Interesting long profile on Freeman Dyson in the NY Times Magazine. Dyson was a wonder-boy physicist, one of the pioneers of QED in the 1950s, and he has gone on to be one of our most interesting thinkers. He has an extraordinary optimism about the future and a habit of opposing the current scientific consensus. So it is no surprise to find that he has come out against global warming alarmism. Dyson once wrote a book on the future of biotechnology in which he imagined engineering termites that recycle junked cars and cuddly dinosaur-shaped pets. He thinks, according to the Times, that if global warming gets to be a problem we will engineer "carbon-eating trees" and plant them around the world.
Like Dyson I am very impressed by the technical skill of our species, and I tend to think that it the very long run he is probably right. If things go on as they are going, within a century we should have all sorts of technologies for controlling our atmosphere and regulating its carbon content.
What I worry about is the timing. Around the world I see the industrial age with its unending crises sputtering out. The rate of population growth is falling almost everywhere, we are finding ways to reduce our output of toxins and and even clean up some of the mess we have made, we are working hard to prevent the extinction of species. In my optimistic moments I see a future of clean technology, lower populations, and vast wealth, in which our biggest problem is boredom. In my gloomy moments I see a world of increasing division, in which islands of wealth and science strive to insulate themselves against a world of poverty, misery, and religious fanaticism. In the second vision, the vast regions still stuck in the industrial age continue to pollute the planet to a degree beyond what it can sustain, and the sea rises to Miocene levels, drowning our coastlines, driving a billion people form their homes, and leading to an era of warfare and terrorism.