Quora – Climate change

Quora – We’re so focused on slowing climate change, but do we have any focus on adapting to it?

Climate change has been a topic at three different meetings I have attended in the last 7 days, one at national level, one at regional level, and one at local level. None of the meetings were called specifically to address climate change, one was on water management, one on biodiversity, and one on natural hazards.

To me, most people don’t have much idea about the scale of issues involved.

Climate change is real, and so are many other things.

Exponential technology is real.

Artificial intelligence research is progressing exponentially (not linearly).

Atomic level precision in manufacturing is getting closer.

When that meets fully automated technology, then exponential expansion of productive capacity will step change by a couple of orders of magnitude, and engineering capacity will double every month or so.

That point will, on current trends, arrive in the early 2030s (possibly sooner if significant effort is devoted to it).

When that happens, real options to mitigate the effects of climate change will become available.

Most people will not be able to conceive of it until it happens, just as in the 70s very few people could see every person carrying multiple computers on their person as a real option.

The hardest thing for many will be accepting that markets fail as a useful tool to measure value or organise anything once fully automated production comes on stream. Yet we need it to solve a suite of existential level risks of which climate change is the most benign. But most people (including my wife and children) get severe anxiety when faced with all the real risks. I deal with risk by finding out all I can about it, and developing effective mitigation strategies, but I had to see all of my family in extreme distress before I realised that most other people do not deal with risk like I do.

So now I do not talk about all the risks in detail, I just make to somewhat amorphous claim that they are there and are easily discoverable if you are interested.

So I am all for doing what we reasonably can to minimise climate impacts now, but not at the risk of significant threat to life. And I strongly advise developing and discussing plans for how we will manage climate and sea level long term, as the technology to do so will become available far faster than most dream possible. And doing anything like that is not simple, it is complex and uncertain in ways that very few people currently appreciate, and must always be so.

So no- I am not particularly interested in adapting to climate change, even though I intentionally bought a house 100m above sea levels 22 years ago in the full knowledge of the sorts of sea level rise that are possible in a worst case scenario.

For the sake of the security of everyone, we need to develop internationally cooperative ways of deploying effective tools to manage climate.

We don’t want either global warming, or a return to the next ice age that we would now be entering had we not put all that CO2 in the atmosphere. Coastal cities and infrastructure demand a certain stability to sea levels, and that is what we need to manage for. And we need to do a lot of other things too, like recycle everything, clean up all the messes we made with markets (both social and environmental). And that is all doable – we just need to decide how we are going to cooperate to do it (there are no competitive solutions to this suite of problems that I have discovered in 45 years of searching the strategy spaces involved – cooperation at the broadest scale is the only game in town in this sense).

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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