It is serious, but not that serious.
The climate change debate---and yes there still is one—provokes several questions that require answers for those committed to address the root cause of our crisis rather than the symptoms and manifestations of it. Those of us who accord central importance to human overpopulation must ask:
Is man-made climate change a reality?
If it is, how serious is it?
Does it deserve the prominence it receives from environmental groups and the media? Should it be our obsession too? Who then will speak out about overpopulation, biodiversity loss and the end of cheap energy?
Physicist Dr. David Keith of the University of Calgary, and Canada Research Chair in Energy and the Environment has something to say to help us to answer some of those questions. And who is Dr. David Keith? Is he just a crank in the blogisphere or a climate-change (AGW) denier? No quite. Check out his credentials:
--he was named by Time Magazine as one of the "Heroes of the Environment in 2009" http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1924149_1924154_1924428,00.html
--he was named as "Environmental Scientist of the Year" by Canadian Geographic in 2006, who called him one of the world's top energy-policy analysts
--he led a research group in energy and environmental systems at the University of Calgary in 2004
--he has served on the UK Royal Society's geo-engineering advisory panel, the IPCC and numerous Canadian 'blue ribbon' panels, and is an advisor to governments, and to Bill Gates
--he is an expert in climate-related energy technology and assessment
--he is author of at least ten major publications http://people.ucalgary.ca/~keith/Publications.html
--he is winner of the Martin Deutsch Prize at MIT (1989) and first prize in the Canadian Association of Physicists National University Exam
--his has been associated with Harvard and Carnegie Mellon Universities
--his CV is remarkable http://people.ucalgary.ca/-Keith/misc/DWK-CV-2008.pdf
In short, Dr. David Keith is brilliant, well accomplished and clearly "knows his stuff". Once more, he is quick to admit what he doesn't know, and what science does not yet know.
He was interviewed by Michael Enright on CBC radio's "Sunday Edition" on December 13, 2009. The interview can be heard at http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/podcast.html or from the attachment above.
In a nutshell, this was his verdict on climate change: it’s serious, but not that serious. Not what soft green climate-obsessives want to hear. In fact, there is enough in his message to disappoint and challenge everyone from deniers to alarmists alike. Dr. Keith believes that climate change is occurring at a pace that is too dramatic to be the result of a natural cycle, and that something must be done about it, or in one hundred years there will be shocking contrasts to life as we know it now. But he does not see such climate change as this “apocalyptic, existential threat” that must be addressed ”in years rather than decades.” There simply is “no credible science” to back this alarmism up. While he sees climate change as a dominant environmental problem, he declared that “If I had a dollar to spend in the next decade I put it into fighting poverty and disease in the undeveloped world.” Hasn’t Bjorn Lomborg been saying essentially the same thing?
No wonder Dr. Keith is advising Bill Gates of late. The only quibble that I would have would be that neither party seems to understand that population stability and reduction is key to solving poverty and disease, as well as slowing deforestation. Focusing on preventing death rather than preventing births is a wrong-headed strategy born out of misplaced compassion rather than empirical observation. Feeding today’s hungry mouths can only generate twice the number of hungry mouths in a generation, if family planning programs are not first put in place. Ethiopia is good case history of this development, and Kenya is showing us, that once again, “prosperity” is not necessarily the best contraceptive.
Does this mean that climate change should not be addressed, or is too costly to address? No, says Dr. Keith. Human beings are multi-taskers. We can tackle several problems at once. While he is quick to deny that solar radiation management can do anything more than complement a sharp reduction in emissions., as a physicist he is nevertheless afflicted with unwarranted technological optimism. “We can fix this problem with a small percentage of our GDP”, he confidently maintains. He believes that green technology “can make deep cuts in GHG emissions”, and that we can construct a “zero carbon energy” economy that will allow us to enjoy the fruits of civilization. The costs, he claims, would be relatively trivial, probably just about .7% of the GDP, or what was spent on implementing the Clean Energy Act. Then again, he dismissed as nonsense the belief that the benefits of so-called ‘green’ jobs will offset the costs of developing green technology.
But the bottom line is that climate change does not deserve to be on the front burner of our concerns. As Mike Folkerth, a retired bush pilot, remarked, it is folly to worry about your fuel reserves when you see that the engine is on fire. Like him, I wished that Green backseat driver on board would stop focusing on the fuel gauge and worry instead about saving the engine. If climate change is a serious problem, it is not the most pressing one. Our task is to address its cause. Too many emitters. First fix the engine.