After reading the article, I remembered that 'Climate Wars' had predicted these problems and the threat of nuclear war between Pakistan and India. I picked up the book again, now ten-years-old, and read its introduction. It seems more accurate now than it did when I read it. Here is the book's summary of 2045:
SCENARIO ONE: THE YEAR 2045
Average global temperature: 2.8 degrees Celsius higher than 1990.
Global population: 5.8 billion.
Since the final collapse of the European Union in 2036, under the stress of mass migration from the southern to the northern members, the reconfigured Northern Union (France, Benelux, Germany, Scandinavia, Poland and the old Habsburg domains in central Europe) has succeeded in closing its borders to any further refugees from the famine-stricken Mediterranean countries. Italy, south of Rome, has been largely overrun by refugees from even harder-hit North African countries and is no longer part of an organised state, but Spain, Padania (northern Italy) and Turkey have all acquired nuclear weapons and are seeking (with little success) to enforce food sharing on the better-fed countries of northern Europe. Britain, which has managed to make itself just about self-sufficient in food by dint of a great national effort, has withdrawn from the continent and shelters behind its enhanced nuclear deterrent.
Russia, the greatest beneficiary of climate change in terms of food production, is the undisputed great power of Asia. However, the reunification of China after the chaos of the 2020s and 2030s poses a renewed threat to its Siberian borders, for even the much reduced Chinese population of eight hundred million is unable to feed itself from the country's increasingly arid farmland, which was devastated by the decline of rainfall over the North Chinese plain and the collapse of the major river systems.
Southern India is re-emerging as a major regional power, but what used to be northern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh remain swept by famine and anarchy, due to the collapse of the flow in the glacier-fed Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers and the increasingly frequent failure of the monsoon. Japan, like Britain, has withdrawn from its continent and is an island of relative prosperity bristling with nuclear weapons. The population of the Islamic Republic of Arabia, which had risen to forty-million, fell by half in five years after the exhaustion of the giant Ghawar oil field in 2020, and has since halved again due to the exorbitant price of what little food remains available for import from any source.
Uganda's population, 5 million at independence in 1962, reached no million in 2030 before falling back to 30 million, and the majority of the survivors are severely malnourished. Brazil and Argentina still manage to feed themselves, but Mexico has been expelled from the North American Free Trade Area, leaving the United States and Canada with just enough food and water to maintain at least a shadow of their former lifestyles. The Wall along the U.S.—Mexican border is still holding.
Human greenhouse-gas emissions temporarily peaked in 2032, at 47 per cent higher than 1990, due largely to the dwindling oil supply and the Chinese Civil War. However, the release of thousands of megatons of methane and carbon dioxide from the melting permafrost in Arctic Canada, Alaska and Siberia has totally overwhelmed human emissions cuts, and the process has slid beyond human ability to control. The combined total of human and `neo-natural' greenhouse-gas emissions continues to rise rapidly, and the average global temperature at the end of the century is predicted to be 8 or 9 degrees Celsius higher than 1990.
The above description does seem more likely than when I read it, five years ago.
For example, Britain's drift into becoming a right-wing, fortress island nation with a disintegrating democracy is well under way. There is even talk at the moment of our duplicitous and amoral Prime Minster invoking the Civil and Contingencies Act, a form of martial law, to make sure that we leave the European Union. He recently suspended Parliament, talked of anyone who disagreed with Brexit as a traitor and generally stoked hostility and division. Also, the construction of the Mexico Wall is accelerating, greater numbers of African refugees are attempting to enter the EU, and meeting with increasing hostility, particularly in Italy. Southern Europe is suffering terrible droughts and forest fires. The only problems I can see in the introduction that aren't already under way are those in China. This may be due to intelligent long-term planning by that country, or simply control of the research into those areas; it's hard to tell. Overall, the trends described in the book are pretty much spot-on.
Many readers may think that the predictions described in 'Climate Wars' are extreme; they may prefer to think that there'll only be a gradual change in our condition on this planet. Unfortunately, history tells us that this is a common mistake. Many people invariably think that sudden, worsening changes will never occur. For example, the prospect of Donald Trump becoming president of the United States was regarded as ridiculous by many people, six months before he did become President. The prospect of a Second World War was regarded as unthinkable by many people in Europe in 1934. Five years later, it was fully underway. People tend to disbelieve that something bad will come soon, often because they don't want it to happen, or because they don't like change. Alternatively, they don't believe the dark prediction because they have an overly-flattering view of human-nature.
In conclusion, I think that 'Climate Wars' is very much a realistic assessment. This is not a great surprise, partly because a lot of its source material was military predictions. The world events of the last ten years, as far as I can tell, have fallen closely in line with its predictions. I therefore think that its long-term predictions are likely to occur. On that topic, I've recently written about the critical need for all of us to begin building very large habitats for our long-term survival on this planet and my motivation to do this has not waned. I'll continue to write on that matter in the foreseeable future.
This, I think, is a big problem with people; if you talk to someone about something that's outside their comfort zone, their 'sphere of expectation', more likely than not, they'll think you're mad. Bertrand Russell was wise in saying; “do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.” Unfortunately, it won't stop you getting locked up.
‘I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to my death your right to say it’.
In other words, we must value free speech more than eradicating unpleasant comments. Free speech doesn’t just refer to the right of people to say popular things, it is a right for people to say whatever they want to say. Some jewish and secular people in the U.K. may be offended by Livingstone’s comments but he is stating a well-documented historical fact; Hitler did do a deal in the early 1930’s that helped Zionists settle in Israel. Whatever the implications are of this event, it did happen.
In his book, Corso discusses, at length, the U.S. military's interest and plans in setting up a moon base, a plan hatched in the late fifties and designed to be completed by the mid-sixties. Corso makes it clear that General Trudeau, his commanding officer, was involved in a plan to land on the moon and then establish a base there, with the moon landing being simply one step in a larger process. The reasoning laid out in Corso's book is more extensive than my comments in my article, which not surprisingly for a major U.S. military project, but the essential premise is the same. The moon is the high ground and anyone who establishes a base on it will have a huge military advantage. Corso dedicates an entire chapter to the project and adds an appendix with photocopied briefing documents, detailing what became known as Project Horizon. But, as we all know, there is no moon base. Corso explains why; his answer is logical but it involves UFO's, so its veracity is a matter for debate. Read More...
Let's be logical
Corso' book is certainly official 'kook' territory but, before judging and sentencing it, let’s think rationally about the likelihood of its key assertions. Firstly, it's become clear to all of us in recent years that the intelligence agencies and militaries of the world are definitely hiding things from their citizens. After Edward Snowden’s recent revelations about the N.S.A. and G.C.H.Q.’s email and phone snooping, along with a whole host of recent scandals in which the western military and spy establishments ignored laws, due process, peoples’ lives and other rather important things, it’s pretty much a ‘given’ that our spooks are hiding stuff from us.
'Command and Control' is a thick wedge of a book. Schlosser exhaustively reports on the history of nukes in the U.S. and the cold war. To be honest, there were sections that I skipped, as page after page of descriptions of missiles and strategies can get dull. Fortunately, the book switches between this history and the recounting of a particular event; a disastrous accident that occurred at a Titan II missile silo. Schlosser's account of the accident is riveting. His writing reminded me a lot of Stephen King's 'The Stand', with the same approach of giving each character's back story, before narrating what happened to them during the accident. I wouldn't be surprised if Schlosser starts writing fiction soon, he's certainly prepared the ground.
I enjoyed the book. It was pretty clear from early on (in fact, P.D.Smith admitted as much himself) that the author had been writing a biography of Leo Szilard, an admirable and brilliant Hungarian physicist who had to leave his home in Budapest when Nazism and anti-Semitism emerged in central Europe. He ditched up in London and finally emigrated to the United States. Unlike other brilliant Hungarian physicists who ended up playing a major role in the development of atomic power and the atomic bomb (such as Von Neumann and Edward Teller), Szilard was a compassionate and ethical man. Read More...
One fun thing about writing science fiction is looking at what’s happening now in the world and extrapolating. Sometimes though, you don’t need to extrapolate and come up with far-fetched ideas. Instead, you can work out what could already present but hasn’t been made public. This is science-fiction drifting close to a technical analysis; it's a fiction only in the sense that it hasn’t been proved. By comparison, science-fiction that speculates on a possible distant future is plausible fiction; it will probably never happen, but it’s still interesting.
This article is aimed at the former category and it’s to do with our moon.
Much has been written about the recent burst of activity in moon exploration by our planet’s major powers. The Chinese currently have a robot on the moon, nicknamed ‘Jade Rabbit’ which is attracting huge interest among Chinese citizens as it explores and analyses the moon’s surface. India is also investing large sums of money in visiting the moon and according to this Daily Telegraph article, both China and India plan to land people on the moon in the next ten years. The United States, who have already been to the moon, are talking about a new programme of exploration and there are reports Japan also wants to be involved.
An interesting question to ask is; why are they all doing it? It’s true that a country gains a lot of kudos if it completes a successful mission, but it’s a very expensive endeavour. According to this NASA website, it costs about $500,000,000 to send a robot to the moon. Another way of estimating the cost is per kilo of payload. According to some science websites, it costs about two million dollars for every kilogram you put on the moon. In other words, if you want to put a bicycle on the moon (probably a folding one), you’ll need to spend about twenty-million dollars. These prices don’t include all the efforts put into developing new technologies, the cost of failed missions and other related issues.
Along with the sheer expense, there is also the unedifying fact that the moon has already been landed on and it’s not an exciting place; it’s a dead, airless lump of rock. No nation is going to stay up into the small hours to see a robot land on the Sea of Tranquility. But there is a possible and very viable reason why the big nations of our planet, particularly the emerging superpowers, are racing to put robots, people and eventually bases on the moon, and it’s do with height.
In the history of warfare, height has always been of huge importance. Tribes soon noticed that attacking downhill is a lot easier, and more successful, than attacking uphill. Millennia later, as soon as people could take to the air, they used airborne craft to gain a new height advantage, bombing and strafing their enemy on the ground. When both sides had airborne craft, those craft that could climb higher gained a crucial advantage. The latest stage in this war of altitude has been the development of satellites for reconnaissance and communication, which all major nations now have. More recently the technology to knock out those satellites has been developed, with successful tests by more than one superpower showing they can knock out their own ageing or erratic satellites, and if push comes to shove, someone else’s. This satellite stage in the war of altitude is now a crowded, well-established territory. To gain a singular advantage, someone has to take the next altitude step; the moon.
A base on the moon has several strategic benefits. Firstly, it’s a super-satellite. There are a huge number of commercial and military satellites currently orbiting the Earth. They are extremely vulnerable, delicate devices. As popularised in the recent movie ‘Gravity’, there are so many satellites orbitting our planet that the destruction of just a few could release so much debris that a chain-reaction could break a huge number of the satellites currently in geosynchronous orbit around the Earth. It is also perfectly possible, as mentioned earlier, for ground-based lasers and rockets to knock them out individually. By comparison, an installation of communication or reconnaissance equipment on the moon, protected by some sort of screen, would be far harder to knock out. The moon therefore becomes an ideal back-up location for military communication and reconnaissance hardware.
But this article focusses on a second and more dramatic use, that makes full and devastating use of the moon’s position as the ultimate high ground.
Earth is big and, as a result, it has a strong gravity. By comparison, the moon is smaller and has less gravity, roughly one-seventh of Earth’s. If someone on the moon wants to attack a spot on the Earth, all they need to do is to throw a moon rock hard enough to leave the moon’s weak gravity well. The rock will then pass into Earth’s gravity well and fall down it, finally striking its appointed target on the Earth’s surface. This process is like a giant on a mountain tossing a boulder on to a fertile valley below. This is a kinetic weapon, as the damage it causes is entirely down to the speed at which it strikes the target, due to the extreme height from which the object has fallen.
To make such a weapon work on the moon, the attacker needs ammunition - rocks - of which the moon has loads, and some means to toss those projectiles in a guided way, in order for them to hit their intended target. Previous science-fiction stories have explored this idea, such as Robert Heinlein’s ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’, in which rocks coated in iron are launched from the Moon, at Earth, by an electromagnetic cannon. Although Heinlein’s book was a masterwork of speculative fiction, wrapping such rocks in iron as a way to propel them is a dated method and unfeasible. Iron is heavy and rare on the moon. There is a better alternative and it involves more modern technology, that of lasers and solar power.
To launch a rock from the Moon to the Earth, you need a) a power source of some kind for the launching and b) something that launches the rocks out of the moon’s gravity. The first requirement, power, can be supplied by solar power. The moon can receive the full intensity of the sun’s rays, uninterrupted, for long periods of time, making this an ideal spot for solar power generation.
The next thing needed is something to launch the rock. Lasers can carry out this task. A possible mechanism is as follows:
On the far side of the moon, a solar array is installed on its surface, along with a robot and several lasers. The solar array charges up the robot. The robot then digs a rock out of the lunar surface and places the rock in a harness hung from poles above the ground, placed in the centre of a circle of lasers. The robot retreats and the lasers, powered by the solar array, fire beams at the rock in the harness. The heat of the laser beams on the rock causes material on its surface to heat up and boil off. This emission of gases pushes the rock in the opposite direction to the gases it emits. Using this ‘action and reaction’ effect, the lasers ‘push’ the rock upwards, against the moon’s weak gravity. By altering the intensity of their beams and where they hit the rock, the lasers guide the rock upwards and entirely away from the lunar surface, accelerating it out of the moon’s gravity well. Once the rock is free of the lunar gravity, the lasers are turned off and the rock is left to fall down the Earth’s gravity well until it finally hits the intended target.
There are many practical benefits to investing in this type of weapon. It runs entirely from its own power source. It also has effectively limitless ammo. If it is placed on the far side of the moon, it is not even vulnerable to any Earth-based lasers’ attempts to disable it. It effectively becomes the most powerful catapult ever created, firing its shot from the highest-ever castle, behind the thickest-ever wall. Although the weapon’s location would make communication with it from an Earth-based command centre very difficult, the weapon’s computer could be semi-autonomous, or even receive its instructions from probes located further away from Earth than the moon, for example at one of the Sun’s Lagrange points, that have relayed instructions to it from an Earth-based command centre.
Is such a weapon on the minds of the super-states racing to explore and colonise the moon? I don’t know, but I would very be surprised if none of them have done a feasibility study. The idea isn’t new to science-fiction and recent developments in laser efficiency, solar power efficiency and robotics make it far more achievable than when Heinlein wrote about it, fifty years ago. Knowing what we do about human-kind, it's sensible to believe that one or more super-states will install such a weapon if they think it's worth the cost. Civilisation has followed a logical path for millennia and there’s no reason to think that will change, at least until natural factors bring it to a painful end. I think the moon will be a key piece in our next global war. Someone will establish a weapon on our moon and use this new high ground to devastating effect.
Note: Thinking about this again, a day later, I'm keen to check through some more of the technical aspects. For example, how big does a lump of rock that's travelled from the moon need to be to avoid being burnt up in Earth's atmosphere? This could be tricky to work out but I'll see what I can do.
War is a great subject for a movie. You've got danger, heartache, drama, scenes of great intensity; all the emotions you could wish for. There is, though, the tiny problem that war is a horrible, monstrous event that brings nothing but despair, sadness, pain and loss to everyone apart from psychopaths and people in administrative positions.
A lot of war movies skirt over this problem. They also gloss over the fact that people, in every country, behave in unexpected ways in war. Some people who are supposed to be good behave horribly and some people who are supposed to be bad behave nobly. This is the reality of war, alongside the large amounts of weapons, injuries, death, suffering, atrocities, acts of self-sacrifice and flags. Read More...