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Climate change

We won’t die out like the dinosaurs

A dam on the Zuiderzee in the Netherlands. Freek van den Bergh/Getty Images

Most of the dire forecasts of rampant global warming assume “no significant human response”, says Gary Shilling in Bloomberg. The American National Academy of Sciences, for example, has warned that if we do nothing, rising sea levels will flood vast areas of the world’s coastlines by 2100, generating “$55 trillion in total damage”. But while the dinosaurs died out because they couldn’t adapt to climate change, “humans can and will”. Just look at the Netherlands, swathes of which were underwater until the 15th century, when the Dutch built dikes to hold back the North Sea. In the 20th century they installed more dikes and pumping tech to reclaim the entire Zuiderzee – a giant shallow bay that’s now full of houses and crops.

Human ingenuity “always overcomes” big problems. Serious economists used to fret that telecoms would forever be held back by a limited supply of copper. The invention of silicon-based fibreoptics solved that one. Computers were once run on vacuum tubes that regularly burnt out, meaning big computers could only run for a few minutes. So humans invented semiconductors. More recently Chevrolet has overcome supply-chain issues by 3D printing hard-to-find parts itself – and may continue doing so once supplies are freed up. The lesson is not to focus on the negatives, and instead “concentrate on the new opportunities that are opening up”. 

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