Adapting to Global Warming: The Carbon Lobby’s Modest Proposal

The carbon lobby (mainly the coal and oil companies) when they don’t  deny that human cause global warming exists, suggest that it would be less expensive and more  humane to do nothing about it. “Burn all the fossil fuels you want, and adapt to the changes” they say. “Doing anything to prevent global warming is too expensive.”

In a spirit of reconciliation between the coal lobby and environmentalists, I thought I’d put forward some specific proposals to implement their approach.

In an unchecked planet greenhouse we would have weather more than climate, warmer on average, but with unpredictable frosts and snowstorms – some of them in places we currently don’t get snow. Draught would alternate with floods. Insects would flourish on a warmer planet and pests of all types would migrate. And of course storms would be worse than at present, and the average wind speed would be significantly higher.

Finding crops that are simultaneously draught and flood resistant, adapted to high temperatures, but able to survive low temperatures, and that are usable by humans as sources of complete protein and moderately concentrated carbohydrates (comparable  to grain or roots) makes for a fascinating challenge.

One possibility is to learn how to grow most of our crops indoors. Some parts of Scandinavia grow a large part of their fruits and vegetables in glass houses, but I don’t know if any nation has ever tried to raise a significant amount of its grain and animals that way.  For at least half a century, there have been proposals for geodesic and inflatable domes miles in diameter, but no one could ever come up with a good enough reason to build one; ignore global warming long enough and we may get one. At any rate if we really intend to nothing towards prevention, we need to investigate more seriously how to dome over a tenth to a quarter of the worlds land.

In case this fails, an alternative possibility is leaf protein. With a centrifuge you can extract protein from just about any kind of leaf on any kind plant. So we could simply plant “farms” with whatever kind of biomass we can get to grow and use centrifuges to extract the protein which we would then treat and store. Currently leaf protein is extremely expensive compared to meat; we need a way to bring the price down.

Also leaf protein is currently extracted from crops planted for just this purpose. An outdoor “farm” adapted to a greenhouse climate would consist of mixed plants. These would not be separate rows or beds or even in the more complex arrangements we find in biointensive gardening. We would mix a variety of species, suitable for differing climates, completely. Some varieties would flourish and others fail depending on what the weather that year was suited to grow. Any wild volunteers would be welcomed; in a planet greenhouse farm there would be no such thing as a weed.

Now leaf protein is already expensive compared to animal protein, since it requires more extensive processing than normal vegetable protein. Extracting the protein from mixed leaves of a semi-random variety will require some additional research.

There is one possible protein source that will actually increase on planet greenhouse – insects. We even know how to prepare them; there are organizations devoted to insect eating that have developed extensive recipes; some are reputed to be quite tasty.  The tricky part here is harvesting. Most technology we have for dealing with insects involves killing or discouraging them. If we can capture them unpoisoned in large lots, then we can collect as many bugs as the carbon lobby chooses to feed us.

There is also the problem of water; even the global warming that is already locked is expected to decrease the water supply significantly. With an unchecked warming trend, we will have to provide the majority of our water via desalinization.  Right now the most cost effective water desalination techniques produce water at about five times the cost of mountaintop and ground water sources. That needs to be lowered if we intend to adapt to a full-fledged planet greenhouse rather than prevent one.

Ah, but there is one other thing we should consider. What if the same people who oppose doing anything to prevent the worst effects of global warming from happening don’t want to spend the money to learn to live in it?  What a surprise that would be! Well there is still one area they would still desperately need to research.

If nothing prevents or mitigates global warming, and no serious research is made in adapting to it, the world food supply cut by at least one half, probably three quarters and possibly 90%. Of course water and industrial infrastructure will also be seriously impacted. The remaining people will be pretty busy improvising adaptations without a lot of preparation via prior research. So you will not have a lot of people available to dispose of the dead – no more than one per thousand bodies, probably as few as one per ten thousand bodies.

This will be a serious health hazard to the living, (presumably those who favor doing nothing to prevent global warming), within a matter of days. In that case we need to develop techniques whereby one person may find and permanently dispose of three thousand widely scattered corpses per day unassisted.

I hope those who oppose mitigation of the global warming, and support simply adapting to it, find these suggestions helpful.


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