Where Next?
Bob Williams
Tue 1 Jul 2008 17:43
Noon Position: 55 29.2 N 051 35.5 W
Course: North Speed: 4 knots
Wind: Southeast, moderate breeze
Weather: partly cloudy
Day's Run: 115 miles

Hooray! We are making some miles again, the weather over the last 24 hours
has been superb; some sunshine, good visibility, nice breeze - and a day's
run of 115 miles. The nights are getting shorter, the sun is setting well
to the north, in fact it didn't really get dark last night, with a light
glow emanating from the northern horizon all night. It is going to be
interesting as we get further north.

Global Warming Stuff:
The mission I gave myself for these voyages north was to promote meaningful
debate on global warming. Not that this rather one sided blog could be
constituted a debate, and I am painfully aware that people (me) hate being
preached to, I will try to avoid doing so here. The issue is now well and
truly in the public forum and, as previously mentioned, I believe we no
longer need to discuss whether human activity is contributing to global
warming, that debate is hopefully over. Though the quality of the
information available in the free press is always problematic (thank
goodness), our responsibility of doing our best to sift through the
overabundance of nonsense is a small price to pay for the freedom we enjoy.
I shall try and keep my opinions brief and resist the didactic gene I
inherited from my teacher father.
I think anyone interested in the nature of the problem would do well reading
a series of articles published in "Science" magazine reviewing an article
written in 1968 by Garrett Hardin, "The Tragedy of the Commons". The
edition "Science, Vol. 302, 12 December 2003, Number 5652", was freely
available on the internet last I looked. To quote from the introduction to
that issue:
"The past four issues of Science have examined the State of the Planet, with
particular emphasis on global commons, broadly speaking, those critical
resources we all must share, Climate, soil, air, water, energy resources,
food, fisheries, and biodiversity are all elements of the global commons,
and all have prospects that range from uncertain to perilous. In his
influential essay 35 years ago, Garrett Hardin suggested that humankind was
doomed to overexploit the commons unless the freedom to breed was
relinquished. Hardin's position was perceived as a simple choice between
two coercive alternatives for managing the commons: centralized government
and institutionalized private property."
Thankfully the more recent essays are more optimistic then Hardin's analysis
and consider his analysis as over-simplified.
(I wonder how many people are still with me?)
As can be seen the global commons is more than the atmosphere; if management
of the global fish stocks are anything to go by, things are going to get a
lot worse before we do anything serious about greenhouse gas emissions, and
the inertia of our current actions is clearly a major concern with respect
to greenhouse gases (GHG). A key phrase that comes out of these more recent
essays is "effective governance at the appropriate scale". To tackle global
warming effectively requires global cooperation and global agreements. A
global cap and trade system allowing market forces to work, to influence
people's actions and provides maximum freedom for individual initiatives
(whether they be individual people, government organizations at all levels,
NGOs, companies etc.) seems to me to be a large part of the answer. But one
likely outcome I think needs to be accepted: higher energy costs and
probably on average lower standards of living - at least in the short term.
Then there is the ethical question as to who should bear the burden of such
costs. Clearly it needs to be equitable, and many of the poor have nothing
to cut back on, as the recent global food shortage has demonstrated, and
also indicated the interconnectedness of these issues.
Another essay worth reading which pertains to the big picture is that by
Thomas Robert Malthus, "An Essay on the Principle of Population", written in
1798, also freely available on the internet, but I can recommend the Norton
critical edition which includes many other related essays. That caused a
stir when it was written and is still debated today, but just look at a
graph of the world's population growth since it was written and the basic
logic underlying Malthus' analysis is hard to controvert.
Enough for one day.

All is well.

Bob Cat:

Simple: more sleep = less consumption = less GHGs.