Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Tuesday December 20 2005

I can’t shovel my photos onto this blog every day.  So here is a gob of verbiage from another blog.  It is a report by Philip Stott of something he said on the radio.  It was last month, but it is the kind of stuff that will keep.

“Humans have always feared climate change and developed myths that our sinfulness is its cause. Accordingly, we always want to be able “to do something” about climate, to sacrifice to the Earth to bring about a golden age of climate stability. Unfortunately, both geology and history show us that the idea of a stable climate is untenable; there has never been, and never will be, a stable climate under human control. All we can do is adapt to constant change.

Our current obsession with the single factor of carbon dioxide emissions is little different. In a system as complex and chaotic as climate, actions with just one factor out of the thousands involved may even trigger unexpected consequences. It is vital to remember that, for such a coupled, non-linear, chaotic system, not doing something (i.e., not emitting gases) is as unpredictable as doing something (i.e., emitting gases). Even if we closed down every factory, crushed every car and aeroplane, turned off all energy production, and threw 4 billion people worldwide out of work, climate would still change, and often dramatically. Unfortunately, we would all be too poor to do anything about it.

Basing policies on worries about ‘global warming’ is a serious threat to us all, but especially to the 1.6 billion people in the less-developed world who have no access to any modern form of energy. The twin curses of water poverty and energy poverty remain the true scandals. By contrast, the political imposition on the rest of the world of our Northern, self-indulgent ecochondria about ‘global warming’ could prove to be a neo-colonialism too far.”

I am trying to wangle myself a paid writing gig on environmental issues.  I promise nothing, but if I succeed, Stott’s blog will, I anticipate, provide regular linkage.

Meanwhile my summary of the environmental debate consists of a succession of questions, with what are now my (tentative, reserve the right to change my mind, etc.) answers:

Is climate change happening?  Yes.

Is it being caused by human causes rather than natural causes?  Almost entirely– and quite possibly entirely – by natural causes.)

Whatever is the cause of climate change, is there anything humans can do to stop it?  No.

If I am wrong about the above, and if something can be done by humans to stop it, should it be done?  No.  Far too expensive for such a dubiously valuable outcome.

So what should humans do about all this?  They should get rich, so that they can better dodge the bad results of climate change – big, small or non-existent.  This plan has one big superiority over all other plans for dealing with climate change, which is that it is a really good idea anyway, whether climate change is doing or will do any huge damage or not.

I think I would add “They should become more technologically advanced” also. Anything humans can do to change the climate is either impossible or so horrendously expensive so as to make no sense now. This is not necessarily still going to be the case with the technology of 2050.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 20 December 2005
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