Thursday, September 29, 2005

Murphy's Law: Peak Oil and Global Warming Together

Zwichenzug in his comment to my last post suggested the global warming poses a far greater threat to civilization as we know it than oil depletion. I agree.

Even if global warming doesn't change the basic climate model, global warming is adding a great deal of energy to the environment and storms are going to become more powerful and we will be seeing many more environmental refugees over the course of this century.

And Z is absolutely right that market forces cannot contain global warming. Truth is, there's absolutely nothing we can do to stop it. Even if we stopped producing any greenhouse gases at all today, global warming will continue to accelerate as evidenced by the the melting of the arctic sea ice.

[M]elting sea ice accelerates warming because dark-coloured water absorbs heat from the sun that was previously reflected back into space by white ice. "Feedbacks in the system are starting to take hold. We could see changes in Arctic ice happening much sooner than we thought and that is important because without the ice cover over the Arctic Ocean we have to expect big changes in Earth's weather." |Guardian Unlimited|
The process of global warming has been set in motion and there is no going back.

Global warming will undoubtedly change the climate model and our traditional system of agriculture will have to adapt as growing temperatures and growing seasons change around the planet. Food yields will probably drop (at least for a while) and problems of feeding people will mount.

So...compared to that Peak Oil doesn't seem like a big deal. I think of Peak Oil more as adding insult to injury.

Just when our global civilization will need all of its resources to meet the changes ushered in by global warming, the availability of oil will start to decline and prices will increase precipitously.

Natural gas is also used as a feedstock for fertilizer, so it will be more expensive to use ammonium nitrate fertilizer in the future as well.

That's why I think we need to think about how best to make our society global-warming resistant. Now I'm not an engineer, but I have a few ideas.

First, we should develop a more distributed power system rather than our centralized power grid. We should encourage alternative fuels and fund the installation of solar cells onto houses, especially in areas like LA and Phoenix where there are tons of people and very few houses with solar arrays.

Second, we should try transport more things by rail and fewer things by air and truck.

Third, we should develop mass transit systems and encourage bicycling. We should give tax incentives to employers to install shower facilities and lockerrooms at places of business along with adequete bicycle parking.

We should also implement a national service requirement for 18 to 20 year olds and put them to work building up infrastructure like railways, levees, designated floodplains, solar arrays, windmills, and wave power to help us deal with the coming storms.

I know I'm not the only one thinking about these issues, so feel free to let me know if you have other suggestions or send me links to other suggestions.


Bruce Wayne said...

I'm really worried about peak oil and have been ever since I joined this chat forum:

The really scary thing is that no politicians seem to be aware of the problem, much less prepared to do anything about it.

Safety Neal said...

Thanks for the link, Bruce! Certainly some excellent ideas in the forums on renewable energy and conservation. I'll have to spend more time checking them out in the near future.