Tuesday, January 07, 2014

I'm Afraid

I'm worried that, over the next ten years, twenty almost certainly, we will discover just how resilient or fragile our society is in the face of climate change impacts.

How are we going to adapt to extreme variations in our seasonal weather?  How do we deal with persistent, severe drought and flood cycles?  How do we accommodate Spring in February one year and the Polar Vortex the next?  How will we patch up and reinforce our essential infrastructure?  How do we keep our agriculture intact?  What will we do if the crop failures that have cycled through the U.S., Russia and Australia by turns hit everywhere all at once?  What's our backup plan if, as some scientists recently warned, that happens?

Maybe if we're really lucky and really diligent and supremely thoughtful we'll find ways to adapt and ways to arrest climate change or at least keep it from getting worse than it has to be.  Maybe we'll do everything right and still find out we left it too late.  Maybe we'll just get selfish and greedy and consign our grandkids to a hell on earth.

What makes me most fearful is that I'm asking these questions of myself.  We're not asking them together, collectively.  We're not have a national conversation about these questions.  We're not seeking consensus solutions.  What are we - you, me, our leaders - so afraid of, the questions or is it the answers? 


Boris said...

Actually MoS, this is what I do for a living and there a thousands of other scientists of every stripe, and even a few governments tackling these very questions. Work IS being done. Not nearly enough mind you, but there are seeds all over the world. Adaptation is THE question these days.

If you can get to France, for example you can see where things are: http://www.resilience2014.org/

Unknown said...


I am in the camp that says we need to become resilient and on a societal level adapt to the change is unavoidable. That does not mean that I am hopeful that we can reverse the effects of climate change, but the probability is low for a meaningful reversal.

I am most optimistic about how China is responding to and will continue to respond to climate change. Specifically the massive implementation of solar PV and other renewable energy sources they are pursuing is astounding. Better batteries are coming as well which addresses the challenges with intermittency for solar and wind power.

I am also aware of a biofuel process that is coming that will be carbon neutral, uses garbage as feedstock, while costing less than gasoline to produce. I see this as a bridging tech until we have sufficient solar and battery tech in place. I am also aware of another clean electricity generation tech that is more speculative but would be a global game changer.

Even if all of these come through, we need to focus on resiliency and adaptation as well. A big part of that is voluntary and dramatic reduction of our resource and energy consumption. If we don't figure out how to do it voluntarily, we will be forced into the change by scarcity.

BTW, your blog is one of my Must Reads. Thanks!

Where's Waldo

Dana said...

Boris might remember that as far back as 2007 I was telling younger people who asked that they would do well to move to a remote location with a fast running fresh water supply and start clearing and building toward well armed and fortified self-sufficiency.

Not too late to start.

If humanity is going to survive it's not going to be in big cities and it's not going to be at the hands of people who think food is is something one finds in plastic.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, Boris. I do try to follow what science is doing regarding adaptation and renewable power generation but, as you point out, it's not nearly enough. There must be a consensus, between those who govern and those they govern, to action.

Let's say the experts are correct and Canada needs to invest upwards of a trillion dollars in infrastructure repairs and upgrades to meet climate change impacts. That would be a hundred billion a year for ten years. Where do we find the will to do that when we won't even openly discuss it?

@ Waldo. Hi. I'm keeping up on alternative energies. Here in western North America, for example, we have 160,000 sq. kms. of beetle-infested, dead forests that would be ideal for pyrolysis. We also have good potential for tidal and geo-thermal energy. Yet the fossil fuelers hold sway, both out here and in Ottawa. Our prime minister is their poster boy.

Dana, you may be right. That's the thing, we don't know how far along we are. We can't tell yet whether we've crossed any of the several tipping points that trigger runaway global warming, such as the release or Arctic methane. It might be akin to huddling around our laptops in first class designing the ultimate parachute while the wing gradually detaches from the fuselage. So long as this national conversation is discouraged, we'll never know.

Hugh said...

In BC we already have lots of clean, renewable energy, from BC Hydro. I think it would be a matter of downsizing, to get away from fossil fuels and try to
live more within the energy capacity of BC Hydro.

This illustrates the enormous value of BC Hydro, with its huge reservoirs and infrastructure already in place.

Still called a Crown Corp, BCH has been buggered up by quasi-privatization. It's now deep in debt.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hugh, our British Columbia has no end of alternative energy options. We have abundant geo-thermal resources and the entire inside passage north of Campbell River would be suitable for tidal/current generation. We have some 16,000 sq.kms. of beetle infestation forest waiting to be transformed into biomass energy. On and on. Our challenge is to amass the political will to compel change.