Sunday, March 04, 2007

Global Warming whitewash

It has become so politically incorrect to whisper that man may not be responsible for the warming of the planet that one has to do so in private and only to those willing to listen with an open mind. How can it be that we won't suffer cataclysmic events down the track as a result of our inaction when "everyone" agrees that this is what will occur?

Australia's channel ten have absolutely taken this to a new sickening level in their Cool Aid show about global warming. Instead of taking the opportunity to examine the issues, they instead took the position of a condescending superior who "knows everything" and unless you listen to them "we will all suffer". Let's look at just a few of the items discussed.

1. They claim that eating red meat is bad for the environment and we should all eat more vegetables. This is an absurd argument. I don't dispute that the consumption of red meat contributes to carbon emissions but to claim these effects are less than those of vegetables are disingenuous. If there was a large swing to vegetables from meat, where would these vegetables come from? Vegetables need land to grow on - more arable farm land - less trees to absorb CO2. Vegetables need huge amounts of water for irrigation. In drought stricken Australia where is this water going to come from? Diverting rivers into dams for irrigation has huge impacts on the environment. If the farmers cannot irrigate, they cannot grow food and Australia will have to import more food. Ah but according to the program, importing food is bad for the planet. Vegetables also need pesticides to ensure high yielding crops. Pesticides are not great for the environment either and lead to other environmental problems. Of course we can farm without pesticides and have a fraction of the yield at a much higher cost. etc etc etc. The food system and its relationship to the environment is complex and all the above plus more need to be factored in and it may well be that vegetables (when all the requirements to produce them is accounted for) have a higher carbon footprint then meat. This was not considered at all on the program.

2 Replacing incandescent lightbulbs with fluorescent light bulbs. Scratch the surface and go beyond the feelgood "easy to do" view and look at what this really means. We are being asked to throw away hundreds of millions of WORKING light bulbs into land fills and stimulate production of hundreds of millions of new bulbs so we can save energy! Individual bulbs may save energy and if existing bulbs are replaced as and when they no longer work it is one thing but to have a wholesale discarding of working lights is extremely costly to the environment. The factories producing these bulbs will chew through a huge amount of power. In addition, how are these new bulbs disposed of when they no longer work? What is their impact on the environment? Where is the toxic mercury that these lights use going to be stored when they no longer work? Where does the argon or neon gas that is used in the lights produced - the cost to produce these gases is higher than that used to produce a vacuum in an old style light? All of this must be taken into account before simply telling everyone to change their bulbs.

3 A hydrogen car was shown as the future of cars. While that may be true and they may be much cleaner when on the road, there was no mention of where the hydrogen gas will be produced and how it will be transported for use in cars. From CNET FAQ: Guide to alternative fuels

"Although the car doesn't belch pollution, making hydrogen typically produces large amounts of carbon dioxide at the factory. To make hydrogen, most producers combine methane with water and heat up the mix to 815 degrees Celsius, which produces 9.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every kilogram of hydrogen. Hydrogen is also expensive to make, store and transport. You can't send it down regular pipelines. Then there is that problem of building hydrogen filling stations.
Competitors aren't scared.
"Hydrogen is hopeless," said Martin Eberhard, CEO of Tesla."

Also it is unlikely that the water being drunk by the presenter really was emitted by the car. These cars typically emit water vapour that would have needed to be collected and cooled. It is more likely that was a glass of tap water.

4 Air travel was highlighted as one of the worst producers of Carbon and simplistic statements were made telling people to cut back on air travel as much as possible. For the most part people don't travel on planes for the journey - they do so because it is the quickest and sometimes the only way to get to the destination they need to be at. Not flying would for the vast majority, not stop them travelling but instead make them use other transport - predominantly cars for local travel. Consider that one 747 one hour flight would be replaced by about 200 cars on the road for around 10 hours. This means more fuel for the cars, more wear and tear on the cars and roads more production of cars and roads etc... Then factor in the loss of productivity resulting in lower GDP, lower income less disposable income - less able to purchase more expensive "green" energy etc. Then there is the hypocrisy of the program itself - flying reporters overseas to see a hydrogen car or to interview Al Gore. Why not interview him via satellite? Al Gore the environmental evangelist that has 3 houses and energy bills of over $30 000 per year. Oh wait he's OK - he buys carbon credits!

I could go on discussing just about every one of their points. My issue is not that the options they say we should take are necessarily bad - saving energy and being more efficient is good for a multitude of reasons including saving money - but they should be honest in the analysis and understand that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Changing from one method to another usually has consequences somewhere else down the line that often negates the initial benefit.

Worst of all however, they treated the entire program as if there was absolutely no doubt as to cause and effect and the ultimate consequences. This is the most dishonest claim of all. There are numerous prominent scientists that disagree with the theory. There are multitudes of opposing theories, but these are not the politically correct ones and so don't get the funding and recognition that the prevailing one gets. Just because "most scientists" say something, doesn't mean it is true. At a point in history, most scientists thought the earth was the centre of the universe. Before Einstein, "most scientists" believed that time was not relative and that Newtonian mechanics were 100% accurate. There are theories that the sun has increased its output and is causing the warming, (there is even evidence that temps on mars have been rising), there are theories that increased cloud cover as a result of solar radiation has caused the warming. There are theories that the instability of the earth's orbit has contributed to the warming. Then of course there is the extent of the warming itself that is glossed over. 0.7 of a degree over a century - most of which occurred in the first half of the century. The earth then cooled for 30 years to the point where environmentalists were claiming we were headed for another ice age. Then warming again till the mid nineties and then largely flat since then. The theory of cause and effect is in doubt too. Does carbon cause warming or does warming cause carbon? Natural cycles have occurred since the creation of the earth resulting in ice ages and thaws that had nothing to do with humans.

Another point the program failed to make is that carbon makes up a tiny percent of the greenhouse gases. The major greenhouse gas is water vapour! Uh oh what about those hydrogen cars? The illustrations of what would happen to "your city" when the seas rise was alarmist nonsense. Even the worst predictions show sea levels rising about 60cm over a century. Not 10's of metres as shown in the program.

Where is the balance and honesty in the media?


Anonymous said...

Excellent article - makes a mockery of the movement

Anonymous said...

Another point they made was to tell people not to have their fridge too cold. This is just dangerous and irresponsible. Fridges should be below 4 degrees Celsius otherwise there is a risk of food contamination. I can visualise a great number of people thinking that it is an easy way to save the planet and turn their thermostats up and at best causing food wastage (which is bad for the planet) or at worst causing some serious food poisoning.