Everyday entropy: no brakes


Learning about energy before learning about entropy is like learning about the accelerator before learning about the brake.  If you learned to drive without learning about the brake, you would stop by crashing, which is pretty much how modern civilisation operates.

Entropy is not the solution to our problems, but we cannot hope to manage a civilisation based on energy and information without understanding entropy, given that entropy is fundamental to the theories of both energy and information, in the form of statistical mechanics and the probability of communication.  To be fair, engineers mostly know about entropy, but the organisers, the MBAs and politicians, do not, and engineers cannot hope to be promoted by talking about it.  So we drive on from crash to crash.  The Paris Accord is lovely, but turning the industrial nations into gated eco-communities will have no appreciable impact on climate change.  slowing down would be a good idea, but the Paris accord does not contain a mechanism that might work as a brake, and refugees don’t have the space or money to give a shit.


“Ancient air bubbles trapped in ice enable us to step back in time and see what Earth’s atmosphere, and climate, were like in the distant past. They tell us that levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere are higher than they have been at any time in the past 400,000 years. During ice ages, CO2 levels were around 200 parts per million (ppm), and during the warmer interglacial periods, they hovered around 280 ppm (see fluctuations in the graph). In 2013, CO2 levels surpassed 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history. This recent relentless rise in CO2 shows a remarkably constant relationship with fossil-fuel burning, and can be well accounted for based on the simple premise that about 60 percent of fossil-fuel emissions stay in the air.

Today, we stand on the threshold of a new geologic era, which some term the “Anthropocene”, one where the climate is very different to the one our ancestors knew.

If fossil-fuel burning continues at a business-as-usual rate, such that humanity exhausts the reserves over the next few centuries, CO2 will continue to rise to levels of order of 1500 ppm. The atmosphere would then not return to pre-industrial levels even tens of thousands of years into the future. This graph not only conveys the scientific measurements, but it also underscores the fact that humans have a great capacity to change the climate and planet.

You can also find this graphic on our “Evidence” page.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s