This blog contains material I wrote and posted on multiply.com between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).
Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Response to Global Warming Deniers
Sometimes, some lines of argument reveal more about the people making those arguments than the points they are advancing...
Let’s take two different lines of argument advanced by two different lots of the deny-global-warming brigade:
The first lot:
One frequent assertion of the people who love to pretend, for reasons I shall discuss in a moment, that there’s no such thing as global warming is this: global warming doesn’t exist. If it does exist, it isn’t due to the activities of human beings. And even if it is the activities of human beings that is causing it, it’s likely to be a good thing because the melting of all that ice will free up so many natural resources for exploitation, and so on and so forth. Now there are some governments which love to subscribe, officially at least, to this theory. Y’know, how the resources opened up will benefit the nation, and how people up north will save because they won’t have to heat their houses any more, and so on.
It requires very little intelligence to see that there is a lot wrong with this line of “argument”. Now, unless one’s one of the lot who love to imagine that the Day of Judgement is about to arrive, one expects that the planet is likely to endure till the sun turns into a red giant about five thousand million years from now. Accordingly, the resources “freed up” by global warming will need to last at least five thousand million years or until some kind of technology is developed which needs no resources, or at least so few resources that the new resources freed up will last at least that vast majority of humanity which does not emigrate to other planets for five thousand million years. Right? Now can anyone believe that this is likely to happen, especially as these same governments spend far more money and effort in the race to secure resources than in the attempt to develop even marginally less wasteful technologies?
Then there is the little point that the planet isn’t warming up in little patches, of course; whatever the reason behind global warming, the planet is warming up as a whole. It might seem obvious to you and to me, but not to these ladies and gentlemen. If the north warms up, the south does so too. And the majority of the world’s people live in the equatorial regions, so if the Arctic and Antarctic warm up, you can probably agree with me that the equatorial region is liable to warm up a sight more.
What happens if it warms up? Well, one of the obvious (to you and me) consequences is the massive reduction of crop yields because of many factors, some of which can be briefly described as under:
First, the patterns of ocean currents will be badly disturbed by warming of the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps leading to the entry of huge amounts of fresh cold water into the seas. The ocean currents are responsible for a very large portion of global rainfall. You disturb the currents, you disturb that rainfall, and you destroy crops worldwide, most of which are still dependent on rainfall for irrigation.
Second, because many of these crops exist in places with little seasonal temperature variations, a sharp rise in temperature is liable to kill them off, because crops domesticated over thousands of years lose what resistance they had in the wild to change of conditions.
Third, the melting of the ice caps will raise ocean levels and flood coastal lands all over. More people worldwide live on the coasts than do inland, and, especially in poorer and more crowded lands, there is liable to be not much space for them to move to. Coastal crop yields will vanish.
Then there are the other deleterious effects of global warming on equatorial people: not only famine due to reducing crop yields, but hunger/drought/flooding induced migration and conflict, fighting over land and water and food, rampant disease (usually a bigger killer in low-technology fighting than combat itself), and even deaths from heatstroke. All this can be safely predicted, as can be predicted that the governments eulogising global warming will do nothing to mitigate these effects or help these people. Of course, those same governments will never even mention that these things will happen. We can call this the “I got mine Jack” line of thinking. It’s short term and stupid, because the resources will run out anyway, and because of course the adverse effects of global warming won’t fail to affect them as well.
While the second lot of global warming deniers lack any official support, unlike the first lot, their line of argument is even more interesting and even more self-delusional. Although also global warming deniers, they are on the surface the enemies of the first lot. Their line of argument goes like this: global warming does not exist. It is only a scaremongering tactic thought up by a few rich nations as a way of committing genocide against the poorer nations of the world!
(That, by the way, is an argument put forward by a faction of the anti-abortion hypocrites in the US too: that abortion is a weapon used to reduce the populations of poor non-white minorities. Therefore poor non-white minorities should avoid abortion and have more and more children, ensuring they remain poor forever.)
Anyway, to get back to the main point: these people aver that global warming is a plot to divert crops to biofuels and so on and to deny poor countries the good things of life, by restricting their ownership of cars and so on. Yesterday I read one of the shining lights of this lot of intellectuals claim that anti-global warming activists like Al Gore were “killers by starvation of Third World children” (As an aside: I didn’t see any comment by her against the much more direct killing of children by Zionazi bombs and the like, in case you’re wondering).
Superficially it’s plausible, because there’s a quite undeniable taint of racism in the line of thinking that goes “If all Indian and Chinese people buy their own cars then the world will go under, so we must stop them from buying their own cars”. But this second lot of global warming deniers don’t stop at pointing out that line of racism; they go quite a bit further. They claim, more or less, that global warming is a plot to deny those Indians and Chinese their own cars. They claim, quite correctly, that diverting grain production to produce biofuels will decrease the availability of food supply. This is something anyone with any sense can say (people with sense don’t include adherents of the first line of argument, above) – but they have never advocated that the rich nations reduce their ultra-conspicuous consumption levels. Instead, they want to protect and even increase those consumption levels, and in order to do so they argue that, in effect, such consumption levels are everyone’s birthright and that anyone who wants to reduce those consumption levels is a racist plotter against the so-called “Third World”.
So just how do they claim that global warming is a myth?
The commonest claim goes like this: “We had twenty inches (sic) of snow this time, and the temperature dropped to minus twenty degrees Farenheit (sic), so the claim that global warming exists is hogwash.” It’s a very superficial claim, because these people are incapable of non-superficial thought. Anyone with sense and a little bit of knowledge will point out that global warming isn’t calculated by a few hot or cold days in the north of the US or the extreme south of Tierra del Fuego; it’s astatistical reading of average temperatures worldwide, and on any such graph global warming isn’t just a reality, it’s advancing at a frightening rate. The indicators: disintegration of the ice sheets, desertification, dropping food yields – are undeniable unless you find a way to pretend that it all doesn’t exist either.
Another way to deny global warming is a hunt for some “scientist” (of the same variety that denied evolution, said cigarette smoking was healthy and claimed the splitting of the atom was “Jewish Science”, I suppose) who claims global warming is a myth. You can almost feel the triumph of these deniers when they encounter such a “scientist”: they hold him up as a trophy. “See, we found one who agrees with us!”
Then there is the bit about the “Third World”, a term I find highly insulting, and which thinking people would do well to avoid. But let that pass for the moment: the main point is that these people don’t seem troubled by the actual parameters by which the “Third World” remains underdeveloped. They aren’t bothered by the lack of schools or hospitals. They are – allegedly - bothered by the idea that the people of the “Third World” shouldn’t each have a car of his or her own.
I suppose it’s as good a place as any to say this – if you provide access to schools and medical care, the average “Third World” lifestyle is far more sustainable than a “First World” one. A hundred people crammed into a bus, even if it’s a polluting, smoke belching museum piece, is better than a hundred separate cars on the street. A few chickens scratching around in the dirt and providing the family with eggs and meat is better than a chemical fed, hormone-zombie of a battery hen. A social support network is superior to any number of insurance schemes and psychoanalysis that you can lay on. There is nothing shameful about recycling things as long as they can be recycled, either, instead of disposing of things after half a use. And this is the truth. But all this is of no value to these ladies and gentlemen. For them, the “Third World” is irredeemable unless it can be made a copy of the “First World” in its material consumption; or, to put it another way, they would rather carry on with their own lifestyles because interrupting them would mean that the right of the “Third World” to catch up is being denied.
I’ve said the first lot were “I’ve got mine Jack” thinkers, implicitly racist. The second lot are at least as racist, probably more. And, unlike the first lot, who are upfront about what they want, they’re hypocritical to the bone.