Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Pressing Need For Vast Power.

According to Australia's Chief Scientist, Professor Penny Sackett, the world has just six years to begin reducing its CO2 emissions or climate change catastrophe will ensue down the track:

There has also been some talk of geoengineering measures which might be taken to alleviate climate change if it does look like getting out of hand:

I think it's pretty clear that we're not going to reach Professor Sackett's cutoff point for serious reductions. Too much time has been wasted, and we cannot build the necessary infrastructure by the target date. Even if sensible measures to reduce CO2 emissions are commenced tomorrow, we will still overshoot safe atmospheric CO2 levels by a huge margin.

Many years ago in the lost days of my youth, I lived downstairs from a young man who lived for cars... working on them, fixing them, talking about them, and above all, cheating death in them by pushing the limits of high-speed, hard-edged driving past the point which would turn any sane person pale with terror. I did not particularly like him, but we conversed occasionally, and while I regard most of what he had to say as self-justifying blither, he once said something to me which has peculiar relevance to the situation we find ourselves in now. The words were spoken about twenty-four years ago, so my memory of them may be a little off, but the gist is this:

"People think that small cars are safer than big cars, but they're not. You have less protection in a small car than a big car, and you can get yourself into just as much trouble in a small car. A small car has enough power to get you into real trouble, but not enough power to get you out of it. A big car has even more power to get you into trouble, but it has enough power to get you out of it again."

It was the most sensible thing I ever heard him say.

And so true! A small car can indeed get you into strife it does not have the power to avoid which a larger, more powerful car could (in the hands of a skilled driver) avert. Herein lies a metaphor for our AGW woes.

If we follow the advice of 'renewables' and 'conservation/efficiency' advocates, we will deliberately cast away our ability to implement large-scale geoengineering solutions to AGW. For the sake of our own safety, we must make sure a high-power, high-energy power production system is available to meet our needs. For a lot of obvious reasons ably articulated elsewhere (see links on right hand side of blog), nuclear fission must be the heart of such a system. We need to point out to people just what a dangerous path a low-energy future would really be, especially if (as seems likely) we need to address major climate change in a non-passive manner.