The view from on high

One of the rewards of pontificating from a very lofty position indeed is that you get to talk complete rubbish and get away with it. Here is a brief excerpt from Michael Skapinker, one of the Financial Times’ many over-opinionated gurus:

Do you remember Y2K, the millennium bomb? It was supposed to bring the world to a halt because computers could not cope with their internal calendars turning from “99” into “00”. What was that all about? Was Y2K a scam perpetrated by the information technology and consulting industries, who made a fortune out of it? A genuine danger that governments and companies averted through assiduous action? (I remember an airline office where even the radiator had a “Y2K compliant” sticker on it.) Or was it just mass corporate and official hysteria?

I suspect it was mainly the last. Perhaps a generation from now, climate change will be seen in the same light, or perhaps not. Not everything we panic about is baseless.

Really. I can only hope that Mr Skapinker’s financial opinions are better grounded than his views on either Y2K or the environment. No, Y2K was no scam. I was working with a large US credit card company at the time, and I can assure Mr Skapinker that the problem was all too real. The fact that half the computers on the planet did not start to misbehave about the start of 2000 was solely down to the truly immense efforts put into dealing with it. Unlike nuclear war, which was always a matter of imponderables, there was no doubt in any IT person’s mind of what would happen if we did not solve the problem in time. The fact that Mr Skapinker was not inconvenienced by it is solely to the credit of the thousands of IT engineers who worked so hard to smooth his way.

Likewise the environment. There remain many imponderables there too – but one of them is not climate change itself. Resource deletion, ecosystems damage and population growth are equally certain. Unless, of course, Mr Skapinker has sources of which the IPCC, United Nations, the CIA, World Resources Institute, most national governments and practically every climate scientist on the planet know nothing.

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