I have been following the debate from the climate denier side for a few weeks, mostly in fascination of how you can, in contrast to being a sceptic, go ahead and categorically deny the possibility that emissions into the atmosphere could create a climate system collapse. So I figured that to be a denier you must have some pretty solid science behind you. That’s fascinating. In a spooky way, as I personally am seriously worried that we have not passed a tipping point already.
Anyway, having learned to be sceptical about being sceptical, I was keeping an open mind about where my investigations could lead me. And I got more than I bargained for. That’s why we need to talk.
What follows is what I would like to say to you – if you are a denier – and if you are not, I’d like you to be in on the conversation. This is serious stuff, hard to express, and to get to the heart of the matter I might have to ramble around it. So bear with me.
To get to a stage where you deny anthropogenic climate system impacts you have to first reject the position of an established group of scientists. In fact this is nothing unusual, established groups have been wrong before. You also get into an explanation as to why so many rational men and women could get it THAT WRONG. And at the same time, explain how a number of equally rational men and women could stand up to conventional wisdom.
One explanation offered by deniers is one of money and security – follow the accepted line and you keep your job, one of the most powerful motivators around.
So let me paraphrase the way I understand deniers think – and this is one of the reasons why we need a long serious talk – I need to know if I am right.
The theory (that climate change is being accelerated by man), is being supported by a cadre of scientists who are, consciously or unconsciously, following this line because it suits their own interests and the interests of trade and industry owners who pay them. They put their own needs above the needs of the general public. This is in contrast to the few who have the moral courage to stand for their opposite position. The position – of anthropogenic global warming – is detrimental to societal development as, if followed, will result in fuel restrictions that harm economic growth.
The thing that gets me about this is that if we accept the denier’s position, then it could well be true for other areas. Why stop at climate change? I have to admit that I myself and suspicious of what we could call established economic truths. Suppose I substituted my ideas about economy in the paragraph above?
The theory (that economic growth driven by free markets will create better standards for all), is being supported by a cadre of economists who are, consciously or unconsciously, following this line because it suits their own interests and the interests of trade and industry owners who pay them. They put their own needs above the needs of the general public. This is in contrast to the few who have the moral courage to stand for their opposite position. This position of infinite economic growth is detrimental to societal development and, if followed, will result in continued ecological destruction and environmental degradation and ultimately create a humanitarian catastrophe.
So where does the discussion lead? The climate deniers I have read want us to continue to release CO2 into the atmosphere. They do, however, recognize that there is a global fuels shortage ahead, and many of them argue for nuclear power. In this case they agree with a large body of established scientists that nuclear power is safe. And they seem to agree with the established view that economic growth should prevail.
For me it doesn’t add up. How can you so categorically believe that a group is acting against your interests in one case but so altruistically for you in another?
Which brings me to why we need to talk. Look. We are all in the same boat, a planet under pressure, an economy in serious debt and no sensible way forward. A system which is slow to change, being held back by the fear of the very people who have been trained and educated and employed with public money to serve us. It is a crisis of faith in each other. We are never going to get anywhere if we let this continue.
Arguing about the science is a waste of time at this stage, as we are discussing the same outcome – restrictions on fossil fuel – which anyway are the same restrictions Peak Oil protagonists, civil liberties and alternate economists are talking of. It is small change in comparison to the crisis of faith in leaders and civil servants we are facing. This crisis is dangerous, as people could be opened even more to manipulation, looking for strong leadership and guidance.
So we need to talk, and we need to find a way forward together to a society with more people, more peace more prosperity and more equality but with less fossil fuel. Or?