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But What If? [Mar. 10th, 2007|10:37 am]
Tony Grist
But what if we're wrong about Global Warming?

OK, I know nothing- I failed my science 'O' levels- but there was this programme on Channel 4 the other night, packed full of real scientists- one of whom looked remarkably like W.H. Auden- all protesting that they weren't in the pay of the oil companies and Al Gore has got it completely, catastrophically wrong.

The case is very simple.

A. Global Warming isn't caused by CO2
B. And even if it was, the amount of CO2 emitted by our machines is miniscule compared to the amount being churned out by volcanoes, farting sheep, rotting leaves and the slowly festering sea.

To be honest, I've always been a mite sceptical. As someone who takes more of an interest in history and prehistory than the average politician, I've noticed that it's quite normal for Earth's climate to veer about from extreme to extreme. For instance, we enjoyed a lovely warm spell in the late Middle Ages- when vinyards flourished in the north of England- followed by a long cold snap- when the Thames froze over and we held frost fairs on the ice. None of this weird weather had anything to do with us and none of it brought about The End Of Civilisation As We Know It. Human beings are very adaptable. If we weren't we wouldn't have managed to colonise our planet from Alaska to Papua New Guinea. We rise to challenges and make the best of them. 

 Yay, Chateau Huddersfield! Yay, Frost Fairs!

So what if Global Warming is just a media-driven, government-sponsored, old-mill-burning, millennarian panic?

Well- apart from it being another entry in the catalogue of human idiocy- there'll be consequences, bad consequences. The Third World needs to industrialise and the First World (nobly planting trees to off-set all those holiday air-miles) is going to be doing its preachy best  to stop it-  thus perpetuating the age-old cycle of poverty, disease and preventable death. 

Not funny at all. 

But Global warming is really happening?  Yes.

What's causing it ?  Well, I can't believe you haven't noticed, but there's this big, hot, yellow thing up there in the sky and its behaviour is extremely erratic...

[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2007-03-10 03:00 pm (UTC)
I didn't see the programme in question, but it's ever so complicated. G is currently writing up his PhD which is looking at certain aspects of climate change and flooding.

As far as I have grasped it:

- the earth is warming up
- partly this is still natural warming up after the last ice age
- partly it could be greater solar activity
- whatever it is, increased CO2 levels are intensifying the effects
- we humans are producing more CO2 than ever before
- cutting down trees is therefore contributing to the rise in CO2
- replacing trees is good in other ways too, eg mitigating the effects of flooding

It's not just that we'll get hotter summers. The problem is, the whole weather system has far more energy in it. Events, such as storms or floods, that occured once every 300 years might now occur every 20 years, with corresponding loss of life and damage to property.

I think there are now enough humans on the planet to genuinely affect climate, and whilst some of the warming might be perfectly natural, it makes sense not to make it worse and to do everything we can to reverse or slow down the process.

The Third World will come off far worse if the planet heats up than if we stop them industrialising. Though there should be no need for that. They ought to be able to learn from our mistakes and industrialise using green sources of energy.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-03-10 07:44 pm (UTC)
Our increased production of CO2 is neither here nor there- because there's no link between CO2 levels and global warming.

Human activities are too insignificant to affect climate in any way. A rise in global temperature may well have unfortunate effects, but we're not causing it and there's nothing we can do about it except adapt.

At least that's the case they were putting the other night and all I can say is I found the arguments compelling

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[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2007-03-10 10:38 pm (UTC)
But as I said, the whole question is so complex that all the evidence just can't be presented properly in a TV programme. Like most science, it's not clear cut, though politicians and media people like to try to make it so.

But even if we can't make any difference to climate change, there are other reasons for changing to renewable energy sources. Fossil fuels are finite and many of the sources of oil and gas are in the hands of other countries, many of them non too stable.

Being independent in power generation seems to me to be plain common sense.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-03-11 09:07 am (UTC)
I couldn't agree more. I think we should be working very hard at developing alternatives ahead of the time- which can't be that far off- when the fossil fuels run out.
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