Climate Change: Calls for CO2 reductions are a political force
JOHANNESBURG - The topic of global warming and climate change is far more scientifically complex than the public is led to believe.
Newspaper, magazine and TV items over decades have tended to simplify the science to the point at which the general public believes that it is all so simple that any fool can see what is happening.
Public groups often accuse world leaders and scientists of being fools, if they do not instantly act on simple messages. One hears phrases like: 'The science is settled.' It is not. Even more worrying is that the reality of the correct science is very different to much of the simple public perception.
An additional complicating factor is that there are political groupings wanting to change the world social order and who are using the climate issue as a means to achieve these objectives. They want the 'science' to say what they want it to say. Sections of the public, with noble good intentions, then do not realise that they are being induced to unwittingly support a political agenda, which in reality is unrelated to the climate issue.
I found myself in an informal social climate debate with some people getting rather heated.
The political aspects of the climate change issue, as always, entered into the discussion. Points like: 'saving mankind from disaster' were made with much emotion, and UN and various political votes on the science were referred to, as if a political vote settled the scientific facts. Sadly, so much of the climate debate is the result of votes, and not of sound science as determined by the scientific protocols which have been developed over centuries.
The heated social debate, which I referred to, jumped and jolted from point to point. One moment it was science, then politics, then economics; all generating rather random comment. People with no scientific qualifications were claiming equal right to a scientific opinion, in competition to the opinions of those of the qualified scientists present.
A result of all this was that I later wrote a numbered list of points. The numbered list contained science, politics and economics points and I listed them in some logical sequence, to my mind. I emailed the list to a number of interested people and it was well received. So I enhanced the list, and it was published in three parts:
It is not intended to be totally complete and it does not contain all the scientific references that would have been inserted for a scientific paper. I wanted to make it easy reading. I believe that it presents a useful guideline to the nature of worldwide climate debate which has huge economic consequences. Politicians, bankers and business people have significant power with respect to the national and international outcomes, but tend to be exposed largely to the daily ‘street science’ on the topic. So we really do need to get the facts and the real science into the various debates, in their correct perspective.
The whole climate change social phenomenon going on around the world is an interesting occurrence in human psychology. It is a mixture of science; psychology; mysticism; politics; and group adherence.
The challenge is to separate one from the other.
Without doubt, where we find ourselves now is that calls for CO2 reduction are a political force, whether the argument is scientifically valid or not.
However, what is inescapable is that outcomes resulting from climate debates are having a massive economic and social impact.
There are calls from the greens to drastically reduce air travel and to ban the eating of red meat, supposedly to 'save the planet.' Many of these moves seem to be aimed at the wealthier segments of society and so gain some sympathy, but frequently some of the hardest hit are those who work in these industries, and also people in developing societies in Africa and elsewhere.
Developing societies are the ones who are told to not emulate 'the foolish first world who use too much energy,' and instead of using a tractor and metal plough to prepare the land rather use an ox and a handmade wooden plough, because that is 'living in harmony with nature.' They are also told that such action avoids using polluting diesel fuel, and does not emit CO2 from the tractor exhaust. I have been present when European greens have told rural African women to carry water from the river in buckets and not to use diesel or electrical pumps, to save the CO2 emissions.
Nations which are less than 20% electrified are told to limit electricity expansion and to use intermittent solar and wind power to advance their economies into the 21st Century. Where is the morality in this?
Undoubtedly we need to protect our planet, it is our home. But we need to address the real problems such as litter clogging rivers, irresponsible chemical emissions into waterways, the massive international rhino and elephant poaching operations, the fishing operations of some countries which plunder the coastal strips of other countries, so depriving the locals of their traditional source of income. In Somaliland some of these impoverished fishermen who found their fish stocks severely depleted by foreign fishing fleets, turned to piracy on the high seas instead. It is not moral for first world countries to curtail or block mining operations in African countries which export raw materials, but then to tell them to import computers and TVs from the first world.
It is not moral to induce developing countries and others to become dependent on energy from wind turbines which are supplied by only a few first world companies. Even more immoral is when this is done on the basis of claims of a scientific legitimacy and consensus, when in fact this claim is highly suspect and in many cases demonstrably incorrect.
It is really bad when gangland tactics are used to attempt to silence opposing voices, to the point at which scientists and media editors are dismissed from their jobs for contradicting an alarmist climate political position. For centuries the concept of the truth of genuine science and of true logical thought has been championed. It is time that those honourable objectives are given genuine stature. We need to get it right.
Dr Kelvin Kemm is a nuclear physicist and business strategist based in Pretoria, South Africa. He is CEO of Stratek Business Strategy Consultants. He does consultancy work in strategic development in energy, and also in other industrial and business systems.