Practical sustainability

The 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti was magnitude 7. According to Wikipedia, the death toll was in the region of 230,000. The earthquake that has just struck Japan was magnitude 8.9, almost 100 times more powerful than the Haitian quake (the Richter Scale is logarithmic) and yet, on current estimates, the Japanese death toll is unlikely to exceed 20,000. Most of these deaths will have been caused by the resultant tsunami rather than the earthquake itself.

Dreadful though this death toll is, consider that in 1923 a lesser earthquake of magnitude 7.9 largely destroyed Tokyo and killed 142,000 people: it truly is a remarkable testament to the defining scientific, technological and engineering advances of the late industrial age that Japan has achieved this comparatively low loss of life in the face of such devastation. It is unlimited, cheap energy that has facilitated the building of modern Japan and the rest of the industrialised world; it is the lack of unlimited, cheap energy that prevents technological advance and condemns the undeveloped world to much greater loss of life in the face of natural adversity.

How sickening then, that the puerile, climate-alarmist wing of the green movement, untroubled by anything as trivial as evidence – but overdosed on callous opportunism and sanctimonious ideology – has wasted no time in once again appropriating a natural disaster to tell us how our industrial lifestyle is the cause of this latest earthquake and will be the death of our children and successive generations.

Britain has committed billions of taxpayers’ money on the strength of this green Malthusianism with nothing but tortured data fed into flawed models to suggest that it will have any tangible effect on the climate or any positive effect on our lives. Last week, we had the farcical spectacle of Jill Duggan, a so-called expert on climate matters for the EU, telling Australian radio that she didn’t know how much Europe’s climate commitments would cost, nor what Europe’s vast climate expenditure would achieve. At least America has offered some estimates for its climate expenditure: the Environmental Protection Agency which famously defined carbon dioxide as a pollutant (that’s the same carbon dioxide that features so prominently in the essential, life-giving carbon cycle) is proposing to spend US$78 billion per year to reduce the global temperature (an essentially meaningless concept) by 0.00375°C by 2100. That’s 7 trillion dollars to achieve a hypothetical temperature reduction of less than four thousandths of a degree C – and that’s only US spending! 7 trillion is a figure so large, it is almost impossible to imagine – read to the end of the linked article for Willis Eschenbach’s helpful conceptual guide.

This ridiculous expenditure for no significant, quantifiable benefit is the result of knee-jerk ‘science’ responding to ideological whim  – whereas Japan’s awful experience might suggest that human interests are actually best served by the hitherto proven expedient of rational, evolutionary development of scientific understanding and its considered application. If we genuinely care for the lives of our children and their children, we would be much better off investing the world’s climate spending, including America’s 7 trillion dollars+, into measures that ameliorate genuine environmental concerns.

We could start by giving Haiti and other less developed nations some of the early warning, construction and tsunami defence technologies that saved so many Japanese lives this week.

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