Saturday, December 5, 2009

Climategate: Bad News For Vertical Farms?

In case you haven't heard yet, Global Warming (GW) is a big hoax and Al Gore is a liar, a thief, a hypocrite, and soon to become the world's first carbon billionnaire. Oh, and he also has big socks and big feet...or at least a big footprint of carbon. The billionaire part is cool (can we have some?), but the other parts...not so much.

Emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University in Norwich, England were leaked a couple of weeks ago, and they spell bad PR for GW. Apparently many scientists from this influential unit-the reports published by the IPCC, which is unquestionably the leading authority in the public's eye on climate change, are based largely on reports done by the CRU-have omitted, falsified and nudged data to fit the maybe-true-maybe-false GW model.

Surprisingly, most media outlets have been slow to pick up on the story. Even more surprisingly, little has been mentioned in the way of this scandal's affect on the upcoming Copenhagen conference. Should Obama address Climategate? Maybe, maybe not.

While the Vertical Jury (me) is still out on what exactly Climategate implies for being green, there are a few important points to remember.

The first point is this: even if these emails are authentic (meaning that we assume they were either leaked by a whistle blower or a hacker, and not, as most reports aren't considering, falsified for some reason by GW-believers), nothing in them makes Global Warming false. People respond to dire news-20 feet of sea level rise!-more than to needing to apply a little extra sunscreen. Maybe the CRU scientists are just telling us what they think we need to hear in order for us to do the necessary actions to save our skin; the bummer of it would be when scientists lose all credibility with the public and GW turns out to be true. Oops!

But the truth of these emails doesn't necessarily matter for GW. James Hansen, a climate change expert if there ever was one, says, in response to being asked if the CRU emails undermine the science:
No, they have no effect on the science. The evidence for human-made climate change is overwhelming.
(Hansen is called the "grandfather of global warming" and, for what it's worth, he always holds steady to science and, laudably, doesn't think much of politicizing the issue. He has low hopes for Copenhagen.)

The second point to remember is that whether or not GW is true, the structure of getting food, water and energy to everyone is broken, bad, unfair, and it needs fixing. We-that's right, you and I, the people who have the luxury of internet and the free time to peruse blogs-need to concern ourselves with getting those much less fortunate than us up to our level. I know that's a hard thing for our nature-evolutionarily, humans are good at protecting their clan, but not that interested in improving the lot of the "others"-but I think we can use our big brains to get over the bias away from out-group altruism and start to actually demand some changes, both from ourselves and from our "leaders." To me, and to a growing body of supporters, Vertical Farming holds a lot of promise along these lines.

Is Climategate bad news for Vertical Farming? It's pretty irrelevant, honestly. (I brought this up in this post.) Until someone can convince me that it is morally acceptable for humankind to knowingly let millions starve every year (see here or here or here or here) and to enslave our planet for our own needs to this extreme, not to mention the erosion of beauty (see Manufactured Landscapes), GW is an after-thought to why Vertical Farming makes sense. Let's try it because the potential good outweighs the potential bad, because it's doable, and because growing food in a less centralized way is important to all of our personal safety.

A quick side-note to the Vertical Farmer's interest in Climategate. Some people think the real news in all this hoop-la is the fact that the emails were, hold your breath, stolen.

(Photo, showing Al Gore to have used a computer-generated image as fact in his documentary, from the blog An Inconvenient Alarm)

1 comment:

  1. Vertical farming is really a joke proposal. It would require massive amounts of energy to build a vertical farm, and even the daily operation would use more energy than you would save from transportation food shorter distances. This means a vertical farm would generate large amount of net carbon and contribute to global warming. It would also be much less resilient in the face of energy shortages or peak oil. However, that's not to say that growing more food in urban areas isn't a good idea. Growing food on lawns and building community gardens are both great idea.