Tsunami of Nonsense

When disaster strikes, it’s only human to attribute blame. In the middle of the last millennium, the pope blamed witches for the ‘little Ice Age’ that was giving Europe a chilly embrace. Thanks to his no doubt well-meaning concern, a brutal witch-hunt was unleashed. As temperatures dropped, trials of witches increased.

Five centuries later, the world’s climate is changing again. Witches are still blamed in Tanzania and individuals are persecuted. In the developed world, we no longer believe in witches. But hyperbole and blame remain an integral part of climate debate.

Climate change campaigner George Monbiot says global warming’s effects will be as devastating as a nuclear war.

Celebrity activist Al Gore believes global warming is a “planetary emergency.” He gives humanity just one decade to “avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves.”

The claims from activists come so quickly that it’s a challenge to look carefully at each of them. Campaigners like Gore and Monbiot are responsible for a staggering tsunami of exaggerated claims.

Like the tsunami that struck South-East Asia in 2004, this one has captured the world’s attention. And like the south-east Asian tsunami – which caused the same number of deaths as two months of easily curable infectious diseases in the continent – it has caused the world to divert attention from other major challenges.

Other planetary emergencies include malaria, HIV/Aids, starvation, dysentery, corruption and conflict. Malaria researchers don’t make lurid, baseless predictions that the disease will wipe out the entire world. Yet we wholeheartedly accept arrant nonsense to be spread in the name of combating climate change.

British scientist James Lovelock claims that “before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.” Mainstream climatologists entirely disagree. The consensus opinion among climate experts is that average temperatures will rise over the next century by about 2.6 degrees Celsius.

There will be more fatalities caused by the heat. We hear about that every time there’s a heat-wave in Europe. But there will be many fewer deaths in winter – a side of the story that we seldom hear mentioned.

Sea levels will rise. But the rise of about 12 inches will be no more than the oceans rose in the past 150 years. It’s a problem but not a catastrophe.

As I argue in my book, Cool It, global warming is one of many problems facing the world. We should have a dialogue about which issue to tackle first.

A British think-tank analyzed the debate on climate change and found that the media, government and environmental groups depict global warming as “awesome, terrible, immense and beyond human control,” using “inflated or extreme” language including a “quasi-religious register of death and doom.”

The fear of Armageddon stifles sensible dialogue. Those who dare question the alarmist rhetoric are labeled “climate change deniers.” This is typically used as a catch-all for anybody who doesn’t accept the standard interpretation that mankind is to blame for global warming and that we should cut CO2 emissions dramatically.

Proponents of such drastic cuts seldom mention their cost. Read Al Gore’s entire book and watch his whole movie. You won’t find a single mention of the cost of seriously addressing global warming.

The best estimate is that the Kyoto Protocol will stop about 4,000 heat-caused deaths in developing nations by the middle of this century. This will come at the humongous cost of $180 billion. Without the Kyoto Protocol, there would be many, many fewer cold-related deaths.

Monbiot – who is preparing for the nuclear war-style effects from climate change – believes it is amoral to work out whether climate change really is the most urgent challenge facing humanity. He asks if an airline steward should “be sacrificed every time someone in Ethiopia dies of hunger?”

Sacrificing a life for a life might seem logical to Monbiot – but I think it’s more reasonable to concentrate on saving as many lives as possible.

Each dollar we spend on a project has flow-on effects. Some social ills, like HIV/Aids and malnutrition, have insidious and expensive effects on society. When people spend $5 to offset a ton of CO2 in a bid to ward off climate change, they benefit the world to the tune of around $2. But the same $5 spent on HIV/Aids prevention could have caused $200 worth of social good – or $150 from a malaria elimination program.

We shouldn’t ignore climate change. It makes sense to invest in research to make zero-carbon energy cheaper in the future: a ten-fold increase in our spending would be much more efficient than Kyoto and still cost almost 10 times less. It makes sense to ground ourselves with a sensible dialogue on how to best help the planet. It doesn’t make sense to succumb to the tidal wave of nonsense that comes with climate change today.

One on-line editor has compiled a list of more than three hundred problems that the popular press has attributed to global warming, from allergies to maple syrup shortages to yellow fever. Who says we no longer believe in witches?


Appeared in the Vancouver Sun

Categories: Climate Change
Anton Nieuwenhuizen

Written by:Anton Nieuwenhuizen All posts by the author

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