Thursday, December 06, 2007

... with the possibility of?

When you are mulling the massive, and massively complex issue of climate change, sometimes it's worth popping round the local science society.

And there hear about it from the horse's mouth.. or, at least, an actual climate scientist.

Last night ours, Ross Science Society, hosted a talk billed as 'Global Warming' by Professor Bob Spicer.

Armed with no more than a laptop, projector and a ready, engaging wit (plus a bucketload of knowledge), the good Professor held a packed room in informed and entertained thrall for a good few hours. No mean feat as the majority of visuals were pretty much (initially) indecipherable graphs and charts. But there were a few laughs as well, which was all the more surprising as the subject matter, and his conclusions based on them, were none too cheery. As this is a chap who only the day before was having a chat with the DG of the BBC about their coverage of things planetary, he's a guy obviously worth listening to.

Let me nail my colours to the mast. I personally think there is an unusual level of climate change taking place, and am prepared to acknowledge that our race might not be helping it in the right direction. I also feel there is a lot of dodgy stuff flying about in the name of green.

So I was very happy to be in the presence of a scientist who was very keen to stick to the facts, what 'we' know and, more importantly, what 'we' don't. And how that can matter... a lot, especially when it comes to what the public gets told, and why, by all sorts of folk with all sorts of agendas.

For start, he made the valid point that the term 'Global Warming' is misleading. Because the climate can change, with no warming at all, in many places. So ‘climate change’ is the best way to hang a descriptor upon what is happening. And I was also pleased to find that is where he left it. Too often discussions on this topic have the prefix 'mad-made', which immediately carries a lot of baggage. I personally prefer, and subscribe to the probability of ‘man-worsened’, and I think the Prof. appreciated this description when I chatted with him afterwards.

Because to one who spends too much time reading on this topic, it was refreshing to see shared that, although there is compelling evidence that 'personkind' - and our activities - sure are not helping, nature has a history of throwing a series of highly (and lowly) volatile spanners into the mix, too. Ignoring this does not serve the intelligence of those trying to get a handle of this issues very well. Or help steer their intentions.

Why is all this important? Well for a start there's a lot of planning that needs to take place for the future, and you can only plan for something if you have a pretty good idea of what exactly (key word) you are planning for. In bald terms, if one does see climate change proceeding in the manner most scientists such as Prof. Spicer and his colleagues suggest (and, crucially, freely admitting that most if not all climate models being used are pretty 'loose' at best - Prof. Spicer had some rather colourful views on those produced, at vast expense, by our very own Met Office, which is a bit of a worry) , then governments are either looking at preparing for consequences, and/or mitigating against them.

And that, depending on where you live, means either looking at a lot more water around, and/or in places a lot higher temperatures. Neither of which is that helpful, reducing an already finite land area, and rendering what's left less able to sustain those upon it (the issue of population was touched upon but briefly, being both an elephant in the room and a can of worms, if you can handle that notion. Maybe a can of elephants?).

Having listened to the good Professor I had my personal knowledge base enhanced, and beliefs on the whole confirmed. I'm sure those of a ‘climate pessimistic’ bent would have had much to nod along with (though I do wonder whether those more zealously inclined might have paused to question some extreme or dogmatic orthodoxy that does get fired about too strenuously), and those more ‘optimistic’ (I find tags like 'deniers' unhelpfully pejorative) must surely been given good cause to think more deeply on whether much of what 'we' do is really sustainable, and should proceed unchecked.

What I was left with was even less doubt that this is a massive issue, and whilst individuals can make a difference with some well guided personal efforts, it is for those at the top who have the power to make the most significant differences in the timeframes necessary. Sadly, I did not get the feeling that those in charge were really yet on top of this.

So what can 'we' do, if so moved and persuaded to act? Well, I'd suggest the best is keep on trying to get to the bottom of issues, don't accept all you're told until you’re fully convinced on the enviROI (environmental benefits), and try and act in any and all ways that seem to offer the best mitigating outcomes: Reduction, Reuse and, where appropriate, sensible Recycling. All can, in a small way, help. As to sweating the big stuff, remember that we as individuals may not make a huge difference, but those who can still depend on one powerful thing we can still wield: our vote. Please use it wisely.

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