Sunday, September 25, 2005

The environmental debate

My open letter to Mr. Bush sparked off some very lively responses, some of which were posted as comments on this blog.

There is certainly no unananimity as to whether the warming climate of this planet is a part of a natural cycle, or caused by carbon emissions, or something in between - i.e. it's getting warmer anyway, but man made emissions are making it hotter quicker.

Prof Sir John Lawton, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, said the intensity of the recent hurricanes was caused by water in the Gulf of Mexico being warmer than usual and was consistent with the latest scientific predictions of how the climate will behave as a result of man-made warming (which is what I said) counteracting the US 'climate loonies'.

Prof Sir David King, UK Government chief scientific advisor, has recently said that climate change is a far greater threat to the United States than International terrorism (with which I concur). This, from the BBC

The National Review Online has slammed Professor King for his petulant invasion of a climate conference in Moscow - get the story here.

Yet Tony Blair is now changing his pro-Kyoto stance and falling in line with George Bush (as usual) - see The Independent, Sept 25th

Popular TV botanist David Bellamy has weighed in on the subject calling all the talk of global warming "poppycock."

Can we have some honesty here? Please. With such a wide divergence of views, even amongt the scientific community, we have to look for the subtext - the real reason people make decisions.

Bush hates being tied down by international agreements. He always wants the US to be the superpower doing its own righteous thing. Kyoto was not his call and he had other priorities, like the economy. He and his advisors were too shortsighted to realize that, awful though the possibility of further mainland terrorism will be, it will never cost as much as the hurricanes, tornados, floods and fires that impact the United States every year. Thus Homeland Security was looking the wrong way when Katrina arrived.

Inasmuch as the cyclical arguments for global warming are undeniably valid the Administration had ample scientific cover for it's rejection of Kyoto. This provides rationale for all others who prefer not to face the implications of man's interference with his environment. It's a prejudice thing - sorry. Suck it up.

(See also this very good presentation of the North Atlantic Oscillation - NAO . It adds to the complexity of the debate.)

It is endemic in careful science that experts avoid going out on a limb by undue extrapolation of results into areas of statistical uncertainty. So of course many scientist are cautious about saying global warming is anything more than a natural cycle. But we cannot classify TV naturalist David Bellamy as a careful scientist. He is a typical, over-the-top, pompous commentator full of humbug. His words are wild and extreme.

Tony Blair has changed his tune, but not because of his own scientific advisors. No - GW got to him.

Time for yet more honesty.

First - I really believe that Bush (and now Blair) have a point. International accords, like Kyoto, tend not to work very well. But the recognition of the problem and a joint endeavour to engage in some sort of solution is not a complete waste of time. Even if "Kyoto" is only a buzzword to allude to a massive problem, as least we all know what it is.

Second - few people (even Americans) know just how advanced is American technology in attacking the problem of carbon emissions. The new wave of power generation plants now being developed will be able to process fossil fuels of all kinds with almost zero sum carbon emissions, at the same time harnessing all the chemical by-products for other industrial uses. This is not so technical you will not understand it. Notice, some of it is President Bush's initiative. I can give credit where credit is due!

Thus Blair is also now saying that market forces and private industry will do a better job of reducing emissions than impossible international obligations that would cripple emerging economies if they tried to implement them. Geez, you had better be right.

Lastly, I still believe the environment is a way bigger problem than terrorism. Katrina has just delivered that wake-up call. And hurricane Rita had Bush hopping all over the place trying to look as though he really is on the ball. It was kinda obvious!