VIEWS: 13 PAGES: 3 CATEGORY: Science & Technology POSTED ON: 6/22/2010
When it comes to the planet's environment, "isolationism" is impossible. By the year 2030, environmental policy and political policy will be completely inseparable at the global level. By 2030, though, the connection between politics and the environment could show up in two very different ways: as a catalyst for war, or as a new model for handling complexity. Global delays in reducing carbon emissions will likely force the human race to embark upon a set of geoengineering-based responses, not as the complete solution, but simply as a disaster-avoidance measure. The challenge everyone faces is global warming plus resource collapse plus pandemic disease plus post-hegemonic disorder plus the myriad other issues. People know what they need to do to mitigate climate change, and they have the necessary technology. What they're missing, more than anything else, is the political will. But politics and society can change -- they've seen it happen before.
ity, or costs per se that are slowing humanity’s move to renewables, but rather conservatism, our attachment to the industries and strategies we’ve already invested money in (sunk costs), and lack of creative strategic planning for the inevitable demise of fossil fuels. About the Author Dennis Bushnell is the chief scientist at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and a speaker at the World Future Society’s conference in Boston this July. His previ- ous article for THE FUTURIST, “Algae: A Panacea Crop?” was published in March-April 2009. Web site www.nasa.gov/centers/ langley/home/index.html. The Potential and Risks of Geoengineering BART NAGEL By Jamais Cascio fertilization, or even something not yet fully described. The mid-2010s is the probable starting period for these One futurist proposes some radical ideas to stave off the strategies, in my view. Geoengineering advocates may see the mid-2010s as already too late, while opponents worst effects of climate change. would likely want more time to study their models. Once we start down the geoengineering path, we’ll When it comes to our planet’s environment, “isola- see that talking about it is much simpler than doing it. tionism” is impossible. By the year 2030, environmental The unexpected feedbacks and unintended conse- policy and political policy will be completely insepa- quences would quickly become manifest, and the reac- rable at the global level. Arguably, that should be the tions could be volatile. Planetary management could case today. As we gain a deeper understanding of eco- become a political flashpoint, leading to outbreaks of system processes, we’re seeing how actions on one side violence, especially if different regions have divergent of the world can dramatically change the lives of people results or demand incompatible outcomes. A good por- on the other. Interconnectedness is a challenge we can’t tion of international diplomacy would focus on just run away from. how to control climate engineering technologies and By 2030, though, the connection between politics and deal with their consequences. the environment could show up in two very different Ours will be a challenging world to navigate in the ways: as a catalyst for war, or as a new model for next couple of decades, and not just because of conflicts handling complexity. over who’s in charge or who’s to blame for which prob- lems. We’ll be dealing with multiple complex global system breakdowns — from the ongoing financial sys- The Complexity of Environmental Challenges, tem crisis, peak oil production, climate disruption, and The Challenge of Complexity
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