Thursday, July 30, 2015

global warming - the King Canute option and the sensible option

James E McConnell, King Canute Defies the Waves.
It seems to me that most of the arguments over “climate change” miss the point. You can argue indefinitely about whether human actions have any influence on climate. Climate is so complicated that it is unlikely that we will ever know.

There are some much more important questions we need to ask. If climate does change is there anything we can do about it? If so, what exactly should we do?

Of course there is one thing we do know. Climate does change. We are living in the Quaternary Ice Age, characterised by a series of glacial periods and interglacial periods. Since there have been eight glacial cycles in the past 740,000 years it’s reasonable to assume there will be more. We also know there are short-term cycles, over a period of centuries, which produce events such as the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age.

We have no idea how far we are into our current interglacial period. It could come to an end in 100 years, 1,000 years or 10,000 years. We do not know if we are heading for the equivalent of another Medieval Warm Period or another Little Ice Age.

We do not know why ice ages occur. There are numerous hypotheses, all of them interesting and all of them unproven.

Given that climate change has occurred and will occur again, what can we do about it? We can try to stop the climate from changing. That would be astronomically expensive and probably about as effective as King Canute’s efforts to prevent the tide from coming in. The only difference is that Canute knew the effort was futile (he was demonstrating the powerlessness of man compared to the power of God). 

There is another option. We can learn to adapt. That would have two advantages - it would be a lot cheaper and it would probably work. If we want to be able to ride out changes in climate we need efficient agriculture, economic prosperity, high technology and plentiful supplies of cheap energy. The Little Ice Age caused a good deal of misery and a number of serious famines. With high technology and cheap abundant energy such misery could easily be avoided. With economic prosperity and enough cheap energy any change in climate would be survivable and would be survivable with minimal suffering.

Unfortunately the misguided attempts by politically motivated environmentalist fools to prevent the tide from coming in will have the effect of wrecking any chances of economic prosperity. And those same attempts will also deprive us of the cheap energy we will need. One thing we can say for an absolute certainty - solar power and wind power are abject failures. We need technologies that actually work, not pipe dreams.

We may have nothing to worry about. The next glacial period might be thousands of years away. Any climate change in the immediate future might be so mild as to be no problem at all. It doesn’t matter. If we concentrate on economic prosperity and cheap energy we’ll still be better off. On the other hand if we waste trillions of dollars on futile attempts to control the climate we could cause economic chaos which would result in untold human misery, and with nothing whatever to show for it.

For a country like Australia there is another point to consider. Nothing that Australia does will have the slightest effect on the climate. Even in the unlikely event that carbon emissions prove to be harmful our contribution is so insignificant as to be meaningless. We could sabotage our economy to placate the green scaremongers and it wouldn’t make the slightest difference anyway. On the other hand a prosperous Australia with plenty of cheap energy could be a beacon of hope. All we need are leaders smart enough to realise that giving in to the demands of warmist alarmists will do a great deal more harm than good. Unfortunately there is no sign of such smart leaders emerging. 

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