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Global warming and climate change – Pt 2


Fri May 16, 2014

(continued from Tuesday, May 13, 2014)

by Oswald Fereira

We are told that present-day natural disasters are increasing in severity because of climate change, but is this so? In 1898, St Vincent recorded a devastating hurricane. Today, if we were to experience a hurricane of similar magnitude, yes, the damage would be severe because our population is larger, we have much more infrastructure, larger; homes, more material possessions and our crops are more valuable.{{more}} If we could translate the damage that happened in 1998 to 2014 dollars and adjust for the difference in our population, housing stock, and presentday crop and infrastructure values, would the monetary value of the damage be significantly different? We cannot simply compare the dollar damage of today to the historical dollar damage without this adjustment over time and to reflect the fact that our level of development and wealth accumulation have increased.

We are constantly told that we have to reduce our carbon footprint in order to save the planet. Yet many of the climate change evangelists live in homes far larger than us mortals, they drive fancier cars and they run up frequent flyer points while they attend conferences and gatherings month after month, year after year and many of us cannot afford a vacation. It looks like a case of the pot calling the kettle black. If they are so concerned, they should not be heating and cooling large homes with fossil fuels; they should fly less, or not at all; they should be taking public transit or a horse and buggy and practise as they preach.

Changes in Nature are slow and take place over geological time, millennia. Scientifically accurate climate data goes back only a few hundred years. Changes observed over decades by the proponents of climate change may very well be shortterm trends that do not equate to changes and natural cycles that occur over millennia. Try as we may, Nature confounds us. We develop theory after theory, only to be proven wrong in time. Nature is full of perplexing conflicts. Antarctica needs to be cold to maintain the polar ice cap, but the cold air over Antarctica is dry and precipitation to build the ice cap is low. Antarctica needs some warmth to bring moisture to deposit more snow on the ice cap, but that same warmth melts the existing ice cap – but that is Nature’s perplexing way of keeping all things in balance.

Is there any merit to the gospel of climate change? In short, yes. We have developed into consumer societies where waste and greed are widespread. We have lost much respect for our environment. Mining operations, run by global companies in the Third World, turn once verdant lands into wastelands. Tropical rainforests are clear cut and are not replaced and wetlands are drained for development, resulting in loss of habitat and loss of species. Exposed soil is eroded by rain, resulting in an inability for the forest to regenerate or at best become scrub and at worse scree. Greece was once a forested country, but destruction of the forest and subsequent overgrazing of the hillsides have resulted in a desert-like landscape. We mine sand and gravel from our coastlines, resulting in coastal erosion. We litter our countryside with garbage of all sorts. We have killed many a productive lake and many of our rivers are running sewers. These actions have just as much or more impact on our environment than the burning of fossil fuels and, in my opinion, the resulting environmental degradation is being equated to climate change. The earth may be capable of filling our collective needs, but not our collective greed. We do not repair most items; we simply replace them; we are a ‘throw away’ society, slowly being buried in our waste. In many cases, it is not our individual fault because it is often cheaper to replace than repair items, or parts may not be readily available. We are bombarded with advertisements that convince us that we need items to the point where we can no longer separate wants from needs. We are conditioned into believing that we must keep up with the Jones’ and, yes, we are leaving larger carbon footprints than we need to. Yes, we should conserve wherever we can, but sadly we have lost the art and desire to be frugal.

What can we do in St Vincent and the Grenadines to reverse the damage done to our environment? We need to get back to basics. We need to adapt principles such as “small is beautiful.” We need to get back to a simpler lifestyle. We should be growing and using local foods, rather than importing over priced and over processed, additive laden foods that make us obese and increase the incidence of diabetes, heart disease and cancers. We need to be weaned from our over-reliance on expensive, imported fossil fuels and develop our solar and wind capacities instead. We need to control water run-off. We need to plant trees and reforest our hills to keep our island green. In short, we need to care for our environment and leave it as a heritage for future generations. We need to become more self-sufficient and reduce expensive food imports. We should do the things we can do to maintain and improve our environment and worry less about changes in Nature that we do not fully understand and over which we have little control, or be prepared to bear the peril.