PREVENTION IS THE CURE
January 5, 2011 2 Comments
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.
“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.
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 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.
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. )