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June 29, 2005

G8 Gleneagles Fiasco: a sceptic's account of global warming and its humbugs

Posted by Richard D. North

Following on from his series of arguments on G8, Live8 and Africa, Richard D. North - the author of Rich is Beautiful: A Very Personal Defence of Mass Affluence - presents a series of arguments on G8 and Global Warming: G8 Gleneagles Fiasco: a sceptic's account of global warming and its humbug.

Do you believe man-made global warming is big and bad?
If you do believe in it you'd better change your life
There is no wriggle-room

What should governments do about global warming?
The difficulties for governments
Has Mr Blair talked well about climate change?
The political "problem"

So what's the problem with taking action on global warming?
The technological opportunities

Let's get real about global warming
Here's some hairy propositions
Few people take global warming seriously
Even those people who do take GW seriously, don't

Global warming pain for gain sums
Does Kyoto matter?
Is the US serious about GW?

Is global warming happening?
What are the effects so far?
What does the present climate say about the future?
How urgent is action in Britain?

Why do people become climate change deniers?
Why do people become "sceptics" or "contrarians"?

The global warming "mainstream" is deeply political
The inadequacy of the IPCC "consensus": #1
The inadequacy of the IPCC "consensus": #2

The quality of the global warming debate
The role of the scientific establishment

Why I do believe in doing something about global warming
Some right-wing remarks

Almost everyone says that global warming (GW) matters because it will produce serious climate change (CC). What's more, they say that the West especially should take immediate and strong action to avert the disaster.

This series of ten short articles challenges many of these assumptions. It does so from the point of view that the famous UN IPCC "consensus" on GW and CC has something to recommend it.

These articles are not by a climate change "denier" (I can readily believe it is happening). It is, however, by someone who is called a "contrarian", and is happy to be labelled a sceptic. It stresses that there is a good deal of naivety and humbug in calls for immediate and dramatic action.

The articles come from a "conservative" perspective. That's to say, I believe that wherever possible, the State should stay out of matters, that responsibilities are usually personal, and that the majority of people are not as kind or generous to strangers as the left expects them to be.

So here is a guide to the practical, political and moral dimensions to global warming and what we should do about it.

For those short of time or patience, here is my conclusion. The more you believe the mainstream consensus, the more you are morally compelled to act. In a state of mild scepticism (mine), one is required to accept some cost and inconvenience to help the GW effort. But not much. Let's hope it's enough (though it may of course be too much).

Do you believe man-made global warming is big and bad?
Here are some propositions about global warming:
It is the worst damage our species has yet caused;
The poor of the world will disproportionately suffer its worst effects;
Westerners cause at least ten times their "just" amount of greenhouse gas.

If you do believe in it you'd better change your life
It's official. The above propositions are all mainstream positions. Anyone who agrees with them ought to buy energy-efficient bulbs, cancel their next long-haul flight and buy a very small car and use it very little. He or she should shop locally, buying locally-produced goods. Cut out meat. Bath in a few inches of water. (Never mind, granny says she had the time of life in the Second World War.)

It is reasonable to suppose that anyone not taking at least most of these measures does not believe the mainstream, UN consensus view of GW. He or she is flying in the face of the clear demands of Professor Sir David King, the UK government's chief scientist.

People who believe but don't act are being, by their own lights, profoundly immoral.

There is no wriggle-room
One might argue that individuals cannot make much difference to the world's warming. This won't do, if one accepts the mainstream view. This is that every ounce of greenhouse gas adds to the warming problem and thus contributes to the suffering future generations will endure. Each mile in the plane or car, each notch of the house or office thermostat equates to more suffering (more death by drought, more drowning, etc).

A large proportion of the greenhouse gas emissions of Westerners is voluntary and a matter of luxuries willingly indulged in. One can't say the government hasn't warned us: its official warnings are as clear as the death certificate written on every cigarette packet. One can't say there are no alternatives: everyday, we could make easy choices which would reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

One could make one's own reductions whilst vigorously campaigning amongst one's neighbours, friends and work-mates that they make theirs, and for these issues to be on party manifestoes.

Richard D. North is the author of Rich is Beautiful: A Very Personal Defence of Mass Affluence.

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