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A MATTER OF OPINION

23-03-2007

Channel 4's much discussed documentary about global warming the other week continues to attract comment, with Laurence Inman finding that it's made him see the whole world in a different light.

Watching The Great Global Warming Swindle on Channel 4 the other week was a fascinating but disquieting viewing experience. I couldn't take my eyes off it.

According to the many experts who appeared, the current concerns about climate change, and how human activity might be affecting it, is just so much empty hysteria whipped up by people who have an interest in keeping us all in a continual state of righteousness and/or panic.

It doesn't matter what the pretext for this fear is, as long as it's there. Global warming is just the latest thing which can be used to keep us in this vulnerable and malleable state.

The truth, they say, is that infinitely more carbon and carbon-dioxide is produced by the sea when it warms up by half a degree than could possibly be belched out by all our cars in ten million years.

And the sea warms and cools slightly all the time, because of variations in the amount of energy coming from cosmic rays emerging from the sun, apparently.

Global warming is something people want to believe, because it fits in with all the other things they want to believe: that people who drive big cars are selfish and unpleasant, that we would all be happier if we reverted to the pre-industrial bucolic paradise which Constable and Breughel painted, and that America is a cruel, tyrannical power bent on world hegemony.

Now, these are more or less my default beliefs and I found it very comforting that a single issue could underpin all of them. It made thinking so much more straightforward and easy. But that's all been disturbed, and I blame that pesky programme for it.

It went on to claim that the press, (especially the liberal broadsheets,) have an interest in keeping the bandwagon going because any whiff of disaster sells more papers.

So they have to appoint a special environment correspondent and he isn't going to put his job in jeopardy by playing down people's fears. The opposite, in fact. He'll say everything is getting worse.

And anyone trying to put counter-view won't get their ideas published and won't get essential government grants.

Because of course, governments also have a big interest in global warming, whether it exists or not. They can use it to exert more control over us and screw us for more taxes.

I was persuaded. The only thing heard from me for that hour was the sound of scales falling from my eyes.

I've suspected for some time that everyone, including me, ‘believes' things just because it suits us to, regardless of inconvenient statistics or facts. I remember arguing with one of my in-laws once about capital punishment.

He was so convinced of its deterrent value that he claimed the Moors Murderers would never have committed their crimes if there had been hanging at that time.

When I pointed out that hanging had not been abolished when they started on their killing careers, he still wouldn't change his mind. It amused him to believe what he did, and nothing was going to change it.

When difficult science is involved then things are even more confused.

Take carbon. What is it ? It's essential to life apparently, but I wouldn't know a carbon molecule if it stood up and poked me in the eye. I think of it as dark grey heavy stuff, solid, like coal or whatever it is in pencils. It doesn't surprise me that it comes in tons.

What does surprise me is that I'm supposed to have dumped four tons of it into the atmosphere every time I fly in a plane. Doesn't it fall to earth and do more damage ? And there must be two hundred other people on the plane with me. That's 800 tons. And that's after we've burnt the fuel to produce it, so it must have started off as, say, 1500 tons. I don't buy it. The plane would never have taken off.

And then there's carbon-dioxide. A ton of carbon-dioxide ? I'm surprised there's more than half a ton in the whole world. It's lighter than air, surely ? How can little old me produce tons of it ?

Science is so confusing. Take electricity. What is it exactly ? And why, if you change your supplier, do they not come round, dig up the old wires, replace them with their wires and then connect them up to their supply ?

So, having realised that my ‘opinions' have no more substance or validity than primitive superstitions, that they are merely intellectual comfort-blankets, I have decided to hold them no more. All they did was irritate me in the first place. I feel better already.

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