Climate zombies and the Copenhagen blues

The Bush/Cheney undead are still stalking the land, and on the global warming issue they've sunk their fangs into fresh blood.

Continuing from the Bush government's suppression of the work of its own climate scientists, propaganda and befuddlement go from strength to strength.

Driven by U.S. right-wing politics and polluting-industry money, they've unnerved scientists with their tactics to the point that some of them have apparently suppressed data -- or thought of doing so -- rather than feed it into this engine of political disinformation, in the now famous University of East Anglia emails episode.

Three points to bring the picture into focus.

First, global warming is just one of several brick walls towards which we're hurtling at breakneck speed, thanks to our ferocious destruction of the living Earth.

Second, if you have your eyes open, you don't need scientists to tell you things are warming up perilously, nor to finger the culprit whose fingerprints are all over the crime: us.

And third, this clatter is obscuring the legitimate skeptics who are questioning the usefulness of the Kyoto/Copenhagen process, in which political projections of greenhouse gas reductions, with only vague ideas on how to attain them, are counted as progress. (Meanwhile, the gases continue to rise.)

As for what's ahead along with climate change, there's the alarming acidification of the oceans and the galloping extinction of species.

Beyond that, there's this. For some time, I've been noting the projections made by various UN agencies, think tanks, U.S. government departments and others, who paint the following picture.

In a few decades, we'll have two billion more people, plus the emerging nations will be demanding our lifestyle. We'll need 50 per cent more food (even as arable land declines already in Africa because of changing climate, and famine hovers); we'll need 50 per cent more energy (with oil consumption up to 126 million barrels a day by 2030 from some 84 million now); there'll be half again as many planes flying, ocean freighters sailing, and automobiles rolling, and more.

If you can rub two sticks together, you can probably figure out what's wrong with this picture. In order to get to that point, we'll have to cripple the world as a functioning ecology even more.

Whether we can brake in time is the issue, but with the denial industry trying to cut the brake lines and a gaggle of conflicting nations (including some active troublemakers, like Canada) at the steering wheel, can we?

As for denial, just think of what's going on here in the southern Maritimes. The first frost is a month later than it used to be (a crisp frost when the leaves are turning is now a thing of the past -- this year, my delicate plants only froze on Oct. 21), and the last one in spring is often two months earlier than the traditional "first full moon in June."

Where I live in Yarmouth County, the lakes and tidal inlets -- which up to the early 1970s, still froze two weeks before Christmas -- glaze over only fitfully now, even in February, if at all.

The problem is that, in the main, it's only a handful of older and mostly country people who see the obvious, or care to see it. For anyone under 30, this is normal. For most city people, and in fact many country people, summer in November or February is merely wonderful -- something to be desired, and we can put the implications out of mind.

The public's ignorance, which the denial business feeds on, is considerable. Or as one hectic person asked me recently: "I don't follow the news -- is global warming still on?"

As for questions around the process as it unfolds, there's this. Premier Darrell Dexter and a Nova Scotian delegation are off to Copenhagen, apparently to get recognition for being first to cap emissions on electricity providers. Let's keep in mind that the cap has merely been announced, not achieved, with Nova Scotia hustling to get wind and biomass power in place to conform.

We may end up getting an award for wishful thinking.

The capacity of big wind farms to replace coal-fired generation is very much in doubt, just as a misguided ethanol program worldwide does little to replace gasoline and creates even more ecological harm, and as cap-and-trade systems are ready to come on that look like an open door to financial scam artists.

Nova Scotia could well be a poster boy for the inadequacies of the Copenhagen process, as we, like the rest of the world, continue to fail to measure up to the true need: conservation, carbon taxes, and wind, solar, fuel cell and other technologies used to decentralize power grids, not to feed their endless growth.

Ralph Surette is a veteran freelance journalist living in Yarmouth County.

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