What do I think, What can I do?

Posts tagged ‘priority’

The risks: Why I believe in Climate Change (IV)

Clouds

When you do not see too much and you still have to take decisions, basic approaches can be helpful

As explained before, I believe in climate change for several reasons, witch include the temperature data and the mechanism of greenhouse effect and CO2. But now I want to follow another approach: What if we did not have enough data either to accet or to refuse climate change?

It happens many times in our life, we have to make important decisions without having too much security about consecuences. I think it happens in economy a lot of times, different strategies are recommended for European debt crisis but the uncertainties are great for any of them. In those cases, for many, the straigthforward solution is the standard one: business as usual, it is actually a way to avoid the decision or to avoid the unbearable uncertainty.

However this business as usual not always works, how many companies have failed for not being brave enough to innovate when it was neccesary! I think it is the case about climate change. It is a new challenge for humankind, maybe the first global critical challenge and it requires new prespectives. If we had not enough data we should balance the risks of the two failure possibilities one is difficult but the other one is dreadful in my opinion:

1.- The difficult one is to believe in the risk and act consecuently but if climate was not a real problem. So, more or less: reduce our energy demanding activities, rationalize our transport needs, control our population, be much more efficient in energy use and transport, make a great effort in development of renewable energies, spend more money in our energy bill,… I am convince all this means sacrifice, personal, colective and economical. But the ultimate situation would be that we would start in advance something we would need to do someday, change our energy sources, beacause fossil fuels are not forever.

2.- The dreadful one is to continue our growing path of greenhouse gas emissions, to burn coal, oil and gas as fast as we can and provoke serius changes in our planet climate without doing nothing serious to avoid it. The consecuences would range: problems in our water supply, food security, sealevel, public health, extreme weather event frequency,… So not only more sacrifice than in option one, it also means many more unexpected problems.

So, even without reliable data making proactive sacrifice know seems more reasonable because the risk is lower and predictable. And, besides, we are lucky because we do not need to do such a sacrifie only for an hipothetical problem (it uses to be very difficult to make sacrifices and more when the drawback is not completely sure) because we have the data and they are clear, our fossil fuel consumtion is changing the climate drastically and fast.

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Nuclear, yes or not?

This is an old debate many times repeated. The interesting question about repeating a debate is that sometime new points of view appear and gain strength. This happened when James Lovelock claimed a “Climate Change point of view” to rediscover nuclear as the planetary energy solution for the present. I suppose that terrible discussions between ecologist followed this statement.

I have never been a nuclear supporter, even if I am physicist and know many supporter close to me. Maybe the main reason is subjective, related with my father point of view and campaigns against “Lemoiz” nuclear in my childhood. They are vague memories of complicate issues but the clear conclusions for me over the years is that most people here were against nuclear but they have used several nuclear Kwh during last decades from Garoña and French nuclear power stations.

I still think that nuclear power stations are risky in spite of the controls. I also have many doubts about their economical profitability considering the eternal residuals and dismantling cost of the power station itself. Nevertheless I agree in some points with Lovelock’s idea:

  • “Climate Change point of view” may be different from classical ecology, and Climate Change should be the priority in this moment because if we fail too much here the consequences will worsen many other ecological, social and economic problems.
  • It is true we need to act now and fast and change our minds in many aspects to address this challenging situation. Fossil fuels have to be substituted from this moment.
  • I also think there is no magic and perfect solution. We will have to sacrifice. I agree that reneweables alone are not able to maintain our energy thirst in this moment.

But I do not agree in the main idea, I do not think nuclear power stations are the solution for the following reasons:

  • Nuclear fuel is also scarce and I do not know how many energy is possible to obtain from it or how many time it can spare us but likely not enough to bridge to a renewable future.
  • Nuclear power stations are very expensive at the beginning and we-don’t-know-how-expensive at the end of their life. A total transition to nuclear in this moment would lead to add the cost of closing all stations and opening new ones. Would not be cheaper to research more intensively in renewables?
  • Widespread nuclear would increase the risk.

I do not believe nuclear is the magic card but I also consider very difficult to get ride of nuclear Kws in this moment, they will be something we have to live with for many years and I prefer to have new, safer and more efficient nuclear power stations instead of the old-fashioned ones, just in case.

Will lemons grow in my garden?, For the prof needers

My wife and me bought a small land to plant trees and maybe some vegetables,… We do not have time to take care of it too much but some trees are getting adoult enought to give us some delicious fruits.

Nevertheless we failed completely in some trials: the attempt to plant lemon tree was really tragic due to the winter cold and our lack of knowledge. However, our luck is about to change, a recent research has shown that many vegetables are NOW moving due to actual climate change. The strongest changes are about to come, next generation or perhaps later, but some are happening right now. The good part is that I hope to get wonderful lemons and oranges, the counterpart is that ecosystems maintaining 1000 million people are in risk. And we still go on discussing about climate change, or worse, about who should pay the economy/society change we need. Meanwhile CO2  continues to grow in our atmosphere and the change is becoming more inevitable and stronger.

The source of my information is this interesting spanish scientific blog, concretely this link http://neofronteras.com/?p=3163

Earth Day

Today is the earth day. I do not know if this day is more to ask for improvements or to welcome the achievements, but I feel myself quite pessimistic. I do not consider myself pessimist about climate change in general, just feel pessimistic today.
Maybe one reason is that I listened in the TV to Xavier Sala-i-Martin, an important economist teaching at Columbia university. He talked mainly about economy and it is quite interesting in this subject, but at the same time he is convinced that climate change should be the least important of human global priorities, far behind of malaria or AIDS.

I agree with him in one point: we can not solve everything at the same time, the resources are limited, and many important problems have to be faced. However, I am convinced that this issue is more a mid to long term investment than an expenditure because if we do not act it will worsen many other problems and create new unexpected ones. And the poorest ones will be the first to notice it, after them we will all be affected in some way. Because climate affects harvests, food security, malaria mosquito scope,…

Nevertheless, likely investing to reduce hunger or many illnesses will help to do more actions against climate change because people starving is not able to worry about mid to long term risks with strange names.

What is first, the hen or the egg?

Maybe the actions/projects that help for globally satisfactory improvements.