I wonder how they calculated all the multiple carbon footprints of the recent Paris Climate Change Conference? How did they offset the air miles generated by delegates travelling from the farthest corners of human habitation? Imagine, for example, how much carbon must have been generated in transporting delegates from all those island countries which are set to disappear because of global warming.
Then there’s the question of all those multi-course dinners the delegates will have enjoyed in Paris. The fare might have grown slightly less exotic once world leaders had departed the city but, in my experience, senior civil servants and NGOs don’t exactly stint themselves these days either. How did they deal with all the methane produced by well fed delegates, not to mention the biblical quantities of carbon dioxide emitted in the course of all that worthy sentiment?
Maybe there was a plan before things even started. Maybe the organisers had already put in place an ingenious scheme (or possibly a piece of miracle accounting, which these days is kind of the same thing), whereby the entire impact of the global shindig was somehow registered as carbon neutral.
I hate to sound negative or, God forbid, as if I’m a climate change denier. I have enough problems without being put in the stocks and pelted with carbon neutral eggs. It is simply that climate change is a religion – or at least a form of public piety – in which the great majority of people have lost faith.
It’s not that most people don’t believe climate change is happening. It is hard to ignore the reports of your eyes and skin. I live in a country that isn’t in any danger of disappearing under the Indian Ocean, but even here, extreme weather events – flooding, wildly fluctuating temperatures, processions of storms that last for weeks – have become almost expected.
Whether these events are as a result of human behaviour is something most people are probably a bit agnostic about. Probably, if you press someone who isn’t paid by an NGO or environmentally rapist corporation, they will speculate that climate change could be due to a number of factors, only one of which is human behaviour.
We are told repeatedly that ‘all of the science’ says global warming is happening and is directly as a result of human consumption of various noxious materials. Again, like nearly all of us, I’m not qualified to contradict even 1% of the science, but it’s important to point out what exactly we mean when we say ‘the science.’
Giant global assumptions about what is likely to happen in a system as complex and fantastically diverse as the climate of Planet Earth are only possible because of computer modelling. Basically, giant masses of raw data from all over the globe (from weather stations, field studies, pollution monitoring in cities etc.) are fed into computers which then model the statistics and generate predictions.
When the good and mighty tell us to have faith in ‘the science,’ they are actually telling us to have faith in computer modelling. Now, the great majority of us unthinkingly hand over our lives to computers every day. It’s always been much easier to simply press a button.
None of us, however, and scientists – whether they know or admit it or not – are no different, ultimately know just how reliable computer modelling is. Today’s computers are radically different from the computers which ran large parts of our lives ten years ago, the computers of ten years time will be different again. And climate is arguably the most difficult, the most complex and contradictory thing computers have ever been asked to model.
Currently, a great deal of social and health policy in western countries and elsewhere is based on statistical data which has at least partly been generated and interpreted by computers. There are a great many instances where the policies generated by these processes have turned out to be fantastically wrong.
Human beings are notoriously difficult to predict, it is incredibly easy to miss some obscure yet critical causal factor. Yet no one ever argues that the models need to be changed, that we need to supplement the analyses of computers with some kind of revised human paradigm. It’s always been much easier to let a button do the thinking for you.
But this isn’t the real reason why most of what has come out of Paris is likely to fail, and that our chances of averting the various predicted global catastrophes with actions taken in this decade are virtually zero.
The real reason is this: fairness. Your average consumer (civil servants prefer nowadays to label people as ‘consumers’ rather than ‘citizens,’ which in itself is interesting) may have always quailed at his tiny inability to do anything in the face of a global phenomenon – such as famine in Ethiopia or the plight of whales – but he was prepared to buy into it, to do his insignificant little bit: he isn’t anymore.
It used to be possible to sell global warming on the basis that ‘we are all in this together.’ It is not possible to rationally make this argument anymore.
The last global financial collapse and the consequences which flowed from it gave the lie to any notion that ‘we are in this together.’ When supposedly democratic governments in the west demonstrated their willingness to plunge tens of millions of their citizens into poverty in order to rescue the banks whose criminal behaviour had caused the crisis in the first place, it became very clear to everyone that we were not in it together, we are not in anything together.
Likewise, when the US and Britain turned international law on its head to grab oil resources in Iraq – with consequences that have bedevilled the world, and most recently the citizens of Paris, ever since – it became very clear that we are not in it together.
Before the Paris talks had concluded, your average ‘consumer’ knew that whatever sequence of platitudes emerged was likely to go heavy on him and be more or less ignored by powerful corporations. It really doesn’t matter in terms of global warming whether the ordinary consumer has to sort his refuse into eight separate compartments instead of three and then pay ever more exorbitant fees to private companies for the carrying away of said refuse; but someone is going to attempt to make him do it all.
Likewise, an alleged intention to conserve vital resources such as water has somehow morphed into a process whereby water has been commercialised, and consequent obscene profits are being made by water companies, all in the name of saving the planet?
Even the most challenged consumer sees through the bullshit by now, and that has fatal consequences for whatever Paris thinks it is trying to achieve. Even the most unaware of us has some knowledge that so called clean technologies – whereby humanity’s demands for energy could mostly be met without obvious damage to the planet – already exist.
If such technologies were properly pushed and resourced, then most of the alleged human causes of climate change would be removed, but it turns out that there’s still loads of oil in the ground, and still loads of money to be made by those who never think they have enough.