by Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte Rosé)
To paraphrase Mark Twain, everyone talks about global warming but nobody ever does anything about it.
Unfortunately, that’s all too true. No matter how strong a case you can make that we need, on a global scale, to immediately cut way back on our discharge of greenhouse glasses, there’s no reason to think it’s going to happen. The past several decades have seen repeated and increasingly shrill warnings about warming, accompanied by release of ever increasing levels of greenhouse gases.
I see no reason to harbor any illusion that these ever more shrill warnings will result in a massive change in our behavior, any more than they have in the past. When you factor in its not just our behavior that would need to change, but the behavior of China, India, and other developing countries as well, all of whom are instead busy expanding their use of fossil fuels at a rapid rate, it is delusional to think that a reduction in greenhouse emissions is a viable solution.
Against this backdrop, this article appears in the NY times a few weeks back:
The Earth Is Warming? Adjust the Thermostat
It’s an article that everyone should read. It’s long been known that major volcanic eruptions can result in world-wide cooling as a result of the clouds of smoke and soot that block out and reflect the sun’s rays back into space.
Various man-made methods of putting into effect something similar have been proposed. This article summarizes the status of some creative ways to address Global Warming that, unfortunately, are not being pursued with the anything close to the vigor the situation dictates. I think, on the right, there’s still a lot of denial about Global Warming, most of it of the “ostrich with its head in the sand” variety. While scientific consensus in the past has been proven wrong, I think it’s foolhardy to ignore what those most conversant with the problem are telling us. It seems the better part of prudence to plan for the worst rather than hope for the best.
If the right denies global warming, the left seems wedded to an essentially moralistic view that the only remedy is greenhouse gas reductions. This view seems to be yoked to a view that fossil fuels are an evil in and of themselves, instead of an evil because they cause climate change.
Unfortunately, the result is a de facto conspiracy between the right and left to do nothing meaningful. If the right turns out to be correct that global warming is giant hoax, then there’s nothing to worry about. If, as seems more likely, those most knowledgeable on the subject turn out to be more or less correct, then we are facing a disaster of unimagined magnitude.
So back to the NY Times article. It examines the possibility of tinkering with our atmosphere in ways that reflect solar radiation back into space. The criticism raised against this approach is that we’re dealing with a complex system where anything we attempt could have unforeseen and unfortunate side effects. That’s a fair criticism. But the solution isn’t to jettison the idea. It is to conduct small scale trials where we can get some idea of what works, what doesn’t, and what steps can be taken to mitigate any adverse side effects.
I fear the alternative is a continuation of the creation of more hot air. Hot air in two senses; warming, and the meaningless promises of our leaders to do something when everyone knows it’s a charade. If we fast forward another 30 or 50 years, we could be facing the worse ramifications of global warming, with an hysterical demand from the world’s populations to “do something”. At that point, in response to a crisis, these ideas may be need to be implemented, ready or not. Instead of discovering their side effects in small trials, we’ll be discovering them real time on a worldwide scale.
When that day comes (and I suspect it will), we’ll look back with regret that we didn’t do some advance planning. In comparison to the cost of efforts we’re already undertaking in a vain effort to cut back on green house gas emissions, the cost of implementing some of these ideas is very modest. If they buy us time, as a world, to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, they will have been a godsend.
If we do nothing, figuring out how to grow Cabernet Sauvignon in Labrador will be the least of our concerns.