Is it global warming - not on your life!
Is it a supervolcanic eruption? Not a chance!
A global pandemic? Nope, not at all!
A nuclear war? Nope, not that either.
What he says (archived here) is:
The biggest threat to humanity, far bigger than global warming/climate change, is about to get bigger, much bigger.
A press release from some former NASA astronauts on the current asteroid impact threat to earth, based on data on in-atmosphere detonations since 2001, gleaned from a nuclear weapon detonation detection system has yielded some startling numbers.
The threat is 3 to 10 times higher than previously predicted. The data will be presented at the Seattle Flight Museum, Tuesday April 22, at 6:00pm PDT.
Oh. We're about to get clobbered by an asteroid? Really? That's a much, much bigger threat than the virtual certainty that by 2100 Earth will have a surface temperature 3 or 4 degrees higher than a century ago? With seas anything from one to two metres higher? Let's take Anthony's alarmism point by point.
Anthony has based his alarmism on a press release from the B612 Foundation. Here is what he copied:
This Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, three former NASA astronauts will present new evidence that our planet has experienced many more large-scale asteroid impacts over the past decade than previously thought… three to ten times more, in fact. A new visualization of data from a nuclear weapons warning network, to be unveiled by B612 Foundation CEO Ed Lu during the evening event at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, shows that “the only thing preventing a catastrophe from a ‘city-killer’ sized asteroid is blind luck.”
So first of all, they are not talking about a "threat to humanity" at all. They are talking about a "city-sized" threat. Like an earthquake or massive tidal wave (precipitated by an earthquake) or intense cyclone.
Secondly although the press release doesn't say so, I doubt the risk has got "any bigger", it's just that the risk has been reassessed. The actual risk is the same, it's just that in the past it was underestimated by "three to ten" times. (How does that "three to ten times" rate in comparison with the range of estimates for TCR? Anyone?) Here are the close encounters picked up by JPL/NASA - and here is the impact risk, looking ahead. The B612 Foundation doesn't seem to have it's own list - or if they do they aren't sharing it.
The hazards - NASA has a near earth object hazard website, and recently removed the previously nearest object from the list, writing:
Recent observations have removed from NASA's asteroid impact hazard list the near-Earth object (NEO) known to pose the most significant risk of Earth impact over the next 100 years.
2007 VK184, an asteroid estimated to be roughly 130 meters in size, has been on NASA's Impact Risk Page maintained by the NEO Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for several years, with an estimated 1-in-1800 chance of impacting Earth in June 2048. This predicted risk translates to a rating of 1 on the 10-point Torino Impact Hazard Scale. In recent months, 2007 VK184 has been the only known NEO with a non-zero Torino Scale ratingOkay, so that's bigger than the incoming stuff that the B612 Foundation is talking about, but for an object of 130 m in size, if it hit Earth it would make a nice dent. And the predicted risk, given a 1-1800 chance of impacting Earth, was a rating 1 on the Torino Impact Hazard Scale.
So let's compare what else is on the Torino Impact Hazard Scale, where 10 is the highest risk. A rating of 10 means:
A collision is certain, capable of causing global climatic catastrophe that may threaten the future of civilization as we know it, whether impacting land or ocean. Such events occur on average once per 100,000 years, or less often.
According to Wikipedia, the "2013 Chelyabinsk meteor had a total kinetic energy prior to impact of about 0.4 megatons, corresponding to Torino Scale 0." Not even a 1. (10 is highest risk) You've got to earn a rating of 3 to get to "a collision capable of localised destruction":
A close encounter, meriting attention by astronomers. Current calculations give a 1% or greater chance of collision capable of localized destruction. Most likely, new telescopic observations will lead to re-assignment to Level 0. Attention by public and by public officials is merited if the encounter is less than a decade away.
What about a supervolcano? How often do they erupt? The biggest volcanoes recorded on Wikipedia (yes, I know - but it's handy) happened 26,500 74,000 254,000 640,000 2,100,000 2,500,000 4,000,000 4,500,000 6,000,000 and 27,800,000 years ago. I expect the further you go back, the more you'll miss. So they don't happen all that often. Then again, neither do asteroids of the size that could wipe out civilisation. Some of these supervolanos could destroy life as we know it. To illustrate, Mt Tambora, which is not one of the previous earth-changing magnitude, is thought to be the cause of "the year without a summer".
Anyway, the point I want to make is that if these events are now viewed as three to ten times more common than previously thought - and no-one noticed them - then the risk is hardly "biggest threat to humanity, far bigger than global warming/climate change" let alone "about to get bigger, much bigger".
From the WUWT comments
To Anthony's chagrin, nobody at WUWT is rushing out to build underground shelters and stock up on ten years supply of rice and lentils. In fact most of the WUWT-ers aren't buying Anthony's alarmism. (I checked, there was no "satire" or "humour" tag. Anthony really meant what he wrote. He's done it before, too.)
charles nelson is sensible (for a change, and in part) and says:
April 19, 2014 at 3:30 pm
No seriously though…these little fellas have been doing this since for ever. We mustn’t confuse the ubiquity of camera phones etc etc with increasing frequency, we’ll be seeing lots more of this type of thing.
As for tracking big ones then doing something about them before they hit…I think this is what you might call a ‘Hollywood’ type solution to the problem. i.e. fantasy.
When a commercial jet the size of several houses can disappear radar controlled, satellite monitored air-space. I don’t hold out much hope for our technology being able to track smaller faster objects approaching our spherical planet from the corners of the cosmos!
Good to know that we’re thickening up the atmosphere with added CO2 though, most of those bad boys will burst and burn up long before they ever hit the ground!
And what about the weather in Murmansk…?
Eric Worrall seems to have bought it and says:
April 19, 2014 at 3:44 pm
How much Asteroid deflection capability would the annual global warming mitigation budget buy?
Time to stop that fantasy, and spend money where it is really needed.
Paul Penrose is talking about something completely different and says:
April 19, 2014 at 3:50 pm
I’m sorry Charles Nelson, but you don’t know what you are talking about. Comparing an aircraft that can change course to evade detection and an unguided rock that must follow the rules of orbital mechanics is just silly. Plus the rocks we are really concerned about are a bit bigger than even a 777. We can find and track these objects with the technology that we have now. And if we work at it, we could have the resources in place to deflect one within a few decades. And since a large meteor is a REAL civilization ending event, we must do it.
YouSoWould asks for a reality check and says:
April 19, 2014 at 4:04 pm
“actually 3-10 times more common than we previously thought. The fact that none of these asteroid impacts shown in the video was detected in advance is proof that the only thing preventing a catastrophe from a ‘city-killer’ sized asteroid is blind luck”
Given that the last extinction level event from one was 65 million years ago, I’m not going to lose much sleep over the infinitesimally small probability of one occurring within my comparative eye-blink of a lifespan.
And really – does anyone think we’d stand a chance of deflecting several hundred thousand tons of metal hurtling towards us, as this stage of our technological advancement? “Armageddon” it ain’t.
Even Ric Werme sees the flaw in Anthony's article and says:
April 19, 2014 at 4:12 pm
> The biggest threat to humanity, far bigger than global warming/climate change, is about to get bigger, much bigger
No, no – the threat remains the same (per capita), It’s merely the perception of the risk that has narrowed and gone up.
It does make me wish that we had spent a little more time getting some of us off this basket. A planet is a great place to evolve, but it’s a lousy place to preserve a species.
Rud Istvan doesn't like the direction Anthony is taking (too much like prisonplanet?) and says:
April 19, 2014 at 5:40 pm
See Judith Curry yesterday, or the add on wrap she says she will post soon.
Some things are so improbable they are not worth insuring against. The 2014 March Madness perfect bracket is a great example where Warren Buffet made money at ‘asteroid’ expense.
Please do not take this bog in that direction.
mjmsprt40 talks about the long odds of it happening and, with a wistful analogy, says:
April 19, 2014 at 4:43 pm
A city killer might strike, but since Sodom and Gomorrah we haven’t seen one. As far as “End of the world as we know it” sized asteroids– I’m more likely to get a date tonight with this month’s Playmate of the Month than we are to get hit with one of those things. 65 million years, and Jupiter helping to clean up the place… don’t lose sleep over a “planet killer”.