Climategate, crime and recession


A jaded wire reporter once claimed originality was great but plagiarism as faster. I was reminded of this when I read a letter by sustainableIT director Tim James in Tuesday’s Business Day.

As we all know, climate talks are underway in Copenhagen, Denmark, in what is described a humanity’s last best chance to prevent the global ecosystem changing from one conducive to development to one less so.

What many arguments on the subject miss, in my humble lay opinion, is that neither the earth nor the climate is in any danger. The earth is safe and will remain so for at least another few billion years, when the sun will burn out, go supernova and consume the planet. Until then the climate will be safe too. The planet will certainly have one. The rub is whether that climate will be as favourable to human life as the climate of say the last 10 000 years.

Like rats we have fouled our living space and callous creatures that we are we are seeking to leave the mess for our children.

But I digress…

Tim James makes another very valid point as a controversy rages around whether some scientists fiddled climate change figures in order to bolster their argument and politicians prevaricate in Copenhagen.

James’ departure point is that reducing carbon emissions “is about risk mitigation — nothing more, nothing less.”

H argues that whether climate change is happening or not is actually irrelevant. Because it can happen and may make large parts of the planet less hospitable to humans, we need to mitigate against it.

As Jams puts it:

“Let me elaborate using a simple risk model made famous by a US schoolteacher.Using simple logic, we face four scenarios.

“In the first scenario, the climate science is wrong (that is, no global warming) and we don’t act. We would have effectively saved ourselves needless financial exposure and the world would be a happy, fossil fuel-dependent place. You could say a tick in the box.


“In the second scenario, again the climate science is wrong but in this case we do act. In this scenario we have “wasted” scarce financial resources to switch to a low carbon economy and if we take the most ardent climate sceptic’s viewpoint, face a financial crisis and recession worse than any previously seen. You could argue that this would not be very good.

“If you now flip the coin however, you have two further scenarios.

“The third is that the climate science is right (anthropogenic global warming) and we do act. In this scenario we avert the main consequences of climate change, reduce emissions to sustainable levels and effectively carry on living harmoniously with the planet. Again, a tick in the box.

“The final scenario is the science is right and we don’t act. Like we did with scenario two, let’s take the extreme view. Our failure to act results in rampant climate change, food and water security issues, societal breakdown, species extinction and mass conflict. It effectively ends the world as we know it. This box gets a big red cross, we have failed as a species.

“Now as a business man, ask yourself the question: which scenario in terms of risk analysis would you choose? I most certainly choose to act — in my mind, there is no debate anymore. Whether you believe the science or you don’t, we cannot afford to get it wrong and we cannot afford the risk of facing the consequences listed in scenario four.”

Enough said.

Father Blondel and human security

We all know the mantra that economic development requires peace and security. It is also true that economic development – or just plain community upliftment – can help build peace and security.

While government and business largely think in terms of the former, community workers and clergy often do the latter.

These human security practitioners – for that is what they are – often work under arduous conditions in the midst of poverty to make a difference. And they often pay a heavy price.

The latest to forfeit his life is 70-year-old Catholic priest Louis Blondel of the Missionaries of Africa, murdered in his rectory by teenaged house robbers.

Blondel is the fourth catholic priest to be murdered in the country this year. The SA Council of Churches (SACC) has rightly said too many priests are being killed by criminals harboured in the communities they are trying to help.


“Churches are meant to be out there where the sinners are and many of these criminals are objectives of our mission and we need to be there to try and convert them and to try to rehabilitate them,” said SACC spokesman Eddie Makue.

In October a gang of car hijackers shot dead a 24-year-old educational psychology intern Bianca Warburton near the Alexandra clinic in Johannesburg, where she was working. Later that month robbers held up the clinic, forcing its closure for a day.

Further afield, five Rwandan peacekeepers attached to the hybrid African Union/United Nations mission in Darfur were murdered over the weekend in two separate attacks, while they were helping communities there.

Human security has a body count.


South Africa and many parts of the world are slowly emerging from recession. This is cold comfort for the about one million South Africans that have lost their jobs since September last year when the economic blow-out reached these shores.

Labour writer Terry Bell put in the Business Report last Friday that the “claim that South Africa and several other parts of the globe have inched out of recession this quarter is … yet another case of arithmetic fraud perpetrated by mainstream economists.”
“The claims by economic commentators, that the current economic crisis has ‘bottomed out’ and ‘green shoots’ of revival are appearing, are also seen as examples of the statistical mumbo-jumbo in which most such experts seem to specialise.
“This mumbo-jumbo concerns number crunching, without any real reference to what the numbers mean in terms of human consequences,” Bell adds, saying it is “voodoo economics” or economics that has little to do with the reality lived by most of the population.
“Social and environmental costs are simply ignored and the horrors of the system are disguised by abstractions such as ‘double dips’ and other jargon-ridden terms to describe fluctuations in the casinos that are the stock exchanges.
“So far as the labour movement is concerned, whether or not a recession exists should be gauged on the effects the economic system has on the lives of the majority of the population. Judged in that sense, South Africa – and the world at large – continues to be in the throes of the worst economic crisis in history.
“According to the International Labour Organisation, between 39 million and 61 million more workers have lost their jobs this year, raising the official global unemployment total to between 219 million and 241 million – the highest on record. In a world of increasing automation, few of these jobs will return permanently.”

What does this mean for security practitioners? Just this: The link between unemployment, despair, social instability, disorder and violence is well known.