Bester knows best, uh?

The Herald let Denise Bester loose on us the other day. She made me feel I’d been mugged by a cuddly toy. Not rigorously scientific, just echoing allegations from the global warming orthodoxy, and so naively confident in proposing ineffective, feel-good solutions incapable of affecting the climate that she must have a vested interest in the solutions. Right at the end we find out she does. She sells them.

It seems hard to believe that even with the mountain of evidence indicating that, yes, (emphatic nodding), human actions are to blame for the accelerated rate of climate change, the debate over this inconvenient truth goes on.

But it goes not on here — Denise is not debating; this is a sermon. Anybody thinking about what Denise has said must wonder what mountain of evidence she refers to and how, in the presence of a mountain of evidence, anybody could remain unpersuaded and thus become the target of emphatic nodding in a demonstration of the meaning of ‘yes’. Yet Denise intends to persuade without disclosing evidence — perhaps it’s confidential — for there’s just the nodding.

Climate change? Or global warming? Which one is it, Denise? And what is the evidence for change? The most significant change was, of course, the name — from global warming to climate change. Global warming wasn’t happening, as it hasn’t warmed for about ten years. There’s only one way for warming to go, and that’s up. Nobody’s interested in cooling. You can’t sell that. You can’t sell carbon credits for cooling. But change the name to climate change and you get instant success. Since climate always goes up or down, it’s changing. That’s what climate does! It has always changed, on all time scales — instant proof. How satisfying.

After you’ve given evidence of global warming, we must ask for evidence of an accelerated rate of change. Look at this graph of global temperature anomalies over the last 30 years, Denise, and tell us if you can see any acceleration.

UAH global temperature anomalies to June 2009

(Click for larger image)

If the temperature hasn’t gone up much, the question becomes, what “climate change” could it be responsible for? The answer is, “not much”.

While some in the scientific community are still denying the facts, the truth is that, regardless of who’s to blame, the climate is changing and if we don’t do anything about it we could soon end up in deep water — literally.

It’s easy to say, Denise, that some are “still” denying the facts, but without saying who and which facts they have been denying and for how long, it’s quite impossible to refute your statement. Which simply means that you’re not saying very much.

Then you have the temerity to say “regardless of who’s to blame”, as though any of us could seriously (i.e. measurably) affect the climate of the mighty Earth. Saying the climate is changing is akin to reminding us the Sun rises each morning and sets each evening. It’s nothing new. It’s what it does. To assert that we could do anything “about it” repeats the first mistake of assigning the climate change “blame” to us.

Some of us are thinking about what you’re saying, Denise.

Surely we can all agree that any changes made for the sake of climate change won’t be wasted if it turns out it was never in our control anyway?

That depends on the changes, and what they’ve cost us. The easy, feel-good changes you mention are all right: insulate your house, eat organic food and use vehicle transport less. They’ll do no harm and they might make people feel they’re making a contribution. But they won’t change the climate! They will have no measurable effect on the world’s temperature.

You might be interested to know that, if New Zealand instantly stopped using all fossil fuels tomorrow, the difference that made to the global temperature would be insignificant. For the next year, the next decade and the next century, we would look to see the results of our sacrifice in vain.

Of course, the cost would be horrendous. Can you imagine a society without the internal combustion engine? We’d regress to the Victorian era. Economically, we’d be ruined and our incomes become minuscule. Our electricity production would be more than halved. The potlines at the profitable Bluff aluminium smelter would go cold, but we might just stay alive with the smelter’s consumption redirected to our homes. But we’d have few exports and fewer tourists. Our birth rates would plummet, our death rates would soar. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

That would be the largest contribution we could make in the fight against dangerous anthropogenic global warming — to burn no more fossil fuels. It would cost more than we could possibly afford and it would have no effect.

So, in answer to your question, no, we cannot all agree that any changes won’t be wasted. It would be terrible to make harmful changes for no result.

* Denise Bester is from sustainable living web site www.ecobob.co.nz.

Hmmm.

Surely Denise Bester, “from” a sustainable living web site, cannot be trusted to tell us the truth about global warming? She’s making money from it! Just like the fossil fuel companies.

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Denise Bester
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Denise Bester

Thank you for paying attention to my world environment day column in the NZ Herald. In response to your critique, I have a few points I would like to clarify. The NZ Herald column I write is limited to a maximum of 450-500 words. It is neither possible to provide a balanced and convincing debate within such a limit, nor is the column intended to tackle complicated arguments. My article did not pose itself as expert knowledge in anyway. I was stating my own opinion, to which I am as entitled as you are to yours, based on my interpretation of the knowledge available to the public at the moment. It intrigues me that you are confident enough in your knowledge of who I am to make bold statements about me and what I gain from what I do. That I have “vested interests” in the solutions to climate change? I sell them? I feel I should point out that I make no money from my involvement in writing and other sustainability pursuits. I do them because I have a belief and a passion for sustainable, healthy living and I feel that as… Read more »

Richard
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Denise, Thanks for pointing out that my name wasn’t on the post; I assumed it was visible somewhere, but I hadn’t looked properly; it’s not even on the front page. If you click on “About” you can see who I am and something about the site. I’ll make sure posts are signed in future. It wasn’t offence that motivated me, it was disagreement. I know nothing about you, Denise, save the occasional column in the Herald. My reference to making money was a deduction from reading that you are “from” a sustainable living web site. If you are not making money from that, it’s not obvious and you should say so. If you were “from” Shell Oil, similar deductions would be made and you ought to be aware of that possibility, else why tell us? Perhaps you should spell out your volunteer status in future. Your heading, given the present climate of opinion, in which climate change is a euphemism for dangerous anthropogenic global warming, raises the topic of our emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). I agree with what you say about living lightly, reducing pollution, man’s likely response to a crisis and… Read more »

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