Duncan Wilcock

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Technology Will Save Us

The CBC is doing a series of stories this week on climate change (hooray! - it's quite good actually) and in one interview, the interviewer asks a question that sums-up an often expressed sentiment - that "Technology will save us" I wanted to put down a few thoughts on this topic.

I'm an optimist & all for the global market-economy. I do believe that technology can & will respond rapidly to the crisis & that humanity will survive climate change.

Humanity will survive, short of sterilizing the planet (which i'm not sure i'd put past us - Nuclear winter & an unanticipated effect from one of the many GMOs that have been released into the environment being the two chief contenders in my book,) but it remains to be seen how much of it will survive. Will it be the current level of population? Will it be a greater level of population? Will it be substantially less? The answers are not yet known & in practice can probably only be found via experiment.

The theory that probably best answers the question is provided by an "Ecological Footprint" analysis of the type first popularized by Prof. Bill Reeds of the University of British Columbia. But that's the question - how many of us will survive climate change - rather than if. The answer to that question depends on how much anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change we allow to happen.

Note that rephrasing the question that way eliminates the polarizing effect of a "the world is ending" argument - it isn't. However - the important question - the question of how much to do remains, and it is a function of a) how bad is it going to get? b) how many people are we willing to let die? and c) how many people do we want to live with on this planet in the longer term. I would sum these up as how much do we do, how fast do we do it, & how many people do we want to live with.

Moral & Ethical questions to direct our science.