Transition and technology - Columnist Moisés Wasserman - Columnists - Opinion

Transition and technology – Columnist Moisés Wasserman – Columnists – Opinion

In discourse on climate change (both deeply concerned and completely indifferent) facts are mixed with bizarre assumptions. It’s wise to put some things in their place.

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The statement that climate change is a major threat to the existence of humanity is as true as the need for a transition to an environmentally friendly energy. Climate change has been shown to result from (or strongly correlate with) the accumulation of greenhouse gases, particularly CO2. But the assignment of blame is wrong and unhelpful.

The accumulation of gases is a side effect of the growth of the world population (which reached 8,000 million a few days ago). Those who think of themselves as defenders of life (I think we all are) should be clear that this is not possible without energy. In fact, this is life: the ability to organize complex structures using external energy.

There are those who suggest that we immediately stop CO2 production by eliminating fossil fuels. But the problem is much more complex and it should be assumed that complex problems, as a rule, are not solved by simple solutions. In our case, most of the CO2 is produced by agriculture, deforestation and land use change. Other technologies, which also rely on fossil fuels, still have no technology to replace them: the production of cement, steel and synthetic fertilizers. Well .By eliminating oil completely, we solve only a small part of the problem. We will need oil and gas for many more years.

Experts think that in addition to transition (which will also depend on technological developments), adaptation strategies should be prioritized.

Some current energy alternatives are solar, wind and nuclear. However, the costs and the amount of minerals, soil and waste needed will be new problems to be solved.

Many of us believe that the best solutions will come from science and technology. I know they call us ‘techno-optimistic’ in a somewhat cynical tone, but I’d happily accept that name. In fact, current solutions are all technological, and there is enough historical evidence to believe that newer and more disruptive solutions will soon emerge.

A scenario fiction that does not take this fact into account is insufficient. It’s astonishing that solar panels and windmills are getting better and cheaper. The time is not far off when all of our windows and roofs will have solar panels. There are several projects in the world where controlled nuclear fusion experiments are advancing. If developed, they would give us unlimited and inexpensive energy, and would be a good fuel for airplanes and tractor trailers that could be stored and transported as liquid hydrogen.

There are projects in space that seem like science fiction, like a large chain of mirrors that capture solar energy 24 hours a day and ‘transfer’ it to antennas on Earth. There are also projects to capture atmospheric CO2 in large factories or genetically modified vegetables and seaweed to boost photosynthesis.

However, experts think that in addition to transition (which will also depend on technological developments), adaptation strategies should be prioritized. From adapting economies for greater resilience and increased productivity to the physical adaptation of buildings, roads and cities to productive food production in fertile, scarce water and arid soils.

The problem is too complex and the solutions cannot be pure. They will be connected to information and technology; fossil fuels should allow us to finance their costs. In this energy shift, conscious rationality must prevail over dogmas and passions.

MUSA WASSERMAN@mwassermannl

(Read all of Moisés Wasserman’s columns on EL TIEMPO here)


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