Wednesday, January 28, 2009

don't go overboard

From New Scientist: Human emissions could bring 'irreversible' climate chaos

First, let me say: I'm not a warming skeptic or anything like that. I think we need to stop polluting, being wasteful, and using fossil fuels. Now, preferably. It'll suck, but you can't keep shitting in your own bed without starting to feel pretty nasty.

However, I also think that articles like this are kind of... misleading, maybe? Or perhaps as short-sighted as people who don't want drastic changes to our environmental policies because short-term economic concerns.

Scientists are predicting that even if we stopped burning fossil fuels now, by the year 3000, CO2 levels "would still be around a third higher than pre-industrial levels."

Even if we can quickly switch over to alternative energies, no matter what we do, it's going to suck for people right now. It's going to suck for people for a while. But 1000 years isn't really that long. Yeah, I know it's what, 40 generations? But think 1000 years ago. Sure, we didn't have any of the sweet technology we do now, but a lot of our cultural roots were around then.

And think about it on a geological time scale. We're in the middle of a interglacial period of an ice age, a period that started about 12,000 years ago. The last interglacial period, which started about 130,000 years ago, lasted 20,000 years. According to Wikipedia, a scientist has predicted a warm period of at least another 50,000 years (because of low eccentricity of the Earth's orbit), but we really don't know.

Plus, crazy stuff always happens. For example: before about 50 million years ago, Earth was a lot warmer and wetter, and CO2 levels were some like ten times what they are now. Then, about 49 mya, a bunch of ferns pulled a lot of CO2 out of the atmosphere (Azolla event), eventually lowering the amount from ~3800 ppmv to ~100 ppmv. Earth started the ice age cycle it's going through today.

I'm a little unsure of my point, I think. It's not that we should forget about environmentalism or anything like that. The way we're doing things sucks, and if we want to stick around, we have to find better ways. I guess I'm just saying, we can't save the world. We can't save everything. We can't hold the world as it is. The Earth changes; we have to evolve to it, not the other way around.

I'm just afraid someone's going to do something crazy like try and pull all of the CO2 gases out of the air, and we'll end up in a glacial period again. We're not ready for that guys. I hate the cold.

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