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The moral debate of our time

By James Fairbairn - posted Monday, 23 August 2010

With the recent news that the UN Climate Change Panel is calling for $100 billion a year in new taxes for a climate fund, it is pertinent to bring to the attention of On Line Opinion readers the findings of some of the most recent peer reviewed papers on this subject, as well as a broader picture of the financial and moral issues at stake.

First up it is necessary to look at some of the usual arguments that are put forward about anthropogenic climate change:

  • The greenhouse gases absorb infra-red and hence raise the temperature of the atmosphere: true, however, it must be pointed out to the lay reader that 97 per cent of all greenhouse gas is water vapour. Of the remaining 3 per cent, CO2 makes up 2 per cent (or about 0.036 per cent of the overall atmosphere) and methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons make up the rest.
  • The rise in CO2 is real: most of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activity does not remain in the atmosphere, but is instead absorbed by the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems. In addition the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide has not increased either during the past 150 years or during the most recent five decades. (Science Daily, December 31, 2009, 11.30pm - surely as good a "time to bury bad news" as there can possibly be.)
  • The science is not totally settled: indeed. Many thousands of high profile scientists are now on record as disputing the theory of anthropogenic global warming (despite the McCarthyist threat this poses to their research budgets), as is the co-founder of Greenpeace, Dr Patrick Moore.
  • We can't wait before acting: almost every week new research is published that shows massive historical climate change that our ancestors simply adapted to. For example, “Tree rings map 700 years of Asian monsoons” (Nature, March 22, 2010), “Polar bears of the past survived in an Arctic warmer than today” (Alaska Science Forum, June 29, 2010), “China’s wars, rebellions driven by climate” (PhysOrg, July 14, 2010).

There are two groups who really can't wait however. The politicians who desire all those carbon tax billions for their depleted coffers. For example here in Australia, the Rudd government's ETS would have raised at least $121 billion in tax revenues in its first decade (Sydney Morning Herald, December 31, 2009).

And more significantly the global investment banks are looking to create a US$3 trillion a year global industry (Bloomberg, December 4, 2009). Is it any surprise that the Prime Minister of one of the few countries to get an ETS into operation, New Zealand, previously worked for Merrill Lynch? Indeed Australia's own Malcolm Turnbull formerly was a Vice President of Goldman Sachs. In fact, looking at this UN Panel on Climate Change which called for the new taxes needed for a climate fund that would “raise” a $100 billion a year “to fight climate change”, the advisory panel “included billionaire financier George Soros and members of several international banks” (Associated Press, August 7, 2010).

Even for a small country the cost to “fight climate change” is vast, as can be seen in Scotland where the cost to the taxpayer of meeting Scotland's climate change target has been put at about £8 billion by 2020 (BBC, August 7, 2010). Ask yourself where will all this money go to?

Ultimately this is not just a scientific argument, it is a moral argument. It is never palatable for any of us to realise that we may have been “hoodwinked”: however, only the most innocent would ever be as naïve to think that for that kind of money agendas could not be “encouraged”, opinion manipulated, and “official consensus” bought. Just look at how quickly tame scientists have been wheeled out to say that the recent BP oil spill “wasn't that bad after-all”.

As politicians and banks go out of their way to profit from this theory, mankind ignores the innumerable and very real environmental destruction that he is inflicting on this ecosystem we all live in; from oceanic plastic and soot particulates, to water table pollution and deforestation.

But even more significant is the huge effect this placebo for our Western eco-guilt will have on the truly needy among us in the Third World. As we strive to decrease CO2 targets we will ever more impoverish the Third World, whether it be through the growing of bio-fuels over food, to preventing them from using their own fossil fuels so to raise the standards of living of their populations, and most importantly by stripping from the world economy of hundreds of billions of dollars each year so to further enrich the already mega-rich.


According to Oxfam for every $50 billion spent to “fight” AGW, “around 4.5 million children will needlessly die”. However we will have the satisfaction of “reducing global temperatures by 1000th degree F in 100 years” (Wall Street Journal, January 5, 2010).

We all need to look inside themselves and this simple question: even if the theory of anthropogenic climate change is correct and the IPCC's mid-range 21st century warming forecast of 3C is accurate, could you adapt your lifestyles, just as your ancestors did many times before you, when dealing with significantly bigger temperature swings? Or in order to “fight climate change” would you rather enrich the global banking corporations to the tune of trillions of dollars at the expense of our ecosystem and the lives of millions, perhaps even billions of your fellow humans? Ultimately it is that simple.

Where we are currently at with the most important humanist (and human) debate of our time is best summed up by Dr Denis Rancourt, former professor and environmental science researcher at the University of Ottawa;

It is as much psychological and social phenomenon as anything else … Global warming is strictly an imaginary problem of the First World middle class … The modern environmental movement has hijacked itself by looking for an excuse to stay comfortable and stay away from actual battle … If you are really concerned about saving world’s forests or habitat destruction, then fight against habitat destruction, don’t go off in tenuous thing about CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. Actually address the question; otherwise you are weakening your effect as an activist.

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All the articles referenced in this article, and over a thousand others, can read in the Open Your Eyes News Climate Archive.

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About the Author

James Fairbairn, "The Historian", is co-Founder and editor of and is also Vice-President of The Humanist Society of Western Australia. A historian by training, prior to emigrating to Australia he was a parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party in the UK (2005 General Election).

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