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What collective actions could be done ?

September 2003

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Anybody that wishes to adress the climate change problem must in fact act in two directions :

It is necessary to reduce the emissions, to attenuate the magnitude of the problem and lower the future risks, because, just as it is always meaningful for a smoker to quit smoking, whatever his health conditions are, it is always meaningful for us, whatever the environmental conditions are, not to aggravate them,

It is necessary to get ready for the non avoidable warming that will result from the excess of greenhouse gases that we have already put in the atmosphere, that "guarantee" an eventual 1 to 2 °C global warming no matter what, which is a lot compared to past climate changes.


If we examine the problem of emission reduction, the important point is that such a reduction can only be managed on an international basis, because:

climate change is a global phenomenum, that will not be restricted to the regions that are the largest greenhouse gases emitters, and will guarantee no sanctuary,

given the atmospheric lifetime of greenhouse gases, a single "bad player" (USA today, maybe China tomorrow) is enough to anihilate the efforts of the rest of the world, if any.

This is why this climate change problem is periodically the subject of international meetings, under the terms of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Then three variables are available to reduce emissions :

technological progress, that allows to reduce unitary sources,

the substitution of primary energy sources,

energy savings coming from different ways to organize our everyday life. But we are not going this way ! Indeed, as soon as a choice has to be done between the short term, leading us to a greater energy consuumption (through the building of a new highway, a new airport, a tax reduction so that we can consume even more, etc) and the long term, that would suppose that we slow down the energy consumption, and that will often mean that we slow down the material consumption itself (via a new tax or raising an existing one), we very often choose the short term.

Hence it seems very unlikely that, without an explicit will to do so, we will achieve quickly a significant reduction of the world emissions of greenhouse gases (I should say quickly and voluntarily, because such a reduction will happen anyway as a consequence of a finite world). A significant reduction means here cutting in half the worldwide emissions, if not more, in a couple decades.


Regarding the preparation for the non avoidable consequences, the difficulty that exists to give accurate regional predictions is a strong limit to any "recommandation" to enhance the resistance of our civilization, and only general considerations can be given :

Agriculture should be diversified, in order to make it less vulnerable, and have at hand species that we can hope will be adapted to much different climatic conditions,

Increase the resistance of indispensable infrastructures (including the power grid) to wind, excess or deficit in water, fires... But let's be clear : all highways and all airports are probably NOT indispensable ! But most train lines could probably fit in this category.

enhance the anti-fire defense in the forests,

reconstitute local stocks of almost anything (because just in time supposes infrastructures in good operating conditions and abundant energy...),

Avoid building in zones liable to flooding (because floods will most certainly increase)

Develop fish breeding (but not with carnivorous species, fed with other fish that will be captured in the ocean otherwise it is just a displacement of the problem !)

And...I'm not sure the exercise has been done very often : the (long) list is open to discussion !


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