January 29, 2019

Climate change is not a conspiracy, get out of the way

Climate change is not a conspiracy, get out of the way

Last night in my house I witnessed a prolonged discussion between two people of different generations who had completely opposing views on whether the climate change we’re experiencing was man-made and therefore whether we should do anything about it. No surprises to see the battle lines drawn with the Gen Xer urging us to doing something about it, and the Baby Boomer vehemently opposed because it’s all malarkey and there’s more important things to focus on.

That, combined with the recent record heatwave experienced in Australia bringing the climate change deniers out of the woodwork has made me jot down a lot of the common arguments against doing anything about climate change. This is written from the perspective of an Australian who sees a lot of our politicians and media railing against doing anything about climate change. I’m no expert in any of this, just someone who is tired of the lack of progress towards mitigating this disaster and who trusts in our scientific experts.

A lot of the common tropes seem to be:

  • It’s been hot before (therefore the climate isn’t changing)
  • I haven’t seen any changes in my lifetime
  • It was hotter when we were kids
  • The climate has always changed
  • We had blackouts in Victoria during the heatwave because of renewable energy.
  • Renewables aren’t reliable — the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine
  • Renewables are too expensive
  • Renewables are heavily subsidised
  • Nuclear is the answer and only way to go
  • You’ll have to give up your electronics
  • It’s because there’s too many people
  • The scientists can’t be trusted, they’re all just in it for the money
  • They’ve fudged the historical data and it can’t be trusted
  • It used to be called global warming and then they changed the name to climate change
  • If there’s global warming, why is it cold today in ?
  • It’s being caused by other things that the scientists have overlooked

Let’s go through these.

It’s been hot before (therefore the climate isn’t changing)
This is weird one because nobody is claiming it was never hot before. Paradoxically when the maximum temperature record that has stood for 80 years gets broken climate change deniers love to point out it was hot 80 years ago also. We’re not fretting about the single highest maximum temperature in a single location, we’re worried about the higher frequency of very hot days and importantly the rise in overnight temperatures.

I haven’t seen any changes in my lifetime
Even if you diligently kept your own weather observation records over your lifetime (and some people do), it’s all been in the same location or region — to be even making this claim in the first place. Mostly people who make this claim have not kept their own records and are just going off their feels. The good news is, we’ve written these observations down! For Australia they are available on the Bureau of Meteorology website and cool time-series format. Check out the example below.

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Snapshot of Annual mean temperature anomaly New South Wales 1910 to 2018

But there’s a whole range of observable metrics from rainfall, overnight temperatures, sea levels at play here. It’s pretty arrogant to discount all of this just because your feels don’t agree.

Go and explore the time-series data at the BoM website yourself.

It was hotter when we were kids
This is why we write down the temperatures and other observations, so we don’t have to rely on memories. When you were kids the prevalence of air conditioning was way lower, even I remember sitting in the back of an old Ford Falcon with vinyl seats and no air conditioning, sweltering. I remember being less comfortable, it doesn’t mean the climate was hotter when I was a kid. Again, refer to the data.

The climate has always changed
We know this, nobody is saying that this is the first time the climate has changed. We know this because climate scientists have done the research. If you believe the climate scientists that the climate has changed in the past, why don’t you believe them now when they say it’s changing at an unprecedented pace and we’re causing it?

We had blackouts in Victoria during the heatwave because of renewable energy.
Well actually coal units failed in the heat and renewable energy such as rooftop solar reduced demand in the first place.

Renewables aren’t reliable — the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine
It’s taken a while, but we’re getting pretty good at predicting when the sun rises and sets.

You should also check out wind power forecasting. They don’t just build wind turbines in random places.

There’s also scale to consider — if you build enough of this infrastructure over different geographic areas then there’s a greater certainty of being able to provide full power consistently. That’s how we account for cloudy, rainy days and days when the wind doesn’t blow.

Which is all before we even talk storage like batteries and pumped hydro. It’s almost like the Snow Hydro scheme isn’t a massive container of potential energy.

Renewables are too expensive
Not anymore, time to update your knowledge.

A 2018 report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) found that the levelised cost of electricity from renewables is falling so quickly that it will be cheaper than fossil fuels within the next five years. And that’s just looking at cost of producing the energy, independently of any subsidies.

https://www.australianethical.com.au/news/myth-busters-guide-renewable-energy/

Renewables are heavily subsidised
Again, the same report above points out that new renewables are going to be cheaper than new fossil fuels, without subsidies. The fossil fuel industry in Australia receives up to $11 billion per year in subsidies from the Federal government in various forms. The cost advantage fossil fuel generation currently has in Australia is that the power stations are already built and have been paid for.

Nuclear is the answer and only way to go
Yes nuclear is a great replacement for coal fired power plants if you want to continue with centralised power generation and a few large sources of power. The reality is nuclear power in Australia is a non-starter due to politics. For a country that took decades to decide where to put a second airport in Sydney we sure don’t have anyone with enough political capital to roll out nuclear power. And even if we did, it’s a 20 year time-frame before it comes on board, at best. Nuclear is suggested as an alternative to coal when a climate change denier sees the weakness in propping up coal.

You’ll have to give up your electronics!
No, we just want to power them differently. We’re not going to deindustrialise the world, we want to move forward into better technology powered by clean energy. Now you’re just lashing out at young people.

It’s because there’s too many people
An increasing population certainly has put more demands on the environment and it is a driving factor in our total carbon emissions increasing. But what are you proposing to do about it in the next 10–12 years? This isn’t really an argument of any substance.

The scientists can’t be trusted, they’re all just in it for the money
What money? Where are all these rich scientists who’ve made a killing from the mega-billions of endless grant money?

This is borderline conspiracy theory and if you’re going to clutch on to this one there’s not a lot you’ll be convinced of.

If it was a worldwide conspiracy of thousands of scientists then I applaud them for their cunning in being able to achieve this conspiracy while simultaneously publishing their papers which include their data and methodologies. Who controls the conspiracy? How did it start? How do you get “in”? How come there has been no whistleblowers that have broken this wide open?

They’ve fudged the historical data and it can’t be trusted
If a scientist could prove (in a verifiable way) that climate change wasn’t happening, or that we weren’t causing it currently then they would be world famous and win a Nobel prize. Scientists are skeptical by nature and like all humans have an ego. If there was an opportunity for someone to disprove all of this, why haven’t they taken it?

It used to be called global warming and then “they” changed the name to climate change
No, these are separate things and both terms are still in use today. The shorthand the media uses might be more commonly ‘climate change’ now than ‘global warming’, but these two things are happening and one did not replace the other.

My simple paraphase is that global warming refers to the long-term warming trend we’re seeing, while climate change covers that plus changing rainfall patterns, season lengths changing, increased / decrease in cyclones, tornadoes etc. Some parts of the world will experience colder extremes, it’s not all upwards / hotter all the time in all of the world.

See this for a better explanation — https://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-change-global-warming.htm

If there’s global warming, why is it cold today in ?
Weather, and climate aren’t the same thing. Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get. Climate is how know when summer is likely to begin, weather is the temperature, humidity, rainfall over a short period of time (hours to days). Climate is the average of the weather over a longer period of time (up to 30 years).

It’s being caused by other things that the scientists have overlooked
There’s no shortage of ‘alternate’ theories that have been thrown at climate scientists by people who don’t believe them. If any of these had merit scientists would have researched them, published their findings and been made famous for solving this problem once and for all. It hasn’t happened.

Wrapping up
At the end of the day if 9 doctors tell you that you have cancer, but a “dentist” tells you that you’ll be fine, what would you do? That’s the analogy here with climate change — 97% of the world’s climate scientists are telling us there’s a very real problem and we are causing it. There’s even been multiple studies into the consensus which you can read more about here.

You are welcome to disagree on any or all of the above. You can have your own opinions but not your own facts. All I’m asking for is you to get out of the way of people who are trying to make a change to help reduce the damage that is coming our way if we keep on our current path.