What can we do about climate change?

I could rephrase this question. What should we do about climate change. The reason I might rephrase this is because we may not be that sure of what we can do, but we should do something. Or, more accurately, some things. There are a lot of possible things we can do, and we have little time to do them. So, maybe we should do all of them for a while. We could spend years working out what the best three or four things we can do might be, and try to implement them. But there will be political opposition from the right, because the right is inexplicably opposed to any action that smells like environmentalism or something that Al Gore might suggest. There will be powerful and effective opposition by those who happen to own or control the vast fossil Carbon based reserves because they know that whatever it is we do about climate change, it will involve keeping their Carbon in the ground, which will render it nearly valueless. The very process of working out the handful of best solutions will falter because of those opposing action. So instead, maybe we should do a Gish Gallop of climate change action. Just do everything. Every thing. It will be harder to stop.

That is a pragmatic argument for doing everything, but there is also a more systematic rational argument. When new technologies, or new applications of technologies, emerge they often take an unexpected course. In retrospect, we realize that of a handful of options, the one we picked did not do what we thought it might do. It may have fell short of expectations, or it may have functioned in an unexpected and disruptive (in a good way) matter. Meanwhile, we sometimes see that the technologies we did not develop may have been better choices. In this way, technology and industry evolve. We don't have time for this slow evolution, so may be we should do everything and later, after some of these solutions have run for a while, weed out those that are not working as well and focus on the newly adapted, evolved solutions.

Obviously when I say "everything" (or every thing) I don't really mean every single thing; it is reasonable to pick and choose. But we need to take a much more comprehensive approach than often suggested. In the world of clean energy there are many (increasingly institutionalized) schemes with promotors who actually spend time and energy putting down the alternatives. Pro solar people will tell you bad things about wind, and pro wind people will tell you bad things about solar. Those who wish us to have a totally reformed and rebuilt transportation infrastructure will tell you that electric cars are not the way, even though their reimagined transport system is at best a century in the future, while shifting much of our vehicular fleet to inherently efficient electric cars could be done at at time scale of a few years. So, what I mean is, do every thing that is on the table, deployable, right now. Geothermal heating and cooling in domestic, commercial, and industrial settings. No roof should be without at least some photovoltaic panels. Build more windmills. Paint the roofs white in cities. Develop incentives for people to live closer to work or travel less by working from home. Electrify everything that moves from cars to city and school buses to commuter trains. Tax Carbon, provide tax or other incentives for the purchase of highly efficient appliances. All of it.

Lawrence Torcello and Michael Mann (philosopher and climate scientist) have an interesting piece at The Conversation integrating climate science, strategies, and philosophy. In part, they say,

...the warming level already reached will likely displace millions of people worldwide. Entire island cultures may be scattered and their traditional ways of life destroyed. Any resulting refugee crisis will be exacerbated by a greater range of agricultural pests, tropical diseases, increasingly frequent heat waves, wildfires, droughts, and subsequent crop failures. Migrating climate victims will be at risk of further injustice as social and political tensions intensify....

If we fail to avoid 2°C warming, a possibility we must be ready for, aggressive action taken now will still position the next generation to better build on our efforts—while learning from our mistakes. The difficulty of our situation is no excuse for moral dithering.

That is certainly a good way to sum up what our plan should be: Aggressive.

More like this

Quite simply , we are not ready to do anything about climate change. We need to act as one planet to make an impression This means a level headed and standardised approach worldwide. The loss of our diversity, wildlife and foodstocks will be the biggest drivers. It is very possible that scientific discovery will herald the biggest channges - the move away from fossil fuels - the clean energy discoveries will be the catalysts for change

By Elsdon Ward (not verified) on 21 Oct 2014 #permalink

"That is certainly a good way to sum up what our plan should be: Aggressive."

I agree. Completely. Add in an element of overkill, just for good measure.

"because the right is inexplicably opposed to any action that smells like environmentalism"
Really? Inexplicably? Surely you understand?

From my long distance vantage point the reason seems painfully obvious. To get anything worthwhile done requires building political coalitions. But we have known this for more than 100 years.

When you make the other side the enemy it is very difficult to form political coalitions when you need them.

But then what do I know? I am just a long distance observer who is astonished at the vindictive venom that passes for US politics.

By Peter Smith (not verified) on 21 Oct 2014 #permalink

"What can we do about climate change?"

Er, nothing. It's already happened, and it's already happening. The problem is that the USA government will never expend the resources necessary to mitigate the damage, so that leaves private individuals and private groups to work on their own geo-engineering solutions and apply those solutions---- in secret.

The latest governor of New Mexico, in her first few weeks in the office, completely dismantled the climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts applied by the previous governor. (She destroyed every positive thing he had accomplished, in fact, including the highly successful mental health care system.) She also removed all mention of climate change from the official New Mexico governor's web sites. She also revoked the state's EPA projects, "putting them on hold." When I asked her office about what the governor plans on doing to adapt to the changing climate, I was referred to the state's EPA department, and the woman I talked to there said she could not find anything at all that the governor has planned on the issue.

This behavior is not restricted only to the current governor of New Mexico: almost half of the members of the USA 113rd Congress have claimed they reject the evidence for human-caused climate change.

The good news is that some geo-engineering solutions do not require the government to help, nor to approve.

By Desertphile (not verified) on 21 Oct 2014 #permalink

Time to bolt New Mexico onto Texas and cut them both loose from the U.S.

While you're at it, add Arizona. (Let's see how they feel about a "fence to keep out undesirables" when it starts at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon...)

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 21 Oct 2014 #permalink

I'm afraid I must agree with Desertphile and maybe even go one step farther. The car has already driven off the cliff; adjusting the accelerator or pumping the brakes will not, cannot, change the inevitability of the fall. Without one more molecule of CO2 &/or CH4, we've already destroyed the glaciers, the reefs, the coasts, and lots of habitable land and potable water. As the previous 30 or 40 years of record-setting emissions start driving additional atmospheric warming over the next few decades, we're blowing through 2C. Then, on top of that, add in all of the emissions that will be released globally by the US, China, India, et al, over the next 30 or 40 years and we're possibly in runaway, holy shit territory. And then, just for fun, through in some extra methane hydrate releases and a few new sources from all that "uptapped arctic fossil fuel", and it's game over.

I think this is a relatively conservative scenario because it's almost already baked into the cake. No batteries necessary. No additional ingredients needed. In fact, the single only "breakthrough" that prevents this scenario from happening over the next 30 years is massive geo-engineering to actively reduce atmospheric GHGs - which seems wildly unlikely.

So, have a good lunch. Play with some kids. Be patient with old people. And be kind to everyone. These are the only things we can/should do about global warming.

I had a brief discussion with Dr. Mann regarding his optimism regarding the future. I agree with "Joe D" and disagree with Dr. Mann regarding the most likely human behavior, and the future climate--- the "worse case" scenario seems optimistic to me, judging by the amount of warming we have already committed to and the lack of mitigation efforts over the previous 50+ years.

By Desertphile (not verified) on 22 Oct 2014 #permalink

In reply to by Joe D (not verified)

After being on the cross-country Great March for Climate Action (#climatemarch) the entire distance, I would add a few more urgent ideas that I would add to your list of suggestions. First off, become an activist; a full on, 100% climate devoted activist. This alone can take many forms. In Chicago they ranged from the greens & "permie's" to the radicals and 'breakers'. We'll need them all. Another thing that can be done immediately is to practice going dark. If you have fossil-fueled electricity turn it off until you've put in the alternative. Go small, go local, build your communities' resilience in every way possible. If you haven't already, dig up the stupid lawn and plant a garden! The mono-culture model of agriculture cannot withstand or guarantee yields in a rapidly chaotic climate, even with their over-hyped GMO's. You're better off growing food, conserving and collecting water, and energy from the sun and wind rather than relying on an unsustainable system which will, eventually, just stop. The fossil fuel industry today has turned dangerous, greedy, deceitful, and deadly. I have seen it and I have witnessed it from the front-line communities who are hurting now. I have friends in the cancer-asthma clusters of Wilmington, CA and East Chicago to the expanding deserts of the southwest, through the withering crops of the mid-west, and frack-poisoned farmlands of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Ultimately, we cannot rely on politicians who cannot, will not tell the truth. It's up to those of us who want their children, grandchildren, and half the planet's species to have a remote chance at survival. Pull out all stops now. It's going to stop anyway, just harder the longer we wait.

By John Jorgensen (not verified) on 21 Oct 2014 #permalink

Peter: "When you make the other side the enemy it is very difficult to form political coalitions when you need them."

Sorry, I did not make "the other side" an enemy. They did that all by themselves. They are quite good at it, and in fact, it is the only thing they are really good at.

This is not US politics. The same game plays out in several other countries as well.

John, I think we can rely on politicians in exactly the same way the Koch Brothers and others rely on them.

My favorite blogger and author on the subject of civilizational decline, John Michael Greer, frequently remarks upon the need to make changes in favor of sustainability in one's own life and dismisses those whose "action" consists solely of donating money to groups that try to get others to make changes. As he acknowledges, changes that are easy for one are unfeasible for another, so personal actions must be individually chosen. But too many of us still do things comparable to donating to an organization that will argue for higher gas taxes to pressure people to drive less ... while not actually driving any less ourselves.

The first problem is that that sort of secondhand activism doesn't accomplish any immediate real-world change. Second, it sets a bad example: when the people who talk about sustainability are seen living the same high-consuming lifestyle as everyone else, everyone else assumes that they hope to foist off as much of the need for limitations [a loathed concept] as possible onto others. One person who is seen to be avoiding some aspect of that lifestyle and to be content or even very happy doing so is worth more, in terms of influencing others, than a hundred who preach about the need for a change but don't seem inclined to adopt it personally until it is stuffed down everyone's throats by geophysical limits or the state.

So what Mr. Greer usually advises in terms of action is something like: Find three ways to reduce your own personal footprint in the next year, and implement them. Then next year, pick more, and more after that. And let the people around you see that these choices make you happier, not less happy - which they can; it's all a matter of attitude adjustment.

There is a point in there somewhere but I mostly don't agree. Yes, giving money to an organization and doing nothing is not the best thing to do but it is simply not correct to assume that this is common. Most people that I know who consider themselves climate activists don't simply write a check to the Sierra Club (or whatever) but they do multiple things including that. They drive less, have more efficient cars or use public transit, they support certain political candidates at several levels by working on campaigns and/or donating, they put solar panels on their roofs. Secondhand activism isn't the problem.

I agree, though, that finding and regularly adding personal change is a very worthwhile effort.

But, as I say in the post, I think we need to do all the things. So, also, a Carbon tax. And if you are going to donate money, consider carefully where you donate it. My personal preference right now is to buy members of congress. Seems the sensible thing to do. :)

I have to say, this is usually where I start to part company with the opinions of many climate activists.

When I speak to climate scientists, I just don't hear them saying "game over." At least not quite yet. I hear them talking about "burnable carbon" and "decarbonization pathways."

It's not to say we aren't going to lose most the land-based ice. We are. That's set in motion and there's pretty much nothing that can be done to change that. But that's going to take 200+ years to play out. That means there's going to be adaptation we have to do no matter what we do with carbon.

The bigger issue, from what I read, has to do with keeping below 2C. And most researchers I listen to are saying that is still in the cards. But we have to ramp down carbon emissions over the next 30-40 years. We can't turn off the carbon machine tomorrow, or in 2 years, or even in 10-15 years. We can, though, get the job done in the timeframe needed to avoid 2C.

I have a big problem with the "game over" mentality because, it seems to me, it's just as bad as the "do nothing" mentality of deniers. It basically promotes the exact same outcome.

I like people who are forging real solutions. http://unsdsn.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/DDPP_interim_2014_report.p…

It's way too easy to look at the current trajectory, draw a straight line out, and decide we're doomed. It's more difficult (and shows intelligence) when one can start looking at that straight line and ask, "How do we bend that curve downward?"

By Rob Honeycutt (not verified) on 21 Oct 2014 #permalink

The "game over" mentality just does not have the science to back it. I think, though, that the timeframe for major coastal inundation is much shorter than many are thinking.

Might need to do something like this: Force (by law) every fossil fuel interest to purchase owning/liability "shares" in a new insurance company that insures for "major coastal inundation" and the like.

Then they'll start realizing that their livelihoods and "products" do in fact have "hidden costs" that they're going to have to pay. That is, if they don't "clean up their act", so to speak.

One of the biggest mistakes that we as a society have been making is to allow these moneyed interests to disconnect their incomes from the costs & effects of peddling their wares.

We *will* need to buy members of congress... Or declare right-wing leaders to be political prisoners & incarcerate them. (But hey, don't expect Ai Weiwei to put together an installation to help people remember their plight, poor dears.)

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 21 Oct 2014 #permalink

I'm more pessimistic than Rob Honeycutt, but arguing that things are going to be so bad (agree) that we shouldn't bother to avoid making them even worse, would put me in the same boat as the climate septics – not a boat I want to be in.

Some simple transportation solutions: More bikes. More feet. More trains. More electric cars.

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 21 Oct 2014 #permalink

cosmiccomics... I sort of take pessimism as being a regional thing. In other words, some places have more reason to be pessimistic than others. There are parts of the middle east that already have climate stressors that are making the region less stable, and that's only going to get worse. First world nations have less to be pessimistic about, other than having to deal with stresses in other parts of the world.

It's definitely not going to be pretty no matter what. But, I also believe that "game over" can still be avoided. 4C is game over. 3C may also be game over. 2C ain't gonna be pretty but is likely manageable. I don't see anything under 2C as being possible.

By Rob Honeycutt (not verified) on 21 Oct 2014 #permalink

A few comments in defense of "game over"...
First, "it's way too easy to look at the current trajectory and draw a straight line...". I agree a straight line is foolish and is not supported by observational evidence. An exponential curve appears to be more accurate.
Second, "does not have the science to back it." I think we have to assume that the IPCC is a reasonable, if not overly conservative, representation of the science. And according to the IPCC, the world is on track to burn this century's carbon budget in 20 years and on a pathway to 4c by 2100.
Third, to compare a thorough and deep understanding of the science which then leads to a conclusion of irreversibility to climate denialists sticking their head in the sand is at best thoughtless. It demonstrates the same cursory level of analysis that one must apply in order to believe that the latest climate march is really going to be the one that turns the corner.
All those protesters in the 60s and 70s and 80s and 90s and 2000s were just hippies and tree huggers. The 2014 protest marchers have now got it figured out.
Please excuse me. I dont intend to be mean spirited. It's just that the scientific evidence of decay, coupled with the historical evidence of political paralysis is abundantly clear to me.

"And according to the IPCC, the world is on track to burn this century’s carbon budget in 20 years and on a pathway to 4c by 2100."

No, that is not true. Do you understand the logical fallacy you are committing here?

I'm not sure where the protest comes in here, we were not discussing that. Whether or not that is effective activism is pretty much irrelevant.

We have been through (lesser) environmental crisis in the past. We pretty much dealt with those things despite doomsayers/game over-ers, and despite those working against change for personal or financial interest. This is the same but at a larger scale. There is no evidence that this can't be done.

Some time last year the number of new dollars being invested into clean (non fossil carbon) energy surpassed that invested in carbon based energy. Over the last two years the cost per unit energy of important clean technologies has dropped precipitously. Huge clean energy power projects are underway around the world. The non electrified third world is starting to electrify using non-Carbon sources.

No, Joe, it really is true that insisting on inaction because you lack imagination and will is a form of denialism. Frankly, it is shameful.

Exactly, Greg.

I was just looking at a graph the other day (which I can locate at the moment) that showed the change in projections for solar each year. Every time they do a new projection the picture looks better. What I think is going on is, people are (quite reasonably) projecting based on available information at the time. But each year that passes the information improves.

Same is happening with China. Each time they project out the breakdowns of electricity sources they remove coal and nuclear and add more solar and wind.

I just think that things are changing in ways that are very hard to predict or project. Legacy systems have reached their potential and new systems are quickly exceeding them.

Even though I know things are going to get tough in the coming decades, I also think there are lots and lots of people out there with motivation to address the challenges.

I think we're going to be surprised at how quickly the curve starts to bend without Draconian measures.

By Rob Honeycutt (not verified) on 21 Oct 2014 #permalink

The only thing I would add is, the most important element is getting a carbon tax baked into the mix.

By Rob Honeycutt (not verified) on 21 Oct 2014 #permalink

Rob Honeycutt –

I agree that at this point “game over” is unjustified, but at the same time I believe that catastrophic climate change is essentially unavoidable – which again is not an excuse for inaction. As you write, the effects won't be equal, and neither will the ability to deal with them. Unfortunately and unjustly, the worst effects will primarily hit those who are least able to mitigate and adapt – including non-human forms of life. We tend to average things out and speak of 2°C as a kind of tolerable limit. For many 2°C won't be tolerable. In the tropics that would be beyond the temperature range of many life forms. We need not only to see the forest, but also the trees.

In our parts of the world the warming we've already seen has contributed to the European heatwave of 2003 and the Russian heatwave of 2010. Denmark has increasingly experienced flooding caused by torrential rains. The U.S. has had its share of freak weather events. It's also seen the climate related devastation of forests and the spread of vectors north of where they previously were found. It's hard to imagine what even 2° would bring.

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 21 Oct 2014 #permalink


Above are links to maps of America's wind, solar and geothermal resources. Every wind turbine and every solar panel requires energy and resources to be built. Instead of talking about e.g. putting solar panels on every roof, I'd like to see information about how these resources can best be used. Does it make more sense to create home energy systems based on rooftop solar and battery backups, a national HVDC grid that can connect different renewable sources and thus back itself up, or a combination of the two? Which kind of system represents the optimal use of available resources?

(No, I'm not suggesting that we drop ongoing improvements until everything has been sufficiently analyzed. But as existing infrastructure tends to limit future possibilities, I think that this kind of analysis is important. I also think that the way this problem is solved will say something important about the nature of the U.S. Is it a country in which social problems are solved individually, or collectively? Is it possible for today's U.S. to have a national energy policy?)

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 21 Oct 2014 #permalink

cosmicomics, nice links.

I agree that we should ask "does it make sense do to X" but the main point I'm making here is that it does not make sense to ad the "or" (or "instead of") to the end of that because a) we simply don't have the information (though we do think we have the hubris to understand what is needed at that level of details) and b) we will probably need to do multiple things anyway.

Existing infrastructure hardly limits future possibilities and it is not a zero sum game. To some small extent that may be a little true here and there but it is way less true than the urgency to act. And, in the end, if we have to disassemble a bit of infrastructure here and there in 2114 that's fine.

I recommend that everyone read the Limits to Growth 30-year Update. The Club of Rome's modeling is of course a very simplistic rendering of a world - in real life, for example, iron ore is not fully substitutable for oil - but it does present evidence nobody has successfully challenged that for plain mathematical reasons, one way or another, it is going to be "game over." That is to say, not that we'll be extinct in a few decades - that's a hysterical fantasy - but that serious declines in population, goods and services per capita, and probably life expectancy in the coming century are inevitable.

The model tells us: pursue infinite Growth based on limited resources, and you overshoot and crash. Jack up the assumed quantity of resources high enough, and instead of a resource crisis you get a "pollution crisis" in which the quantity of pollution starts to affect health, agricultural productivity, etc. too severely to be covered up. Call the first scenario "peak oil" and the second "climate change". Twiddling parameters so that productivity is increased faster or pollution is limited more cheaply postpones the crisis but does not prevent it; as the authors said of one of their model scenarios, the world doesn't run out of any one thing; what it runs out of is the ability to cope.

The only way the Limits to Growth authors could get their model NOT to show a hard crash this century was to impose conditions in which the entire world collectively strove to attain zero population growth and a steady-state economy (which implies a more equitable distribution of resources). Is that going to happen in the coming decades? Ha, fat chance. Therefore, the crash - whatever its ultimate causes - is already headed down the tracks toward us and picking up speed, and the few people who see that and want to stop it are simply not going to be able to.

Does that mean we should stick with "edamus bibamus gaudeamus" as long as possible and screw conservation? Quite the opposite. Unless you are fairly old, you can count on ending your life unable to afford most of the luxuries you now enjoy (including some you think of as necessities). If you have kids, you can be certain that they will. If you don't want to break, emotionally if not physically, when decline hits you, you'd better start learning to do without that stuff and maintain the physical ability to do so. When I walk home from work, it's not primarily for the sake of the planet, whose fate is out of my hands; I'm lookin' out for number one. Those who fail to do so will be sorry if someday they're 80 years old and have to get out of their gasless SUVs and walk to the store for the first time.

I don't think anyone really talks about "unlimited growth" except for those that are criticizing it (making it a straw man). There's plenty to be concerned about just with projected growth through peak population, and through bringing the world up to first world standards. That's a task that cannot happen on current energy intensities.

There is only a certain amount that we can do today to make that goal achievable. We don't have the technologies available to lower energy intensity to levels that could sustain 9 billion people at first world standards. But what we can do is put the world on a path where that can happen.

What we do have power over, today, is avoiding certain collapse (and massive human suffering) by reducing and ending our emissions of CO2 over the next ~30 years. That is an achievable goal and one that – while it's not going to fix all the problems – will allow later generations to chart their own course to a sustainable future.

By Rob Honeycutt (not verified) on 22 Oct 2014 #permalink

There is a whole other way to look at this that has nothing to do with growth (which is important, but put it aside for a moment).

We all (people, businesses, etc) use energy. There are multiple, alternative, perfectly viable ways to get energy, and fossil carbon is only one. But, the people who own the reserves have a stranglehold on the market due to a number of reasons (commitment to infrastructure, ownership of leaders, manipulating laws and regulations, marketing).

A small number of very powerful people Owning All The Things and having that taken away from them is messy business but over the scale of history routine for our species.

Sometimes it happens because of what we now call disruptive technology (even if Ma Bell was not cut up modern technology might have done her in, the TV advertising based industry ... remember that? ... is eviscerated by the internet. These things happen). Sometimes it happens because of violent revolution. Sometimes because of a crash and burn then we see what comes out of the ashes.

Status quo is tenacious and there is rarely evidence it will change. Then it changes. Usually, the only way to understand the change is to look a back at it.

A small number of very powerful people Owning All The Things and having that taken away from them is messy business but over the scale of history routine for our species.

That's what I think too, if anyone cares. I also think John J. above makes some great points - the one about "going dark" is where I'm headed.

The other thing I keep wondering is Why don't we ever talk about planting trees? We're still relying on governments and Powerful People to make decisions for us, but if we had no other choice, and had only low-tech options to address this problem, what could we do? Mobilizing a social tree-planting movement could have a significant impact. Here's why:

o Growing Zones are moving northward, and frost dates are getting farther apart
o Part of the problem is the last 1000 years of forest removal across the planet
(this is a major effect of "development")
o It does require some planning, but doesn't necessarily need huge investment to get started
o CO2 fertilization is a thing, and it's going to affect biological productivity, at least in the tropics. This amplifies the power of tree-planting to make a dent in this problem
o It has huge educational value, both for helping people understand climate change, and for helping people relate to Earth
o Give people something constructive to do. Someone recently said that "we can't do anything" is more dangerous than "it's not happening", because it leads to despair. Yes, I'm just one green person, but if half of the world planted a tree, that's 3 billion+ trees.

My next proposal will be enhancing ocean productivity by cutting chemical pollution, but that might take more work.

Greg Laden: Meanwhile, we sometimes see that the technologies we did not develop may have been better choices. In this way, technology and industry evolve. We don’t have time for this slow evolution, so may be we should do everything and later, after some of these solutions have run for a while, weed out those that are not working as well and focus on the newly adapted, evolved solutions.

A well-reasoned piece, Greg. It certainly is going to take a variety of measures to reduce the magnitude of the problem.

We often hear contrarians claim that any action taken to mitigate the effects of climate change will wreck the economy. (Indeed, there are many possible ways to wreck the economy. One very effective way was demonstrated convincingly in 2007-2008.)

But at bottom, this contrarian argument rests on one assumption: that we will keep on doing the thing that's wrecking the economy even as we see the economy collapsing around us. I submit that this assumption is untenable.

That said, there is an even better reason to doubt the contrarians' economic alarmism. Every major effort at fixing an environmental problem has turned out to be less costly than the nay-sayers predicted.

At the same time, we know in a general way what happens when such efforts at prevention are cut back or ignored. Example: the failure to build up the dikes and pumping stations around New Orleans, pre-Katrina. Example: the failure to regulate the fertilizer plant in West, Texas — or to inform the local firefighters about the danger the plant contained. Example: the oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, April 2010.

By Christopher Winter (not verified) on 22 Oct 2014 #permalink

Or, "Failure to take action to mitigate the effects of climate change will wreck the economy."

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 22 Oct 2014 #permalink

"A small number of very powerful people Owning All The Things and having that taken away from them is messy business but over the scale of history routine for our species."

Very true indeed! And it would behoove those of us who are still more-or-less middle-class Americans to recall that by global standards, we are among the elite.

Greg –

The following excerpts are from an article about a recent paper on gas as a bridge fuel that was widely discussed, and that showed that relying on gas would have an insignificant effect on carbon emissions, partly because it would block the deployment of renewable sources:

“Natural gas will not be a bridge fuel to a post-carbon future in the absence of an overarching climate change policy, according to a study published yesterday in the journal Nature.
That's because the fuel is likely to displace low-carbon renewable energy sources as well as coal from the energy mix...
'The study by McJeon and colleagues adds to the growing body of research that the increased use of gas does not lower greenhouse gas emissions, primarily because it delays the use of lower-carbon sources like renewable technologies, and discourages efficiency and conservation,' said Christine Shearer, a researcher at the University of California, Irvine, who was not affiliated with the study.”

Investments (and resources) that are used to build up a gas infrastructure cannot at the same time support the implementation of renewables.
Moreover, resources are finite and the quality of many ores mined today is not equal to the quality of those mined some years ago. We can no longer afford to waste as much as we did in the past, and this means that we have to use the resources we have more intelligently. This means better informed policy choices, also regarding renewable energy. Wrong infrastructure choices have consequences many years into the future.
Below are links to some Jeremy Grantham quarterly letters that are relevant in this context.

Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever

On the Road to Zero Growth

The Longest Quarterly Letter Ever
Your Grandchildren Have No Value (And Other Deficiencies of Capitalism)

(Or: “Jeremy's Quarterly Letters are available at the GMO website. Registration is required, but free. Choose the “Library” tab on the top menu bar and choose “Jeremy Grantham's Letters and Articles” on the left menu to see all letters dating back to 1999.)

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 22 Oct 2014 #permalink