Tuesday, May 15, 2012

a visit with Mr. Pessimist

It's me again.  Can't help it - I've read too much history to convincingly portray myself otherwise.

This piece in the New Yorker is one in a long series of valuable Climate reporting they have published over the last few years.  See also Elizabeth Colbert's many pieces.

The Michael Specter article is about Geoengineering, and you should read it because, I believe, this is our future. This idea was reinforced when, a few months ago, we heard a presentation by Paul Gilding.

The basic idea is simple, and even a shallow look at human history reveals the long-standing pattern:  societies always reach points of crisis because they refrain from dealing with threats until the level of disruption discomforts the comfortable.  Duh!

At the point when the crisis becomes devastating (whether it's the Mongol hordes burning your cities or 'clever' financial manipulations crashing your economy), the society may or may not collapse (see Jared Diamond's work).  Many societies have ultimately not survived those types of crises.

Now, back to Geoengineering.

I firmly believe that the Political and Industrial Powers of our world will do NOTHING to scale-down the fossil-fuel economy.  We are too comfortable with the world we have created, where extracting and burning carbon at an ever-increasing rate is absolutely necessary.  Add in the clearly-emerging feedback loops in the Arctic and the oceans, and it becomes very difficult to envision any public policy shift that will effectively mitigate disaster, especially for coastal cities around the globe.  Sorry.

My prediction:  at some point, the world-consciousness will arrive at the penultimate "Oh, Shit!" moment.  Grasping in panic towards any possible way out, Humanity will have no choice but to turn to the Geoengineering community and plead, "save us."

One or more of the grandiose Geoengineering rolls-of-the-dice will be attempted.  We can only hope that one or more of them will work, although the problem with rolls-of-the-dice is that the Law of Unintended Consequences then becomes the Supreme Law of the Land Planet.

Oh, well, as George (W) Bush once said (paraphrased):  "I'm not concerned about how the future regards me, since all of us will be dead by then."

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