"If you want to read a blog to get a sense of what is going on in Hong Kong these days or a blog that would tell you what life was like living in colonial Hong Kong, this blog, WALTER'S BLOG, fits the bill." Hong Kong Blog Review
"We need clear thinking with a rational discourse about how we can manage climate change and the repercussions of human activity."
Opening COP26, Boris Johnson likened climate change to James Bond strapped to a "doomsday device." I'm not sure this constant catastrophising is helpful.
Catastrophisers tend to be pretty anxious people with high levels of anxiety that clouds their judgment. Moreover, it can lead to silly behaviours such as glueing heads to roads.
This stuff scares the shit out of those operating with a deficit of thinking — usually kids and teenagers. Although, even some adults fall into this category. When the emotional mind takes over, you get kindergarten thinking, over-reactions and a lack of clarity.
Plus, in the modern world, these “cognitive misers” draw opinions and conclusions from sound bites and 10-second clips on Tiktok. Detail, forget that.
Compounding the problem is that humans are prone to episodic memory. Those of us around at the time have an image of 9/11 imprinted in our memory. We remember our location and reactions.
That one episode powerfully shaped our beliefs about terrorism to suggest it's everywhere. In truth, the chances of encountering a terrorist incident are small.
Hence, images of floods or forest fires stick as acute episodes that we extrapolate to be happening everywhere. They are not. Seeing Australian bush fires, you can believe Greta's lament, "The planet is on fire!" It takes more effort to comprehend that bush fires are part of the usual circle of events. And any increase in the number of fires may be down to human activity unrelated to climate change.
People are less keen to recognise that China's 40-year reforestation project has planted over 70 billion trees. Or that the UK is half way to meeting Net Zero targets.
Following this language of disaster is framing the response as "we must do something now!" And yet, only gradual, sustained action will bring about the outcomes we seek. Lastly, the constant cataclysmic language is off-putting and drives people away.
We need clear thinking with a rational discourse about how we can manage climate change and the repercussions of human activity.
Because, ever since our ancestors cleared a patch of ground, lit their first fire, and cooked food, we've changed the natural order of the environment. To survive as a species, we must do such things.
The challenge is to avoid such a massive impact that we endanger our existence. In short, where do we draw the line on human activity?
And for clarity, the planet is not in jeopardy any time soon. Even if we manage to wipe ourselves out, the Earth will carry on for billions of years, and most other species will carry on.
Some 97 per cent of scientists involved in climate research agree that it is “extremely likely” that much of the warming observed since the early 1900s results from human activities. Several lines of evidence support this. Note the wording “extremely likely”. More on that later.
Moreover, don't confuse the weather with climate. Yes, the two interact. But the weather is the stuff you experience daily and may not represent climate change.
Add to that the confusion that climate change (i.e. warming) may produce colder weather in certain places. So, for example, Glasgow could see colder temperatures if the predictions prove accurate because the warming gulf stream may switch off.
Discussing and studying the climate is a complex issue. Year-to-year climate changes include droughts, floods, and other events caused by a complex array of factors.
Atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns shift—that affect the paths of storm tracks and the movements of air masses.
Climate variations also occur at timescales lasting decades, with clusters of wet, dry, cool, or warm conditions in a row for given locations.
Finally, at timescales of thousands of years, the climate responds to the "wobble" of Earth's axis, the planet's tilt, and the changes to the elliptical shape of Earth's orbit.
All these phenomena interact to determine the amount of solar heating different parts of Earth's surface receive during the seasons of the year. We must also consider that the amount of radiant energy Earth receives from the Sun is slowly increasing, which adds more energy to the mix over time.
That is why scientists use terms like "extremely likely” when stating their conclusions. Of course, they can't be sure, but the evidence points towards us having an adverse impact.
Boris's James Bond trope, narration, and framing of climate change looks silly. Let's hope there are some adults at COP26.
Meanwhile, Greta is assimilating in Govan, Glasgow. Did she understood the message she was encouraged to sing? Is Greta now a climate change denier? It's more likely the canny folk of Govan are having a laugh.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.