Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change: A devil's advocate

Today is, apparently, Blog Action Day. A day where bloggers blog about one issue of global importance, to raise awareness and to further a dialogue.

This year, the issue is climate change. I've always had a very market-driven view of climate change. So, in effect, I don't really care. It'll work itself out.

The problem, I think, is that climate changes very, very slowly. This is good for us, since it gives us time to respond to problems. That is to say, climate "problems" are solved by technology.

Let's say the world gets too warm. First of all, it's not clear that warming is a bad thing. Warming encourages plant life. But, anyways, let's ignore the positive effects. What would we do? We'd create areas with more shade, use the extra sun to power solar energy cells, and use the power to create more freeon (or something).

Let's say the water level rises. We'll have elevated houses and buildings, and possibly start to travel by waterway. Or, we could create bubble cities a la sci-fi stories.

Let's say the entire environment becomes unuseable. That is, we can't go outside at all. Maybe we don't have an ozone layer anymore, maybe the storms are too strong, maybe the heat would kill us, maybe we'd be underwater--whatever. What then? We'd dig underground and create towers. We'd have wind and water turbines to take advantage of the chaos outside of our towers, and we'd cover the towers in solar panels. With that, we can create our own artificial light, and have towers of greenhouses to grow whatever plants we need to survive, and raise cattle there to graze on grass indoors, or something. We could grow whatever we needed to keep us healthy and have plenty of diversity in our diets.

This may seem far-fetched, but it's within the realm of possibility, and is likely even very feasible. As resources become more scarce, prices go up. This creates financial incentive for companies to invest in this sort of stuff--the technology is available, it's just a matter of the towers being too darn expensive. If there was enough demand to support it, though, this would become reality.

My point is this: though any kind of change is painful (see the most recent recession), climate change is not a deal-breaker. Climate change doesn't lead to the end of humanity as we know it. The human race would get along, still. And, who's to say such a futuristic world is better or worse? It's important to note that in this view of the world, our survival depends on technological advancement and development.

On the other hand, I think sustainability initiatives are great. I don't care so much about the environmental impacts of fossil fuels so much, but I don't think it's a good idea to rely on relatively volatile countries for vital energy. If OPEC decides to turn off the spigot again, that would really hurt us, and that's a pretty big weakness. But we're headed in the right direction.

Preservation programs can be pretty bad, though. When your neighborhood keeps out developers, that just hinders progress. We need to develop communities to be ready for the technological advances that need to come to prepare us for the future. Old neighborhoods in growing city centers can cause problems.

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