Climate inertia could be the death of us

Procrastination over climate change will likely not result in mass deaths of rich, overfed and over-domesticated westerners, but it may foreshorten the lives of millions in the developing world. That’s politics for you. Or rather politics and money.

This is my cynical reaction to an article in the New Zealand Herald, kindly pointed out to me by my friend Snoopy the Goon. My argument is not with article author Gwynne Dyer, who articulates very well the opportunities and problems associated with geoengineering, or the manipulation of Earth’s climate by technical means in order to mitigate the effects of anthropogenic or natural climate change. What annoys me is that we are having this silly argument in the first place.

The science and engineering reality supports all sides of the fantasy political debate, and this tells us more about the bankrupt ideologies and inertia-ridden mentality of our otherwise canny species than the technological merits and demerits of geoengineering. Large-scale climate manipulation is as its critics say a false solution, and an arrogant one at that. But the longer we put off dealing with the root causes of anthropogenic climate change, the more likely we will have no choice but to resort to geoengineering, and face the risk of unintended consequences.

This debate has now gone way beyond simple political ideology, and has turned into an almighty mess, with scientists, engineers, politicians and once friendly civil society groups at odds with each other over the development of energy policy.

In a world with nearly seven billion souls at the mercy of their environment, conquering nature is the thinking of fools. As is blind faith in massive and virtually overnight carbon cutbacks, combined with 100% renewable and carbon-free energy generation. But with politicians unwilling or too fearful to act, I suspect that geoengineering will be our only option.