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What If We’re Wrong – 03

July 5, 2017

Climate changeClimate Change

Now there’s an interesting topic! Of course there are at least two camps on the climate change thing. One is that the climate is changing and that mankind is causing or at least exacerbating the change. A second camp is that yes, the climate is changing but it’s a natural phenomenon and mankind is not only not causing it or exacerbating it to any extent, but can’t really do anything about it. There may be a small contingency of folks who don’t believe the climate is changing any more than usual.

I fall into the first camp. However, I’m not writing to argue the veracity of one view or the other. Instead, I want to ask . . .

What If I’m Wrong?

If you looked at the cartoon, you know my answer to my own question! For me, it’s about planning ahead and creating jobs while building a sustainable society. It’s about business and quality of life. I refuse to believe [Update 11/5/2017: Climate Science Report] that we cannot do something to prepare for, if not mitigate, what seems to be a very clear consensus in the scientific community that the climate is indeed changing. There may well be disagreement on why it’s changing, but very solid agreement that it is in fact changing. The why, in my book, is largely a moot point.

Our findings would lead us to believe that the right place to invest dollars are in renewable energy rather than fossil fuels. These jobs are widely geographically distributed, they’re high paying, they apply to both manufacturing and professional workers, and there are a lot of them.” — Liz Delaney, Program Director at EDF Climate Corps. Business Insider 1/26/2017

According to the article quoted above, solar-energy jobs are growing 12 times faster than the U.S. Economy is growing. And while much of the manufacturing work is or will be automated, these are still good jobs in both construction and manufacturing.

It’s All About People and Jobs

I worry about the future of jobs. After all, I’m a technologist who happens to believe that sooner or later, we will create our own “replacements” when it comes to the traditional jobs — even for white collar workers. Maybe especially for the white collar or knowledge workers.

So what if we took the predicted sea level rise seriously? Wouldn’t it be prudent to begin moving people off islands and flood plains? Surely it will be very expensive to do that. And surely it would create a whole bunch of construction jobs. It would also be the humane and moral thing to do.

Sea level rise and more severe storms are overwhelming U.S. coastal communities, causing billions of dollars in damage and essentially bankrupting the federal flood insurance program. Yet rebuilding continues, despite warnings that far more properties will soon be underwater. — May 23, 2017, YaleEnvironment360

So let’s see. We’re worried that our country cannot continue to grow (GDP wise) the way it has in the past. We’re worried that manufacturing has left our country, never to return (It hasn’t. We’re at peak production now and have been for some time). Some of us are worried about the future of good jobs due to technology advances. There are those who predict that human lifespan is about to take a huge leap, with the potential to live for hundreds of productive years.

Of course it makes no sense to plan for these eventualities, right? NOT! One of my first jobs out of engineering school was to help in the disaster planning for my company. My part was figuring out how to relocate the computer center if a plane trying to land at the international airport close by didn’t make it and landed in our building instead. PLAN AHEAD.

Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later

These last couple of posts in the “What If We’re Wrong” category have a common theme. It’s the Boy Scout motto, really: Be Prepared!

My hypothesis is that not only can we prepare for the several “crises” facing us, but we can create meaningful work, community and a better standard of living along the way. For me, it’s all about being practical and looking for disaster planning. The preamble to our constitution states that:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. — Preamble to the Constitution of the United State of America

Promoting the general welfare, to me, means making sure that we all have the infrastructure, reasonable safety and forward planning to fulfill the promise of our constitution. I get that there is a huge amount of money involved here. I understand that many worry about where it will come from. It should come from us — we are the ones who will enjoy the “Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” We can and should insist that our government become far more efficient and effective in using our collective wealth to secure our welfare.

Conclusion

Sooner or later, we will pay for not planning ahead. If we ignore the signs, and drag our feet while arguing about things that really don’t matter, we will pay a much higher price. So, like the cartoon asks, “What if we build a better world for no good reason?” Well, we have a better world. That sounds good to me.

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