So let’s go back to our discussion. Again, the point is not to change minds but to understand each other better. It turns out that many of us are in camps 4 and 5.
4. Humans are influencing the climate and we need to focus on reducing greenhouse gases, notably carbon and methane.
5. Humans are influencing the climate and if we don’t stop fossil fuels apocalyptic things will happen.
It is true that some folks here are not in 4 and 5. For the time, though, let’s leave that discussion. We don’t need to convince them, nor they us. As the English cleric and writer Charles Caleb Colton wrote: “The greatest friend of truth is Time, her greatest enemy is Prejudice, and her constant companion is Humility.” So we can leave them to their beliefs.. they may be correct but time will tell. It’s also possible that the way we propose to deal with decarbonization will have other advantages such that those folks may ultimately agree. For example, the way the authors of he 2009 Hartwell Paper framed the issue:
Therefore, in our view, the organising principle of our effort should be the raising up of human dignity and in that pursuit, our re-framed primary goals should be three:
1) to ensure that the basic needs, especially the energy demands, of the world’s growing population are adequately met. ‘Adequacy’ means energy that is simultaneously accessible, secure and low-cost.
2) to ensure that we develop in a manner that does not undermine the essential functioning of the Earth system, in recent years most commonly reflected in concerns about accumulating carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, but certainly not limited to that factor alone;
3) to ensure that our societies are adequately equipped to withstand the risks and dangers that come from all the vagaries of climate, whatever may be their cause.
So stand by, 1s,2s, and 3s, we may pick you back up somewhere along the way.
For now, I’d like to go back to 4s and 5s and look more deeply into where our different views could lead us in terms of efforts to decarbonize.
If I think about the differences between 4’s and 5’s, we all agree that decarbonizing is something that needs to be addressed. What we differ on (perhaps?) is urgency, what environmental, social justice, economic, national security trade-offs should be made, and what will work in physical reality. Then there’s scale, country or international. Should the US export more LNG to help other countries burn less coal? Should we tell Africa not to develop its resources? And there are so many values and scientific disciplines and practitioners involved in all the possibilities and trade-offs. This is a tough problem, because right now our world runs on fossil fuels- electricity, transport, chemicals and so on. We also know it’s difficult because states like California, and countries like Germany, have tried a bunch of things- some have worked better than others- and we have watched them struggle. If you follow Sammy Roth at the LA Times you can follow some of California’s twists and turns.
At the same time that states and countries are making efforts to decarbonize, the natural world (e.g., many aspects of wildfires); the human world (e.g., the War in the Ukraine); and interactions of both (e.g., the Covid pandemic) can change expectations and possibilities of any steps forward at any time. As does technological innovation for both mitigation (carbon capture, geothermal, small modular reactors, and so on) and for adaptation (wildfire suppression technology, CRISPR for plant breeding and so on).
So decarbonizing will be difficult in terms of new energy sources and building and buying new energy sources and physical infrastructure, it can’t physically happen as quickly as some might want, and care will have to be taken such that the transition doesn’t impose undue burdens on the non-wealthy/environmental justice/marginalized communities; AND we will have to be flexible as new information and natural, human and the interactions of those change through time. It seems like we should ask everyone to help row the boat. and we need to build a coalition that can maintain itself and be flexible through time and all kinds of internal and external trials. Including groups that want to hijack the issue to their own known or unknown ends. So what is the path to that coalition.. via old-fangled traits such as honesty, transparency, intentionally developing trust, and perhaps a healthy dose of humility?
So my question to 4s and 5s, do you see the situation the same way? If not, why not? And specifically for 5’s, do you think your view on the possibly apocalyptic nature of climate change affects your views on the above?
Thanks to all for your continued participation in this discussion.