New Reported NASA Doomsday Scenario - Real or a Hoax?

Len Rosen's picture

March 17, 2014 - In today's UK Huffington Post the following headline appears - Civilisation Is Doomed Warns Safa Motesharri's Nasa-Funded Study. The author is mathematician, Safa Motesharri, who applies what is described as a "highly simplified model" to predict the future path of modern industrial society. This model, called the Human and Nature DYnamical (HANDY) purportedly looks at population, climate change, freshwater, agriculture, energy and other factors to predict the outcome of our civilization.

Guess what?

We are doomed just like the Roman Empire, the Han of China, the Harappa of the Indus River, the Anasazi of the American southwest, the Mauryan and Gupta Empires and so many more. The conclusions are drawn from current over consumption, limited carrying capacity of the planet, increased socioeconomic stratification and many other factors.

What's very interesting is I have yet to actually find the original paper supposedly published in the journal, Ecological Economics. Yet I have found lots of media outlets like the Huffington Post, and numerous bloggers writing about it.

I haven't found any NASA reference to the HANDY model upon which the study is based. Nor have I found any reference to the author either at the Goddard Space Flight Center, supposedly a sponsor, or at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center associated with the author.

I am certain that there are many mathematical models in existence that produce a Malthusian forecast for our civilization. But what disturbs me about this most recent headline is how quickly information has received widespread coverage. Check the links on all the sites that have reported the story and not one goes to the source document from which the information is supposedly derived.

Now there is enough valid science out there pointing to the human requirement to address climate change without invention. So all I ask is if I'm wrong then set me straight. I've written the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center to confirm if Mr. Motesharri actually exists. A Google search to find him comes up empty. I have also written to Elsevier, publishers of Ecological Economics to see if indeed they have published a paper authored by Mr. Motesharri whose name doesn't come up when you search their site. I'll let you know what I discover but in the meantime if any of you are sleuths and want to do your own digging, please let me know the results.

 

The End

Comments

You can check out the paper

HANDY found?

Doomsday Scenario Based on Real Paper

An Addendum to this posting:

One of my readers, Tim Eaton, has kindly forwarded the link to the paper authored by Safa Motesharri, Jorge Rivas and Eugenia Kalnay.

The link is http://www.atmos.umd.edu/~ekalnay/pubs/handy-paper-for-submission-2.pdf.

The HANDY model is well described based on an enhanced version of the predator-prey, feast and famine cyclical model we can document in the world of nature.

Total population is divided into the masses and elites.

Natural resources are nonrenewable, regenerative,and continuously renewable.Technological advances are factored into the model as well. Even accumulated wealth is considered.

Applying all these variables the model comes up with a sustainable equilibrium for the carrying capacity of the planet. The results that most reflect our existing world are defined as those from an unequal society in which elites consume too much (think the Developed World) and commoners (the Developing World) are unable to sustain their societies.

In this model “business as usual” occurs among the elite despite impending catastrophe. It is this scenario that is used to explain the collapse of past civilizations and seen as a forecast for our own to decline at some point in the future.

more HANDY

Probably not a hoax, then

Here's the link to a published November draft of the paper:

http://www.atmos.umd.edu/~ekalnay/pubs/handy-paper-for-submission-2.pdf

No such luck

I was watching this news story spread and from the get go was skeptical. when you google search this Safa Motesharri, theres almost nothing. And if its a NASA backed study, why does his name bring up NOTHING on the NASA website?

I've had no luck tracking down any original source.

Wrote a few emails to news outlets to see if they had fact checked, have heard nothing back (not unexpected :P)

The mathematical model called HANDY exists and there is a paper

Go to my blog site at http://www.21stcentech.com/headlines-nasa-doomsday-scenario-real-hoax/ where I have provided an addendum with a link.

Dead End

Sorry Len, your link is a dead end, as are all of the others I have tried to follow so far. Curiouser and curiouser.

None of the PDF's work

I get the same thing--every link provides a 404 Error.

No such luck

I was watching this news story spread and from the get go was skeptical. when you google search this Safa Motesharri, theres almost nothing. And if its a NASA backed study, why does his name bring up NOTHING on the NASA website?

I've had no luck tracking down any original source.

Wrote a few emails to news outlets to see if they had fact checked, have heard nothing back (not unexpected :P)

doomsday

handy-paper-for-submission-2.pdf

I believe this is the link

I believe this is the link you are searching for : http://www.atmos.umd.edu/~ekalnay/pubs/handy-paper-for-submission-2.pdf

This is from 2012 though.

Just found his profile

Just found his profile http://www.sesync.org/users/smotesharrei

The HANDY model seems to have no publication history and now it makes sense, it is his model, something the media has not revealed.

Trying to find a preprint of this publication now.

Additional Information

Found the following through Google searches:

http://www.atmos.umd.edu/~ekalnay/pubs/handy-paper-for-submission-2.pdf
"A Minimal Model for Human and Nature Interaction"
"8 Acknowledgements...
This work was partially funded through NASA/GSFC grant NNX12AD03A, known as “Col- laborative Earth System Science Research Between NASA/GSFC and UMCP”."

http://www.atmos.umd.edu/~ekalnay/#aosc_based
"Prior to her coming to UMD, Eugenia Kalnay was Branch Head at NASA Goddard, and later the Director of the Environmental Modeling Center (EMC, ex Development Division) of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP, ex NMC), National Weather Service (NWS) from 1987 to 1997."..."Recent students' work include... Safa Motesharrei (Population and Climate Change)..."

http://www-math.umd.edu/people/graduate-students.html
Motesharrei, Safa
Graduate Student
4100 CSS
ssm@umd.edu

Author's page

Found the following through

Found the following through Google searches:

http://www.atmos.umd.edu/~ekalnay/pubs/handy-paper-for-submission-2.pdf
"A Minimal Model for Human and Nature Interaction"
"8 Acknowledgements...
This work was partially funded through NASA/GSFC grant NNX12AD03A, known as “Col- laborative Earth System Science Research Between NASA/GSFC and UMCP”."

http://www.atmos.umd.edu/~ekalnay/#aosc_based
"Prior to her coming to UMD, Eugenia Kalnay was Branch Head at NASA Goddard, and later the Director of the Environmental Modeling Center (EMC, ex Development Division) of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP, ex NMC), National Weather Service (NWS) from 1987 to 1997."..."Recent students' work include... Safa Motesharrei (Population and Climate Change)..."

http://www-math.umd.edu/people/graduate-students.html
Motesharrei, Safa
Graduate Student
4100 CSS
ssm@umd.edu

I've been ressearching same as you, no luck

Funny, I ran across your post doing the same due diligence research you are doing. I too cannot find any reference to the original paper or report, either. I emailed Dr. Ahmed on Friday about this - the Guardian journalist who appears to be the source for all of the subsequent articles - but have yet to hear from him. I'll let you know if I find anything out.

The researcher's name is

The researcher's name is actually Sasha Motesharrei, but his last name has been widely misspelled as Motesharri. Here is a link to his page at the University of Maryland's National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), which also confirms his affiliation with NASA: http://www.sesync.org/users/smotesharrei

And the study in question

And the study in question isn't available because it hasn't actually been published yet. It's due for publication in early April.

scientist

I think the Guardian's article is quite well documented, if it's a hoax, they would be part of it.
As for evidence, here is the mathematician's page on sesync website : http://www.sesync.org/users/smotesharrei

some info

I was also puzzled by the absence of the paper in the Elsevier's Ecological Economics journal (and that's how I stumbled upon your blog, too).
There is no sign of this study in recent papers in that journal. But in the most fresh forthcoming May issue the newest article is "Accepted 16 February", so there is still possible that this all is an "advertisement" of the real paper that will yet come online.
However, the authors and the model exist. I did not find a "proper" peer-reviewed publication yet, but it should cover more-less this, I guess:

http://www.atmos.umd.edu/~ekalnay/pubs/handy-paper-for-submission-2.pdf
http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp/096/050/ecp14096050.pdf

Doomsday Scenario Based on Real Paper

Thank you for the sleuthing. I have updated my original blog posting to include an addendum with links to the paper. See: http://www.21stcentech.com/headlines-nasa-doomsday-scenario-real-hoax/

In light of the doomsday scenario presented in the paper

Back in June 2012 I wrote a piece on 21st Century Tech blog describing our ecological footprint on the planet. At that time I did a calculation of the carrying capacity of the planet based on the amount of land under cultivation and the total amount of natural crops, fish and fowl available to we humans.

Without wastage and based on maximizing yields we could produce 2,000 calories a day from the 38,488,090 square kilometers of arable land on the globe and come up with a figure of almost 66 billion. In my article I noted that we would probably all be eating a pretty restrictive diet to ensure everyone got fed.

It was an interesting mathematical exercise. You can check out the piece at http://www.21stcentech.com/human-population-update-carrying-capacity-pla...

The guys a student and the

The guys a student and the paper is a load of junk.It has been puzzling to see so many in various comment sections referring to the elite as the "one percent" (any one richer than they are) and demanding something be done to cut down their consumption.

To stupid to understand the paper is referring to them and not just the millionaires among society, it is depressing how immature society actually is, a paper of this nature regurgitated in media outlet after media outlet, telling the world its the world is NASA its self and transformed into a class warfare issue..

Journalistic sensationalism

So to summarise: this HANDY model is developed by a PhD student, a clever guy with a solid scientific background and the beneficiary of some high profile scolarships (including one from NASA). Based on the information available, the paper describing the model may or may not be about to be published in a peer reviewed journal, and the author has little to none track record of previous publications; not that this diminishes his academic worth, he's still a PhD candidate after all, and he certainly seems to have very respectable credentials.

But how did we get from an interesting paper by a clever post grad researcher to headlines like "NASA Funded Study Dooms Us All To Oblivion"? If I were to hazard a guess, I'd imagine that somehow an abstract of the paper caught the eye of a doomsday oriented blogger, who wrote a somewhat (or very) embellished piece, perhaps filling some gaps with their imagination; then this story got picked up and further embellished by other bloggers. Then some daft journalist (of which I'm sorry to say we're in no shortage of) might have used these blogs as sources, and sprinkled a little extra journalistic tone on a poorly researched story without toning down the sensationalism (perhaps, if anything, they would have amplified it).

The idea of the model seems worthwhile and I do hope this paper is published: I understand the need for the scientific community's voice to be heard on these matters, which are too often disregarded by the short-sightedness of the world's political elite. I also understand that sometimes the scientific community needs to deploy some scare tactics in order to be taken seriously, because too often the level headed voice of reason is a weak player when it comes to policy making.

What I have a problem with is such an internet rumor mill of doomsday paranoia being so easily engaged, and even more so with the fact that supposedly reputable papers like the Guardian or HuffPost UK will pick up a story like this without the proper journalistic conduct. I believe this to be a significant problem because this kind of silly reporting is liable to undermine the credibility of what appears to be a legitimate study. After all, I arrived to this page because of my disbelief of a related piece I saw on facebook.

Found the Supervising Professor's website

The professor overseeing the project is Eugenia Kalnay, quite an astonishing scientist!

The HANDY paper is marked as "in press" at this address

http://www.atmos.umd.edu/~ekalnay/#publications_based

HANDY, Ecological Economics (in press), HANDY Paper

But the paper is not available at the pdf link. It'd be interesting to know whether they took it down following the weird reporting that we have seen... I'm sure they want media attention, but I am also pretty sure they'd want it to be accurate.

And Here It Is

Thanks to Redde Rationem this report has finally come to light, and yes it does contain a NASA/Goddard support reference. Thank goodness for that.

Here, and I have downloaded it so it can't go away again: http://www.atmos.umd.edu/~ekalnay/pubs/2014-03-18-handy1-paper-draft-saf...

I must admit I didn't read

I must admit I didn't read all the replies, but for those of you having trouble with the atmos link, here's the paper. The host is a newspaper from Barcelona, and it worked for me while the atmos one didn't.

http://www.ara.cat/societat/handy-paper-for-submission2_ARAFIL20140317_0...

PD: In my opinion the paper looks way too simplistic and while I don't dare doubt it's theoretical value (I don't know much about eco economics being only an engineering student), I don't really see so clearly the implications the media is going crazy about.

Hope it was helpful!

Sesync statement

Sesync has issued a statement about this paper on their website.

http://www.sesync.org/news/handy-ecological-economics

Motesharei, Motesharri,

Motesharei, Motesharri, Motesharrei are all Iranian. What a freaking surprise that an Iranian guy espouses Russian Communism. Give me a break.

Motesharei, Motesharri,

Motesharei, Motesharri, Motesharrei are all Iranian. What a freaking surprise that an Iranian guy espouses Russian Communism. Give me a break.

Safa's Iranian. Naturally he

Safa's Iranian. Naturally he espouses communism. NASA has nothing to do with it.

Link to the paper from where i have downloaded it

Go to http://www.sesync.org/sites/default/files/resources/motesharrei-rivais-k...
The authors of the paper are:
1.Safa Motesharrei (University of Maryland)
2. Jorge Rivas ( University of Minesota)
3. Eugenia Kalney (University of Maryland)
The Title of the paper is:
Human and Natureza Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies
Go there and read by yourself.