World war II. Events that changed our history. In many ways, it changed the course of humanity itself. Surviving the war required huge amounts of effort from all the participating countries. Now replace the B26, FW200, T60, M2 etc of the world war with CO2, NOx, CH4, SOx etc and you have a new war called climate change. Surviving this requires a greater effort than anything humanity has ever done. If you think I am just exaggerating things here, have a look at the following slideshow (97 slides):
Building one windmill every five minutes for the next 25 years! Adding a swimming pool size of algae biofuels every second for the next 25 years! Seems like an intimidating task and I am not sure yet, what will drive people to achieve such targets. Fear and greed supposedly drive the world. The world war effort was probably driven by the former while another massive effort like industrialization was driven primarily by the latter. The climate change issue unfortunately does not considerably create both of those factors (yet).
I am doubtful whether fear will ever play a role in finding solutions for climate change. The Himalayan rivers might slowly decrease in volume over a few decades but that would just mean that people will migrate from one area to another. A few decades is enough time for demographic changes to happen and if not for statisticians, we would barely notice the changes. Almost all the consequences of climate change, be it increase in the number of diseases, melting of summer ice in polar regions or rise in sea levels happen over a few decades and some of them over a century or two. At the best, we would find solutions that cure the symptoms; probably walls to protect our seaside cities.
So, we remain with the other major driver of human behavior which is greed. How do we make it work in such a way that the climate change challenge will be solved? What kind of incentives do we provide to people and governments so that they start working toward a solution for climate change? Many of the incentives currently devised to solve climate change such as subsidies, carbon credits, tax breaks and so on haven’t always worked satisfactorily.
Then, what would be an incentive? Technology might be one. A radical new low cost solar panel might possibly become so attractive that everyone automatically wants to make money out of it and as a result, man-made emissions might be reduced. A new economic instrument might be another one; Corporations, stock markets were all invented at some point of time and something radical might be born yet again. God and religion have served as pollution control measures in many parts of the world but I doubt whether they could be used in this new world where science is the real religion. Anything that might save us from the consequences of man-made climate change is probably not yet invented.
Does that mean that we wait for a miracle to happen? I don’t think so. I believe instead in probabilities. Increase the number of college courses and thereby people who specialize in technology related to renewable energy and you increase the possibility of an outcome. Increase funding for research in climate change and you increase the possibility of an outcome. Introduce primary school students to climate change and increase the possibility of an outcome. Short term incentives like subsidies and tax-breaks would not solve a problem such as this. Only a long term investment in education would probably solve this issue.