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Confused over the great climate change debate? Follow the money, advises Bob Lloyd.
"The great global warming swindle" - if it can happen in the United Kingdom, it can happen here in New Zealand.
George Monbiot, the Guardian newspaper environmental writer, has recently attacked Channel 4 in the UK for running a 90-minute documentary on the great global warming conspiracy (see: http://www.monbiot.com/)
Monbiot writes that this channel has misrepresented the entire scientific community by sensationalising the claim that anthropogenic climate change is not occurring.
Why are they doing this, he asks? So that the people of the world can resume business as usual - continue emitting greenhouse gasses and growing their economies unabated.
The world media networks appear to have the goal of sowing doubt in the public mind so that the rather modest costs of compliance and mitigation of global warming will be not undertaken.
Last month (ODT 29/7/08) Bob Carter, New Zealand trained scientist and founding member of the NZ Climate Science Coalition and now an Australian professor, spoke against wind power by claiming that the ecological benefits of that technology are nonsense.
The public is confused. So who is speaking the truth: the scientists or the detractors?
If one is to look for a conspiracy, the number one rule is to see who benefits. Use your sense and follow the dollars. Who will benefit in this case?
On one side we have the world's scientific community represented by several thousand individuals working on IPCC documents, each earning academic or equivalent salaries.
The scientists have come to a consensus that the earth is warming due to the activities of mankind and that we have to take urgent action to reverse the process by halting the burning of fossil fuels.
The vested interests here might amount to a few million dollars in research grants on behalf of the scientists, and a few thousand international conference trips.
On the other side, we have the fossil fuel industry with assets in the ground of something around $200 trillion (yes trillion) dollars. This stupendous amount is in 2008 US dollars and assumes that fossil fuel prices do not increase further as they deplete, which is highly unlikely.
In addition, the governments of the world have a vested interest in keeping their economies intact and these economies are fuelled by, you guessed it, the same coal, oil and gas.
If burning fossil fuels is made to stop, the world's remaining coal, oil and natural gas deposits will become stranded assets, worthless as energy commodities and, in the absence of alternate energy sources, world economies will grind to a halt.
That outcome would be a terrible annoyance to the people who have access to (or control) the enormous wealth and political power that lie behind the fossil fuel resources.
Exxon-Mobil has recently admitted funding anti-climate change organisations, such as the Heartland Foundation and the International Climate Science Coalition, and had been instructed by none other than David Rockefeller to desist such funding as the continuation could hinder the world climate change mitigation effort.
It does not seem, however, that this directive has been carried out, or that the organisations committed to debunking climate change now have a life of their own and really believe their own gibberish.
Inflated egos may have a role here. New Zealand seems to have a preponderance of climate change antagonists: out of the 21 scientific policy members of the International Climate Science Coalition, four are New Zealand-trained, out of the nine policy board members two are New Zealand-based and out of the seven consultants to this organisation three hail from this country.
The same members also overlap with the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition and with several of the other anti-climate change groups around the world; some with documented links to Exxon-Mobil funding (see greenpeace.org or desmogblog.com for details).
This amounts to a lot of anti-green people in a supposedly green nation.
Jim Hanson from Nasa, one of the outspoken climate scientists urging the world to come to its senses and put in place a ban on all new coal-fired power stations, has recently suggested that the same movement against climate change has also been responsible for action against those who are promoting renewable energy generation (see http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/ - April 10 letter).
He claims the holders of fossil fuel interests do not want renewable energy to take even a small share of their vast profits.
It is unfortunate that the sustainability of renewable energy systems, including wind farms in New Zealand, is being used as a political football in this manner but that is what is happening.
With peak oil now upon us, it makes sense that this country puts in place renewable alternatives as quickly as possible, as the longer we wait the more it will cost and the more difficult it will be to actually access renewable energy generation devices such as wind turbines on the world market.
The nonsense the climate change detractors perpetrate around the world is remarkably similar - sunspots, cosmic interference and rhetoric against Al Gore - and would all be relatively harmless if we had a more scientifically informed public.
But the real danger is in the consequences of not taking action against global warming.
This will be so dire in terms of human misery that such nonsense is in fact very dangerous and must be exposed for what it is.
Finally what about freedom of speech? Should not the detractors of climate change get equal media space with those suggesting mitigation?
To show how irresponsible this suggestion is we can pose the alternate question: would the media be happy to allow equal space to groups in the community promoting crime and violence?
Dr Bob Lloyd is a spokesperson for Sustainable Dunedin City.
He is also Director of Energy Studies at the University of Otago and has particular expertise in renewable energy, energy conservation and peak oil.