Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Lies, Damn Lies and Hot Air

by Pritchard Buckminster

And in The News yesterday it appears that we have just realised that bovine flatulence is worse for the environment (in terms of CO2 production) than cars.... This had me a little confused, because as far as I am aware we have always known this. Always. In fact, the graph of CO2 levels against flora and fauna levels clearly correlates, Mr Gore to the contrary.

This leads me to a query: at what level will a reduction in emissions cause a remission in the terrible tragedy of Global Warming (lit)?

(It really is quite hard to express sarcasm in written form, that sentence was meant to come across as terribly ironic and in fact indicate that when I say “stop global warming” what I mean is “trying to stop the natural order of things is like farting at a hurricane”).

Yes, on the BBC News there have been two consecutive (here's the other) top level articles about that desperately important issue. It always phases me, this publicity, because everyone is banging on about reductions in CO2 but not one single person (as far as I am aware) has published a target number that when reached will actually achieve something.

Here are three actual facts (just for fun) on the subject.

(1) Water vapour is approximately 100 times more effective as a green house gas than C02. Small fluctuations in water vapour such as occur naturally during century long weather cycles are therefore significantly more important [in the short term] than C02 levels.

(2) Virtually all life on Earth derives its carbon (essential to life) from atmospheric carbon dioxide — either directly or by eating other living things that do so. … Moreover, most of the carbon on the Earth is not stored in the atmosphere. Omitting rocks, 75 percent is stored in the oceans; 20 percent in the coal, oil and gas deposits; and about 1.4 percent in the atmosphere. The atmosphere itself is only about 0.04 percent carbon dioxide.

(3) It is the existence of oceans, which emit water vapour, and not the presence of CO2, that we can thank for a temperature well above 14ยบ C at Earth’s surface, that is stable in a range of only a few degrees, which has enabled the existence of life. To the total CO2 flux into the global atmosphere of 169 gigatons (Gt) of carbon per year, human industrial and agricultural activity adds about 6 Gt of Carbon per year. This is similar to the amplitude of the annual fluctuations of the total mass of atmospheric CO2 (5.4 megatons C/year). See table below.

Source: Adapted from: Z. Jaworoski, T.V. Segalstad, and V. Hisdal, 1992

What we have is massive annual flux in a chaotic environmental system - a system this is fundamentally not in a state of equlibrium. On top of that we have a fairly demonstrable situation where human activity is altering that system in a way that tends towards an increase in global temperature. Humanity is nudging this flux in a new direction. In response to this professional scientists have produced some speculative models of what effects these trends will cause if projected into the near future, and from there they have to decide how to represent their research to the public.

Dr. Stephen Schneider, a leading prophet of man-made climate warming, stated this bluntly:
"To capture the public imagination... we have to... make simplified dramatic statements, and little mention of any doubts one might have.... Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective and being honest".
It comes down to this: the environmental science research community knows full well that the only way to make a dent in this problem (and I’m not willing to deny there is a problem) is to exert pressure on global governments, and the way they have decided to do this is by feeding into the already well established environmental campaigners lobby. This lobby is yet another seventies hangover from the baby-boomers social rebellion, a lobby made of entirely unelected and unaccountable individuals in 3 or 4 major charities (read economic vested interests in the issue) and are being used by the professional scientists as leverage against governments and bodies with executive powers (such as large multinationals).

Unfortunately this means we have to listen to these lobbying parasites recycling old news as if The Environment was one issue rather than a morass of different interwoven processes, with the underlying theme that this is a moral issue as opposed to a pragmatic one. So we get badgered with enforced recycling (Britain does have a land-fill problem but it has absolutely nothing to do with GW), demonised for air travel, and listen to the same individuals lobbying against nuclear power (the Monbiot-bot is not to be trusted) as we hear lobbying about global warming, utter insanity. The Green lobby has a long held emphasis on morality, and a puritan morality at that, which is repellent to anyone who holds liberal principles. I refuse to feel guilty for flying, I refuse to feel bad for failing to recycle, I refuse to bow my head for owning more than one motor-vehicle, or approving of the construction of a housing estate. This is not a moral issue.

With environment researchers and environment campaigners colluding together, a significant proportion of the press has decided to get into bed with both (I hate to agree with Tony Blair, but he is damn right about The Independent). So, we see this recent obsessive recycling issue, a hideously corrupt publicity drive when what everyone really cares about is some form of international treaty that will make economic sense of the negative aspects of carbon emissions (and the socialistic contraction and convergence, and statist Kyoto protocol are never going to pull it off).

Now the irony of all this is that quite clearly the environmental conditions on this planet are changing, as they have always done and as they always will do. That taken into account, why am I having a go at the poor hard working environmentalists who are only trying to do a ‘good thing’?

Simply put, these misguided politically fuelled good intentions could be what kill us off. I have not seen a single scientifically credible piece that states we could actually stop the current trend in global changes. Not one. Even a bit of one. Everyone is so busy running they haven’t bothered trying to spot the finish line. The amount of effort going into these pointless activities could be far better spent on survival infrastructure for when Global Warming (or cooling, or temperature vacillation or something else entirely) does occur which it definitely will - over a long enough time frame - regardless of our actions or lack thereof.

This is the point. Stop trying to blame everyone whilst sitting there smugly in your Honda Prius with your carefully sorted rubbish on the way to the composting centre and understand that it will make bugger all difference and someone needs to start building the life raft. Preferably yesterday.

Personally, while you’re taxing my emissions I’m stockpiling food, drugs, books and, to the immense amusement of my friends, a wetsuit. And guess what, when you knock on my door because I’ve survived I’ll be letting in the engineers who’s “fault” it all was.

The rest of you can go hug a tree.

(written with significant input from Edwin)

1 comment:

Bibliolatrist said...

We have forced recycling here, but I usually fail to recycle every little thing and I am not the best at conserving energy...

Needless to say, your article does much to assuage my guilt for failing to do that which "good people" do to "save the earth."

Anyway, I have to run: W has a "really strong feeling" the terrorists are coming again.

The fear, the fear.