|Still can't get a taxi|
Here's the key realization: Only one thing can slow climate change - reduction in greenhouse gas pollution. Everything else contributes to climate change. Everything. Melting ice and permafrost releases trapped carbon dioxide while reducing ocean salinity. Warming oceans release trapped methane, and if you think carbon dioxide has been fun, wait 'til you get a load of methane in the atmosphere. Droughts and other changes to the climate make existing agricultural land unusable, so farms move north, clearing trees to plant their fields. As the temperature warms, insects and parasites move into areas where the trees have no defenses against them, and vast numbers die off. The reduction of forests both eliminates the carbon capture function of plant life, but the dead trees themselves give off greenhouse gasses as they decompose. Switching to electric cars sounds great, but if they run on electricity generated by burning fossil fuels, they continue to emit greenhouse gasses.
You hear a lot about conservation, and on the whole conservation is an unalloyed good. But we must be careful not to delude ourselves - the biggest strides in the reduction in energy usage happen in the more technologically advanced nations, where better insulated, more efficient buildings, mass transit and more energy efficient urban communities are actually options. In the rest of the world, people still burn firewood, burn coal in vast quantities and clear forests to create new farms. Every geothermal, hydroelectric, wave, solar and wind electricity generating plant reduces greenhouse pollution, but to what real effect when processes we have put in motion, most of which we only dimly understand, are already increasing the rate at which the planet warms? It's interesting that the dire predictions we used to hear for 2100 are no longer at the top of climate science's concerns, but rather we hear dates like 2050 and even 2030. And we've already seen Katrina, the great Russian heat wave and superstorm Sandy.
Remember, people have built-in, intrinsic characteristics that make them dangerous. The ugliest results of global warming won't be the rise in the seas or the droughts or the disease, it will be the savagery with which the human populations fight each other for survival. Resource wars, responses to disease and pandemics, the slaughter of displaced refugees, the food riots - nothing nature can be induced to do to us rises to the level of butchery we will rush to perpetrate on each other. Just wait until an entire nuclear armed nation is starving, or severely short on drinking water - at that point we'll begin to see what humans are genuinely capable of.