NOV. 28, 2015 gave his answers to 16 questions in the N.Y. Times regarding Climate Change. This Climate realist added his answer.
Justin Gillis answers to Question 13. Is there any reason for hope?
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Scientists have been warning since the 1980s that strong policies were needed to limit emissions. Those warnings were ignored, and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have since built up to potentially dangerous levels. So the hour is late.
But after 20 years of largely fruitless diplomacy, the governments of the world are finally starting to take the problem seriously. A deal reached in Paris in December commits nearly every country to some kind of action.
Religious leaders like Pope Francis are speaking out. Low-emission technologies, such as electric cars, are improving. Leading corporations are making bold promises to switch to renewable power and stop forest destruction. Around the world, many states and cities are pledging to go far beyond the goals set by their national governments.
What is still largely missing in all this are the voices of ordinary citizens.
Because politicians have a hard time thinking beyond the next election, they tend to tackle hard problems only when the public rises up and demands it.
My answer to Question 13. Is there any reason for hope?
Yes there is. Thanks to the last election the Paris agreement will not be enforced. It is a horrible agreement anyhow, reducing our CO2 emissions immediately and allowing China to keep increasing until 2030, by which time their emissions will be six times as big as ours. Already China is burning 47% of the coal burned in the world, and poor countries still need to get electrified. India is also exempt, and their needs are even bigger than China’s. With the Paris agreement the poorest countries would still use dried cow dung as cooking fuel.
We now have a great opportunity to turn from going after CO2 and address real pollution and environmental degradation. We have immense environmental problems. The water in the American South-West is spoken for, the prairie aquifers are being depleted, water and soil pollution lurks everywhere. We are over-fertilizing our lawns and agricultural fields, not managing wildfires properly, adding red tape to red tape. All environmental action should be regional, such as the Chesapeake Bay Watershed program. Thanks to persuading even the Amish to use proper fertilizing methods, such as not putting out manure just before a thunderstorm, put up manure barriers next to streams and so on, Chesapeake Bay might yet be saved.
It makes no sense to make electric cars as long as the bulk of electricity comes from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels should be reserved for airplane transportation since they have no good alternative.
We need to have a crash program in Thorium based nuclear electricity production, and when enough production capacity is established, then is the time to produce electrical cars.
We need to leave this world a cleaner and better place than when we entered it, and the best way to have a chance to leave more production resources for our grand-children is to switch most of our electricity production to Thorium as a feedstock. There is a million years supply of Thorium in the world, all other material are more limited. Wind and solar will not do it, it takes more power than that to solve our needs.