Thursday, October 18, 2007

What experts in climate change field are saying:

The following quotes are from genuine emails from real scientists and experts in the field of climate change and scientific research. Since the emails to this blog were private emails and not intended for publication with their names attached, I have decided to keep their actual names private, keeping with international standards of Internet etiquette. -- Danny Bloom

*NOTE: Below are comments, most of them critical or negative, from scientists and professors in several English-speaking countries, and one from Russia. More will be published on this page shortly, as an appendix to this page.

Professor A: "If it comes to that, in the far distant future, as you say, we probably won't have the social stability to
sustain such advanced developments as 'polar cities'."

Professor B: "While I think that polar cities might surface as a reasonable model for future habitation, I'm still not ready to give up on reorganizing ourselves in the lower latitudes just yet. In other words, given the warming scenarios, why not simply reconstruct sustainable (and, most especially equitable) kinds of communities in northern Canada, Alaska, Siberia, Russia Scandinavia?"

Professor C: "With the movement of grain belts north, and the thawing of lots of open ground, wouldn't it be much easier, less costly and accommodate many more of global warming 'refugees; if we were to build closed-loop, sustainable communities in the north -- but above ground? Are your polar cities above ground or below ground?"

Professor D: "Sir, your notion of polar cities for survivors of global warming in the distant future is quite provocative -- and most interesting. My real hope is that it will help prod the conversation in the direction it needs to go. If it serves that purpose, that, alone, will be a considerable achievement."

Professor E: "I doubt I would have any useful comments to make on something 400 years from now. However, people are clever and will create for themselves very interesting living conditions as time goes on."

Professor F: "I had not heard of this idea until now. If we do not halt global warming, it is probable that by 2500 the polar areas will be quite warm. It will probably take many thousands of years to melt all the ice in Antarctica, but the northern tundra of Canada and Siberia may become more habitable and it may indeed be possible to establish cities there. However, most of the tropical and all the temperate zones will also still be habitable. In any case most people are not likely to try to make plans more than 100 years ahead."

Professor G: "The last time the Earth was this warm with high levels of CO2 was the Cretaceous Era, and at that time the temperature was not much hotter in the tropics than at the poles, so yes, I think James Lovelock is wrong. Of course we don't want to wait and see, do we? There is still a chance of stopping things before they go too far. Keep up your work, but please don't send me more questions as I have a lot of other emails and so forth to deal with."

Professor H: "If we don't take action immediately to begin reducing GHG emissions, we could end up with a planet that has habitable zones only at high latitudes. However, we probably should not forget about global warming's twin, global cooling, who still may be lurking up the road. I'm inclined to think, however, that global warming is going to carry the day as various positive feedbacks kick in. Regarding 'polar cities', I'm unclear about how long it will take the tundra to transition to a non-frozen, heavy weight bearing state, which I suppose would be necessary for construction to progress. When tundra melts, how long does it take for the muck to solidify into weight bearing soil?"

Professor I: "Civilization can gradually move to higher latitudes and altitudes. The
required times are a century more, so this will happen naturally, almost
imperceptably. This sort of shift has happened in the past as climate
has changed, leaving behind archeological sites. The world is full of
ghost towns that were populated hundreds or thousands of years ago.
Famous examples are Pompeii and Ostia Antica near Rome and the abandoned
farmsteads on Greenland, but Europe is full of them (often plowed under
by modern agriculture). Moving to the poles is more remote (the North Pole is under water). Note the global warming warms the winters, not the summers, so that
the present tropics and temperate latitudes will not become uninhabitable."

Professor J:
"We'll adapt to a warmer climate. In the late Middle Ages, this is
called a Climatic Optimum. Cities naturally turn over their
infrastructure on a time of 50 -- 100 years, so the cost of moving
inland (uphill) is not prohibitive compared to the ordinary costs of
maintaining a living city."

Professor K: "Global warming warms cold winters. It doesn't affect hot places or hot
summers. Nothing is going to become uninhabitable, although places already
very hot (Death Valley, Persian Gulf, Sahara, etc.) will remain so."

Professor L: "Thank you for sending me the polar city images you have created. It may very well happen and soon."

Professor M:
"As for James Lovelock and his predictions, he doesn't understand climate or
physics. He only knows that doomsaying sells books, and he won't live to
be proven wrong."

Professor N: "I am an optimist on human adaptability because history shows that humans
(and ecosystems) adapt to change. The details may be a problem (arctic and
alpine species may go extinct, millions may die in floods in Bangldesh,
though this is avoidable with sensible planning and preparation, many
coastal cities will be abandoned, etc.) but humanity will survive. If
Eskimos can survive the arctic, Bedouin the Arabian desert and various
Indian tribes the Amazon, all with stone-age technology, humanity as a
whole will survive the climate of the next 500 years, whatever it will
be. The Earth won't turn into Venus."

Professor O: "We cannot plan for future centuries ahead because technology will change so much.
Suppose we tried to plan in 1900 for cities of today -- 2008. Big apartment houses,
a small grocery on every block, ice factories in every neighborhood, express
streetcar lines everywhere, lots of TB sanitaria and isolation wards for new
immigrants, utility poles for thousands of telephone wires everywhere..."

Professor P: "I think I will pass
for the time being on writing about your polar cities idea, unless you
have some funding or other form of high-level's thought
provoking but the idea of future generations having to move to the
arctic in a few hundred years time makes me shiver, and I fear it may
sound scaremongering to others."

Professor Q: "Je crois que James Lovelock exagere peu etre un peu trop. Bien que ce
scenario reste plausible, il serait dommage que nous ne pourrions pas
changer le futur plus que ca. J'ai bien lu le livre de Mr. Lovelock et je
crois qu'il a bien dessine les possibilites atroces qui peuvent nous
attendre. Je ne crois pas d'autres parts que ses predictions nefastes qui
sont dominantes dans la derniere partie de son livre sont croyables, surtout
que celles-ci ne sont pas basees sur des recherches scientifiques assez
valables. Votre scenario de ville futuristique enfin est intrigant et, souhaitons le,
ne sera pas necessaire."

Professor S -- [Sergey Zimov, Russia, Northeast Station, Siberia]: "Thank you for your interest to the topic.
I would say yes, the world might need 'Polar Cities' some time. I think
it can happen earlier than 2500."

Professor T: "Climate change will come upon us far more rapidly than that! Year 2500 is too generous. It will happen much quicker than that! And you can quote me on that!"

Professor U: "Polar cities are a fine idea. I am sure there will be more urbanization near the poles as the Earth warms. Of course we need some planning, but it is just not something I have given much thought to. There is a guy in Holland who is promoting floating cities, so there are all kinds of ideas out there. I am a little busy to give a lot of attention to every idea."

Professor V: "I think the polar cities might surface as a reasonable model for
future habitation. But I'm not ready to give up on reorganizing
ourselves in the lower latitudes just yet."

Professor W: "I have a daughter, and in my bones I am afraid for her and her children."

Professor X: "I think the futuristic look of the polar cities graphics is blinding us to the reality that we already have "polar cities" - in Russia and Alaska. The cities portrayed somehow suggest an alien ice enviroment, but with global warming the area will actually be more human friendly."

Professor Y:
"It is not productive to talk about polar cities now, when humanity needs to focus on how the
world can drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It's silly to think 200 or 300 years into future, it's more useful to
think 20 or 30 years out."

Professor Z: "If your ideas alert the public to the real dangers of climate change and global warming, then your project is a good one. But who knows what life will be like 500 from now. It might be too late by then."


dan said...


You asked me what I think about "Polar cities"?

For sure, there will be many survivors, though their main occupation
will be in trying to produce food.

People need to eat -- for cities to develop at all there needs to be
an infrastructure of agricultural systems and excess food to feed the
non-food producing population. It is not until this happened in the
Neolithic, some 6000 years ago, that civilization could emerge!

Without sufficient food, "Polar cities" (like earlier proposed "Lunar
cities" or "Martian cities") may belong in the realm science fiction.

In an evolving mayhem of climate change (including draught-stricken
regions, hurricane/cyclone hit population centers, flooded fertile and
industrial coastal regions with sea level rise projections of many
meters through the century), demise of international trade (due to
harbor flooding) - the survival of civilization is in question.

It could be different if "Homo Sapiens" was a cooperative, instead of
a warlike, species.

At the present point in time, in my view, the priorities should include:

1. Zero emission policies - there is enough energy in the sun,
geothermal and wind to provide for all needs
2. Extensive re-planting campaigns, using all availalble resources
(instead of spending $trillions on murderous wars).
3. Limits on population growth. If "Homo sapiens" continues to
multiply like rabbits, it may end up like these cute animals. A
warming planet can hardly support >6 billion people.
4. In order to "buy time" and prevent complete melting of the
Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheets (total of 14 meter sea level
rise), application of albedo-enhancing techniques over the poles (SO2
injections into the stratosphere, reflective space blankets, "sodium
trees", ocean circulation pipe systems) may be attempted

Although the planet will continue to heat up, to at least 2 degrees C
- the above may help mitigate the consequences for the next

Much can be done if and when sanity prevails

Kind Regards

dan said...

A scientist said:

"Hi Danny,

Thanks for the update. As mentioned previously, under present-day
conditions and those predicted by climate models for the next few
decades (which is the time frame that I would argue is of most
immediate concern) life in the polar regions as you envision it will
continue to be more expensive and energy intensive than in most other
regions on the globe.

Whether a thought experiment such as the one that you are promoting can
help focus the discussion is an interesting question, and I'm not sure
about the answer.

Clearly mitigation of and adaptation to climate
change are key issues but on much shorter timescales and probably using
different approaches than what you are advocating.

One aspect that I do think is interesting and important to stress is
that people in East Asia generally appear to be much better at what I
would call compact living, i.e. little use of space and energy
resources (compare average per capita energy use in Japan with that in
the US), than we are over here.

Creating awareness and fostering
international communication and exchange on such issues (i.e., what you
are working on) appears to be important here.

Good luck with your work."

dan said...

More email quotes:

"The question of course is, what will it be,
Murmansk, Tromsoe or Anchorage?"

"No, Danny, ...I was not aware of your idea of Polar Cites explicitly.... or even the concept.......
Although an interesting idea to contemplate, this is quite far outside
my area of paleoclimatology. I am not prepared to venture a guess as to
whether we will need polar cities 500 years from now - but certainly in the
more near term (100 years) I suspect cities will look quite different from
today. Although thinking about how the future will develop is fun, history
shows that many things that were expected never materialized while many
other unanticipated devices did attain reality. It will be exciting to see
how we design the energy mix to meet the challenges of the next 100 years.''

"Very interesting, Dan Bloom! At least there are others that realise that we have
to have contingency plans for what our future problems will bring(cannot see
otherwise). Both your POLAR CITIES and our ORE-STEM concepts try to give a
basis for humankind's survival and future on this planet. If ever therefore
you wish to submit an article on your concept and thoughts, I would be
pleased to incorporate it into a Scientific Discovery Newsletter posted on
our website."

"Thank you for bringing your thoughts to my attention. Indeed, without
contingency thoughts/plans we are ultimately lost and suffer eventually the
consequences of our creative neglect (something that our politicians have in

"That's interesting ! I read somewhere that by genetic engineering they
are trying to harvest produce that can withstand extreme temp like
when nuclear winter in future....your thought is somewhat related to
that..its good. But whatever we do mother nature should not be
altered...we need to somehow convey people that its high time come out
of this mundane material world and try to change our lifestyle and
restore the balance....we need to convey to people that adopting a
moderation in spirituality and materialsm in their lives we could
restore the balance of nature. Right now we are more inclined towards
materialism which Is disturbing the planet earth. I think
spirituality is the basis of planet earth. So if somehow we can convey
this its better..."