Thursday, June 21, 2007

Climate Change and Peak Oil

I'm no expert on neither Climate Change nor Peak Oil. However, The more you look into the two issues, I have to say that the more convinced I become that global warming is something we can do quite little about, while peak oil is something that is very real indeed. To be clear, it seems clear that the climate is changing, and that greenhouse gases play a role here (though probably not a decisive one). That we could make decisive changes to the climate in the coming decades by changing our behavior now (short of going cold turkey on fossil fuels) seems improbable.

But, it seems to be clear that energy prices will rise a lot in the coming years and that this will have effects on our lives comparable in gravity to those thought to be caused by climate change.

Still, it is climate change that has become a big issue in politics lately. Now, so far I have been of the opinion that this actually is not so big a problem, because the two problems are so closely related. Most sane actions taken to counter climate change reduces use of fossil fuels.

However, it seems that the politicians really can't do anything right when it comes to the environment. Rather than taking sane actions, like supporting the development of alternative - clean - sources of energy, we see Nuclear Power coming back on a big scale. We hear that it is carbon neutral and safe and clean. Obviously it is none of these things. Energy is used for transports both of Uranium and the waste. It is not safe nor clean: especially the mining of uranium is increasingly messy because it is found in so difficult places. And obviously the waste will be with us forever.

Even worse, the other solution now getting much more political momentum is coal plants that collect the carbon emissions. This is a solution typical of the generation that has always felt that problems out of sight are solved. There are no good solution for storing these emissions, and there are good reasons to believe such deposits will become new environmental hazards.

But putting real effort into developing real renewable energy sources or encouraging people to save energy, that is to much to expect.

The problem here is that future historians - if such will exist - will have a great problem of understanding why we put so much effort into a problem that we was not sure existed while at the same time ignoring a problem plane to see for anyone who cares to look, thus destroying our civilization ourselves.


Weekend Fisher said...

The strangest things have been happening in the alternative fuel debates over here in the USA.

I've seen people argue that we should go nuclear because Europe has. I've heard some talk from a person within the nuclear industry that the first-cycle radioactive waste is actually fuel-grade itself if processed correctly.

Then there has been a huge increase in ethanol production here (to the point of driving up corn prices sharply) and it has led to objections from the prominent liberal magazine The Economist (which isn't USA-based but has a good readership here) and other liberals based on environmental concerns (forests cleared for farmland, poor people who have a corn-reliant diet esp. in Latin America). You can hardly buy gasoline here that isn't 10% ethanol, and the E85 cars are starting to get more popular.

On the bright side, corn farmers such as in Iowa are sitting on some very pretty profits for this year's crops.

It's a very strange world.

Justin Halter said...

I think it is safe to say that the environment is not a problem open to political solutions. It is tough for today's social engineers to admit that, but it is simply true. Whatever happens to the climate and resources in the future, the best possibilities come when intelligent people are free to innovate adjustments and solutions.

Patrik said...

Intelligent people, free to innovate got us in to this mess.

It is easy to see what political measures would have impact on these problems - high tax on oil and other fossil fuels. That would phase out fossil fuels and let us adjust to a lower standard of living in an orderly manner. But I doubt that politicians, generally not the smartest of people, could ever make such a decision. So we will most likely crash.

byron said...

Patrik - is the problem lack of intellgence or lack of courage? Who will step forward first and take the (unpopularity) bullet by calling us on our oil addiction?

byron said...

Hmmm, seems my problem is lack of 'intellgence'.

Patrik said...

Courage is always in short supply.