I’m a Climate skeptic

I’m a climate skeptic … however, what I do not mean is that I refute the concept of man-made climate change, because the evidence for that is clear. No instead I’m skeptical that we will do anything about it , but will instead carry on tinkering around the edges, doing a few small things, but will continue to not make the really big decisions. Its almost like the folks who pop a few vitamin pills, and by doing so create a false sense of security, and so carry on gorging themselves on mountains of junk food until they hit a tipping point and an overworked heart stops.

“Oh but wait”, you say, “we have lots happening, lots of meetings to agree targets, electric cars, we all re-cycle”. All true, but sadly it is simply not enough, the latest evidence I bring to the table is a leaked report that …. well here it is, read it for yourselves :

Greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year, to the highest carbon output in history, putting hopes of holding global warming to safe levels all but out of reach, according to unpublished estimates from the International Energy Agency.

The shock rise means the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius – which scientists say is the threshold for potentially “dangerous climate change” – is likely to be just “a nice Utopia”, according to Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA. It also shows the most serious global recession for 80 years has had only a minimal effect on emissions, contrary to some predictions.

Last year, a record 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere, mainly from burning fossil fuel – a rise of 1.6Gt on 2009, according to estimates from the IEA regarded as the gold standard for emissions data.

“I am very worried. This is the worst news on emissions,” Birol told the Guardian. “It is becoming extremely challenging to remain below 2 degrees. The prospect is getting bleaker. That is what the numbers say.”

Professor Lord Stern of the London School of Economics, the author of the influential Stern Report into the economics of climate change for the Treasury in 2006, warned that if the pattern continued, the results would be dire.

You can read the full story here.

Its quite depressing, in essence we are more or less stuffed, not in the sense that it is the end of the world, but rather that there will be huge disruption for future generations. It is estimated that Antarctica, if fully melted, would contribute more than 60 metres of sea level rise, and Greenland would contribute more than 7 metres. We would not see it in our lifetime, but that is the road we are currently walking down.

Right now, it is still not too late, we can avert and minimize the disruption, but the action needed would have to be bold and decisive. Now this is the point where my climate change skepticism steps in … I’m not convinced we will take those steps, but will instead continue to simply tinker about the edges, hold meetings that agree on targets that nobody adheres to, and so we create the illusion of decisive action without actually doing anything truly meaningful. If you will forgive the metaphor, its more or less akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. (We have reduced emissions successfully, but only by relying on imports from elsewhere such as China)

Can we take the steps needed? Well, here is an example I’ve blogged about it before. I was shot down by some for suggesting it at the time, but we seriously need to consider going nuclear in a big way, it is a major means for generating carbon free power, but after events in japan, there is no appetite for going there.

Another telling message from the IEA’s estimates is the relatively small effect that the recession – the worst since the 1930s – had on emissions. Initially, the agency had hoped the resulting reduction in emissions could be maintained, helping to give the world a “breathing space” and set countries on a low-carbon path. The new estimates suggest that opportunity may have been missed.

3 thoughts on “I’m a Climate skeptic”

  1. 30.6 billion gigatons. That is an astonishing number especially in light of the news from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) that is forecasting that by 2025 permafrost thawing is projected to begin releasing more carbon than is being taken up by the tundra. So not only will we have the 30.6 gigatonnes, now we’re going to start adding emissions installments from the 190 billion tons of carbon dioxide and methane released from the permafrost. 2020 is only nine years away and 2020 – 2030 is the time frame when irreversible climate tipping point is projected to occur due to carbon outgassing from melting permafrost. That is a lot to think about. That’s a lot to act on. The clock is ticking. And let’s remember this: There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.


  2. I think nuclear power is loosing not only because it is extremely dangerous. And as with every other complex system, you will never be able to make it 100% safe. Especially not if people are involved.

    The problems with nuclear waste are still unsolved.

    Not to mention, that nuclear energy is by far the most expensive energy source we have in Germany. Nothing else comes even close. The only reason nuclear energy can compete is because of huge subsidies.

    That is why most people in Germany agree, that nuclear power can not be the answer and instead vote for regenerative energy. Water, wind, air, etc.


    Also, don’t forget, that uranium is not an endless resource. Estimates are that uranium will last for another 200 years only with the current level of consumption. And nuclear energy makes only a small part in the worldwide energy production. If we start to push it, we will quickly reach a similar situation we are already in with oil.
    (At least, that is what I read into reports like this: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-long-will-global-uranium-deposits-last)

  3. I agree, but have just heard on the news this morning that Germany has decided not to build any new nuclear power stations. From your previous blog:

    “It’s interesting to see how young people will react to this, the ones who don’t remember Chernobyl or Three-Mile island,” Danon says. “Will they say we shouldn’t build or will they try to design better reactors?”

    Looks like the former group are winning in Germany.


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