With a refreshed perspective from my 6-week break from posting, I have decided to focus for a while on emphasizing the nature, reality and implications of the Anthropocene; as examining mankind's decision making processes can no longer be marginalized by science if we are to reasonably understand our increasingly dominant impact on nature. In this light, I have made new posts to: "The Early Anthropocene" thread (here: http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,852.0.html
); and I am opening three new threads in this Science Folder, beginning with this thread on "Modelling the Anthropocene", as well as two other threads entitled: "Anthropogenic Existential Risks" (here: http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,1307.0.html
) and "Adapting to the Anthropocene" (here: http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,1308.0.html
This new "Modelling the Anthropocene" thread expands beyond the hard physical science's examination of the Anthropocene, to embrace what the Germans call Geisteswissenschaften, or "human sciences"; within the rigorous, reasoned framework of coupled socioeconomic & climate change models. This thread was inspired by the new Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) currently being developed within the IPCC's framework to interact with the Recommended Concentration Pathways (RCPs). However, I plan to expand beyond the IPCC framework to discuss such topics as: information technology, social science, economic theory, political science, palaeoenvironmental sciences, historiography, etc. all of which help us to understand the past (also see the "Defining the Anthropocene" thread), and to model the future, Anthropocene Era.
To put the Anthropocene into perspective, the linked article by Joe Romm, points out that in 1995 Richard Leaky warned that homo sapiens is now the greatest agent for global catastrophe and is the most likely cause of the ongoing Holocene Extinction (The Sixth Extinction), which, puts the human species at risk of extinction (also see the "Existential Risk for Mankind" thread).http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/06/01/3653348/sixth-extinction/
Extract: "“Homo sapiens is poised to become the greatest catastrophic agent since a giant asteroid collided with the Earth 65,000,000 years ago, wiping out half the world’s species in a geological instant.” So wrote anthropologist Richard Leakey in his 1995 book, “The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind.”
Because of the vital dependence we have on the “ecosystem services” provided by the rest of nature, Leakey warned, “unrestrained, Homo sapiens might not only be the agent of the sixth extinction, but also risks being one of its victims.”"
To add prospective to the risks that mankind is taking that it might fall victim to "The Sixth Extinction", I provide the first attached image from the World Wildlife Fund that shows that Homo sapiens already use the equivalent of 1.5 Earths to support our consumption.
(see the first attached image)
For further perspective on why such an interdisciplinary (Geisteswissenschaften) consideration of the Anthropocene is merited, I provide the following link & extracts from the Slate article by Brad Allenby and Daniel Sarewitz (January 2015), "There’s No Place Like Home: Science, information, and politics in the Anthropocene", or: "Toto, we’re not in an era of simple scientific experimentation anymore."http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2015/01/science_information_and_politics_in_the_anthropocene_or_the_age_of_humans.html
Extract: "First: Science ain’t what it used to be. Our ideal of science is of a highly structured activity for establishing cause-and-effect relationships that can be tested in the field and the laboratory. Now the focus is increasingly on computational models and scenarios aimed at exploring complex phenomena (such as climate change) that unfold on scales from the global to the molecular. Second: Information, which used to be scarce and closely guarded, is now everywhere, accessible to everyone. Once, the Catholic Church had a lock on what counted as knowledge and its interpretation. Then scientists took over. Today no individual or institution can ever have a monopoly on knowledge or expertise. Third: Therefore, the boundary between authoritative knowledge on one hand, and the subjective worlds of policy, ethics, and even religion on the other, grows increasingly fuzzy and meaningless.
Taken individually, any of these changes would be a significant challenge to our current models of rational policymaking based on scientific principles; as a whole, they signal the most profound shift in social and cultural understanding of the role of science since the Scientific Revolution and the early Enlightenment, with its emphasis on formal knowledge as a basis for solving problems.
No one can replicate global environmental conditions in such a way as to experimentally test climate change. For such complex systems, the best we can do is create complicated computer models. But creating a model necessarily involves generating a set of rules that determines what we include in the model and what we exclude. And any set of rules that enables us to model a complex system that is coherent necessarily gives us a model that is partial and arbitrary—hence the common refrain that “all models are wrong, but some are useful.” We can use the model to generate multiple scenarios of the future that are consistent with scientific understanding, but we cannot have the underlying system itself. The complexity of the Anthropocene—in which, for example, climate change is an emergent phenomenon of 300 years of industrialism—is not subject to the sort of verifiable and predictive understanding that characterized science of the sort that Copernicus, Newton, or even Einstein practiced.
Does anyone out there think that radically transforming the global energy system will be easier and more predictable than turning Iraq into a democracy? Or that the evidence for doing so is more compelling than the evidence in favor of eliminating Saddam Hussein? Remember, in the Anthropocene, everything is more complicated. Our computer models can give us a thousand scenarios of how the climate may change. But remember that global warming is an unintended consequence of 300 years of industrialism—why would we think that equally momentous unintended consequences would not accompany the enormous social changes pursued in our effort to control the future behavior of the climate?
There is indeed a cruel dilemma here: In order for the science to matter, it must be heard; in order to be heard, it must be translated into catastrophic visions and simplistic policy formulations that are literally absurd abstractions of the complexity that we inhabit. Thus, the third condition of the Anthropocene: Science moves from being a mutually accepted foundation for debating action in the world to being the tool of one or another group of partisans, wielded in the settings of politics as if it were as clear and inescapable as the equations that Newton used to describe falling objects. The necessary oversimplification, urgent appeal to fear and insecurity, insistence on predictive certainty, and direct linkage to an explicit social agenda that would create huge new groups of winners and losers (and is thus inherently divisive) obliterate the boundary between science and politics.
What we will need above all to manage complexity in the Anthropocene is humility all around. We are not in Kansas anymore, where things are simple, the truth is clear, and we know what we know. Everything really is connected to everything else now, and the biggest mistake we can make is to focus too narrowly on one thing or one way of doing things. That’s the most important lesson of the abject failure of climate change policy and politics, and it’s one that we must learn if we are to effectively confront the new world that we have and will continue to create. Climate change is not a problem of our old way of doing things—it’s a symptom of our new condition."
For the end of this first post in this "Modelling the Anthropocene" thread, I note that the second attached image illustrates how risk is the product of probability (frequency) times (X) consequences (magnitude); therefore the greatest risk to society lays well to the right of the most probable climate change scenario. I note that the scientific consensus probability density function, PDF, for global warming may likely skew to the right as: (a) we continue on an unsustainably high pathway for anthropogenic radiative forcing and (b) we learn more about the probabilities of high climate sensitivity. Lastly, I note that the scientific consensus slope of the consequence curve may likely become steeper, particularly as more scientists acknowledge the true risks of abrupt sea level rise, ASLR.