Tipping Points, Black Swan Events, Punctuated Equilibrium and the Paleo-Temperature Record

The paleo-temperature record of the last 700,000,000

The paleo-temperature record of the last 700,000,000 looks a lot like looks like the graph of a maniac depressive's life. A life filled with small straws breaking the backs of already heavily laden camels, a life that finds equilibrium for a little while then plunges or skyrockets when some unforeseen tipping point gets crossed, a predictably unpredictable life where black swans appear willy-nilly, the kind of life that theoretical scientists would find impossible to model.

The Earth's climate is at least as complex as a manic depressive's mind. Both have billions of interconnections - hardware - that are subject to a type of self correcting feedback akin to software. James Lovelock's Gaia principle, which proposes that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a self-regulating, complex system that contributes to maintaining the conditions for life on the planet is an excellent example of one intricate feedback software the Earth seems to be 'running'. Acculturation and personal expectation are examples of the types feedback software maniac depressive's 'run' that allow them to continue getting out of bed some mornings and down off the ceiling on others.

The trouble is that even if our Gaian Earth's self-regulating daisy world is real it'll take so long to work in human terms that all of us maniac depressives, and everybody else, will be reduced to a sedimentary line in the geologic record before our Mother returns to the live able range for our type of bio-hardware. Consequently, during those times of emotional stasis between the ceiling and bed, it's probably a good idea to try to learn a lesson or two from that paleo-temperature record pictured above.

Theoretical sciences like climate change predictions don't totally float around ungrounded. There is hard, re-producible, evidence that CO2 and other gases gas trap energy of certain wavelengths from escaping into outer space - the greenhouse effect - that the theoretical scientists base their predictive models on. Modeling though is as much an art as a science in that models are built by combining some bits of hard science with rear view mirror testing. The art, in climate science modeling, is in finding the set of variables that best fits with that past maniac depressive type of paleo-temperature record.

As any member of a maniac depressive's family can tell you anticipating what will happen next is far more of a gamble than a prediction. There's wind blown straw and black swans gliding everywhere both between our ears and in our atmosphere. So, just as it happens that a maniac depressive's family often tries to find a safe psycho-pharmaceutical intervention to help keep their loved-one floating midway between ceiling and bed, we too would be well advised to find an intervention before our much loved Mother Earth meets its next black swan or crosses an environmental tipping point.

Just as a psycho-pharmaceutical intervention isn't a cure for manic depression neither is The Precautionary Principle a cure for our consumption induced environmental nightmare, but...Taking an easy crash course in the hard science part of climate change [while one's hovering between ceiling and bed] might be a good place to start. Next might be to learn a bit about the growing part methane is playing in our Gaian drama.

Scientists are convinced that a major methane release is an almost inevitable part of the feedback software. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, 25 times as powerful as CO2. Recently scientists studying the geological history inside ancient Siberian caves say that evidence suggests a global temperature increase of just 1.5ÂșC could trigger massive melting of the northern hemisphere's permafrost, unleashing gigatonnes of carbon and methane into the already warming atmosphere.

Personally, mr. mud wouldn't trade any of my life's punctuated equilibrium for a minute.Feeling really high and really powerful while up on the ceiling has more than made up for the down time,. i can't imagine a life in the middle, especially one pharmacologically prescribed, no ups no downs, life on the plains, no thanks. But others in my family might have a different opinion. Mother Earth too cares not one iota if the temperature soars or plummets, she's in it for the long haul. But we mere mortals are all connected to our families near and far now and in the future so we care what happens to them and owe it to them to be cautious with their futures. After all, they too deserve a chance to choose to live their lives however they choose, be it fluctuating between the ceiling and the bed or on the plains, just like crazy old mr. mud has had.