I’ve been contacted a few times in recent weeks to comment on the private emails of scientists engaged in climate change research that were published after a hacking foray; the contents of which are causing some to say global warming is all a big hoax.
I haven’t read all the emails or enough of the ensuing debate to form a real opinion about their contents – both sides put forward some valid points, but heck, we’re talking a handful of researchers chatting among themselves *before* peer review.
Some of the emails in question are over a decade old and it’s hard to get the full context of the conversations leading up to those communications being written. However, if the people involved were behaving badly, then they need to accept the consequences; but that shouldn’t discredit the work of many, many, many other scientists.
Al Gore, love him or hate him, while certainly not a scientist, made this very valid point when asked about the fallout from the scandal in an interview published on Slate:
“What do they think happens when we put 90 million tons up there every day? Is there some magic wand they can wave on it and presto!—physics is overturned and carbon dioxide doesn’t trap heat anymore?”
These days, I don’t get into debates with people about climate change. It’s a one way conversation for me, my mind is made up. I report on global warming related issues, but I’ll rarely argue with folks one-on-one or in forums about it. It’s a waste of my time when so many are already doing that; time and resources that could be spent on more productive things.
There’s thousands of other people engaging in the to and fro on both sides of the fence far better qualified than me; people that have spent their whole professional lives studying the topic. And yet, after all this debate, particularly during the last couple of years, it continues to rage on. Many on both sides cherry pick data to suit their agenda. Trolls abound in discussions. Groups receive funding to push a particular viewpoint. Espionage is common.
It’s become so muddled and so frustrating for both sides, they tend to sink to gutter level by the end of their debates. Even exchanges among academics that start out all about the science often descend into ad hominem attacks.
When I’ve pondered on the issue of the emotionally charged situation surrounding global warming rather than whether it exists or not, I’ve often wondered how long it will be before someone writes a book called “Believer/Denier”. It would be a story of a post apocalyptic world where much of mankind has been destroyed not through climate change but through a war based on the conflicting beliefs on whether the phenomenon exists. If I had the time, I’d write it myself as it would be a great story and movie!
The skeptics complain about discrimination and being labeled “deniers”. It wasn’t that long ago that folks like Dr. James Hansen who have been trying to warn us for years of the looming problem were censored and ridiculed. The tables have turned and the pendulum has swung the other way. Healthy skepticism is a good thing, but while you fight your fight, be prepared to take your lumps with determination like folks such as Dr. Hansen did for many years.
Each person has to come to their own conclusion. After reviewing information pro and con; if you’re not a scientist, you have to go with your gut. Not the gut that craves hamburgers and all the luxuries of our modern lives, but what our senses tell us about our environment, our instincts related to natural justice, of what our heart tells us and not what our fear tries to veil.
I believe climate change is real. I believe human activity has played a huge role. The debate is over for me. How we address it is another matter.
I believe we should err on the side of caution, take real action and if climate change is proved beyond a doubt to be a fraud – oops, terribly sorry. Those so-called “deniers” get to say “I told you so” and people such as myself will mumble our apologies with downcast eyes and head out the door to don cassocks and live in hollow logs.
However, if approached correctly, I believe those efforts in addressing climate change will have a wider effect of making the world a better place.
If we don’t take action and things go the way that many scientist believe, forget about the pettiness of egos, what about all the corpses? All the lost land? All the lost species? Hindsight will not be any sort of refuge and “I told you so” will offer no consolation.
Addressing climate change will be expensive. We insure our cars and homes against things that will probably never happen and it costs us a bundle. We grumble, but we pay, because “what if?” Like climate change, there’s enough evidence to suggest our house could burn down or we could wind up in a car accident; particularly under certain conditions.
In addressing climate change, those of us with more will need to help carry the load of those not so fortunate. After all, it’s our excesses that have brought us to this point.
Addressing climate change based on the principles of social justice is about making the planet a better place for our children. A cleaner place, a greener place. Isn’t that a good thing?
Anyway, in the end, nature doesn’t give a hoot about what we mere mortals believe. If we do nothing, it will take whatever measures it deems appropriate. It may even address the challenges of overpopulation in doing so, an issue that people continue to skirt around when discussing climate change.
I would certainly rather it didn’t happen that way, but Planet Earth will go on quite nicely with or without us. While I don’t believe we’ll be totally wiped out if we continue on our current path, nature doesn’t care what I think either.