Human-moderated climate change is true, but what’s the way forward?
It’s hard to imagine that anyone doubts human-moderated climate change is a reality. Despite attacks by ‘skeptics’ (in quotations because a skeptic is usually considered to be someone who looks at the data objectively, but in the case of climate change that doesn’t seem to be true) and use / abuse of recent media stories, the data is sound: since the beginning of the industrial age, we have been steadily warming the planet. A documentary I recently saw even suggested our ancestors were responsible for preventing an ice age 7000 years ago through the rise in agriculture (which put greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and raised the temperature just enough to make the world comfortable for us).
It seems, to me, that the real question is not whether we caused it, but what, if anything, should we do about it.
There is no question in my mind that the strategy of making people eco-conscious, and aspiring to ‘environmentally friendly’ behaviour, is failing and will continue to fail. It’s an idea that is inherently flawed. Not only will the majority of the West not change (still drive your car to work? ‘oh, but I have to…’), but it’s hardly reasonable to thrust such a burden on developing countries or to expect that suddenly the East will cease their developmental surge and slow their progress just to fix a problem created by the West (even if it affects everyone). Not only is it just not human nature, but it’s hypocritical in the extreme.
If you still believe behavioural change can solve this, keep your eyes wide open and look carefully for excessive waste. You’ll find it absolutely everywhere: stores leaving their doors open, the heat blasting in the middle of the coldest winter in several decades; lights left on in buildings all night, an increase in car travel, even during local ‘no car’ days, even the local gym that uses electronic machines for circuit training while running four televisions each tuned to a different station in the same room (incidentally, why can’t they harness some human energy to power some of the facility?).
In short, there is absolutely no realistic way that humanity will significantly reduce it’s energy consumption through behavioural modification, let alone in time to make any difference to a climate change that’s already well in progress. Had we started making changes from the time of the Rio conference in ’92 we might have had a chance to affect the climate through behavioural change. Now: not a snowballs chance in hell, so to speak. This kind of approach just takes too long and too many resources itself (I wonder how much energy and other resources are used in the eco campaigns?). So it’s time to forget the last second saves that are ingrained into us from television dramas and come to reality.
Something like changing a planet’s climate doesn’t happen overnight.
It’s a bit like being overweight. It takes a relatively short period of indulgence to put it on, but years of hard work to take and keep it off. Even worse, like caloric restrictive dieting alone will ultimately weaken the body, energy-reduction alone will weaken our society, taking us backward instead of forward.
But do we want to prevent global warming anyway?
There is strong evidence that the Earth has gone through regular cycles of ice ages over the last million years. We have obviously survived the ice ages before but, in those million years we hadn’t developed much, until recently. It seems that only the advent of farming, and thus an early, milder form of global warming staved off what should have been the most recent ice age and allowed us the foothold to prosper. Thus global warming has allowed for the development of human society during the last 7000 years.
However, too much global warming could yet, seemingly ironically, induce another ice age.
So, obviously, we don’t want to completely cancel global warming or we will slip back into the cycle of ice ages, and we don’t want too much or we’ll likewise enter the deep freeze, neither of which does humanity any good. Since going the path of reduced energy consumption has the added negative of leading nowhere except back to the caves, it falls to research and technology to solve the problem.
Then, what’s really needed is better understanding of climate and better technology to regulate global temperature in a way that’s beneficial to us. In order to thrive, our global temperature must be regulated to remain within a narrow window. It’s time we stop thinking like animals and realize that, with seven billion of us, even living as cavemen we’d change the environment; we are a force of planetary change, whether we want to be or not. Once we truly accept what that means, we can begin to take control of our own destiny; we can begin to make our climate what we want, and need, it to be. The only real way forward is through technological development and increased understanding of our world.