The basic proposition that higher levels of atmospheric CO2 are likely to cause modest warming of the order of 1C is reasonably well-established and only a handful of people [which does not include the writer] challenge it.
The idea however that we are on the cusp of catastrophic global warming or anything like it is ultimately feasible but, for many, much harder to swallow.
Sceptical scientists ask to see evidence, to which the standard response is that ‘the science is settled’ and doubters should refer to climate computer model forecasts issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC].
Computer model predictions, sadly, are only as good as the assumptions and constructs upon which the models are built and the time-honoured computing admonition ‘GIGO’ [garbage in, garbage out], applies, ‘with knobs on’.
Suffice it to say, considerable controversy exists around the IPCC and their predictions of calamitous climatic consequences stemming from rising levels of atmospheric CO2 which, with time, are becoming steadily less dramatic.
Many, nonetheless, believe ‘the technology exists’ to build a green shangri-la in which nobody ever uses any energy again. This is delusional. These folks sound like the intro to the 1980s television show ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ ['We have the technology, we can rebuild him.'].
It’s true, of course, technology provides a marvellous fillip to our lives – how long is it since we put a man on the Moon, for God’s sake? So why don’t we just get on and do it?
It’s no good saying ‘the capitalists won’t permit it’ because capitalists are already ‘up to their ocksters’ in the so-called ‘green economy’.
The real problem with all these things is nobody can afford them except the rich. The ‘technology exists’ to holiday on the Moon yet we don’t make a habit of it. If installing insulation in a house is cost-effective, fine, if it isn’t, it’s actually a waste of resources; we would be better spending our money on something else, such as cheap electricity for those who need it, like the ‘fuel poor’, about thirty thousand of whom die, annually, of cold during UK winters.
Someone asked recently, ‘How many lives are you prepared to sacrifice by continuing to burn coal for electricity?”‘
My answer to that is ‘How many lives are YOU prepared to sacrifice by NOT burning coal, keeping shale gas in the ground and attempting to fill the energy gap with non-fossil fuel energy at twice and three times the price?’
Last winter saw 31,000 UK deaths caused by lack of warmth. That is the reality.
Where exactly are all these lives referred to being ‘sacrificed by continuing to burn coal for electricity’? If they’re in and around coal mining, then mining conditions need to improve – which will raise the cost of coal, which would help to improve the relative expense of non-fossil alternatives.
Or should we take into account the saving to the nation in NHS and care costs because the vast majority of those who died were over 75?
All this wishful thinking is often expressed in the context of a desire to progress toward Scandinavian-style income distribution which, akin to ‘saving the planet’, is another attempt to seize the moral high ground, saying ‘See, I’m better than you/them, I CARE.’ As if others do not.
It’s hard to argue there isn’t something wrong with our income/wealth distribution system and the Scandinavian way has much to commend it. The sad thing for those who make both arguments ['saving the planet' and 'fairer wealth distribution'] simultaneously, is that without drastic reform of energy policy [and hence, taxation], they are mutually-exclusive.
Our current pro-renewable/anti-fossil fuel energy policy is taking us, racing, in the wrong direction because the fabled ‘low carbon’ energy systems – twice and three times the price of conventional energy and charged directly to our energy bills – amounts to an extremely regressive form of stealth taxation, a multi-lane ‘Route 1′ for cashflow from the poor to the rich.
Editor: The image above is of the Canary Wharf skyline in London, by David Iliff, reproduced here under the Creative Commons licence.