Despite mountains of scientific data, internationally published reports and eyewitness accounts, there will always be a select few who deny the importance of our changing climate. Among them is David Warren, a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen.
While Mr. Warren's pieces are well written and, at times, convincing, his claims about climate change are erroneous. Here’s why.
1. Warren claims that much of the world’s water issues are related to hydroelectric dams, and has recently written that the rising water levels in the Nile Delta are due to the High Aswan Dam (or more specifically, the dam blocks the sediment that flows along the river prevents an overwhelming influx of salt water.) While this structure greatly contributes to the condition of the delta, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that the Nile Delta is “also [affected] through accentuated rates of sea-level rise.” In a paper readily available on their website, the IPCC estimates that rising sea levels will displace more than one million people in the Nile Delta, the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta in Bangladesh, as well as the Mekong delta in Vietnam.
2. Warren says there are fossil fuel reserves growing as we use them. An article originally published by Oil & Gas in 2004 quoting British Petroleum confirms this fact. But more numerous and credible sources sources point to peak oil. There is much debate about when exactly peak oil will hit on a global scale, but it is obvious that we are quickly going to run out of a resource that we don't have the capacity to rapidly mass produce.
3. Which brings us to the final point – alternative energy. Warren expostulates on the “hundreds upon hundreds of gigantic propeller windmills, at each of many dispersed locations.” Wind power, he says, has the potential to kill many birds; this is not untrue, for the impact of wind farms on bird populations and bird migration is just beginning to be studied, and many wind farms in the United States lie in the path of migrating birds . But as for the idea that that wind and other forms of alternative energy cannot be viable forms of electrical power is close-minded, denying human ingenuity and the powerful vested interests that stand in its way. (To see how powerful these interests are, see who killed the electric car in the mid-90s.)
An example of a successful alternative energy story is found in Denmark. Building its first wind farm in 1971, after having relied on coal for some time, Denmark now leads the world in number of wind farms. These generate almost 25% of the country's energy, and are, for the most part, located offshore in the North Sea. More cities and countries are looking to follow this example of sustainable energy.
Climate change is happening – naturally, yes (the world is in a warming trend), but also artificially. We do no good by speeding the process by ignoring or downplaying the matter. As perhaps the only self-aware animal species on this planet, it becomes our responsibility to take care of it. After all, as David Attenborough reminds us*plant earth doc*, we only have one home.
Emma Lehmberg is a Canadian Geographic intern contributing commentary on Copenhagen