Thanks Wooky for the thoughtful reply.
Andrew Eddie
1

OK, so in fact we have pretty broad agreement there between ourselves. (There is warming, it is largely human caused, solutions need to be politically acceptable, decarbonisation is a good thing for several reasons, nuclear and hydro are low-carbon, extreme luxury items are probably a bad thing, not enough people take this seriously, high energy prices can cause other problems). We could just stop there, but I’ll just cover a few points in more detail.

Ultimately solutions will have to be acceptable to a large enough majority of people to get implemented, so that likely to be somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum. The point is that this needs to be a political debate and you can’t have a sensible one of those when half the people are insisting that the problem doesn’t even exist — i.e. denying the science. That what drives lots of us crazy. I encourage you to read more (from actual scientists/scientific institutions, rather than bloggers and journalists) and you can find out more about what is/isn’t known. Potholer54’s climate change series on youtube is very good, as everything is referenced to actual papers.

Yes, too few people take this seriously, and even then few want to accept the logical outcome that them doing 90% of the polluting whilst poor people elsewhere that emit very little take most of the pain, isn’t at all fair and they should spend some time, money, and effort to even things up a bit.

The world could relatively easily be arranged for everyone to have a European standard of living, with 2 tonnes emissions each, which matches the absorption rate of the planet. I don’t think that’s a prospect to be scared of.

The one thing you said which I think is wrong is “I am skeptical that we can say what is going to happen next is a well-understood reality any more than we can predict the weather perfectly.”

Long-term trends are much easier to predict than short-term weather. We can’t say how much it will be raining in two weeks time, but we are absolutely certain that June will be warmer than December in temperate parts of the Northern hemisphere, every year, without fail. Similarly the increased heat due to more greenhouse gasses is fundamental — we’ve made the atmosphere more insulating, so the planet is warming up and will now continue to do so for decades. The details of exactly which places heat up most and how the rainfall patterns change is much harder, but the fundamental issue is certain.

Some of the side-effects of that are also certain, only the timing and exact magnitude is still uncertain. e.g. The sea level will rise. At least a metre (3 feet), probably at least 3, most likely 6, and more like 20 if we don’t get emissions under control in the next couple of decades. That effect is probably quite slow (centuries), but this is highly uncertain. Ice-sheet collapse could be much quicker (decades) in some places (West Antarctic).

So yes there is huge uncertainty there — will Miami become flooded in 40 years or 400? That’s a big practical difference if you are thinking of buying property there. I don’t think the right way to react to the risk is ignoring it, especially because the science is telling us that although the melting is a very slow process _now_ (next 20 years) is the time we choose the end-point. After that it’s done and we can only watch the planetary systems inexorably do their thing.

If you disagree with any of this, you have to make a case for why you know more than the glaciologists doing this work. Watch talks by Konrad Steffen, Jason Box, Richard Alley, Eric Rignot for fascinating details.

“I am skeptical that we have all the science we need to make the best decision.”

It is a fallacy to conclude from uncertainty of detail that we should do nothing. We know enough to know that the current path will cause really serious problems, possibly existential ones eventually. It’s fairly clear that if you heat the planet up enough there is no way it can sustain the current population and civilisation in anything like its current form. With a large enough temp rise, most of Africa and the middle East plus some of Asia would have to move to Canada and Russia. Do you really think that is sensible, practical or desireable? We have to stop heating the place up. We’ve already had the 1C rise that is relatively harmless (and it’s not harmless at all if you live in Madagascar, Chad or the Solomon Islands). From here on in fixing the problem is cheaper than paying for the consequences.

I agree with you that nuclear and hydro are good low-carbon sources and that the stupid radiophobia you see in Germany, Japan and the US is deeply unhelpful (and arguably not at all ‘green’). Buy you overemphasise the importance of baseload . That is an artifact of centralised dispatchable power and a demand-led system. Both demand and supply are variable and we can make a new system that works well with less, or even no, ‘baseload’ if need be. It’s just a matter of cost, reliability, and geography. It’s engineering. Solving the electrical supply part of this is not the hard part: lots of people are working on it. The hard part is aviation, shipping, freight transport, heating in northern climes and some parts of industry, all of which are mostly being ignored at the moment.

Personally I don’t really care if we have free-market pollution charging, tax-and-dividend, central-war-office diktats, or even UN world-government takeover, so long as people take the science, and thus the problem, seriously. But then I’m a European centrist, which is what you would presumably call a ‘leftist liberal’. However I thnk the problem is serious enough that I’m happy to rise above tribal politics in looking for solutions. Anything that will work, and can get implemented, is fine by me. So far, things that are implementable, are insufficient to solve the problem, because not enough people take it sufficiently serisouly, but we are making reasonable progress on that front. The problem is the _very_ short timescale for successfully dealing with it in time to avoid really nasty outcomes.

Anyway, this has been a useful discussion, I thank you for being reasonable and being prepared to look at the data and science. I get the impression that the complete denial many US Republicans have espoused is beginning to crumble as it becomes more obvious that it is both wrong and self-defeating.

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