-tipping points are the fastest way to drive global action, offering “plausible hope” that a rapid transition to a green economy can happen in time.
The tipping points occur when a zero-carbon solution becomes more competitive than the existing high-carbon option. More sales lead to cheaper products, creating feedback loops that drive exponential growth and a rapid takeover. The report, launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said the three super-tipping points would cut emissions in sectors covering 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Former Vice President Al Gore made an empassioned plea last week at the World Economic Forum...
Here’s a transcript of his remarks...
We’re not winning. The crisis is still getting worse faster than we are deploying these solutions, and we need to make changes quickly. Emissions are still going up. All these promises of the last few years to cut emissions... Emissions are still going up. When are we going to bring these emissions down.
People are familiar with that thin blue line that the astronauts bring back in their pictures from space. That’s the part of the atmosphere that has oxygen, the troposphere, and it’s only 5 to 7 kilometers thick. That’s what we’re using as an open sewer.
If you could drive a car straight up in the air at interstate highway speeds, you’d get to the top of that blue line in 5 minutes, and all the greenhouse gas pollution would be below you. We’re still putting 162 million tons into it every single day, and the accumulated amount is now trapping as much extra heat as would be released by 600,000 Hiroshima class atomic bombs exploding every single day on the Earth.
That’s what’s boiling the oceans, creating these atmospheric rivers, and the rain bombs, and sucking the moisture out of the land, and creating the droughts, and melting the ice, and raising the sea level, and causing these waves of climate refugees predicted to reach one billion in this century.
Look at the xenophobia and the political authoritarian trends that have come from just a few million refugees. What about a billion? We would lose our capacity for self governance on this world.
We have to act. So, in answer to your question, I would say we have to have a sense of urgency much greater. We’ve heard about divides at this conference, between the North and South and the East and West; there’s another divide increasingly, between those who are old enough to be in positions of power, and the young people of this world.
Greta Thunberg was just arrested in Germany. I agree with her efforts to stop that coal mine in Germany. Young people around the world are looking at what we’re doing. They look at the World Bank and they say, “Oh, you’ve got a climate denier in charge of the World Bank, so why are you surprised that the World Bank is completely failing to do it’s job.” The Secretary General says that… Everybody knows the World Bank is failing badly!
Now we have the COP process… Okay… What do I say to these young activists that I train around the world when they come to me and they say, “Are you okay with putting the CEO of one of the largest oil companies in the world in as the President of the COP? Is that really okay” Well, it’s not whether he’s a nice guy or not, or whether he’s intelligent…
The appearance of a conflict of interest undermines confidence at a time when climate activists around the world (and I’m partly speaking for them right here on this stage) have come to the conclusion that the people in authority are not doing their job! There’s a lot of, “Blah, blah, blah...” as Greta says. There are a lot of words and some meaningful commitments, but we are still failing badly.
We need to have a super majority process instead of unanimity in the COP. We can not let the oil companies and gas companies and petro states tell us what is permissible. In the last COP we were not allowed to even discuss scaling down oil and gas… Can’t discuss it. A lot of the NDCs weren’t even called for. Are we going to be able to discuss scaling down oil and gas in the next COP, or putting the oil industry in charge of the COP. Is that going to tell young people around the world, “We’ve just decided to not even disguise it anymore?”
Let me finish with this point on the industry… You’ve had problems in your area where you tried to get legislation and the oil and gas industry came in and fought you, right? In my state, same thing. Every piece of pro-climate legislation at the national level, the regional level, the local level, municipal level… The oil and gas industry and the coal industry they come in and fight it tooth and nail, and they use their legacy network of political influence and wealth to stop progress.
The rest of us have to reform these international institutions so that the people of this world, and including the young people of this world, can say; “We are now in charge of our own destiny. We’re gonna stop using the sky as an open sewer. We’re going to save the future, and give people hope. We can do it, and remember that political will is itself a renewable resource.”
It wouldn’t hurt to plant a few trillion trees and clean up all the garbage while we’re at it…