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June 29, 2005

Let's get real about global warming

Posted by Richard D. North

Richard D. North - the author of Rich is Beautiful: A Very Personal Defence of Mass Affluence - continues his series on G8 and Global Warming: G8 Gleneagles Fiasco: a sceptic's account of global warming and its humbugs.

Let's get real about global warming
Here are some propositions about global warming (GW):
It may well do very little damage to the world's economy overall;
We may be on the brink of a point of no return;
The Third World's emissions will soon match the West's;
Small reductions in emissions will have small effects.

These are all real-world statements which can be found in the mouths of committed, consensus, mainstream proponents of the GW scare. It may be that GW causes great difficulties for a relatively small proportion of the world's people, but not to the rest. It may be that the world's climate is set irreversibly on a course such that no action now can do much about it. It may be that the poor people of the world insist on their right to continue the West's traditions of using the cheapest fuels available. It may be that people believe that one way or another the world will not quickly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions quickly.

People who believe some of these propositions may believe that they ought to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gas, because every little may help. But will they? How fiercely would you denounce a laggard who did a little bit, but did not get very highly-energised, granted that it really really might make vanishingly little difference? I mean that the token activity may be redundant as well as insignificant.

Here's some hairy propositions
Here are some propositions about global warming:
GW may be a roller-coaster ride with good and bad things happening;
GW may be a roller-coaster ride not much hairier than nature would have given us;
We need to fill the planet with rich, resourceful people who can hang on well.

These are the views of some of those people branded as "contrarians" and "sceptics". One can believe much of the mainstream consensus view and come to these conclusions (though they are definitely not mainstream views).

Someone who held these views would not take warmly to much cost or inconvenience for GW policy.

Few people take global warming seriously
Actually, of course, strong state action on GW is recommended by the same sort of people who believe in high taxes, European integration, affirmative action, and other forms of social engineering by the state.

The Western public would, on current evidence, accept very little pain over GW.

A sketch on GW would go as follows. The public vaguely trusts the sort of people who say GW is a big deal. "Ordinary people" tell you things such as: "Yes, the ozone hole is warming the planet" (a remark as radically false as it is commonplace), or "I do my recycling, and think everyone should do more" (though household recycling bears no obvious relation to GW). The public believe that GW is caused by industry, which must clean up its pollution. They do, seem vaguely to believe that their own consumption has something to do with it. But what? And so what?

Even those people who do take GW seriously, don't
Many people who believe extreme accounts of how awful GW is, do nothing serious to curb their own emissions, or the emissions of people they are responsible for. They moan about the hegemony of Food Miles, the indolence of government, and they ride their bikes to work, insulate their lofts, and buy energy-efficient fridges. But these predominately middle class cognoscenti buy houses (sometimes in pairs, one abroad) and cars (often in pairs) as large as they can afford. They travel and do so for greater distances than the "ordinary person".

In short, even a shard of the kind of inconvenience they believe should be mandated for the whole of society is largely spurned by them, who acknowledge that they are thoughtful, informed, worried and socially-active.

We cannot easily forgive their humbug. But we can see that it is possible that their indolence will do little harm.

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

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