So, whilst on holiday and pondering the future somewhat, it occurred to me that it’d be nice to register for posterity my current views on some things. The main point being to put a peg in the sand at a point in time and say “I think x”, and to come back in the future and view that to see how your views have changed over time.
I thought I’d start with my views on global warming. If you’re here for the technology stuff, I suggest you don’t read this – it doesn’t relate to technology. 🙂
In summary my views are:
1. CO2 causes warming, we’re adding CO2 to the atmosphere, therefore we’re causing warming
2. It’s unlikely that there are substantial positive feedbacks to this CO2, if there were then the fact that the earth has had much higher CO2 in the past would mean that the runaway warming would have already occurred
3. As such, I think that the total warming that occurs because of this CO2 will be at the low end of the IPCC forecasts (or even below the low end), because the IPCC forecasts assume a significant positive feedback beyond the primary warming directly caused by the CO2
4. At this level of warming, I think adapting to the increased temperature is a much better policy idea than attempting to prevent it. Adaptation also has the advantage of potentially working, whereas prevention has pretty much been demonstrated to not work (to date at least)
5. Over time technology will move us away from burning carbon intensive fuels – not because we make it expensive, but because those fuels have higher value uses, and some other technology for making energy becomes much cheaper. I hope that other form of energy will be thorium fuelled reactors (refer: LFTR), but if “renewable” technologies can get to a point where they’re cost effective without subsidies and including the grid costs they impose, then that’s fine by me too
6. Sea level rise will continue pretty much as it has since the last ice age – i.e. I don’t think global warming is materially impacting sea level rise, and even if we stopped all global warming many parts of the globe would still have problems with sea level rise. We’ll have to find ways of adapting to this anyway (the Dutch were pretty good at it in times gone by, so I presume with current technology we can do at least as well)
At the current time there’s been no measurable warming for about 16 years. I think this is a temporary pause, and that the warming will resume. To put it another way, there is evidence that the warming comes in steps – so we have 20 years of warming, then 20 years of plateau, then 20 years of warming. In the same way it’s wrong to draw a straight line from the 20 years of warming and conclude a frightening warming rate, it’s also wrong to draw a straight line from the plateau and conclude there is no warming. The reality is the average of the two, about 1.5 degrees per century or a little less.