The Climate Wars

The first shots have not yet been fired, as far as I know, at least not literally. There has certainly been some aggressive talk, even death threats, in these opening skirmishes. The real climate wars, when actual countries battle each other over scarcer resources and the pressure of great numbers of climate refugees, will likely come several years down the road. For now, the protagonists are activists defending the environment against spokespersons for the interests of the fossil fuel companies. To be honest, I have heard threats of violence on both sides, sadly.

Interestingly, climate researchers, some of whom have received threats, aren’t necessarily on either side. They may indeed express their opinions on what political or social actions should be taken based on their results, but that is really apart from their job as scientists. Their job is to get data and interpret it, to perform tests and measurements that can be duplicated by others.

ECO-TERRORISM

I remember reading about the threat of “eco-terrorists” who were going to wreak destruction on power plants and other facilities deemed to be environmentally unfriendly. It has been done, to some extent, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, according to the FBI. It has not had the effect of discouraging environmental damage. If anything, it just creates sympathy for the other side. And some on “the other side” are also terrorists, although their weapons are not so crude as bombs.

The drill it, mine it, and frack it crowd is becoming more concerned as the evidence mounts that increasing CO2 is causing harm, and their defenders are getting more shrill. That’s not surprising, the oil and coal companies have a pretty sweet deal. They are pulling in billions of dollars in profit and getting tax breaks besides. If they have to turn over their subsidies to alternative energy companies and also spend more  to produce a cleaner product, they are not going to be happy. In other words, they are going to make less money. They are not accepting that without a fight.

So we have “climate deniers” using all the standard tricky ways of falsifying and complicating what the researchers have been finding. It is not that difficult. They don’t have to prove their case, all they have to do is plant doubt and confusion. The longer they can convince the public that we need to wait for more evidence, the more money their bosses make.

THE FACTS

The weapon the eco-activists should be using is the unadorned truth. Not what we believe, but what can be demonstrated:

  • For the last hundred years atmospheric CO2 has been increasing at an increasing rate due to human activity.
  • Average global temperature varies due to many factors, but has been showing a trend upward that correlates with the rise in CO2. There is no other known factor that shows that upward trend.
  • The fact that increased atmospheric CO2 causes warming, the greenhouse effect, can be easily demonstrated and has been know for many years.
  • The exact outcome of the course we are on is uncertain. We know that there will be adverse effects, and we have started to see measurable changes.

Right now, we have choices in what to do, if anything, about climate change. Eventually, we will have no choice but to act. The longer we delay action, the more drastic that action will have to be, the more it will cost, the more damage and loss of life there will be, and the longer it will take to get back to anything like normal. Those who are profiting from the production and sale of fossil fuels tend to take the short view: maximize profits now, and worry about damage control later. Even if the damages turn out to be less than what is projected, that is an irresponsible plan. Are we going to let the future course of our planet be set by profiteers, or shall we establish policies that will benefit the health and economic well-being of everyone on earth?

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