Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Climate Change - why it bugs me

One thing that really bugs me about the whole Climate Change thing is the way everyone asks the wrong questions.

The way that I see it, there are three questions being asked here:
(i) Is the climate changing?
(ii) Can we stop it changing?
(iii) Whose fault is it that it is changing?

I think this is very short sighted.  We're missing several very important points.  I'm willing to concede that the climate is changing, largely because it should be changing.  Whether you believe it's because we're emerging from a little ice age or because of the crap we're pumping into the atmosphere, I'm willing to accept that temperatures over the last hundred years or so have showed a slight upward slope (although that does seem to be coming to an end for now).

What we're not asking though is what impact will a hotter world have on humanity (and stop claiming you're trying to "save the world" - the world would be just fine if the temperature was 50 degrees higher, it's humanity that would suffer, and humanity that we're trying to save).  I've seen reports that a hotter UK would lead to less deaths overall, and not have any serious downsides.  What other impacts would there be?  Let's see what we can figure out, and then we can ask the next very important question: are the changes for the better overall?

Only if we decide that they're definitely not for the better should we then look to point (ii) above - can we stop it changing?  But at the same time, we need to ask: Would we be better off by mitigating?  People often refer to the Stern report, where I believe it was reported that we would be better off providing money to mitigate rather than preventing the changes.  That means that if the sea levels will rise by x metres, it's better overall to provide money to build sea walls or move people elsewhere than it is to cripple our economy to prevent the warming.

If the world is warming (and I'm not saying that it's not), I believe that it cannot be 100% negative however you look at it.  Plants will grow faster, less people will die of hypothermia in the winter, maybe we can generate more tidal/wind energy as a result of the changes, etc.  What we need to consider is how we can use the positive aspects and deal with the negative aspects in the most efficient way, rather than to assume that any change is negative and nothing good can come of it (except the chance to raise lots more in taxes).

As to point (iii) above - whose fault it it?  Who cares?  If the climate is changing, we need to deal with it.  If it turns out that mankind had nothing to do with the changes, we still need to assess how we'll be affected and decide how we want to deal with it.  If it's all our fault, it changes nothing, except for the most loony of eco-loons, who would no doubt say that if it's a natural process, we should just let it happen and who cares if it affects millions of people...

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