Friday, April 18, 2014

Climate Change

So, yesterday my grandfather asked me how I thought the 'pollution' issue would be dealt with (by which he meant the emissions causing climate change). Of course, being my grandfather he proceeded to tell me the answer, but that wasn't expected. Still, it's worth thinking about.

Firstly, I should note that I am almost but not absolutely convinced that man-made climate change is a reality and is a very serious issue. Though I'm not sure that that "man-made" bit is all that important - the climate is definitely changing, and it definitely does seem to be a bad thing. So, whether we're responsible or not, we probably want to think what we're going to do about it.

Where I differ from the consensus is in this, though: if your answer is any variation on "we all need to cut emissions", I think you can forget it - we've lost already.

The reality of the situation is that China and India will not meaningfully cut emissions until they've overtaken the US as the biggest economies. And the US will not do anything that risks them being overtaken. (And, if one or both do overtake the US, you can be sure the US will do whatever it takes to catch back up.)

I'm pretty much certain that that is the reality of it - people can propose whatever measures they want, they can paint as apocalyptic a scenario as they wish (and they may well be right), but there is no prospect of the US, India, or China meaningfully reducing emissions. Sorry.

Of course, if those three, the three biggest players in the field, won't meaningfully take action, then there's little point in the rest of us doing so - we could cut our emissions to zero and it still wouldn't be enough.

The consequence of this is that this topic is one of very few where I think George W. Bush actually got it right: the solution to this problem will lie in new technologies - either we find ways to adapt to the changed environment, or we develop some sort of atmospheric scrubber to eliminate our emissions, or we reseed the oceans with algae to do essentially the same thing, or, well, something.

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