Sunday, June 15, 2008

Climate change ideologies are becoming a chorus...

Whether more folks are embracing the belief that climate change poses a problem or simply an opportunity to make a buck, there are vague factions emerging from the voices of debate.

One is the "technology will save us" group. These strike me as hoping against evidence they won't have to change much of their consumption and living standards because and ingenious "something" will neatly reverse alarming trends. While this faith in applied science and human ingenuity is certainly inspiring, it is also a risky approach.

As indicators accelerate, there could develop in such adherents a tendency to seriously consider some pretty flaky "solutions". I think we're starting to see them emerge.
Scientist Tim Flannery has proposed a radical solution to climate change which may change the colour of the sky.

But he says it may be necessary, as the "last barrier to climate collapse."

Professor Flannery says climate change is happening so quickly that mankind may need to pump sulphur into the atmosphere to survive.

Australia's best-known expert on global warming has updated his climate forecast for the world - and it's much worse than he thought just three years ago.

He has called for a radical suite of emergency measures to be put in place.

The gas sulphur could be inserted into the earth's stratosphere to keep out the sun's rays and slow global warming, a process called global dimming.

"It would change the colour of the sky," Prof Flannery told AAP. [More]
Another choice is to adapt to the new climate - which if you think about it is what we will all do to some degree in the end, I suppose. To accomplish that, however, may mean reversing our thinking on things like cities, farming and cars.
To many Americans, ecological nirvana is a bucolic existence surrounded by wilderness. But the Thoreauvian desire for more elbow room has led to sprawl, malls, and cougar attacks. The edge-city upshot is a national cadre of 3.5 million "extreme commuters," who spend more than three hours a day in transit, many of them spewing carbon dioxide between exurb home and city office. Automobile exhaust in the US contributes roughly 1.9 billion tons a year to the global carbon cloud, more than the emissions of India, Japan, or Russia. Even worse are the 40 million lawn mowers used to tame the suburban backcountry: Each spews 11 cars' worth of pollutants per hour. [More]
One thing is certain: we are accumulating more data every second, and therefore these positions need to be fluid to accommodate new data and hitherto undiscovered causes. But as I have written our current personal ethic of stubbornness as proof of moral courage and intellectual honesty will complicate this evolution.

The result is a few of us will be somewhat right about the future, many of us will be wrong, and the vast majority will try every excuse to resist joining any camp until the winners are evident. This reluctance to try to participate seems to me to be a serious impediment to any solution, leading me to lean toward the adaptation camp.

Currently, that means preparing for very expensive energy, whether due to supply and demand or regulation. More important for farmers, I think we will shoulder much more of the costs of maintaining our standard of living, as opposed to the rest of the country picking up the tab. I can see our farms being off the grid, for example.

I know - that sounds pretty agrarian to me too. But the movement to rural America for quality of life may have peaked. At some point, the only folks in places like my township could be farmers, for a variety of economic reasons. And when that happens, subsidizing things like landline phones, electricity and paved roads will seem pretty expensive the the other taxpayers.

8 comments:

Ol James said...

Don't believe Mr. Flannery's solution will work..remember L.A. in the 70's??
I've done a mess of ciphering on the "Green" idea while sticking beans and weeding. You mentioned in a previous post about thinking globally. I have come to this conclusion..be it right or wrong. We, as individuals, may not have the power, influence or the money to change things on a global level, although we can be part of something that can. But if we can change our habits and be more open to adaptation than outright change we can leave the world better than before. The saying "Every little bit helps" can encompass countless ways. Walk a bit more, make fewer trips to town, every little bit helps, not only us but the planet.

someguy said...

John - I always enjoy your writing, usually admire your logic, and look forward to checking 'John's World'. Don't take my criticism of your comments on this particular topic fool you. I did want to respond on your thoughts on the climate change debate....(hey, isn't the debate over?). To be honest, it strikes me as a "Can't-we-all-just-get-along" type of logic.. forget about right or wrong, let's just comprimise. I can't help but thing about the recent news (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,364345,00.html) release by the World Health Organization that now admits a heterosexual AIDS epidemic isn't much of a threat after all. How many cajillions of dollars did we waste fighting this looming epidemic that wasn't really a threat, because of fake science and political reporting that was biased toward bashing those that wanted to respond to real science rather than the idealogical push to guilt the Republicans into 'doing the decent thing'. I see a strong parallel in the climate change debate(wasn't it a global warming debate before it was decided that risked making the proponents look silly?)in that your contention of "don't be stubborn in your position" sounds to me like "quit demanding proof before we spend more cajillions on an unproven theory that just happens to demand the kind of exponential growth of government control of our lives that the ones pushing it have already been wanting for many decades.

Anonymous said...

Couln't agree with someguy's post more. 32,000 scientists have signs a letter expressing their doubts about "global climate change"(used to be global warming but now it is climate change, guess we needed to move the goal posts), if it exists, and if it does, if there is anything man could do about it. Funny how the 32,000 scientists got absolutely NO major media coverage.

Most farmers in my area would welcome some warming now, get the corn growing.

John Phipps said...

someguy:

The demand for proof seems reasonable if we could afford all the outcomes that proof would show. As I have written about my my own evolving position, that level of proof will not be forthcoming in my lifetime, but I have chose which side to possibly be wrong on.

I dispute the AIDS claim - while true for the US, it is definitely not true for the millions more in Africa. And I compare the cajillions there to the hundreds of cajillions poorly spent in Iraq. Even then our economy still limps along, and those dollars made somebody some profit. We didn't just burn them up, you know. Could they have been used better? Of course, but that could be said about just every public dollar. We seem to have cajillions to spare. Interestingly, as a parent of a teenager at the time, one reason the AIDS threat was overhyped here was parents saw it as a way to scare kids from having unprotected sex (or any).

Are investments in lowering emissions money wasted? I doubt it, and more and more of our economy will be based on that trend. We're going to be investing our wealth in something - clean energy looks less risky to the future than many other choices.

As for government control, I fear the erosion of personal liberty in the name of overblown national security fears much more immediate and devastating.

anon:

The Oregon Institute is a colorful organization, and this petition is not new. Two points: note it says scientists - not climate scientists. How many scientists are there? Is 32,000 a lot?

Second, if you google a bit you'll find a random sampling of the names on the petition showed a pretty poor match with reality.

As I have said before, I base my position on some noted scientists and science writers, not my own expertise.

What is more interesting is watching political opposition to climate change action morph as folks from industry to evangelicalism slowly come on board.

I recognize the difference of opinion. But I still believe the preponderance of evidence supports a problem with man-made emissions.

Thanks for commenting.

Bob said...

John, I probably fall into the same thinking camp you do, but in the back of my mind I keep wondering, "could we just maybe, be screwing this up worse by NOT allowing the climate to change"?

Anonymous said...

This guy is a hammer head. If he is right why did we just spent lots of $ taking the sulfer out of diesel fuel.

John Phipps said...

All:

I think you comments point to a hopeful sign - a willingness to at least discuss just what the heck should we be doing about global problems of all kinds.

Please see my post later today about a reasonable way to approach Big Questions, and how you can participate.

TitanicExplorer said...

Sulfuric acid rain is a deathwish for life.(generally speaking) I suppose cockroaches and microbial life will sufficeintly evolve survival mechanisms. But the mega fauna are toast.

I have a half-acre with new fruit trees, I cut the grass with the old-fashoned push mover and its pesky spinning blade.

My daughter and I ride bikes and hike over to the local park. For vacation we are staying home and turning things off.

I wish I could stop buying plastic. When my crops start ripening, I will reduce trips to the store.

Reducing my carbon footprint has become an extreme sport.

John your response to the other comments was spot-on!

I tire of the gazillion dollars argument. 3 trillion for Iraq, and it ain't over.

They also said that manned mission to the moon was a waste until they were driving x-wing fighters...