The Sensible Believer

I consider myself a "sensible believer" in Global Warming.

In my definition, what does "sensible believer" mean?

I believe that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and thus that increased concentrations of it in the atmosphere would tend to increase the amount of heat trapped by that same atmosphere.

Also, I believe there is enough relatively unbiased evidence to state that over the past 50 years, the average temperature of the planet has increased by ~0.64°C.

So far, so good, but then come some "inconvenient" questions, like, for example:

  • Of the ~0.64°C, how much is man made?
  • Is all this temperature increase due to increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere?
  • Are there other mechanisms that would provide positive / negative feedback to the effect of the CO2?
  • Would all the effects of an eventual warming of the planet be negative? Or, could there be positive consequences also?
  • If there could also be positive consequences, would they compensate, at least in part, the negative consequences?

Now, as a "sensible believer," let me state what I don´t believe in:

  • That we know for sure how much the average temperature of the Earth will increase vs the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.
  • That there is a "carbon budget" we shouldn't exceed.
  • That Global Warming is the most serious problem for humanity.
  • That any cost / suffering is justified to fight Global Warming.
  • That renewables (in particular Solar and Wind) are the best solution to reduce our CO2 emissions.
  • That the IPCC is perfect and that it's intentions are purely the presentation of science. 
  • That the believer side is "pure" and thus that no paid lobbyists are pursuing interests that have nothing to do with Global Warming.
  • Carbon taxes. When you boil them down to their essentials, carbon taxes are just another tax. So thanks, but no thanks. 
  • "Freak" energy such as wave, tide, etc. They are "interesting" but will continue to be almost irrelevant in our total primary energy supply.
  • That we have all the questions and all the answers: in other words, we are too arrogant. If the persons in 1915 would have tried to prevent our problems today, they would have failed miserably. 

So, as a "sensible believer" these are my inputs to the energy / climate discourse:
  • Intensely pursue improvements in efficiency. We have barely scratched the surface here and it is, for the most part, a win-win situation because efficiency does not reduce our standards of living.
  • Aggressively replace coal with natural gas. Aside from efficiency, probably nothing can reduce CO2 emissions faster.
  • In general, increase as much as possible the production of natural gas to not only replace coal with it, but minimize the usage of coal in the first place in developing economies. 
  • Do not go all out for renewables (Solar & Wind), this might end up being counter-productive. Thus, remove all overt / covert subsidies for renewables. They are valuable under some circumstances but let them stand on their own feet. While at it, let's remove subsidies for FF also, however, let's consider that per unit of energy produced renewables are today more subsidized than FF.
  • Let current nuclear continue to flourish, but more important, invest in R&D for future generations of nuclear (fission and fusion). Eventually (say in 100 to 150 years, nuclear may be our #1 energy source). 
  • Support innovation in general. 
  • Help reduce population growth in countries that cannot afford it. 
  • Carefully evaluate other "controversial" partial solutions: CCS, geo-engineering, etc.
  • Our global energy use is of such gigantic proportions that whatever we do, will take decades to show results. "It takes time to bring an elephant to term." Hysteria and doing something (anything) for the sake of doing it might prove counter-productive.
  • Essentially, the Global Warming issue is not primarily scientific. It is a political, economic, engineering, psychological, (plus many other things) issue. 
Both Robert Bryce and Richard Muller consider natural gas the best energy source we have, and the former states that our plan, long term, should be N2N, in other words: natural gas to nuclear.

From the energy point of view of our civilization, this plan seems to me perfectly reasonable. 

Thank you.

Feel free to add to the conversation in Twitter: @luisbaram


Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
Well said. We have no reliable way of determining what portion of warming, if any, humans are responsible for, whether our actions can influence or remediate current or future warming, or even if it is desirable to do so. Yet we are committing huge amounts of capital and brain power to something we can't say for certain is even a problem. And resources committed to climate issues are not available to tackle other issues influencing health and well being of ourselves and our environment. We need to spend MORE on understanding the issue, more on developing efficiency and alternative fuels, and LESS on implementing strategies we KNOW to be faulty... and even harmful.
Anonymous said…
You don't really need the term "sensible believer". The widely used term "lukewarmer" describes people like you who accept the basic greenhouse argument but think there is a lot of uncertainty, there is no catastrophe taking place and a bit of warming can be beneficial.

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