Monday, July 17, 2006

Discovering Hot Air

Last night the Discovery Channel aired a special on Global Warming. It was billed as an event that would make the viewer an expert on the subject and able to judge for himself about the truth of the matter. In fact, it was a compilation of all of the worst exaggerations designed to scare people into supporting solutions without properly understanding them.

I'm sure that others will pick the show apart in detail. I'm going to pick up on one small piece to show how the program misleads.

While talking about rising oceans, the announcer said that "The only reason that we go to the ocean is to go to the beach but, for every foot that the ocean rises, we lose 300 feet of beach." Leaving aside that there are other reasons for going to the ocean than going to the beach, there are still three problems with this statement.

First there is the implication that beaches are static resources that can be covered. In fact, they are constantly changing. Beaches are part of a natural cycle of currents. In some places the currents pick up sand, in other places the sand is deposited. If the ocean level rises then new beaches will be formed naturally.

OK, so there will be beaches, but probably not where we expect them to be. Is that a problem? Not really. In many places, the natural currents have already changed and the modern vacation spots are no longer where the beaches naturally occur. Locations such as Virginia Beach spend millions of dollars annually rebuilding beaches that are trying to migrate elsewhere naturally. If the oceans rise then this process will continue. It might have to be accelerated but it will not be much different from what it already being done.

The final point, and one that they really don't want you to think about, is what would happen if we really do adopt significant measures to stop Global Warming? Great Britain has suggested a 60% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. With households accounting for around 50% of carbon emissions, that means that individuals will have to cut their lifestyle deeply. Recreational travel will be a thing of the past.

This means that, for most of us, going to the beach will be out of the question. The beaches may be saved but the only people who will be able to appreciate them will be the ones living close enough to walk there.

A great deal of the show was like this - they didn't tell outright lies but they committed numerous lies by omission.

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