Whither the Weather? Whither our World?

Awareness and lack of effective action concerning global warming are not new. In 1896 Savante Arrenhuis suggested that fossil fuels would raise the World’s temperature. In the 50s and 60s Messrs. Callendar, Plass and Keeling proved this.

We need to grasp and manage the actual and possible causes of this concern and the lack of effective responses. They include:

• Effects of fossil fuels
• Lack of neutral and benign alternatives to fossil fuels
• International conflicts
• Economic and accountancy theory and practices
• Preoccupations with dominance

Fossil fuels pollute the air with the harmful chemicals which their combustion produces. They pollute water in their production and use. Methane and carbon dioxide emissions trap heat in the atmosphere.

Fossil fuels have been the main energy source due to their relatively low price, the existence of an infrastructure based upon them and habit. Replacing this infrastructure is money, effort, attitude and time expensive but reduces pollution. It may increase local employment, greater locality independence and initiatives. Whisky is one of them!

In the shorter term, fossil fuels are cheaper in money and easier to use, but in the longer term they are fatally expensive in resources.

All costings are flawed without considerations of opportunity costs. Opportunity cost is the lost benefit derived from an option not chosen. In which avoidable ways have we spent money which could have been better spent correcting global warming?

Optional wars have massive opportunity costs. Since World War 2, perhaps the last non-optional war, there have been so many wars which have increased global warming and diverted positive spending.

If, for ease of access to data, we take the costs of U.S. Post-9/11 wars, we are looking at a money cost of some $8 Trillion and a direct death cost of over 929, 000 and a displacement /refugee cost of 38 million.

Britain’s military operations since the cold war have cost some £34.7 bn and £30 bn in long term veteran care. Mr. F. Ledwidge estimates that we will have spent some £40 bn on the failed Afghan campaign.

Current, predominant economic theory and practices do not appear to foreground opportunity costs nor externalities.

Significant long term investment by the UK Government might be enabled and encouraged by the adoption of some of the theory and associated practices from Modern Monetary Theory, whereby governmental expenditure is assessed against inflation and employment rather than entries in an electronic ledger. The former are integral to an economy, the latter is merely a somewhat arbitrary representation of it.

* Steve Trevathan is chairperson of Lyme Regis and Marshwood Vale Liberal Democrats.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Nigel Hunter 30th Sep '21 - 8:05pm

    Are we moving into a new era? Thatcherism,Reaganomics,huge monopolies that gobble up everything under the ‘free trade’ logo. The greed of ‘ownership’ for example with Asda being run from tax haven Jersey and Morissons sold at auction and run from the Caymans.
    A new future may await. Before the industrial revolution companies,trades were linked in specific areas with their fuel resources.Today those fuel resources can be solar panels,wind generators (also ON the land) and water power production via ,for example ,Archimedes screw.Local production of goods etc reduces carbon production etc. With foresight and investment the planet could be transformed.

  • I very much welcome this contribution by Steve Trevathan. We need to face the fact that climate change is not the only environmental disaster we are creating. We need to face the reality of the pollution of our seas, our land, our air. We need to face the reality of the changes we have caused to most of the ecosystems on our planet.
    My own preference is to try to establish systems of government which move on from the elected dictatorship methods, which we regard as progress from the unelected dictatorships.

  • Steve Trevethan 1st Oct '21 - 6:04pm

    Thanks to N. H and T. H for their contributions!
    Connections between energy power and non-energy powers is a most interesting field of thought.
    Financial and military powers seem to be increasingly centralised and non person-centred aka democratic.
    Our “democracy” seems to be partial with a questionable input/voting system, a process which involves lots of lobbying and and output which does not serve the individual well.
    How can a real democracy have (increasing numbers of) starving people, including children?
    As the British Empire, with all its faults and benefits started to decline as oil replaced coal, so might non-fossil fuel offer us more of our own energy power, independence and opportunities to use cooperative competition to benefit all?

  • Peter Martin 2nd Oct '21 - 7:49pm

    It might seem a little pedantic but GHGs like CO2 and Methane don’t actually “trap heat”. The heat being radiated into space is the same whatever level of GHGs are in the atmosphere. It’s just means that the atmosphere has to be warmer when GHG concentrations are higher to radiate the same amount of heat.

    It does mean that the atmosphere never truly becomes saturated as some climate sceptics will argue it already is. The more GHGs in the atmosphere the warmer it has to be for the same amount of heat to be radiated away.

    The analogy sometimes given of a few drops of ink in tank of water blocking a light beam completely and so adding another drop of ink doesn’t make any difference isn’t correct.

  • The most effective way to combat climate change and exponential environmental destruction is to stop eating fish and meat. Commercial fishing is by far the most destructive element in the degradation of the ocean environment which captures a far greater level of carbon emissions than all the forests of the world combined. Human beings cannot survive as a species without a healthy marine environment regulating the climate.
    All government subsidies to commercial fishing and meat production should be ended and a mass environmental education campaign to transition to a vegetarian diet.
    George Monbiot adds some detail https://www.monbiot.com/2021/04/09/sea-change/ and https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/29/green-growth-economic-activity-environment

  • Peter Martin 3rd Oct '21 - 7:49am

    @ Joe Bourke

    The scientific advice is that the “most effective way” to combat climate change is to reduce CO2 and other GHG emissions. The ending of the burning of coal being the number one priority.

    The suggestion that the oceans could ever safely absorb the ever increasing concentrations of CO2 we put into the atmosphere is nonsense. The C02 itself acidifies the oceans which is itself a threat to the health of the seas.

    By all means campaign for more sustainable practices in agriculture and fishing, or even for a ban on the latter, but don’t claim that this is “the most effective” way to prevent dangerous warming.

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