Friday, October 13, 2006

Climate change, global warming. Time to panic?

Climate change, global warming is a hot topic these days. It seems to be at least an article of faith, a 'cause celebre' for the left side of politics. If you talk to some people, they believe it is the single most important issue in the world today, and failure to act immediately in the way those who believe that to be the case will have dire consequences for the planet, and soon. They speak in terms of coastal cities flooded, mass extinctions, environmental catastrophe.To them the debate is decided, and only the worst of people would dare disagree.

Greenpeace talks in terms of a couple of degrees change, and a possible doomsday scenario. The World Wildlife Fund talks in terms of "a wave of extinctions".

The latest vehicle for debate is Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth'. (Al still apparently flies a lot by private plane, and has 3 large houses though).

If you have a look at this article, and this one, then the story is not so cut and dried.

In 'Gorey Truths', 25 inconvenient truths for Al Gore, Iain Murray (NationalReviewOnline 22June06), the following, a selection of 25 points are made in response to Al Gore's book;

1. Carbon Dioxide’s Effect on Temperature. The relationship between global temperature and carbon dioxide (CO2), on which the entire scare is founded, is not linear...."

"...3. Glaciers. Glaciers around the world have been receding at around the same pace for over 100 years..."

"...4. The Medieval Warm Period... ... a team of leading paleoclimatologists said, “When matching existing temperature reconstructions…the timeseries display a reasonably coherent picture of major climatic episodes: ‘Medieval Warm Period,’ ‘Little Ice Age’ and ‘Recent Warming.’”..."

"...20. Sea Level Rise. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does not forecast sea-level rises of “18 to 20 feet.” Rather, it says, “We project a sea level rise of 0.09 to 0.88 m for 1990 to 2100, with a central value of 0.48 m..."

Of considerable interest is the way the debate is conducted. This article quotes Margo Kingston as saying on WebDiary; "...David Irving is under arrest in Austria for Holocaust denial. Perhaps there is a case for making climate change denial an offence - it is a crime against humanity after all....". As the article (' Global warming: the chilling effect on free speech') says;

Whatever the truth about our warming planet, it is clear there is a tidal wave of intolerance in the debate about climate change which is eroding free speech and melting rational debate....".

This reminds me of the 'Limits to Growth' 'debate' (which predicted the world would start running out of strategic materials like chrome, oil, etc in the 1990s - that didn't happen).

Michael Crichton has an interesting commentary on the style of thinking evident in 'the Limits to Growth', Global Warming', and many other issues (like gun control perhaps?) here.

So what are we to do, and what are we to make of the debate? For both the 'Limits to Growth', and 'Global Warming' issues, I'd argue that the central issue is not what 20 million Australians do, or even what 300 million Americans do, but rather what 1.3 billion Chinese, and a billion Indians do (since it is their growing economies and consumption which will drive the statistics increasingly). What we do most certainly need is full, open and objective debate (not scare-mongering).


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