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Why Climate Change Is Not My Focus

Let's assume that the AGW hypothesis is correct. Let's accept that man-made climate change is real and that it is serious. Very serious. Should it then be our prime focus? I would argue not.

"Models can generate hypotheses, but can't test them."
Dr. Dave Ankey of the University of Western Ontario (retired)

I don't spend my time debating the veracity or falsehood of AGW. I simply question why climate change has hijacked the environmental discussion and become the maniacal obsession of so many. Peak everything, the collapse of biodiversity services and/or the chemical, biological and/or nuclear war that issues out of relentless and increasing resource scarcity will do us in LONG before the ravages of climate change (man-made or not) drive the final nail into our coffin. It is NOT, as Canadian Green Party leader Elizabeth May has said, the most "urgent" problem of our time. And Canada's Chair on Energy and the Environment (recently named as Canada's top scientist) Dr. David Keith, on the other hand, would agree with me. He explained his reasoning in an interview he gave to the CBC.

In a nutshell, this was his verdict on climate change: it’s serious, but not that serious. Not what soft green climate-obsessives want to hear. In fact, there is enough in his message to disappoint and challenge everyone from deniers to alarmists alike. Dr. Keith believes that climate change is occurring at a pace that is too dramatic to be the result of a natural cycle, and that something must be done about it, or in one hundred years there will be shocking contrasts to life as we know it now. But he does not see such climate change as this “apocalyptic, existential threat” that must be addressed ”in years rather than decades.” There simply is “no credible science” to back this alarmism up. While he sees climate change as a dominant environmental problem, he declared that “If I had a dollar to spend in the next decade I put it into fighting poverty and disease in the undeveloped world.” Dr. Keith, BTW, is also the scientific advisor to Bill Gates, so good luck on trying to dismiss him as a denialist crank.

I focus on overpopulation because I agree with Dr. Keith's priorities, but for one amendment. I believe that reducing our numbers is key to reducing poverty (aka scarcity). The fewer of us there are, the larger our per capita slice of the shrinking resource pie will be. I refer to carbon emissions data in my arguments mainly because audiences have been conditioned to regard them as the only metric of environmental degradation. Thus, for example, I will tell them that since 1991, mass immigration has been responsible for four times as much GHG emissions as the entire Alberta tar sands development, which Ms. May and her green constituency thinks is the crime of the century.

But what is at least equally important to me is that immigration-driven population growth has been responsible for the development and despoilment of four times as much land---usually prime farmland----than has the tar sands project. Almost all of the species on our endangered list are threatened by continuing urban sprawl, sprawl that is not simply the result of bad planning but population growth. The perimeter of Canada's 5 major urban centres has become the killing zone of wildlife and the pavement of our Class 1 farmland---some 60,000 acres a year in Ontario alone. This has little to do with climate change. It is the consequence of a deliberate program to grow the economy with more consumers and cheaper labour.

I don't want to provoke a debate on this, for that debate would further fuel the focus on climate change. I simply regard climate change as more a symptom more than a cause. Perhaps if I didn't live in the frozen north but in the land of raging wild fires ‘down under’, my priorities would be different. While the case for AGW may be 95% watertight, within the AGW camp there is obviously a spectrum of differing views. One end there is Dr. Keith, and on the other end there are folks like your Andrew Glikson. I prefer the hard numbers that American analyst Chris Clugston has provided. No one seems able to tell me whether the ocean will be one meter or six meters high by the end of this century, but Clugston has shown me that certainly within 40 years (or less) our global industrial economy will be without the NNRs it needs to function (and it is not all about oil or energy). Telling me to focus on climate change is like telling a 21 year old skydiver to quit smoking because statistically he has a high risk of getting lung cancer when he reaches his 50s. Should it not be more important and urgent to tell him that he must not be so sloppy in packing his parachute?

We are all alarmists ---that is why we are in this business. But some of us are more alarmist than others concerning the six constituents of the Perfect Storm, and we tend to ring the claxon louder on one of the dangers than others. I ring it vigorously on over-population, while McKibben rings the climate change bell so loud that he can't even hear the bad news about our 7 billion milestone (ditto Monbiot). For me, the number 7 is far more significant than the number 350.

October 30, 2011

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Climate change is a human overpopulation problem. Populations soared with cheap energy and fuel, and with decline, we are left with the side effects to deal with. "Climate change" is often used to explain extinctions, land degradation. the death of our oceans, shortages of water and soils. If we deal with the P in IPAT, the change in technology and affluence from easy energy will look after themselves.
The "green" hypocrites want to ignore the P, and force us to reduce the I by reducing the Affluence, and changing T the technology that produces carbon emissions.
I = environmental impact
P = population
A = affluence interpreted as consumption per person, and
T = technology

I = P•A•T
Decreasing I while we keep increasing the P means a massive amount of decrease to both A, and T.
While our population increases, the decreases we might force ourselves to accept, for the greater good, will be negated by an increasing P. Wartime rations were bearable because everyone was united in the common good, and survival. Having rationing forced upon us due to a Ponzi population scheme, by our leaders, to make some elite rich while other bear the costs is not something that will be easily adopted.

Interesting how translatable aspects of what is happening in Canada are to the Australian scene. The outer areas of Australia's major urban centres are, as in Canada killing fields for fauna -kangaroos and koalas, wombats, echidna, lizards birds tortoises and frogs. In view of this never mentioned graphic aspect of our endless growth it is interesting that our politicians can wax so passionate about climate change, something far less immediately observable as the plight of these creatures. It is also as abstract as the generality "environment" usually treated by governments and politicians in Australia as a low priority. Climate Change is the exception. If it were waterways and coastal areas directly threatened by population growth we would see no action.

"If it were waterways and coastal areas directly threatened by population growth we would see no action."

They are directly affected, and we don't see any action.

The blatant and extreme horror now underway in Gladstone Harbour is a classic example.

One thing approximating action that we do see is the public funding of community groups for the purpose of 'monitoring' and 'recording' cumulative effects of development AFTER it is given un-retractable entitlement regardless of its operational effects. Such essentially pointless process is often one of the 'sustainability' conditions attached to the approval.

Those 'stewardship' groups then effectively become grassroots allies of the development process as a reflex, and often as a necessity, of protecting their funding streams. Without access to these skinny piss-streams of public money their ongoing existence, ersatz sense of identity and grotesquely meaningless internal power structures cease to exist.

Within this disturbed reality they've come to know the helpless witnessing of the death of a needlessly doomed eco-system as a 'positive contribution'. Naysaying the process with notions of simple reality is not tolerated.

It's all too awful to be co-incidental isn't it?

The condional tense was used inadvertently. It is of course a fact that coastal areas and waterways are degraded by population growth and human activities. From the 2008 Victorian State of the Environment Report "Population growth, settlement, and consumption patterns and climate change are the key drivers of environmental degradation in Victoria" "...The environmental services we depend on have been , and under business-as- usual scenarios will continue to be degraded." "Urban development and industry continue to put pressure on our coasts, estuaries and the sea."
Yet population growth steams ahead. In the absence of any remarkable changes in the way we do things- our environment must get worse every day.
This is not original but it is as though the greater body that we live in - The Biosphere or Gaia has a terrible disorder where a particular microbe (humans) suddenly had a growth spurt , went berserk upsetting supporting systems in its out- of- control growth and devouring all in its way.

I totaly agree with all this. Look at the population increase graph. Exponential growth is always usustainable in a finite envirionment. All, or at least most of our problems are down to the numbers of us crawling over the planet.
Some suggest that as the lesser developed counties develope then their birth rates will fall to those aproximating those of the West, this may be the case if that is what was actually happening. It seems to me that the number of poor is increasing, especially in remnant agrarian societies where the farms get smaller as the populations get bigger.
Having said that. The other question is , do we want larger populations. There is QUALITY of life to think about. Do we want to live in the conditions that are now common in many of the worlds mega cities. Might be OK if your rich, but not much fun if you're not.