I started this blog to cheer up people worried about the climate. I wanted to argue, using a negative-feedback model, that humanity would inevitably fix things in time.
Now I would emphasize differently: No program of emissions reduction is capable of making a difference to the planet’s temperature trajectory before we arrive in the era of advanced nanotechnology, because that era is at most just a few decades away. Advanced nanotechnology will be capable of the enormous task of drawing down the half trillion tonnes of carbon that have been added to the atmosphere, but it will also be capable of destroying all life on Earth. Dealing with the enormous new powers arising from nanotechnology and artificial intelligence will be the real challenge to human survival, and this time I have no argument at all that we’ll make it.
So, the cheer has gone and this is what’s left. It’s a little sad for the people who have devoted their lives to stopping climate change. That process is real, already doing damage, slowly getting worse, and if it ran to its completion in a world like the present, I suspect we really would get the hundreds of millions of climate refugees discussed in the worst scenarios. But the world of the present will not stay that way, and technological change will overtake climate change as the decisive factor.
Right now, climate politics is in the doldrums. Copenhagen was an anticlimax, and the global financial malaise has made people suspicious of a scheme like cap-and-trade, and just more worried about personal factors like employment and retirement. But the floods and the fires will keep happening, so the topic won’t go away, and there is bound to be a political revival eventually. Perhaps next time a simple carbon tax will be favored, rather than the trading of emissions permits, and there may also be more emphasis on direct action by the state. My slightly sad prediction is that whatever is done won’t matter, because it can’t make a difference before the nanotechnology era arrives, and then the game truly changes.
Anyway, that’s what I’m off doing now – trying to be relevant for what really comes next.