Pig-Friendly Baconby Carlos Amato / 24.11.2009
The idea of anthropogenic climate change is no longer just a sacred cow. It’s now also a cash cow.
Too many cushy jobs, research grants and political careers depend on the continued acceptance of the hypothesis that we’re cooking our planet with carbon emissions. That hypothesis may well be true, but at present it’s still just an educated guess.
Skepticism is in order – not just because of the various vested interests, but because the hypothesis itself is anti-poor. It demands a course of action that could wreck the developing world’s low-tech, commodity-driven economies. Hundreds of millions of poor people will probably get even poorer if the world reduces its carbon output significantly.
Experts assure us that poor countries will bear the brunt of climate change — but they don’t tell us we’ll bear the brunt of emissions cuts.
Besides, we can’t afford to fret about the weather. We’re too busy trying to get out of the ghetto. And if you think that droughts in Africa are a new thing, you haven’t been here very long.
In South Africa, green rhetoric has been embraced by local business, if not acted upon. Emissions-measuring has become a hollow, mendacious marketing ploy: corporations are “greenwashing” products that will always be profoundly not-green.
Take a recent South African ad campaign punting a climate-friendly cement brand, Afrisam, whose manufacture apparently involves slightly less fouling of the atmosphere than that of its rivals.
That’s a bit like selling lean bacon as “pig-friendly” bacon. If the climate-change hypothesis is accepted at all, then tiny reductions in emissions amount to nothing more than deck-chair-shuffling, particularly if applied to innately filthy products like cement.
If a cement firm genuinely believes that its emissions are threatening our planet’s survival, then they should close down right away. Are we really saving the world, or are we saving our profits?
Because if the former is true, then it’s time to get primitive – and quickly. Renewable energy technology will take many years of development before it’s cheap and efficient enough to power our economies. In the meantime, shouldn’t we all stop driving and flying and building houses and buying stuff that isn’t made in our regions?
How many South Africans are willing to make personal sacrifices to cut emissions? Not many. Not me. Because we’re not really that worried – because the weather is not really that disturbing.
It’s just weather, and weather has been consistently weird since the Big Bang. Floods and droughts are old news. Ask the old dirty bastards who brought you the Old Testament.
And taking serious action to cut emissions would be calamitous. It would cripple our fossil-fuelled global economy. Politicians can’t sell that to voters, which means it can’t be done. That’s democracy at its most brutally sensible. But instead of confronting that truth, we all pretend that a few solar geysers and fluorescent lightbulbs and fuel-efficient cars will do the job. They won’t even come close.
Assuming, of course, that there’s a job to do in the first place. What the climate establishment won’t admit is that plenty of respected scientists quietly doubt that carbon emissions are the main cause of warming. Increased solar activity or a complex of other unknown factors might be the real culprits. Some scientists and economists question whether cutting emissions is the solution at all, even if the greenhouse theory does turn out to be correct. It could well be too late.
Some reckon our best strategy is simply to prepare for higher sea levels. Building dykes around the Cape Flats might be a good idea.
But it’s been a decade since the hottest year on record, which was 1998, when a big fat El Nino was doing its thing in the Pacific. During the decade since, temperatures have dipped, then risen, then dipped, then risen. The underlying trend is unclear.
The much-threatened surge in sea levels is not happening. Antarctic ice is expanding as fast as Arctic ice is retreating. The oceans are getting more acidic, which is killing coral reefs, which is tragic, but it can’t be described as a calamity for humankind.
I’m not arguing there’s nothing to worry about. But if we’re not prepared to radically curb our lifestyles in response to what the scientists are telling us, then we should be honest about it.
Image © and courtesy Jason Bronkhorst. Check more of his styles here.