Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Malaria and Greenhouse Gases

Every so often, a blog post captures the essence of a situation so precisely that it requires very little comment: it just needs promoting so more people read and assimilate what it is saying. Frequently, the blogger who seems to excel at encapsulating the moment is Roger Pielke,Jr. and so it is with this post about the inevitable conflict in objectives that results when we frame the challenge of global warming in terms of "reducing emissions" rather than "energy modernization." The result is inevitably a battle between mitigation and adaptation, when in reality they should be complements.

To examine this contrast in objectives, Pielke poses the question:
  • So what are the implications of eradicating malaria for future greenhouse gas emissions from Africa?
The answer:
  • If a goal of climate policy is simply to "reduce emissions" then this goal clearly conflicts with efforts to eradicate malaria, which will inevitably lead to an increase in emissions. But if the goal is to modernize the global energy system -- including the developing the capacity to provide vast quantities of carbon-free energy, then there is no conflict here.
His take home message is simple: policies on climate change do not exist in a vacuum and have severe ramifications in many areas of human sustainability. To frame issues predominantly from a perspective of suppressing change is to negate the necessary and positive impacts that change has yet to bring to so many areas where the need is far more real and acute than the potential risk posed by possible future climate change.

To attempt to deny change is the ultimate act of denial and the true imposition of a limiting ideology.