Thread: Eaarth
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Old 08-17-2010, 11:01 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I seriously doubt we're going to tip the planet into a Venusian greenhouse scenario where higher temperatures lead to even higher temperatures. But if we did, neither localvorism nor carbon-neutral living would save you.

Hopefully, Antarctica and Siberia would remain habitable. The survivors would be well advised to build up international trade to support a massive industrial and research base. The goal would be to engineer crops and cities that would allow us to reclaim the formerly temperate zones and tropics despite the heat, or terraforming methods to bring global temperatures down. I see nothing to recommend local economies in this or any other scenario.

But that's all science fiction.

Climate change might bring about an overall decline in the planet's ability to support human crops. People in wealthy countries will hardly notice. The price of food on the international market will rise, and most people will eat more grain and less meat, perhaps without noticing it.

In response to a poor harvest this year, Russia has barred the export of grain, causing a fall in the local price of wheat and a rise in the world price. Also recall the controversy over Japan refusing to open its strategic rice reserves during the Burmese typhoon a few years back. Good for them, promoting localvorism. I fully expect American, European, and powerful Asian governments to be similarly able and willing to look after their own, at the expense of the world's poor.

But perhaps continued innovation will allow agricultural production to continue to exceed the needs of the world's population despite a reduction in available arable land. Perhaps more heat-tolerant crops may be required. Or perhaps global warming will increase rainfall, which would be nice.

@Arragonis: It doesn't matter whether humans have already caused detectable global warming. There's very little debate that the GHG's that we are releasing in unprecedented quantities will cause climate change if they haven't yet. Regardless of whether it has happened or will someday happen, our response should be the same: reduce GHG emissions when we can.

Most of our GHG emissions are from burning coal and petroleum. Just look at our collective fuel logs to see how easily we could reduce our consumption of petroleum if that were made a priority. Likewise, with a little intelligent legislation (carbon tax, renewable energy mandates), we'd see a dramatic decrease in our dependence on coal as an energy source.

I'm not 100% certain reducing GHG emissions would help us leave a more habitable planet. But with as easy as it is to do, and as helpful to our descendants as it might be, I say we should at least leave the coal in the ground and stop driving unaerodynamic bricks around.