Am I a climate change denier? I have not been persuaded by the evidence I’ve seen that human activity is primarily responsible for changes in world climate. I don’t deny that the climate seems wilder than when I was young but we haven’t had too many summers as fantastic as 1976. 2003 was hot but I can’t claim that I’ve noticed a general change to either warmer or dryer summers. My father tells me that when he was a lad they had colder winters with more snow than we do now but I can’t say that I’m acutely aware of winters being shorter or warmer than when I was young. But what is normal? What is average? We know that earth’s temperature has always varied and gone through both ice ages and warmer times. To what extent should we try to control climate?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC – a UN body) claims that the climate is changing and that it’s due to the action of Man, primarily the burning of fossil fuels; coal, oil and gas. Increasing world population requires more heat more electricity and more transport. In addition, I’ve read that an increasing world population is getting richer and has an increasing appetite for meat. The additional herds of beef cattle generate more methane and that in turn warms the planet too. Oh really?
However, through a speakers corner posting on The Economic Voice (no longer available!!!) I was introduced to the work of Lord Christopher Monckton. YouTube has lots of his pieces and I thoroughly recommend them as good entertainment. He asserts that the University of East Anglia fabricated historical climate records. He slaughtered Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”. He is an avowed opponent to the IPCC and claims they’re a self-serving bunch who manipulates the data for political gain. He decries their methods and denies their conclusions. He is not alone and points to other work which shows that current levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are not historically high, that carbon dioxide isn’t our enemy anyway, that there is precious little evidence of either warming or sea level rises since the turn of the century and that sun-spots are the primary driver for temperature on planet earth. He adds that reacting to the so called climate change could kill millions of people. For example, in the USA they have diverted corn growing from food into ethanol production which is hugely inefficient as a petrol alternative for starters and means that the excess corn is no longer supplied to Africa where people will starve as a result.
One argument seems to be that we don’t really know to what extent CO2 emissions are the problem so the prudent thing to do is moderate human behaviour (voluntarily or otherwise) to restrict the potential impact. If the IPCC is correct, failure to act would be catastrophic for the planet and millions of species on it. If they’re wrong, the cost is only financial. Yes, the argument is logical, but is it valid?
If CO2 is the problem, how much of a reduction would we have to make to have a measurable effect on temperature and what would be the economic cost of doing so? Is it not the case that the fossil fuel problem is more to do with how to make them last longer? Won’t the problem burn itself out (if you’ll pardon the pun) in the next few decades anyway?
So, ignoring the science and economics, what about morality? The general thrust of Copenhagen will require a sacrifice by the developed western economies, which have burned most fossil fuels and caused most pollution to date, towards Africa and the east both in the form of financial compensation and a curtailing of CO2 outputs. Further, the presumption is a sacrifice by the current generations to bequeath a better, healthier, cleaner, greener world to tomorrow’s generation. Is this fair? To what extent do we have any obligation in either case? What did previous generations do for us?
It seems to me that the biggest problem the world faces is an ever growing human population in a world of finite resources. The more the population has grown and the more sophisticated it has become the more we have exploited the planet. As a species we have always high-graded and used the most plentiful easiest and cheapest to obtain resources first and then have used surplus energy (cheap oil) to exploit the harder to get at stuff. Now, they’re all running out. So is the fuel with which we exploit the resources, yet demand will continue to grow because population is out of control. Unless we get a grip on the number of people on the planet, the climate is just a distraction.
My parents do their bit, growing their own, saving water, turning lights off, insulating, recycling, composting, and for what? “We’re helping to save the planet!” they say. Bearing in mind that they have no prospect of grandchildren, I just had to ask, “Who for, the Chinese?”
So, am I a climate change denier? Possibly. Agnostic, at least. If it’s a load of rubbish then Monckton is right and the job of the IPCC will be to implement a cap and trade carbon model that allows governments to raise taxes on a false premise and implement greater control over our lives. If it’s true however, let’s just ignore it and maybe it will help to solve the bigger problem of over-population.