Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
My first thoughts about the climate change debate were written five years ago today.
My, how time flies. Back in January 2009, I began blogging about photography, movies, and music at another web address.
I authored 19 blog posts that month. One of them – penned five years ago today – was my very first about the climate change debate. Titled The Economist Hits an Iceberg, it responded to what I viewed as hype and exaggeration on the part of a normally thoughtful magazine.
I was annoyed that, in an editorial about the state of the world’s oceans, the Economist had told its readers:
Carbon dioxide affects the sea in other ways, too, notably through global warming. The oceans expand as they warm up. They are also swollen by melting glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets: Greenland’s ice is on track to melt completely, which will eventually raise the sea level by about seven metres (23ft). Even by the end of this century, the level may well have risen by 80cm, perhaps by much more. For the 630m people who live within 10km (six miles) of the sea, this is serious. Countries like Bangladesh, with 150m inhabitants, will be inundated. [bold added]
Conducting a bit of my own research, I discovered that the sentence I’ve bolded above is surely one of the silliest to ever appear in that publication. This seven-metre rise in sea level was hardly an imminent threat. An organization I’d never heard of before – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – said it would take millennia for that amount of melting to occur.
So the Economist was encouraging us to get our knickers in a twist about sea level thousands of years hence. In a world in which, every year, six million children die before achieving their fifth birthday.
Not only had the Economist not bothered to make clear the timescale involved, it failed to tell readers that the IPCC’s opinion isn’t based on hard, verifiable science but on model projections. As I asked five years ago:
If someone recorded the fluctuations of a particular company’s stock over the course of an hour, extrapolated from that data, and then insisted they could accurately predict the stock’s value five years from now – would we take them seriously?
The notion that any journalist would claim to know what’s on track to happen thousands of years from now is absurd.
It’s similarly preposterous to imply that populations at risk when the Economist published its speculative scaremongering in 2009 will be equally vulnerable at the end of the 21st century. A female child born in Canada 90 years ago had a life expectancy of 61 years. One born today is expected to live until age 83 – a lifespan increase of more than one third. In other words, we humans are highly successful at confronting threats to our well-being.
Forget the nitty gritty scientific aspects of the climate debate. Basic logic, common sense, and a rudimentary historical perspective provide ample reason to reject climate hysteria.
That was true five years ago, when I articulated my first thoughts on this subject. It remains true today.
I will be addressing the Energy and Climate Change Committee of the UK House of Commons a few weeks from now, on January 28th. I was offered the opportunity to give my evidence via teleconferencing technology, but feel that this is an instance in which a personal appearance is warranted. I have, after all, spent much of the past five years researching the IPCC – the latest report of which is now being examined by the committee.
The committee will reimburse me for a single night in a hotel, and for transportation costs incurred within London on that day. It is, however, unable to pay for my $1,000 return flight, costs associated with getting to and from the airport, etcetera.
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Time is a non-renewable resource. The past five years have been rewarding in many respects and, given the chance to re-live them, I doubt I’d change much. What they have not been is financially rewarding.
It is no exaggeration to say I would have enjoyed more spare time and earned more money if I’d spent the past five years working as a barista.