There are several mini-debates I see within the big climate change issue:
1. Is it real? Is our climate actually changing, or is it just a localized fluctuation that will correct itself? I believe it is real.
2. Is it caused by human activity? Has industrialization and deforestation caused the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; or is it just part of a natural cycle like the ice age, perhaps caused by solar activity? I believe we are causing it.
3. Is it bad? Will coastal habitats be submerged and the land turned to charcoal, or is it simply going to be a tad warmer and tough on polar bears? I believe it is bad.
4. Can we fix it? Does mankind have the technology/ability/will to reverse or at least stall the effects, or is our fate sealed already? I believe we can fix it.
5. How should we fix it? Specifically, are government-imposed sanctions necessary to save our planet? This, to me, is the real question. There is currently a lot of attention being paid by the politicos here in Canada about whether we should impose a carbon tax. Those in favour argue that fiscal penalties are the best way to bring about change. Those against feel the economic impact would make us poor and miserable while we’re saving the planet.
I wasn’t sure where I stood on the last point until I read this article (via boingboing). It is a book review written by eminent physicist/thinker/shit-disturber Freeman Dyson, whom I usually agree with. He reviews 2 books that deal with climate change. The upshot is that the negative societal impact of any kind of Gore model is disastrous, while the potential for success of a Kyoto-style effort is break-even at best. The answer, he thinks, is in this graph.
Every year, 8% of the carbon in the atmosphere is absorbed by plants as they grow in the spring and summer, then released again as they decompose in the fall and winter. All we have to do is genetically engineer some trees that “fix” carbon in their roots, the same way that legumes fix nitrogen. Re-plant a few rainforests and BC clearcuts with those babies, and voilà! Problem solved.
So my position on carbon taxing is, “no, thanks.”