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|See also the Climate change category.|
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Climate change due to human influence is accepted as scientific consensus (see Science of climate change). It is expected to have devastating effects on vulnerable communities.
The science of climate change
Climate change skepticsW are a very small and decreasing minority of scientists (and a relatively large number of economists). The relative importance of climate change as opposed to directly addressing poverty is also open to debate.
The positive contribution that climate skeptics can make includes critical analysis of technologies and strategies - this applies when it is considered analysis rather than polemic.
Note that Appropedia is focused on solutions and has only basic and especially relevant information on climate science. See Wikipedia:Climate science as a starting point for climate science information.
There are many uncertainties in predicting climate change. The IPCCW considers that there is a strong probability of serious climate change caused by human activity - but not a 100% certainty. However, their estimates may be wrong:
- Climate change may be much less serious than expected, and we may have plenty of time to convert to a low carbon economy of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Or...
- It may be much worse worse than expected, well outside mainstream estimates.
It is impossible to know for certain - it is simply a matter of considering possible outcomes. In particular:
- If there is no climate change, but we have taken action, then we have invested in a low carbon economy, with sustainable communities and abundant clean energy.
- If climate change is worse than expected, and we have only taken minor action, there will be a sea rise, crop failures in some areas causing millions of climate refugees, increased natural disasters, greatly increased uncertainty in food production, and major costs in adaptation.
Impact of climate change on the world
Both the developed as the developing world will be affected. The developing world is expected to be affected to a greater extent though. Some effects are:
- changing weatherpatterns (greater or fewer precipitation on specific areas, the weather is also expected to be much more radical). This will negatively affect farming
- natural disasters (ie mud slides, hurricanes, ...) These are expected to rise. Death toll in 2003 = 150000 people 
- Sea-level rise will contaminate a very large percentage of the agricultural fields with sea salt and make them no longer suitable for continued food production. In addition, many low-lying islands and coastlines will need to be abandoned, forcing many people to move.
Climate change mitigation
Our options are:
- Reduce carbon consumption
- Carbon sequestration - prevent consumed carbon from getting into the atmosphere. After combustion, pump it underground or underwater.
- Remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, e.g. through ocean nourishment, biochar, planting trees.
- Reduce the temperature in other ways (paint roads and roofs white, spray sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere, to reflect a proportion of sunlight back into space. Note: this direct temperature reduction does not reduce carbon levels, so ocean acidification from higher carbon dioxide is still a problem.
- Climate change mitigation: build heat tolerant houses (passive solar with suitable insulation), flood control barriers)
- Grin and bear it: put up with the inconveniences and the expected loss of biodiversity and increases in certain types of natural disasters (and hope that there will be improvements in other areas).
The best solution is probably a mix of some of these, as no single solution or even class of solutions appears adequate. The less action is taken, the more we will depend on the "grin and bear it" option.
Technology is advancing and technologies such as thin film solar photovoltaicsW (e.g. copper indium gallium diselenideW) offer great hope. However, the rate of progress is uncertain, and as climate change is already happening, action is needed now, without waiting for these new technologies.
Low hanging fruit
The logical place to start is in the area where potential gains are greatest and costs are lowest. This is energy efficiency, and it offers cost savings in many areas. Thus the most important, pressing actions to be taken can be taken immediately without economic penalty, with suitable planning. Financial planning is an important aspect of this, as investment now may be required to gain long term benefits; it may be important to have programs such as light bulb exchanges or loans for energy efficiency measures (perhaps paid off through electricity bills)
Another measure is renewable energy, which is more attractive in some locations than others (e.g. solar and biodiesel may be the most cost effective sources of electricity in a sunny isolated location, and solar hot water is perhaps the most cost-effective form of renewable energy in most locations[verification needed]). At this stage the majority of the population in developed countries have access to renewable energy through "green energy" offered by electricity companies (which is often not truly "green", but it varies in degree). The cost premium for such energy is very modest compared with most people's overall living costs (and modest compared with the money that most people spend on luxuries or entertainment). See How to increase the uptake of green energy.
Reducing carbon usage
Simple living offers various ways of reducing impact as well. To have a serious impact, these need to be actions which appeal to a large number of people, which may be very difficult without changes at the community level. The self-sacrificial aspects of simple living are unlikely to appeal to many people, based on past patterns.
Other aspects do improve quality of life and are at least possible. These include promotion of behavior changes, and changing infrastructure in ways that encourage lower-energy behavior. Building of cycleways rather than highways, making communities more walkable, making public transport a more attractive option, and introducing congestion charges (as in London) are supported by many sustainability advocates and organizations.
Ensuring that buyers of houses and other buildings have access to all appropriate information about energy costs, livability (which improves with good passive solar design) and environmental impact, could make a big difference to the building industry, and ensure that sustainability is taken more seriously by more builders.
Cost effectiveness of action
Note that the cost balance may appear different if externalities are accounted for - e.g. deaths due to vehicles, including emissions; improved health from cycling and walking acting to reduce health costs and improve productivity; and possibly even social cohesion as a result of people mingling on cycle, foot, and public transport, instead of traveling by car.
- http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Water/images/precipitation_intensity_map.png Precipitation changes
- One solution is to grow less fragile crops, ie more resistant to changes in watering
- 150000 people killed by global warming upto 2003
- Sea level rise: 2m rise expected by 2100 A.D., 6,5m by 2200 A.D.
- Earth under water documentary
- If the energy company benefits from people using more energy, there may be a conflict of interest, so different reward models need to be explored; when the energy company is a government-owned corporation, this may give more flexibility to apply a different model in order to encourage uptake. (See Incentives for sustainability and Incentives to pollute.
- Renewable energy
- Incentives for sustainability
- Sea level rise
- Measures to stop global warming