Continuing from previous post in which I described the start of a television news item on the modeled impacts of future weather on Europe. After that introduction, an expert was brought up to explain the paper a bit more, in this case Serge De Gheldere. As far as I know, he is an engineer (specialized in material technology and product design) who got his climate training from no one less than Al Gore, so I was a bit puzzled what his expertise was concerning this specific paper.
He first explained the outcome of the paper (translated from Dutch):
The heat is clearly the effect that will make the majority of victims. Flooding by rivers, by sea, but also by forest fires and extreme weather, storms etc.
Again that certainty of something that results from a complex, chaotic system, based on a lot of assumptions and projected fifty to eighty years in the future…
According to the study of the European Commission, a tad more than 99% of the risk could come from heat waves, but I am not really sure though whether the public would understand that this second array of scary extreme events only has a risk of less than 0.5% to make victims. If one hasn’t read the paper, it would not be clear from that broken second sentence that it doesn’t relate to the first one.
The expert then cranked it up a notch:
In addition to the weather-related aspects there is the danger of failed harvests, for example, by the heat, by water scarcity. We can look at new types of viruses that are going to thrive and insects etc. And all this is likely to lead to conflict, because people are going to move, going to look for the places where the life is still good.
As far as I can see, these were not described in the paper. Already after the first sentence, improvisation starts. Only negative things of course. Climate change (whether caused by natural variation, by humans or by both) is a complex issue and most probably there will be winners as well as losers, yet we are told that there will only be losers in the case of climate change.
Then the journalist took over, saying that it would be Southern Europe that will be affected most, but hey, we will get our share too:
Southern Europe would be most severely affected by extreme weather, but also deaths could rise spectacular with us.
There is a sprinkle of hope though:
The study starts from the assumption that no measures will be taken, but we can do something.
Aha, we can do something. Now it get interesting. This is the solution as proposed by the expert:
The beauty is that if we manage to move away from fossil fuels, here in Flanders and Europe and the world, that we actually will have a better kind of life, that we do not pay more for our energy, better houses, no particulates. That is actually something we want anyway.
It is as simple as that! We just have to move away from a reliable, high density energy source that is the life blood of our current economy to an intermittent, low density energy source that needs backup, and all will just be fine again. I have no problem with better housing, less particulates and so on, but he seems to forget that there will be a host of issues before we get there. This is an overly rosy view of the reality of transitioning to intermittent energy sources that require some expensive technologies (energy storage) or drastic changes in how/when people use energy.
Therefor I a not really sure what he meant with “do not pay more for our energy”. In Dutch, this construction can have two different meanings: “don’t have to pay anymore for our energy” or “don’t have to pay more for our energy”. Initially, I assumed the first. In combination with what follows (better homes), I assumed he was talking about passive houses with limited heating needs. However, it is more likely that he meant that we don’t need to pay extra for our energy. Anyhow, I think they are both examples of wishful thinking.
In the end, it is the usual story that we get from our media. On the one hand, climate change is proposed to only have negative consequences. On the other hand, the solution is straight forward and is positive for everyone involved. It is even our desire to go there and it will not cost us more. Therefor it seems the ideal solution. But this solution is only ideal because the expert focuses solely on the negative aspects of climate change and contrasts this with only the positive aspects of the solution.
Sadly, that is the current normal in climate communication.