Sunday, March 18, 2012

Is The Climate Debate Over?

It looks pretty much lost to me.

It shouldn't surprise any student of history to find that the forces of ignorance and superstition are frequently triumphant in human affairs. Nor should we be surprised to find that our fellow humans much prefer to put off pain today even when the threat is of far greater pain tomorrow. That's the way that were are built.

So it seems to be with the debate over what to do about anthropogenic global warming, or AGW.

From time to time I wander over to LumoWorld or some other denialist site just to take the temperature of the ignoranti. The extent of their delusion on one point is particularly startling - they actually seem convinced that their view has the support of a substantial majority of scientists competent in the relevant disciplines. Not only do they believe the world is flat, but they think that most scientists agree!

Of course their delusion is promoted by a vast and wealthy propaganda network whose interests have nothing to do with science, a lot to do with ideology, and everything to do with energy sales. That fact is secondary, though. The main resistance to aggressive action against climate change comes from the practical fact that making energy more expensive is a direct threat to people's pocket books in the immediate term. Compared to a longer term catastrophe of uncertain dimensions that fact is huge.

Right now, there seems to be little or no appetite for any substantive action against climate change. Action against climate change is a losing hand, and likely to remain one for some time. I don't see much point in grand gestures - if you get tossed in the clink for protesting a pipeline, you are just going to inconvenience yourself - the world won't care. What can be done is to keep defending the truth and calling out the lie. Beyond that, we need to prepare for a world that will be considerably different.

Development of alternatives to fossil fuels is beneficial not only because it helps ameliorate the rate of AGW but because the fuels are running short and likely to be a continuing focus of intense geopolitical conflict. It would be nice if some provision could be made to aid those likely to be dispossessed by climate change - especially residents of low lying tropical islands and coastlines. Some efforts should be made to preserve species likely to be driven to extinction.

In any case, it seems unlikely that much substantive will happen until the tocsins of doom sound much more loudly. It will then probably be too late for most kinds of action, but much of the temperature increase over the next hundred years and sea level rise is already a done deal.

And we could always hope for a miraculous technological fix.