In 1212 another Crusade to the Holy Land took place, and this one now has the popular name ‘the Children’s Crusade’, because it is thought to have been prompted by visions that came to children in France and Germany, and because many children apparently took part in it. Some were sold into slavery. The name was also given to a civil rights movement in the USA in 1963.
What we saw last week could be given the same appellation, though this time the focus was on ‘climate change’, not civil rights (unless you draw a long bow) or the Holy Land. I was in a car during the march when the radio carried an interview between a 14-year-old called Ambrose (I think) and an un-named man. Ambrose said something like this when asked what the purpose of the march was: ‘My demands are short and simple: No Adani coal mine, no exports of coal from Australia, and all future additions to electricity must be through alternative sources, not fossil fuels.’
As the interview developed, it became clear that while Ambrose had only three simple demands, he had almost literally no idea of what he was promoting. When the interviewer pointed out gently that stopping all coal exports would make no difference to anyone other than Australians, whose standards of living would drop alarmingly, Ambrose seemed to indicate that didn’t matter. It was important that Australia showed the way. Then I reached my destination, and I heard no more of the interview.
It sounded very much like the Children’s Crusade of 1212, whose youthful participants would have had little idea of what actually was the case in what we now call Israel and Palestine. But, like the marchers last week, they knew they were right, while the students knew that they were the real victims of their elders’ folly in not dealing with climate change much earlier. I thought again how black and white things are when you are young (I was like that too), and how fusty the olds can be. Then I received an email, and I thought its message was so apposite that I’ve reprinted it here. The author, Brian Dingwall, is a New Zealander. I know no more about him, but his essay is sanity itself.
An Open letter to anyone marching for the climate today
Many of you will be marching today, demonstrating for an issue you believe to be very important.
Many years ago, I was young, well informed, and absolutely convinced I knew enough to make good decisions for the future of the world, and couldn’t understand just how obtuse all the oldies were, how they just didn’t know the stuff I had just learned.
Malthusian economics drove most of us, the Club of Rome had reported, and to my subsequent shame, I confess that in 1975 I voted for the Values Party… I wanted a better world, I knew resources were on the verge of running out, the population was out of control, and we were polluting our one and only planet. It was, I thought, time for the change that was so desperately required. The Values party did not get in, to our surprise the resources did not run out, Simon won his bet with catastrophist Erhlich, as countries became more wealthy they cleaned up their environments, particularly water, farmlands, and air.
China is now wealthy enough to be doing exactly that right now, following in the footsteps of Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. We certainly never see the famous foaming rivers of industrial Japan anymore. Economists now understand that the ultimate resource, the human imagination, never runs out.
So is it likely to be with climate change. I urge you to never abandon your scepticism, for a critical mind is your most important asset. Be able to articulate exactly what evidence has persuaded you to your opinion. Opinions though, are not evidence. Consensus is not evidence.
The world has many historic consensuses that have turned out to not be so. So far, I don’t mind sharing with you, I have yet to be persuaded. My background is in science, with a smattering of economics, and statistics and I well understand the case for catastrophic climate change. I find it unconvincing. As do a raft of well qualified experts in many fields, even Nobel prize winners, and I urge you to find out who they are, and why they have reservations. There are two sides to this debate, but only one is well resourced, so you have to work a bit harder to find the arguments of the sceptical scientists.
One of the very great tragedies of the whole issue is that since 1990, it has been very difficult for scientists to garner resources from governments to research natural climate change, but we can be certain that the forces that wreaked great climate changes in the past are still active, and may be a much greater magnitude than those wreaked by CO2.
For today please reflect on these things: All the CO2 being released today is simply being returned to the atmosphere whence it came, and is now available to the biosphere, which we can see is already flourishing as a result. Global temperatures have increased (about 0.7C degrees in last 100 years) ever since the little ice age, and continue to but at nothing like the rate predicted by climate models.
We live from the equator to (nearly) the poles, and hence are particularly adaptable, and will adapt to minor temperature changes and have in the past through climate optima, and little ice ages. Much of the land surface of the earth is too cold for habitation or agriculture, some warming of the northern latitudes of Canada and Russia for example will be welcomed.
Here in New Zealand, we produce food for the world, with one of, if not the lowest “carbon footprints” of any country. Should you actually succeed in killing this industry, that production will be conducted elsewhere, at a higher carbon cost… so the improvement as you see it, in New Zealand’s emissions will be more than offset by extra emissions elsewhere… we will be adding to the problem, not mitigating it.
It is also very important that each of you understands that for any complex problem, there are a range of decisions, trade-offs, to be considered. Do we understand all the benefits that follow from the use of fossil fuels? How many of these are we prepared to sacrifice? What would a fossil fuel-less world look like for you (hint: I don’t think you would like it very much). Have you read or even heard of the “moral case for fossil fuels”, and do you understand the extent to which they feed and clothe the world, provide us with our tools, and our leisure, empower our devices, and enable our travel at present? House us and clean us?
You are not informed if you only read one side of the case. I happen to believe in free markets, the economics of von Mises, Hayek, Friedman, Simon, McCloskey, and many of the moderns but I have also read Marx, and various of the collectivist economists, you must know what all the opinion leaders are saying and why. So do seek out “lukewarmers” like Curry, Lewis, Christy, Soon, Balunias, they will lead you to a raft of others “the counter-consensus” that you, like me, may find rather more convincing than the orthodox climate church.
Personally I have learned that what I knew at your age (vastly more than my parents knew, of course) was not always right… now captured in the expression “it’s not what we don’t know, it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so”. We once believed in leeches, blood-letting, that washing our hands was not important, that continents didn’t drift, that stress causes ulcers, a daily aspirin is good, and that there is always an imminent catastrophe on the horizon that never materialises.
The question is whether what we know for sure that the specific climate change you worry about is human caused, will have a measurable and substantial impact, and is real. What climate change would have been quite natural? Will we look back in years to come and think “we believed what?” Have we included accurately in our models the impacts of short and long term natural oceanic cycles, cosmic rays impact on cloud nucleation, clouds, the sun and sunspots, what, if anything, is there still that we don’t know that we don’t know? Can we get initial conditions right?
Always examine closely the logic of the case…we have only one world so all we can do is create computer models of the climate, and wait to see if nature tells us the models are a good approximation of the real world suitable for projecting future climates… and if climate is a 30 year average of all our global “weather” then we probably have to wait at least two preferably more periods of 30 years simply to validate the models so 100 years or so.
So far the projections and predictions have been wildly wrong, the polar ice is healthy, the Manhattan freeway is not underwater, sea-level rise is not accelerating, and snow is far from “a thing of the past”. As climate scientist and keeper of one of the satellite records ironically observes “the models all agree the observations are wrong”. And the economics don’t work, as Nobel prize winner Nordhaus teaches, the cost of mitigation is an order of magnitude greater than the cost of the problem, so the cure is worse than the disease.
Don’t take my word for it, or anyone’s. Read for yourselves, go to source. Do not trust any scientist who calls a peer scientist a “denier”. Understand peer review, and that a peer reviewed paper is more often than not just the opening salvo in a chain of events that may or may not ultimately expose a scientific truth. Be very careful of any theory where the accepted facts (historic temperatures, and the location and number of the thermometers)) change regularly to suit the narrative.
And finally, enjoy your day, be yourselves, trust your own judgment, read widely, and look behind the data to the motives of the players. There is a (slim) chance you are right, but even if you are, trust in human ingenuity, that fabulous engine of change, to ensure survival not of the world as we know it, but of an even better world than previous generations enjoyed… we will not revert to sleeping with our food animals on dirt floors with unpainted walls! As humans have done for most of our time on earth…
A note on prepositions
This note follows my last end-note on syntax and comes from the same source: television. I notice that cooking programs, which I watch with pleasure, given that I am no longer able to cook, after a lifetime of cooking for my family and friends, frequently involve the presenters in using unnecessary prepositions. So, bacon is ‘rendered down’, meat is ‘seared off’ or ‘browned off’, onions are ‘sweated down’ and so on. Where did this come from?