Sound and Fury

Signifying nothing

Brief thoughts on global warming

with one comment

I was in the pub yesterday and the topic of global warming came up. Here are some quick points motivated by that discussion.

  • Given the variety of environments the Earth has presented in its past, given the range of temperatures etc that have obtained on the Earth at some point in its history, the differences that even the most alarmist climate change advocates throw about are pretty darn small. That’s not the issue. The issue is that this tiny change is catastrophic from the point of view of human survival.
  • The question is not really “Have humans caused global warming?” but “Is the warming phenomenon real and is it harmful to our survival?” And if the answer to that question is “yes and yes” then the next question is “What can we do about it?” The question of carbon emissions etc. causing global warming is only an issue insofar as it gives us an account of a mechanism that might be warming the world. And knowledge of that mechanism might help us to deal with the problem. If carbon emissions are contributing to warming, and if the warming is a threat to our survival, then cutting emissions might slow or stop the process thereby prolonging our survival.
  • The idea that global warming is going to end all life on Earth is pretty ludicrous. If they had shoulders, certain extremophiles would be shrugging them right now. I’m sure Pyrococcus furiosus are no strangers to nonchalance.
  • I think real action on global warming is going to be driven by financial incentives. Eventually a confluence of factors including improved renewables technology, depletion of oil reserves and increased demand for energy will cause some kind of renewable energy to become significantly cheaper to produce and distribute than fossil fuels are to extract and refine. Until that day, things will continue pretty much as they are now.
  • That’s not to say I’m a climate change sceptic. I turn of the lights when I leave the house, use public transport, I take the train rather than fly*. But I’m a cynic and a fatalist when it comes to humanity’s capacity to change without big big shocks forcing the change. Which I guess was sort of the message of The Day the Earth Stood Still…


* turning off lights saves me money on my electricity bill, I don’t have a license, so I have no alternative to public transport and anyway who’d drive round central London? I take the Eurostar because I don’t believe the plane is faster or more convenient once you factor in time spent in security, being there 2 hours in advance travelling to Stansted, travelling from “Brussels South” to the centre of Brussels etc.
And while it may be possible to get flights cheaper, the Eurostar experience is a good deal less unpleasant than the god-awful Ryanair. And anyway, Ryanair isn’t that much cheaper most of the time. Also no baggage weight limit on Eurostar. But despite all that my intentions are to do those little green things I am capable of doing (as long as the don’t inconvenience me too much or cost me anything).


Written by Seamus

January 16, 2009 at 5:01 pm

One Response

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  1. I agree, real action has to be motivated by financial incentive (especially in a – mostly – capitalist world). The big problem/issue though stopping this at the moment is the amount of money & power that oil and associated polluting industries have, and the pressure they wield on governments and decision-makers, and even on ordinary people through advertising. How do we overcome that kind of thing is what I’m trying to discover.

    Just one of my bugbears…the 1p flight advertising by Ryanair that you mention, and as a result so many people just dont believe that going by Eurostar can be cheaper and more convenient, let alone consider that it’s more environmentally friendly. Almost everyone now believes it’s their “right” to jet off multiple times a year to destinations on short breaks when even 10 years ago people wouldn’t have considered this at all.


    January 16, 2009 at 5:49 pm

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