Saturday, April 26, 2008


The world is so beautiful this morning. I have the back door open to let in some cool air. The intracoastal is awash in brilliant ivory light; its waters are dazzling ripples. Even the weeds are green and lush. I look at all this and find it hard to imagine the world any other way. And yet, it seems we may have only another four years before all hell breaks loose. 2012. That year keeps popping up. Possibly the year of the next El Nino. More certainly the next height of the solar cycle. The year the IPCC gives as a make it or break it point.

What got me thinking all of this was a post on Manpollo that I finally got around to reading. Tempest Stormwind cites Joseph Romm's blog. Here is what Romm says we must aim for in the next 40 years to successfully combat global warming:

all cars 60 mpg, with no increase in miles traveled per vehicle.
one million large (2 MW peak) wind turbines
most cars must be plug-in hybrids or pure electric vehicles
concentrated solar thermal – ~5000 GW peak. 3 of efficiency — buildings, industry, and cogeneration/heat-recovery for a total of 15 to 20 million GW-hrs.
coal with carbon capture and storage — 800 GW of coal with CCS
nuclear power — 700 GW plus 10 Yucca mountains for storage
solar photovoltaics — 2000 GW peak [or less PV and some geothermal, tidal, and ocean thermal]
cellulosic biofuels — using one-sixth of the world’s cropland [or less land if yields significantly increase or algae-to-biofuels proves commercial at large scale].
end all tropical deforestation. Plant new trees over an area the size of the continental U.S.
apply no-till farming to all existing croplands.

And the timeline (besides a 40 deadline to have it fait accompli)? To further quote Romm, ". . . a sober guy like IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri, said in November: “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.” Or as I told Technology Review, “The point is, whatever technology we’ve got now — that’s what we are stuck with to avoid catastrophic warming.”

I do think we're headed that way. But it doesn't seem like we're going far enough or fast enough. And if global warming don't get ya, peak oil will. We are going to have to come down off our reliance on fossil fuels sooner or later. The question is whether we want a controlled descent or a free fall.

And we're just talking global warming. What about water shortages due to increasing demands and higher levels of pollution? What about food shortages due again to increasing demands and decreasing availability of fertilizers made from fossil fuels? What about potential disruptions in international commerce? (Just shop around Wal-Mart -- how many items are made and/or grown overseas?) What about overcrowding in cities around the world and disease epidemics such as Ebola, AIDS and avian bird flu? What about terrorism and threats of war? Even if we get global warming under control, we still have a litany of problems to deal with, many exacerbated by overpopulation. Not a pretty picture.

So I am wondering, what is the world going to look like in 2012? In 2013? In 2025? And what does that mean for me and mine?

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