"The Skeptical Environmentalist" under scrutiny
Jose G. Perez
jgperez at netzero.net
Thu Dec 13 06:14:46 MST 2001
Lomborg, an associate professor of statistics at Denmark's University of
Aarhus, applies the doctrine of doubt to environmentalism and concludes
that most of the movement's sacred cows are, to put it bluntly, bull:
"We will not lose our forests; we will not run out of energy, raw
materials, or water. We have reduced atmospheric pollution in the cities of
the developed world and have good reason to believe that this will also be
achieved in the developing world. Our oceans have not been defiled, our
rivers have become cleaner and support more life. ... Nor is waste a
particularly big problem. ... The problem of the ozone layer has been more
or less solved. The current outlook on the development of global warming
does not indicate a catastrophe. ... And, finally, our chemical worries and
fear of pesticides are misplaced and counterproductive."
* * *
Actually, a report out Tuesday from the National Academy of Science's
research arm comes to a rather different conclusion. It also debunks an
environmental sacred cow -- that an increase in CO2 levels will lead to a
gradual global warming -- but from the *opposite* direction.
It summarizes the evidence from various sources to show that the earth has a
history of rapid and dramatic climate change, with changes of temperature of
several degrees centigrade taking place on the scale of a decade or so. This
shows that the climate system is non-linear, chaotic in the mathematical
sense, and moves rapidly from one more-or-less stable or gradually evolving
state to another, for reasons that are not understood. It is in a sense
analagous to quantum mechanics, where electrons don't move gradually from
one energy level to another, but rather jump from one to the other in a
chaotic, probabilistic way.
It also points out that current climate models cannot account for what has
happened in the past nor project when it may happen again in ther future;
but that a situation where human activity is "forcing"
climate-influencing factors may well lead the system over a "threshhold"
into a state of rapid change more quickly than otherwise.
The report says changes on the kind of scale anticipated --several degrees
centigrade in a decade time frame-- will, of course, be extremely disruptive
but need not be catastrophic, especially if a society has sufficient
development and resources to adapt to the changed circumstances, and calls
for aid world countries, as the countries in the tropics couldbe hardest
This, of course, shows these academics know less about soiety than they do
about the weather, for what it is that keeps countries "underdeveloped" is a
complete mystery to them. But more IMF, World Bank, Peace Corps and other
forms of imperialist intervention and "aid" is precisely is what is not
wanted; they contribute to imperialist domination and are part of the system
of imperialist looting which is devastating the third world.
This study is, nevertheless, striking evidence in support of the materialist
dialectical method, but it very much calls into question the political
approach of those who advocate that the working class should support
bourgeois schemes to "prevent" climate change on the basis of "science"
whose conclusions have been shaped by bourgeois ideological and
methodological prejudices. One particularly striking incoherence in the
report and in the work of the national academy of science is that it fails
to bring together into one room, so to speak, those who predict gradual
climate change with those more familiar with sudden and large-scale climate
shifts. Thus we have two sets of scientists speaking about global climate as
if two different planets were involved.
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