Jul 09 2009

Climate Change and a Lot of Hot Air

Predictably, we’re seeing a lot of hot air from world political leaders who refuse to cooperate at the G8 summit discussing greener policies climate change targets. What’s changed now is the exact source of that hot air.

The USA’s President Obama has rightly backed targets to cut emissions by 17% by 2020 and 83% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels (Of course, in the USA, not everything a President wants gets done – we’ll see if the Senate approves). So now the world’s worst polluter per capita (except us carbon-spewing Canucks) are off eco-defenders’ hate-mail lists, at least for the moment. But developing nations, where fast population growth and gradually-rising living standards are quickly boosting carbon footprints, still aren’t buying in.

India’s rep says reaching climate change targets should not be borne on the backs of the developing world’s poor. This is shorthand for saying that since the developed world got to enjoy the benefits of high living standards from rampant resource exploitation, pretty much guilt-free before the recent green revolution, then India, China, Indonesia and all the rest of the developing world – most of the planet’s population – should be able to exploit resources and emit carbon to their heart’s content, at least for the next 100 years or so.

Bad idea. We’re already seeing evidence of climate change, and guess where the worst of it is happening? Drought in Africa, murderous heat in India, mass flooding in Bangladesh, crop failures in Asia… while developed nations have the resources to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, developing nations don’t. They’ve got huge incentives to cut back on their carbon output right now. These nations want their people’s living standards to continue to rise. But doing nothing about climate change means sitting back and watching their land turn into deserts or their cities to be reclaimed by the sea.

The excuse from developing nations previously has been that they couldn’t be expected to lower their carbon footprint when even the rich nations couldn’t afford to do so.

Now that the wealthy nations have stepped up, the rest of the world will need to do their part.

This doesn’t necessarily mean curtailing the developing world’s economies. Carbon can be reduced through better efficiency. Smarter uses of resources, better public transportation, recycling programs, better enforcement of regulations protecting nature preserves, moving away from the disastrous suburbian model we’ve largely adopted in the West… all of these will help. All that’s required is the will.

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9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Climate Change and a Lot of Hot Air”

  1. Williamon 09 Jul 2009 at 5:57 pm

    So…you are of the opinion that man can control the worlds temperature simply by turning down the Co2.

    Wake up man..!

  2. jnarveyon 09 Jul 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Go back to sleep, William.

  3. Earnest Canuckon 10 Jul 2009 at 2:39 am

    Narvey ol’ stick, it doesn’t matter whether William wakes up or not; the fact is, we cannot control the weather.

    I will be pleased to watch you and Obama and the 12 Holy Panicked Apostles (George Monbiot; James Hansen; Tim Flannery; Nicholas Stern; James Lovelock; Al Gore; David Suzuki; Elizabeth Kolbert; Stephane Dion; Margaret Atwood; Hugo Chavez; Jessica Alba) plug up our planet’s volcanic activity through international conferences, memoes and agreements. While you’re at it, please ask the Sun to cap its emissions, regulate its spots, and be a little more predictable.

    The suburban model we’ve adopted in the West is also not “disastrous”, bunky. What are you comparing it to? Family houses and land, accessible through individualised transportation, is what most people want, and what immigrants aspire to.

    Most people are pretty fond of our society’s cheap, diverse and abundant food supply, too, admit it. The North Korean documentary “Would You Like Bark and Grass With That”? is a tad more relevant than “Fast Food Nation”; and climate “activism”, like animal-rights agitation or the agenda of bicyclists, is a hobby of narcissists, not a politics of adulthood. You know I’m right, fatty.

  4. Jonathonon 10 Jul 2009 at 8:52 am

    Hey Earnest. If the planet had fewer people, maybe we could keep going with the suburban model. But our basic problem is that we’re running out of the stuff that we use to power our transportation and build those homes. And since many millions of people in the developing world are approximating our living standard, that stuff (oil, lumber, metals) is running out even quicker, and prices for it are going up – hurting us in the pocketbook, and increasing the misery of untold swathes of humanity living on a dollar a day.

    So leaving aside the carbon-footprint argument for the moment, suburbs are just not efficient places to put people. They’re a very recent phenomenon, too. For 99.9 per cent of human history, the suburbs as we know them, islands of houses, an hour’s drive from any industry or business venture, have not existed. They’re a result of the car revolution. It’s not like humanity has any great historical attachment to this mode of living, or that it’s an undeniable part of human culture that we must preserve at all costs.

    Now, getting back to reducing carbon footprint, the scientific community seems pretty much convinced that there is a link, and the basic premise of the greenhouse effect and global warming are not difficult to understand, or event that new. I recall getting a lesson on the greenhouse effect in elementary school sometime in the 1980s, long before I’d ever heard of Al Gore.

    The onus now is on dissenting scientists to present studies refuting the general consensus, not the other way around. If you’ve got some repeatable testing from a scientific journal showing there couldn’t possibly be a link between rising carbon levels and climate change, I’d love to hear about it. The boys in Italy would probably want to see the link as well.

  5. Williamon 12 Jul 2009 at 10:24 am

    Perhaps you could produce one peer reviewed paper in any one scientific journal showing absolute proof with empirical evidence of man’s causing of global warming through increased Co2 emissions.

    Just one scientific paper that doesn’t use “maybe”, “could-be”,
    “likely-to-cause”, “possibly”.

    Just one that shows absolute proof of man-made global warming.

    Ps…It doesn’t exist…prove me wrong!

    Ps,Ps,… You’re in for a rude awakening!

  6. jnarveyon 12 Jul 2009 at 7:52 pm

    William, we’ve still got people out there who think the jury is out on the theory of evolution due to lack of definitive evidence. If you’re asking today’s scientists to come up with definitive proof of a link between carbon and climate change, in a way that is even more convincing or at least as convincing as a theory in circulation since 1859, you’re just being obtuse.

    When the scientific community overwhelmingly agreed that smoking caused cancer, or that drinking during pregnancy could cause fetal alcohol syndrome, forward-thinking people didn’t wait for the final proof to come in. They acted, with agreeable results for their health and the health of their children.

    In regards to climate change, the vast majority of scientists are convinced that there is a very probable link between the amount of carbon humans produce and the very real temperature increases we’ve already seen in the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as extreme climate events around the world. If they’re right, the cost of mitigating climate change will be far less than the catastrophic cost of doing nothing.

    Not only that, but the prescription for fighting climate change is the very same prescription any rational nation or group of nations would take to conserve resources for the long term and keep standards of living high relative to cost of living. Even if you don’t believe climate change is tied to the increased amount of carbon, surely you’ll concede that it’s better to pay a cheaper rate for energy, resources and food.

    So… feel free to stick your head in the sand and wait for definitive proof. The rest of us will get on with the business at hand.

  7. Earnest Canuckon 14 Jul 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Now, boys. I’ll point you to a relevant site: http://www.climatedebatedaily.com where there is a lot of fun discussion of this not-very-significant subject, “climate change”, as it has now been rebranded since “global warming” ceased in 1998. Happy reading! And kvetching!

  8. Earnest Canuckon 14 Jul 2009 at 11:37 pm

    PS, didn’t it start out as “the greenhouse effect”? Pretty sure it did. Here’s a good precis of some dissenter’s science:


    Carbon dioxide is a *tiny* input in a massive system, y’know. Humankind’s contribution to this tiny input is… way tinier. Are you so sure it’s evil?

    As to your implication that we should be doin’ Kyoto &c. *anyway*, even if the globe warms not: pish-tosh, Jon. The vast command-and-control schemes being proposed and implemented by the Obamas and Dions and Campbells of this world will *of course* increase the cost of all energy, resources and food. Fraudulently. Arbitrarily. For no reason. And probably forever. This is a not a human good as I understand it.

    Beer is, though! Are we doing something Friday…? Wd recommend the usual, on the smoking deck.

  9. jnarveyon 15 Jul 2009 at 8:34 am

    Friday sounds great. Looking forward to it, Earnest.

    I can’t speak to the value of Obama’s moves on the green front. Frankly, I’d need to look into it more in-depth. So far all I’ve heard is that he’s looking to boost the “green” economy in the USA. I assume this involves some sort of fuel-efficiency regulation to at least make sure American cars are as efficient as their Chinese-manufactured counterparts. Or promoting the building of renewable energy stocks, to make our Yankee friends less dependent on oil. At least that’s what I’d try to do if I were in his shoes.

    You’ll note that I didn’t vote for Dion, partly because I thought his particular green shift policy was not going to be effective. I do think Campbell’s carbon tax in BC makes sense, although it’s so minimal right now that it’s unlikely to compel anyone to change their behavior.

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