New feature: Polls!

This is a new feature here at TOD. Go below the fold to test it out.

Update [2005-9-22 11:43:20 by Admin]: I realize there's a weird "comments" link when you view the results. It shouldn't be there. You can comment on the poll by leaving comments on the story.

Go ahead and vote!
The poll is somewhat unclear.

I think the greatest threat to MODERN society is Peak Oil (or Nuclear War), but global warming is a greater threat to humankind (and all species on Earth)

we need a poll to bet on where rita makes landfall and what category and at what speed
You can bet on where hurricanes will make landfall, and make (or lose) real money at it, at the University of Miami's Hurricane Futures Market. Surprisingly, the market shows a 20% chance of Rita hitting east of Baton Rouge, LA. This suggests an expectation of further northward/eastward movement.
I think that the world situation with avian flu is analogous to New Orleans' situation with hurricanes pre-Katrina.  We all know that we are overdue for a significant event, and features of our current society now make us more vulnerable than before (we are much more mobile now than in 1918.)
A virulent avian flu with a high mortality rate probably trumps Peak Oil or global warming. The abrupt removal of 5% of the population would definitely qualify as "demand destruction".
I see nuclear war was not a common choice, but wouldn't the destruction of infrastructure, nuclear winter and lingering radiation do in modern society a lot quicker than climate change or peak oil?  Wind might work, but one can't resort to solar alternatives in a nuclear winter.  
Probably the most likely nuclear war scenarios in the near future would be regional wars, between India and Pakistan, or between Israel and Iran. You'd probably have an exchange of two bombs and then everyone would back off in horror. It needn't have enormous global impact.
actually i see the US pre-emting a nuclear war.  bringing the pain to iran and the middle east.  Cheney has already said that if a terrorists attack on american soil again, the US will preemtively nuke iran.  it will either put the fear of god in everyone else because america has gone mad or it will trigger nuclear war when people start nuking all of US's allies, i.e. china nukes japan, NK nukes SK, Russia nukes the EU, iran and israel nukes each other.
That's what is most dangerous about an attack on Iran by the neocons. They know that because PO (no spare capacity left) an attack against Iran would mean worldwide recession (if not worse), so the only way to avoid it (and a war scalation) is to end it quickly. So they might actually use nukes!. Of course they wouldn't nuke Teheran, but would put to use those "harmless" tactical nuclear bombs and nuclear bunker-busters.

But THAT would be the greatest challenge we face. Because once  you assume that nukes, no matter how "small", are an acceptable way of waging war, there is no saying what will happen.

Let's hope that two catastrophic hurricanes make it impossible  to start more invasions.

I looked at Wikipedia and it seems that 300 megatons would be enough to start a mild nuclear winter.  I also found this story that I hadn't heard before:

"What would happen in the United States and other nations if there was a distant nuclear war or nuclear winter was triggered deliberately [see Box - How it Might Happen]? A preliminary analysis of USDA data indicates that stocks of food in pantries and supermarkets could feed U.S. residents for about 30 days, and stocks in warehouses another 60-90 days. After that, they would have to live on feed stocks, which might last a year with tight rationing. Such feed stocks are not well distributed, and converting them to human consumption would present processing problems. Other nations would be in much worse shape. FAO estimates world food reserves at about 33 days now."


"An experimental test of the nuclear winter hypothesis nearly happened in 1971. At a diplomatic reception in Moscow, a Soviet diplomat approached an American diplomat and asked him "Would the United States stand by if we launch a nuclear attack on China?" The American immediately said, "No, we most certainly would not stand by!" The Russian was a little taken aback by this immediate and emphatic reply, and said "Perhaps you should check with your superiors on this." The American said, "I will, but I know what their answer will be!"

"The purpose of the Russian's question was to remove the ambiguity that arose after the split between the Soviet Union and the Peoples' Republic of China as to whether the U.S. nuclear umbrella, which protected all countries not in the Soviet camp, now extended to protect China. By his reply, the American said that it did. The Soviet Union was then in an advanced stage of preparation for a nuclear attack on China's military and industrial facilities, which would also have caused the death of at least 300 million Chinese. A few weeks later, a higher-level Russian official asked the same question of a higher-level American official and got the same answer. Finally, Leonid Breshnev asked the same question of Henry Kissinger. He got the same answer, and decided not to go through with it. Shortly thereafter, the Chinese found out how the U.S. saved them from nuclear attack, and on April 6, 1971, they invited the U.S. ping-pong team to Peking. The rest is history."

"This was probably the closest the world has come to a nuclear war since 1945, and it would not have involved nuclear detonations on the territory of the U.S. or its allies. The yield of the detonations would likely have exceeded 300 megatons, which would have been sufficient to cause at least a mild nuclear winter. However, we would not have been prepared at that time to study it properly."

Only Nixon can go to China, eh?

you can get a little different spin on this situation here.

summarizing, it looks like the soviet "threat" to china in this incident was a successful move in a war of nerves, part of a low-key soviet disinformation campaign designed to persuade the chinese back to negotiations.

Everyone who studies Israeli nuclear strategy knows about the "Samson Option." This is generally thought to be a last resort strategy wherein Israel's nuclear weapons are used not for prevention of war or even for war-waging, but simply as a last spasm of vengeance against a despised enemy state that had launched massive (probably unconventional) countercity and/or counterforce attacks against Israel. Faced with the "End of the Third Temple," Israel's leaders would decide that the Jewish State could not survive, but that it would only "die" together with its pertinent enemies.

israelinsider on israel's "samson option"

opinion varies on whether or not the samson option is israeli propaganda and/or scare tactics
the probability that israel now has subs with nuke strike capability adds a little bite to the samson option.
how about a new poll on what the first step policy makers need to take to get the country on the road of alternative fuels - transition away from petro-society.  we all know what the grand vision ought to be, but what is the first step.
I like that idea. Less apocophilia and more constructive ideas!