Sunday, 13 May 2007

Carbon emissions just hot air?

In March I watched a fascinating documentary on Channel 4. It was called 'The Global Warming Swindle' and put forward the theory that global warming is not the result of people induced carbon emissions but, rather, by solar activity. This was presented in a very persuasive fashion by a group of respected scientists, a few of which had actually been involved in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and were a bit annoyed to have been named as supporting its findings when, in actual fact, they thought it was a lot of nonsense propaganda serving only to perpetuate the 'global warming industry'. That was a very long sentence. I hope you caught it.

That's it!, I thought. The brown stuff is sure to hit the turning thing over this one. Environmental issues always spark hefty debate here, I thought. But no. Channel 4 was not closed down on account of its 'slur'. The scientists involved were not flogged on the street, or even through the press. One little article in the Independent was all I found. All was quiet...

I think it may be a bit like the emperor's new clothes. No one want to be the first to say, 'Excuse me but have we all been fed a line?' Or maybe, 'Excuse me Al Gore, you're full of it!'. Which if the 'it' in question is carbon, just may be true.

It turns out that a few of the graphs in the documentary were based on old data and some stats were questionable, but not all. There was quite a lot of substance to these claims too and so, here I am. Whispering into the darkness to my audience of, oh, about ... not very many(including several relatives). I don't think that global warming is caused by carbon emissions alone. In fact, I suspect they may not play a very big role at all...

Now before anyone gets too excited and I lose my audience of, oh... not very many (including several relatives), I would like to make the following clear:
  • I recycle. I don't believe that with burgeoning population issues we should have to live in a tip. We need to find ways of making waste work.
  • I don't fly short haul. At least I try not to. But as I hate flying this is not a great sacrifice.
  • I try my level best to keep my gas and electricity consumption down. This is a tricky one for me, as anyone who has read more than three posts on this blog will know that I have been cold for the last 18 months. But fuels are a limited resource and sustainability still requires a solution.
  • I believe that the manufacturing and mining sectors should be held accountable for the amount of toxins and noxious fumes they spew into our rivers, oceans and air. I don't want to swim in it and I don't want to breath it. There must be an alternative to making people sick.
  • I walk whenever possible. If it didn't rain so much, I would walk more. And it would be even more pleasant without the car fumes.
So, even if carbon emissions were solely responsible for global warming, I probably wouldn't do things differently. But I don't like the sham and I worry about the decoy. If global warming is going to happen anyway, shouldn't we be focusing our minds on dealing with that issue rather than banging on about cars and aeroplanes?

Earlier this week, the German Spiegel published an article titled Not the End of the World as We Know It. It's a long article, but give it a read anyway. In case you don't, a key paragraph states:

Keeping a cool head is a good idea because, for one thing, we can no longer completely prevent climate change. No matter how much governments try to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it will only be possible to limit the rise in global temperatures to about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. But even this moderate warming would likely have far fewer apocalyptic consequences than many a prophet of doom would have us believe.

The article goes on to talk about the infrastructural developments required to prevent against predictable weather change, for example, drainage in northern European countries. It puts forward the level headed opinion that there will be winners and losers as our planet warms. Through a bit of forward planning the losers could lose a lot less.

What do you think?

PS Watch the Global Warning Swindle here (be warned its 1hr13min long) or read about it here, which will take less time but doesn't have as many pictures...


lady macleod said...

In my reading I have found there is a substantial amount of research to back up both claims, leading me to believe that carbon emissions and the natural order of things are acting in tandem. I think we (homo sapiens) may be egging on the natural warming that would occur as part of a cycle.

There were core samples not so long ago taken in Antarctica and the feeling there was they indicated this cycle happened in the past and will happen again.

I agree that we must all take the necessary measure for recycling because the natural resources are not limitless, and pay attention to an event that is inevitable.

Hawkings is advocating more attention to space exploration looking to colonization as a solution. Ah yes I can see it now, the British Empire reestablished on a galactic scale!

Gwen said...

Lady Macleod

I tend to agree with your view

"I think we (homo sapiens) may be egging on the natural warming that would occur as part of a cycle."

There has always been a natural cyclical element to our weather, but we may be speeding that up as well.

I don't think I would like to colonize another planet mind you. Apart from anything else, with our record on the care of this one, we probably shouldn't be given another one to make a mess of.

Amy said...

I'm with you. I think carbon emissions are far less responsible for global warming than even you suggest. But I'm am one of those scary conservative freakazoids. So my opinion don't count for much, at least around here. If global warming is really such a huge problem (someone explain to me the exceptionally cold winter here???), I think atmospheric phenomenon is to blame.

That being said, I do believe in the whole "stewardship of the earth" thing. Which is, to do our part to take care of the earth. But using one square of toilet paper? (Thanks, Sheryl Crow) I DON'T THINK SO!!!

The Good Woman said...

Hi Lady M - I can only just manage long haul to South Africa. Other planets are out of the question! I'm a keeper.

Gwen - I'm not really sure that we have totally messed this one up - yet. We have better information now than we ever have abou the implications of our actions. Time will tell what we do with that information.

Hnd Amy. Kinfd of makes you wonder of Sheryl Crow is really a woman after all???

Emi said...

My boss and I argue about this all the time. I made him watch "An Inconvenient Truth" and he ranted about how "you can't document the future". Then again, I can think of so many reasons to use less energy and be more efficient, and so many ways to do it, that I'm doing it no matter what. Who wants to pay tons of money for gas for a large car? Or have a high electric bill every month? Or have polluted water or air or food? Not me. And I think the Middle East would be a lot less dangerous if we (I'm American) weren't so dependent on their oil. So I'm all into save, conserve, and protect the planet. It's not like we have an extra one we can use if we need to.

Sharon said...

There is just as much controversy over the data and purported facts presented in this documentary as there is over Al Gore's. The BBC has had a great reputation for solid journalism in the past, so this particular documentary is trading on that reputation. Martin Durkin, however, is a highly controversial documentary filmmaker, who has been hired, it seems, to bring Fox-like sensationalism to the BBC - just look him up on Wikipedia. I think the inconvenient truth lies somewhere in the middle and regardless of whether the predictions are exaggerated or not, there is no question that everything that humans do has an impact and we have to start thinking about what we're doing and making better choices. As China becomes increasingly industrialized, we are beginning to see the potential impact of the developing world making the same horrible mistakes we have made. I hope that dissenters like Martin Durkin won't cause people to tune out the important message that we need to be better stewards of this planet.