Sunday, February 26, 2017

Global Warming: The Future Is Now

26 February 2017

As I learned in high school 50 years ago, atmospheric carbon retains energy (in the forms of both heat and motion) on and near our planet's surface. Humans put the carbon there by subjecting carbon-containing materials to combustion. This is known as global warming, the present round of which is caused by human activity. Please go back to your high school science class if any of what I just said is not clear to you. (You do not need a post-high school education to understand global warming.) 

Besides causing melting glaciers and soggy lawns surrounding Florida condos (including the Trump family's wintering grounds), the current human-induced warming is creating a wetter and hotter north. 

Climate change doubles size of lakes in N.W.T. bison sanctuary

Bison are a common sight along N.W.T. Highway 3 between Fort Providence and Behchoko, near the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary.

Due to other causal factors, global warming (and cooling) have happened many times before on a millennial-to-geological time scale, though never nearly so "exponentially." Many species, humans included, will have to adapt. 

Relocating coastal cities is going to prove very expensive, and northward migrating diseases and increased storm intensity will affect all of us. Shifting mass on continental plates even increases earthquake and volcanic eruption risks. 

Carbon credits and other bureaucratic schemes are equivalent to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Global warming is not a reason to give new powers to governments, which most of us probably agree have too many poorly applied powers already. Obviously as a species, we need to build sturdier homes, invest in infectious disease research (impacting both plants and animals), and, as I do not tire of stating, convert our power grids to fusion energy.

Image result for fusion reactor

Due both to the accelerating rate of change and to positive feedback loops built into the system (which we are only beginning to understand), the impacts of the current warming cycle are becoming more dramatic year by year. You can be alarmed or you can be ready. I suggest that readiness is the wiser response. 

Denial won't make it stop. 

Reallocating our carbon resources to organic molecular synthesis would be a mark of intellIgence at the species level. We know most everything we need to know now to cut this current carbon-combustion cycle short, and we can figure out the rest! The future is now. 

Keep in mind that because we're discussing systems, the warming trend at this point will persist for some time, even if we cut carbon emissions to near-zero. 

Regarding fusion power development, investors wIth a 20-year time horizon for return on investment (profitability will take longer!) will ultimately be the most rewarded ever in history. The funding could possibly be arranged through an income trust structure, which, unfortunately, Mark Carney (the thankfully-departed former Governor of the Bank of Canada, now wreaking havoc on Britain's currency) eliminated in Canada. 

I don't think it would be that difficult to undo Carney's work and set up a specialized income trust to fund this, and Canada has prior experience with this strategy. 

Thus, Canada could become the world's leader in fusion power development. 

The one new ingredient required will be the two-decade time horizon, and some kind of political initiative will probably be required to enable an investment strategy of this kind.

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