1) Electro-Magnetic Pulse
2) Climate Change
1) Electro-Magnetic Pulse. In 1859, a solar flare caused an EMP that drove our telegraph system crazy for three days.
Almost any small nation or NGO terrorist group could manage to buy a small to medium size atomic bomb or/and an ICBM missile, then launch it, setting it to explode just below where weather and GPS satellites orbit. An EMP as big as the one in 1859, whether due to a solar flare or a terrorist attack would, instantly knock out our electric grid and most of our communications infrastructure.
Stocking a lot of spare parts (we are behind on even normal maintenance) and protecting much of our electric and computer equipment with Faraday boxes (substantial aluminum housing placed all around the equipment itself) to carry an EMP, around the equipment to ground it and shield the equipment itself, would much improve our chances of being able to pick up the pieces and put things back together again before civilization dissolves.
2) Climate Change. At the rate our world-wide civilization with the United States as empire headquarters is spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, if we fail to pull up our socks and replace fossil fuel with renewable energy, we have about 1/6 chance of ending up with a climate as hot as dinosaurs had.
We ought not to play Russian roulette with world civilization. Everything that we need to fight catastrophic climate change is at least technically feasible:
- Liquid fuel for transportation, to give our "too-big-to-fail" oil firms enough alternative products (for them to justify their continued existence and their high profits) needs a lot more work to make it economically feasible.
- Carbon capture and storage good enough to actually clean up some of those greenhouse gas emissions is technically feasible. Global Thermostat does it on a small scale.
- Politically it MUST be done by big government because there is no way for big business to make a profit on it and it is way too big for private philanthropy to tackle.
- Wind is already cost-competitive with coal, especially if you count externalized costs.
- Solar is in its infant industry stage and making rapid progress. It is almost cost-competitive with natural gas for meeting peak demand in summer for air-conditioning.
- Utility size batteries are making progress and will be needed to make good use of enough wind and solar (our two most abundant and cheapest and unfortunately intermittent renewable energy sources) to meet between 80% and 90% of our electric power needs.
- Geothermal is in use in small amounts in the areas with the most easily accessible geothermal resources. I hope we can meet 10% to 20% of our electric power needs with geothermal but as we get down to the less easily accessible geothermal resources it will get more expensive.