Saturday, 28 June 2008

Global Warming - An inexpert view

It seems to me that the current political consensus as to climate change rests on a number of assumptions:

  • that there is bidirectional link between atmospheric CO2 content and average global temperatures,

  • that it is possible for us to control atmospheric CO2 content,

  • that changes in the global climate inherently dangerous and should be avoided

  • that the degree of danger is such that changes of that nature should, if necessary, be avoided at (literally) any cost

Only if all four of these are true should we be seriously considering embarking on a major and expensive change to the rules governing our economy. Even then, the case is not made out; that economic system is, like it or not, the one that has made (many of) us comfortable, safe and well fed. We should tamper with this only when the case is clear. So, the fifth of my criteria is:

  • that the precautionary principle, i.e. that we do not mend things that aren't broken, does not require us to remain with the existing system that has for so long served us well.

With this background in mind, I'm going to try to look at each one in turn. As I type this, I'm sceptical (but not certain) about the first, fourth and fifth. I think the second is utter rubbish, whilst I'm quite sympathetic to the fourth. We'll see how I feel after I've given thought to each.


  1. Might you consider the possible ulterior motives for the political pressure to "go green"? I have two thoughts: one is that governments always like to keep us in fear and the other is that there is a sensible long-term aim to wean us off unsustainable energy sources especially those which mainly reside in politically unstable and potentially enemy lands.

  2. We do need to conserve those resources that are limited, including oil. We do of course have a mechanism already in place for doing that - known to economists as the "price".

    Meanwhile, global warming (or, as it is called during cold & wet spells, "climate change") is as you say a convenient way to keep us in fear and prevent any awkward questions being asked about tax rises. My question, which I'm still mulling over, is whether that is a good thing.