Many global warming deniers have moved on from denying the existence or human causes of global warming to denying it’s worthwhile to do anything to mitigate it. “Burn all the fossil fuels you want”, they suggest, “and adapt to the changes. Doing anything to reduce global warming is too expensive.”
In a spirit of reconciliation, I thought I’d put forward some specific proposals to implement their approach.
On a planet with unchecked greenhouse warming, we would have a less predictable climate, warmer on average, but with unpredictable frosts and snowstorms — some of them in places we currently don’t get snow. Drought would alternate with floods. Insects would flourish on a warmer planet, and pests of all types would migrate. And of course storms would be worse than at present, as the average wind speed increased.
Finding crops that are simultaneously drought- and flood-resistant, adapted to high temperatures but able to survive low temperatures, and usable by humans as sources of complete protein and moderately concentrated carbohydrates (comparable to grain or roots), makes for a fascinating challenge.
One possibility is to learn how to grow most of our crops indoors. Some parts of Scandinavia grow a large portion of their fruits and vegetables in glass houses, but I don’t know if any nation has ever tried to raise a significant amount of its grain and animals that way. For at least half a century, there have been proposals for geodesic and inflatable domes miles in diameter, but no one could ever come up with a good enough reason to build one; ignore global warming long enough and we may get one. At any rate, if we intend to do nothing toward prevention, we need to investigate more seriously how to dome over a quarter of the worlds land area.
In case this fails, an alternative possibility is leaf protein. With a centrifuge you can extract protein from just about any kind of leaf on any kind of plant. So we could simply plant “farms” with whatever kind of biomass we can get to grow, and use centrifuges to extract the protein, which we would then treat and store. Currently leaf protein is extremely expensive compared to meat; we need a way to bring the price down.
Also, leaf protein is currently extracted from crops planted for just this purpose. An outdoor “farm” adapted to a greenhouse climate would consist of mixed plants. These would not be separate rows or beds or even the more complex arrangements we find in biointensive gardening. We would mix a variety of species, suitable for differing climates, completely. Some varieties would flourish and others fail depending on what the weather that year was suited to grow. Any wild volunteers would be welcomed; in a planet greenhouse farm, there would be no such thing as a weed.
Leaf protein is already expensive compared to animal protein, since it requires more extensive processing than normal vegetable protein. Extracting the protein from mixed leaves of a semi-random variety will require much additional research.
Another alternative is blue-green algae — both a source of complete protein and of carbohydrates.
There is one possible protein source that will actually increase on planet greenhouse — insects. We even know how to prepare them; there are organizations devoted to insect eating that have developed extensive recipes; some are reputed to be quite tasty. The tricky part here is harvesting. Most technology we have for dealing with insects involves killing or discouraging them. We need to learn to capture them unpoisoned in large lots. So if we don’t want to live on leaves and pond scum, we can skip the vegetarian option and eat bugs.
Ah, but there is one other thing we should consider. What if the same people who oppose doing anything to prevent global warming don’t want to spend the money to learn to live with it either? What a surprise that would be! Well there is still one area they would desperately need to research.
If nothing mitigates global warming, and no serious research is done to adapt to it, world food supply will drop by least one half, probably a great deal more — at time when population will be much higher than at present. Of course water and industrial infrastructure will also be seriously impacted. The remaining people will be pretty busy improvising adaptations without a lot of preparation via prior research. So you will not have a lot of people available to dispose of the dead.
This will be a serious health hazard to the living (presumably those who favor doing nothing to mitigate climate chaos). At minimum this requires techniques whereby a few people may permanently dispose of hundreds or thousands of widely scattered corpses per day, unassisted. I should warn here that Soylent-Green-type solutions will be ineffective. Exo-cannibalism of corpses who have died of natural causes is highly dangerous to consumers, exposing them to all sorts of exotic diseases. It is important to point this out; I’ve seen no evidence in global warming deniers of scruples that would prevent their eating human flesh.