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Most of the solutions for global warming follow one premise – humans are the cause of global warming.
We have even decided that we have probably entered a new period of geological time in earth’s history, the Anthropocene.
This term was first used in 2000 by Paul Crutzen a Nobel Prize winning atmospheric chemist because he believed that the recent influence of human behavior on the Earth is so significant as to constitute a new geological era. The era might have a start date in the late 18th century, coincident with James Watt's invention of the steam engine or a couple of thousand years earlier at the invention of farming.
Curious that the dinosaurs persisted for over 160 million years without getting an era named after them, but modern humans get one after a few hundred years. It is hard not to think that we have an inflated perception of our status.
It is human nature to be like this, to believe we are the cause. Our need for control is very strong and can consume us even in the face of powerful logic. We believe we can change anything, not only that but we can fix anything that is broken, even when we were the one’s that broke it.
This belief in control is both our great strength and our weakness. It fills us with supercharged confidence to achieve the impossible. Instills in us a drive that has put men on the moon and given some of us the skills to perform open-heart surgery. It can also make us blinkered, blind even, and arrogant.
Fueled by this belief in our ability to control we have set to solutions for global warming. Our goal is a stable climate, one without extremes of change or impact so that our world is stable.
Earlier in our history we simply believe the world was stable, as God intended. Now we have decided we can impose that stability for ourselves.
By pointing to the rising trajectories of CO2 emissions the IPCC, and more popularly Al Gore in his Inconvenient Truth documentary, got us going on the solution for global warming being reducing emissions of greenhouse gases to curb the greenhouse effect.
Although the topic is complex the solutions for global warming through emission reduction is simple enough:
emit less greenhouse gas (especially carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels) by adopting clean energy sources and production systems.
If only it were that simple.
There is devil is in the detail because our current energy, transport and production of consumer goods depend so heavily on fossil fuels as does the investment returns on the infrastructure we have built to deliver them. The transition to clean alternatives will be fractious and lumpy.
More importantly there is conjecture around the philosophy behind how to achieve an emission reduction solution – conjecture being a polite way of putting it.
There are two broad camps, those who would:
One camp assures us that our economic system has delivered wealth, consistently, so why not harness its power to extend the benefits to all and to fix any challenge we face.
Solutions for global warming can be found if we unleash the power of the markets and its proven mechanisms. Go carbon trading
The other camp is convinced that consumption, epitomized by excess, will be our downfall. We must satisfy need not want and ease ourselves back to the simpler life.
These are caricatures for sure; exaggerated for the sake of simplicity and yet hide many critical subtleties.
What has happened, and will continue, is that the debates over the philosophy will consume much of our emotional energy even before we get to debate the merits of specific technical solutions. We risk ‘fiddling while Rome burns’.
Here though, both approaches, and their innumerable variants, are touted as solutions for global warming on the premise that we can actually stop, even reverse, a warming trend.
There is another approach to solutions for global warming that avoids this control paradigm
It assumes that we are going to feel global warming effects and climate change effects so let’s get ready for them. Let’s reorganize ourselves to cope.
The formal term for this is climate change adaptation
Adaptation is characterized by nimble, innovative and risk taking changes to the way we use our environment, resources and our approach to creating goods and services. In short we toughen up to be more resilient to the inevitable changes in global weather and climate.
The philosophical differences we have in our understanding of climate change are crucial. They influence everything from our level of fear to our motivation to act.
It is worth taking a moment to think where you stand.
Do this and it will make decisions easier, target your effort for personal and collective good and help you understand the technical and social solutions for global warming.
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