It can be a green world after all

The idea that we see what we look for is an easily demonstrable proposition...

The idea that we see what we look for is an easily demonstrable proposition.

Ask people to spend one minute listing all the brown things they see around them. They’ll hurriedly scan around, mentally latching onto details, and quickly create a list of perhaps a dozen or so items.

The trick to the experiment is then to ask them what green things they saw. After some expressions of, “You didn’t ask for that!” or “You fooled us,” those involved usually admit they can recall only one or two items. They saw plenty, but noticed only what they looked for.

The same principle holds for more serious affairs. Thinking about the seemingly intractable problem of human-caused global warming, it is easy to become depressed, very fast. Humans are still throwing greenhouse gases into our atmospheric “sewer” like there’s no tomorrow, about a thousand tons every two seconds.

Based on more and better climate research, scientists keep pronouncing sterner warnings for an apocalyptic future. Their latest report was published only recently by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

If one bypasses the usual vitriolic commentary exchanged on blogs and news source comment lists, and goes directly to the source documents available on the IPCC web-site (, one can judge for oneself the seriousness of their findings.

The physical science basis of the report comes from over 209 scientists from 32 countries, and 50 editors reviewed their work. Their website includes explanations of how these people compiled the report, and what evidence supports their conclusions. Key findings include: Warming is unequivocal. Changes are unprecedented. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed. Snow and ice have diminished. Sea level has risen a minimum of 0.19m over the last century. Ice sheets have been losing mass. Further uptake of carbon by the ocean will increase ocean acidification. Human influence on the climate is clear. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries, even if emissions of CO2 are stopped.

“Science” purchased by carbon-intensive industry funders continues to bleat contrarian opinion, but about 97 per cent of published scientific studies on this subject confirm the IPCC’s findings. Serious researchers are becoming increasingly angry at the misrepresentation of their work by incompetent frauds.

Oddly enough, if 97 per cent of medical opinion suggested a person had cancer and needed a specific treatment, it’s highly unlikely he would ignore medical advice. For some bizarre reason, huge numbers of the public ignore this logic in the climate “debate.”

One could become very depressed. Lots of brown is on the horizon. One sometimes imagines few among us care much about the climate change issue. However, this depressing assumption is demonstrably false if one examines the way that business is beginning to react, way ahead of the average citizen.

Responsible business leaders understand only too well that climate change poses enormous risks to their (and our) ongoing success. posts articles, day after day, outlining corporate actions worldwide to lower carbon footprints and to become more sustainable in operations. Aside from benefiting global society (public good) they are saving a lot of money (private good) in the process.

Carbon disclosure scores rank companies by industry according to their senior managements’ understanding of business issues related to climate change and to climate risk. For example, world purchasers of cotton (clothing manufacturers) understand that climate change is already impacting cotton production by creating water scarcity and drought in growing areas. High scoring companies include BMW, Nestlé, Spectra Energy, Swiss Re, Bayer, Siemens, Microsoft, BASF, and many others. Swiss Re (a major global reinsurance company) argues that transition to a low carbon economy is not an option; it’s a necessity.

In other good news, Scientific American reported just last July that global renewable electricity will reach nearly 25 per cent of global production by 2018. Data indicate that U.S. businesses can save up to $780 billion over 10 years by reducing GHG emissions by an average of 3 per cent annually. The carbon lobby may own many of our politicians and media outlets, but increasingly, business understands what is at stake: a livable and profitable future.

Examine the evidence. There’s lots of brown out there. But let’s look for the green, too, and perhaps colour a few things that way.

Al Lehmann is a retired English teacher living in Terrace, BC.