Last night’s Channel 4 documentary has caused a great deal of comment.
The film didn't say that global warming wasn't happening; just that man-made co2 wasn't the cause. Whether they are right or wrong, we need to cut fossil fuel use because it's finite and it's beginning to run out. That will cut co2 emissions, and, depending on your point of view, that's either a bonus or irrelevant!
Also we should recognise that there are two aspects to global warming (or overheating, as I prefer to call it - warming is stable and essential to life.) One is trying to stop it, and that's undeniably difficult and may not work. The other is that we are observing the effects of global overheating through climate change and we should be doing what we can to protect ourselves, and others, against those effects.
If we go ahead with a high-carbon solution to the 3rd world's energy shortage we will raise expectations, invest a lot of money and end up with something which doesn't work when the fuel gets too expensive. We're talking 3-5 years.
Focussing solely on co2, and solely on its climatic effects, is very short-sighted. It is absorbed by the seas and it changes the acidity of the seas and affects the fish and other organisms that live there. That's the base of the food chain. When we burn fossil fuels and emit co2 we also emit other pollutants, particularly nitrous compounds. These pollute our air, our food and rivers and seas, again damaging the very environment we live in.
It would be great to be able to rely on one television programme and say that there's no problem at all - we can go on as usual, only more so. The oil is running out (gas too, though maybe 30 years later) and in the short term we can get oil from coal, shale and tar sands. All of these are highly polluting, but if we can create a consensus that co2 doesn't matter the oil companies will be happy to exploit these resources. They will ignore the energy inputs, the vast quantities of fresh water needed and contaminated water released. Life will continue as usual, we'll just run out quicker.
I am firmly against the eco-warriors who want to smash capitalism and put the blame on multinationals, George Bush and anyone else they can think of. I am very concerned that the arguments are so polarised, because I believe that there is a middle way, a rational, pragmatic approach to the changes on our planet and a sensible re-evaluation of the risks and the actions we can take. Business as usual is not an option, but selling the car, putting out all the lights and living on bread and water in a tent is not a sensible strategy either!
That’s why I believe in common sense on climate change.