TED Conversations

Arjuna Nagendran

Doctor,

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Is fighting climate change a losing battle?

Climate change is and will impact us all. As alluded to, there are many countries who unfortunately stand to make very substantial financial gains from this.

What is likely to be the most successful way of fighting this battle? Who is likely to make the biggest impact - our fellow citizens or our Governments?

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  • Oct 3 2012: My thoughts on global warming:

    7 billion on the planet right now are having a negative impact on the environment.

    Populous countries such as India and China are generating more wealth each year, and therefore it is natural to assume that consumption in these and other poorer countries is only going to increase over time. Greater consumption is going to lead to more manufacturing and more pollution. Not everyone is going to be a consumer, but with upwards of 10 billion people by 2100, it is rather frightening to start thinking about how many of these 10 billion will be consumers, all wanting the latest iPhones, DVD players, LCD televisions...

    You can have all the fancy schemes you can think of to try and combat "global warming" eg bio fuels, solar/wind energy, but the real underlying issue is uncontrolled world population growth. We're already starting to see the consequences. The Great Barrier Reef is slowly being destroyed partly due to human activities on land. Destruction of the natural world will only increase as the world population increases.

    When we hit the 10 billion mark at around the year 2100 or so, I believe global warming is going to be a lesser concern over and above "competition" over resources such as food, clean water, and raw materials for manufacturing, and the resulting destruction to the environment.

    I'd like to end this by highlighting the stupidity of mankind... The Australian Govt is quite prepared to spend over $40 billion on a national broadband network. Yet, the current petroleum distribution network can't be replaced by hydrogen because it is "too expensive". I have no idea how much it would cost, but $40 billion would go a heck of a long way towards paying for a move towards hydrogen fueled vehicles and the refueling infrastructure.
    • Oct 3 2012: I agree entirely with Dan - but there is a further consideration which has, of yet, not received exposure because governments tend to think within the time frame of their tenure and man cannot think beyond a human lifepsan. During the last 1 million years the planet experienced ten ice ages lasing variously between decades and hundreds of years. In approx 60,000 years from now the planet will experience its next ice age. This is nature at work, there is nothing that man can do to influence this synoidal pattern of climate variation between relatively warm periods and relatively cold periods. During previous ice ages the world's population of humans was so small that those living in the frozen north could migrate to the warmer south. In a future ice age this will not be possible unless the world's population is drastically reduced in size because the nations in the southern hemisphere would not be able to support and sustain such a large population (food, water, shelter, infrasturcture, work - space). The time for action to reduce population size is now. There will be no magic pill in 60000 years to cure all ills, man will not have colonised other planets. I may sound like a prophet of doom, but it is time governments and world bodies thought long term. A little climate change at the moment is going to seem as nothing compared to the armageddon which surely lies ahead if we do not get a grip of the size of the population and start now.
      • Oct 3 2012: Tongue in cheek, while global warming is a bad outcome for some, anyone who has lived in New Zealand should really be welcoming global warming. It can get bitterly cold there during winter, and a couple of degrees warming would be nice. And if the sea temps also rise, the beaches won't be so damn cold even in summer.

        The original question on global warming is really a subset of a broader range of questions regarding humanity and what actions it needs to take to ensure longevity of existence. I'd like to see humanity get behind the "Mars-One" project. Having a colony on Mars is an insurance policy against catastrophic events on Earth, and perhaps then we could sleep a little better at night.

        I agree as well that our planet cools and warms over time. The next ice age will be interesting for sure. The issue of global warming is very complex. We install solar panels while at the same time we destroy forests, we empty our oceans of fish, and continue to build weapons that have the potential to wipe life off the planet many times over. Governments talk about needing to grow their economy, and some governments even have policies that boost immigration to support economic growth.

        Governments are part of the problem not the solution, and that if we all sit back waiting for governments to do something, then we will be waiting a heck of a long time. Or even if they manage to implement something like a carbon tax, it is all ultimately meaningless for all of the reasons mentioned in my original reply.

        A complex situation indeed, and the best place to start is with each individual ie the choices we make and things we can do to make positive change.
      • Oct 4 2012: Complex, indeed. Even if the people who think we can "fight " climate change are right, the process of doing it might well turn out to be ill advised. like. the "Ethanol " scam. Past climate cycles seem to be real, and our attempts to stop it are not likely to prevent it, just mitigate.
        But there IS a way to deal with carbon burning pollution, and several other major problems at the same time: let's start using the Thorium LFTR power plants, cheap , plentiful fuel, no significant pollution, a million times the energy density of oil and coal. It even can run on Uranium LWR plants nuclear waste material.
        As for the population problem, that seems to be a self correcting one. Those who have reached a sort of middle class level of civilization do not seem to have large families as they did when they were peasants. The rate of increase in many countries is below replacement, and as Feminism spreads, will no doubt go even lower. Also, if we get Thorium power going, we will be able to save all that money wasted on windmills, solar panels, transmission lines, etc, which are simply not economical, and can be shown to be inadequate.
      • Oct 6 2012: Richard (and others), to suggest that there will still be future natural ice ages despite anthropogenic factors demonstrates that you don't have the vaguest notion of what climate change is. I suggest that you read James Hansen's book Storms of my Grandchildren. If I remember correctly, an example that Hansen uses is that climate forcings caused by a single CFC factory are sufficient to outstrip any natural cooling cycles.

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