Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cat's eyes, anyone?

Lead author of a new paper, S. Matthew Liao, has something to say.

Even as he says the starting point of this paper is the anthropogenic cause of climate change, well, ok, of global warming, his realization that man should be able to "mitigate", with his intellect and will, with a bit of voluntary "re-engineering", and not by Big Government autocratic push for "change" (read:  consensus), is what we have seen and said long before (maybe not so much about the re-engineering thing though).  

Nevertheless, any modifications to the body as to the extent of human re-engineering may have serious ethical repercussions that need looking into more deeply.  It would seem that they know that they are treading on shaky if not very sensitive ground.
Taking a look at this from the perspective of deep ecology---is there something to be said for the idea that because climate change is human caused, that humans ought to be the ones that change to mitigate it---that somehow we ought to bear the cost to fix this?

Liao: That was actually one of the ideas that motivated us to write this paper, the idea that we caused anthropogenic climate change, and so perhaps we ought to bear some of the costs required to address it. But having said that, we also want to make this attractive to people---we don't want this to be a zero sum game where it's just a cost that we have to bear. Many of the solutions we propose might actually be quite desirable to people, particularly the meat patch. I recently gave a talk about this paper at Yale and there was a man in the audience who worked for a pharmaceuticals company; he seemed to think there might be a huge market for modifications like this.
Read the rest of the interview here or from the source here.

More from the interview:
Judging from your paper, you seem skeptical about current efforts to mitigate climate change, including market based solutions like carbon pricing or even more radical solutions like geoengineering. Why is that?

Liao: It's not that I don't think that some of those solutions could succeed under the right conditions; it's more that I think that they might turn out to be inadequate, or in some cases too risky. Take market solutions---so far it seems like it's pretty difficult to orchestrate workable international agreements to affect international emissions trading. The Kyoto Protocol, for instance, has not produced demonstrable reductions in global emissions, and in any event demand for petrol and for electricity seems to be pretty inelastic. And so it's questionable whether carbon taxation alone can deliver the kind of reduction that we need to really take on climate change.

With respect to geoengineering, the worry is that it's just too risky---many of the technologies involved have never been attempted on such a large scale, and so you have to worry that by implementing these techniques we could endanger ourselves or future generations. For example it's been suggested that we could alter the reflectivity of the atmosphere using sulfate aerosol so as to turn away a portion of the sun's heat, but it could be that doing so would destroy the ozone layer, which would obviously be problematic. Others have argued that we ought to fertilize the ocean with iron, because doing so might encourage a massive bloom of carbon-sucking plankton. But doing so could potentially render the ocean inhospitable to fish, which would obviously also be quite problematic.

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