Friday, August 26, 2016

Seveneves

Working, as I do, on climate mitigation policy it does not hurt to get a bit of perspective sometimes. The other day, I picked up Neal Stephenson’s latest book "Seveneves" which Obama listed as one of his favourite summer reads. I must admit that it has not been easy to put it away.

In the book, the Moon suddenly breaks into seven pieces, leading to a chain reaction which in two years’ time will make the planet's surface uninhabitable for millennia. Quickly, a doomsday evacuation into orbit is initiated.

Without giving away too much of the plot, it is good to be reminded of what we humans can do if we work together towards a common goal. In comparison, fixing anthropogenic climate change seems like a rather simple task if we were to actually commit ourselves. For instance, the threat of rising sea levels can, at least to some degree, be reduced by putting a number of nuclear reactors on Antarctica and then pumping seawater into the interior of the continent where it will freeze. Ocean acidification may be a bit more difficult but sprinkling olivine into the sea could go a long way in opposing surface ocean acidification. Similarly, and unlike evacuating Earth, displacing fossil fuels in the energy sector is hardly rocket science but rather something that we have already successfully done in the past using nuclear energy in Sweden and a number of other countries. Thus, if the shit really hits the fan, as there is every indication that it will do in a couple of decades, I am fairly confident that disaster can be avoided, if not by these precise means so then by others. However, in retrospect, people will probably ask why we were so slow in realizing the danger and acting on it and why the solutions first proposed (such a small-scale renewable energy) were even seriously considered in a world of seven billion people.

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