All is not what it seems in being green  

Posted by Big Gav in

Michael Pascoe at the SMH has some notes on the case for taking real action on global warming instead vs staging publicity stunts or pretending there isn't a problem - All is not what it seems in being green.

As part of his presentation, Dornan showed a photograph of a fairly standard desk and asked the audience what was different about it. The answer was the power points on top of the desk instead of somewhere deep below it among the dust and cobwebs.

On Friday night, many city workers made a once-a-year effort to brave the dust and dirt by crawling under their desks to turn off their computers/mobile phone rechargers/electric nasal hair clippers/whatever at the wall.

IAG whacked power packs on top of the desks in one office and saved $10,000 on its electricity bill.

There also is the broader contrast between the enthusiastic Earth Hour hype and the general outrage that greeted the suggestion that electricity prices will soar under any rational sort of carbon reduction policy. If we decide carbon has a price, it will have to be paid. Besides, make electricity expensive enough and folks will tend to use less of it. We want to feel nicely green, but we like cheap power more.

The naiveté of much of the greenhouse noise, from both the alarmists and denialists, tends to distract from attempts to get serious about it. In its usual rational fashion, the lead editorial in last week's Economist magazine made the case for action on climate being justified not because the science is certain, but precisely because it is not. That's a concept the more simple-minded jumping on the sceptics bandwagon might find hard to grasp.

After dealing with several facets of the issue, including making some criticism of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Economist reminded its readers:

“The ambiguities of science sit uncomfortably with the demands of politics. Politicians, and the voters who elect them, are more comfortable with certainty. So 'six months to save the planet' is more likely to garner support than 'there is a high probability—though not by any means a certainty—that serious climate change could damage the biosphere, depending on levels of economic growth, population growth and innovation'. Politics, like journalism, tends to simplify and exaggerate.”

The magazine was scathing about a particularly alarmist UK government advertising campaign that seems more interested in scaring silly children than reducing carbon. The leader, perhaps with a view to being serious like IAG rather than jumping on any bandwagon, makes its case in the final two paragraphs:

“Plenty of uncertainty remains; but that argues for, not against, action. If it were known that global warming would be limited to 2°C, the world might decide to live with that. But the range of possible outcomes is huge, with catastrophe one possibility, and the costs of averting climate change are comparatively small. Just as a householder pays a small premium to protect himself against disaster, the world should do the same.

“This newspaper sees no reason to alter its views on that. Where there is plainly an urgent need for change is the way in which governments use science to make their case. The IPCC has suffered from the perception that it is a tool of politicians. The greater the distance that can be created between it and them, the better. And rather than feeding voters infantile advertisements peddling childish certainties, politicians should treat voters like grown-ups. With climate change you do not need to invent things; the truth, even with all those uncertainties and caveats, is scary enough.”


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