Saturday, January 20, 2007

Adapt and die....

For some time now the pensive Rabett has pointed out that neither adaptation nor mitigation alone can meet the existential threat of climate change. While not of the sort that thinks life will vanish from the Earth, he sees a threat to our societies, and recognizes that when the burrow caves in a lot of bunnies go into the cooking pot. It is, as they say, a time of great unpleasantness.

Net noodling this morning Eli came across a 25 July article by Dave Roberts on Gristmill. Dave observes that

A few days ago Roger Pielke Jr. pointed to a paper (PDF) by Tim Dyson of the London School of Economics called "On development, demography and climate change: The end of the world as we know it?" Pielke called it "refreshingly clear thinking on climate change." That's true, if by "refreshingly clear" he means "weep- silently- aplogize- to- your- children- and- throw- yourself- out- a- window depressing." Abandon hope, all ye who download PDF here.
Dyson's thesis is that life was pretty scummy back in the 18th century, and it is only by harnessing fossil fuels that we have climbed out of the hole. We have no clue about how to replace fossil fuels. Therefore we will continue burning them. Then there will be significant and very unpleasant climate changes. According to Dyson, as usual, our response will be too little, too late
Finally, the paper argues that human experience of other difficult 'long wave' threats (e.g. HIV/AIDS) reveals a broadly analogous sequence of reactions. In short: (i) scientific understanding advances rapidly, but (ii) avoidance, denial, and reproach characterize the overall societal response, therefore, (iii) there is relatively little behavioral change, until (iv) evidence of damage becomes plain. Apropos carbon emissions and climate change, however, it is argued here that not only is major behavioral change unlikely in the foreseeable future, but it probably wouldn't make much difference even were it to occur.
The paper is linked at both Gristmill and Prometheus, so go there for the rest of the comments and context.

Eli apologizes to Dave for having missed this, but he was vacating at the time and had to sneak out from under Ms. Rabett's steely gaze to get to a computer cafe in the seedy areas of strange towns.

Eli is exceedingly cross with Ethon for not bringing this up on one of his frequent visits for milk and liver cookies.

Eli also apologizes to Roger for thinking that Roger was advocating a strategy of adapt and prosper.


Anonymous said...

"We have no clue about how to replace fossil fuels.'

If this is really what Dyson said, then he is the one with no clue.

We know a great deal about how to wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

The primary problem today is the lack of political will to make it happen.

People like Amory Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute (a physicist and energy efficiency expert) know more than Dyson will ever know about this stuff.

Lovins understands that the transformation in our economy is not only possible, but could actually be profitable.

Anonymous said...

Pielke seems to be attracted to the arguments of people like Dyson -- like a moth to a flame.

These are the folks in his "anti-sceptic haretics" club.

Anonymous said...

Do you find yourself scratching behind your floppy ears after reading something by Dyson or Pielke?

If so, perhaps you too belong to their "non-sceptic hare-with-ticks" club.

Anonymous said...

Or if you have a preference for blood and pony-tails, maybe you would find the "non-sceptic hairy-ticks" club more to your liking.

Anonymous said...

In a recent Post on his blog (jan 20), entitled "Hypocrisy Starts at Home", Roger Pielke made the following comments:

"If you want a sense of how difficult it will be for 6.5 billion people to reduce, much less eliminate, their emissions of fossil fuels, consider this telling vignette from the University of Colorado, my home institution, here in Boulder."

"Whatever one thinks about climate change or greenhouse gas emissions, this story from the University of Colorado tells you all you need to know about the difficulties of actually reducing emissions even in the context of strong political support, strong public support, and the existence of a law providing a (modest) emissions target and timetable. This is the situation that on a much larger scale Europe is now grappling with, and I suspect, the United States eventually will be as well."

[end Pielke points]
Today (jan 24) Pielke posted a response on his blog,a letter from
Will Toor
, Boulder County Commissioner (and former Mayor of Boulder and Director of the CU Environmental Center):

"I think what this issue illustrates is the difficulty of achieving GHG reduction goals without regulatory authority."

"the city does not have the legal (or practical) ability to set up a cap and trade system, to tax motor fuels, to mandate vehicle standards,or to mandate the fuel mix of the utility. Also, as a state institution, CU is exempt from most regulations that the city may impose. While city action is important, it is pretty clear that regulatory requirements at the state and preferably national level are required."
[end Toor quotes]

And the response from Roger Pielke and the rest of the Prometheus peanut gallery to Toor's letter? Nada single comment.

I wonder. Did Toor say something that is taboo -- using words like "caps" and "regulatory control"?

Get out your crosses and garlic, folks.