I want you to do me a favor, and read this speech given by Micheal Crichton at the Washington Center for Complexity and Public Policy in Washington DC on November 6, 2005. It’s long, but it’s VERY important that you get where Crichton is coming from so you can get where I am coming from.
I love when he talks about how our worst fears are mostly unfounded, but that’s not what I’m here to talk to you about.
Complexity Theory is very dear to me, and key to the way I look at the world, both at work and at home. At work, it manifests itself in changes to programs, which in turn cause incredible problems in other programs that on the surface do not seem to be related. Sometimes I fall prey to linear thinking, when computer systems, no matter what Cobol programmers tell you, are in no means linear. It is EXTREMELY important to view a computer system in a holistic way. I think this is also true in “the way the world works”.
So, I want to apply this thinking to our modern discussion about climate change. (By the way, if you think the name of the crisis changing to “climate change” from “global warming” is happenstace – you have a thing or two to learn about marketing).
Now, don’t worry, I’m not appraoching this as a “denier”. In fact, I’ll grant every assertion ever made by Al Gore for purposes of this discussion. But, understanding how the world works (especially from a systems engineering perspective), I wonder if we know what we’re doing as much as we claim.
Here’s my question: Let’s say we institute every proposal out there, and it works. We reverse the upward temperature trend to a downward one. Have we given any thought to how we’ll stop the downward trend?
Do the scientists who study these things know, really know, what the ideal concentration of CO2 would be to maintain the ideal temperature? And do we know the ideal temperature? What happens if we overcompensate, as one would do when his car begins sliding on ice? How do we reverse THAT trend? Start burning wood and coal on a massive basis?
There are no Change Control policies in complex systems such as the earth’s climate. We have to think these things through, and I’m not sure we have, because we’ve been so focused on the problem.
Certainly there are scientists who have given thought to this, right? Can one of you point me to a layman’s synopsis, because I am genuinely curious.