A friend recently sent me an invitation to a lecture in London, I assume partially because the lecturer was a fellow Antipodean, on an alternative approach to how we should be reacting to climate change, rather than the current moves towards cutting down on carbon emissions.

It read:

“Invitation: An alternative view of climate hazard – a basis for policy?”
Presentation by Professor Bob Carter, James Cook University, Australia. London 30 November – IOM3 – 4 pm

“An alternative view has emerged regarding the most cost-effective way in which to deal with the undoubted hazards of climate change. This view points towards setting a policy of preparation for, and adaptation to, change as it occurs, which is distinctly different from the emphasis given by most western parliaments to the mitigation of global warming by curbing carbon dioxide emissions.”

I am interested in the concept that even when we accept that change is happening we should basically do nothing until it is actually upon us. I feel that it is akin to finding a strange itching mole and doing nothing about it until someone tells you that it is a melanoma, or refusing to have regular colonoscopies preferring to wait till a polyp is declared cancerous and relying on chemotherapy.

The arguments used to support doing nothing tend to be around the fact that the earth’s climate has always been changing anyway and that mankind has less effect on climate change than natural occurrences such as changes in solar radiation or changes in the earth’s orbit. On top of that, according to the International Erosion Control Association, there are now about 2 billion cattle on the earth and their farting has more impact on global warming than does mankind, so if we really are serious about climate change we should firstly all become vegetarians.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

By NASA/image by Jesse Allen,Earth Observatory,using data provided courtesy of the MODIS Rapid Response Team,Goddard Space Flight Center,via Wikimedia Commons








We also see arguments such as the UK currently going through one of its coldest winters for decades, so where is the evidence of global warming? The issue is that we are talking about “global” warming, so taking one individual data point, like the UK, and using it as an argument makes no sense. It is like standing at the top of an escalator and noting an extremely tall person come off, then watching hundreds of shorter people arrive, until a “person of restricted growth” ascends, and concluding that the world’s population is therefore getting shorter.

Just waiting in the hope that nothing will happen, but being ready in case it does, is not a valid strategy when it comes to global warming.

There is enough empirical scientific evidence that global warming is happening and specifically over the last 50 years. In that time the Arctic sea ice has decreased by about 5% and the sea surface temperature for example in the Gulf of Alaska has increased by about 3% (See “Evidence for Global Warming” by Larry Vardiman writing for the Institute for Creation Research).It may not sound like much, but it is enough to have a visible impact on our lives (such as the increase in hurricanes in the West Atlantic), and even more so if temperatures continue to rise.

Global average temperature 1880-2007; Source:









Global warming is a reality, and whilst it may be true that there are factors that affect it other than the habits of mankind, and even if we are not the major source of it happening, cutting down on man generated carbon emissions makes good sense anyway.
It makes good sense because we are generally wasteful when it comes to energy usage (whether electricity, heating fuels, travel or freight) and in these parlous times it makes both good business and personal sense to be able to cut waste out of our expense lines, even without considering the impact on our planet. Most individuals and businesses could cut their energy use and costs by 20-30% without a great deal of effort or expense.

Source: Simpsons fan 66 at the English language Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons

So, we have a choice to make.

We can do nothing, and adopt a wait and see attitude as Professor Carter suggests or we can all at individual, business, national and global levels do something positive about diminishing our carbon footprints. Best case is that Prof. Carter is right, and all we have done is save some money and expense and made the air more breathable along the way, so we all win. Worst case is that he is wrong and we have done nothing about it in the hope that it won’t happen, and we all lose.

To me it seems to be an easy decision to take.

(Note that as Chairman of “Carbon Guerrilla” I am not totally impartial on the subject of carbon. Not surprisingly, very little came out of COP 16, the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, which concluded December 10th 2010, beyond the decision to meet again in 12 months. Interestingly, many delegates felt that we have already passed the point where we can hold global warming to below an increase of 3C, considered the catastrophic tipping point for our planet. )



  1. Bruce Rankin says:

    Hi Les,

    Happy New Year.

    A timely and fascinating article. I recently sent the post below to a fellow Christchurch BHS Old Boy – a science teacher in Auckland – in response to his comprehensive “Science of Global Warming” post on his WordPress site (like yours).

    Bruce Rankin says:
    December 17, 2010 at 4:49 pm
    Hello Bill,
    Courtesy of Bryan Bates email I’ve just read your fascinating article from end to end on the Science of Global Warming. The best perspective I’ve read on the subject….. as one who does have a science and engineering background (CBHS & BE Electrical from Canty Univ), but nonetheless struggles somewhat as to what to make of all the conflicting media and policical outpourings. For some time I’ve felt that – yes – greenhouse gases must have some impact on increasing global temperatures, but what percentage impact compared to the sun constantly warming the earth and the ongoing cyclical effects of sun spot activity etc? You’ve answered that very well! There are so many variables we can’t be certain of anything.

    I read recently a quote “How can you say with such precision that the world’s temperature will rise by an average of 2 Deg C over the next 60 years when you can’t even forecast tomorrow’s weather accurately?”

    But from a pollution and environmental degradation point of view we should certainly be doing whatever is practical to limit the damage. In China for example the effects of smoking (world’s biggest consumers) and pollution must surely have horrendous adverse long term consequences for the health of Chinese people.

    With regard to volcanos I received an email about the recent Iceland volcano (can’t spell or pronounce the name!) that said in part: “The volcanic ash emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere in just four days – yes – FOUR DAYS ONLY by that volcano in Iceland, has totally erased every single effort you have made to reduce the evil beast, carbon. And there are around 200 active volcanoes on the planet spewing out this crud any one time – EVERY DAY.”

    “I don’t really want to rain on your parade too much, but I should mention that when the volcano Mt Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, it spewed out more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire human race had emitted in its entire YEARS on earth. Yes folks, Mt Pinatubo was active for over one year – think about it.”

    “Of course I shouldn’t spoil this touchy-feely tree-hugging moment and mention the effect of solar and cosmic activity and the well-recognized 800-year global heating and cooling cycle, which keep happening, despite our completely insignificant efforts to affect climate change.”

    “And I do wish I had a silver lining to this volcanic ash cloud but the fact of the matter is that the bush fire season across the western USA and Australia this year alone will negate your efforts to reduce carbon in our world for the next two to three years. And it happens every year.” END OF QUOTE

    Interested in your thoughts on Bill’s blog…if you have time to get thru it.

    Best wishes, Bruce

  2. leshayman says:

    Hi Bruce,
    I think Bill’s paper is a well balanced and well reasoned piece on the whole subject of global warming.
    My point is that whatever is happening, it makes good business sense to not waste energy in whatever we do.
    Whether the driving force is “save the planet” or not, I hate to see unnecessary waste of resources, and irrespective of whether mankind is the major cause or not, it still makes good sense to cut down on carbon footprints wherever possible. Increasingly carbon is a currency and hence should not be wasted. I am sure that you are aware that “A fool and his carbon are soon parted”.
    Have a great 2011.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: