(Subtitle: And Why Can’t Young People Just Pull Their Pants Up?)

Huh, today I had a conversation that reminds me:

1. why it’s sometimes necessary to step outside of one’s echo chamber

2. some people need to step outside of their echo chambers

In this day and age, it’s accepted by most people that climate change is happening. It’s not a matter of opinion, and I find it bizarre that we even need to have this discussion. The evidence and models all support the theory, and 97% of all climate scientists concur on this.

Unfortunately I considered climate change denial to be the preserve of Daily Mail readers and Tea Party members, but apparently this is not always true. I spoke with someone who, after telling me that the measurements don’t support the science (they do), and that the models are wrong (up to this point, they’re not), that the scientists don’t really know what they’re talking about and are full of doubt (no).

And how do we know this?  Well, sometimes it gets a bit cold.  The mere existence of winter debunks global warming for this person.  We even had snow four years ago.  Clearly trends mean nothing, because we once had an icicle.

Another gem: they read an article in which the temperature on the day the Titanic sank (14th April 1912) was recorded as being the same as some other day at some point since then, somewhere else in the world.  Conclusive proof of zero warming, then.

I found this hard to counter, not because I don’t know the facts (I do), but because this was a socially awkward situation.  The people I was with were of a generation that expects “young” people (the under-50s) to defer to them simply by virtue of them having existed for longer (yay, other generations have prejudices too!), and if I had “caused a fuss” it would not have worked in my favour.

And if I had said something, would I really have got anywhere?  Might I just have reinforced their ideas, and alienated myself so that they don’t listen to anything at all I have to say?

Even worse, the scene was set by the same group having earlier made derogatory comments about some twenty-somethings queueing for a show.  Apparently the interests of the young aren’t worthwhile or relevant, even when we don’t know what those interests are.  Also, they dress a bit funny and they are therefore threatening.  Young people that look like… me.  I’m not even sure if they noticed I was in the room.  Or listened to a word I said.  And maybe that’s the problem.  I’m different, so they pay less attention.  People do tend to pay attention to people who are more like them, and those who deny climate science have a vested interest in doing so – profit, fear of change, or feeling alienated by a scary concept.

[ASIDE: A big part of why this annoyed me was the respect factor.  Not only is it really ignorant to deny facts or views from someone solely because they come from a different group to you, but it’s also a bit crap to hear people basically rubbish my field of expertise, something that has been studied in depth for years by far more people than just me.  So yeah, it was a bit rude, and a part of this did feel like a personal attack.  But their arguments were without any basis, which makes it doubly annoying.  I knew I was right but everyone else decreed that their version of ‘correct’ was more palatable.]


I receive updates from ASHRAE regularly, and I noticed a link to an interesting article in the New York Times – Reducing Carbon by Curbing Population. The article rightly points out that much of the conversation on Climate Change is linked to reducing emissions, but we don’t look past this to consider some of the reasons behind the emissions rates. It’s interesting that the article states that only half of the increase in food consumption is due to population growth, but the other half is related to improved diet and higher incomes. So lifestyle choices are another factor in this complicated scenario.

The article goes on to say that if the world’s population grew at a slower rate than that predicted, we could reduce carbon emissions by a substantial amount (of course, this seems to assume that we all continue to live our lives and consume resources at the same rate as today).

It’s certainly true that in the West we don’t concentrate on population growth as seriously as other social problems.  In 2006, Tony Blair stated that the UK has no policy on population.

But at what cost do we control population size?  The article mentions past population control measures that many see as inhumane, such as China’s one-child policy, and forced sterilisations in India. There are better means of achieving a stable population, such as providing improved healthcare and education, but as a nation becomes more developed, it generally consumes more resources through industrialisation and consumerism.

So how do we balance the two?  And how do we balance the myriad issues that all interconnect to form the problem of anthropogenic climate change, and all the other damage to the environment that humans are responsible for?  Maybe it’s not as simple as just turning the heating down one degree.

Click here for the original article.

I’m also hoping to attend the ASHRAE Winter Conference this year, and I’ll be blogging about my time there.  Click here for information on the programme.