Preventing climate change

Preventing climate change is…

absurd really. King Cnut had a better chance against the advancing tide.

Recall the tale of the Viking King Cnut who had his throne carried to the beach whereupon he commanded the tide to halt so as not to wet his feet and robes.

Naturally the tide ignored the King and according to Henry of Huntingdon, a 12th-century chronicler, Cnut leapt backwards and said,

"Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws."

He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again.

Even if this story has a touch of fantasy about it, the idea that nature is not ours to control has a real bearing on the challenge of climate change. 

We probably need to accept that natural climate change has causes that are definitely beyond us. We will not be able to

  • stop the earth from wobbling in its orbit
  • alter the sequence of sunspot activity and the energy pulses from the sun or
  • moderate volcanic eruptions and their gaseous emissions.

We are stuck with what these mechanisms bring. In one sense we are passengers on the roller coaster of global climate change and even to pretend we can be preventing climate change is just a little crazy.

But Google this term and you will find plenty of websites claiming otherwise.

There are lists of actions individuals can take for what can be done preventing climate change. Here is one list from Earth911

  • Change a light bulb
  • Drive less
  • Recycle more and buy recycled
  • Check your tires
  • Use less hot water
  • Avoid products with a lot of packaging
  • Adjust your thermostat
  • Plant a tree
  • Turn off electronic devices when not in use
  • Stay informed

And another from a UK website

  • Make your home more energy efficient
  • Make your lifestyle greener
  • Change your habits at work
  • Educate future generations
  • Get involved in the fight against climate change

There are even hearings on policy options where politicians and bureaucrats sit down to discuss what can be done.

The assumptions here are familiar.

Climate change is all about global warming that, in turn, is all about greenhouse gas emissions and that is something we can stop.

Now before you cry heretic at your screen and click away to a greener site, please pause a moment.

Stop to think.

Ask yourself if we really should enter into a war on climate change when we know that war is bad – when we know that even so-called ‘just wars’ are bad. Anything that we fight against we resist and the more we push the harder it is for us. We have wars on everything from terror to drugs and yet these things have not gone away.

Now it turns out that we probably should be proactive and carry out the actions on these lists to reduce emissions (except maybe the fighting suggestion). Not because we will be preventing climate change but because we need to be smarter about resource use and some frugality is a great way to start.

Our ultimate goal might be to regain some personal responsibility for our actions.

The risk of accepting the premise that preventing climate change is plausible, let alone possible, is that we put our considerable energies in the wrong place. If all we do is keep CO2 emissions down then we will be in a mess when seal levels rise and droughts hit and the storms still come.

We would be wise to energize ourselves around adaptation , get closer in our understanding of how nature works to better know her limits, and equip ourselves for a world of 9 billion souls.

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