I went to one of Mark Walport’s climate change lectures. I notice that Andrew Montford also went to one of these where he discovered that Mark Walport sometimes reads his blog. In his post, Montford mentions that Walport thought that I could moderate the discussion threads at BH a bit harder. This is immediately followed by a series of comments that rather illustrate the point that I suspect Walport was trying to make.
I thought Walport’s talk was pretty good. He presented the scientific evidence. Pretty standard stuff : surface temperature records, sea level rises, ocean heat content, the significance – or lack thereof – of a recent “pause”, future warming scenarios. He also spent some time talking about how much energy we use and how much carbon is emitted as a consequence of our energy usage. Given that I’ve been writing this blog for the last year, it was all fairly familiar, but it was good to see the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor doing a lecture tour and presenting this to the general public.
He said two things that stuck me as interesting and relevant. One was that even though we are an advanced, technological civilisation, our efficiency and reliance on infrastructure does provide it’s own risks. This seemed consistent with the recent, rather disturbing, NASA-funded study which said
advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.
Personally, I’m optimistic that we can overcome such obstacles. However, this would – at least – require that we recognise these risks and start thinking about how best we can avoid such outcomes.
He also said something else that I largely agree with. Paraphrasing, he said the science is easy. Deciding on the best policy option is what is difficult. The science may give us some idea of what the future holds, but it certainly doesn’t tell us what we should do. I don’t envy those who will likely have to start making difficult policy decisions, and will have to try and get most of the rest of the globe to agree.
Walport didn’t really say all that much about the different policy options. Broadly speaking, he mentioned that our options are mitigate, adapt, or suffer, or – more likely – some combination of the three, ideally optimised to reduce the latter.