Polarity

There is a lot of response to Al Gore winning the Nobel Prize. As with all things Al, there is plenty of polarity to this. Equally interesting is all the speculation about what this means for the issue, for the presidential election, etc. It has also brought out a lot of stuff that has already been said, like just how many things are wrong with details about how Gore and by association other ‘enviros’ are overstating the situation. Given how little it takes to rend the social fabric ( recall the wild west video of post Katrina New Orleans) it doesn’t seem that outrageous, but still I don’t like any data manipulated. I don’t think most people need to be jerked around to get them to think, or act.

So one thing to come to my inbox was an article by Patrick Michaels that appeared in the National Review just before the Academy Awards. It took issue with both Al Gore and George Bush relevant to climate change. This is what seeing it seven months later suggested to me-

On the issue of the ice melting- everything we thought we knew about it has been proven wrong in the last three years. There is a forty year minimum lag in carbon loading the system at least, so the trends we see now can be expected to continue, and most of the discussion is about how many degrees increase will that known load actually cause. When it melts isn’t as significant as how soon can we stop adding to the reason it is melting. It is probably going to melt within a couple hundred years, but that isn’t really our first problem.

What we don’t know are the effects are of specific impacts on the biosphere. Most of the surprises we have right now are not about the ‘highs; but how ‘lows’ have risen. This gives us the massive die off of pines in the northwest, especially BC, where the dead trees are now over a half a million acres. This is because the winters aren’t cold enough to kill off the pine beetle. This sort of stuff – unpredictable because the biosphere is relatively understudied and not understood, but critical to our economic and resource matrices – is going to multiply, even if we see only the low range of the possibilities. There are also the increases in extremes- highs, floods, range of storms etc.

So the realistic set of things to do is be prepared to adapt in whatever way circumstances require. The best adaptation preparation requires lots of cheap clean energy, and the ability to rebuild our society wherever the food and water supplies will be stable. So a whole new energy and building reinvention is called for. Transportation is right there too. Ultimately we don’t want to be burning anything to heat, run or cool anything. Electricity is the most flexible and portable energy, and the sun dumps more than enough energy to generate the electricity we need on virtually every part of the globe, even the higher latitudes. The existing grid, enhanced and regated, becomes a method of distributing from where ever it is sunny to wherever it is cloudy or dark. Eliminates issues of mass storage, and lets everyone decide for themselves if they want to be in the energy selling business. Done right, it won’t be a big decision, because we should be trying to make energy like salt, a cheap available commodity we used to have wars about. Everything else is a negotiation with death of the existing paradigm, which is to be expected. Maybe soy for fuel is a good way to help farmers deal with the fact that their land is going to be changing right underneath them. That is a marketplace equation of its own, although heavily stilted by corrupted political processes.

All of that means that virtually all the current ‘energy’ companies, to say nothing of the automakers, have to reinvent themselves, and most of the political fight right now is about how to suck the public trough while not doing that. Like many of the other ills of our society, this is about some very rich people wanting to be richer still while the community is not served. Every aspect of regulation today that is considered onerous by fair minded people had its start in trying to reign in an unintended consequence or design flaws of the industrial evolution. Why are we so calm about the fact that a food stock like tuna is being restricted because of heavy metals accumulating in them? This is a direct consequence of poor design and accounting of the true costs of the industrial processes that put those metals in the water in the first place. Today there is no ‘away’. There are too many of us to think we can just go somewhere else and find clean air and water. Even those who want to leave the planet.

The real legislation we want is about encouraging a huge investment in clean energy, a big tax break for people buying clean cars, appliances, and a huge advantage for those who build ‘green’ buildings. The carbon marketplace needs good governance too. We also need to create fees on those who don’t adapt to pay for the losers in this – coal miners who will be retrained to be solar installers etc.

At the end of the day, everything that should be done in response to climate change turns out to be great for energy independence, which translates into national security and a foreign policy clean up, and economic vitality, since the people that solve the cheap energy puzzle first get to lead the world in this. Check the price of oil and steel. These are just beginning their inflation; given the scale of development in the world and that there are four billion people that want to live as well as us. We should be figuring out how to get rich making it possible, instead of arguing about what might be two percent of the gross world product over a hundred years to figure this out.

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