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The Shadow of the Olive Tree

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04 May 2007 Blog Home : May 2007 : Permalink

Is Global Warming A Media Myth?

Vote for me on Love To Lead The chaps at Lovetolead are asking this. My answer is


Global Warming is happening. Therefore it is not a myth. However, having said that much there are a lot of myths going around about global warming which seem to have a dubious basis in reality and which are cheerfully reported by the media.

The first myth is that the global warming we are experiencing today is exceptional. There is plenty of evidence to show that in any number of times in the geologically recent past the temperature has been considerably higher than it is now. There is also evidence that temperatures during the middle ages were higher (or as high) as they are today - the most obvious piece being the viking's setting up farms on Greenland.

The scond myth is like unto it, namely this, that humans are the prime cause of global warming. Again evidence for this is extremely mixed, to put it bluntly. The fact that previous episodes of global warming did not have a human cause is not prima facie evidence that this one is also not caused by humans, but it is suggestive. Other evidence, such as the warming of Mars, seems to indicate that humans and human activity are far from being the only cause. Even if we ignore the sun, our understanding of the impact of volcanoes, algal blooms and so on on the global climate is less than definite. About the only thing that we do know that the weather is a chaotic system and hence that modelling is unlikely to work except in vague terms.

The third myth is that the only way to reduce global warming is to reduce levels of CO2 by stopping the burning of fossil fuels. Even assuming that CO2 is the worst greenhouse gas (by no means a given) and that humans are driving the majority of CO2 emission growth (also far from certain) fossil fuels are only a part of the problem. Everytime we burn some wood and everytime a cow farts the atmospheric level of greenhouse gasses increases, as it does every time we plant paddies of rice or do any number of other agricultural or semi-agricultural tasks. A mass clearence of subsistance and semi-subsistence farmers, that is sending most of them to cities and then replacing their output with efficient cash-crop agriculture would probably do as much to reduce greehouse gas emissions as anything else.

The fourth myth is that economic growth automatically leads to global warming. This derivative myth comes from combining all three above and is flat out nuts. It seems likely in fact that raising subsistence farmers and slum-dwellers out of poverty is likely to singificantly reduce global warming because they won't do slash and burn agriculture, they will have effiicently insulated homes and will use efficient electric lights instead of kerosene lamps and so on.

The fifth myth is about the effects of global warming. Sea-level rise being a good example of an overhyped effect.

However having said all that I am all in favour of reducing fossil fuel usage and hence CO2 emissions where sensible. The most obvious way to do this is to look at alternative methods of electric power generation (nuclear obviously but geothermal solar etc. also make sense). In my opinion reducing the world's dependance on fossil fuels would have all sorts of collateral benefits such as stopping funding for all sorts of terrorism and reduce the hold countries like Russia have over the rest of the world. And to reinterate it seems that global warming is not a myth. The myths are that humans are responsible for it and that we should all become peasants to solve it.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin