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Saturday, 21 March 2015

Climate Change

I know I have made reference to this topic in previous posts; but I have been listening to lectures and debates on the subject recently and I think there are a few observations that are worth making.
The first observation is that the ‘alarmists’ are nearly all on the political left and that the ‘sceptics’ are nearly all on the political right. This is very curious because (superficially, at least) climate change is not a political issue. Left and right agree that clean water and clean air are good and that polluted water and polluted air are bad. It’s quite easy to determine whether or not the water in your well or coming out of your taps is dirty. You can readily tell whether you are breathing clean air or not. The easiest test is to blow your nose. We like clean.

We may note in passing that countries organised by leftist principles do not have a good record when it comes to clean air and water.

There are four questions we have to ask with respect to what used to be called ‘global warming’ and which has been re-christened ‘climate change’.

Is it happening? Is it bad? Is it our fault? What should we do?

Is it happening? Almost everybody agrees that climate changes. We have ice ages and interglacial periods. It is certain that we have been emerging from a cold period. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were cold – ice fairs on the Thames etc. The temperature since the mid-1800s has definitely risen. In very cold periods we are obliged to use artificial means to sustain life and this is expensive. We burn wood or coal and our dwellings are more costly to construct.

We know for sure that in some periods in the historical past have been warmer on average. Greenland is called Greenland because it used to be warmer and fecund. We also know that grapes, which like warm temperatures, used to be grown in the north of England. The Roman period was another warm period in the historical past.

So, the answer to question one is: Yes, we are coming out of a cold period. For all we know, the trend may soon be reversed, as some scientists prophesied in the 1970s.

Is it bad? Most of us like warm climates, which is why we choose the Seychelles or AndalucĂ­a for our holiday destinations over Finland or Mongolia. Statistically, it certain that cold weather kills fragile human being in vastly greater numbers than warm weather. Obviously, very very high temperatures would be bad for us. We could not live on Venus, even if the atmosphere were conducive to human flourishing.

The answer then to question two is: No, warm periods are better than cold periods. Food is easier to grow and we don’t need to spend so much on hypocausts and central heating.

Is warming our fault? Indubitably we make the environment warmer. Cities are always warmer than the surrounding countryside. We do produce carbon dioxide by exhaling, by burning any fuel, by keeping livestock. Physicists tell us (reliably) that CO2 does trap heat in the atmosphere, as does methane. They also tell us that nearly all the CO2 in the atmosphere comes from natural sources – volcanoes, ants, etc, etc. Our contribution is vanishingly small.

Is it our fault? No, not noticeably. Temperatures and carbon dioxide have fluctuated wildly in the past, when our contribution was negligible.

What should we do? The obvious answer is: Nothing.

We in the West live lives of unparalleled comfort, thanks to cheap energy obtained from coal and gas (plus hydro and nuclear). We are very lucky. I am very grateful for my warm, comfortable life. To deny this comfort to the ‘third world’ is as wicked as progressive politicians who succeeded in life as a result of grammar schools and then denied this ladder of success by destroying those very same grammar schools. Cheap energy has given us refrigeration, which preserves not only food but life-saving drugs. A revolting parallel is the denial to the third word of DDT. We used it to free ourselves of death dealing insects. We now deny it to Africa, where thousands of children die every year from malaria, borne by anopheles mosquitoes.

And it is here that we come up against the left-right divide. The leftist perceives a problem (which may not exist). He uses his political power to implement a solution. Almost always his solution means that people die. Leftists always claim the moral high ground; they feel good about themselves. Their victims are no less dead.

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