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Neither a denier nor a climate-change evangelist be

December 14, 2009
The Earth.

The Earth.

Like absolutely everybody else on our beautiful little planet I have no idea how our use of its resources and pollution of its land, seas and air will pan out. Perhaps it will heal itself on its own, perhaps if we help it along a bit by reining in our worst excesses the predicted worst-case scenarios can be avoided, or perhaps we’re already doomed to wiping ourselves out…

I do think we’re experiencing global climate change and that it’s at least partly (if not mostly) man-made. I’d like to think that it’s not too late to do something about it and that the small changes I’ve made to my lifestyle are, if not helping, at least not hindering matters.

So, I was particularly interested in what Ben Goldacre has called a ‘PollyFillaesque’ article about climate change. It’s an interesting read and worth taking a few minutes to read.

And  before the deniers start dragging out the old canard about how melting ice in a glass doesn’t make your drink spill over the edge, so what’s the fuss about rising sea levels, let me say this. There is plenty of snow and ice currently frozen on land – when it melts it will add more water to the oceans. And melting ice already in the oceans does raise sea levels. I have borrowed the explanation below from, because it expresses the science simply and clearly (if you want to see the pictures, read the full article):

The common misconception that floating ice won’t increase sea level when it melts occurs because the difference in density between freshwater and salt water is not taken into consideration. Archimedes’ Principle states that an object immersed in a fluid is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid it displaces. However, Noerdlinger notes that because freshwater is not as dense as saltwater, freshwater actually has greater volume than an equivalent weight of saltwater. Thus, when freshwater ice melts in the ocean, it contributes a greater volume of melt water than it originally displaced.

You don’t have to go and live in a yurt with nothing but the itching of your hairshirt for company. Even if you don’t believe in manmade climate change, perhaps you can see the argument for using the planet’s resources more cautiously? Why not make a few small changes to your lifestyle too? The Energy Saving Trust has some painless suggestions (as well as a few slightly more painful ones!).

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