Reason for a New Age

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    What you will expect to see here are discussions of politics and tangentially economics. This blog will do its best to present a rational look at the world of today, how the modern world came into place, and the issues that are currently being discussed in the public realm.
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About Climate Change – Part 3b

Posted by publius2point0 on 2010/01/06

Unfortunately, I was in somewhat of a hurry in my previous post and glossed over and forgot some points.

One point is my statement that 1800 deaths is not a lot. Now since I also said that climate change is less of a worry than impoverished, poorly governed countries, let me offer a small statistic. Every year, roughly 2000 people try to escape from Cuba to the US. Of these, 2/3rds drown (1300 people). And this is a year-to-year statistic. Another 1300 people will throw themselves into the sea, hoping to make it to the US, and end up drowning next year, and the year after that. Those who make it here will most likely send money and news of how they are doing back home. It’s very unlikely that if Cubans living in the US can send millions of dollars back home to Cuba every year that the news that 2/3rds of those coming will drown hasn’t made its way back. A person who knowingly risks a 2/3ds chance of death is probably facing a 100% chance of death if he doesn’t leave.

And let me note that Cuba’s population count is 27 times less than ours. Scaling their nation to our size, they are losing something more like 36,000 people per year to death by flight. And yet, “documentarians” are still able to portray the country as an ideal nation.

Looking at road fatalities within the US, there is about 40,000 deaths in the US on average, per year. A decrease of 4.5% in road fatalities would save as many lives, every year, as we lost to Katrina. A Katrina style incident is probably unlikely to occur more than once a decade, so at most, really, we only need to decrease road fatalities by 0.45% to make up for deaths caused by Katrina style incidents. Lowering the speed limit by 5 miles per hour on freeways would probably more than achieve that and yet the mass populace would be virulently against such an action.

So like I said, in practical terms, 1800 deaths once ever few decades is not a significant number in global or even American terms. It’s not an epidemic and it’s not world ending.

The other point that I forgot to bring up was the issue of China, India, and other modernizing nations. Coal and gas are cheap and easy sources of fuel. A modernizing nation, especially one which holds modernization over the welfare of its people, is going to use whatever is cheapest, easiest, and has the most rugged and reliable equipment around.

The US can reasonably move away from coal and oil and most likely we will do so. But for every bit that we drop off our usage, it’s almost certain that other countries are going to step in and take up that slack and then surpass it. While countries dislike getting the evil eye from the rest of the world, when it comes to economic realities, the economics of the situation always win the day. So while we might be able to get some personal satisfaction at being able to call China and India naughty for not using cleaner technologies, it’s almost certain that they are going to go right on using them until it becomes more or equally economical to switch.

All the oil in the planet is going to get pumped up and burnt at an ever increasing pace until we run out or it becomes non-economical. Whether the US is or isn’t one of the customers of oil doesn’t matter at all in practical terms.

With coal, yes, we can at least stop being one of the people contributing, and that will make the global usage lower than if we had continued, but that alone isn’t going to be the difference between solving or not solving global warming. Future global output of CO2 due to burning coal is likely going to continue to rise until alternate technologies that are robust and cheap are developed that poorer nations would be willing to change to. At the moment, only nuclear energy offers that possibility, but the ability to refine nuclear materials for power plants is generally synonymous with the ability to refine it to make warheads. The US and Europe will try and delay nuclear energy usage in other nations as that is a far greater worry for them than climate change.

In the same way that the population doubles every 60 years or the number of transistors on a CPU will double every 18 months, power usage, similarly, just doubles and doubles at some particular rate. That rate depends on the nation, but the point is that the total power currently used by the US and Europe will be matched and outstripped by the rest of the world. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that in 60 years, the total power use of all third world nations, Russia, China, and India, added together, is far greater than what the US and Europe currently use. It might already be so. In 60 years, the US and Europe will only have just ended their dependency on CO2 emitting technologies. It might take another 40 years past that until the rest of the world hits its peak of emissions and starts to wind its way down.

For the next 50-100 years, CO2 emissions will almost certainly continue to rise. The rate at which the US can and does cycle to other technologies is not going to be a particularly significant factor in all of this. And ultimately, all attempts at being politically correct or attempts at applying political mandate to solve the issue will bump up against the wall of economic feasibility. The transformation to clean technologies is an issue of the quality and cost of these technologies, not of personal or legislative decision.


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