Climate Change Myopia

Climate Change Myopia

 Article published in the July 2010 edition of Western Divestments, Prospects and Properties Magazine

We are going to lose Manhattan, several islands in the South Pacific, and those living a meter or two above sea level are advised to invest in stilts and sand bags many argue.  Others will retort global warming is bunk, the earth's climate has fluctuated dramatically for over 4 billion years and the continents we know today have drifted, collided, disappeared, and reappeared over this same vast millennium.   The tone of every news cast reporting a weather event suggests this is it!!!  Global warming is here and after a brief intermission we will be able to watch the final disaster unfold on the evening news.  The serious supporters of climate change will inform those in mid- field of the debate, usually while sipping an organic drink shipped a great distance for their benefit, that it is the human induced component of our sizzling planet that needs to be capped, taxed, or otherwise offset.

Regardless of the science, contrived or accurate, drifting continents, and shrinking polar ice caps the debate needs to end.  It is likely we will never arrive at a consensus view on how accurate thermometers are from a US weather office, or that Environment Canada is observing a cooling trend for the next decade or two (in my opinion all should just read the Farmer's Almanac and find another day job).  Abu Dhabi will build a so called green carbon project to both generate hydrogen and capture C02 from natural gas regardless of climate change, global warming, or ski hills in the desert.  The project is about getting more oil out of the ground. The captured C02 will be used for miscible flooding and the excess hydrogen will be used for thermal electric power generation to the tune of about 400 megawatts being contracted to the UAE power grid.  From nuclear power to the contribution of renewable energy strategies in a smart grid of options climate change is big business with big expectations to facilitate more consumption.  The fact is we can only model an expected outcome in the debate, but most would agree mankind is on the verge of defining true limits to the abundance that was once free for the taking.

The climate change debate in the embrace of academic furor for or against is a mute point, miniscule when contrasted with the challenges 6 billion voracious consumers on the planet are facing over the next decade.  Water shortages, food for fuel, over grazing, over hunting, over populated landscapes, or harvesting beyond a systems natural ability to recharge are the matter for a real debate.  Humanity will have to dress for the 'weather, whatever the weather whether we like it or not' as the saying goes.  The debate should not be about buying a swimsuit or a parka it is really about boundaries and capacities in natural earth systems.  There is a great deal indeed that is human induced. This excess can be measured in the calculation of rampant consumption and growth in an economy without regard for the underlying fabric of natural capital. 

Putting the climate change debate behind us and in contemplating a future of constrained access to natural resources would encourage nations to question the meaning of growth in our economies versus nurturing the natural capital and bounty provided by planet earth.  Central to the debate is the dialogue on consumption and exactly what a 'standard of living' is, if humanity has crossed a line in the ability to access clean drinking water, manage healthy ecosystems, or allowed deforestation to become a break point  leaving little else to consume. 

It is interesting to read the results of a study published in the US journal 'Science' in 2008. 103 years after Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity was proposed in 1905, a team of scientists using an array of the world's most powerful super computers have concluded that energy and mass are equal at sub atomic levels proving the famous formula E=mc². Most think of the formula as a grim reminder of the inspiration for the construction of the atomic bomb.  In truth the formula can also describe the energy contained in a grain of sand.  A profound proof mankind has a long way to go in defining a truly sustainable energy future.

It is a certainty global climate will change, we will dress for the weather, good, bad, or indifferent; and it is time the debate over climate change and whether it exists in a human induced form or not enters a more mature enlightened path.  The evolution of which is about exploration of natural earth boundaries and consumption limits. Economies can grow through conservation efforts, and it is not always true when politicians tell us a resource has to be extracted and exported in order to ensure or maintain a standard of living.  Our standard of living may improve with a sustainable balance between growths in Gross Domestic Product versus valuing intact natural capital. The events leading up to Copenhagen, and the unfolding drama of cloak and dagger proportions has hopefully killed the culprit of this insane climate change debate.  The real debate should begin with intelligent discourse on managing growth and the business case for conservation.  Most of all, the capacity to focus on a relevant social order, that places value in natural capital, needs to be addressed.  Teilhard de Chardin wrote; "someday, after we have mastered the winds, the wave, the tides and gravity, we shall harness to energies of love. Then, for the second time in the history of the world, humankind will have discovered fire."


Patrick D. Brennan, President of Upstream Research, , an energy market advisory prospecting through best practice. Phone: 403-444-7396, or e-mail: .