Fashion In Climate Change

After about six years of there being very little public interest in climate change in the last year public interest has revived, perhaps as a result of a younger generation coming through and taking an active interest in demonstrating against global warming, or perhaps it is merely that there are fashions in news reporting and climate change has come back into fashion, replacing other fashionable items of public interest.

Other matters of public interest come and ago and come back again, in the same way that fashions come and go and come back again such as the fashion of starting wars, ending wars, reporting famines, the wearing of beards or the miniskirt.

Each time a fashion returns it comes back with a slightly new twist. Climate change has returned but with things that did not feature last time round such as demonstrations to inconvenience the public defended by the mantra that the public will be more inconvenienced by climate change, but that presupposes that demonstrations will change anything in the short term. Greta Thunberg did not feature last time climate change came around and I am thankful for that.

Climate change is a real issue and the solving of it require real thinking, scientific and technological innovation and not wooden boats in the middle of Oxford Circus or the whining of a person who has no solution but simply urges “them” to “do something”.

Carbon Dioxide Concentration in the Atmosphere

I regularly look at atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration even though it is invariably bad news. in the past twelve months CO2 in the atmosphere has risen to 408.53 ppm, which is a rise of 2.53 parts per million compared with 12 months ago. It seems relatively clear to me that this is shown in the extent of sea ice in the Arctic and the extent of ice in the Antarctic, both of which are reducing and in very modest sea level rises.

I think that now it is not about reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that humans push into the air, but about removing carbon dioxide from the air. It is not about targets, which as one commentator pointed out on these posts are usually politically motivated boasts but about hard measures of which there are insufficient around.

Fracking: a Study in Stupidity

There is something about humanity that thinks if you can dig up a resource from the good earth, it is free and you can use that resource to enrich humanity individually and collectively. We dig up many resources from coal to oil, and from gold to lithium to enrich ourselves (or some of us) materially with these resources at the same time impoverishing ourselves in ways you cannot judge with mere money.

Nothing is free in this great planet: everything is connected; so if we dig up and burn coal to produce heat and other energy, a by product of digging up coal is to damage our lungs and in some cases to create the deaths of some of those who do the digging as well as those who close to the slag heaps carelessly dumped close to schools and homes.

But people stupidly ignore this inter connectivity of resources in their quest for enrichment, and so has it been with fracking. In theory fracking is a way of getting cheap natural gas from under the earth where it has been stored in shale rock for hundreds and thousands of millennia. Readers of these essays will know that I have always opposed fracking; it has always been clear that the risks to the many are greater than the rewards that the few and the many may reap from fracking.

I have listened to eminent people claim that fracking is safe and will contribute to our energy security by lessening our dependence on imported natural gas by producing home grown energy. I have never subscribed the the view that fracking is safe. I regarded fracking as presenting three major risks in the following order of importance and risk:

  1. Risk of methane leaking into and infecting water tables;
  2. Risk of methane, an insidious greenhouse gas, leaking into the atmosphere and
  3. Risk of causing earthquakes by damage to the rocks from which methane is extracted by explosions.

In the past view days the government has called a moratorium on fracking in this country. An earthquake of 2.9 on the Richter scale seems to have been caused by fracking and the advice the government has got is that it is impossible to predict the probability or size of tremors caused by fracking and so it has suspended all fracking until it can know that fracking is safe.

Having suspended fracking on the basis of the third in importance of risk (in my view) I cannot see that racking will ever return to the United Kingdom, where the geology is unsuitable, there is dense population and where so much of our water depends on clean water tables: all rise to all three potential risks are serious and health and life threatening. However, with humanity you can never say “never” as we stupidly continue to pursue our quest for material wealth at the cost of the environment.

Had the government listened to views like mine the money wasted on fracking could have been better spent on benign energy (like wind and solar) preventing the waste of energy and improving renewable energy and preventing the use of unnecessary energy. Fracking was bound to be dangerous and to me this was obvious.

Andrea Leadsom, the UK minister responsible for science, said that the decision to call a moratorium on fracking follows the science. It is a shame that the government did not follow the science and the common sense when it permitted fracking in the first place. Fracking in the UK has been simply a study in stupidity.

The Outlook for Climate Change

It looks as though 2019 will become the second warmest year on record, since record of global temperatures began to be taken in the later part of the 19th Century. Predictions are always hard but if 2019 does not end up as the second warmest, it will certainly be in the top 5 warmest years, according to the US National Ocean and Atmospheric Adninistration. The trend towards warming is undeniable; there will always be some years which buck the trend but if you consider things on a decade by decade basis this planet is warming at about the rate about a degree Celsius per century. That rate will almost certainly increase over the next decades.

I do not wish to be alarmist – Extinction Rebellion are spreading more than enough alarm without suggesting any real means of mitigating climate change.

I have always thought that the starting point of trying to mitigate or slow done the rate of global warming is through energy use, which is responsible (in my view) for most of the global warming the planet is experiencing. In recent years I have formed the view that to prevent rapid global warming we must not only curtail fossil fuel energy use but also population expansion.

Eventually we can address the use of fossil fuel in energy use. I doubt if humanity will ever be ready to address the growth in population. The planetary outlook is not hopeful unless we can refrain from breeding and curtail our numbers.

Why Oh Why

I find some things hard to understand so perhaps someone would explain them to me:-

  1. Why the fear of losing some economic prosperity is more important than the reality of losing democracy and freedom.
  2. Why Members of Parliament feel free to act against the wishes of the majority of people in the UK having previously promised faithfully to put into effect the wishes of the majority.
  3. Why Parliament feels justified in enacting legislation that significantly weakens the UK’s position in negotiations with the EU.
  4. Why it is inaccurate to describe the legislation in 3 above as an act of surrender.

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.