Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
I do not contest the global warming model of climate change. But it needs saying that the current phenomenon of the planet’s ambient temperature rise is a feature of the end of the last ice age, which is an ongoing process still far from “finished” so long as polar ice caps and mountain glaciers exist. The last ice age did not finish ten thousand or twelve thousand years ago, like we sometimes hear. Most people do not realize it because of our generally warm climate and because of the currently fashionable talk about global warming. But we are still in an ice age.
The rise of human civilization - domestication of animals, domestication of planted crops, the building of cities on the strength of agricultural surpluses and the subsequent inventions of money and writing - coincides with the end of the ice age. And like I say, it’s not over yet. So maybe when the ice age is definitively over - when the ice caps and glaciers are gone - then civilization will also have reached its end.
I do not mean that human greenhouse gas production is not contributing to global warming. It is. Nor do I mean that our efforts to retard our greenhouse gas emissions are without merit. Au contraire. Nor do I mean that global warming is a good thing because of its inevitability and because it is largely natural at this stage in the global climate’s evolution, because for us as a species it certainly is bad news. But enthusiasm for promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels of previous emissions - “G-8 eyes 80% emissions cut by 2050,” July 10th - is just stupidly misplaced excitement. Global climate temperature rise is unstoppable, and all the environmentalist and political frenzy is just theater - of the absurd, maybe.
I could be wrong - but I’m not.
Printed on Thursday, July 16, 2009 as “Misplaced excitement of the G-8.”
On Sunday, July 26th a response was printed, “Deal with the immediate crisis” by Eamon Watters of Yamagata. Watters disputes my claim that because polar ice caps and alpine glaciers still exist we are still living in an ice age by calling me “confused.” Specifically, I wrote that we are in the end stages of an ice age to which he said simply that I was wrong because, technically, we are actually in an “interglacial period.” I can accept that, but I do not accept his suggestion that I am confused about it. Instead, I think I am less confused than most on the subject. Watters unnecessarily reminds me that “ice ages are cyclic.” I know that. Most people do not, I think. So I agree with him on two points so far - our interglacial age, and the cyclic nature of ice ages. Watters’ main point - with which I do not disagree - is that reigning in the production of greenhouse gases is something that we can do here and now to address global ambient temperature rise, and so the inevitability of temperature rise is not a reason not to pursue it. Instead, the immediacy of it constitutes sufficient moral motivation. He compares it to rushing to put out a house fire right now in a house that has a long life expectancy, because the fire is the most immediate and dangerous problem. Okay. I don’t see that that is an adequate metaphor for the global warming issue, but I agree that it is prudent to address the most immediate danger immediately. And, in fact, in my letter I specifically wrote that I did not think that our efforts to retard greenhouse gas emissions are without merit. Just the opposite. I do take umbrage with people who think that if they react immediately to conditions that they have the best hope of affecting then that is sufficient to make us think that we are successfully doing something about it and that because of the reasons for our actions both we and our actions occupy a superior ethical position because of it. It feels like Watterst is suggesting that I cannot say the things I say on the issue because the actions of environmentalist are meant with the best intentions. Really, I wish people would read my letters carefully and think about them before they respond.