The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Anthony Doerr on Geoengineering

Read the whole thing. It starts
During my sophomore year, 1992, 1,500 scientists, including more than half the living Nobel laureates, admonished in their Warning to Humanity: “A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”

So what have we done? Not much. From 1992 to 2007, global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels rose 38 percent. Emissions in 2008 rose a full 2 percent despite a global economic slump. Honeybees are dying by the billions1, amphibians by the millions, and shallow Caribbean reefs are mostly dead already.2 Our soil is disappearing faster than ever before, half of all mammals are in decline, and a recent climate change model predicts that the Arctic could have ice-free summers by 2013. Unchecked, carbon emissions from China alone will probably match the current global level by 2030.

The god thou servest,” Marlowe wrote in Dr. Faustus, almost four hundred years before the invention of internet shopping, “is thine own appetite.” Was he wrong? How significantly have you reduced your own emissions since you first heard the phrase “climate change?” By a tenth? A quarter? A half? That’s better than I’m doing. The shirt I’m wearing was shipped here from Thailand. The Twinkie I just ate had 37 ingredients in it. I biked to work through 91-degree heat this morning but back at my house the air conditioner is grinding away, keeping all three bedrooms a pleasant 74 degrees.

My computer is on; my desk lamp is glowing. The vent on the wall is blowing a steady, soothing stream of cool air onto my shoes.
h/t Andrew Sullivan. Anthony Doerr, whom I had not heard of until today, lives in Idaho, writes "on Science" column for the Boston Globe, and is a 2010 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

2 comments:

GRLCowan said...

It would be more impressive if, unlike every other journalist I've seen using the "Pollute the crap out of everything to save everybody" theme to discuss geoengineering, he didn't ignore the geoengineering method that can't reasonably be mocked in that way.

(How fire can be domesticated)

gravityloss said...

Why was an organized society and laws invented in the first place if everything's supposed to work on just individual goodwill. I have never believed that personal sacrifices crap for a second. How come does it come as a surprise now? It's all just posturing.

Most people would not pay taxes if they didn't have to either, and yet they would certainly use publicly funded services.

The same happens on an international level. No government will make sacrifices if the others won't do.

It's like humanity when it was at a totally unorganized anarchy level.

It's not a marketing problem. Humans don't make sacrifices if they don't have to. They make them if they have to. That's what organized society is for. I would like to have a car. Maybe I'll break the window and take my neighbor's car. Oh wait, then the police would come and limit my freedom. This is the price I pay for living in an organized society - I can't do everything I want - I don't have total freedom.

Organized societies have been quite successful so far.