by Colin Creasey
I toyed with the idea of not responding to Dr. Jo-Anne Bell’s latest article on climate change. However, I am going to tilt at this particular windmill one more time. I see that she has taken up Jim Bertram’s mantra, that those of us who believe that climate change is happening have “ceased to think”. It plays to the mindset of climate change deniers that they are the only ones who know what they are talking about, and that the rest of us are incapable of rational thinking, including, presumably, the 97% of climate scientists who say that climate change is real. There is a particular arrogance in this attitude, particularly as she states that “climate science is in its infancy, and there is just too much that is not known”. If that is indeed the case, then how can she be so vociferous in denying it?
Shouldn’t we be erring on the side of caution?
The fact that there is only 0.0415% of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere keeps getting trotted out. This is actually a 48% increase since pre-industrial times, when it was 0.028%. I would suggest that the idea of pumping more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, because it is “greening our planet,” completely ignores the fact that we are destroying forests at an alarming rate to grow soy, canola oil, and to farm cattle. Forests are carbon sinks, and by destroying them, we are releasing all of that stored carbon back into the atmosphere.
Plants were doing extremely well before the Industrial Revolution, and doing it on two thirds of the current level of CO2. At this point, a quote from the Climate Institute seems appropriate: “The strength of the greenhouse effect – how much extra energy that it directs towards the earth’s surface – depends on how many greenhouse gas molecules there are in the atmosphere. When greenhouse gas concentrations are high, they absorb a greater percentage of the earth’s infrared energy emissions. This means that more energy gets remitted back towards the earth’s surface, raising its average surface temperature. The reverse is also true; taking CO2 out of the atmosphere would reduce the amount of infrared energy that it absorbs and cause the earth to cool.
Then there is the statement that carbon dioxide levels have increased in the last 20 years, but global temperatures have remained constant. At the beginning of her article, Dr. Bell states that there is no such thing as global temperature, yet she conveniently forgets that when she needs to make a point. She also states, “climate must be specified for a place and time period”. Fair enough, but when you add the local figures into the massive volumes that are our atmosphere and our oceans, then there should be little surprise that these overall figures don’t move much. That is little comfort to the people who are watching their livelihoods disappear as their ocean acidifies, and as their farmland turns to desert. All this is happening in a human lifetime. I remember acid rain and holes in the ozone layer. We knew we were responsible, and we did something to correct the problem. We didn’t completely solve it in all cases, but we did a pretty good job. The point was that we recognized the problem and did something about it. We are at that junction again, only now, the stakes are higher.
When the term, “natural occurrences”, is used, it is seldom noted that these have historically occurred over hundreds of years, if not thousands. When natural climate change occurred, people just got up and moved. With 8 billion people on the planet, that isn’t an option anymore. Our current problems started with the Industrial Revolution and have accelerated as populations grew. Mining, deforestation, the burning of fossil fuels, transportation, industrialisation, are all relatively recent practices that have had an impact on, not just us, but all other living creatures that share this planet with us. The natural world, on which we depend, has also been altered by our destruction of wildlife habitat, by pushing species to the brink of extinction with our wanton use of pesticides and herbicides, and killing wildlife with our addiction to single use plastics. Yet we are told not to worry about any of this. Things will sort themselves out.
Sorry, don’t believe any of it. It makes no sense to me to leave things to chance when we are also living beyond the carrying capacity of our planet. August 2 was the date last year when we took more from the planet than it could replenish in a single year, so for almost 5 months last year, we were using up the planet’s capital. That date gets earlier with each successive year, meaning that there will be less and less for future generations.
To do nothing about any of this is not an option if we care about what kind of planet our grandchildren are going to inherit. There is a cartoon going around in the media that I think sums it all up. The scene is at a climate change conference, and one delegate is saying to another “What if all this is a hoax, and we are making the world a better place for nothing?” Yeah, what if?