Despite some pretty outlandish views from some of the correspondents, among them the idea that global warming is a result of the sun getting hotter, the BBC program (programme?) Talking Point had a pretty good rundown yesterday of oft-discussed topics in the global warming dialogue. The host is Robin Lustig, and his guest was Professor Martin Parry of the IPCC. Among the topics discussed:
One correspondent’s point that the way to get people to make environmentally friendly decisions is to make it easier for them to do so by coming up with green alternatives that are truly equivalent in more aspects than just pure function.
The view that climate is not meant to be stable. It has varied widely since before humans were around and would be doing so without us. A caller later in the program pointed out the economic consequences of an unstable climate. While it may be “natural” for climate to vary, it is easier for people to function economically and socially speaking if they can be assured of relatively constant climate conditions. Taking this further, we may lose coastal areas to sea level rise, but we may also gain increased agricultural productivity in other areas of the world. The variation in itself is not bad; however, rapid changes will lead to some deadweight losses as people are forced to transfer more quickly than expected.
The destruction of the Brazilian rainforests as the destruction of a valuable sink for carbon. Professor Parry here mentioned the UN atlas that was just published depicting the changes to different landscapes over the past thirty years, and agreed that it was a big problem. As far as achieving the goal of a constant concentration of carbon dioxide in the very long term, the amount of carbon that can be absorbed by the biosphere is the critical number.
China (of course). The host of the program said he had just been there, and that the environment is on the political agenda, that it has to be as China comes more and more into contact with the rest of the world. The caller’s concern was that the first world was losing its competitive edge in terms of cost of energy because it is dealing with global warming. Not too much to rebut with; China will take whatever lag time they are allowed.
Nuclear (of course). Not too much said here, but there’s an op-ed over at truthout by Kelpie Wilson called “Sellin’ Nukes, Dissin’ Wind” that I think gets a separate post.
And a caller who, despite making some pretty drastic lifestyle changes to reduce his carbon emissions, still realizes that no one can lead a life that is completely without impact. This led into the sentiment that it is hard to know if an individual’s actions are actually making a difference; the “conclusion” here seemed to be that in addition to making personal choices that are green, make your views felt throughout the political and economic system you engage with every day.
As a disclaimer, some of my own views are embedded in the synopsis above, as well as the decisions regarding what to include or not include. What are you waiting for? Go straight to the source, as they say.