Climatologist James Hansen released a report today that suggests that the probability that this summer’s extreme weather events are caused by anything other than human-caused climate change is extremely low. It comes on the heels of Bill McKibben’s recent article pointing out that mean global temperature have exceeded the 20th Century average for 327 consecutive months, a phenomenon that would occur by chance with a probability of one in 3.7 * 10^99, a number which is larger than the number of stars in the universe. It’s also just a couple of days after Richard Muller, previously perhaps the most famous denier of human-caused climate change, reversed his position.
The question, it seems to me, isn’t “Is this happening?” but rather, “What should we do about this while there is still time to avert the bulk of the catastrophic consequences?”
Obviously, I’m a believer in renewable energy. We are nearing the point at which the cost of solar and wind will be equivalent to fossil fuels. Of course, there are other issues that lie on top of the raw cost per watt, notably the intermittence of sunshine and the presence of wind, as well as the convenience of liquid fuels. Having said that, we’re getting closer to practical and affordable solutions with each passing day.
In addition the availability of inexpensive and abundant clean energy, the other major contributor here needs to be public awareness of energy issues in general. To the degree that the countries that are the major consumers of energy take steps to educate their population on the importance of conservation, and facilitate the availability of energy efficiency solutions, we have a chance for success here.
I continue to believe that this is mainly an issue of public awareness and consciousness. I look forward to a day when it will be “cool to be green.” What will be the result of a world population that considers the real costs of its energy consumption in its decision-making? I think it will be huge.