Monday, April 17, 2006

Being sharp with Robert

Robert Sharp has responded graciously to my rather unfair characterisation of him as a fucking hippie, and made some fair points; however, whilst his post was a hopping off point for my rant, said rant was really about my continuing wish to challenge the "climate change orthodoxy" which has grown up.

The point about the concensus not existing is a valid one for the simple reason that, when I have expressed scepticism about either global warming or the extent to which it is caused by man, almost everyone tells me that I cannot deny it because "all the scientists"—excepting, of course, "lone nuts" like Lomborg—agree that catastrophic climate change is on the way.

This is not a position that I accept, and it was his Wynhamesque assessment of the situation—with its picture of the breakdown of civilisation over scarce resources—that rather amused me; reminding me, as it did, of the ludicrous—and, now, demonstrably untrue—predictions made in Ehrlich's The Population Bomb.

As for “a shared responsibility for the earth’s resources”, Worstallite that I am, I would argue that we have that capitalism itself gives us all a stake in the earth's resources and, if we wish to continue to use them then we must husband them. As these resources become scarcer, these resources will either become more expensive (thhus limiting their use) or the shortage of these resources will cause other substitutes to be found. Unfortunately, as Tim has often pointed out, it is those in charge who discourage and disincentivise activities, such as recycling, by erecting endless barriers of both administration and cost; the very last thing that any manifesto should be doing to to encourage further regulation and that is what inevitably happens when groups decide that they have a priority, and especially when it comes to the environment.

Finally, as I pointed out, I firmly believe that technology will provide the out that we need. We are already starting to see hybrid cars and, whilst currently they use hydrocarbon-generated power, the first industrial carbon neutral zinc-oxide powerstation is less than a decade away.

The hydrogen economy is well-advanced, and the desire to make it a reality is driven by both economics and current politics. Technology will ensure that we are not grubbing amongst the ruins of our houses for food, nor fighting off feral gangs for the last traces of gas from our camping stove.

A further source of comfort to this sceptic is the regular newsletters that he receives from The Liftport Group, a consortium of private companies whose object is to built the first space elevator (a project that finally became feasible last year when the announcement of a a viable process for the construction of carbon nanotube ribbon was announced). The date that they have set is April 12, 2018.

The elevator—which would, in turn, allow the even easier and cheaper construction of successive elevators—is important; it would open up the whole of the solar system and beyond to us since spacecraft would no longer need to escape the Earth's gravity well (wherein most of the energy is used). It would allow us new resources and, more importantly, ensure our survival when, as it will, that ultimate meteorite strike happens.

Manking may not be, in the words of a commentor at Robert's, "as bright as it thinks it is" but I believe that it is quite bright enough to solve those problems which need to be solved.

UPDATE: For those referring to the increased solar effect, etc. please note that I wrote about this some time ago.

1 comment:

Brian Dunbar said...

A further source of comfort to this sceptic is the regular newsletters that he receives from The Liftport Group,

Thanks kindly.

We may, all of us, yet be doomed. But people have been saying that for a long time and it's yet to happen.

We're either doomed or not. If the former then our little project - and yours and everyone elses - does little harm and while we're waiting for the crash it makes us happy.

If 'not' then we've managed to contribute something, generated wealth and given the next generation something to mope about.

I think the key here is that we're not attempting a grand O'Neilian vision of rotating habitats at L5 home to ten thousand people or even any kind of grand vision.

We're doing what any sensible person does upon looking at a huge project - break it down into manageable chunks and get busy.

In this case the project is 'what to do about the future' and our own small part is a novel space launch system.

Imagine if everyone got over the mopes and just got to work?