Friday, November 03, 2006

A FATAL DISTRACTION?

Richard Black over at the BBC pens a reminder note to civilization:

“'Only 50 years left' for sea fish”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6108414.stm

Black writes:

“There will be virtually nothing left to fish from the seas by the middle of the century if current trends continue, according to a major scientific study.

Stocks have collapsed in nearly one-third of sea fisheries, and the rate of decline is accelerating.

Writing in the journal Science, the international team of researchers says fishery decline is closely tied to a broader loss of marine biodiversity”…

“In 2003, 29% of open sea fisheries were in a state of collapse, defined as a decline to less than 10% of their original yield.”

Note this isn’t another study based on SWAG. This is fish in the net.

“Bigger vessels, better nets, and new technology for spotting fish are not bringing the world's fleets bigger returns - in fact, the global catch fell by 13% between 1994 and 2003.”

We’re getting better at fishing all the time, and catching fewer fish…

We’ve heard this before… We didn’t listen, and we won’t this time, I think. We’re too busy gorging on fish & chips…

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I’ve never been comfortable with the way “global warming” issue is debated. On the basic level, there is no debate: The issue is as simple as a blackboard full of equations. Increasing the atmospheric concentration of substances with molecular absorption bands in the near infrared enhances planetary energy retention. Period… But the erasers start to fly when “we” begin to discuss what it means to the continued prosperity of man and the rest of life… Let alone what should be done about it…

And I have never been disposed to lend much support to the Kyoto treaty – in its present form, it is probably worse than nothing for two reasons. First, from an economic standpoint, it is unilateral surrender by “the west” in the war of competition, since the restrictions “we” would take upon ourselves would not apply to the world’s two most populous Nations – Nations possessing two of the world’s fastest growing economies.

But there is a far more important reason. The real goal – the only one that can ever really solve the problem – is for “we the consumer” to decide, each as individuals, to make do with less junk… In other words, we have to overcome human nature, which isn’t likely. As long as we continue to provide the endless market for the junk the slave factories of the Orient pump out, cutting our greenhouse emissions will merely result in more and more of the greenhouse gas generating production capacity deserting our shores for theirs – and taking our balance of payments with it.

It has already happened, and we all know it, but we don’t want to think about it. We want to think we are doing something about “the environment,” whatever that means, or alternately, that there is no need to do anything, or at least anything more.

The smokestacks are disappearing from the skylines, and we need those new giant TV’s…

Kyoto is really just another kind of denial.

And “global warming” may well be a fatal distraction.

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We know what more of those energy absorbing “greenhouse gasses” will do, at least on a blackboard. We don’t know what a net energy increase will mean to us, or the living and inanimate systems that support us. The best predictions available are based on models which are in turn based on theories. All we know for sure is we’re stoking the fires of change, which stokes the fiery arguments of politicians.

Scientists seek to understand. Politicians seek to control. Control requires creating phantoms to be chased with the people’s money and at the cost of their freedoms.

It also requires a kind of fanatical, beady-eyed obsession; a religiously single focus.

Al Gore, High Priest of Global Warming.

It’s gotten so damned glamorous lately. What is being ignored?

30% of the world’s commercial fisheries depleted beyond practical recovery; At the current rate, 50 more years and… The half of the world for whom these fish are a dietary staple starve. It’ll come on in stages, of course, and there will be fearful competition and confrontation, but it won’t matter. Gone is gone, at least for a very long time.

In 50 years, models based on theories suggest the warming climate will be causing expensive problems. Counting the fish says in 50 years they will be gone.

And so it goes. Deforestation, destruction and depletion of arable land, the rape of the oceans, biodiversity issues, irreplaceable ores... Global warming is just one more symptom of the human footprint and not the most important. This is something one will find wide, quiet agreement on in the environmental community: Steven Milloy, well-known crusader against “junk science” - which includes, in his opinion, global warming – objects to the single-minded focus on global warming for exactly the reasons I outline here.

Ultimately, the skeptic cannot avoid seeing the crusade against global warming as the perfect platform for the high priest / witch doctor / presidential candidate. It incorporates all the elements: A scary future a long way off, an opportunity to gain huge political, economic, and social power now to combat that future, and murky, realistically immeasurable results. Once the paradigm is accepted, any bad news becomes the fault of the bogeyman and any good news is credited to the crusader. And pretty soon it is entirely forgotten we are measuring the immeasurable, that before Saint Albert Carbonslayer came along there was good and bad news…

Meanwhile, as our modern Quixotes joust, harder, deadlier issues sit and fester. Most of the real peril the world’s environment faces today comes from the burgeoning populations and consumption of the very people agreements like Kyoto simply don’t address. A lot of these issues – like fisheries depletion – are despite their immediacy so much more difficult to solve than global warming it isn’t surprising our politicians don’t have the balls to take them on but would rather chase shadows they can affect with taxes and efficiency mandates. But that’s what real leaders are for: They take on the things from which ordinary men shrink.

It has been recently reported Gordon Brown, expected to head the next government in Britain succeeding Tony Blair, will push for a carbon consumption tax to combat the “global warming crisis.” It isn’t clear where the money will go or how it will combat global warming other than the minor effect it may – or may not – have in promoting conservation.

Leading by taxing… Mr. Brown, you are no Winston Churchill, any more that Al Gore is a Lincoln.

Enjoy your fish and chips, Mr. Brown… While you still can.

Comments:
Excellent post. I agree with much of it.
 
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