Apr 262012

There’s a little piece of theatrics being broadcast on ABC1 this evening, all about the contentious subject of Climate Change.

I don’t actually find the subject contentious. To me, it’s science fact and logic. End of story. The theatrics should be worth a giggle though and the opportunity to laugh at the conservative apologista on Twitter is one I rarely pass up. I thought I’d take this opportunity, while things are quiet at the rockpile & the overseer is othwerwise engaged in another part of the country, to tell you, dear reader, why I don’t find Climate Change to be at all contentious. You see, I’ve been on this Earth 53 years, 7 months and 11 days. In that time I’ve seen 53 winters. I’ve lived in various parts of this country, but principally in Queensland. For the majority of it, in Brisbane some 27 degrees south of the Equator. In geological terms, a Temperate Zoned area of the world. Temperate Zone means from 23.5 degrees South to 66.5 degrees South, so effectively 27 degrees is a mere 245 nautical miles from the Tropical Zone. Let’s say Brisbane sits on the northern edge of the South Temperate Zone. A generally pleasant climate region.

I have memories of some bitterly cold winters in this region. Temperatures very close to zero degrees Celcius some mornings. I have memories of rubbing rime ice from my car windscreen some winter mornings, and of frost on the grass. This in suburban Brisbane. Not every year, to be sure, but my memories of winter mornings in Brisbane have always been of very cold winters for what I’d always thought to be a temperate climate. Now, I’ve also lived west of the Great Divide, at altitudes of 900 metres above sea level and I’ve lived in tropical Far North Queensland, so it’s not as though I have no benchmarks for what warm and cold are. I also still visit those other regions from time to time, the high-altitude-west-of-the-range locations reasonably regularly. Winters now, in the 21st century, and not as cold as they were in my youth, mid 20th century. I’ve only lived for just over half a century, yet I see the difference, I feel the changes. I’ve not worn a pullover or jacket in winter for three winters now. It’s simply not cold enough to be uncomfortable.

I’ve seen changes in rainfall patterns. Only in 2009 did I perceive a return to anything like the rainfall patterns in Brisbane that I recall from my childhood. December-February, very wet. Week long periods of heavy rain interspersed with week long periods of dry, thunderstorm activity. I recall living on the Darling Downs in the late seventies when practically every summer afternoon, we’d enjoy a beer on the back landing watching the lightning shows nature would put on for our entertainment. For almost 30 years that didn’t happen, up until just recently. I remember year upon year upon year when tropical cyclones would form in the Coral Sea, threaten the Queensland coastline and either come to something or peeter out into rain depressions. That phenomenon died away, until just recently, say from 2005 when Larry struck the far north coast.

Yes, the sceptics will all laugh & claim that change is the nature of the ecosphere we live within. The thin atmospheric envelope less than 100 nautical miles between sea level and the edge of space has always fluctuated, and always will. Yes indeed, I agree wholeheartedly. That is the nature of planetary atmospherics, especially so when those atmospherics are driven by oceans which constitute 70% of the planet’s surface. Oceans which have currents as a result of orbital motion and heated by the planet itself. Sceptics delight in pointing out that 10,000 years ago global temperatures were warmer, that 700 years ago, the northern climates were much colder than today. Again, I agree, this is known scientific record. What that record proves is the dynamics of the world we live on. No-one can state categorically that one primary cause is at work. Anyone who does is a charlatan at best. However, those who flatly deny that human industrialisation can’t possibly be having any impact on planetary climate are not only deluding themselves, they are denying the right of future generations to enjoy the clemency of this world in the same manner as we have. That, in my estimation, is as serious a crime as genocide.

Let’s look at timeframes. 4.5 billion years ago the Earth accreted from gas & dust. The planet was subjected to bombardment from remnant debris of the solar system creation for billions of years afterwards, until sometime around 1 billion years ago, that bombardment abated to the point where oceans had formed and the first single cellular life arose. Life, as we understand it, remained single-celled until around 580 million years ago, when multi-cellular life arose and an event now called the Cambrian Explosion took place. Life burgeoned, changed, evolved, died out & reformed again. Plant life dominated the planet for hundred of millions of years before reptiles arose and survived for some 200 million years. They were wiped out by a planetary catastrophe totally unrelated to planetary climate. Less that 2 hundred thousand years ago, human kind arose. Less than 150,000 years ago, humanity as it was began to spread across the globe. Less than 10,000 years ago, we learned to grow grain & husband livestock. We began to trade 6,000 years ago, we built empires, civilisations which have all long since faded away, but we became smarter, more developed. We survived petty wars and religion, to the point where 300 years ago, we developed the first steam engine. We grew even smarter & realised that fossil fuels – coal, oil and pitch primarily – burned hotter and longer than wood, enabled greater production of steam and therefore more energy. We industrialised.

We are now more than 7 billion in number and expanding rapidly. Our industrialised development has meant that we command the planet we live on. We command all other forms of life, we have the ability to destroy or secure that life. We even have the ability to destroy ourselves, albeit, unwittingly. That is what concerns me the most about human industrialisation. That a small but vocal collective desire to ignore the blindingly obvious. As an industrialised species, totally dependant upon our industrialisation for continued survival, we are stripping this world of every available resource it has in order to continue expansion. We will eventually reach one of two limits. The ability to sustain a given level of population, and the ongoing ability to sustain our industrialisation. The planet is finite in what it contains and can provide. We, as a species, are finite and depend on the planet to survive. One would think that those who deny what we’re doing to the only place in the Universe we know we can survive on would at least appreciate the symbiotic relationship, but no.

I don’t argue minor points with climate change sceptics or deniers any more. I know my viewpoint is correct and theirs, non-existent. I simply put it to their kind to prove to me that 300 years of human industrialisation cannot, in any way, shape or form, have deleterious impacts on global climate. I am yet to have a single person provide a single, fact-based piece of evidence that it does not. That is why I accept the imperfect science which records and reports the facts surrounding Climate Change. When someone can show me why 300 years of human industrialisation cannot effect the air I breathe, the water I drink, the food I eat, or have any impact on the sustainability of the planet in 500; 1,000 or 10,000 years time, I might consider changing my view. I don’t need any other argument. I know the truth, and it is inconvenient, for some.

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