Peter Lynn

November 2006

Global Warming

One lot, the Kyotians, believe that the climate is changing, and that humankind is causing this to happen, and that we can and should do things to stop this change so as to return to the status quo ante. Kyotians believe in a selective application of the "precautionary principle"; that we need to do certain things now (like that New Zealand should pay Russia $300 mill per year for 'carbon credits' because our cows and sheep fart methane for eg), because if we don't it will be too late. The Kyotians are mainly harmless though, and will remain so unless the global warming religion jihadises- because they're unlikely to get sufficient consensus for strong action while their bosses are more concerned with electability than ideology.

Another lot, the Greens, also believe that everything is changing for the worse, and that humankind are to blame. But they think that it's all pretty hopeless unless the root cause (us) is taken out of the equation. This lot don't want solutions. Like for Torquemada's inquisitors, reasonable answers just get in the way of the ritual expiation of our collective guilt by way of pain and suffering (of others of course, but 'for the greater good', and by 'it hurts us more than it hurts you' justification).

The third lot are the reactionary conservatives. This lot, by the view of the first two, are either declared to be "in denial"(a way to coercively impose an opinion by denigrating any person that can't be convinced by reason), or 'in the pay of big business'.

Reactionary conservatives believe that things are just fine the way they are and react against those who demand change- they won't believe the end is nigh even when it is.

Which lot are right?

What if there really is a problem and that we are able to do something about it- surely we should do so now before it's too late?

What if there is a fifth horseman of the apocalypse- one who exhales carbon dioxide and farts methane?

And where in all of this do we kite fliers figure?

It seems to me that by the Kyotians and Greens perspective, kite fliers are sinners; basically because we love to travel- and particularly by air. Every 12-hour flight uses about 0.75tonnesof fuel per payload tonne (and aeroplanes put it right up there where it can do the most damage). An average international kite festival therefore probably burns up 15 tonnes for international fliers and maybe the same again for locals. Add on the carbon costs for 30,000 local area spectators and we're BAD!

The Greens aren't any better mind, probably worse; they also have a great propensity for travelling. A recent audit of some high profile Greens revealed that they were each burning something like 10 tonnes of oil per year on air travel alone. Taking their message out to the world doesn't happen cheaply, carbon wise, it seems- but no doubt they believe that the end justifies the means in this case. Nor do Green's generally live in small houses and use public transport. Like renaissance era Popes, their moral message is for others.

And, the Kyotians are travel sinners also- bureaucrats require frequent face-to-face meetings at mutually acceptable international locations- and lifestyle blocks, and SUV's so that their children can get to school safely.

Come to think of it, reactionary conservatives are into travel also- they have no carbon scruples at all, they might even be taking perverse pleasure in travelling as much as they can just to spite the others- and of course they have all that big business money to burn.

Travelling, and air travel in particular is the privilege of elites, and particularly those very elites who are currently obsessing about global warming. How ironic.

The world's stuffed!

But wait, there's a fourth lot (the sleeping dogs)- and they are most of the world's population. This lot aren't aware of impending global warming at all- or at least don't see it as relevant to themselves –or even maybe look forward to not freezing their butts off every winter.

This is the same lot who pulled the human species through several ice ages, multiple great floods, plagues, pestilence, famine, and the eruption of Toba 74,000 years ago that reduced the human gene pool to less than 2000 individuals. Whatever our next challenge may be; an asteroid strike, human Dutch elm disease, nuclear exchanges, a new ice age, another Toba, the next melting of the ice caps, or even a genocidal murder suicide attempt by radical Greens, they'll probably muddle us through again.

And there's an advantage this time we've never had before, globalisation.

Predictably, the Greens are opposed to globalisation, self-sufficiency is their catch cry.

Self-sufficiency is crap.

Globalisation is efficiency, getting more accomplished for MUCH less work; it's economy of scale writ large.

Failure to engage with the emerging global economy is what caused China to slip from being the world's number one economy in the 12th century to the helpless state that allowed every minor foreign devil to walk all over them by the 19th. Japan's 'expulsion edicts' (no foreigners) drove Japan from being probably the world's richest country per capita in the 14th century to the humiliation of Commander Perry holding their entire country under his guns from Tokyo Bay in the mid 19th. As juche, it's what is now driving North Korea into starvation, paranoia and unforgivable atrocities against their own people.

Jared Diamond's "Collapse" notwithstanding (the historical communities he used as examples could have easily survived had they not been isolated), if we can hang on to enough globalisation I reckon we're likely to make it through most calamities, retaining some modern conveniences even.

Fortunately, the key technology of globalisation is not the aeroplane; it's the container ship. Thanks to size, Froude's law and Diesel's engine, they use just 1/10th of a tonne of fuel for every payload tonne they shift halfway around the world- more than 70 times as efficient as aeroplanes, cars (and passenger trains for that matter).

We'll have to stop kite flying but.


Peter Lynn,
Shenzhen, October 31 '06




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