Dec 5, 2009

Good or Bad News from Copenhagen?

      It seems to be a broad consensus that the principal danger for our planet today is global warming, and the oncoming UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, hosting officials from 192 countries from December 7-15, 2009, aims to suggest solutions. UN climate chief Yvo de Boer informed that the essentials to be agreed on are the upper limits of emissions of greenhouse gases, both for industrial countries and for developing countries, while deciding how the costs would be shared. EU
leaders concluded that the developing nations would need 150 billion dollars annually to tackle climate change. However, the developing countries, suffering from increased food prices, caused by utilizing farm land for biofuel production, will be hardly able to bear the additional financial burden. The conference organizers believe that failure to come to an agreement can have fatal consequences, such as shrinking rivers and spreading famine and diseases, and they cite influential think tanks that foresee increased political turmoil in the Middle East and predict territorial conflicts involving Russia and the United States[1]. To predict exactly which two countries will fight in far future as a result of a certain temperature increase is rather preposterous, especially when knowing that the same think tanks were not able to predict important events, such as the fall of the Soviet Union or the current financial crisis, even one month before they happened.
      Nevertheless, the grim assessments will hardly surprise people, who have long been exposed to the news about melting Arctic ice, increased number of hurricanes, and about endangered polar bears – this all aggravated by presumably dwindling oil reserves. Skeptics, breaking the consensus, are believed to be paid by corporations and interest groups. Many people would, however, be surprised by less publicized facts, contradicting said grim picture. Firstly, there is no consensus about catastrophic global warming, and declarations rejecting the Kyoto protocol and criticizing the simplistic and politicized attitudes of the UN toward the warming issue have been signed by thousands of the most prominent scientists, including many Nobelists, the best known declarations being the Leipzig Declaration, the Heidelberg Appeal, and the Oregon Petition. Also surprising might be the facts that the number of polar bears has not decreased[2], that the Arctic ice has grown during the last two years[3], and that the number of hurricanes has not changed during the last hundred years[4]. As for the oil corporations, they generously finance the green advertisements, while the car producers and the airlines sponsor the Copenhagen conference. Finally, the oil reserves are not dwindling, but it is now accepted among scientists that, due to advanced technologies and new discoveries, there is enough oil for at least another century[5]. In addition, there is uranium to provide all needed energy, without greenhouse gases, for at least one thousand years. Not often mentioned is the fact that controlled thermonuclear fusion, already tested in pilot projects, will provide unlimited amounts of clean energy within several decades. The prophets of saving are wrong, and to limit our consumption in order to improve the life of our descendents would be as if our ancestors in the stone age had produced less flint knives in order to prevent shortage of flint in our time. So, the good news is that no energy or ecology crisis awaits us, and the bad news is that the mainstream media are silent about it.
      Not many realize that the warming effect of the greenhouse gases on the earth's surface was already known in 1824, and that the human-caused emission of carbon dioxide was once seen positively as potentially saving the world from the next ice age. The catastrophic perception of global warming started only around 1989, not incidentally in the year of dissolution of Communist rule in Eastern Europe. Western society, rid of their main rival, became available for new dangers and challenges, falling for global catastrophes and for green technologies. Very illustrative is the number of patents and patent applications containing the words "global warming"; the number was zero in 1988, six in 1989, and more than 10,000 in 2009. Whatever political decisions are taken in regard to the Copenhagen agenda, patent attorneys may be optimistic and expect an explosion of patented green technologies. Hopefully, some of the technologies will serve people long after the catastrophes have been forgotten.
      It has been corroborated that technology can develop and be fully productive only in the atmosphere of freedom. When trying to affect the situation in far future, there is no need for precipitate actions now, and any pressures to act quickly stem from interests that are bound to the present needs of certain lobbying groups and not to the needs of our grandchildren. Failure to come to a quick agreement in Copenhagen or thereafter might be in better interest of this and next generations than harsh measures enforced onto the whole world without the consensus of the scientific community.

[5] Scientific American, October 2009, Volume301, Number 4, Pages 36-43