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Dec 9, 2009

Hamilton at Copenhagen: Climate change science? Just google it.

While they pride themselves on their superior rational capacity, in truth the climate deniers are the least wise of the homo sapiens who’ve gathered in Copenhagen.

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Climate change seems like an abstraction when it’s snowing outside, an imagined future rather than the kind of immediate danger we have evolved to react to.

As a test of our capacity for reason, the climate-change conundrum proves just how conceited it is to describe ourselves as homo sapiens. Perhaps COP15 should have been held in Cancun or Nairobi or Cairns, where the weather is more likely to help us be reasonable.

While they pride themselves on their superior rational capacity, in truth the climate deniers are the least wise of the homo sapiens who’ve gathered in Copenhagen. The crackpots, fringe-dwellers and engineers make up one side of the debate, speaking with a voice that has reached hysterical pitch after the theft of emails from the University of East Anglia.

UN officials have been stampeded into responding to “climategate”, although the stolen emails have political meaning only in the Republic Party in the United States and the right wing of the Liberal Party in Australia, in charge until the next election.

Climate denialism would barely register if not for the internet, the modern curse of communication that provides ready confirmation for every whacky theory or paranoid delusion.

The other day a study found that one in four Australians uses the internet to diagnose and treat their illnesses without the need to consult a medical expert. “It’s hard sometimes on the net to work out whether opinion is being portrayed as fact,” said the AMA president. Amen to that.

If a climate denier ignores expert opinion and uses the internet to diagnose and treat his cancer and dies as a result, it is regrettable. If he does the same for his daughter and she dies it is irresponsible. If he ignores the experts and uses the net to conclude the Earth is not sickening and other people’s children die then he is guilty of a crime.

Yesterday we learnt what we already knew — that the hackers were professionals. What we don’t yet know is who organised and paid for the hack. No doubt the money trail is well-hidden, so we must ask who benefits most. Cui bono? The finger points unwaveringly in one direction, the fossil fuel industry’s think tanks in Washington.

But it’s not only the sceptics who are repudiating the science in Copenhagen; most of the nations gathered here are doing the same, including the major emitters who cling to the fantasy that warming can be limited to 2°C above the pre-industrial average.

To have a good chance of that outcome, developed countries would need to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and developing countries as a group would need to cut theirs by 15-30% below the “business-as-usual” levels expected by 2020. Only the European Union comes close to an adequate response.

Even if Copenhagen were to reach a binding agreement, current commitments would fall well short of these targets. Climate Analytics estimates that existing pledges would see global emissions continue to grow through to 2040, and warming would reach 3-4°C by before the end of the century.

A four-degree world is almost too intimidating to contemplate, yet that’s where we are headed.

Clive Hamilton —

Clive Hamilton

Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University

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26 comments

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26 thoughts on “Hamilton at Copenhagen: Climate change science? Just google it.

  1. Grzzz Grzzz

    The squawkings of the growth, growth, growth, infinite growth at whatever cost brigade never cease to amaze me. Anthropomorphic climate change is not proven and it’s all a big anti-industrial, anti-capitalist conspiracy according to them! One just has to look around the world at the level of industrial deforestation, the toxicly polluted rivers and lakes , cities so smothered in the spewings of industry to put two and tow together and accept that we humans are responsible. we can’t blame other species or the ‘natural climate cycle’ for the incredible levels of destruction that we have wrought on the planet and increasingly continue to do so. This anthropomorphic destruction is showing up in the form of ever increasing temperatures, more intense weather events, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and ice caps and a general mix up of the seasons that is throwing the evolved cycles plants and animals into a spin. There is room for industry and a new and enlightened world but the ecological outcomes must precede economic ones and the ways of the past and of right now, must come to a grinding halt if we are to leave a decently habitable planet for the future generations. It really is time we took a leaf out of indigenous cultures many of who have the philosophy that any action today must be thought of in terms of what effect it will have 7 generations ahead. thus green jobs are out there, green industry is just waiting to be funded to the extent that the dinosaur industries are now. when a multinational talks about environmental laws or taxes will costs jobs, they only mean profits for they would replace all of their workers in an instance if they could! no jobs on a dead planet! over and out…..

  2. Robert Barwick

    The fascist face of the “green” movement was displayed yesterday, when U.S. President Barack Obama sidestepped the democratic checks and balances of the U.S. Congress, to have his Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson declare carbon dioxide a threat to “the public health and welfare of current and future generations”.

    The EPA declaration empowers Obama to mandate CO2 cuts in the economy, without a law from Congress; otherwise, like Kevin Rudd, Obama was going to Hans Christian Andersen’s hometown of Copenhagen as the emperor with no clothes.

    To appreciate the ridiculous insanity of the EPA’s declaration, consider the history of CO2:

    CO2 levels were up to 7,000 parts per million (ppm) during the Cambrian Period some 530 million ago. Known as the “Cambrian explosion” this was the period when most major groups of complex life evolved.
    A great Ice Age gripped the Earth some 450 million years ago, late in the Ordovician Period, causing mass extinction. At this time CO2 concentrations were 4,400 ppm—nearly twelve times higher than the current average concentration of 387 ppm. According to the global warming theory, the Earth should have been exceedingly hot.
    During the Carboniferous Period, some 300 million years ago, CO2 concentration declined to about 350 ppm—similar to current concentrations.
    During the Jurassic Period, some 170 million years ago, CO2 concentration rose to 2,400 ppm and the dinosaurs survived just fine.
    The atmosphere is now CO2 impoverished as it was during the Carboniferous Period. Higher concentrations will only help life flourish.

  3. Johnfromplanetearth

    “And if you take cranberries and stew them in applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does” Groucho Marx
    “The Climate- change conundrum proves just how conceited we are to describe ourselves as homosapiens” “whacky theory” paranoid delusion” “climate denialism wouldn’t register if it wasn’t for the internet” What planet is Hamilton from? I just look out the bloody window at that huge big yellow ball up in the sky and i don’t need the internet to tell me it’s there and it has one huge effect on our lives.
    Conceit? Hamilton talks of conceit? The planet has been here 4 billion years or do some of you still believe Adam pinched the apple 6000 years ago? We have engaged in heavy industry 200 years. 4 billion v 200 years…mmm let me see now? Does Hamilton really have the conceit to believe that somehow we’re threatening nature? (Has anyone noticed how nobody ever uses the term Mother Nature anymore?) Whatever happened to her? Does he think that somehow we are going to place in jeopardy everything that has evolved for billions of years on this beautiful blue planet that’s just floating around the sun minding it’s own business?
    Nature will take care of everything in the future because that’s what nature does, it will take care of us some day too, we aren’t here forever folks. We are only here for a little while. I don’t need some madman to tell me we’re all going to fry by next Tuesday!!

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