Climate solutions

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The public debate about the reality of human-induced climate change is perhaps mostly interesting from a psychology point of view: How come some people embrace the wishful thinking and flakey arguments from small splinter groups and distrust the evidence-based conclusions from the vast majority of relevant scientists? I think that in many cases the answer is that they don’t like the perceived consequences. In other cases it’s a matter of thinking along familiar lines. And for some, it may be the attraction of being the underdog, which, in extreme cases, leads some to think of themselves as (supporting) the new Galileo. And yet others may have been fooled into thinking that there still is a real scientific debate about the big picture (with not a little help from the popular media). After all, without reading the primary literature or attending relevant conferences, how would you know who is right? 

The more relevant discussion for society is about how to deal with climate change. How do we act in the face of uncertainty, but with real risks of problematic consequences? “Skeptics” could make a very useful contribution to such a discussion, if they started thinking about how to deal with climate change while at the same time minimizing the perceived consequences they dislike so much (e.g. taxes and regulations).

Waiting until disaster strikes (as desired ‘proof’) before starting to deal with the problem, is not a rational option. If a doctor is 90% certain that you have a dangerous illness, you probably want to start treatment as soon as possible. Or would you wait with treatment until the doctor is 99% or 100% certain? The problem is, doctors and scientists are never 100% certain.

 

So what do we do?

 

I’ll be writing more about this question in the near future. Specific topics that I intend to discuss are geo-engineering (intentional engineering of the Earth’s climate), biomass, transport options (biomass/hydrogen/electric powered vehicles), and others. These are not all clear-cut ‘solutions’, and their suitability in dealing with the problem is vigorously debated, including in the scientific arena. Finally some real debate, rather than the fake stuff.

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4 Responses to “Climate solutions”

  1. Hans erren Says:

    In essence the climate forecasts (which are not really forecasts) have a too wide range to be of any use for policy. Mainsteam media wants us to believe that the worst case scenario is also the most likely scenario and that the problem is an initial value problem, which it isn’t its a boundary value problem so inm essence the problem of out grand children can be solved by our gerandchildren. However, the countries that could make any dent in future CO2 emissions (China and India) do not intend to do anything about it.

    So you might as well get used to it. And changing lightbulbs doesn’t help, Nuclear power helps, but is not acceptable as a solution.

    So there we are: even politicians who can do something won’t act, then why blame the man in the street for taking climate not seriously?

  2. Bart Says:

    Hans,

    There are different climate projections for different assumptions of future emissions (emission scenarios). Of course they yield different results. What is clear, however, is that a business as usual scenario (which is the most likely scenario if we don’t make conscious changes to our emissions) will eventually result in some very negative consequences for society.

    The direction of the change is clear; the uncertainty in the exact response is not much comfort.

    The longer we let emissions run their (increasing) course, the worse the consequences will be, and the more difficult and expensive it will be to eventually deal with them. So might as well start doing something about it now.

  3. Thorwald Westmaas Says:

    “Waiting until disaster strikes (as desired ‘proof’) before starting to deal with the problem, is not a rational option. If a doctor is 90% certain that you have a dangerous illness, you probably want to start treatment as soon as possible. ”

    You have your logic wrong. People – and politicians in particular – are under no pressure to deal with an imminent disaster. Problems related to climate change won’t happen in their backyard within the next 10-30 years so that’s way beyond their (re-election) horizon. Except for a few caring individuals, the masses don’t really care about some little island in the South Pacific lowering a few inches. These people have lived in paradise all their lives and now they have to move to another island – maybe in 20 years. Big deal. Welcome to reality.

    Add the fact that by nature, people don’t want to hear the bad news and prefer to listen to news that fits their preferences…. and finally, politicians will only act based on pressure from their constituents. No pressure, no action (unless it’s to increase taxes to continue to afford their livestyle).

    Cynical? Sure. Realistic? I think so.

  4. Bart Says:

    It sounds like you’re saying that not me, but the politicians have their logic wrong, but that I should accept that as a an unchangeable fact. I accept the former premise, but not the latter; that would be like seeing signs of an imminent fire, and rather than trying to stop it from spreading, just ignore it because your hopes of being able to fight it are too small, or because you don’t care about your neighbor’s house. The point it, the damage can always be reduced (even if not 100% prevented), and your house borders your neighbor’s. And of course, some people do care about their neighbors.

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