Caution: it’s raining and I haven’t been out of the house all day, so this is a bit of a long ranty post that’s been rattling round my head for some time. I also have a feeling I’m going to regret this…
There was a time, back in January, when I started to wonder just what I was doing bothering with initiatives like 1010. Copenhagen had collapsed into acrimony, and it seemed that we weren’t even going to get a bad deal, let alone one that was going to save the planet from a 2°C rise in temperature. We’d been told in the run up that this was it, our last chance to save the planet but when the politicians duly didn’t save it, the response from everyone seemed to be one giant shrug. Where were the demonstrations on the streets, the rising sense of panic, the mass buying of sandbags against the coming floods, the stockpiling of bottled water? We were all too busy worrying about the big freeze and stockpiling salt instead.
So I began to reappraise. I wasn’t, personally, going to save the planet, even if I just lay down in a darkened room to die, breathing as shallowly as possible. The politicians weren’t going to save the planet – in fact, Copenhagen had shown that, with unusual honesty, they weren’t even going to pretend to save the planet. There was one tactic left: denial. After all, we were going through the coldest winter since the history of time, probably. And suddenly the news was full of dodgy climate scientists and dodgy climate dossiers. Maybe I had been brainwashed by reading the Guardian and listening to those damn green-pinkos (beigeos?) on the BBC. Assuming that they were both part of some vast conspiracy to make everyone give up driving and take up yoghurt whittling (and you know that makes sense), on what other evidence was I, personally, basing my belief in the need to cut CO2 emissions?
Well, it was this:
1. Back when I was doing my Geography O’Grade (and yes, that is a long time ago) my geography teacher Mr Mitchell explained about greenhouse gases and how they were heating up the planet. It made sense to me at the time, and Snitch was never, never wrong, except in his claim that Prestwick Airport was Fog Free. If greenhouse gases weren’t a problem then what else was up for debate? Tectonic plate theory? Latitudes and Longitudes? The world might, literally, be turned upside down.
2. I worked with a lot of scientists, not climate scientists admittedly, but biologists and ecologists and not one of them was anything but deeply worried about climate change. And that included all the Americans.
But, you know, maybe both Mr Mitchell and the vast majority of plant taxonomists were wrong. Maybe it was time to give the other side of the argument a whirl. After all, that way I could turn up the heating a bit and stop feeling so guilty everytime we drove anywhere when I could, technically, have cycled. I don’t think it was just me, either. Suddenly even the BBC and the Guardian were running stories that countered the new consensus about climate change. There was wild talk on Feedback (Feedback! The bastion of middle England) that stories were being suppressed by the BBC. So I had a look to find out what I had been missing without the (environmentally responsibly sourced organic fair trade) wool pulled over my eyes.
Well, they were these:
1. Some Himalayan glaciers aren’t melting as fast as the IPCC report said they would
2.The ‘hockey stick’ graph that shows temperatures shooting upwards was based on dodgy data.
3. The climate scientists have not been taking into account urbanisation affecting weather stations
4. Some climate scientists have been saying not very nice things about other people in emails
5. We’ve had the coldest winter since records began.
(Oh no, hang on, that last one wasn’t exactly supressed, it was reported ad nauseum from the moment the first flake of snow fell.)
Convinced? I think you’d have to try quite hard to make that add up to a thorough debunking of the yoghut whittlers’ conspiracy, even if you add in recent reports about arctic sea ice melt mostly being down to wind. The glaciers may not melt by 2035, but they’re melting all the same. Even if you take out the dodgy tree rings, we’re still looking at the warmest temperatures for a 1,000 years. And sea temperatures are rising as well as land temperatures and last time I looked, the sea hadn’t been particularly urbanised. Scientists being rude about other scientists? It’s as central to the whole process of doing science as peer review. I am prepared, if only for my own peace of mind, to think that the climate may be more resilient than some people fear, mainly because otherwise I start thinking about tipping points and runaway greenhouse gas emissions and I have to go back to the darkened room and whimper for a bit.
The truth is, like 99% of all people (and that includes you, dear reader, before you start up in the comments, unless you actually are a climate scientist) I know I don’t have the skills to make a judgement on this myself, so it’s back to where I started: whom do I believe, Mr Mitchell or some guy who works for an oil company? Well, I know what I think. And unfortunately, it means we’re all doomed.
So, how was your Wednesday?