Christopher Lee

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11 September 2013

Climate Change – a question of morality as well as science

In the United Kingdom most people do not believe they can do anything about climate change. In fact there’s evidence that about the same number don’t really see the problem. Weather going crazy? The British have spent a hundred years believing that anyway. They take a raincoat to the beach.

Ozone layer? Most British have heard of it. Equally, most British do not have the faintest idea what it is other than perhaps a hole in the sky. It’s worth no more than a shrug.

Rising sea levels? Another So What? Anyway, scientists tell us that sea levels are not now rising as much so what was the problem? More and bigger floods in Bangladesh?  There are floods in Bangladesh anyway. Famine in Africa? We give every year. Job done.

There’s one problem about climate change: scientists do not have too much to say that sounds different every time they say it.  The crisis (if that is what it is) remains a simple one to explain.  But modern UK and generally western populations have become schooled in news deafness. News deafness is not that people do not listen.  It is when people hear the same thing said more than twice and so they switch off the listening bit of the brain because something is suggesting to them that if there is nothing new then there is no real crisis. A good news editor will tell you that only sports reports, guaranteed to advance the story and score-line, contain a perk-up factor.

Let’s think of just one simple thing that most people do not know about in the climate change debate. They do not have to be experts, but aware. Most people do not know what a carbon footprint is. Almost no one knows what their personal carbon foot print is.

It is simple really: a carbon foot print is the estimate of the full climate change impact of activity on earth by the individual, society within one country or totally around the globe. The chemistry of this affair is well known but rarely understood by the  average Joe  As an example, most of us now understand that Carbon Dioxide is bad for us.  That’s a silly way of putting it, but in reality, it’s about as far as most understand it.

Global warming created by we people here on earth is mostly from the gases we let off into the atmosphere.  The cleverer we are with transposing science into useable technological the more extraneous gas we create. Burn fossil fuels on fires or in power stations and up goes carbon dioxide. But less known is the danger of methane which is 25 times as ruinous as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide is some 300 times as powerful. In the UK, the gas emissions are: carbon dioxide 86%, methane 7% and nitrous oxide 6%.

We then get into the caerbon footprint business.  It’s a dangerous area because statistics such as the average UK person has a personal carbon footprint of 1.7 means very little because the calculation is bogus. Home and travel emissions for an individual ignore the other things – equipment, buying something that has to travel a thousand miles to get to you etc.

Here then the confusion of facts and opinions of the analysis and use of those facts. Today however, we move to another area. When a convinced climate change science warns that our children’s children children will suffer because we have pierced the ozone layer, he or she does so by quoting the book of climate change statistics.  However, what about the morality of it all?

In London, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change includes the Oxford professor of moral philosophy, John Broome. Broome is there to bring us back to a basic rather than an economic and science argument.

For instance, this author believes the simple question is this: what responsibility do we have towards the child who dies because of climate change and, what responsibility do we have for the child that was never conceived because the parents feared the consequence of climate change? This is the bigger question.

Broome will introduce this level of moral debate by the time the IPCC reports in April 2014. When he does and it appears, then for the first time since the IPCC was established 15 years ago, climate change must not suffer from news deafness. Broome and his like will have something new to say.

And now, Sport

 

 

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