Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Internet runs out of addresses – a model for climate policy inaction

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-02-04

I cannot imagine a better model of the political response to climate change than the way IPv4 internet addresses have just run out.

Domain experts warning for years about a crisis: but politicians doing nothing, powerful businesses charging big bucks for resources running dry… Sound familiar?

The only difference between the political inaction making the shift to IPv6 is that the perfect solution was already in place years ago, pretty soon after the geeks started worrying.

Even when we have a perfectly good and economical solution, and no possibility of a Plan B, even when the world absolutely relies on the smooth operation and expansion of the internet, the politicians cannot move until it’s too late, until there is metaphorically no more oil in the ground, no more at the refineries, just what is left in cars and a few service stations.

So if the politicians cannot move with nearly 20 years warning, where there are by definition only 4 billion computers that can be connected to the net at any one time with IPv4, where there is a cheap solution available, then what is the chance of getting movement in time on climate before disaster strikes?

Stuff all I reckon.


Most of you won’t know what I’m talking about.  Essentially, IPv4 is like a phone number with 4 billion possible numbers, it’s the number that your computer uses when you type into your browser.  IPv6 allows 17 million trillion different addresses to be connected to the internet at once.  Those sorts of numbers never run out untill we have a population of 17 trillion humans each with a million computers on line at any one time.  With unlimited supply, the charge ISPs can levy for renting an address is close to zero.


7 Responses to “Internet runs out of addresses – a model for climate policy inaction”

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  2. […] Posts Internet runs out of addresses – a model for climate policy inactionRelease of Egyptian rendition records would be explosivePastor No-Allah and the Press ConferenceKAL […]

  3. Henry2 said


    Your position is nonsensical. I agree that political inaction was rediculous here because there was a defineable problem with one logical relatively cheap answer.
    To equate this to climate policy is rediculous. There is no definable problem, just a bunch of computer models that havent yet been shown to hindcast successfully. There are as many remedies to this undefinable problem as there are interpretations of the problem and many of the remedies cost more than the potential problem.



  4. Dave Bath said

    henry2 aka frank:

    Yes… IPv4 pool emptying was a problem a priori, climate change is not a priori.

    The point was, the same proportion of domain experts (IETF types v climatologists), of people in nearby fields (geeks like me v general large-systems scientists) have an opinion there is clear and present danger, the IPv4 problem has had a no-brainer fix for ages, and STILL the politicians couldn’t pull there fingers out of there arses, for such a simple decision (no other choices but WHEN), then more difficult but serious problems, be it climate change, unsustainable urban growth, antibiotic resistance… no hope of timely action.

    (Oh… But hypothetical and much more debated problems with future payments to retired public servants… Immediate action)

    • Henry2 said


      Both the internet address pool and retirement benefits problems are identifiable actuarially. The same is not the case in climate policy. If you believe that there is a clearly defined problem please post it and we can debate a solution.


  5. Dave Bath said


    1) Does increased CO2, CH4, etc, trap more heat in the atmosphere? (it must)
    2) Does extra energy in the atmosphere lead to more extreme weather turning thermal differences into kinetic energy? (it must)
    3) Does extra CO2 dissolved in the ocean drop pH and affect marine physiologies and food supply? (it must)
    4) Is the CO2 level higher than at any stage since H sapiens arose from other hominids? (Yes)
    5) Is this due to human activity? (Yes)
    6) Can our activities be made more efficient? (Yes)
    7) Is the estimated annual cost of putting in greater efficiencies lower, relative to the cost of money, cheap enough so that industry would happily spend on capital works or introduction of a new software system (Yes)
    8) Is the estimated annual cost lower than the rise in profits of large companies? (Yes)

    If you rely on “actuarial” proof, the increasing worry among insurers is pretty telling.

    Even if one looks at the actuarial analysis of reducing emissions (and associated morbidity costs) at least in Europe, you get €1.50 cost savings just of health expenditure for evey €1.00 spent on emissions control.

    It’s almost as much a no-brainer as IPv4 pool depletion. But even if it isn’t, the point was the politicians have proven incapable of acting in a timely fashion on even the simplest non-renewable resource problem, when a solution was cheap.

    It’s a bit like Y2K costs – all my programs since 1981 were Y2K compliant at the cost of a few bytes of storage and a couple of seconds in 1981 understanding the problem. The State Bank of Victoria was approaching Y2K compliance in 1988 at almost no cost, addressing it with natural system lifecycles, while most finance institutions left it to the next set of managers/executives until they had to panic, and spend more than if they recognized the inevitability of the problem, with time to address it at leisure.

  6. Henry2 said


    Just to take your 1), my reply is must it?
    a)The only way that the atmosphere can trap more energy is if the total greenhouse absorbtion properties of the atmosphere increases. Indeed it has been hypothesised that the greenhouse absortion properties of the atmosphere are saturated and that all but about 1/3 of the energy absorbed by the atmosphere must escape into space.
    b)You point out that CO2 and NH4 are increasing. The most significant greenhouse gas is H2O of course. It is what happens to H2O that drives the greenhouse absorbtion properties of the atmosphere.



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