Hardly original, but…. A small number of arguments against doing anything about climate change get eternally repeated.
“CO2 is a natural product, produced from respiration, would you alarmists ban people from breathing?“
CO2 like a lot of other substances is absolutely necessary at low levels. At high enough levels (say 15% or so) it is poisonous to humans – which is why putting your head in a completely intact plastic bag, and sealing it around your neck, is not a good idea.
If there is enough CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, then they act like blankets on beds, and trap the heat in. The person in the bed gets warmer. The areas under the Greenhouse gasses get warmer. The basic science of this has been known for over 100 years. It has not been successfully overthrown, or falsified, in all that time, which is pretty impressive for a theory.
All the respiratory creatures in the world breathing together are not a problem as they have evolved within the system over a long period of time – that system was reasonably balanced; we recently have disrupted that balance. There is no need to worry about breathing, unless you are worrying about breathing in particulate pollution from massive forest fires, coal dust from coal trains, fumes from coal burning, smog from car exhausts, and so on; that is often quite harmful, and should be worried about.
“There is only a small amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, it cannot have any significant effect. Why is this only a problem now?“
We might have only increased the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere a small amount, but in complex systems sometimes small changes have large results. That is just life.
The real problem is the rate of change. In the last 70 years we have massively increased greenhouse gas emissions. In the first decade of this century we doubled world coal consumption. An article I read today, argued that Global CO2 emissions have grown by 62% since 1990, and we were currently on track to beat last years record emissions. This increase stresses the natural systems, a stress which is increased by deforestation, ocean acidification and so on, all of which lessen the capacity for draw down of the emissions. There are a lot of factors at play, such as methane discharge, which make the consequences worse than they might have been otherwise.
We have not been burning fossil fuels for that long. Previously, people did notice the hideous smog pollution in cities from the burning of coal; London was famous for its ‘pea-soupers,’ and people died of respiratory complaints generated by the smog. This was fixed in the 1950s, and pollution lowered. It is still a problem in many cities.
Fossil fuel burning is releasing hundreds of millions of years of accumulated and stored carbon into the atmosphere in a very short period of time. The earth system is extremely unlikely to be able to cope with this, any more than your body system might if you drank an alcoholic’s life-time’s worth of alcohol in half an hour.
“Humans are too puny to destroy the world.”
Let us hope so, but we have no evidence for that position always being true. Anyway, we are not talking about destroying the world, just about it being altered enough to undermine current civilisation and its comforts.
Humans have changed and destroyed environments repeatedly, often completely destroying their own societies in the process. Now we have the opportunity to do it globally.
While we are not predicting that all humans will die, it is true the world will happily go on without humans.
“Climate changes Naturally“
Yes it does. That does not mean humans are not changing it now, or that climate change is always going to be gradual and easy to deal with.
Climate can change as a result of events such as volcanic action, large enough meteorite strike, rotation of the magnetic fields, levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The fact that climate can change because of these kind of events, suggests that it is also possible that humans could change climate. Indeed, the idea of solar radiation management, depends on the idea that humans can change climate.
“Life flourished when CO2 Levels have been much higher than they are in any foreseeable future.“
True. Life will flourish eventually under almost any circumstances: the previous five great extinctions show that. I’m just not sure human life, of the kind that we have now, could flourish during the unstable transition period. And some geological period’s climates would seem to have generated conditions which could have been difficult for humans to survive in, without biological change.
“Climate is complex you cannot predict what will happen. You can’t even predict the weather next week with certainty. Saying climate change is going to destroy us is extravagant alarmism. It won’t happen.“
It is true that climate forms a complex system. However, that does not mean you cannot make any predictions at all. You can often predict trends, even while you cannot predict specific events at particular times. It is quite legitimate to expect that weather will be colder in Winter than in Summer. It is also legitimate to predict that weather will become more tumultuous and intense, with increasing warming, while not being able to predict the weather in a specific place in a year or more.
If climate is complex, which it is, I don’t understand how ‘skeptics’, can be so certain that we can have no effect on it, and that any change won’t be too bad.
“All the models have failed and there is no proof of climate change, and no proof that CO2 is responsible.“
That depends on what you count as proof. I find the evidence and theory pretty persuasive myself, although it is true that I am not qualified in climate science. It is also true that some of the predictions have seriously underestimated the changes that are happening.
An increase in rates of warming will make things worse, that’s just logic: it cannot make things better.
We are already getting runs of temperatures in Australia, which can make survival without air conditioning difficult, and certainly lowers the amount of day time work people can do outside. The water losses we are suffering from could be primarily arising because of financialisation of the water supply, rather than climate change, but society can always make things worse. Drought will increase the severity and spread of bushfires. For some reason some governments are refusing to prepare for climate disruptions. This seems to be a bad idea – we generally prepare for forecasted threats even if they are relatively unlikely and small scale.
“Global Warming is just a theory.”
Yes. That is true. It is a theory on which a lot of work has been done, and most people who are experienced in the field, think that it is pretty good, and that the facts seem to support it.
That there is no global warming, that global warming is entirely natural, that we cannot do anything about it, and that climate change is not that bad, are equally theories, even if some people think they are true. Most people who are more qualified than me to make pronouncements on the issue, do not think these particular theories are correct or that there is much evidence for them. You may know better of course, and let us hope that you are correct, but we cannot be certain you are.
“I’ve found this paper which disproves global warming. It shows it’s all a hoax.”
If true, that’s a massive amount of work to be done in one paper. If the paper is that revolutionary it will certainly make the author’s name and be noticed in the field.
Where was it published? Is that a name journal reviewed by other climate scientists, a pay to be published journal or some think-tank journal?
What does it actually argue? Sometimes the connection between these supposedly path breaking articles and humanly generated climate change is not that great. I have been shown supposedly revolutionary, articles which are said to argue that climate change has occurred without human intervention. Yes, that’s true. No big deal, it does not mean human acts cannot produce climate change. Or someone might say this article shows that climate models ignore some obvious feature of climate (like cloud cover). I don’t know enough about the models to say for sure, but if it is obvious and ignored, I’m pretty sure someone will factor it into a model now and run them to see what results are produced. That is the point, science is meant to improve with criticism; if the article is good, then some people in the field will probably take up the ideas.
Sometimes we will hear that one set of measurements completely refutes climate change. This is improbable. If we used the sets of measurements I gathered in high-school physics then Newtonian mechanics is inaccurate as well. The data which allows us to say climate change is happening comes from a large variety of sources, and was made by many different groups, and checked by many different groups, and the correlations between different data sources would be examined. Scientists are not inherently more stupid than non-scientists. Given that climate is a complex system, it would not be surprising if some sets of data where anomalous or surprising. Again, it is the general trend that is important, one set of results proves nothing. It could have been warmer in one part of the polar circle in the past than it is now, while it was colder everywhere else.
I don’t actually know the consequences of one paper or one set of results, but I suspect the person bringing it forward does not either.
“AGW is a religion in which faith is enough.”
It seems to me that there is no proof that civilisation can survive growing ecological destruction and climate change either. Thinking that we can do so without any change in the ways we live is a matter of faith, as it does not depend on the best knowledge that we have.
In fact, it depends on the best knowledge that we have being completely wrong. That may even be true, but I would not want to risk the fate of my children and myself on such an assumption.
“Climate change is global socialist conspiracy to get the State to control us…“
That many solutions to climate change involve some kind of change in capitalism does not mean that climate change is a socialist conspiracy, it just means that, on the whole, pro-capitalist thinkers and politicians can’t, or won’t, deal with the problem, or they can’t see a way out without changing something they want to keep. If you really don’t want a ‘socialist solution’, then work towards a solution which pleases you (surely you are smart enough); and this does not mean leaving it to fossil fuel companies to decide not to make a last ditch profit out of burning and pollution.
Anyway, were the socialist 1950s to 60s with their high tax rates, extension of political participation and expanded social security really that terrible? I don’t think so. Socialism is just about increasing the participation and influence of ordinary people on the State, and that is what happened. It does not aim at control of the people, but it does oppose leaving rulership to the liberty of capitalist elites and their cronies. But, by all means choose something else.
By the way, those anti-recognising-global-warming types do seem quite prepared to use the State to threaten and control people who want to do something – so as that could be seen as a State based infringement of liberty, how about you help stop them?
“Scientists are conspiring to produce junk science“
Do you have any real evidence for that, other than a lot of scientists agree that the evidence supports a proposition that you don’t like?
Have you ever met any scientists? Do you know how unlikely it is that all climate scientists are socialists? The whole career path of many scientists is based on the idea that they will discover something new and overthrow some piece of established science. They don’t sit around trying to figure out how to ignore data that is contrary to other people’s research. In my experience they can spend all night arguing about some obscure piece of stuff, that nobody cares about. They don’t all have great social skills, and they seem unlikely to manage to get a group of people scattered all over the world, with no particular connection (except membership in some scientific body to get a bit of prestige), to agree on anything, certainly not something political. Unless, that is, they think the theory and data are true. Let’s also be real here, how many people outside science actually read scientific papers? They have almost no commercial or popular pull. Scientists, on the whole would be lousy politicians.
On the other hand fossil fuel companies are linked by organisations whose sole purpose is to promote sales of fossil fuels and make them look good. They are notorious for trying to gain political advantage for themselves, teaming up to deceive people and buy politicians to implement their will. They are prone to bribery, corruption, threat, taking tax payers’ money and refusing to clean up after themselves. They routinely lie about the extent of the damage they cause and the ease of fixing it up. We know, they have known about climate change and ignored the data, because it would affect them economically. Exxon is currently in court over this. They have interests in commercial media and can, to a large extent, control the stories that people hear. They have connections with other businesses which also work towards complete corporate domination over the political process disguised as ‘free market’ think tanks. Think of the Atlas Network for example.
Unlike scientists they have the tradition, the money, the motivation, the power, the ability and the organization to conspire.
Is it more likely that a disorganized bunch of nerds has managed to deliberately scare the world for obscure political purposes, or that a bunch of powerful well connected companies are trying to deceive you about the danger to keep their profit going?
I’d say, any realistic political worldview would choose the fossil fuel companies as the most likely villains.
“You just want to pull down capitalism, or society, or do something unpleasant.“
No. I want to avoid the ecological destruction that arises from our success, and I would rather that production, and the extraction of resources, does not poison humans or other creatures, and make it impossible for current societies to continue to improve. Let’s face it, if climate change does keep coming, the results will be very unpleasant.
“Lots of good things are happening in the world, like poverty reduction, and you want to stop them”
The idea that we can have lots of good things happening, does not mean that no bad, or disastrous, things can be happening at the same time.
However, the bad things which are likely to happen because of climate change will almost certainly primarily affect the world’s poor in the initial stages. So if you really do care about poverty, then you would probably want to stop climate change.
“The Socialist agenda of AGW types, means that solutions cannot be debated on merit. The politicisation has driven the Right away.”
Personally, I would expect people to try and solve problems in accordance with their normal social and political agenda. It is not as if the Right has never done this. They usually apply their neoliberal agenda to everything.
However, with this problem, they have rather oddly insisted on doing nothing and pretending the problem does not exist. They offer no solutions, they don’t even promote adaptation. They did not have to do this, and they would not normally deal with problems in this manner.
This unusual behaviour cannot be blamed on the Left. How could the Left force them to do nothing? – that was their own decision; they should take responsibility for it rather than excuse themselves by blaming others for their own actions. Blaming others is just more politicization of the reality.
“I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.“
and “We all admit that Climate is changeable and variable. There is nothing new here”
This is perhaps a uniquely Australian objection. However if Australia is subject to floods, droughts, bushfires and variable and extreme weather events, then we can expect that climate change and other ecological destruction (forest clearing, fracking, massive water use in mines, building over fertile land, etc.) will make the situation worse.
Therefore it would be sensible to prepare for longer droughts, bigger floods, and earlier, more intense and widespread bushfires. We need to train more fire fighters, and have the military trained and ready to help. It would be good to prepare country towns for longer water shortages and to make sure rivers flow rather than get held back for industrial crops which require huge amounts of water, and where the profit all ends up overseas. We need to stop mining under catchment areas, so that our water does not disappear down cracks. We may need more solar or wind powered desalination plants (rather than mock the few we have as unnecessary alarmism). We possibly need to protect endangered wildlife and scenic areas as well, if we want to retain our tourist potential. And we may need to change farming techniques to retain soil fertility and reduce moisture loss.
To keep Australia economically functional we cannot pretend that climate change is unlikely to have any significant effects on the country because the country is ‘harsh’. The harshness means we have to look after it better, and expect even wilder turns. Things are not the same as they were, even if we neglect climate change – larger population (as encouraged by both sides of politics) is also adding strains given the way we organise our ecology. We need to think hard about the way we live in our country.
“Its not our fault, we make only a small amount of emissions, so there is no reason for us to do anything, it won’t make any difference.”
See Only 1.3%
While Australia only emits 1.3–4% of global emissions, this puts us in the highest emitters per head of population, and we export masses of coal and gas which also increases emissions elsewhere in the world, so Australia is directly responsible for a lot of the pressures leading to runaway climate change.
Basically if wealthy developed countries can’t be bothered to cut their emissions, then we cannot expect poorer, still developing countries to be careful about their emissions either. The most likely result or our refusing to do anything, is that it will encourage us to encourage others to do nothing, and embolden others to refuse to do anything, and climate change really will get out of hand.
It is often difficult to set a good example, but that does not mean it should not be done.