Monday, June 6, 2011

Climate Change

Climate Change

Tepco, the operator of the Fukushima nukes has finally admitted that three of its reactors suffered meltdowns in the aftermath of the earthquake-tsunami. In fact, one of them started melting down from the earthquake alone before the tsunami hit. They keep pouring water into the reactors to try to cool what’s left of the fuel rods but there are leaks so the contaminated water is entering the environment. Radioactivity is 50 times normal in seaweed in the ocean near the plant.

The whole scenario was played up as totally unexpected and impossibly unlikely so not worth considering in the construction of the plants or for that matter in the development of the surrounding urbanized areas. People, unfortunately have short institutional memories. Up on the hillsides facing the ocean in northeast Japan there are stone markers, some dating back to the 1600’s, which clearly state, Do not build below this line. Still, in a densely populated country like Japan, it’s hard to imagine they’d leave large areas of their coastal plains to low-value land uses such as farms, forests and recreation because of events that might happen only once every 300 or 400 years.

But they do happen and all indicators point to them happening with increasing frequency. That includes the frequency and intensity of earthquakes which some scientists believe are exacerbated by global warming. But not to worry, according to the fossil fuel industry, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Repuglican Party, climate change is either a hoax or something that’s a lot cheaper and easier to adapt to than change our lifestyles for. You know, if it gets too hot you just crank up your air-conditioner. If that means burning more coal, well, it’s the cheapest source of energy so we can’t forego its benefits just because it intensifies the effects of global warming.

Last winter America experienced its largest winter storm ever, but what’s the big deal; everybody gets a vacation from school or work and gets a little exercise shoveling snow. It may be blizzarding outside but you’ve got your fossil-fueled heater to snuggle up to.

The Mississippi River is experiencing a 100 year flood but events of that severity are likely to become regular occurrences so maybe the people there should adapt by raising all the buildings in the flood plain up on stilts. There’s probably only ten or twenty million of them. Of course, there’s always the small matter of surviving massive tornados in which houses on stilts wouldn’t fare too well. You’d probably need to rebuild all the structures in tornado prone areas with steel and concrete… hmmm, adapting seems not so simple.

Anyway, in order for the vast majority to live the good, profligate, carbon-rich life a small fraction will have to be sacrificed to the weather gods. It’s probably not worth spending all that money adapting to something that might happen only every 20 or 50 or 100 years, let alone try to reverse the march of global warming, so the answer, I guess, is to pray you’re not counted amongst the unlucky ones… Dear God, If it’s going to happen, please let somebody else get the shaft.

No comments: