Thursday, August 16, 2007

Climate Change Propaganda

We've all heard the stories. The planet could soon become so hot we won't be able to live in it - like Venus. From an early age children are taught "The Greenhouse Effect" and during Live Earth in the UK, Johnathon Ross likened Global Warming to Slavery. So like the great "oil will run out in fifty years" crisis of the nineties and the "millennium bug" and various other theories such as "the sun revolves around the earth", humans are basically making educated guesses about the planet. Of course to ignore our scientists would be foolish, however lets hear both sides of the debate before deciding.

So to begin, most scientists do not dispute that Climate Change is occurring. The real debate is whether human beings are contributing towards global warming, and if so, whether there contribution will actually damage the planet.

Media groups/scientists/governments supporting the theory that man is responsible:

BBC Climate Change - Note how under the evidence section there is no evidence and also how the series jumps to an assertion that humans can do something about it.

An inconvenient truth - The temperature of the planet is rising, but the site lacks evidence that it is caused by greenhouse gases or that humans have made a significant contribution.

The Guardian - note how they say "Measurements at the Earth's surface show that average temperatures have risen by some 0.4C since the 1970s. Scientists are confident this change can be blamed on human emissions because the increase is too big to be explained by natural causes."

Defra/UK government - The evidence area is interesting, however I think there are gaping omissions. The ActOnCo2 site does not even provide any evidence to support its assertions.

Campaign on climate change - again the evidence is lacking

Friends of the Earth - no evidence here. Just the same assertions.

The Royal Society - misleading arguments.

New Scientist - This article claims to be balanced, but it is?

"Neutral" sources:

Wikipedia - the evidence

The Times

Media groups/journalists/scientists/governments who challenge the "consensus" on global warming:

Gary Novak - An argument that Global Warming is not caused by CO2 emissions.

The Telegraph - Does the temperature of the Sun have any relevance?

The Telegraph - Are the statistics used valid?

The Letter science magazine refused to publish - Is this a common pattern?

Sun Times - Counter arguments to Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth"

If you've taken the time to read all the above, well done. When I finished I found myself immensely confused. It seems that their isn't a scientific consensus at all and that the debate is still going strong.

Nonetheless I came to the conclusion that we shouldn't ignore it and that scientists should start directing their efforts towards producing energy without releasing CO2 and politicians should provide grants and incentives for companies and individuals to utilize the alternatives...at least until we understand things better.

Charging more for flights and trying to get people to put less water in their kettle is, in reality, a complete waste of time because firstly nobody with the money to go on holiday is going to stop using planes or stop filling up their kettle. Secondly when China and the rest of the developing world starts to make the same energy demands that we do, a few half-filled kettles simply won't cut it. Non-polluting fuels however would be a solution to the problem..assuming there is one.

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2 Comments:

At Thursday, 16 August, 2007, Anonymous Jeremy said...

Having read your post and some of the articles you suggest from either category, I'm not convinced that the sources listed here provide the most balanced evidence. I agree that material from groups such as the BBC and Friends of the Earth fall down on providing detailed evidence, and while I disagree with the principle of media/lobby groups encouraging action without the necessary education on the issue, I think it's important to look at their target audience (broadest possible spectrum of society) and what they've set out to achieve. In my opinion the debate on climatic change has been cleared up somewhat by the recent summaries in the Stern Review, and the latest IPCC report. I think your view that there is propaganda surrounding climate change is definitely valid (though I believe this occurs as much in the denial as in the recognition of need for action on climate change), and some sectors of the market profit from the media hype at present, but to convincingly portray this environmental issue as in the same league with the Y2K bug means your argument bears the burden of proof. I'm not convinced that nearly enough has been provided. If there is a design behind climate action rhetoric, do environmental movements really bring enough to the table for politicians to compete with denial propaganda from interested market sectors such as the politically powerful oil industry? Also if this was the case, surely countries with the potential to tap into new markets, such as biofuels (for example India and Indonesia) would be at the forefront of the debate?

If you haven't already I'd recommend reading the Stern Review

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/stern_review_economics_climate_change/stern_review_report.cfm

and the IPCC website is also full of prety reliable information (it's hardly the most pro-green of orginisations if you look at the number of people being replaced for finding conclusions about climatic change too difficult for governments to acknowledge).

http://www.ipcc.ch/index.html

 
At Friday, 17 August, 2007, Blogger caesar said...

Thank you for your comments and references Jeremy (You may find http://www.greenfacts.org/climate-change/ipcc/ipcc.htm useful because it provides a reasonable accessible summary of the IPCC report). In response to your points, firstly I agree that the sources I list are not comprehensive by any means and although I attempted to provide a fair selection of views, they are intended primarily to offer an overview to the debate and to encourage further research. Nonetheless the exercise highlighted to me the difficulty an interested outsider has in finding reliable, unbiased information on Climate Change. I think it is worth considering how many reporters actually have read the IPCC report and made a concious judgement that they believe in it? Or do they base their work off the writings of other journalists? Do politicians?. David Cameron recently made reference to Al Gore's drama “An Inconvenient Truth”. I don't remember his precise wording but he said something like "We need to act on the issues raised by Al Gore", when if the Sun Times article is to be believed, much of the data was erroneous.

Secondly whilst the conclusions of the IPCC may appear to demonstrate a consensus in the scientific community, I think it remains important to ask whether their structure and model of funding encourages result driven science. There also remain various groups and individuals who disagree with its findings such as: http://www.climatescience.org.nz/ and http://www.warwickhughes.com/blog/?page_id=11 and http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/climate_change/index.html#001222

Thirdly I do agree that propaganda is prevalent on both sides of the debate, and it is easy for facts to be obscured or distorted by opinion (which is one reason why I don't like the shift of British newspapers towards offering “news plus views” together) and certainly we should push for responsible, accountable journalism.

Now is the time for action and crucially the development and implementation of non-polluting energy sources. It is my view that Stern underestimates the value of this. We need strong, far-sighted legislation to ensure our consumption does not become unsustainable. Lets hope politicians can move beyond tax and spend.

 

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