Friday, 2 May 2008

Global Warming - The Burning Issue

On 14th June, 1940, France fell to the Nazis. Four days later, Winston Churchill said, in his speech to the house of commons:

"What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin... The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age..."

It frightens me when I think that today, we might face an even greater threat. The world can well survive what we are doing to it, but our civilisation and indeed our species may not. Should the worst predictions of our scientists come to pass, all the advances and setbacks of human history will seem as nothing compared to the devastation that will follow. Even in the best case, even if the IPCC is unduly pessimistic, we face a threat greater than at any point in the history of civilisation, because today, for the first time, we have created a truly global problem.

Some people seek to make this into a political issue, rather than an absolute moral imperative. Some people deny that any such threat exists, either because it is easier for them to be governed by hope than by reason, or because they have been wilfully misled by interested parties. Today, we cannot afford to be governed by hope. We are at a turning point, and the consequences of going the wrong way could be terrible indeed.

I have not, in the past, put my name to anything, because I have never felt sufficiently involved or empowered to do so. Nothing here has changed, except my absolute conviction that we must all do what we can, to the limit of our abilities. I do not expect that I will have any readers, but even changing one person's mind would be worth it the effort. To paraphrase John Donne, any man's actions influence me, because I am involved in mankind.

I will write about the problem, and about what we know about it. I will write about the scientific consensus, the uncertainty and sources of uncertainty in our models, and the state of play in climate research. I will write about the morality and the politics of this issue, and about what we, personally, can do to make a difference. I will expose the scams and the doublespeak that pervade the emerging area of environmental consciousness, and strip every idea down to its essential details. I will expose the problems, and point to the solutions, when they exist. This is my mission. I hope to God that I can do something, and that you can do something; and I hope to God that we can still save ourselves.

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