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Homeland Security – The Scenarios List – July 2004

[DISS — Disaster, defined, measured and charted]
1: Nuclear Detonation – 10-Kiloton DISS~4
2: Biological Attack – Aerosol Anthrax DISS~4
3: Biological Disease – Pandemic Influenza DISS~5
4: Biological Attack – Plague DISS~4
5: Chemical Attack – Blister Agent DISS~2
6: Chemical Attack – Toxic Industrial Chemicals DISS~2
7: Chemical Attack – Nerve Agent DISS~4
8: Chemical Attack – Chlorine Tank Explosion DISS~4
9: Natural Disaster – Major Earthquake DISS~3
10: Natural Disaster – Major Hurricane DISS~3
11: Radiological Attack – Dispersal Devices DISS~2
12: Explosives Attack – Bombing Using IED DISS~2
13: Biological Attack – Food Contamination DISS~3
14: Biological Attack – Foreign Animal Disease DISS~0
15: Cyber Attack – Financial Infrastructure DISS~0

After the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center the United States got more serious about what came to be referred to as Homeland Security. It has been much publicized, and perhaps they do a lot of preparation, and training for the level of disasters listed above. However, the Lifehaven project isn’t concerned with any of these disasters because none of them have but the remotest possibility of annihilating humanity or agricultural life on Earth. It is possible that if it were believed that any of these things were precipitated by willful terrorist or national malice that it could precipitate a DISS~10 or worse response. But, the 15 scenarios on the list by themselves are not a profound danger to the survival of humanity. All of these estimates are very arbitrary, and intended only to give a working approximation, but a simple addition of the numbers published in the list above gives a total of “only” 294,000 fatalities. That number is every one of the terrorist attack methods being deployed one time which is unlikely. That is a lot of people being killed, but considering that since WW II there has only been one attack on US homeland, 9-11-01 Trade Towers we should divide by at least 60 to get a yearly threat rate. That calculation gives us 4,900 per rate per year which has only happened one time. By that measure the terrorists are way behind the Homeland Security rate. In fact the unrealized published terrorist rate is only one tenth of the automobile fatalities rate which is realized every year, year after year. So, I say again, these things are terrible, but they are not humanity threatening, and therefore are not of much concern for the Lifehaven Project. There are things which are an annihilating danger, but none of the items in the scenario list above are among them.

The Real Threats to Human Survival

Total Thermonuclear War North, and South Hemispheres – DISS~15 Everyone is gone.

Total Thermonuclear War mostly Northern Hemisphere – DISS~12-14 Only well prepared Southern Hemisphere, and Lifehaven inhabitants survive.

Major Thermonuclear War Northern Hemisphere – DISS~10-11 Moderately prepared Southern Hemisphere people survive.

Limited Thermonuclear War – DISS~9 All targets of 50,000 and more people are destroyed, and nuclear winter covers the Northern Hemisphere for a year.

Limited Thermonuclear War – DISS~8 A high percentage of combatant nations people killed, and food crops ruined for a year by dislocations, and haze.

A separate issue: Advanced bioweapons unleashed – DISS~1-15 It is impossible to know what can happen with carefully designed biology, but probably it would be self limiting by killing off its hosts before it was transmitted to everyone. Or, if it wasn’t quite so contagious, or virulent it probably wouldn’t kill off everyone, and would be self-contained, and adapted to by the host bodies. We have been fighting off biological invaders for a billion years, and have gotten pretty good at it, or we wouldn’t be here now.

Natural disasters of the magnitude necessary to annihilate humanity probably are even rarer than the 65 million year old event at Chicxulub. We humans have more methods of coping with that type of disaster than alligators or rodents, and they survived. So, it is unlikely that any natural event of any type experienced in the last half billion years is likely to kill all humans.

The stress factors which bring on the war.

The human population explosion is continuing right on past the carrying capacity of the planet. By my calculation the ability of Earth to easily digest CO2 was passed in about 1850, and its current ability is to sustain only 10-100 million modern high tech people’s pollution. The argument is rather like Thomas Malthus’s, which is still basically correct, we just haven’t reached the limit he proposed, but it has only been ten generations and we are now very close to his limits in terms of generation time. Probably one more doubling of population will bring on the collapse, and that is roughly a maximum of fifty years. Those figures are based on running out of food, and don’t take into account the ongoing destruction of the carrying capacity of the Earth which will bring it on even sooner.

A major crop failure of even one of the basic cereal foods. rice, wheat, or corn would bring on an immediate world wide famine. At first it might be spotty, but it would increase the price stress on everyone. This was recently shown when American farmers shifted a portion of their crop yield to the manufacture of ethanol for transportation usages. This brought about an instant mini-famine in Mexico among the poor people who eat a lot of corn based tortillas. But, if this disruption in corn supply is brought about by uncontrollable disease, or even by some unexpected economic disruptions, or some military, or terrorist conflict which prevented the easy shipping, there would be real famine somewhere and quickly.

Continuing climate change towards hotter, and more variable weather, and with that a change in what will grow in previous farming locations or which is planted, but is somehow killed off before it can be harvested by the unpredictable weather.

Water failure both from floods, and droughts will increase stress.

Land erosion decreases land availability for crops.

Destruction of the productivity of the irrigated land by the toxic mineral salts precipitated out by evaporation of the rain water percolated through mineral rich, and salty soil in the mountains, and then brought onto the farms where it evaporates. This process according to The Atlas Of World Population, has brought down several civilizations.

Oil price rise from various lacks will cause crop failures from lack of the ability of farmers to pay for the price of the creation of fertilizer or pay for the fuel to operate machinery necessary for cultivation.

What forecast indicators should we watch for?

Rising expectations of what is deserved, and a willingness to take it by force, is an indicator of world wide problems of supply.

When large groups of people start demanding, and then taking food from other groups of people by force it is a sure sign of serious trouble is about to crash in upon the entire system. The instability these actions will create will run the price of everything up rapidly, because all of the near infinite lines of supply will have to be protected. When this moves from difficult to impossible to accomplish then a collapse will ensue fairly quickly.

It is impossible to predict or possibly even post-dict the real causes of any specific war, because it will be a complex mix of many things, and ultimately it doesn’t matter much, because it could be any of them or some unusual combination of them or even just chance finally tipping something over some unseen edge into catastrophe. However, chance, and risk can be observed to some degree, and preparations can be made for their various possibilities based on their likelihood. Or, perhaps take the Black Swan approach, and develop ones robustness to cope with the unexpected. So ultimately preparing for a Chicxulub like event doesn’t make sense, but preparing for the possibility of rain on a cloudy day does make sense and preparing for transportation disruption may prove to be the most critical one which can be helped with planning.