Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Random thoughts on climate change

I'm someone who takes a considerable interest in the environment and is concerned about the future of this planet. With the Climate Change Conference now taking place in Copenhagen I think it's time to make a few observations - for what they are worth. But before I start lets get rid of the use of the word "deniers". I don't know how the term came into being in connection with climate change but the most well known use of this word relates to the Holocaust and I think it's pretty disgraceful to use such a word here. For the purpose of this blogpost I shall call those who believe in man-made global warming "believers" and those who take the opposite viewpoint "sceptics". There are of course many people, of which yours truly is one, who have yet to be convinced by the arguments made by other side. Anyway, here are a few thoughts:
  • "The science of man-made global warming is settled"
This is absolutely not the case. A number of observations and theories might point in one direction but this is most definitely not proof positive. It might make lots of sense to use the precautionary principle and try to stabilise the amount of man produced carbon dioxide but that is not to say that the science is right.

  • The man on the Clapham Omnibus knows the answer - not
This might offend you gentle reader and sorry if it does but huge numbers of ordinary people will proffer an opinion on the veracity or otherwise of man-made global warming. Sadly 99.9% really have no valid idea, many of them just go by their own hunches.
  • Our viewpoint might be influenced by our lifestyle
For those of us living in the developed world our feelings on the subject might just be influenced by whether or not we have a high consumption, high carbon use lifestyle, or maybe we don't live like that. Human nature being the way it is if one is the sort of person who say makes two or three holiday flights a year, uses appliances unnecessarily, drive a large uneconomic car out of choice and so on then you are perhaps likely to be more sceptical than someone who uses much less carbon. In other words enjoying a particularly comfortable and materialistic lifestyle is something such folk would be loath to give up and therefore their predisposition might well be towards scepticism. Although I personally am not into high consumption I'm not here to condemn those who are nor do I think I merit praise, it's just the way I naturally live combined with the circumstances which have influenced the direction my life has taken.
  • "The climate has always changed and what is happening now is no different"
Yes, the climate has always fluctuated and so the sceptics will argue that changes occurring right now to the Earth's climate is just a continuation of this process. They will talk about the "Medieval Warm Period", the "Little Ice Age", the Thames freezing over in winter, the Romans growing grapes in England, Vikings settling in Greenland and so on to back up their statement. The "believers" need to accept these happenings which they used to be reluctant to do. However this is the really important thing that hardly anybody bothers to talk about: the reason(s) for the aforementioned climatic variations aren't understood - there are theories naturally but no proof - therefore it follows that any present day climatic change might be a part of this cyclical movement but it might not. What I'm saying is that we can't explain why the climate keeps changing so logic says that what happens now may be part of this regular variation. But equally it may not so of course it is still possible that we have runaway global warming. In a nutshell past unexplained events can't determine what will happen in the near future. I must say it frustrates me that people don't want to see the clear logic that I have just expressed.

These then are just a few points I wanted to throw into the mix. One final observation to make: it has become really noticeable how shrill the two sides have become in trying to push their particular agendas. Rather than the likes of George Monbiot or Piers Corbyn name calling those who disagree with them can we have some reasoned debate - please!

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