Friday, April 6, 2007

Twitch, twitch, twitch, twitch...

When will the world listen to reason?
I get the feeling it'll be a long time.
When will the truth come into season?
I get the feeling it'll be a long time.

- The Offspring

I can't take much more of this kind of thing, I really can't. I will burst a blood vessel somewhere. This unwarranted hyperbole about climate change is going to harm the reputation of science for generations. I used to think that the collective insanity of the early 20th century was caused by mass heavy metal poisoning of urban populations and we would see saner arguments and saner policies as we moved into the 21st century. But it appears I was sadly mistaken.

If we are worried about people in the poorest regions of the Earth suffering 'malnutrition, disease, and increased untimely death rates because of heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts', then the logical thing to do is to bring them to a standard of living so that they will suffer as little as we in the developed world do from heat waves, floods, storms, etc.

If we are worried about the alkalinisation of the oceans, we should take a deep breath and acquaint ourselves with how flimsy the evidence for this particular doomsday scenario is.

If we are worried about coastlines disappearing, we should get rid of those dams upstream and regenerate those coastal swamps we have cleared. And we should move people away from that dangerous big blue thing which is always going to twitch and kill people, no matter what the climate does.

If parts of the planet become too hot or too cold for traditional crops, then we should switch to different crops, shouldn't we? We do this kind of thing all the time.

I can't imagine any possible scenario where Bangladesh would run out of drinking water. Very dry poor countries with high population densities survive by economising on all the other things we do with water besides drink it. Very dry rich countries don't care, because if they want more water, they just build more desalination plants.

If we are worried about extinctions, we should address the primary cause of biodiversity loss- the dangerous fragmentation of habitats. We can move people out of marginal regions to amalgamate little reserves into big reserves. The little reserve is always vulnerable. If global climate change means your preferred habitat shifts a hundred metres uphill, in a large enough reserve you move a hundred metres uphill. Conversely, if a minor local event means your preferred habitat shifts a hundred metres uphill, in a reserve that is too small you're not going to be able to move.

Coincidentally, I just came back from holidaying on the seaside at a house with very little in the way of reading matter. There were three copies of the Readers' Digest there, the oldest from August 1974. This magazine had an article about the alarming drop in global temperatures of 0.5 C since 1940 and forecasts of the dire effects to come...


Marco said...

Nice to see you still twitch :) I am taking it philosophically and I think the whole hype thing will run its course like other preceding long term fears (population explosion, ozone hole, running out of resources etc.) I think the reputation of "Science" is immune to this sort of stuff, but "environmental activism" will hopefully suffer terminal reputation decline over many generations.

Klaus Rohde said...

Well, my feeling is that this is wishful thinking. And as to the Readers Digest, I bet that you find some heart touching stories about successes of homeopathy and other magical healings if you look long enough.

Chris Fellows said...

Yes, the Reader's Digest thing did muddy the waters... I know it has no bearing on the problem, but the coincidence was too good to pass up!

Chris Fellows said...

I guess my point is this:

There are lots of good things that we can do to *adapt* to global warming that will be close to cost-neutral and will definitely be worth doing even if global warming turns out to be a damp squib.

On the other hand, everyone is agreed that we cannot *stop* global warming, no matter what drastic measures we take now. Hasty measures taken in a futile attempt to stop it, driven by opinion polls and hysterical worst-case-scenario reporting, are not worth doing and may cause a lot of harm.

HelmutSchiretz said...

The link for "I can't take much more of this type of thing" is forbidden 404 - so can't really work out what the problem is ?