Sunday, July 25, 2010

Krugman Steps Into The Fray

On 7/21/10 Paul Krugman of The new York Times made a brief blog post, tongue-in-cheek "blaming" Al Gore for the sweltering summer. I gave him both barrels:

Just keep one thing in mind:

The "solutions business" is a fraud and every bit as deceitful and potentially catastrophic to humanity as denial is.

What on earth am I talking about?

I'm talking about acceleration.

The climate of today was bred into the system 20 and more years ago, by decisions and behaviors which occurred then. As slow as climate change seems to be taking in human terms, it's an eye-blink in geologic terms. The climate of 20 years from today has already been built in.

Further human increases will affect the overall peak, but only at the margins. Why? Because nature has stored in its coldest places many times the carbon that man has ever emitted. What will it take to unloose this carbon?


In other words, as the planet continue to warm, it will release even more carbon as well as methane, which will of course continue to spike atmospheric levels *no matter what man does*.

It is far, far too late to even consider "turning around" this ship.

Acceleration. Momentum. We kicked this thing off and now nature has taken over. And we have made sure that our contribution to the warming will carry on for at least one more generation after ours.

In the end most ice and most permafrost will be gone, perhaps within a couple hundred years.

What this will do to atmospheric carbon levels is speculative, but the numbers are all much greater than any influence man could have from this point forward. Barring an epic cooling (which would of course be a mass extinction event), Planet Earth will be, essentially, ice free, and it will be sooner than anybody seems to want to admit.

This will be a semi-permanent state due to the enormous amount of time it will take to get the carbon out of the atmosphere, unless man geo-engineers ways to do it.

Again, to underscore: as the planet warms it will release its own vast stores, so at best we would be slowing the growth until that process completes, at which point we could draw down, then wait several generations for cooling to begin.

That's the scenario and I'm sorry but there's not much wiggle room.

Cap and Trade would simply shaft us further.

What is needed is an honest admission that we will be living in that much warmer world with much higher sea levels, and thus survival will depend on adaptation.

And adaptation will depend on good ideas which get implemented in a timely manner.

That process can and should be done at national levels, because nations can in fact adapt in isolation from one another, and waiting for common consent could burn up any time we have left.

We have perhaps a generation to have real solutions in place, solutions which must include a revived and strengthened electric grid, because we will require a lot of electricity to stay cool, and it must include a dazzlingly audacious system of reservoirs and aqueducts, to capture water where the rain falls and send it to where people live. Most rainwater today is not captured, and with glaciers melting away (also irreversible and unavoidable), rivers will run dry unless they are fed by alternate sources.

OK, enough for now. This is the real state of affairs, and we haven't much time to lose in getting the conversation started.

Paul, feel free to embrace this realism and provide an economic viewpoint on the way forward.