Thank you for your patience....!
This global survival issue keeps looking more problematic every time I look at it. A week ago, I did not exactly give up, but decided to make time to rethink. I am glad to make contact with someone else who actually cares whether we all live or die as a species, because rethinking can easily degenerate without some discussion.
One of the things that I wanted to do was talk about getting a group of experts (not necessary all those participating in the forum) to write a paper on measures that can simultaneously reduce 5 global-scale risks to human-wellbeing:
It is worthwhile to discuss collaboration in how to address these things and more. I am feeling a bit unmoved today in putting formal words to paper.
The limits to my communication skills are part of how I explain the incredible failures and gaps which persist in all these areas and more.
Climate change would also be on my list of top three to five :"final executioners." But not global warming as such.
In 2009, I had access to the best climate information available to the top levels of the US government, where I happened to be for a year.
The IPCC report projected that a business as usual scenario would lead to only 5% loss of GNP over a century, real money but not as serious as the other threats. Ocean acidification turned out to be even less of an issue. Sea level rise a bit more. But the REAL issue in my view is not warming as such, but the impact of losing the ocean currents which bring oxygen to the oceans. When I talk about "euxinia," most people assume it couldn't be important, because no one has told them about it yet, but the best available evidence indicates we are on course to H2S coming out of the oceans enough to cause death of all humans on earth (and all other mammals larger than a mouse, possibly the mouse too). Given the politics in play today, and the difficulty of the problem, it is hard for me to visualize a possible path to survival.
I attach the twelve slides I delivered last month in Chile, which were very well received... but concluded with a brief mention of this problem. (Link to those slides is also posted at http://www.werbos.com/energy.html.) The two papers it cites, www.werbos.com/Atacama.pdf and www.werbos.com/E/GridIOT.pdf, give more details. The latter is fully citeable as well as available on the internet. The latter also includes some web citations you might find interesting, such as the Senate hearing which was supposed to be THEIR best assessment of global threats.
Misuse of nuclear technology is also on my list of 3 to 5 main topics. For three years, I was actually coordinator of the interagency research initiative looking for new ways to cope with nuclear terrorism and proliferation. A couple of years ago, I spoke at a NATO workshop on those challenges, and contributed a chapter to the (published, citeable) NATO book on that topic, which I reposted at www.werbos.com/NATO_terrorism.
The core problems are actually cultural in nature. In principle, I can imagine a viable/sustainable end state but the obstacles to moving forward in today's environment really overwhelm me right now.
Nuclear war is certainly not the ONLY possible final executioner in this region of state space.
global disease pandemic
I have a neighbor who would add misuse of biotech in all its forms to the list of 3-5. Global disease, either natural or dleiberate or a mix, is a major part of that, but not one of my specialities.
cyber-attack on electricity grids
Actually, I do not view this as one of the final executioners. If a cyberblitzkrieg or a massive EMP event shuts down half the generators or big transformers in the US, it might bring the country back to the Stone Age as a whole series of dominoes start to fall. (Sandia has at times studied such "system of systems" effects.) Few people appreciate how much the global food supply now depends on technology, not only for fertilizers but for seeds.
(The heard of ARPAE used to recommend we all read "The Alchemy of Air.") But massive famine in US and other countries and nuclear war are easily entangled.
Two of the papers I just cited (NATO and GridIOT) give a brief but specific discussion of the NEW cyberthreat, which hardly anyone seems to know about despite all the ignorant hoopla out there. Like climate change, I suppose, where many say it's important but few know what it is. I also attach a DRAFT IEEEUSA position paper on urgent action needed for cybersecurity, but until May 30 I have no idea whether it will be approved. Whenever I try to save people's butts, there are smug lobby groups who try to prevent anyone from rocking their leaky little boat. I often think back to life guard class, where the first lesson was "Be prepared for the person you are trying to save to thrash and try to drown you first."
large-scale radiation exposure from a nuclear power accident
Formally, I would fit this under misuse of nuclear technology, but again I don 't see it as a direct executioner. ONE more Chernobyl probably wouldn't do it. But a whole series might well have political and ecological impacts enough to kill us all, all entangled into the nuclear item.
(that is, I would leave at "famines" as I don't see it as an independent risk, but rather, as a consequence of one or more of the above).
I do not see famine as final executioner either, but more as a pathway to a final executioner like nuclear war. But then again, famine might be what kills off the last few humans. In the H2S scenario, the loss of all food animals MIGHT be a kind of final executioner, but I tend to expect that radiation would kill us all first.
Besides those three, one or two other items would make it to my final list.
I often pick the (VERY serious) Terminator scenario as one of the two. Frankly, I have more formal academic credentials in that area than in the others -- basically forty years versus one to three. But perhaps "misuse of IT" is a better way to describe it; the Internet of things (IOT) is the focus, more than one or two thousand or million or billion little robots under its control.
Misuse of brain-computer interface is also on the list.