Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Great Economist Blog Post

I like this Economist post on the politics behind global warming. (One interesting thing about the blog is that the writer's personalities creep through a little more, and, surprise surprise, they seem to be more NYTimes than Cato. Not that that's a bad thing, but some people do view the Economist as being a far right publication).

In particular, I thought their observations about the unpoplarity of carbon sequestering as a solution to CO2 emissions was a good one.
Carbon sequestration, for example, which (apparently relatively cost effectively) neutralises emissions from coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, gets surprisingly little coverage. Especially when compared to things like hydrogen fuel cells, which absolutely nothing to reduce carbon emissions by themselves, since hydrogen has to be made at great (energy) cost before it can be poured into fuel cells*. Why does abatement, rather than prevention, get so little attention?
Another option also seems unpopular -- moving.

When I fly from Boston to Florida, I experience dramatic climate change. Yet, human beings seem to be quite able to thrive in both climates. If Boston became more like New York, and New York became more like Phillly, which became more like DC, which became more like Miami, who really cares? Particularly if it takes the thousands of years that climate modelers suggest. But even if it takes 200 years, why should we care? And even if it results in more hurricanes etc, this is the equivelent of people in Arizona, say, moving to Florida. You go from zero hurricanes, to a few hurricanes.

OK, so what about the catastrophic scenario of the Gulf Stream shutting down, making London more like Oslo?
The dramatic finding comes from a study of ocean circulation in the North Atlantic, which found a 30% reduction in the warm currents that carry water north from the Gulf Stream.

The slow-down, which has long been predicted as a possible consequence of global warming, will give renewed urgency to intergovernmental talks in Montreal, Canada, this week on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
Well, the Gulf Stream itself is caused by wind and rotation of the Earth, so probably will not be impacted by global warming, but the North Atlantic drift is another matter. If it goes away, the mild European climate might become more like a more extreme American climate, over a period of thousands of years.

Clearly I'm missing something, but I don't get it. Humans seem capable of living quite happily in all manner of environments, so long as we have time to adjust. Even the most dire global warming forecasts give us plenty of both.


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