Climate Change: Top Down and Bottom Up

E-mail Melanie Martella

So, the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference is happening as I write and while I would love to think that concrete and useful change will be a result, and that the world will end up with a real and workable plan to deal with climate change in a way that is equitable and yet fosters entrepeneurship etc., etc., I'm just not that sanguine. (I blame the ten inches of snow we got yesterday, I'm normally far more optimistic than this.)

New Scientist has an interesting article, "The research that might save us after Copenhagen" that highlights efforts such as methods to cut back on non-carbon-dioxide pollutants, improvements in solar panels, better climate models, trapping carbon dioxide, electric cars, and the like. There is no question, I think, that such research efforts are valuable and may well end up saving our collective bacon. And, luckily for the sensors industry at large, sensors are critical to the various new types of monitoring that will be required. Go us! But I don't think that this is a purely technological challenge.

I don't know if any of you reading this also listen to NPR's Planet Money podcast, but I'm a fan. And they recently did a show talking about climate change and economics. Specifically, whether it's possible to get a bunch of people to work together to save the planet. The answer is yes, by the way. Although it isn't an unqualified yes by any means. (Listen to the episode to get the full story, including Elinor Ostrom, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Economics, stating her belief that we can't wait for the governments to come up with a plan and that we'd better start figuring things out at a local level while we wait for the governments to gear up.)

Here's the thing. Technology can do amazing things and we've proven that over and over again. Wrangling the technology may not be the major stumbling block to achievable anti-global-warming efforts. We are endlessly inventive as a species and we work best when confronted by looming threats. However, we do poorly with ill-defined problems that will hit us at some time in the misty future. The biggest challenge to addressing climate change is going to be wrangling people; getting us to change how we live and what we do and how we live in the world.

What do you think? Drop me an email and let me know!