“We need to stop all industry tomorrow or ice will melt!”
“Ice will melt. We need to close a few of the worst-impacting plants so it melts a bit slower and gives us time to figure out where we might need dams. Everybody else, as you were.”
The first proposition has no chance whatsoever to be taken seriously. I understand Overton but I admit a certain tiredness on this particular falling-sky topic.
Figuring out where we might need dams may be enough for the next couple decades, but if ice caps continue to melt, dams are never going to be able to stop 60 m of sea level rise. Melting slower is not enough. And at the moment, it's only going to melt faster because we're still producing way too much CO2.
Well, we've already accepted that it's the only realistic option, because 4 years is not enough to do anything else.
If you really think that, then you should just buy a canoe today.
And even getting it to melt slower than it's currently doing requires more effort than we're currently putting into this. We can and should do way more than is currently happening.
I am utterly disgusted by this literal "apres moi le deluge" attitude.
(Albeit a calamity followed.)
This time, the scale and stakes are much bigger, potentially extinction level.
We really need to aim at zero CO2 production. We will fall short of that goal, but everything will help slow things down, and eventually bring temperatures back to what they were, after natural plant growth has gotten the time needed to remove CO2 from the air again. Once that happens, the melting will stop and climates will stabilize.
If we can get global temperatures back to normal in a century, that means we'll have about 1-2 meter of sea level rise to cope with. That means the end of the Maldives and serious investments in some coastal areas, but many coastal cities will survive.
If we can get temperatures back to normal earlier than that, that will mean less sea level rise, and significantly less other problems. Not all damage can be undone, but some will, and there will be a limit to it.
But the longer it takes, the worse the effects will be, and the longer it will take to recover.
Of course we can also help nature a bit and plant more trees and look for other ways to get more CO2 out of the air. It maybe be drops in a bucket, but we're going to need a lot of drops, so we better get started. At the moment, we're still barely doing anything.
We're also burning oil in cars of course. Fortunately, electric cars have become incredibly popular thanks to Tesla. Once electricity generation is clean, electric cars are perfect for taking advantage of that.
Planes and ships are going to be hard. On top of that, many ships burn incredibly dirty oil, and the fuel for planes and ships is untaxed, which, in a world where all other forms of energy are taxed, make them effectively subsidised. International treaties are necessary to make ship fuel cleaner, and extra efficiency may be encourages by taxing fuel. For short distances, planes may be replaced by high speed trains, but for long distances, I don't think we'll be able to get rid of them.
Fortunately, there are other things we can do: trap CO2 from the atmosphere by planing trees, encouraging other plant growth, and possibly even stimulating algae growth in the oceans because that's where the real large scale capacity for this is. There might be other ways too.
At least in part, this can be accomplished simply through better policies by governments, maybe international agreements. But to encourage businesses and people to burn less carbon, I think a growing tax on the emission of CO2. I don't see the cap-and-trade working very well, and even if it does, it merely limits it; it doesn't bring it back to zero. A carbon tax can do that. I think the carbon tax should start low, because you don't want to kill the economy with crippling taxes, you just want to make it attractive to switch to cleaner energy. The tax should then be used to either invest in cleaner technology, or to directly remove CO2 for the atmosphere. You could even pay companies to do that for you, creating a new industry that cleans up the pollution from those businesses that are unable to make the switch for whatever reason. At first, the tax won't be enough to clean up all CO2, but eventually it definitely should be. And once you're there, it doesn't really matter if some people or companies still pollute, as long as they're also paying to undo that damage again.