If you are to believe politicians and movie stars, then planet earth is warming up and it is all our fault. However the real “inconvenient truth” is that all within the scientific community do not all agree that global warming is caused by human activity alone and many climate scientists suggest the planet is not heating up at all. So is there a danger we are focusing on the wrong threat?
One of the most worrying aspects about the global warming debate is there seems to be a whole army of people around who have suddenly become climate scientists even if they have absolutely no background at all in any science. This leads to debates which are high on emotion but low on facts.
Another concern is that the global warming movement is evolving into almost a cult with Al Gore out and about spreading the message of impending doom like some fanatical evangelist. It seems that losing the election to George W. Bush really messed with Al’s wiring….. he has never been the same since. I wonder if he flies economy class as he jets around leaving his own carbon footprint on the planet?
My own view is that the whole global warming debate is still just that, a debate. The climate change alarmists have scored some major public relation victories, but in terms of science there are a lot of holes in their theory. We should listen carefully to both side of the debate and be wary of being pushed into a course of action based on fear.
Finally there is a least some debate now about the science behind global warming theory in Australia and this account of a meeting between Senator Senator Steve Fielding and the Minister of Climate Change, Senator Penny Wong, on 15 June 2009 is very interesting.
Maybe our carbon dioxide emissions are causing the planet to warm, but what if we are wrong? Could we be focusing on the wrong threat? After all back in the 1970’s many scientists thought we were on the verge of another Ice Age and in fact we are indeed overdue for another big freeze. I wonder what we will do when the next cycle of planet cooling comes along – start pumping CO2 into the atmosphere?
So what could be possibly worse than the planet warming up? (as it has done before mind you) Well a few things come to mind:
A Global Pandemic.
I am not talking about a SAR’s or Swine Flu type outbreak but something more on the scale of the Spanish Flu which killed somewhere between 50 and 100 million people. It is quite amazing that few people actually know much about the Spanish Flu but if we were to have a similar outbreak today, the death toll could be much higher.
Thanks to air travel viruses can spread around the world in just a few days and due to urbanisation we are all living nice and close, making it easier for a virus to be transmitted from person to another.
Just think about how Australia would handle an infection where say one in three people were infected? Our hospitals would be unable to cope, the death toll would be high and the economy would virtually grind to a halt. Our nation is probably not even prepared for an outbreak half as bad as the Spanish Flu, but never fear we are funding a Clean Coal Research Institute! Yes when the next pandemic hits we can all take comfort in the fact that at least when we burn our fossil fuels we hide the emissions underground.
In theory you can migrate and escape much of the impact of global warming, but there is nowhere on the planet where masses of people can hide from a virus.
So maybe we should be a little more worried viruses than CO2?
Further reading: Where Will the Next Pandemic Emerge? Discover Magazine. October 27, 2008.
I might be a supporter of nuclear power but I see absolutely no reason why any country has nuclear weapons. It seems as every year passes another nation gets a nuke and this cannot be a good thing.
Personally the idea of the North Koreans having nuclear weapons is more of a concern to me than the oceans rising a touch. Higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere really do not seem to be in the same league as the destruction that would be caused if nuclear weapons were used again. Maybe we should be more focused on getting everyone (that includes the U.S.) to send these weapons to the scrap heap of history?
Further Reading: Current World Nuclear Arsenals. Center for Defence Information. www.cdi.org
Far more humans have died as a result of wars than from any natural disasters and in the future, wars are sadly still likely to kill more people than rising temperatures ever will. (well at least until the sun implodes) The only thing that has possibly killed more people is disease. (so this another reason to beef up our protection against viruses!)
I am not living in a fantasy land and trying to suggest that we can stop all wars suddenly, but it seems to me that trying to prevent us from killing each other should be a little higher up in the order of importance than trying to battle the possible changes that human activity MAY be causing to the earth’s climate.
We could start by sorting out the assortment of rebel groups and nut-case rulers in Africa. A little stability in Africa would not only save ten of thousands of lives that would be otherwise lost due to conflict but in addition, people could actually start working the land in these conflict zones and save thousands more by increasing food production.
I know that trying to solve the world’s armed conflicts is a tall order but so is changing the climate, but I guess it is more hip to eat a meal by candlelight during Earth Hour than to tackle anything really serious.
Further Reading: Fifty years of violent war deaths from Vietnam to Bosnia. BMJ. June 19th 2008.
I am not saying that using more renewable energy is a bad thing, it isn’t and it makes perfect sense to me that we should reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. I am also not against reducing pollution or trying to pump less CO2 into the atmosphere as these also appear to be fairly sensible long term objectives.
But I do worry that we are now becoming so obsessed with the climate change/global warming story that we are failing to appreciate there are much bigger problems and that these are potentially a much bigger threat to humankind than a return to the warm old days.
Should cutting back greenhouse gas emissions take precedence over developing our defences against future pandemics , eliminating nuclear weapons or trying to reduce armed conflict across the world? I think not.