Ever heard the word “anthropogenic”? I hadn’t, until an agitated voice on my telephone asked “Are you the guy that wrote all that rubbish about anthropogenic climate change in Farmer’s Weekly?” You might have seen the columns I wrote a few weeks back about how managers should respond to the threat of global warming. Almost every newspaper or magazine these days covers the subject, and since I’ve reached my tipping point, I’ve read them avidly. I’ve also been actively searching for information, and when I wrote those columns I thought I had done so on the basis of pretty good information. That’s why, apart from the fact that I didn’t know what she was talking about, I was so taken aback by the tone of the voice on the phone.
After my caller had informed me that “anthropogenic” meant “man-made” (as opposed to naturally occurring), I got her drift. She was upset that I had accepted as gospel that global warming was caused by artificial carbon emission. Sure, she acknowledged that climate change was taking place, but emphasised that this was a naturally occurring cyclical process. Contrary to the popular view that CO2 emission is causing global warming, she maintained it’s the other way round – the warm climate causes rising CO2 atmospheric concentrations, a classic case of confusion between cause and effect. She rattled off more facts and figures countering the view that artificial carbon emission was causing global warming – the lady was an informed dissident, and she was convincing. It was disconcerting. Here I was, an enthusiastic supporter of efforts to reduce carbon emission, and I had encouraged other managers to do the same. Was I wasting my time? Had I misled all my readers?
“No,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong. The reduction of carbon emission is well worthwhile. It will save money, reduce pollution and extend the life of all fossil fuel deposits. “But yes,” she said, “you have misled readers by leading them to believe that by reducing carbon emission they will affect the climate.” She pointed out that the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC: www.ipcc.ch), established by the United Nations, is generally accepted as the authority on the subject. In its latest 1 600-page report, the IPCC states that it is only “likely” that artificial carbon emission has had an effect on global warming.
Point taken, but how does this affect the way we manage our businesses? It seems to me there are two lessons: Just because a view is propounded and accepted by those around you, does not mean it is true. Remember the millennium bug? Always look for both sides of the story, and remember the saying – dead fish always swim with the stream. Whether carbon emission contributes to climate change or not, it’s good business to save energy and recycle. Money is saved; the environment is protected; profits are made. Do it.
Contact Peter Hughes on (013) 745 7303 or e-mail
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