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View Diary: C4: The explosively dangerous Climate Cliff (11 comments)

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  •  Just a small nitpick (3+ / 0-)
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    A Siegel, figbash, citisven

    Humanity has never had the ability to 'control' emissions or any other aspect of the environment.  The response to too many nasties in one place has usually been for people to clear out and not come back (Love Canal, Times Beach, Chernobyl).

    Control goes along with the idea that the genie can be put back in the bottle, and while there was a small success doing that with CFCs in the atmosphere, there are a lot more cases where things continue on uncontrolled.

    What works better than control is concurrent mitigation.  If chlorinated hydrocarbons are discovered migrating in groundwater, control is tracing those pollutants back to the source and shutting the source off.  It does nothing about the existing problem and leaves it to nature to heal.  but concurrent mitigation is doing something like adding iron to the soil across the flow, so that the iron can reduce the chlorinated hydrocarbons to less harmful products.

    When the connection was first made between rising greenhouse gases and climate, we should have realized that control was going to be impossible and opted for mitigation instead.  If humanity had set about on a course to sequester as much carbon in the soil as was being dug up for energy production, we would be in a much different situation.  If a ton of biochar was applied to the soil for every ton of coal extracted, we would be a lot closer to zero net emissions.  

    But we haven't found a way to make such a mitigation scheme succeed.  Never mind that biochar improves the soil, it requires a long term view and can't be justified looking at just quarterly profits.  The same with reforestation; the profit is in cutting trees down and it requires government intervention to mitigate the environmental damage with replanting.

    Control is all right if you live in a linear world.  But the world is decidedly non-linear, and when those non-linearities show up, control is lost.  The wisest way to deal with a non-linear world is to be observant and to mitigate problems as soon as they are found.  That way small problems have less of a chance of becoming catastrophic ones.

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