The Paris climate talks held late last year delivered a celebrated agreement. Considering the lofty goals of old when anything other than a binding agreement was a failure, I do question why such an innocuous agreement can be called an historic success.
Before the talks the world leaders urged action. Prince Charles prophesized that the two week deliberations would decide the fate of "all alive today" and "those yet unborn". Really? Barrack Obama - fresh off his CO2 billowing private 747 - orated, "This once distant threat has moved firmly into the present and into the sting of more frequent extreme weather events". David Cameron warned the world was in peril with crops failing and deserts expanding. John Key voiced his concern that things are getting worse more rapidly.
The dire picture the leaders painted of a world under attack from the weather echoed through the numerous opinion pieces published during the Paris talks. Amongst them Rachael Le Mesurier, executive director of Oxfam, warned that the effects of climate change are coming on quicker than scientists had predicted. The problem of global warming was no longer a prediction for the future, it is real and it is happening now and even worse than expected, they warned.
According to the UN's own Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), they are all wrong. Its fifth assessment report states that the temperature rise of the past 15 years is far slower than it used to be and well below model predictions. On droughts, the IPCC concludes that it cannot attribute any changes in the frequency or severity of droughts to human influence on climate. On extreme weather, it summarizes that we are not in the sting of anything at all with no increasing trend in storminess or cyclones identified over the last century. It does predict however that in a warmer world there will be a reduction in cyclones for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, so that is good news.
Why then are world leaders misleading us? Are they mistaken or are they being dishonest?
Whichever it is, their utterings demonstrate how global warming has moved from a scientific theory where integrity matters, to a political movement where it doesn't. The movement has much appeal, it promotes renewable and sustainable things, it rallies against carbon which we visualize as black and sooty and bad and going to run out anyway.
A low carbon future is an attractive vision, even if we don't believe global warming is much of a problem, but a genuine utopia is not built on lies and the other problem is the cost. Treasury predictions on New Zealand's Paris pledge to reduce emissions are that it will make every family in New Zealand poorer by $1300 per year every year. This is on top of how much poorer we are now due to current climate policies.
The leaders and the opinion writers ignore the financial burden their vision brings. Not enough money is more a reality for most than the rising sea, so our leaders need to be right about the information they rely on to make decisions that will make us all even poorer, and they are not.
So what can we do when faced with the leaders' rhetoric? Accept it or question it? I tend to question a lot of what they say about global warming because my interest has been livestock emissions of methane. What they say about them makes no sense. Cyclical emissions which can only ever be atmospherically neutral over time cannot cause global warming. The Government knows that no scientific link has ever been established between livestock emissions of methane and the changing atmospheric concentration of methane, yet it continues wasting our money researching ways to reduce something it has never established needs reducing.
That type of misappropriation, along with proof that our leaders have misled us on this topic is enough for me to continue to question a lot of what they say about global warming.
Robin Grieve is chairman of Pastural Farming Climate Research - an organisation formed to promote livestock emissions of methane as being of a cyclical nature and atmospherically neutral. This article was published as a reply to Rachael Le Mesurier's recent opinion article.
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