What Actions Should Be Taken To Counter Global Warming and What Are The Consequences?

We have just had a warm dispute about Global Warming. We discussed whether or not mankind has lived through much worse global warming than the present, contradictions in data and interpretation of the data as well as the validity of man made global warming and projections of the same.

Many feel that we have sufficient science to dictate that there is a very strong urgency to do something right now and others think that there are too many contradictions and differences of opinion to leap before we have more science because of the unintended consequences of acting on bad data. So let’s leave further discussion of what is the truth and what isn’t to the post linked to in the first sentence of this post.

LET US NOW ASSUME THAT GLOBAL WARMING IS AN INCONTESTABLE SCIENTIFIC FACT AND THAT THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT IT IS DIRECTLY RELATED TO EMISSIONS OF CO2 AND OTHER GREENHOUSE GASSES. Let us assume that global temperatures will warm 4.8 degrees centigrade over the present with no action per the Copenhagen Accord. That is significantly higher than the previous high temperatures over the last 11,000 years in the Samarian and Iron ages. Let us also assume that the change will occur over a shorter time period due to the modern man made influences causing the change to be complete by 2100 as stated in the Copenhagen Accord.

LET US CONSIDER THE ACTIONS NECESSARY TO KEEP GLOBAL TEMPERATURES FROM CLIMBING ANY MORE THAN 2.0 degrees centigrade per the target in the Copenhagen Accord. LET US CONSIDER THE CONSEQUENCES OF THOSE ACTIONS.

Let’s consider things like:

Do we move people into large cities and revert to bicycles? Does that increase the spread of infectious diseases?

Are we going to permanently clear National Forest ridges on the Pacific coast and load those ridges up with wind farms to increase our sourcing from wind farms to a significant level from the current 4% supplied to the grid. There are already groups complaining about their placement in the desert and their impact on endangered species. What are the consequences?

Are we going to excavate large newly found rare mineral deposits in Minnesota (or wherever they are) that many are already lining up to oppose in order to make the large solar farms and battery storage necessary to produce more than the 0.2% percent that solar panels currently supply to the grid. Or are we going to continue to rely on China for those rare earth minerals. What are the consequences?

What industries do we cut out? What are the consequences? What do we do with those who won’t have a job?

How long can we print money before the world devalues our currency? There is plenty of talk about that already and when interest rates go up we will end up with our whole budget going to repay debt or devalue our own currency. Actions are already being taken to cut Social Security and Medicare. How are we going to add more people to the dole? Who is going to subsidize the scaling up of this new technology and remove all of the environmental impacts?

Do we really expect the 110 countries to keep these commitments made on the basis of a wing and a prayer? Are the commitments glibly made by politicians who want to look good. Is it kind of like “We’ll have to pass it to find out what’s in it”? If we don’t impose and control this on a global scale will our US improvements make any significant difference?

Are we going to control the exponential growth in population in order to avoid the exponential increase in co2 emissions. Talk about consequences – think death panels and Obama Care. Are we going to put a cap on how old people can be to get medicine or surgery? Some expectations are that population growth will slow but we have already gone from 2 billion to 7 billion in my 68 years on earth.

Methane Gas is the second most prevalent green house gas. Are we going to triple the price of milk by requiring that all bovines be equipped with leak proof methane gas capturing devices?

Please add to the list. Talk is cheap so we all can chip in. 🙂 I plead ignorance. I only have questions. Shouldn’t we be asking these questions?

Finally, who will have the say as to what is done and how it is done. Won’t any such efforts be even more controversial and ineffective than our current policies regarding the managing our national forests? If we can’t agree on the long term consequences of current forest and endangered species policies, how are we going to agree on policies to limit global warming and the consequences? Will legal and analysis paralysis combined with everyone demanding their way or the highway only hamstring good intentions by trying to manage by an all inclusive committee? Lives will be much more impacted by global warming control measures than they are by forest policy. Will we see all of the states break off from the nation to protect the interest of their people? Uncle Sam won’t be able to do anything to stop it – no war, no nothing just everyone withdrawing in mass. Will D.C. muster an army to keep all of the other states in line?

Do we really know enough to make all of these decisions ASAP as some insist we must? Let’s classify the proposed actions as to 1) Quick and Easy, 2) Obama Care Tough and 3) Dismembering the Union.

Does George Carlin ring true on anything? At least it is a sad laugh.

13 Comments

  1. With all these what ifs? and yeh buts? Gil asked, I’ll add one. One of the concerns about global warming I have heard is oceanic acidification. My question is this: Has anyone heard , read, have knowledge of a “desirable” ph range of acidity for the ocean?

  2. There is very little that realistically can be done to significantly slow or stabilize the addition of CO2 from human activities to the atmosphere. I like Bjorn Lomborg’s thinking:

    “Bjorn Lomborg argues that many of the elaborate and expensive actions now being considered to stop global warming will cost hundreds of billions of dollars, are often based on emotional rather than strictly scientific assumptions, and may very well have little impact on the world’s temperature for hundreds of years. Rather than starting with the most radical procedures, Lomborg argues that we should first focus our resources on more immediate concerns, such as fighting malaria and HIV/AIDS and assuring and maintaining a safe, fresh water supply-which can be addressed at a fraction of the cost and save millions of lives within our lifetime.”

    http://www.lomborg.com/cool_it

  3. The “throw your hands up and plead complete helplessness” argument is not particularly convincing. Particularly given that that argument plays directly into the hands of the corporations making billions of dollars on fossil fuels.

    By the way, safe fresh water supplies are climate-dependent. Snowpack and glacial ice are natural reservoirs and human civilization has become accustomed to those sources damping out extremes in runoff.

    • Travis

      Agree. But what have you heard that makes sense to you? What do you imagine? What are the consequences? How do we get around the problems of implementing the necessary actions? Who gets to say what is necessary? Without specifics, aren’t you doing the same as throwing up your hands and saying it’s too big for me and I’ll live with que será, será?

  4. The bottom line of the climate change squabble involves immediate major sacrifices for an amorphous, distant future outcome. The problem is, the causal links are not clear enough to most people to justify the up-front sacrifices being, um, demanded.
    The ozone thing had a direct cause and effect that, while expensive, had almost immediate results as the chlorofluorocarbon flows were stopped and the existing material was catalyzed into harmlessness.
    Until the scientists clear up all the confounding factors and come up with a viable way to provide me with the energy I like to consume to enjoy a modern way of life — I’m not interested.

  5. You fear the “unintended consequences of acting on” global warming before we have full knowledge.
    Then you list a series of speculative adverse consequences. If you choose to go down this road, to be fair, you also need to weigh and consider (A) the cost of delayed action, in case climate change is real, and (B) the myriad benefits of acting to address climate change (even assuming for the sake of argument we act “unnecessarily).

    (A) There are very substantial costs to delay. This is due to three factors: (1) the log residence time for CO2 in the atmosphere, and (2) the lag time between emissions and warming. We have already emitted a large fraction of cumulative limit of GHG that we can “safely” emit, in fact some argue persuasively that we are already past it, and (3) the fact that it takes time to develop and implement the technology and social institutions necessary to decarbonize our culture and economy. It can’t happen overnight, so if it turns out we need to each year of delay dramatically increases the severity of future GHG restrictions we are imposing on future generations. These costs are real and highly relevant to the decision whether to act now or later.

    (B) If we reduce fossil fuel use, we also reduce pollution and human misery throughout the fossil fuel production line from mining, refining, to SO2, ozone, to coal ash. We also reduce the political influence of some problem states in the community of nations.

    Similarly, If we increase biogenic carbon storage in forests, grasslands, etc. This will have many co-benefits, such as clean water, nutrient cycling, habitat, recreation, recreation, quality of life, biodiversity, recovery of endangered species, soil conservation, slope stability, etc.

  6. 2ndLaw

    I’m not in fear of anything. I just want to know what our options are? I don’t have The Answer as to how to achieve the objectives that we agree on. Yes, you heard that right, we agree on the objectives. In both science and policy we need to consider the good and the bad. Just as you say. But we have to move beyond vague generalities/objectives or people will still be trying to figure out where to start long after we are gone.

    Re: your item “B)”: You have suggested Broad Objectives and I agree with them. But now let’s try to come up with the specific actions that need to be taken to achieve our agreed to Objectives:

    — 1 – Reduction of Fossil Fuel Use – No disagreement from me.
    —> a) But back to my opening post, TO MOVE FORWARD ASAP, if you were king, WHAT SPECIFIC ACTIONS WOULD YOU IMPLEMENT? What are the consequences and how do we minimize those consequences?
    —> b) What items that I have enumerated in the opening post do you agree and disagree with? We don’t have to defend them. We just have to get them out on the table and discuss them and see if there is any commonality.
    —> c) If you can’t get specific, who do you trust (organization/person) to set up an action plan and implement it? We can’t manage this by some huge committee or it won’t ever get done. We can’t have every citizen taking it to court or it won’t ever get done.

    — 2 – Increased Biogenic Carbon Storage – This also is important and gets really tricky in that short term improvements can have net negative long term consequences – What do you think that increasing biogenic carbon storage requires and what will be the consequences:
    —> a) Should we eliminate all management across the board in our National Forests or all forests?
    —> b) Is management an option if reduction of catastrophic loss of carbon to beetles and fires can be reduced?
    —> c) Does recreation need to be managed to increase biogenic carbon?
    —> d) Is management for biodiversity acceptable if it decreases long term biogenic carbon storage over the long term?
    —> e) Does risk of catastrophic wildfires need to be reduced by management to maintain healthy soils, decrease soil erosion, maintain slope stability, maintain nutrient cycling and preserve endangered species?
    —> f) TO MOVE FORWARD ASAP, if you were king, WHAT SPECIFIC ACTIONS WOULD YOU IMPLEMENT?
    —> g) If you can’t get specific, who do you trust (organization/person) to set up an action plan and implement it? We can’t manage this by some huge committee or it won’t ever get done. We can’t have every citizen taking it to court or it won’t ever get done. There is no one answer, someone is going to have to play King Solomon when trade offs have to be made when it is determined that saving one thing will harm another.

  7. Gil… As to energy, folks are working on cheaper and better solar and wind all the time. They are working on making gas production environmentally better. Others are working on carbon capture.

    So from where I sit, in the Boulder-Golden corridor, the fight is over about “doing something about GHGs” . The technologists will win once they get the economics right (and they will), so folks can argue about the details and the timing, but the train has left the station.

    People still say “”we” aren’t doing anything about it” or “”we” aren’t doing enough”. That would be their argument to make, not mine.

    Then the question is “how will we respond to the change that is already happening”?
    Again, well meaning folks will have to figure it out, step by step, on the land with real plants and animals and invertebrates and viruses and fungi and water (and, dare I say, collaboration!) .

    As to general philosophy of climate policy, I am a Hartwellian http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/27939/1/HartwellPaper_English_version.pdf

  8. It might be interesting to ask the alleged “97%” what THEY are doing/will do to “offset” their carbon footprints and pollution profiles. Shouldn’t THEY be showing US how to sacrifice, “for the good of the planet”? If we, truthfully, calculated the carbon footprint of NASA’s Hansen, including the fact that every time he makes a statement, computer servers around the world hum at a higher amplitude, we’d see that he is churning out more GHG’s, on a global scale. Of course, he would claim those emissions weren’t his but, it is “cause and effect”, and he cannot deny responsibility. It’s ironic that his “doom-mongering” is actually adding to “climate change”, too.

  9. Thanks everyone

    It sure does seem that the only thing we have here is talk and agitation. Even Uncle Sam can’t get beyond platitudes. We end where we started – Talk is cheap. – Chicken Little Rules as long as people listen to him. Real science is the answer and we aren’t ready for prime time.

  10. Here is someone’s proposal: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-014-1127-y
    “The predicted and devastating impacts of climate change on biodiversity need to be incorporated into the risk calculus of renewable energy development in ways that they are not today. Even as the conservation community partners with the wind industry to minimize impacts of siting renewable energy, it will be necessary to accept some, and perhaps substantial uncertainty about the risk to wildlife populations if we are to limit the greater risks of global extinctions from unlimited climate change.”

    Of course to mitigate these increased effects on wildlife, it would also become important to reduce the magnitude of other human-caused risks.

    • “Of course to mitigate these increased effects on wildlife, it would also become important to reduce the magnitude of other human-caused risks.”

      Like, letting owl and goshawk nesting habitats burn at high intensity, pretending it is “natural and beneficial”?

      I wonder if some kind of ultrasonic sound “repellent” could keep birds away from wind power installations. Of course, some would label such a method as animal torture, or lament the bird’s lack of freedom to go anywhere they want. Hey, fences do the same thing for other animals.

      • I was over at Fairfield last week looking at a new wind installation and ran into this ologist doing a bird survey for baseline in the two-mile “box.” But the thought struck me, with all that juice, I wonder if some kind of electrical field to annoy and zap birds before they get swatted might be possible. Zap em, stun them, they hit the ground and stagger off to fly another day (and direction) rather than get pureed.

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