Thursday, May 31, 2007
This rather leaden post on Samizdata accurately captures a common - usually right-wing - attitude to environmentalism. Basically the greens are priggish busybodies and the scientists are, as usual, crying wolf. These attitudes are, as far as they go, fair enough. The scientists have, unquestionably, too often cried wolf. And the greens, as I recently posted, should have some terrible disasters on their conscience. Furthermore, the sceptics are quite right to doubt the efficacy of much of what the greens are advocating. If the prevailing scientific orthodoxy is correct and if the recent indicators about the unexpected rapidity of the warming process - here's the latest from NASA - are accurate, then even massive cuts in carbon emissions will achieve nothing. Indeed, the first effect would be that things would get much worse. Carbon burning creates a haze which provides some cooling; if this were to go tomorrow, the world would suddenly become a lot hotter. European emission cuts are thought by some to explain the heat waves in recent years. But ignorant, macho scepticism of the Samizdata type is very dangerous. There is no doubt that global warming is happening. The only serious disputes are about whether it is caused by human activity and whether it is a long term phenomenon or merely a cyclical variation. Personally, I am persuaded that it is anthropogenic, but that's just my lay opinion and, like yours, it is worthless other than as an aspect of the political calculus. Whether it is cyclical is irrelevant because the central point is that, leaving aside the disputes, the balance of evidence is overwhelming - the planet will warm, probably catastrophically, over the next century. This, surely, should render mere opinion and all political posturing irrelevant. It should even sideline arguments about the effects of emissions, since any reduction now will not work, though it would seem to be wise to stop burning carbon in oxygen over the very long term. Radical solutions are now in the air, some of them making highly imaginative use of the planet's own processes. Tedious sniggering at the greens may affect the political climate sufficiently to prevent these being implemented. In that event, the sniggerers will, one day soon, have an awful lot of human suffering to explain.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 7:34 am