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Climate change: why I don’t go along with all that hot air in Bali

OFF to Bali the week after next? Me neither. Truth is, I wasn’t invited. Nor do I suspect were very many other people invited who don’t subscribe to the climate change "consensus". (How can you have a consensus that people don’t go along with?)

In actual fact, the more I read and hear about the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Conference in Bali — why Bali and not Birmingham, I wonder? — the more confused I become. What does it take to be accepted into the ranks of the righteous?

Simply to believe that the world is warming up a bit? Or is it an article of faith that we are all going to roast in hell if left to our own devices? I guess another tenet of the Church of Latter Day Socialists is that global warming is man-made. But are there degrees of acceptable observance?

Is a belief that it’s partly man-made enough to get you an interview at the pearly gates? Or is it necessary to sign up completely and unequivocally to the notion that white men in suits who make and sell things are the source of all evil? For the record, I am not a "climate change denier", some 21st century Pharisee.

At the same time, I do have an aesthetic problem with thousands of the world’s capitalism-hating do-gooders jetting to the sublimely beautiful island of Bali and enjoying the five-star creature comforts while lecturing the rest of us about our manifest wickedness for daring to drive or fly or, worst of all, question their non-existent consensus.

The actual facts about climate change are few and far between; the theories and predictions many and varied. The world has indeed heated up — a bit. The reason has not been proved. Nor is it possible to say whether the trend will continue at the same rate, stay the same, or slow down.

Furthermore, scientists — not just the ones invited to live it up in Bali — aren’t agreed as to how great a part human activity has to play.

Where I probably differ from almost everyone going to Bali is in my belief that mankind is generally a force for good in the world. Does that mean I want the earth to be raped? Far from it. Minimising our negative impacts on the environment is, surely, an imperative.

The apocalyptic scenarios might even be borne out (though I somehow doubt it). And even if the more moderate predictions prove to be wrong, three things are beyond doubt.

We are exhausting known reserves of fossil fuels that will run out one day. We are (in many parts of the globe) abstracting too much water for human use, and this accelerating consumption cannot continue. And we are running out of places to put all the rubbish we are generating.

You only need to be convinced of these three truths for it to follow that the search for sources of energy that do not involve combustion and for ways of conserving and reusing water, and minimising and recycling waste, must be prudent. Unfortunately for the eco-warriors, though, we are going to need to engage the world of business to help us.

Giving up our worldly goods and building ourselves a bivouac each isn’t a very realistic option.

If they want to believe today’s hurricanes and ice melts are bigger and more worrying because they are part of man’s inhumanity to man, that’s up them. The truth is that the earth has lived through hotter times than today, long, long before Messrs Benz and Whittle enabled us to drive and fly fast, respectively.

What’s more, if everyone in the EU and US stopped driving cars and gave up air conditioning tomorrow, there would still be great storms in the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay of Bengal. If our carbon outputs were halved, there would still be earthquakes threatening Tokyo or San Francisco and the possibility of tsunamis in distant oceans.

Still, no sensible person wants to live in a dirty world. The colossal scale of population growth in recent decades does mean that we humans should seek to manage our impact on the natural world. It was right to manage noxious gases out of vehicle exhausts. Equally, it is sensible to control our carbon outputs.

But we are not going to stop the people of Asia or Latin America seeking the lifestyles we have gained for ourselves.

We cannot disinvent the combustion engine or central heating. Indeed, some of the strongest advocates of green policies are also convinced we should do more to help the developing world to grow, offering them some of the prosperity we have created for ourselves.

But instead of turning puritan and telling the west it is time to abandon the car and foreign travel, we need to speed up the introduction of new technologies that will offer the world the gains in lifestyle we expect with less waste material.

Irish greens often argue for massive investment in public transport. But Chinese and Indian people are not stupid. They know cars take people door-to-door at a time of their choosing; trains take them from station-to-station at a time of someone else’s choosing. We could spend untold billions bringing our rail network up to the standard in India, but it is not going to stop every Indian family wanting four wheels. The breakthrough needed is flexible personal transport that does not produce so much waste. Hybrid cars that double the fuel efficiency of the typical family car are already with us; hydrogen-propelled cars emitting no carbon dioxide at all are just around the corner. We need a similar passion to solve the problem of keeping ourselves warm in winter and cool in summer.

Once we have these better technologies, we need to export them to the developing world so they can skip the dirty phase we went through with our domestic and transport revolutions.

THIS can be encouraged in the west by the tried and tested method of tax incentives. It was tax breaks that removed lead from petrol. It could be beefed-up tax incentives to buy and run more fuel efficient vehicles and heating systems that take us to our next environmental success.

This still leaves the question of industry, including power generation. If China and India press on with their vast coal-fired power station building programmes, European efforts will hardly register. The west needs to do a deal with these two emerging giants on sharing clean technology to power Asian development. Some combination of alternative energy and, yes, nuclear power will be needed to contain the rate of growth in carbon waste.

Too many people think that setting a few tougher targets for carbon emissions will solve the problem. Ireland’s appalling record of agreeing targets, and then failing to meet them, proves that.

Governments can set as many targets as they like, but they will not stop people driving to the shops or running a bath. The question is how this is powered, not whether it needs to be done at all.

The international development and climate change activists have never explained how we can speed the world out of poverty, while simultaneously cutting carbon emissions. I humbly suggest only more, better technology — not less — can achieve these aims.

 

Climate change: why I don’t go along with all that hot air in Bali

OFF to Bali the week after next? Me neither. Truth is, I wasn’t invited. Nor do I suspect were very many other people invited who don’t subscribe to the climate change "consensus". (How can you have a consensus that people don’t go along with?)

In actual fact, the more I read and hear about the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Conference in Bali — why Bali and not Birmingham, I wonder? — the more confused I become. What does it take to be accepted into the ranks of the righteous?

Simply to believe that the world is warming up a bit? Or is it an article of faith that we are all going to roast in hell if left to our own devices? I guess another tenet of the Church of Latter Day Socialists is that global warming is man-made. But are there degrees of acceptable observance?

Is a belief that it’s partly man-made enough to get you an interview at the pearly gates? Or is it necessary to sign up completely and unequivocally to the notion that white men in suits who make and sell things are the source of all evil? For the record, I am not a "climate change denier", some 21st century Pharisee.

At the same time, I do have an aesthetic problem with thousands of the world’s capitalism-hating do-gooders jetting to the sublimely beautiful island of Bali and enjoying the five-star creature comforts while lecturing the rest of us about our manifest wickedness for daring to drive or fly or, worst of all, question their non-existent consensus.

The actual facts about climate change are few and far between; the theories and predictions many and varied. The world has indeed heated up — a bit. The reason has not been proved. Nor is it possible to say whether the trend will continue at the same rate, stay the same, or slow down.

Furthermore, scientists — not just the ones invited to live it up in Bali — aren’t agreed as to how great a part human activity has to play.

Where I probably differ from almost everyone going to Bali is in my belief that mankind is generally a force for good in the world. Does that mean I want the earth to be raped? Far from it. Minimising our negative impacts on the environment is, surely, an imperative.

The apocalyptic scenarios might even be borne out (though I somehow doubt it). And even if the more moderate predictions prove to be wrong, three things are beyond doubt.

We are exhausting known reserves of fossil fuels that will run out one day. We are (in many parts of the globe) abstracting too much water for human use, and this accelerating consumption cannot continue. And we are running out of places to put all the rubbish we are generating.

You only need to be convinced of these three truths for it to follow that the search for sources of energy that do not involve combustion and for ways of conserving and reusing water, and minimising and recycling waste, must be prudent. Unfortunately for the eco-warriors, though, we are going to need to engage the world of business to help us.

Giving up our worldly goods and building ourselves a bivouac each isn’t a very realistic option.

If they want to believe today’s hurricanes and ice melts are bigger and more worrying because they are part of man’s inhumanity to man, that’s up them. The truth is that the earth has lived through hotter times than today, long, long before Messrs Benz and Whittle enabled us to drive and fly fast, respectively.

What’s more, if everyone in the EU and US stopped driving cars and gave up air conditioning tomorrow, there would still be great storms in the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay of Bengal. If our carbon outputs were halved, there would still be earthquakes threatening Tokyo or San Francisco and the possibility of tsunamis in distant oceans.

Still, no sensible person wants to live in a dirty world. The colossal scale of population growth in recent decades does mean that we humans should seek to manage our impact on the natural world. It was right to manage noxious gases out of vehicle exhausts. Equally, it is sensible to control our carbon outputs.

But we are not going to stop the people of Asia or Latin America seeking the lifestyles we have gained for ourselves.

We cannot disinvent the combustion engine or central heating. Indeed, some of the strongest advocates of green policies are also convinced we should do more to help the developing world to grow, offering them some of the prosperity we have created for ourselves.

But instead of turning puritan and telling the west it is time to abandon the car and foreign travel, we need to speed up the introduction of new technologies that will offer the world the gains in lifestyle we expect with less waste material.

Irish greens often argue for massive investment in public transport. But Chinese and Indian people are not stupid. They know cars take people door-to-door at a time of their choosing; trains take them from station-to-station at a time of someone else’s choosing. We could spend untold billions bringing our rail network up to the standard in India, but it is not going to stop every Indian family wanting four wheels. The breakthrough needed is flexible personal transport that does not produce so much waste. Hybrid cars that double the fuel efficiency of the typical family car are already with us; hydrogen-propelled cars emitting no carbon dioxide at all are just around the corner. We need a similar passion to solve the problem of keeping ourselves warm in winter and cool in summer.

Once we have these better technologies, we need to export them to the developing world so they can skip the dirty phase we went through with our domestic and transport revolutions.

THIS can be encouraged in the west by the tried and tested method of tax incentives. It was tax breaks that removed lead from petrol. It could be beefed-up tax incentives to buy and run more fuel efficient vehicles and heating systems that take us to our next environmental success.

This still leaves the question of industry, including power generation. If China and India press on with their vast coal-fired power station building programmes, European efforts will hardly register. The west needs to do a deal with these two emerging giants on sharing clean technology to power Asian development. Some combination of alternative energy and, yes, nuclear power will be needed to contain the rate of growth in carbon waste.

Too many people think that setting a few tougher targets for carbon emissions will solve the problem. Ireland’s appalling record of agreeing targets, and then failing to meet them, proves that.

Governments can set as many targets as they like, but they will not stop people driving to the shops or running a bath. The question is how this is powered, not whether it needs to be done at all.

The international development and climate change activists have never explained how we can speed the world out of poverty, while simultaneously cutting carbon emissions. I humbly suggest only more, better technology — not less — can achieve these aims.