Thursday, August 19, 2004

The end is nigh ... maybe

The European Environment Agency has produced another one of its astonishing reports. As usual, it proves that the world is about to collapse into chaos, disaster and catastrophe. This, in spite of official UN figures that have proved over and over again that life has become considerably better for more people on earth in the last quarter century.

The climate change, says the EEA, is such that we have less than fifty years to deal with the threat. Threat of what? The press release does not make it clear. But there is a threat. And the only way of dealing with it is by more EU regulations that will control more of our economic activity and, presumably, subsidize more studies of this kind.

According to the BBC, ever ready to sound the alarm:

"The report brings together existing knowledge about how the climate is changing, and highlights some pointers of particular concern to Europe."
Not precisely, since there is a growing body of scientists, led by the estimable Björn Lomborg and his highly rated colleagues, who say that actually, environmentally speaking we are considerably better off than our predecessors were and, in any case, global warming is not as big a threat as some scientists, who do, after all, have a vested interest in promoting panic and alarm, maintain. Furthermore, the preferred methods of dealing with it are, though appealing to green lobby groups and environmental agencies, in reality expensive and not very useful. (see literature on Kyoto passim)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, hardly an objective body in the circumstances, has suggested that global average temperature might be anything between 1.4°C and 5.8°C warmer in 2100 than it was in 1990. It might. Then again, it might not. This is cod science.

The report also talks about Europe’s glaciers losing a tenth of their volume last year, though the evidence for this is thin, and harvests in Europe being one third down. Which harvests? Hard to tell, since it was a good year for grain and not bad for many other products. Would a slight rise in average temperature destroy the harvest? Seems a little unlikely.

There are many things wrong with all this panic-mongering. One is that we have heard it all so often before with so little evidence that nobody will listen to real environmental problems (many of them, such as the common fisheries policy, caused by the European Union).

Secondly, as I have said above, the science these agencies and panels, whose existence depends on a constant stream of bad news, is incomplete. They do not look at the body of evidence collected by highly reputable scientists that disproves their findings.

Thirdly, even if there is a climate change going on, its relationship to actual weather patterns is very imperfectly understood.

Fourthly, it is not clear whether any putative climate change is caused by human acitivity and, therefore, we cannot be certain that human activity can do anything to stop it or change its course.

Of one thing we can be sure: there will once again be an attempt to create a “beneficial crisis”. A vague and badly proven “ecological disaster” will be used to produce more legislation, more regulations, extract more money from our industries and businesses. In the meantime the very real problems in Europe will be pushed away. As for countries of the Third World, well, their problems will multiply as in the name of scientific “evidence” and in order to protect our own social and economic model we shall go on piling conditions on them that will prevent them from ever developing to an economic level when they can seriously think about environmental problems.

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