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Work in the media? Struggle with statistics? Stan's irreverent (and often irrelevant) review of the latest media reports, news and gossip may not help at all... Stan the Statistician

Stan # 90: Global Warming - a load of hot air? February 2008

< Experiments with rabbits have shown that they are quite happy to bounce around a pen, dig holes, eat lettuce and do what rabbits are renown for. However, if their romping produces too many of them, they become aggressive. There is a tipping point when the number of rabbits per square yard turns them from cuddly, fluffy things into thugs. It’s the same with humans. Most of the World’s problems would be solved if there were fewer of us. Congestion charge? Wouldn’t be needed if there were no congestion and there would be no congestion if there were fewer people. House prices beyond the reach of most first-time buyers? Fewer people would mean housing for everyone - and we wouldn’t have to build on flood plains. Global warming? I’m not sure what they blamed for that in the 12 century when the World was warming up but I doubt it would have been cars or ‘pollution’. It certainly wouldn’t help by abolishing world poverty as Bonehead (sorry, Bono) advocates.

Very attractive until you realise that this means that the billions of poor would gobble up resources as fast as the rest of us with billions more cars, factories spewing emissions making the goods and providing the services that the ‘new rich’ would demand, and all the land that would disapper making nice houses and gardens. I could go on but you get the point. The carbon footprint of these billions would increase dramatically. Of course, if we had fewer people, there wouldn’t be a problem. And I wonder what the Martians are blaming their global warming on right now as Mars hots up just like the Earth? If anyone is not sure about what warms the Earth, I suggest that they look up on a day which is not cloudy and they will see a large circular yellow thing. Notice that when you sit in it, you get hotter than when you don’t. As the Sun is quite a lot hotter (and larger) than say your gas fire, maybe the Sun is actually the main cause of global warming. It’s pretty arrogant to think that Man has more than a marginal influence. That’s not to say we shouldn’t switch off those lights, cycle more, waste less and so on, because that will preserve the Earth’s resources for a little longer - perhaps until we can get the population down to a more manageable level. How we do that is something for you to ponder. Let us keep a sense of proportion. ‘Food miles’ are yet another example of the hysteria that surrounds ‘climate change’. It’s as if it were a mortal sin to buy New Zealand Lamb instead of Welsh. Once again, we are being hoodwinked, this time into thinking that food grown locally has less of a carbon footprint than food grown abroad. Sounds very attractive until you look at the facts. A study by the Manchester Business School shows that the transportation element of food is a very small proportion of the total carbon footprint and that New Zealand lamb, for example, has much less effect on the climate than Welsh lamb (because New Zealand farmers don’t have to use as much electricity to keep their flocks warm and fed). If you really want to fuel your guilt trip, then the best way is not to eat meat at all as the production of it is a major contributor to greenhouse gases, choose food with less packaging and eat all the food you do buy. Don’t over-buy and then throw a third of it away as the average household does. Those three simple things would make significantly more difference than fretting over food miles. You could also eat less, and just stop buying things because everything you buy expends resources. That would make a little difference. I remember in the 1960s, scientists telling us we were overdue for another Ice Age so perhaps global warming will counter it and maybe is a Good Thing. And I wonder why some parts of the Antarctic are actually cooling? Is there climate change? Of course, there always has been because weather doesn’t stop (note how one day the weather is different from the day before - climate change in your own back garden, every day!). The Sun keeps on going through phases of increased sun spot activity, solar flares and so on and then is quiet for a few years or decades. There are now 6.5 billion of us and we’re all living longer and reproducing at such an alarming rate that the population rises by almost a quarter of a million every day - 80 million people a year. The sharp upward curve follows hundreds of years in which the world’s population remained stable. For most of human history which stretches back two million years, the population was less than a quarter of a million. There is some evidence that we were reduced to a few tens of thousands about 75,000 years ago after a natural catasrophe. The advent of agriculture led to a sustained increase but it took thousands of years until about 1800, before the planet was host to a billion humans. Since then the growth has been relentless. We hit two billion in 1930, 4 billion by 1975, 5 billion in 1987 and took just another 12 years to reach six billion. Although the birth rate falls as living standards rise, this won’t happen for another 40 years when the population will have risen by a half. The birth rate is about six per second and the death rate about three per second. So, how can we reduce the population? The popular suggestions I have had so far include: shoot all politicians, parking meter attendants, taxmen (and women), WAGS (wives and girlfriends of footballers), chavs, second-hand car dealers, golf bores, phone-in contestants, television presenters/newspeople (aka gobs on sticks) who start every third sentence with the word, ‘now,’ and only breath mid-sentence, weather presenters who gabble so much that you have completely forgotten everything they’ve said after five seconds and so-called creative people at ad agencies from the Tiswas generation who think that creativity is having unusual things happen in ordinary situation - exploding/destroying anything and everything.

Further suggestions to me please for my next desktop.

 

Check in again at my desk soon!
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