The debate about climate change whimpers on, and still many refuse to accept the roe of human beings in the climatic confusion that seems to be enveloping the planet.
How to sort fact from spin? How to know what to believe or do?
The recent international agreement in Paris, while probably not radical enough, provides me with a topical starting point.
Let’s stop worrying about the planet, for a start. We are not destroying the planet; to think so is hubris on a grand scale. The planet was here before us, and will be here after we are gone. Even if all life is destroyed, the planet will continue to roll round the sun, although it will no longer be special or precious.
No notice of the mass extinction will be taken by the rest of the Cosmos, or, if it is noticed at all, there will probably be a galactic sigh of relief. Alien intelligences, if they really are intelligent, will be glad to be rid of such a potentially pesky neighbour.
The other major source of confusion is all the talk of degrees, of limiting the climate change to two, or three, degrees.
This seems such a piddling amount. Why, the temperature varies more than that every night, and every winter, and every time we fly to the Mediterranean!
But climate watchers are talking averages. This makes a difference, because, although the planet’s climate changes naturally, it always stays within a relatively narrow band of temperature. Of course, there have been extreme climates in the geological past . . . viciously hot deserts, huge tropical forests, and all-enveloping ice . . . but the important thing to remember is that human beings did not, and could not, live then.
Even with air-conditioning, the pre-Cambrian Age could not have supported a smartphone economy.
Given all the variations of night and day, summer and winter, equator and pole, the average temperature of the Earth, according to Universe Today in 2015, is 14 degrees Celsius.
The last ice age was 20,000 years ago, and before then the climate precluded what we think of as decent weather for human beings! It was always too hot or too cold.
The Goldilocks weather of the past twenty millennia has been, on average, very stable.
When the average temperature was 20degrees, there was no ice on the planet and crocodiles and palm trees were found at the North Pole. No humans, of course, no agriculture, no industry.
And that’s only six degrees warmer than now!
So, you see, small temperature changes make a big difference. It would not be a matter of using more sun cream. By that time, we would probably not have the infrastructure to manufacture sun cream, or any other kind of cream.
It will not just be a case of more beach resorts. Warm air means melting ice means higher sea levels more evaporation from the ocean, and that means more rain and wind, floods and hurricanes. We can see it happening already.
What’s causing it? This is where the controversy lies, though I’m not quite sure why.
About 96% of scientists say that it is at least partly due to human behaviour. In other words, greenhouse gases.
Some people, however, prefer to believe the 4%, and insist that it is purely the normal planetary adjustment.
That might be true, but maybe . . . just maybe . . . all those scientists just might be a little bit right?
Given that tiny tiny iota of doubt, wouldn’t it be prudent to at least try to do something about it?
You can cross the road with your eyes shut, and you might not get killed. It might be quite a small chance, in fact, if you choose the right road.
But you don’t do it!
You open your eyes, just in case you might be wrong. You are standing on the kerb with a friend. You shut your eyes. Your friend tells you there’s a car coming. You keep your eyes shut, and walk out anyway. Would you really do that?
Because that’s what we’re all doing.
And I, for one, would like us to be a bit prudent. Maybe, just maybe, even three degrees is too much, and maybe the scientists are right.
Maybe we should just open our eyes and jump back off the road.