What To Do About Climate Change?
Let's agree that the climate is changing, i.e., getting warmer at this juncture in history. Let's also agree that weather is far different than climate. Rather than arguing about whether the cause of climate change is man-made or whether changes in weather are evidence that the climate is changing, the fundamental issue is what, if anything, to do about it. I watched a popular YouTube video presentation recently that oversimplifies the issue (How else to get a nine-minute video done?), as does Al Gore, in his Inconvenient Truth video. Both presentations are unduly laced with catastrophe, probably to serve as a wake-up call.
Two primary paths have emerged for what to do about climate change:
1./ Reverse the warming. Commit to do everything we can to reduce the creation of greenhouse gases so that climate change will be lessened or reversed. The Kyoto Protocol was a failed attempt at this approach. Clinton and Bush were right for he U.S. not to join. Only a handful of countries that signed on to Kyoto are meeting their commitments. Other international attempts are underway to to better. Some in the Vermont Legislature and followers of Bill McKibben see this climate reversal as 'must do.' World Corporate sees a way to make big bucks. I believe the world has insufficient resources to reverse the warming.
2./ Agree that the planet is warming and the consequences are both beneficial and deleterious, depending on where you live. So, to ameliorate the negative consequences, spend our resources, energy and creativity on mitigating the bad outcomes. Many, including McKibben, sponsor a return to local community production of food and goods to reduce the economy's energy demand and change our consumptive lifestyle.
The conventional wisdom is that humankind probably is incapable of doing both simultaneously without a terrible cost to the economies and standards of living while the world population continues to increase. The cost/benefit scenario is devilish on this issue. And there is no assurance a change is possible.
I am at the moment mostly in the second camp, subject to change as new information arrives and is digested.
Conserving limited assets and preventing waste and undesirable byproducts seem to me both economically wise and could be beneficial to the environment/climate. We should not focus on obscure targets such as carbon footprints or create mysterious carbon taxes or believe that carbon offsets or trading carbon credits are some magic panacea that will reduce the average (whatever that may mean) global temperature. We have no evidence these outcomes are obtainable. Instead, we should live individually and communally as efficiently as we are able and use our best technologies to live a decent life and waste as little as possible.
The purpose of massive resource expenditures should be to minimize the negative effects of climate change on humanity, rather than devoting huge amounts to changing the climate. Let's set that as a rational goal. To think we have the ability to reverse climate change is unprovable and wishful at best. Any projections that I've seen, including Kyoto greenhouse gas targets, would take more than a century (three generations!) to have any substantial effect, certainly not reversal. I believe our energies and resources will have a better payoff by helping mankind be efficient and adjust to climate change, rather than pretending we can reverse it.
So, that's where I am at the moment. How we spend our resources while the climate changes is the fundamental question, not whether we do something...or nothing to change it. Fear-mongering is not helpful and weather is not climate.