An Unreasonable Debate
In all of the near endless debate and discussion, regarding climate science and the effect of greenhouse gas concentrations, there seems to be an unrealistic expectation that we all can get involved at a technical level. It brings to mind an episode of Family Guy that I once saw where Peter Griffin made use of a cheap and nervous surgeon who relied on his patient’s active involvement in actually assisting with the operation – a moment that was hysterically funny only due to utter madness of it.
Now, I’ve never pretended to be a climate scientist. My field of study was ecology and simply due to the rand0mness of life, I’ve spent most of my career in data analysis and technical maintenance of ambient environmental monitoring. Currently this is in relation to eddy covariance monitoring – a sideline and certainly useful field to climate science. My earlier approach in writing (and where I am currently shifting back into) was to argue that the entire debate over anthropogenic climate change is irrelevant when we looked at a whole range of related issues, because all lead to a future without the burning of fossil fuels. This, however, shifted into more of a climate science focus because I found myself under the attack of various unscientific (and arguably unhealthy minded) individuals who had found a fun topic to latch onto and exploit for obviously unrelated past failings.
Again, I find myself back to a point where I question the very nature of the debate and the reality of the agendas that fuel it. Only an idiot would be unaware of the fossil fuel funding that keeps afloat the various think tanks out to “debunk” what is clearly a political victim of a science. Indeed almost all the loudest antagonists are not scientists and of the few that are, their speaking outside their field. There is of course nothing wrong with this, except for when they time and time again are proven wrong but still continue on the same tone. In fact, I’ve come across no real scientific argument that has confounded the general weight behind anthropogenic climate change.
The only real argument that appears under more guises than I care to think about is a simple one; “Prove it!”
Every one of the loudest supporters of this anti-science campaign celebrate in asking for a technical explanation that they either couldn’t understand or don’t care to. The excellent work carried out by John Cook and others behind Skeptical Science have, in reality, catalogued a staggering number of “prove it!” questions and their appropriate answers. That there is such scepticism still within the public and criticism on ACC orientated blogs demonstrates that anti-science campaigns have been effective and that deniers are not really after an answer.
Who wouldn’t be stunned by a patient who, when their doctor informed them that the tests point out that they have a form of cancer, smugly retorts, “prove it!”
The idea is ludicrous. However, it is not altogether too surprising. Personally, it’s difficult to accept that my actions are helping to change the climate. I refuse to believe that the many products that surround my life are at the expense of poorer nations and unsustainable exploits of natural resources. And if I was religiously inclined, it would be beyond reflection when the word of God has said that this is all for our amusement and neither He, nor I will ruin the Earth – it blatantly questions my faith!
All the while, we hurtle on towards an increasingly difficult future. We really don’t have any room to be so damn indecisive.
The Pitfalls in Addressing the Unreasonable
Arguing common sense, as I once tried, leaves too much room for pointless philosophical debates. Arguing science only works when the other party also wishes to adhere to scientific rules (which, as I mentioned above, is not the case with most, if not all, who argue against ACC). Metaphors are lost on some and laughed at by the rest.
All that seems left is to employ both risk management and the opportunities of a world post fossil fuels.
Unfortunately, the very people that this would be aimed at are the very same that selectively ignore the evidence that would make up the basis of the risk management plan. Likewise “opportunity” is often seen as a euphemism for “cost”, which does a lot to detract most people from even mild consideration. How strange that, a few years ago, I sat with a number of business leaders and public servants discussing, with enthusiasm, eco-mapping, emission reduction targets and new technologies and now I find a whole bunch of average Joe’s near spitting in my face for being, what they perceive me to be; a heathen to the industrial world. I obviously couldn’t disagree more – I would say that I’m all about innovation (another word that has attracted a lot of mud).
The conversation is left as one that cannot be improved upon and is thus left in a stale-mate position. Deniers reject all evidence, reason or suggestion, imposition is against free-will and all else is simply against an arrogance borne from progress (see this post for more). Of course, the same deniers will complain that no-one told them about the imminent oil peak, that no-one provided the single paper that proved anthropogenic climate change or the detrimental effects of said changes on ecosystems, human health / standards of living, food and fresh water cost and availability – which is of course, a lie (ie. feel free to look around my space and those I link to), but will be trivial when it’s eventually uttered.
The Only Profitable Option
All that I can see that’s left is that industry leads the way forward – and selfishly. There will be little in the way of governance or even general public support. However, there is an excellent resource in expertise available. Just as investment companies already factor in climate change to their risk assessments, brave entrepreneurs could claim a developing niche before others have a chance to even contemplate it. Oil is on the road to ruin, with expense of dependency soon to rise – there’s sure to be a few quid to be made in new modes of transport, agriculture and alternatives to plastics, to name a few. The value of ecologically rich land too will rise as climate zones shift ever further, placing increasing pressures on species. Clean water will become increasingly expensive and profitable. As cars change and population grows, alternatives in lifestyles will be needed – smart planers and investors would look into developing nodal transit and pedestrian orientated developments of multi-use services, surrounded by multi-use open space – thereby capitalising on maintaining / improving standard of living, open space benefits (profit in local agriculture, conservation, entertainment facilities, carbon offsetting etc etc etc).
In short, we are facing an interesting and changing future. This is one that our leaders are too weak to face and the majority of the public are confused and annoyed by. I doubt that detrimental and irreversible effects will wait for a public consensus on anthropogenic climate change. The smart players will sneak out in front and charge a toll on the rest when they’re forced to cross that bridge.