Friday, January 11, 2008

The sky is falling, civilization is coming to an end, not...

Although I'm pretty worried about the consequences of climate change, I also get pretty tired of some of the folks who write about it in the most cataclysmic terms. George Monbiot, a British author whose opinion pieces I read regularly in the Guardian, is one example, although there are many, many others.

Here's the piece by Mr. Monbiot that got me going, right here. It's a new book by Cormac McCarthy, another climate change dystopia. Mad Max.

My problem with this kind of stuff is that I just don't think it makes sense to believe that modern humanity will just let things get worse and worse until there is no recovery. Do the authors really think that everyone who is in science and government is absolutely incompetent? Some are, I know, believe me. But many if not most are reasonable and professional. And by concentrating on the worst possible cases of social and economic upheaval, these new dystopias distract us from what is real and now, and quite straightforward, which is the workaday reduction of carbon emissions from household and industrial processes.

Because this is just work, folks. Boring old work. And I suspect that in the long run, most of it will NOT get done by people who read and write dystopian projections. It's a very banal, down-to-earth business, this reducing climate emissions.

You don't need to feel any earth-shaking worries to do it. You reduce emissions pretty much the same way you pay your bills every month. You say, ho-hum, oh well, better do this now, and set aside a little time, and go switch out a light bulb, or do some insulating, or make the calculations you need to make to decide whether or not it's time to switch out that furnace, or get that new hybrid car. And then you get done and go have dinner. Just like any other day.

You make a habit of reducing emissions, just like some people make a habit of paying bills. I actually enjoy paying my bills, because it gives me control over my life. I like saving energy for much the same reason. When will most people begin to think about reducing emissions? When they look at their bills, their heat bills and oil bills, and realize that they are wasting their money buying expensive energy they really don't need to use.

Corporations and smaller businesses have people who pay bills too. They will do much the same kind of thing. In their case, it will be some very disinteresting gray men and women poring over computers in back rooms who will save the planet.

And then it will be time for dinner.

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