Climate change

Media are awash with hysterical (and not as in funny) misinterpretations of the recent IPCC report, all of them along the lines of "we have 12 years to save the world". I'm as concerned about climate change as anyone, but the apocalyptic bullshit over the latest IPCC report only discredits the real science. It's not saying anything like we have only 12 years to save the world.

I'm not saying climate change isn't real: it's the most serious problem we face (Trump and the global rise of the Right being the second-most serious). But claiming the latest IPCC report gives us only 12 years is pure bullshit. This kind of lying happens all the time: metres of ocean rise, cities underwater, mass starvation, rains of frogs (I made that last one up). All it does is fuel the climate change deniers by making the ecological movement look like idiots, hiding the real science.

What the IPCC report actually says is we have no hope of achieving only 1.5 degrees warming. To stay within 1.5 degrees of warming we would have to almost halve global CO2 emissions by about 2030 (not the stupidly precise "12 years"). That simply isn't going to happen, no matter how much eco-bleating. So let's get realistic and fix it.

Readers will know I seldom venture outside IT topics on this blog, unless something really riles me, and it helps if there are parallels to be drawn to our industry. Climate change is a culture problem not a technical one, but cultural attitudes to technology are making it worse, and just maybe technology will get us out of this one by getting results faster than culture change can.

Here's the problem: Even if we didn't have Trump and the climate deniers to deal with, the world's well-off (as in: people who own vehicles and appliances, and consume lots of energy) is tripling in size as we halve world poverty every decade. There is no way to halve emissions. Period. Trump and his cronies are leading the world... back to the past. The USA will continue to be world leader in carbon emissions as long as he's in power and he intends to be in power for a long time. So all the rising middle-classes in China, Vietnam, India, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt etc... will have justification for their own emissions. Most evolving economies have to go through a phase of using coal power: it's massive, fast, and cheap; before they can afford to switch to other sources. Alternative energy sources may or may not change this equation: they haven't yet, whatever the hype claims.

Sure alternative power sources are growing. But not fast enough. Every gain in reduced emissions is offset by new consumers, and then some. Culture takes decades to change (and add another decade thanks to Trump, May, and whatever the latest Aussie PM is called). The world won't switch power sources overnight. The current power-generation assets haven't paid for themselves yet, and they're massive investments with half-century lifetimes. People won't abide increased taxation to pay for new ones. And billions of new well-off want what the others have enjoyed. Even nukes will come too late to save us, thanks to the f***ing econutter antinuke hysteria which has set that industry back decades.

Meanwhile, the developed nations twiddle about with consumption conscience sops: recycling, banning plastic bags, LED lighting, Priuses, home solar... They are all ridiculous little feel-good gestures to let us pretend we are taking action while we wallow in energy.

That means we will go into climate crisis, it's unstoppable. Only large-scale geo-engineering will save us: altering atmospheric and oceanic albedo, CO2 sequestration, CO2 recycling. We cant stop the release of carbon in time, therefore we have to reduce the rate of warming. People are starting to tentatively say this, but they're afraid to do so too loudly because the eco-warriors will be all over them (and those people are dangerous: they get personal and threatening, they destroy careers). So again, like nukes, the tech may well come too late.

I'm not saying what should happen. I'm stating the blindingly obvious about what is happening, and what will have to happen. We must engineer our way out of this.

Syndicate content