Re: The nutcase brigade would never allow a NASA mission to Venus
If we aren't causing the rise in Earth's CO2 levels, what is? Also, where does all the CO2 from our combusted fossil fuels go? Faerie farts? The extant biosphere cannot absorb anything close to what we're pumping out. There are no plants that can grow fast enough to use up that CO2.
Worse; plants have this nasty habit of being on the surface. They don't tend to "sequester" the CO2 again, with the exception of some of the CO2 leaving the system via oceanic sequestration (algea and higher life forms dying, falling to the bottom of the ocean and being buried/subducted.)
So there are some problems with the hypothesis "humans are so insignificant as to not be able to affect the global climate."
1) We are releasing several hundred million years' worth of sequestered carbon into the atmosphere.
2) The extant plants can't absorb it at anything like the rate we emit it.
3) We keep doing this "deforestation" thing on massive enough levels to make me very sad when I look at Google Earth images of British Columbia or Brazil.
4) The more CO2 in the atmosphere, the more the heat gets trapped here.
5) The more CO2 in the atmosphere, the more acidic the oceans become.
6) The more acidic the oceans become, the less CO2 gets sequestered via ocean organisms doing their growth/consumption/burial thing.
7) Humans like to breathe air that isn't filled with particulates, so (most) of our societies have been moving towards pollution controls which reduce the amount of particulates we crank up into the atmosphere, thus reducing the amount of radiation reflecting material in the atmosphere, giving us all the climatic CO2 effect of a lovely series of volcanic eruptions with an ever decreasing amount of soot to block out the sun.
Anyone who does the sums and thinks we aren't affecting the climate is a goddamned idiot. We are; and fairly rapidly (on geologic timescales) at that. The flip side of this is that if we hadn't gone and done this, we'd be facing the start of another ice age in about, oh, 6000 years or so. So we've unintentionally geoengineered our planet to be more suitable for us than it was heading towards...but we may well have gone too far in the other direction on this.
So there are questions that we need to get answers to:
1) Is there a "new balance" oceanic ecosystem that can cope with the increased acidification on a short enough timescale to cope with the mass extinction we've initiated?
2) Will this "new balance" ecosystem be able to ramp up it's CO2 sequestration enough to start reversing the CO2 levels? By how much, on what timescale and will we be right back to facing the Ice Age problem again if it adapts quickly?
3) How much of the commercially important biodiversity are we going to lose when the extant oceanic ecosystem is no longer sustainable? How will we adapt to this?
4) Tundra/Taiga thawing is releasing massive amounts of Methane, accelerating climate change and in turn accelerating thawing. Should we/can we ignite the Methane in order to turn this very powerful greenhouse gas into less potent CO2?
5) What kind of technology needs be invented to convert Tundra/Taiga into farmland? (Muskeg is impassable to our current technology.) How much do we need to convert to meet the requirements of our species in light of the changing climate?
6) How will rainfall patterns change, and how will these changes affect our ability to grow necessary crops?
7) Can we alter the rainfall patterns we expect to be seeing through forestation/reforestation (forests alter rainfall patterns by altering both local albedo and the local hydrological cycle.) Should we? And Where?
8) Can we green the desert/prevent the expansion of deserts due to change in rainfall patterns via fission-backed desalination and irrigation? Should we? And where?
9) What areas are at risk from flooding due to sea rise or increased storm activity? What should we abandon, what should we reinforce?
10) Much of our current agricultural technology relies on petroleum-based fertilizers. As the climate changes our energy demands will increase while at the same time we are reaching the limit (if we haven't already) of BBL/day relevant hydrocarbon extraction. (You can't make fertilizer from natural gas.) What technologies need to be invented or adapted to cope with a future in which these fertilizers are less plentiful? Can we green the desert/farm the tundra without them? Should we be caching reserves of these critical substances in order to deal with the upcoming "fringe farming" requirements while transitioning our more easily arable land towards farming techniques that don't require petroleum-based fertilizer?
11) We are already using water from our aquifers far faster than the aquifer recharge rate. How will changing rainfall patterns affect aquifer recharge? How will we have to adjust our water usage and agricultural practices? Can we use fission-backed desalination to refill the aquifers faster than nature itself would allow, and should we?
12) If we do change any of our current practices (for example, our very water-intensive farming techniques) how will that alter the climate? Will local variances in water evaporation or albedo (due to forestation/reforestation/greening of the desert/farming the tundra) have larger effects that we should consider? What effects are those, and how do get all the relevant political bodies together to make plans that deal with the "ripple effect" of large-scale changes undertaken by one organization?
We aren't going to stop climate change. We aren't ever going to get people use less power or otherwise sacrifice for a "greater good" that is generations in the realization. We need to accept that, and start looking at technologies and techniques that will enable adaptation to the changing world.
We live in a world where one man can choose to cut down an entire forest, altering the weather across the entire region and ultimately subtly changing the global climate. One person's signature can set into motion a chain of events large enough that we really should be figuring out what the repercussions are, and how best to adapt to those repercussions.
We still have a group of people so obsessed with their own false sense of insignificance that they actually prevent us from moving beyond "can we affect the planet on a global scale". We can, and we do. What we need to be doing is qualifying how so that we can quantify the externalities current business, governance and commercial practices are not paying for and ensure those costs are properly costed as part of the cost of goods and services. We then can ensure that mitigation and adaptation efforts are funded and properly coordinated.
That isn't religion, or radical belief, or hocus pocus. It's pragmatism. Life is change; those who adapt, survive.