How can we save the world from climate change?
Summary: Today we continue our year-end speculations. Here we look at the steps necessary to save the world from the effects of CO2-caused climate change.
The often-hysterical tone of much commentary about shockwaves — low probability, high impact scenarios — makes me wonder about these people’s sincerity. How much of their comments reflect genuine fear, how much is entertainment? How many of the people warning of shockwaves do so for personal business interests, or perhaps because these build support for pubic policy measures they seek for other reasons?
Consider climate change. If the IPCC high-end forecasts are correct, only drastic cuts in humanity’s carbon emissions can prevent severe climate change. Many laypeople (ie, non-scientists) loudly proclaim their concern, often exaggerating the state of current research — focusing on that which feeds their fears, ignoring or denigrating that which does not.
The solutions commonly advocated fuel skepticism about their motives. High taxes (eg, carbon taxes) and a massive increase in government regulation of the economy — both long-standing goals of the Left.
Instead, let’s run the problem the other way. What measures would people advocate who are sincerely concerned about CO2-caused warming — and the resulting climate change? Let’s list the most obvious ones.
- Expansion of climate science research
- Nuclear Power
- Mitigation measures
(1) Expansion of climate science research
Right or wrong, a large fraction of the world’s people do not believe that global warming poses an imminent threat to them. As has been amply documented in the IPCC reports and elsewhere, there remains a large number of uncertainties about Earth’s past climate, climate dynamics, and forecasts of future climate. The obvious response is greater funding. Here are two areas of great need.
(a) The global climate surface measuring system is grossly inadequate. Even in the US, and the US has one of the best national networks. At the other extreme, coverage in Antarctica is sparse — and coverage of the Arctic Ocean is almost non-existent. The constellation of satellite-based sensors is inadequate and aging.
(b) To understand the present and predict the future we need reliable data from paleoclimatology studies. The proxy data for reconstruction of historical climate data is absurdly poorly funded, considering the importance of the data. Again multi-disciplinary teams are needed — with third party reviews of sampling techniques (to avoid cherry-picking of samples or proxies), interpretation (e.g., interpreting the underlying signal in terms of precipitation or temperature), and analysis (e.g., to avoid over-emphasis on certain geographical regions or samples). Note: these are only indirect measures of temperature.
Climate sciences suffer from lack of support by both warming alarmists and skeptics. That’s a sad response on both sides.
(2) Nuclear power
Conservation and renewables can replace some fossil fuels, but their ability to substantially do so remains speculative. There is only one ready-to-use alternative energy source: atomic power. While often implemented poorly (sometimes insanely), its practicality has been demonstrated. Large-scale replacement of fossil fuels with nukes would require broad programs.
- Development of unexploited uranium deposits.
- Development of new reactors: safer, more efficient.
- Research and development of alternative nuclear fuels, such as reprocessed spent uranium, or thorium.
- Expansion of nuclear industry: training of engineers and technicians, fuel refining-transporation-disposal, etc.
- Construction of reactors
- Electrification of transportation systems
Needless to say, warnings about climate change seldom lead to advocacy of the one known path to replace fossil fuel use. As advocates for atomic power they would find allies among those now foes, especially in the emerging nations (where climate change advocacy is often seen as “pulling up the ladder behind them”).
Why are nukes so seldom seen as part of the solution?
(3) Mitigation measures
Many of the likely results of increased warming can be mitigated, to some degree. The best-known of these is using well-proven methods to protect cities from storm surges (as NYC was so often warned about, but failed to do).
At the very least, the cost of reducing CO2 emissions should be compared with that of mitigating its effects. Large-scale research to answer this, not the back-of the-envelope individual efforts absurdly considered authoritative today.
Why do climate change advocates give these kind of mitigation methods so little attention,at least as methods to buy time?
For More Information
See all posts about these important topics at the FM Reference Pages:
Posts about shockwaves:
- There is no “peak water” crisis, 19 June 2008
- We are so vulnerable to so many things. What is the best response?, 30 December 2008
- About our certain doom from the Yellowstone supervolcano, 11 January 2008
- My nomination for a top priority shockwave, 19 January 2009
- A serious threat to us – a top priority shockwave – a hidden danger …, 20 January 2009
- What about all the hype, the extreme warnings, about swine flu?, 3 September 2009
- More about shockwaves of the volcanic kind, 21 April 2010
- How good are our global senses, watching our changing world?, 15 October 2010