Build tomorrow today
Climate Change? What do you mean?
Don’t immediately go crazy that I’m a climate change denier. Read below what I mean with this. But what irritates me, kind of new in this arena, is that often this climate change debate is held with different arguments.
There are thousands of visions on the future of this planet. There is, for some groups, a lot to loose (more on that later on) and there is no clear cut answer. Because we only have one planet, and back testing will not 100% accurately predict the future. And on that ‘not 100% sure’ argument a lot of discussions can be held with no clear outcome.
But first: All the time two different arguments are mixed in one discussion when we discuss climate change;
- Is there any climate change due to human behavior?
- Is it a problem that we have climate change?
And besides that how ‘sustainable’ is our carbon economy anyway? What can or can’t we do with the earth resources nowadays?
Below my research/ findings/ humble opinion about these arguments:
(1) Is there any climate change due to human behavior? Most of the scientist agree on the first one. Probably our society is pushing the limits of this planet. Our emissions causes this planet to have an extra layer of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which causes the planet overall to warm up. Most scientific papers agree on this one. We have for example these beautiful charts of the last 150 years going up to prove there is strong correlation.
(2) Second discussion is all the more debate about. Is it a problem that we have climate change. And how big a problem is it compared to other world problems? Is it a problem our planet moves, changes and have any climate change? Because it happened all the time in history. See this graph above. The earth crust moves, the world shakes sometimes, volcanos explode and mountains grow. We have had a changing atmosphere all the time. A lot more debate is going on about the impact of this change.
In how far can we adept to the earth responding to our behavior? Build extra embankments, move villages & islands. Or other examples like the ‘delta werken’ to defend ourselves against rising sea levels. We have a lot of problems in the world and just few resources to tackle them. Is this changing climate the biggest threat to human society and its habitat? More than fighting poverty, of is it even causing poverty due to more droughts? What is the impact? A lot harder to say and predict because you are not only have to know the outcome of the this topic, but also compare it to others problems in the world.
And climate change is unknown territory because we don’t have any case studies of other planets like earth with 10 billion people around having the same environment. (E.T. phoned home but we forget to ask him.) We all want — also when we are with 10 billion people — to have a decent life, good food and a safe home. Is fighting against rising temperatures the best we can do with our (human) capital?
Hard to say.
(3) Third topic is in my opinion the most important. What can or can’t we do with the earth resources nowadays? We have, until Elon Musk completes his plan to concur Mars, only one planet. We have this beautiful blue planet earth with a long history and a long future ahead (with or without species living on it) that has a finite amount of resources. Resources that are shrinking fast. No matter if new oil/gas-fields are found or not. The amount we use today compared to our ‘share’ relative to time in history is crazy. I’m seriously curious how, lets say, people in 2200 look back at our current energy usage and balance of earths resources.
Using fossil fuels have an impact in two ways:
- We are depleting our planet and will not leave any quality resources to future generations.
- We are so addicted to it that we pay high prices for fossil fuels and go to war to get the stuff needed for a stable price.
(3.1) This planet has a lot of resources. These resources are a gift from the past, and we, as a human race, are incredible lucky that we have ended up on this planet.
We are now searching the bottom of the oceans and all layers of the ground to get our hands on those scarce and not-so-scarce resources. But doing so, burning through our stock of the earth elements. We began with peat, after that coal, than oil, now the focus is more on gas. But either way. We burn in centuries through our world supply. A supply that took the earth billions of years to build up. We just blow it into the air. Gone. With only a trace of smoke as evidence.
And while getting this carbon out of the ground we generate a mess. See the BP spoil, the mess Shell left in Nigeria but also the constant stream of deaths we are accepting in the coal mines, worldwide direct related death are 12.000, (indirect deaths — black lungs related deaths — is something like 20 times that number suggests this NPR article).
(3.2) We fight, we go to war and put countries under economic pressure to make sure we have access to those elements so our economy is stable and can grow. And some fossil fuel rich countries couldn’t even develop a democratic system, because owning the fossil fuel companies means power. (By the way: took me a while to figure out why the hell Dutch Shell HQ would be in The Hague, while this city doesn’t have a big harbor or a river flowing through it, now I get it.)
These (fossil fuel) resources are not evenly distributed around the globe. Qatar wins. And a few other countries. That’s why we make war in Iraq and let the people in North Korea (or any other place without much impact on our fossil fuel economy) suffer. We hate Putin but still pay Russia for his gas. IS and other terrorist groups are partly financed by their oil supplies. We are addicted and do everything to make sure we will get out next shot. It doesn’t matter how tough the dealer is. All to make sure our cars and thousand of other items in our economy run smoothly on this oil system.
We exploit this planet, we are draining our resources in just a few centuries and don’t think about our future generations. Do we have too much confidence that the future will bring us the solutions? Do we maybe as a generation have the arrogance that we will come up with a solution when we run out of gas and oil? Or are we just to lazy to change? Is it just party like there is no tomorrow and see where we will end up?
It seems we just don’t want to wake up. Live our happy life now. Because it is easier in the short term to look away. And a lot of powers want to keep this system and soothe the people is it okay as it is now. They have build their fortunes on the fossil fuel system and want to protect it. And they have the money to lobby the same the tobacco industry did (and alcohol and sugar industry).
I always ask myself the question to see if change is needed: If we would build this market again based on all current available technologies, would we build it like it is today? If I look at the energy market for this exercise I think it would be silly to rebuild it like it is now. That means inevitable that change will come. And it wise to lead the change instead of leaning back on current foundations.
All humans on this planet cannot simply live with the same carbon/water/energy footprint like we are used to in the ‘West’ (Europe / US). How long will it take for us to face that fact? We all have to adjust on many different levels.
No matter what you think about the first two discussions. Hopefully everybody agrees on the stupidity of burning and using our raw materials only once. Depleting this mini rock in the solar system. Like there is no tomorrow. Or a future for the next generations.
We build a civilization and grown exponentially as humans with the help of coal and oil. It brought us a beautiful rich society we have today. The luxury life of always having something to eat whenever you want. A safe and dry place to sleep. A state care plan that will help you when in need (The Dutch thanks to Groningen). But to make this sustainable we have to move on. We are rich enough, and getting more rich doesn’t make us more happy. So lets focus on our world instead of private wealth. Lets make the move forward towards a sustainable world. That won’t be a ‘quickie’, but with a clear goal in mind of a real sustainable world is it worthwhile.
We have to think harder, be tough on ourselves (instead of a dealer who is tough on us) and suffer some pain in the short term to get to a society that will be sustainable in every area. And the funny part is, we surprise ourselves all the time with how quick a technology can develop. See the chart here at the left and this article from VOX about the rise of the solar industry.
And than we have Swanson’s law for example, every investment in solar now is also an investment into the future because it brings down prices. Swanson’s Law states that the cost of the photovoltaic cells needed to generate solar power falls by 20% with each doubling of global manufacturing capacity. If we just do that instead of sustainable bookkeeping with biomass, that won’t help us in the long run the moment we stop subsidizing it. (Read this Dutch article for more information).
Not that solar is THE solution to all things. I’m aware we have to combine all technologies at their utmost to bring us a society that is sustainable. But at least make more use of it now. Invest in it so the technology can even have a steeper learning curve.
It is difficult to manoeuvre and make my own opinion on all those big issues. But the more I read about it. The more I am convinced that we could best choose the save option and save our options. Not burn through our options.
I am not the smartest kid in town. There are others with way more brain capacity to make the plans for the future so please look those up. But this post is most of all a call for trying new things. Not to be conservative, not be confident with the current status quo but be confident with new technologies. To make the leap forward. And yes, that can maybe costs us some ‘money’ in the short term. But sorry to tell you, more money doesn’t make you happy. A nice place you and future generations can live does.
So let’s build tomorrow today. We have the opportunities and the technology solutions already here to choose the save option ‘planet earth’. So we can all happily enjoy it.
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