- Global Warming 1704-2004 -When did it start exactly?
It was a dark and
stormy night and it was all he could do to keep warm by the gentle heat
of his laptop. Yes Portsmouth in winter is a tad windy and cold and
what seemed like a great idea in October is turning out to be a nightmare.
OK not the kind of nightmare that people in Iraq are having, or Iran
for that matter or even Afghanistan or all the other places where real
nightmares take place on a daily basis. Im just talking about
a cold flat with no central heating. My own fault. I wanted a place
with lots of space for my photographs. Now its too cold to into
the living room to see them and theres ice crystal on the glass
anyway. Darn it.
In 1804 , when this was an actual gentlemans home and one of the
best addresses in Old Portsmouth, every room sported a glowing coal
fire and I am sure even the servants in the roofspace or in the basement
were warm or at least tucked in with the horses in the stables. A laptop
just isnt as warm as a horse. Not even my Ibook.
I was thinking about all those coal fires, in every room, in every house
(that could afford coal in 1804 and 1904 for that matter) and the quality
of air back then. Remember all those London fogs in Sherlock Holmes
movies. Granted there were fewer people. (Around 30 million in the UK
a hundred years ago as opposed to 56 million or so now.) Did anyone
mention acid rain then? Or global warming? Think of million upon million
fireplaces right across the western world daily burning coal fires to
warm a home for hundreds of years and still burning them in summer to
cook. How much did it alter the climate then? Were the hurricanes and
floods man-made disasters then? There were many such recorded events
and the winters were very much colder. OK, the earth was further away
from the sun for part of that time, on its elliptical orbit, and that
makes winters more harsh. Nevertheless, when we were burning all that
coal and releasing all that carbon into the upper atmosphere did they
know they were causing global warming or just trying to
get their socks dry?
Now we live in a world where hardly any coal is burned in fireplaces
(Id burn some if I knew where to buy the stuff) but still a lot
of coal is used to generate electricity. Nevertheless, coal is on the
way out, at least in Europe, because of the Kyoto Protocol on global
warming. The air is cleaner than at any time people can remember. So
they say. However, just because we cant see all the stuff coming
out of car exhausts, doesnt mean it isnt killing us or the
planet. Which is better? Invisible pollution or visible?
Are cars and diesel engines and power stations (whether gas powered
or coal) causing worse global warming than the centuries when we all
used coal. (We might want to address the problem of methane from all
the horses and cows out there back then too - and right now by all those
hamburger cows in Texas.)
No doubt, anyone reading this will say, theres a website where
you can look up these exact comparisons. Global Warming from 1700
(prior to the industrial revolution - to 2004.) Century by Century.
No doubt, you can measure the contaminants in the Arctic Ice to gauge
the situation going back hundreds of years. Certainly, you can measure
volcano activity or even wars I should think. But just for the record,
is it worse now because there are six billion plus people on the planet
as opposed to three billion or because we switched from coal to oil
based economies? Nevermind all the millions of species they say will
be made extinct by global warming. We shall of course miss them. But
what if one of those species is us?
I was concerned because I was reading in The Times the other day that
energy experts reckon the UK will be a net importer of all or 90% its
energy needs within 20 years. We will be importing that natural gas
and oil from Russia and other volatile countries that, no doubt, given
their history, will from time to time, turn off the tap for political
reasons, or internal social unrest, or even spite, or worse, because
the pound is worthless in 2024. I am not sure how the UK will survive
being an energy importer, because it has never been such a needy
place before. Thanks, first to forests (which they chopped down) then
coal, then lately, North Sea Oil, it has been energy self-sufficient
for around 2500 years. In twenty years then, about the time you (not
I) will be paying off your mortgage, your home will be bloody cold.
Most houses no longer come with fireplaces so you wont even be
able to burn that MDF furniture you bought in the sales.
The last coal mines will have been shut. What kind of jobs will people
do here if energy prices go through the roof? Will the UK be like Romania
now? Who will adopt British orphans?
I know I am the worlds worst pessimist, but when you are cold,
you think about these things and I am thinking: I dont want to
be living here when my oven light is dependent on the whims of Moscow.
Wind power can and is being used, of course. Visit Cornwall to see it
in action. Wave Power is a great idea. But so far, there are more protesters
than wind turbines or wave turbines. Its logical that we must
use our weather to generate power and NIMBYS will have to take a back
seat eventually. However, the better idea might be to design cars, homes,
appliances, and lifestyles that consume less power. After all, if my
laptop is all that is keeping me warm, it means that it probably isnt
using its available power efficiently enough.
Your constructive ideas on how to survive this energy poor future are
21st Century Futures Here
© Sam North-
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Carine Thomas -Brighter Image
© Sam North - Kit in a flooded Chiswick- London Jan 2004