Australian news, and some related international items

Little hope for humanity with Trump at the wheel in USA

What hope is there for humanity? The answer must be: none, Canberra Times, Julian Cribb, 25 Aug 17,  The day foreseen by US journalist HL Mencken when the White House is ‘adorned by a downright moron’ seems, on the face of the accumulating evidence, to have dawned. Regrettably this person has his finger on a certain button.

Why Americans are not more alarmed about this can only be attributed to the very poor level of scientific literacy in what is, to all intents and purposes, the world’s foremost scientific society. How Americans can be so great at science yet, in aggregate, understand so little about it, is a question for the Ages. Unfortunately, the Ages will probably not have the leisure to debate it.

The missing bit of information is that a nuclear war, even a small one, could eliminate most of civilisation, Americans (even those with well-stocked fallout shelters) included.

It is still an obscure historical detail that all-out nuclear Armageddon between the USSR and USA was avoided, in the 1980s, by some rather brave scientists sticking out their necks to warn Reagan and Gorbachev that their calculations had revealed that “a nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought”, as Reagan summarised it in his Address to the Nation (1984).

These scientists had worked out that – regardless of fireball, blast and radiation – the amount of dust and smoke thrown into the atmosphere by the unleashing of multiple nuclear warheads would chill the planet by several degrees for several years, causing massive crop-killing frosts which would destroy the food supply for just about everyone worldwide.

 Fast forward a few decades and climate modelling has become immensely more precise and sophisticated.  In more recent times Alan Robock and Brian Toon used it to calculate that the amount of dust and ash from even a ‘limited nuclear war’ would wreck food supplies globally for years. Fifty to 100 small (Hiroshima-sized) nukes would cause 1-2 billion people to starve and possibly end civilization, they calculated. Eight countries presently have this power in their nuclear arsenals.

But, to be brutally frank, how many of the countries are run by someone who is completely sane, and doesn’t suffer from some wild, obsessional hatred for some other branch of humanity?

Thus, the real problem emerges. There are, and will be, innumerable idiots with their finger on a button potent enough to destroy all or most of the 7.5 billion human inhabitants of Earth. The conjunction between nuclear firepower and mental incapacity is unavoidable.

Trump alone, we are told, commands the potential first-strike launch of 900 nuclear weapons – 9-18 times enough to eliminate civilisation. Then he has another 6000 nukes in varying states of readiness to support his initial misjudgement. So the Donald, if he has a bad night’s viewing, can – in theory at least – take out human civilisation 50 times over…

The New York Times recently published a mocking article contrasting Trump with the mad Roman Emperor Caligula, unfavourably to Trump. But Caligula, whatever his bloodlust, never wielded the power to eliminate civilisation, not even his own. Americans, in their naivety, have awarded that power to their present chief…..

like Americans, a third of the world’s countries simply do not grasp the remorseless scientific logic of human extinction. Their education, imagination or simple common sense, does not encompass it. They have no intuition of what global famine, societal disintegration, mass cannibalism and infanticide might look like. So, they block out the issue.

This, alack, does not abolish it.

Only wisdom can do that.

Ban all nukes, their materials and technology. Ban them now. Ban them everywhere. Ban them forever.

Julian Cribb is an Australian science writer and author of Surviving the 21st Century (Springer 2017)

August 25, 2017 - Posted by | General News

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