In Harm’s Way

For more information on the upcoming report “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation” go the dedicated website managed by the IPCC.


I am seriously concerned about the use of science and a bit confused by all that is called science these days. While in good old days, God was being invoked in the constitution, today we defer to science and pray to it to solve all our problems. Law, the rules of the game on earth, is no exception. We make the rules, we bend the rules, we change the rules, and evolution happens. At the end of the day, the universe does not care about man’s laws.

Question: Is science replacing God in terms of what humans believe in?

I would like to think that I am making a contribution to evidence based policy, but often I find myself turning in circles and coming to the conclusion that humans are truly not very intelligent and that the only intelligence that there is to hope for comes from collective action and that collective action involves thinking and acting collectively in a multilateral system designed to balance power. There is only one problem with this whole idea, and that is, like with previous conflicts, humans rarely understand each other. Climate change is a conflict. Actually, several conflicts. There is the conflicts of haves (energy, food, water, money, power) and the have-nots (no energy, no food, no money, no water and discovering power). Conflict is easy to understand, and it boils down to one party having something the other wants. Information and knowledge are not helping, and at the end of the day, policy decisions are made on what those making the decisions believe in, sometimes evidence and facts are involved. Sometimes this belief is in science, sometimes in God, or the right thing to do. Some believe in ideals, and on occasions some believe is on the promise of a bribe. Agnostics believe that there is no God, or that there is no evidence for such, and thus too, they believe in a negative list.

Question: What necessary and sufficient features and relationships must a multilateral system designed to balance power have?

It is also not as if I were the only person without answers. The most powerful and influential people are not doing much better. For instance, just last evening addressing the nation (and the world) from the Oval Office US President Barack Obama, clearly stated that the best of science and technology was not prepared to deal with the catastrophe caused by the oil spill in the gulf of Mexico. Knowing the causes of the failure is not going to do much about cleaning up the mess, it might however help in learning a few tough lessons. Better regulations are indeed needed, but above all we need to think how we harvest energy. With all due respect, I can not listen to the words “God bless America” without an attack of cynicism. God has just blessed America, it has brought environmental consequences to its front yard, the gulf of Mexico, deal with it!

Fossil fuels are not going the way of fossils, they are being burned, spilled and consumed. I do wonder if there will be a conservationist movement one day wanting to bring back the romantic age of burning hydrocarbons in combustion engines?

The realization that the fact of consuming fossil fuels after their extraction from the earth is in itself an act of geo-engineering is perhaps as comforting a thought as waking up the morning after a big party, naked with a stranger in your bed, and not remembering what all happened between you and the stranger. This has so far been our approach to energy production. That is, when it comes to energy production we have just not given much of a thought of what the consequences might be, but that is not even the worst part. The fact is that we were intoxicated when we hopped on that path. Furthermore, once evidence started to manifest itself that that there were some ill-effects, the powers that be, went into denial and as long as the bottom line and corporate greed aligned, there was no point is asking too many questions. Humans have an uncanny capability to shortsightedness.

In a way the climate change is a no brainer: The climate will change, there will be losers and there will be winners. The climate has changed before, there is a precedence for climate change. What is new about this one is that we brought it onto ourselves. Now you know it, you are living in the Anthropocene.

My opinion is that we are living in the dark ages. Enlightenment is a quaint utopia that feeds the egos of the delusional mammals rapt by their own fascinations and oblivious to the environment and the universe in which they exist. In all, humans and their complexity, have evolved to a point that creates one crisis after the next.

Energy is the next frontier. It is not go West, it is not go East… Look up at the starry sky, and wonder where all of it is coming from. My advice: make friends with a cosmologist, go to lunch with a physicist, and love a chemist.

Climate Change and Theoretical Man

I have been wondering for the past year or so, how could I possibly deal with climate change in my grand old theory.

Getting my head around climate change is a challenge, but then so is anything to do with the financial markets. The latter had me not at all surprised when the latest subprime crises popped, leading me to the short-circuit conclusion that I had been right all along: I did not understand, because indeed the system was flawed and made no sense to me. Take that last sentence as on exercise in arrogance; as an exercise arrogance is not to be ignored. Problems with arrogance only arise when the arrogant believe that their conjectures constitute any sort of irreducible absolute truth to which the rest of the world has to bow to.

However the climate change issue is a very different issue. Somewhere along the line the two issues shake hands on the topic of trust, then again they meet at carbon certificates and trading, but that is about it. The financial world is a virtual conceptual world that we invented not too long ago, and for which we have yet to come up with a solid game plan. Climate change, is here, measurable and real.

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