Mario Di Simine

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Copenhagen Climate Conference: Who is right?

December 4, 2009

CANADA/Ask anyone about climate change and you likely will get the kind of emotional response not seen since George W Bush left office. People on both sides of the debate – from politicians and scientists to your regular Joe on the street – are often adamantly in one camp or the other, with little wriggle room in between.

The majority of the camp believes that Mother Nature is indeed terribly sick, and that humankind is the virus that caused the disease. The symptoms are a climate that is warming to such a degree we are faced with certain calamity if we don’t do something about it.

Sounds alarming, doesn’t it?

On the other side, are the folks who say the climate is not warming at all or that, if it is, it is a natural phenomenon that will correct itself. In other words, Mother Nature can heal herself, if she’s even sick. To spend billions trying to do what Earth can do itself is folly, pure and simple, and will lead to economic ruin for many developing nations.

Sounds alarming, doesn’t it?

Al Gore’s Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth arguably raised the temperature on the debate by bringing a simple clear message to the masses. It sent shivers down spines on both sides – those on the “yay” side applauded it for setting out the data and evidence they claim are indisputable truths about global warming. NY Times reviewer David Edelstein called it “devastating in its implications”.  The naysayers derided it as a concoction that played fast and loose with the facts. (See National Geographic’s scorecard on the claims made in the film here )

Bjorn Lomborg , author of the “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and “Cool It” and one of the experts on the panel that will be answering our Question of the Day during the Copenhagen conference, doesn’t deny the climate is changing. He says that if saving people ultimately is the goal, then spend the money where it does the most good: eradicating poverty and bolstering economies in the developing world, which would have greater immediate impact than billions spent on big schemes that ultimately may do little.

At the other end of the spectrum are those who completely deny there is a problem at all. The Huffington Post was so worried about the influence of these folks that it created a slideshow feature on it’s “Most Dangerous Climate Change Deniers.”

The same article pointed to a recent survey that showed the number of Americans who believe there is solid evidence the world is getting warmer has dropped to 57 percent, down 20 points in three years.

I’ll be at the Copenhagen Climate Conference (Dec 7-18) with, where the world’s political and environmental leaders will try to hammer out a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol. I’ll be following the debate both inside the meeting rooms and halls of the Bella Center and outside on the streets of the city.

In the meantime, I’d like to know where you stand. What is your view on climate change, how has it changed over time and will the Copenhagen conference change anything?

8 comments so far

I don’t really understand why folks set up the debate as if it’s one or the other: spend money on decelerating climate change, versus spend money on eradicating poverty and bolstering economies in the developing world. They are both possible, and both important.

What folks like Lomborg don’t talk about is this: decelerating climate change is a money *saver*, not a money sink. Most of the reason we think we need to debate the intricacies of these issues is because we are being dumb.

Example. Electricity costs 12.5 cents/kWh. Buying a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) costs $3 and lasts for 10,000 hours, saving 450 kWh over the course of its lifetime. So the cost per kWh? A little under a penny per kWh, or a ten-fold savings. Lomborg should want to do this *whether or not* he believes climate change is real or important. This and other similar interventions are no-brainers, are more impactful than people often think, and save huge amounts of money with returns on investment within a few months.

On the other side of the argument, Millennium Development Goal #1 is to Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger by 2015. So how much does it cost to do this? When I took a conference on strategies for achieving the MDGs a while back, I remember a figure around $30 billion for the U.S. contribution to this goal, and Heifer International cites various sources estimating that our part would be between $25-36 billion / year. Either way, this is basically nothing.

Contrast this with how much the U.S. spends on the *dieting* industry: $40 billion per year, according to Business Week. Stats like this are nearly incredible to me. Do most Americans know this?

Achieving both of these important world goals (and others), does not rely, at least at first, on heady debates. It relies, first, on us not being dumb. And then on recognizing the enormous financial opportunity inherent in a switch to smarter policies and actions, whether on energy, climate change, or nation development.

Chuck Michelson, Founder, Oil is Dumb,

- Posted by Chuck Michelson

climate change is a hoax.
Obama is a usurper.
abortion is murder.
evolution never happened.

Throw all of the above into a giant stew and we have the basis for the N.W.O. (if you don’t know what that stands for then clearly you are a sheep!)

rabble! rabble! rabble! rabble!

- Posted by John Haythorn

Well, this is just the problem. It’s too emotional, it’s too politicized, it’s too everything.
This is a the greatest crisis any life form has faced since (no, not sliced bread, although that was a good guess) the extinction of the dinosaurs. But it is one only science can explain, if at all (emails et all notwithstanding).
Yes, there is a political component, obviously, if we want anything written into law to “convince” the less convinced to get off their, uh, you know what; and how could it not be emotional, especially with so many people simply turning the other way, choosing ignorance and denial, thereby canceling out much of the efforts of the more willing and enlightened.
No matter, nothing will get done until cooler heads prevail and we start focusing.
It may not be too early to panic, if only we could do it in unison.

- Posted by Laz

I am an American living in Eastern Europe. I teach English to technical professionals part-time. We were discussing this subject earlier this week. One senior programmer told me that he thought the whole climate change fiasco (his words) was driven by scientists trying to get lots of money for their research! He also said we need lots more data on the issue before we can make any choices. I asked him how many years more data were required. His answer … at least 500 years! I said in 500 years there may not be any people left to record the data to which he accused me of being naive and hysterical.

His answer, however, brings up a very basic point. We are attempting to correct a problem which has very little real data to support it. We only have 100 years worth of reliable temperature data so much of the science is looking at secondary effects and extrapolating from that into a climate model which can predict what comes next. I personally believe the climate is changing and we need to make an effort to correct it before we reach a point where really serious issues start to emerge. This is not a time when we can wait until there is 100% agreement (something that will probably never happen). We need to make sure our science is as good as it can be and then make decisions based on best ideas and theories. Waiting for that wonderful consensus to emerge may delay action until we have run out of options.

- Posted by C. Curtis Dillon

Climate-Gate proved that scientists and politicians are making millions corrupting data and pushing a sense of urgency onto a mis-informed public. It amuses me that lefties want to prosecute the person that leaked the data while those that deliberately withheld the data breaking the freedom of information act law should go scott free. What doesn’t amuse me is the sense that American’s are some sort of parasites and we must pay out of pocket for harming the planet. A Reuters article states that individually an American’s carbon footprint is much greater than the Chinese. But it doesn’t take into account there are a Billion Chinese. Surely such numbers water down the statistics. In conclusion, modern science cannot predict so much as when and where the next hurricane will strike so I’m extremely skeptical that anyone has the ability to predict Global Warming with any degree of certainty. So far I see it as a cash cow for scientists and politicians. Period.

- Posted by GLK

What many people are still missing even in this article is Climategate. It is real and the truth of the faked and doctored science is in the files of data, backed up by the hacked emails.
We do not know the perfect climate of this planet especially since the planet has been both warmer and colder during the reign of man. Not to mention it has been warmer and colder before man got here. How are we so smart to know what the perfect climate is?
The problem with Global Warming is that it is full of holes not to mention that when all of this started back in the 1960’s and 1970’s it was called Global Cooling because the same leaders in this movement said we were heading into another ice age and it was man’s fault. Then in the 1980’s when there was no evidence of cooling it got switched to Global Warming.
No to mention, we could stop 90% of pollution within a decade with the technology we have now. This is not about the climate, it is about wealth transfer and control over peoples lives. Period.

- Posted by Rod Eccles

An Australian politician – A GW sceptic – recently remarked to the effect that lefties never got over their disappointment with the collapse of communism, and latched unto environmentalism as a replacement for their authoritarian impulses. In other words, Green is the new Red. Being an enviro-sceptic myself and, frankly, an ardent conservative, this Aussie pol strikes me as right-on in his assessment. ‘Climate Justice’ indeed!

- Posted by gotthardbahn

Rod Eccles, Nicola Tesla and many other scientists back in the late 1800s speculated that the industrial revolution’s spewing of coal emissions in the air might warm up the atmosphere. They were unsure of the oceans ability to absorb atmospheric gases hence the buffering affect. This lack of knowledge left science unable to determine how increased CO2 would affect the Earth based on the amount of carbon being emitted. One thing they all agreed on, oxygen cools and carbon warms by robbing oxygen from any environment by form carbon oxygen molecules(CO,CO2,C12…).

WW II naval oceanographer Roger Revel lead the ground breaking work of actually measuring CO2 and Oxygen beginning in the 1957. He also determined the oceans ability to absorb and sequester CO2. First year chemistry students are all required to learn this. It is called the Revel Factor. The work is still being carried on today. CO2 has been increasing every year but 1961. CO2 levels have gone from 300 pm to about 375 ppm during this 50 year time period. A 25% increase. That same time period we have seen roughly a 40% decline in glacial ice and an increase in desertification.

I won’t argue if this is anthropogenic or natural. However this massive CO2 build up is advancing rapidly. Paleo archaeology is clear. High concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is always accompanied by mass extinction.
It is correct to say that the Earth has the ability to heal herself. The time frame though is in millions of years for glacial ice(the fesh water source) and temperate climates to return.
As animals over 20 kilos rarely survive through Earth’s many mass extinctions, I would say humanities chance of continued survival without altering fossil fuel usage is in question.

Do not take my word for this. I believe Roger Revel founded the school of atmospheric studies at Scrips Institute of Oceanography in the early 1950s. I urge you to visit their website and archive the work he started that still continues today. Then come back to us and tell us what you think.

- Posted by eddieblack