The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate

By David Archer | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE
Carbon Economics
and Ethics

Humankind has the potential to alter the climate of the Earth for hundreds of thousands of years into the future. That I feel can be said fairly confidently. But will we? Do social inertia, energy infrastructure, and sheer numbers of people on Earth make the business-as-usual global warming forecast inevitable, or is global warming something that can be avoided? This is much harder to predict. Technologically I believe that it is possible to avoid dangerous climate change, if we so choose. But making a decision: there’s the tricky part. Climate change is a global issue that ramps up slowly and lasts for a long time. Negotiating a solution would require a degree of global cooperation that is I think unprecedented in human history.

If the climate of the coming century evolves as it is expected to, or even worse if something unexpected happens, the political will to classify CO2 as a pollutant will only intensify. Industrial civilization has already shifted its energy source several times in the last few centuries, from wood in the eighteenth century to coal in the nineteenth, then to oil and gas in the twentieth. In the long run, it won’t be that hard to change it again. What if

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