Saturday, July 7, 2012

It's really hot today... does that mean anything?

One hot day, or even a hot decade, will never "prove" global warming. We can never have enough data points to perfectly model something as complex as the earth's climate. And even if the climate does dramatically change, and everyone is agreeing that it has- can your really prove that we did it?

By the time we reach the level of certainty as required by the skeptics, it will be too late. Science doesn't work that way.

But scientists need don't really understand people either. A huge portion of Americans still don't believe in evolution. And whether or not we "believe" in CO2 based global warming may not matter very much- we simply don't know any other way to live than dependent upon fossil fuels.

And then there is the game theory aspect to it. Unless you could get all countries to agree to cut emissions simultaneously, huge power changes will develop. If America decides to somehow cut fossil fuel use by 50% in 10 years, but China does not, China will rise in relative power. At least until the fossil fuels run out. (Peak oil is another matter... but one that I think will not happen in time to avoid major climate change).

Cutting emissions significantly was never going to happen. The cynic in me saw it all along, and people told me I was being negative. But if we look at nature, life changes the environment. Species use the resources at their disposal. That is why we have oxygen in the atmosphere- because plants changed the environment. Why should we think that a species as populous as human beings would be any different?

And if it isn't CO2, we will find another way to change the environment. Or, the environment will change on us, due to natural cycles of cooling and warming. We are just making things happen that much faster. We are spoiled, we are living in a sweet spot, and we don't even know it. But our civilization is adapted to the world as it is, it likes homeostasis. The people who argue that global warming is a good thing are being ridiculous. Yes, most people don't like cold weather. But if Siberia became the new bread basket of the world instead of America, a lot of people would starve.

I think that part of the solution, if humans are going to continue to inhabit the earth for a long time to come, has to be geoengineering. I know that is not a popular solution, especially among environmentalists. We could really mess this planet up. But if we do nothing, we will eventually wear this planet out, at least for our purposes. We will change the climate too much, or acidity of the oceans, or the oxygen content of the atmosphere, something.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to scale back our impact on the environment- we should. It will give us more time, and make the job easier. There will be less that we have to fix. But to think that voluntary changes in consumption, or even environmental regulations are going to save us, I think is naive. I think that the environmentalists are naive. The only thing that might "save" the environment is a total world-wide economic collapse, but that is not a popular message. Instead, the popular media gives us the message that we can buy our way out of this- just buy a Prius instead of a pickup truck, and use recycled printer paper, and you are "saving the environment".

We humans may have to save ourselves from ourselves. And I think it will eventually require geoengineering. Because it is easier to change a planet than to change global human civilization.

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