Thursday, December 10, 2009

copenhagen - prelude to extinction?

FCNP | As the Copenhagen meeting on climate change opens, we are getting mixed signals. At one extreme are the "disbelievers," who say that serious consequences from global warming, if it is really happening, are still decades away so why should people be saddled with higher energy costs now. If the polls are correct the disbelievers now constitute a majority of the American electorate.

At the other extreme are the climate scientists who are telling every media outlet that will listen that the proposals being discussed at Copenhagen are nowhere near enough to save mankind from destruction. Some are saying that a five degree Centigrade increase in the average global temperature may be enough to do in mankind. Food will no longer grow in sufficient quantity to keep all 8 billion of us fed. Rising sea levels and more violent storms will make coastal cities - even Washington - largely uninhabitable. A recent survey of 3,000 climate scientists indicates that 82 percent agree that human activity is making a significant contribution to global warming. Of the 77 climate scientists who are actively studying and publishing about global warming, 97 percent say that human activity is involved.

The message here is simple. If the scientists watching this are right, and there is no reason to believe they are not, in 100 or 200 years there will not be many (or any) people left. We already have precedents for higher forms of life on earth being wiped out by meteors and really big volcanoes. Remember the dinosaurs?

Unlike the previous extinctions, it seems that the next one will be caused by people, not Mother Nature. We understand the problem (too much carbon going into the air) and how to solve it (stop putting so much carbon into the air). The problem is that for most of the world current lifestyles and prospects for a better life all involve using more fossil fuels. Nobody wants to give up what they have or the prospects for a better future. The situation is further complicated by the huge disparities in the per capita consumption of fossil fuels and populations.

While the richer European countries can see their way to major reductions in fossil fuel consumption, very few other developed countries can. In the United States which has until very recently enjoyed 300 years of nearly continuous economic prosperity, giving up our current lifestyle is unthinkable for many (perhaps most). Thus they prefer to listen to false prophets who tell them all will be well.