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Global Warming or Hot Air?

Global warming, or more accurately man-made global warming is the single biggest moral and political issue of our age. The western governments have bought into the notion that carbon dioxide produced by mans industrial activities is causing a rise in the temperature of the planet, that this temperature rise must be stopped to avoid global catastrophe. But what substantiating evidence exists to back up this claim?

The global warming bandwagon has gathered such momentum that is it becoming nearly impossible to have a balanced discussion on the topic. A large and extremely powerful business sector has sprung up out of nowhere to serve the ‘problem’, and it will not take kindly to being told that it is surplus to requirements.

In addition, significant policy changes have been taking place to adopt the notion of man made global warming, the government taking the view that the evidence of the link is ‘irrefutable’. A bold move indeed. These policies will influence social and fiscal policymaking and will be around many years to come, even as the ‘truth’ of the matter comes to light.

Manufacturers everywhere are required to use CO2 emissions as a yardstick for anything from fridge freezer design to measuring how environmentally friendly business activities are, indeed these companies even have the option to offset their carbon production by paying a company to go and plant trees somewhere else in the world. While everyone in the world seems to be asking how or what we can do to reduce CO2 emissions, isn’t it time we asked the question why? Is CO2 an issue in the first place, or is it just a lot of hot air?

Picture of Cooling Tower by Matt Foster

While it may appear that the facts of man made global warming remain undisputed, you may be surprised to read that in a survey carried out in 2003, in which all 530 of the world’s climatologists were questioned whether they thought that the ‘scientific debate about climate change is over’, 44% were in agreement, 10% remained uncertain, and the majority, 46% disagreed. It seems the majority believe there’s still something to discuss.[1]

Even so, in popular society, the climate change denier is very much like a small boy whistling in the dark. He has neither the support of the UK press, nor those who rely on it for their opinions. Is it possible that the global warming bandwagon has gathered such momentum that to deny that global warming is an issue (let alone man’s work) is tantamount to global treason?

What is true is that there are millions of people employed in the field globally, who have a vested interest in the maintenance of the status quo; and if global warming became a non-issue overnight, many of these people would be out of work.

I don’t think that true evidence will ever be found to prove or disprove the issue. As the split in opinion of climatologists demonstrates, climate is a highly complex science, and unlikely to be definitively understood by man any time soon, if ever.

Like most economic bubbles, it is almost always easier to go with the flow than to struggle against the current and risk being sucked under. The issue of CO2 and global warming is founded on the precautionary principle, and if we had to put words to it, it would look something like this:

“If carbon dioxide is warming up the planet, and man is responsible for it, and if we can reduce our CO2 emissions, and persuade every other country globally to follow our lead, then things might not be as bad as they would have been, had we not taken any action.”

Does this sound like well balanced judgement, good clear thinking, or scaremongering of the first degree? There are as many ‘IF’ statements, as many unknowns, as a climate model. The majority of these are speculation. People who take action from a place of fear will never produce good results. Furthermore, consider the expenditure allocated for this speculative case, and where it might be better spent.

But what if we are screwing up the planet? Surely you can’t put a cost on saving the earth? I mean, we do only have one planet, and once it’s gone, we’re stuffed! I’m sure many a UK citizen would agree with that, but what about the rest of the world, who perhaps don’t have the spare cash to be spending on luxuries, or perhaps who haven’t bought into the same beliefs as we have? Economies of China, India and Africa want to industrialise, and they will need lots of cheap energy in the form of Oil Gas an Coal. Carbon dioxide emissions is not an issue that ever crosses their minds.

I suspect that to convince China, India, and Africa to reduce their CO2 emissions will be met with raised eyebrows. They really don’t share our concern. China is just coming into its economic stride, likewise the Indian subcontinent, and people there want to have the goods and services that we in the West have enjoyed for many years. Are we going to tell these countries that they shouldn’t use cheap energy to kick start their industrial machines “just in case carbon dioxide causes global warming”?

The UK can decide individually what it wants to do regarding CO2, but it cannot force anyone else to join it on its righteous quest to save the planet. If the UK decides to forge ahead with these carbon reforms, even though no definitive evidence exists (or will ever exist), then John Q. Taxpayer will have to pay this conscience tax. The revenue will be collected by governments in tax collecting schemes, and redistributed to organisations that work within the CO2 economy.

If this happens, we in the UK will certainly have this additional cost added to our products and services, making them less competitive than products from countries which have no such concerns about carbon. It is more likely that shrewd businessmen, who ultimately answer to the bottom line, will just move their production elsewhere. This avoids the issue, but does nothing to combat the perceived threat of carbon emissions. While we may have an up-and-coming business sector in carbon management, I doubt we will be doing any business with the Chinese in this regard.

The politicians realise that they have to be seen to be doing something, they also realise that there is a very real opportunity to create jobs out of nowhere, so they push the issue forward. It is also highly popular and gets them votes, so they pursue it given the ‘facts’, or lack thereof. In the current economic climate it has never been clearer that economic growth, consumption and environmentally friendly policies do not necessarily go hand in hand; Economic growth means production, motion, consumption, all of which means energy usage, which means carbon dioxide emissions, which are apparently destroying the planet.

Grangemouth Refinery, by Scottog

I am not going to join in the global debate of what statistics might have been gathered to demonstrate one thing or another, there are enough reports and programmes for you to watch and make up your own minds (see below). Rather, I will try to take a slightly more philosophical, happy view of the situation to try and put things into perspective. I have never been a great believer of statistics; human beings have far more say in their lives than a collection of numbers, however well these might have been gathered, collected and analysed. What I find vexing is the very premise of the argument, which is fundamentally flawed.

If you stand back and ask the question, why are we here? I know this sounds barmy but bear with me here, folks. What gets you out of bed in the morning? What is it that you enjoy about life? What is it that you enjoy about being alive here on this planet? Life is in a constant state of evolution, (yes evolution is still happening, were not done yet!) and we human beings are evolving just like all of the other life forms around us. We are creating new wonderful technologies to make our lives better. We are running faster, jumping higher, we are expanding our knowledge, we are improving our techniques for living, and we are having fun creating things that have not been before.

This expansion is eternal, and will never cease to be. So if this joy of expansion is at the basis of life, then we aren’t exactly going to down tools and accept that we’ve got the job done, and that its time to stop creating, that everything is as good as it ever will be, and we can go home now. Its a completely absurd idea. We will be constantly making more, creating new things and finding better ways of living life (including ways of living more in harmony with our wonderful resource-full planet).

The debate on CO2 is a reflection of man’s creative efforts. It’s all good really, but it is based on a false premise; that man is responsible for the planet. Actually, this planet was created as a stable solid platform for man to create upon. It’s fair to say that there are forces outside of our creative control dealing with stuff like that. Let them get on with it. It’s no surprise that people feel overwhelmed when they consider how they will save the planet; it’s not their job.

I do like the new technologies that will come out of the CO2 debate, however. Wars over oil, rising fuel prices caused by perceived shortages, pollution and a call for greener living, all contribute to the development and creation of new alternative technologies. These are more peaceful, cheaper, cleaner and more in keeping with the planet. Even so, our best efforts cannot destroy the earth, no matter how hard we try. It is a very large and stable rock that finds its own equilibrium, regardless of our activities.

Just consider for a moment how this planet spins in its orbit in perfect proximity to other planets. Consider how the sun rises every day, consider that there is an abundant clean water supply, and the air purifies itself. Consider that food grows on the planet year after year after year. We have an abundance of everything that we need from Mother Nature, more than enough for everyone on the planet. Yes, I believe that we will find more harmonious ways to live on this planet. But we shouldn’t curse the wonderful resources provided by Mother Earth for the benefit of mankind.

Many people are starting to ask questions of the carbon crowd. Where is this global warming you all predicted? The planet seems to be fine, what’s all the fuss about? Time will tell, of course, but for now the global warming budget is healthy and ready to be snapped up by eager enviro-capitalists who all want a slice of the pie. There are still those, however who staunchly disagree with the notion, so much so that they are prepared to forego the sweetness of the environmental honeypot. In March this year, the 2009 Conference on Climate Change was held in New York, and gathered together interested parties to discuss the agenda ‘Global warming, was it ever an issue’. Some are discussing the global warming issue in the past tense.

George Bush Jr, ex-president of the USA resisted Kyoto and all of its unrealistic targets for as long as he could. You might say he was doing it for the US people, whose lives depend on infrastructure which relies heavily on oil. You might also consider that the Bush family have large interests in oil prospecting in Texas. At a time when the oil price was extremely healthy indeed, (1986, the average world price of oil was a measly $12.51), who can blame him. Meanwhile environmental crusader Albert Gore Jr, would-be-almost-ex-president made a movie about Global Warming called “An Inconvenient Truth”, which conveniently netted him $49m at movie theatres worldwide.

I suspect, had he titled his film, “Global Warming, it might not be a problem”, he wouldn’t have motivated quite so many people into the movie theatres. Al Gore is, unsurprisingly, himself involved in a number of organisations which cater to the global warming business. One might consider his movie and book about global warming as a highly profitable sales pitch for his businesses.

I say this not as a criticism to either Gore or Bush. They are behaving perfectly normally, and acting out of their own self interest. You may regard the most powerful man in the world as having to deal with everyone else’s interests too, but actually, he’s only dealing with his own, as that is as far as his power extends. Everything is ultimately about economics. Power, religion, jobs, politics, it is all about economics. What is in it for me? They all ask. Economics comes out top because it is about the individual thriving, and when you can see the world this way, it starts to make more sense.

“The Great Global Warming Swindle”, a polemic documentary by Martin Durkin in 2007, was decidedly against the established view, and added some well needed balance to the debate. The program contained views from a number of respected scientists and climatologists who disagree with the premise that man’s activities are warming up the planet. They argue instead that as the temperature of the planet rises, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rise. The CO2 follows the temperature rise, and not the other way round.

I expect in the years to come that some balance will be restored to the debate. It is currently extremely one sided, as those who report it, stand to gain from its continuation, and those who believe all is well have less air-time. Unfortunately a huge quantity of legislation is being produced which will be around for some time to come. Not all of this is bad however, and the majority of it is in line with the population’s desire to coexist happily with our planet.

I’m sure we will continue to find better ways of doing things. I suspect that in the near future we will all find something else to focus upon, and the issue carbon management and global warming will fade away and be forgotten about as people regain their faith in life, and in the resilience of planet earth. We’re in good hands folks.

The new term Geo-Engineering is an interesting idea. Engineers believe that they have to act to do something about the global temperature rise. Some ideas touted have been, giant sailing ships spraying clouds of water vapour into the atmosphere, seeding the oceans with iron to promote algal blooms which trap CO2 and then sink to the ocean floor, and my personal favourite, the giant sun shades in space to reflect back the sun. I wouldn’t want to live under one of those.

But seriously, the good news is, that the planet is fine. In fact it is evolving like all of the species that are living and thriving upon it. It was spinning quite merrily in its orbit for billions of years before man turned up, and it will be spinning quite happily in many billennia to come. Man’s activities, however serious they might appear, are about as significant to this planet as a very small flea on the back of a very big dog.

[1] Heartland Institute Study 2003

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