I heard an interesting programme on radio 4 a few weeks ago, that discussed global warming from a sociological and moral standpoint. It seems that every thousand years a kind of millennialist miserabilism overcomes humanity. Factions rise that claim that Bad Things Will Happen if people don't Change Their Ways For The Better.
Themes common to the religiously-inspired sandwich-board-wearing apocalypsists of history and today's current breed of Green pro-environment doom-mongers include a penchant for attacking the status-quo, those in authority and simultaneously asserting that things will only get better if we all individually pitch in and become more morally righteous.
As Martin Durkin's documentary washed over me I went through various stages:
- Immediate denial before I even saw the documentary.
- Realisation that denying something can be true before hearing the arguments to support it is highly questionable at best, and similar to those die-hard, pro-ignorance groups I've always disliked at worst.
- As I watched the documentary and noted the arguments I experienced a slight (and doubtless intentional) lifting of the spirit at the thought of a future that did not include human-derived global warming.
- This was closely followed by concern that this would cause ordinary people (like myself, but not as much) to excuse their lazy and selfish dismissal of a real problem.
- Temporary outrage at the super-scripting of the "2" in CO2 emissions in the charmingly retro-fifties explanatory diagrams.
- Quiet pondering.
The argument that the reason for the seeming growth in support of the human-derived-CO2-global-warming theory amongst scientists is simply because in order to get funding scientists tend to spin their research in order to plug it into the Hot Topic is an interesting one.
A thing that surprises me about scientific endeavour is how much we don't know. The weather is supposed to be immensely chaotic and complex. There might be room for errors.
Most usefully the programme reminded me of the need to retain debate and cool-headedness even in the face of going against common opinion.
As a techno-progressive sort of person I know that I desperately want to be told that the increase in temperatures is not directly or substantially due to the industrial actions of the human species, and I know I might be biased towards the sort of arguments Durkin uses, but I'm still confident that the solutions to most of the problems we are facing (as well as peak oil) is to advance technology, and be proactive.
More interesting is the response to Durkin's documentary amongst the press. Sp!ked-online managed, in their own inimical way, to align themselves with my feelings on the matter (follow the Sp!ked link to see what other people have been saying as well).
Another good point is that between 1945 and 1975 the global temperature dropped rather a lot. This lead people to believe that a new ice-age was coming and that London would be crushed by glaciers. Interesting stuff.
At the moment my feelings are summed up rather neatly by this cartoon from the excellent xkcd.com. Anyway I have no doubt I will continue to obsessively turn out all standby appliances in the house, annoy others by unplugging charging mobile phones, fidget when the bus I'm on is in a traffic jam, and feel guilty every time I eat beef (I'll also continue to turn off electrical socket switches that aren't in use - but I doubt that will have any effect whatsoever).