Today at the Haas School of Business, here on the Berkeley campus of the University of California, there was a lecture about Climate Science by Michael Mastrandrea, a PhD and member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This was a very well presented, fast moving and informative lecture covering much the of same information presented in Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth“. It did cover some of the technical data more deeply than the movie but still it was directed primarily at a general audience, in this case to about twenty sophisticated Berkeley graduate school business students. It was being video recorded so in a couple of weeks there may be a link here.
After the formal lecture there was a question period. All of the questions were very good, and on topic, and very rapid. I don’t know if it is my low body temperature slowing down my brain, or old age or what, but it seems students are speaking much faster than they did twenty years ago. However, the rapid speech wasn’t accompanied by a more sophisticated, and precise vocabulary so I don’t know if there is actually any more information being transmitted per minute, perhaps less. The quality of the dialogue was definitely better than yesterday at the I-School question period which was diffuse, sometimes to the point of being word salad.
I didn’t ask any questions at the class because after all this was a class, and I was an interloper-auditor. However, after the lecture and two students had finished talking to Dr. Mastrandrea I did chat with him for about five minutes where I brought up the questionable quality of the various projections being made on his charts for the next 100 years, and futility of the solutions being presented in the face of the ongoing population explosion. I said, that if the population kept growing at the current rate there would certainly be a catastrophic collapse long before the end of the hundred year projections he showed on screen. I suspect that he agreed. At least he didn’t call me crazy for saying such a thing. He said that talking about population control was a difficult subject because of the ethical implications, and the impossibility of saying who would be allowed to have children, and who would be prevented. Who would live, and who would die? He told me that there were some people who were trying to come up with workable solutions, but apparently they were not being successful because there hasn’t been a squeak of any of these things being presented publicly. And I have been listening.
I asked about alternate solutions such as sequestering atmospheric carbon, as opposed to not creating it, but it seemed that most of the work along that line was rich carbon offenders buying off carbon credits from poor rain-forest countries. Functionally that is little more than paying off rich politicians of poor tropical countries to oppress the poor people of the forest. If these things go the way they usually do the suffering little guy on the bottom gets very little for what was his ancestral land, and in the end dies in situ or moves to the city, and becomes the new bottom dwelling member of the urban poor.
I suggested a few ideas, which might be crazy or maybe not – but he had never heard of them. Such as how much of the black heat absorbing arctic land could be painted over with titanium oxide white for a few billion dollars, and thus made more reflective of solar energy input, and thus cooler? Or how might ocean currents be deflected to improve human use requirements, or wind flow patterns of hot air going to arctic regions. He called this geo-engineering, but didn’t seem very enthusiastic about its chances for funding. Quite frankly, although he was an optimistic kind of person, and was optimistic about “solutions being found”, and was as informed as anybody I have encountered so far, he didn’t seem to have a workable answer. Not even close, and what’s worse, although he wanted it to be true there didn’t seem to be any large scale thing which was truly positive on the horizon. This is the same unsubstantiated kind of hope that Ambassador Kroner seemed to imbued with. It is a faith based hope and as such it makes living day to day easier and more pleasant but in the long run it courts disaster and eventually marries her.
Okay, so this week I have directly encountered three people in the center of this looming crisis, Ambassador Kroner on global warming and flooding, some speakers at the Berkeley Conference on global warming and now Dr. Mastrandrea of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and in addition I watched Al Gore’s movie on global warming. Everyone of these sources was intelligent, sane, informed, optimistic and apparently well paid for their role in solving this problem. And yet, I am sorry to say, they didn’t offer a single realistic clue as to how to actually cope with this crisis and worse yet none of them seemed to be thinking outside of their self imposed box. Changing your light-bulbs to compact-fluorescents isn’t going to solve the global warming problem.
All of these sources presented the nice sawtooth graph of CO2 starting in 1956 and going up to the present with accurate measurements, and not the slightest deviation from an arrow straight line to disaster. At least I offer some suggestions, but I am an outsider, and always will be, and as soon as I start talking in public about the real solutions I am branded as crazy, and the methods unworkable. The alternative, of course, is to let natural processes take their course. Mother nature will win out in the end no matter what we do, but we won’t enjoy her methods. She will eventually kill us off as a species, but if we behave correctly that could be a long long time in the distant future and not tomorrow evening at dinner between desert and coffee.