BTW, Devin, any thoughts on my last post?
I'm going to assume you are talking about your post about the rising sea levels and the warming of the earth...
Personally, (now that I've calmed down) I don't necessarily ascribe to global warming, but rather climate change and our effects on climate.
I think it is undoubted that the Earth is warming naturally, and that cannot be stopped.
Yet we also must consider what part we've played in the state of our environment. Since 1800, the mean levels of Carbon Dioxide in our Atmosphere has risen 50 parts per million from 280 ppm to 330 ppm. While that doesn't seem like a lot, we must realize that prior to 1800, it was remaining relatively stable rising and dipping between 283 ppm and 279 ppm (excluding 1550-1750 where it dipped to 278/277 ppm). It basically has gone from relative stability to a sudden exponential growth with the onset of the industrial revolution.
There has to be consequences for the increase of Co2 levels within our atmosphere, and I would argue whatever the consequences are, it cannot be good.
I don't think there can be a bad side to making changes to lower our carbon emissions and our pollution. The only downside is higher cost, but you must pay more to be healthier and safer.
The rising temperatures of the earth have additional consequences. Even if it is almost completely natural, we still have to deal with it. Our cities are so sprawled out and paved over that we will suffer some extreme consequences from increased heat.
Even if our temperature only gets relatively warmer, we must keep in mind that can turn to extremes in cities.
This nice little graphic shows the consequences of a "heat island", which many of our cities have become. American cities are far worse than other parts of the world simply because of how sprawled out we are...
So if you have temperatures of 90 degrees, that could be significantly higher in a sprawled out city.
Now, you could argue that we have air conditioning to deal with that problem. But air conditioning requires more energy. If our world is becoming hotter, we will inevitably need far more energy to provide conditioning to our buildings. Yet where do we get this energy?
Most people would argue against Nuclear Fission, thinking its too unsafe. Others don't like coal because of how much pollution it causes. We've pretty much already reached our capacity for hydroelectric opportunities (which also can have devastating effects on the aquatic habitats). Wind power is also not universal and cannot be produced at the level we would need to provide for everyone. The same can also be said for solar, which also won't be effective in many places it would be needed because it requires a good amount of exposure to the sun, and cloudy days cut down on the energy produced. Our only hope for an electric energy source is Nuclear Fusion which is costing us a lot of money, and is taking a lot of time. If Nuclear Fusion has a breakthrough and we can contain and harness the energy, then we won't have to worry about consuming energy because of how efficient and virtually unlimited it is. (Fusion is what powers stars) Yet if we don't have a breakthrough within 40-50 years, we are in trouble.
Also, most of us rely on our automobiles for transportation. The problem with cars, is that they require a lot of infrastructure to operate. Roads, highways, parking etc... In addition, cars need an energy source to run. Oil, to be frank, is running out. People assume these oil fields we are finding are going to provide lots of oil for us, and they even call for drilling in places like ANWR. Yet what most people don't realize, is that while these oil fields are large, they still cannot sustain our consumption for a long period. As it stands right now, if the United States were to base its oil economy solely on domestic drilling, we would only have enough oil for about 5 to 10 years. This includes proven and projected reserves.
The entire world's demand for oil is also increasing, and yet we believe we hit our peak oil production in about 2006. This means that from this point on, our supply of oil will diminish, while the demand increases. The world will have to produce the oil equivalent of a Saudi Arabia every 10 years.
As with electric energy sources, you may also say, well we can get alternatives to oil. Yet this also is problematic because oil has a very high ERoEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested) which basically is the ratio of usable energy to the energy it costs to acquire it. Preferably the ratio would be 1.00, meaning that you get more energy than you invest. Oil has a very good ERoEI, and it is also pretty efficient.
Yet other energy sources, like solar, wind power, etc... all don't have very good ERoEIs, and some of those also require oil for their production.
There is nothing we know of that can replace oil. Even if we go for all options equally, we still won't be able to replace what oil currently does for us. What does this mean? This means that our growth, which is currently only sustained because of oil, is going to stop. Our growth will either stagnate or start to decline. Inevitably, our growth will have to become more sustainable.
Look at the population of the world, we are currently at 7 billion people, and this will nearly double by 2050. Our production of energy, our food production and more requires a reliance on cheap oil. Our population has been able to explode due to the convenience and efficiency of oil. Yet once oil starts fading away, we won't be able to sustain ourselves anymore. Think of it this way, before the Industrial Revolution, we alternated between being underweight and normal/adequate weight. But after the industrial revolution we have gone from normal weight, to overweight, to obese. Now, the food that has been sustaining our weight level is going to be gradually taken away, and it will cost us more. Therefore our "weight" is going to have to go down, we will have to shed our excess weight and become healthier and slimmer.
We also are destroying vast amounts of natural habitat to build communities that are not very sustainable and don't use the given space efficiently. In addition to this, countless square miles of forests and jungle are being destroyed simply to provide wood to build our buildings, which aren't even designed to last more than about 50 years. We are getting very low quality and low value for a very high cost (to the natural world).
What is probably going to happen in this next century?
-Oil Prices are going to keep rising
--Additionally, people living out in the suburbs are not going to be able to afford to drive everywhere, and therefore will either move closer to mass transit and/or into the city. Some will stay and become farmers, but they won't be able to afford driving anymore.
-Suburbs will deteriorate
--The outermost rings of our suburbs are going to become abandoned because people will leave them to be closer to shopping and their workplaces. Some of these will also become abandoned because many are of poor quality and poor construction, and to upkeep them will cost more.
-Cities will shrink
--Cities will grow significantly in population, but they will contract and become more walkable. The outer edges will be abandoned and cities will not be able to afford maintenance on the outer infrastructure.
--Cities (more specifically, urban cores) and transit hubs will boom in population and density.
-Food production localizes
--Especially with rising gas prices, we won't be able to sustain the artificial processing of food and the shipment of food across the country. We will have to rely on nearby farms (regional and local) to provide us with food.
-Air and Water pollution will continue to increase
--Before we change our lifestyles, pollution is going to get even worse, because most people won't change until circumstances force them to. Health of Americans will also get worse, not just due to our lack of physical activity, but also due to our diet and due to poor air quality due to pollution.
So if you don't believe in global warming as a human cause, we still need to make changes because circumstances are going to get tough in this coming century. If we start making changes now, we are going to make it easier on ourselves.
But as it stands, Americans love their McMansions and they love their cars. I'm afraid that as Americans, we are going to be very stubborn and we will clutch onto these until they are pried from our hands while we lay suffering from shock and seizure.
Especially as Americans, we only care about the short-term. We want the quickest "fix" or the quickest satisfaction. We must remember that the Great Depression was preceded by the Roaring Twenties. This last Recession was preceded by another economic boom. Yet we weren't ever looking ahead to consequences of our actions. This is definitely one of problems we face now. We are building things and living in a lifestyle that has extreme long-term consequences, not to mention the terrible consequences to our society occurring now. I know so many people who say "we aren't running out of oil, they just found a huge reserve in _________", yet they don't understand how much oil we consume for not just cars, but for most of our products as well, and that a lot of reserves are low quality oil, or may cost more to drill than what we get back.
They also dismiss such talk as being from "Crazy environmentalists" or "treehuggers". Yet this is something that distinguished professionals are saying. While the environmentalists are crying about global warming, saving whales, and saving the trees; the professionals are telling us that the way we are living cannot be sustained for a long period, and we will have to change.
What should you do if you live in a large house, and constantly buy a lot of products, furniture and material items, yet you cannot afford these in the long term? Do you keep driving yourself into financial debt, or do you adjust your lifestyle and live within your means? We are currently living outside of what we can afford long-term and we are driving ourselves into debt (not financially), and yet we are also refusing to change our lifestyle and refuse to live within our means because of how hard such a change would be.