Adapt, Don’t Fight Climate Change


The Dutch solution to floods: live with water, don’t fight it. The same thing applies to climate change.

Recently visiting again in the Netherlands, I was reminded that adapting is the only way to contend with natural forces. Praying or paying indulgences like carbon taxes does not stop nature, so we humans must prepare for the most probable extremes that can come our way.

Top-down, global initiatives like the IPCC and the Paris Accord are called “Mitigation”, an attempt to prevent warming of temperatures by reducing fossil fuel emissions. In fact, the 1 degree Celsius warming over the past 150 years has been a blessing for human civilization, and a further 1 degree will also be beneficial.

It was warmer than now in the Medieval Warm Period, warmer still in the Roman Warm Period, and warmest of all in the Minoan Warm Period.  Before that was the Holocene Optimum lasting many centuries with still higher temperatures.  Evidence indicates that 7000 years ago the Sahara desert was a savannah with several large lakes.  Human life and the biosphere prosper in warm ages, and we are presently sub-optimal. Cold is the greatest threat to the biosphere and the longer term trend is in that direction.

Even in the unlikely event that the Paris Accord results in lowering emissions, it is additionally uncertain how temperatures will be affected. It is rational to argue that we should burn more fossil fuels if we are sure that warming will result.

In any case, leaders and alarmists have in the past repeatedly declared deadlines for stopping climate change (oh, what hubris). With Trump’s election there is now the opportunity for rational climate policy. History shows us that there will be future periods both warmer and colder than the present, and prudent policy makers should prepare for both.

Trump and his advisers should not cede the high ground to climatists. Instead this administration should announce that it is serious about protecting the American people against future climate extremes, especially the cold.

The US has been blessed recently with tranquility instead of typical levels of hurricanes and tornadoes. That can not be expected to continue, and the first priority is to rebuild a robust infrastructure, suitable to at least confront a return of 1950’s weather. I am pleased to see PE Trump already talking about this.

The second key to adapting is ensuring reliable and affordable energy. It is now obvious that electrical power grids are crippled by shackling them with intermittent, expensive feed-ins from windmills and solar panels. Rational energy policy will rely on clean coal, nuclear and hydro for electricity, oil and gas for transportation, with various other energy sources added on when and where they make economic sense. It appears Trump’s advisers are also on top of this priority.

Let them not say they will do nothing about climate change;  they will do the only thing that makes sense.  Trump has the potential to become the real environmental president, who makes the EPA get results on its real mission: Clean Air and Clean Water without actual pollutants.

More on Dutch Adaptation:

“The Dutch are extremely proud of their water management and we have eight million people [almost half the population] living below sea level who depend on it. We have learned a lot from floods in the past, especially from 1953, the big flood which Britain also had, when we had a lot of damage and 1,800 casualties. We started the delta programme then and put a lot of flood protection in place.

“Our organisation is very important. We have regional water boards with their own tax system who are in charge of dredging and of the programmes of dyke maintenance. We have adapted climate change into urban planning, and development on flood plains has not been allowed since the 80s. More and more we are working with nature – on the coast, management is about building up the sand dunes and beaches.

More evidence that Adapting Works, Mitigating Fails

 

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10 comments

  1. Adopting policy that only “makes sense” means recognizing that policy is itself costly. Rational policy with lots of estimates and unknowns means having a reasonable expectation that the results will be a less costly outcome than doing nothing. That is expected policy costs + residual climate costs < unmitigated climate costs. It is a difficult issue to resolve. But you can say when it will not be the case. For instance
    1. If there is no reasonable expectation of CAGW. No identifiable warming and / or no evidence of impending doom.
    2. People off-setting the costs at a local or regional level by adaptation – like the Dutch have been doing.
    3. Global warming is supposed to be caused by global GHG emissions. If only a minority of countries are reducing their emissions and many are increasing theirs, emissions will still increase. The UNFCCC acknowledges this is the case in a graph produced last year for Paris COP21.

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  2. Just to emphasize how little difference mitigation policies will make to global GHG emissions, I have done a graph of estimated GHG emissions for 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010 & 2012. Each year is split according to the 1992 Rio Declaration between Annex 1 (emissions-reducing) countries & Annex 2 (policy exempt, developing). All the global growth in emissions between 1990 & 2012 was in the Annex 2 countries, that now account for over 60% of global emissions and over 80% of global population. It is likely that in future nearly all the emissions growth (and the IPCC no policy scenario predicts that GHG emissions will be over 2.5 times higher in 2100 than in 2010) will be from countries with no obligation to cut emissions.

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    • Ron Clutz · November 15

      manic, good points. For comparison, here are WFFC numbers from US EIA. I have included only the statistics for coal, oil and gas, which comprise 91% of total energy consumed. The remainder are hydro, nuclear and other renewables. UAH version 6 provides global temperature anomalies for the lower troposphere.

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      • Ron Clutz · November 15

        For longer history of WFFC vs. temperatures, see post:
        https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/claim-fossil-fuels-cause-global-warming/

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      • Ron,
        Your figures show the lack of a link between fossil fuel consumption and global temperatures rises. But different fossil fuels do not produced the same amount of CO2. Further CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are only about two-thirds of GHG emissions. That said, the biggest anomalous periods are the inter-war years (very slow growth in emissions, rapid warming) and the 1945-1973 period (rapid emissions growth and slight cooling).
        But the mitigation policy deficit between desired policy and the vaguest proposals is even clearer. By no amount of manipulating the vague proposals will policy prevent global emissions from rising. But meeting the 2C target requires GHG emissions to fall rapidly. The UNFCCC effectively admits this in a graph produced last year for Paris COP21.

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      • Ron Clutz · November 17

        Manic, the claim is that burning fossil fuels causes rising temperatures, and that cutting human emissions will limit warming. The poor association between temperatures and emissions disputes that claim, regardless of the fuel mix or CO2 concentrations (which depend on multiple sources).

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  3. Hifast · November 15

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

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  4. Don B · November 15

    “It was warmer than now in the Medieval Warm Period, warmer still in the Roman Warm Period, and warmest of all in the Minoan Warm Period, also called the Holocene Optimum. ”

    The Minoan Warm Period followed the Holocene Optimum.

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