The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment just got written up in the Guardian. According to them, the news is not good.
I went out on the Web, and learned that the topic is too complex to learn from going out on the Web. I won't even try to summarize the results of the various models and sensors. National Geographic says the Greenland ice sheet "could begin to melt this century" but might take a thousand years to melt completely. But did they take into account the recently publicized fact that melting ice becomes more porous than expected? And the recent data showing that the Arctic is warming faster than in the 1980's -- even though Greenland (at least for now) is cooling?
Though the interactions are complex, it's clear that at least some things are changing rapidly, as shown by this account from an Arctic explorer. In a 2001 expedition, the temperature was +4 to -5 degrees Fahrenheit. This year, he took off his gloves for days -- in temperatures from 19 to 23 degrees Fahrenheit -- before having to be rescued near the North Pole because the ice was gone.
Why does CRN care about climate change? Aside from the fact that I live in Florida, threatened by rising sea levels, hurricanes, and tropical diseases? Because molecular manufacturing is one of the few things that has the potential to control climate change.
Cheap sensors (with aerial/robotic delivery platforms) and supercomputers could greatly increase our knowledge of what's happening and how to tweak the system. Cheap exponential manufacturing of high-performance products could replace inefficient products and even infrastructures very rapidly. This is probably the only way to slash carbon emissions quickly without large economic costs. Finally, once we approach the manufacturing performance promised by basic physics, we will be able to build machines at a scale to directly manipulate climate -- for example, removing carbon dioxide from the air in quantity, or putting continent-sized mirrors into space.
There are still a few climate change skeptics, including this one who says global warming is natural -- and will naturally reverse itself in ten to twenty years. That sounds a bit too convenient to me. If he's right, we may not have to worry. But we have to balance that with the other extreme: studies showing that the Gulf Stream could shut down in as little as a decade, affecting rainfall worldwide.
The evidence seems quite clear that: 1) the climate is changing rapidly today; 2) this could lead to even more rapid climate change in the near future; 3) the cumulative effect could be very bad for humanity -- and most other species as well. We don't need to ask whether humans are causing this, because the more important question is whether humans can do something about it. With molecular manufacturing, we can. Without it, probably not.
So however molecular manufacturing is developed, it's probably important to develop and preserve the ability to use it to prevent massive destructive climate shifts. Whatever security, economic, and political policies are adopted should take that into account.