A Very Ugly Movement

What is the point of Extinction Rebellion? In London there has been demonstrations, arrests, people chaining themselves to objects and similar stunts because Extinction Rebellion wants governments to declare a climate emergency. Extinction Rebellion proposes to persuade governments to do this by non-violent civil disobedience. The movement (and the demonstrations) have been supported by actors actresses, models and other well-known people who all believe that the democratic process has failed to deal with climate change and therefore other measures are required.  

Non-violent civil disobedience is an important tradition of protest. Henri Thoreau refused to pay a proportion of taxes that was used to finance an unjust war. Ghandi use it to bring independence and democracy to India.  Extinction Rebellion is apparently using civil disobedience to achieve three demands:

  1. Governments around the world tell the truth about climate change; this demand is impossible to meet because what is the truth about a topic that is probably the most complex (scientifically) known to humanity?  I expect what Extinction Rebellion really mean is that governments should adopt what Extinction Rebellion states is the truth.
  • Governments must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025. There is no hint of how governments are to do this. Does anyone know how this can be achieved short of wiping out, directly or indirectly, most of humanity?
  • Governments must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens Assembly on climate change and ecological justice. I find this demand rather chilling and very frightening.  This reminds me of the justification of all tyrants who have displaces the democratic process. Fulfilment of this demand would mean denying the democratic process and giving power over our lives to Citizens Assemblies, no doubt made up of members of Extinction Rebellion.

Extinction Rebellion seems a very ugly movement.

“NOT ME”

It is now officially recognised throughout the developed world that we must do something about climate change.

Farmers in the Netherlands have been protesting because, as I understand it, they are blamed for most of the Dutch nitrous oxide emissions and they believe there is a threat to their livelihoods fearing there are plans to cut pig, beef and chicken production by half for environmental reasons. These threats are not made by the Dutch Government but by opposition parties anxious to be seem to do something about climate change; such is the sensitivity of people in the climate change debate that traffic was badly disrupted by the tractors (which in turn must have created excess emissions) that the farmers took to the street protesting about the possibility of their incomes being slashed in the name of climate change. Climate change is serious, as all farmers know and have experienced, but when it comes to doing something about it “not me” is the cry.

It is a feature of modern life that almost everyone agrees that climate change is a threat and should be mitigated in some way, but almost everyone thinks that the mitigation should be at the cost of somebody else. “Not me!” Blame China for climate change, blame India, blame the USA, blame Brazil, blame the government, blame industry, blame capitalism, blame socialism, blame the wealthy, blame the poor, blame whoever, but don’t blame me.

Wealthy people who fly around in private jets and lead lifestyles that create far more emissions than the average person in their community feel qualified to lecture us on the dangers of climate change. “Someone should do something about it, but not me” is the message, “not me”.

“Not me” has become the real response to climate change by humanity, and such a response is inadequate, as humanity will learn to its cost.

Rising Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

In August of this year the monthly average of atmospheric carbon dioxide as measured at Mauna Loa was 409.95 parts per million, an increase of 3 parts per million in the past twelve months. In 1992 the concentration was 367 parts per million. In 1950 it was 310 ppm.

Mauna Loa is a good place to get accurate CO2 measurements; It is 3,400 meters high in the middle of the ocean, so it can sample an air mass that has already been fully mixed from the inputs and outputs of CO2 far below its summit and far away from it. It is surrounded by many miles of bare lava, helping to eliminate variations in the measurement from the respiration of vegetation.

The wheels of climate change throughout history have ground slowly, but those wheels are beginning to turn more rapidly now, as humanity increases its numbers, its industrialisation and its emissions.

If you cannot Beat it, live with it

A wind travelling at 185 miles an hour (about 300kph) is a very strong wind indeed. Humans do not build settlements where such winds are even a remote a possibility, or so we thought until Hurricane Dorian devastated the North Bahamas. Thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged severely. Only seven people have died, thanks to the ability of humans to predict the impact of Hurricane Dorian and the efforts of the local government to warn and prepare people for this apocalypse.

Hurricanes start when there is warm water (around and above 28 Celsius) and warm air.

Warm air from the ocean surface begins to rise rapidly. The air is naturally moist, coming from the ocean. When the warm air meets cooler air as it rises the warm moist air condenses and forms storm clouds and drops of rain. The condensation releases heat, which warms the cool air above the warm air, causing it to rise to bring more warm, moist air from the ocean .

The warm, moist air is drawn into a developing storm and more heat is transferred from the surface of the ocean to the atmosphere. This continuing heat exchange creates a wind pattern that spirals violently around a relatively calm center and so a hurricane is born.

The important word in this explanation is “warm”. The air is warmed, the oceans are warmed and this begets hurricanes.

Hurricanes have always been with those who live where the air is warmed and the sea is warmed but in the last century or more the sea has been warming and so has the air more than usual because the heat that the planet naturally receives cannot escape or dissipate into space as it had done for centuries because now the earth has a blanket of insulation, made up of an increasing thick layer carbon dioxide, deposited by kind permission of humanity and its activities.

I do not blame global warming for the creation of Hurricane Dorian – that would be a far too simplistic approach, but I do blame human activities for making hurricanes like Dorian (the most violent in recorded history in the Bahamas) more likely.

It is probably too late to reverse global warming or do much about climate change except to possibly try to slow it down. Humanity, it is clear to me, does not have the appetite to do what must be done to reverse or slow down climate change. It will probably have the appetite to build better and stronger protection against extreme weather events such as hurricanes and flooding. If you can’t beat it, live with it.

Gender Stereotyping

Two advertisements have been censored by the Advertising Standards Authority. One advertisement showed two men not caring well for a young child. the other advertisement shows men doing adventurous activities while a woman sat on a park bench next to a pram.

The reason for banning these advertisements was that the ASA say that this kind of stereotyping causes “real world harms”.

It is hard for me to see what “real world harms” will arise if some advertisers indulge in humorous stereotyping. It is harder still for me to understand what qualifications the ASA has in being able to assess whether an advertisement can create real world harms.

For example, there are numerous television and newspaper advertisements for gambling companies all permitted by the ASA. Certainly gambling creates more harm than gender stereotyping. Certain types of “fast food” create plenty of real world harm to those who eat the foods and to the environment. Air travel causes almost irreversible real world harms. Fossil fuel based energy probably causes the greatest world harms that we face at the moment probably planet threatening and life threatening as a cause of climate change , but the ASA decides to pick on gender stereotyping, leaving greater real world harms alone.

I do not find the ASA’s behaviour odd. When I was running a solar panel business, years ago, the ASA asked me to prove with documentary evidence that solar panels worked off light, and could produce energy on cloudy days. I suggested they consult an elementary book on physics and educate themselves before wasting people’s time. That suggestion still holds good today.

What I find odd is that the ASA assume gender stereotyping is harmful based on some academic theses, ignoring those theses who claim that it is not harmful. I find it even odder that short humorous television adverts are considered as ascribing to an individual woman or man specific attributes, characteristics, or roles by reason only of her or his membership in the social group of women or men.

Today’s Weather will be Tomorrow’s Climate

When I started writing essays about the environment, many years ago, I was always careful to point out the difference between climate and weather. Climate, like class in a sports person, is permanent. Weather is akin to form, a temporary phenomenon. As I write these words the United Kingdom is experiencing its hottest July ever recorded and will probably, before the day is out enjoy or suffer (as the case may be) its highest recorded temperature ever. Continue reading

Must Try Harder

As I get older so the proportion of atmospheric carbon dioxide, like my age, increases. the ESRL Global Monitoring Division at Muana Loa, Hawaii,  reports atmospheric carbon dioxide is now at 414.66 parts per million compared with 411.24 ppm just a year ago in May 2018.

It is very sad to have to report this, Continue reading