CO2 Emissions – Risk Mitigation and Contingency Planning

So, for example, let’s pass legislation that says X, Y and Z happen in case temperatures go up 5 degrees C globally in five years or even 10. The key is, “what are X, Y and Z?” I hope you address that in your next post. — Geoff

This comment from Geoff above reminded me that I wrote a post on Risk Mitigation and Contingency Planning and it never posted. (It “missed it’s schedule” whatever that means.)

As I’ve mentioned before, I do not buy into the idea that CO2 growth and AGW are one and the same. I treat each as a seperate issue and therefore propose different solutions for each. For CO2 growth, I take a risk mitigation approach. For AGW I take a contingency planning approach. This post explains what I mean:

Now that I’ve explained my own risk mitigation analysis for CO2 Emissions, as well as explained why I do not believe ‘no risk’ results are rationally possible, I must now discuss one final point. What if I’m wrong? Because honestly, I might be.

Based on my risk mitigation strategy, there are two possible ways I could be wrong.

First, the AGW Believers might be right, or worse, they might have been too conservative.

If this is the case, then I suggest that it’s too late to use a cap-and-trade policy (or equivalent) to save the earth, and that’s why I also advocate geo-engineering as a contingency strategy. I am not in favor of implementing geo-engineering until real disasters start to happen. (Note: It should take on the form Geoff suggests in his quote above.)

But we can get ahead of the game and start research and possibly even some development, right now. I simply advocate taking a good chunk of current research funds on AGW and use them to explore geo-engineering approaches as a contigency plan.

The beauty of this is that geo-engineering can be deployed in a much shorter time frame then cap-and-trade (or equivalent). So the problem with durations to implement goes away. This does not fix the CO2 growth problem, but it does save us in the event that I’m wrong about how close we are to disaster.

The other possibility is that we really are 2000 years away from any sort of AGW or Acidic Ocean problem, or that it was never going to happen for some reason. If that is the case, then what I’m doing is implementing a strategy to slowly move to alternative energy sources (over the course of no less then 50 years) too soon.

But that’s justifiable given our risk mitigation strategy approach. Implementing a risk mitigation strategy for a risk that never was going to come to pass is pretty common. The future is not foreseeable, so our risk mitigation strategy should take that into consideration as best as possible. You never actually get to know how your actions affected the outcome. You just do the best you can and then pray for the rest.

The same can be said here. If we engineer a 50 year switch over to alternative energy sources until our Anthropogenic CO2 Growth drops to zero, then what have we hurt? Not the economy, the switch over was too slow to be a threat. (Note: If you disagree, then take the number 50 and replace it with whatever number you want until you are convinced it’s slow enough to not hurt the economy.) The economy will adapt to the new energy sources, and economies of scale will eventually kick in reducing the cost of those sources until oil is no longer a factor anyhow.

The worst that we can say is that we probably created a bit of unfair competition in favor of alternative energy sources. But I’m not even sure this is entirely a bad thing. We have other reasons entirely outside CO2 emissions to want to switch towards more alternative energy sources. (Reducing dependency on oil from the Middle East is the other most common reason given.) So the real ‘worst’ we can say for this mistake is that we did a (mostly) good thing for the wrong reasons. In any case, I find this to be an acceptable loss under the circumstances  – given what we think we know about it at the time.

4 thoughts on “CO2 Emissions – Risk Mitigation and Contingency Planning

  1. Good thoughts Bruce. I like the idea of developing better solutions. THe process of developing new technology/sources will improve our knowledge and quality of life of humankind. I think about how the space race sped up technological advances. What you are proposing could do something very similar.

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  3. The only two geo-engineering approachs I had heard of at the time of writing this post were the sulfer in the atmosphere approach and the mirrors in space approach. :)

    I see geo-engineering as a last resort sort of thing. But if the situation were to suddenly turn really bad, it would make sense to do it. This should give us some level of comfort that global warming probably can’t destroy life on earth so long as humans are around. On the other hand, Agellius in a past comment expressed fear over doing geo-engineering and he was right to do so. It might create a brand new set of problems we haven’t foreseen. That’s why it’s a ‘contingency plan’ in my book.

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