Wednesday, 23 December 2009

So Is Climate Change a Hoax?

The Copenhagen Summit was a costly affair and it is now over - no real deal has been ratified and the outcome was inconclusive. But was the whole shebang really necessary? Is Climate Change not a man-made phenomenon?

I have tackled this subject before and what strikes me is its immense complexity and its simplicity. The complexity revolves around the evidence to prove that Climate Change is actually occurring and, if so, how it is linked to human intervention. The simplicity is to argue that in all this earth's several billion year history there has been no other species like man to inhabit it who can cause nuclear explosions, pump noxious gases into the air, chemicals into rivers and oceans and consume vast tracts of natural resources and convert them into materials and energy. Man's existence has only been concentrated into a very small part of recent history - as Carl Sagan famously put in his series 'Cosmos', if the history of the earth were expressed as a 365 day calendar then man first turned up after midday on 31 December; we are that new to the earth. Even more so, it has only been in the last couple of hundred years that man has started to become industrial and that has accelerated at an enormous rate as we consume ever greater amounts of natural resources.

It really is fairly obvious that our occupation on earth must have had some effect - it isn't that cerebral.

But there is a frightening issue underpinning the panic surrounding Climate Change. It is more likely that we will exhaust our bank of natural resources before we change the world's climate enough to kill off future generations - and that may well curtail their life expectancy anyway. Hubris around the subject is stoked up by people like Christopher Booker who fancies himself as a bit of a scientist - he claims the whole issue of Climate Change is bullshit.

He may know a thing or too about that. Famously, he declared, without any fundamental qualification or simple research, that white asbestos was identical in chemical make up as talcum powder and therefore as dangerous. True, white asbestos is the least virulent of the three types of asbestos, but it can still cause such terrible diseases as mesothelioma. As my father died of that disease due to working in an asbestos-laden environment, I find Booker's assertion as disgraceful. Anyone who has access to the internet, let alone a chemistry book, will tell you that talc and white asbestos are by no means identical, although the base formula may look similar to the untrained eye. Booker has also claimed in the past that breathing in the smoke of others does not cause cancer and that there is no proof that BSE causes vCJD in humans. You would think that he is the world's leading scientist rather than a Telegraph journalist and founder of Private Eye.

But there is the rub. Everyone who wants to bash the Climate Change argument just says that the issue is hokum because the evidence is forged - claiming that in fact the earth's temperature is actually going down, the Antarctic is getting colder and that CO2 levels are not the issue as they have no correlation to temperature levels. The new Freakonomics book argues that water vapour is more of a greenhouse gas than CO2 despite evidence that Venus has no such vapour but plenty of CO2 which actually keeps its temperature cooler than it should be because of its insulating capability.

I must admit that I sit somewhat on the fence as to the evidence - it is not conclusive other than the fact that we are enduring particularly high CO2 levels now and the seasons are definitely changing; you can see that clearly in when migrating birds re-appear or when flowers blossom.

Is this down to man? It may not be, but I tell you what, we are the smoking gun.

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