Monday, April 25, 2011

Jolly Green Giant?

Here is a bit from a Washington Post article by Bjorn Lomborg that questions the myth that China is the leading actor in a "green future" for planet earth:
China was responsible for half of the world’s production of solar panels in 2010, but only 1 percent was installed there. Just as China produces everything from trinkets to supertankers, it is exporting green technology — which makes it a giant of manufacturing, not of environmental friendliness.

In wind power, China both produces and consumes. In 2009, it put up about a third of the world’s new wind turbines. But much of this has been for show. A 2008 Citigroup analysis found that about one-third of China’s wind power assets were not in use. Many turbines are not connected to the transmission grid. Chinese power companies built wind turbines that they didn’t use as the cheapest way of satisfying — on paper — government requirements to boost renewable energy capacity.

Consider the bigger picture: 87 percent of the energy produced in China comes from fossil fuels, the vast majority of it from coal, the International Energy Agency found in 2010.
Go read the whole article.

I liked Bjorn Lomborg's original stance on "global warming". He was a pragmatist calling for a rational trade off between the expenses of a "precautionary principle" and the very real benefits of money spent on more pressing issues for humanity. He questioned the real costs of warming. He didn't waste much time arguing about the "settled science" of global warming. He should have been the consensus winner, but he wasn't. Lately he has drifted more into the hysterial global warming camp. From Wikipedia:
In August 2010, Lomborg appeared to reverse his position on global warming in an interview with the Guardian. He revealed that he endorses the use of a carbon tax to fight climate change in his latest book.
I think he has lost his way and given into the seductions of being on the "winning" side. The science isn't settled and as I shiver through a La NiƱa year on the Pacific West Coast I can assure you things are colder here and no "global warming" is in evidence. I remember in the early 1980s when I bought my first house going out to the dykes wondering if they would hold as earth grew warmer and the rising sea level from global warming would overtop them. The extremist were telling me that by 2000 at the latest my house would be subject to flooding as high tides overtopped the dykes. Well, the dykes were never raised and global sea levels are up a couple of centimeters instead of the metre promised by the diehard crazies.

The above article by Lomborg is good because it underlines that you can't take things at face value. You have to nose around and look beyond the headlines, look past the screaming fanatics on left and right, you need to use your own intelligence to understand the world and come up with your own strategy. If everybody independently does this, then we will have the diversity of viewpoints and the undertaking of a multitude of different strategies which will give us the necessary depth of options and alternatives needed to deal with whatever the future throws at us.

Real danger comes when people get on a bandwagen. To use a tired example: look at Germany under Hitler, an advanced country with culture and education marched off a cliff under the guidance of a fanatic. Nobody has truth by the tail. Only if everybody finds their own bit of truth and contributes it to the collective whole do we have a real chance of having the tools to deal with what will be thrown at us. Strength in number, strength in diversity in depth, strength through democracy and individual choice.

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