When tidying up my desk, I found a leaflet that got lost in a pile of papers. It was a leaflet from 2012 and came from 11.11.11 (an umbrella organization of Flemish North-South organizations). The leaflet was about the effects of climate change on the poor people of Africa. It dated from a time that this blog was still just an idea playing in my head and it probably evaded the paper bin because it is such a fine example coming from the we-can-change-the-climate department.
It started with a bang (translated from Dutch, emphasis by the author of the leaflet):
The climate is changing. You know that. With dramatic consequences. Every year, at least 300,000 people become climate victims in the South. And it will get worse if we don’t do anything.
Climate changes, nobody will doubt that. But that is obviously not what he meant. If you look at the leaflet as a whole, he meant “human induced” climate change. Changed by our emissions. It will hit home because the public is conditioned for many years by the media to understand it as such and the author surely is not going to give any background to make them think otherwise.
So judging from the first five sentences, the text is clearly emotional laden and it continues that way with two stories. One about a boy from Niger (Adamou) who can’t go to school because he has to get water always further away and one about farmers from Kenya (Rose and Simon Lokidongoi) who lost their last cow because of drought.
Then the upper-cut (translated from Dutch, emphasis by the author of the leaflet):
The biggest victims of climate change are exactly those who are the least responsible for it.
Do you find this unfair. Me too.
If it wasn’t already clear that this is an emotional appeal, now it should be. These people were painted as climate change victims, specifically because of our emissions. No other causes are given. So these two tragic stories seemed to be suggested as our fault and we have to make it better again by lowering our emissions and encouraging our politicians to do the same for our country and Europe.
At the back of the leaflet we get the consequences of global warming per degree Celsius (at this moment, +1 °C, +2 °C, +3 °C and even +6 °C). These were deliciously vague claims. For example, these are the effects of climate change already right now (translated from Dutch):
- The desert is advancing
- Agriculture is impoverishing
- Glaciers are melting
- At least 300,000 climate deaths a year
- 26 million climate refugees
How he knows that these dramatic consequences are caused or even facilitated by our emissions, is beyond me. Especially considering we never been in such a position before and considering talking about a complex, chaotic, coupled system… These examples are extremely vague.
For example, which deserts exactly are advancing and what exactly has CO2 has to do with it?
The Agriculture is impoverishing claim was also puzzling. Via Faostat we see globally food production is ever increasing. Does he maybe mean specific countries? But even in Kenya and Niger (the countries of his examples) most production is going up, sometimes even way up. Maybe he meant specific regions? Specific products?
And sure, glaciers are melting, but when did that process start and does that still fits the theory of our emissions?
I am very curious how he can pinpoint a specific death as caused by climate change. More, as a death specifically caused by our emissions. Considering the climate being influenced by a myriad of influences and being a complex, chaotic and well, you know the drift.
The climate fugitives claim reminded me of the failed prediction that there would be 50 million climate refugees by 2010 (and later just moved the prediction 10 years in time). Apparently 11.11.11 managed to somehow find those refugees where the UN failed 😉 By the way, how can he distinguish between climate fugitives and fugitives that flee the country because of political problems, social issues or even natural events?
Apparently he seem to be sure that all this can be traced back to our emissions and paints those people as victims of climate change. The climate change we triggered. How can he know whether Adamou would be able to go to school if we hadn’t emit so much CO2 in the atmosphere? Or whether Rose and Simon could have kept their herd?
Strange, there are actual known problems he seem to overlook entirely. Like over-exploitation of the dry-land, inappropriate land use, political instability, civil wars, deforestation, overgrazing of an already vulnerable area, bad irrigation practices and so on. None of these real problems are even mentioned. As long as I remember, Africa has struggled with droughts, famines, and refugees. These are not new. So it is not a honest representation to suggest that CO2 is the one and only cause of the problems that Adamou, Rose and Simon experience.
For such organizations, the global warming theory is a godsend. In the past they could only rely on the compassion of the public. Now, with the global warming/climate change component, they can additionally tap into powerful guilt feelings.
It’s all a big PR push based on environmentalism turned into something rather similar to a crackpot religion. And they’re claiming that the best time in the history of man…is in reality an apocalypse.
It is a PR push, sure, but I think there is much more to it than that. It is a godsend and this for many reasons. In the post I already raised the point that the theory made it possible to tap into guilt feelings, which facilitates people getting their wallet out. It is being painted as some kind of debt that we have to pay for the fact that we emitted CO2 in the past and therefor allegedly changed the climate and put people in the developing world in a difficult situation. Lots of money can going on there, ensuring a Robin Hood-status.
The point is that there are people who gain from the theory:
It doesn’t matter whether this is the best time in history when there is benefit from the belief that it is getting worse.
There are many other groups: government, insurance companies, carbon certificate sellers, entrepreneurs, investors,… None of them will gain something by questioning the belief, so it would be stupid for them not to take the opportunity with both hands as long as it is possible.
Oh of course, the green groups, communists, socialists, and anti-corporate types are milking it for everything it’s worth. And it does it in pretty much the same way many religions (and especially cults) do it.
That’s the strange thing..they keep spouting the whole “bit oil” conspiracy but the contributions by the total paid out by energy companies and their benefactors to ANY conservative cause are orders of magnitude lower than the amounts paid out by/to “the other side”
Sadly this 11.11.11 stuff is not really worth commenting. The NGOs which breathe in money collected by baseless panic stories, they do this at continuous pace. The only hope is to wake some of the mass media to notice that those organizations spread and live in misinformation to justify and fulfill their own goals – their ideology and funding. We’re doomed if Friends of Earth decide on politics.
I’m a bit ambivalent on how real and dangerous CO2 emissions are. It is probable, in my opinion, that trying to mitigate (instead of adapt) by reducing emissions costs more in terms of life AND money. That means, we have no way of removing the risks, but we have a lots of ways to worsen whatever comes.
Our emissions are real, I have no doubt about that. I also have no problem believing that they have some influence on temperatures. Whether they are dangerous is a different matter. As far as I understand the studies on the “consensus”, none of those investigated that part of the equation (although they might be reported as if they did). In the media it is presented as if it is certain that CO2 is the only, or at least the biggest, culprit of the warming. And if it is certain that it is dangerous, then mitigation would be the right way to go.
But it is also clear that the information we receive on climate is very one-sided and also exclude the intrinsic uncertainties. CO2 is only one variable among many in a complex, chaotic and coupled system, so there should be huge uncertainties involved. In a situation of uncertainty, mitigation is not the best action to take. As you said, it will come with a high price and maybe even worsen the situation if the right problem(s) were not tackled after all.
“It is probable, in my opinion, that trying to mitigate (instead of adapt) by reducing emissions costs more in terms of life AND money”
That is one of the truly bizarre aspects of this whole thing. Even the consensus by the experts (not by green groups and alarmists of course) is that mitigation will cost far, far more. But a quick look back through history would show you that nearly 100% of gloom and doom projections are dead wrong. Not only are they wrong, they’re often averted by things nobody could have seen coming.
Think of the looming infrastructure problem of maintaining horses in cities (well, it was a coming problem back in the last 1800s). Had they enforced some sort of artificial system to regulate horses, it might have slowed or blocked the adoption of automobiles…and it certainly would have slowed economic growth. And the forced adoption of renewable energy, which is essentially worthless to us, carries the same cost. We have 10000 years worth of fissile fuel before we need to concern ourselves with even fusion.
And of course that brings up another problem, why the heck are the environmentalists against fracking and nuclear, the only two technologies that would bring fast reductions of emissions (not that I care about CO2 emissions) at lower costs? The hard core environmentalists are pushing what is essentially a green religion. It’s not reality. It’s dogma. They act as if the world is meant to be static and unchanging…that buildings do not rise and fall, so therefore having to eliminate a 100 year old structure at the beach is a great financial loss, not something to be expected by the realities of normal decay. They count the costs of replacing your 20 furnace with a heat pump as a cost of climate change when you would have had to pay something anyway.
Since everything decays, everything must be replaced, repaired, and upgraded…so most adaptation costs…are paid by that process.