Jan 16, 2008

Why fighting global warming is like imperialism

As we know, the Earth is getting warmer. Again, the fact that there is any debate about this is further testament to the inability of our school system to educate us. The evidence is perfectly straightforward and has been for years, if not decades. Also, mankind's carbon dioxide emissions affect global climate change and are making the planet warmer.

My great problem with current global warming hysteria is that these facts in and of themselves aren't in dispute; the question is what we should be doing about them. The environmentalist movement seems content to run around shouting "The sky is falling!" and demanding that we stop climate change now. Greenpeace Finland, for instance, puts of ridiculous displays like this, implying that the reason there was no snowfall in Helsinki this December is because of climate change. Anyone who knows that on average, every second winter in the south of Finland is snowless should understand that this Greenpeace display is pure idiocy.

I recently wrote a blag entry about the other thing global warming hysteria causes: bad journalism. My example is very mild, but overall there is a huge confirmation bias in the way any news related to climate change is reported, which further skews perceptions of the state of the planet. The alarmism is going so far that a movie like The Day After Tomorrow really seems to depict some people's idea of climate change.

Obviously global warming is something we need to be worried about, in a long-term sense. The question that gets trampled over in the alarmism is what we can do, how we should do it, and how much it is going to cost.

When we start talking about actual policies to combat global warming, we need to start from a simple point. The Earth is going to continue to get warmer, even if we totally end anthropogenic global warming today. We don't know how much warmer it's going to get. For this simple reason, the bulk of our effort needs to be spent on adjusting to the effects of global warming.

One major result of the propagation of global warming hysteria is that anthropogenic global warming and global warming as a general phenomenon have become thoroughly confused in people's minds. I believe that there is an inherent bias in human thinking that causes us to think the world is stable and static, and global warming hysteria is making many people believe that without our CO2 emissions, the world's temperature would be stable. Obviously this is not true, but global warming hysteria is making us concentrate our efforts on reducing CO2 emissions when what we should really be doing is concentrating on preparing for global warming in general. Simply put, think how stupid we'll look in a hundred years when we've invested billions of billions of dollars worldwide to curb CO2 emissions and sea levels rise anyway.

Instead of concentrating on living with global warming, we're concentrating on reducing CO2 emissions. There is a very big problem with that. According to Wikipedia, approximately 90% of carbon dioxide emissions come from burning fossil fuels, and we're moving away from a fossil fuel-using economy anyway. What we're doing now is spending huge amounts of money on accelerating a process that is taking place anyway, and we're not accelerating it in a sensible way.

The classic example of stupid climate change policy is the Kyoto protocol. In a rare instance of journalism, the Finnish government news agency YLE published a documentary in their MOT program called Kuumaa ilmaa - vihreää suunnitelmataloutta (roughly Hot air, green planned economy). The script (in Finnish) can be read here. I really have nothing to add to their basic point about the Kyoto protocol: it costs hundreds of millions of euros per year, and its effect on climate change is so small it's impossible to measure. It isn't really doing anything. If the money that is currently being spent on the Kyoto accords was spent on adjusting to the effects of global warming, it would be spent on something necessary and useful. Now it's being spent on curbing emissions to a degree that is so ridiculously small that we could achieve the equivalent effect on global warming by taking the same amount of money and burying it in a pit.

The Kyoto accords are nothing but a titanic waste of all the participating countries' taxpayers' money. They achieve absolutely nothing positive. In fact, the only thing emissions trading is achieving is rewarding countries that were big polluters in 1990. Because the European Union emissions trading scheme, based on the Kyoto protocols, is based on each participating country's cO2 emissions in 1990, a time when the Eastern Bloc countries literally didn't give a shit about pollution, it means that countries like Poland have a huge amount of emissions rights, while the Nordic countries don't have enough emission rights for their already environmentally friendly industrial production. They have to buy emissions rights from former big polluters, which amounts to a wealth transfer from countries with low emissions to countries with large emissions. Brilliant!

The fight against global warming is an economic process that is ultimately similar to imperialism. Studies have shown that European imperialism in general was, in fact, not profitable for the nations engaging in it. Great Britain could never manage to turn a profit from its overseas empire. All the propaganda about how the colonies were the mainstay of British wealth and power was just that, propaganda, because maintaining the colonies cost much more than the profit the empire derived from them. They still did it, though, because the politicians were spending other people's money and it didn't matter to them if they wasted it. Some people did make a profit out of imperialism, though; some investors and businessmen were able to take advantage of the government's senseless spending and make a personal profit.

Similarly, we're now spending billions and billions of dollars/euros on reducing CO2 emissions on a scale that isn't going to make any difference to global warming. Again, it's easy for the politicians to make these decisions. For them, it's an obvious equation: they're spending money that isn't theirs, and they're using it to fight global warming, which is a popular cause that will get them votes. Although the money is going totally to waste in the sense that it isn't doing anything to reduce global warming, it's not just being thrown away. Instead, it's all going to companies, businessmen and investors who have the wits to make money out of global warming hysteria. In an economic process exactly similar to imperialism, governments are wastefully spending huge amounts of money on something that isn't doing the countries or their taxpayers any good, but is lining several private pockets quite comfortably.

Global warming is happening. We need to take measures to prepare for the effects it will have, as well as trying to reduce our harmful impact on the Earth's climate. We need to do this in a way that makes financial sense, not by throwing billions of euros of taxpayers' money after fantasy projects like Kyoto that are having no measurable effect on the phenomenon they are supposedly combatting.

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