Climate change. You’d be hard pressed to find two words that can set off a bigger powder keg of controversy. Global warm–I mean, climate change— is basically the new world religion of the 21st century. More specifically, it is that human caused climate change is leading to catastrophic results in the very near future. What those results are and how catastrophic they will be, no one can be sure. The truth lies somewhere between President Trump’s off the cuff¹ remark that climate change was fabricated by the Chinese to hinder U.S. industrial progress, and the merry-go-round of doomsday scenarios.
For the life of me, I can’t nail down why this is such a partisan issue. I have a couple of theories, and the the obvious one is that many people tend to follow party lines blindly. You might agree with conservatives on most economic and social issues, and hey- if they’re right about that stuff they’re probably right about other things too. Who has the time to research every nuance of such a complex issue as climate change? The average non-scientist does not, and neither do most politicians. Party bias may be the biggest reason for the party split on this issue, which then develops into confirmation bias as people seek out information and cling to the data that confirms their previous belief.
But it shouldn’t be that way. Any other scientific claim is met with skeptics all across the political spectrum. For example, 54% of Americans believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life. There is plenty of evidence of the possibility for such life to exist. Planets in habitable zones of other solar systems are being discovered left and right. But this topic rarely comes up in political debate, and I would be willing to bet it’s reasonably close to a 50/50 split between Republican and Democrat believers. There are people on both sides that believe vaccinations are more harmful than good. Every time a new health study comes out, public opinion sways. It doesn’t matter whether the subject is eating carbs, fats, meat, or vitamin supplements. People form an opinion or stubbornly cling to their own way, and the science swings back and forth. Yet these issues don’t generally get split along party lines.
I know, these examples are not perfect analogies. The existence of alien life doesn’t necessarily mean impending disaster for the human population of Earth. But like that case, there is some science behind it and a lot of speculation. But I’m curious to know what would happen if there were a global extraterrestrial summit, where Barack Obama and other world leaders posited the absolute truth that an alien invasion was impending. What if they said it will take centuries before you see any effects, and we have to start spending trillions of dollars to fight it right now. What if the president agreed to this treaty without any input from elected lawmakers All that without presenting a compelling case beyond “the science is settled!” and a hockey stick graph. Would the same condemnation or celebration take place?
The fact that it this issue is so divided gives me pause in accepting it as gospel. Any issue with comparable controversy surrounding it never has a black & white answer. If it did, there wouldn’t be any controversy, it would just be the truth. Instead, the climate debate almost always devolves into a shouting match that ends in name calling, and no progress has been made. Skeptics are labeled flat-out deniers of science. I believe we should always practice a healthy skepticism. I see these extreme climate activists in the same way I see Joel Osteen evangelizing on TV to the half-witted crowd’s delight. They both rely on people’s blind faith in accepting a higher power to promote their own fame and financial gain. And they both are relentlessly annoying.
Now, whether either of the people in those examples is right or wrong is not the point. I do have faith in the scientific community as a whole, but they have not done a great job of convincing people here. I was reading Scott Adams’ (Dilbert creator) blog today and found a post that resonated with me. I don’t agree with all of it but he makes some good points. You can read the whole post here, but the introduction pretty well sums it up:
…as a practical matter, I like to side with the majority of scientists until they change their collective minds. They might be wrong, but their guess is probably better than mine.
That said, it is mind-boggling to me that the scientific community can’t make a case for climate science that sounds convincing, even to some of the people on their side, such as me. In other words, I think scientists are right (because I play the odds), but I am puzzled by why they can’t put together a convincing argument, whereas the skeptics can, and easily do. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
Adams then goes into specifics on why the science isn’t convincing, but this biggest thing for me is that past predictions have not come true. Many claims in the most famous climate change propaganda film, An Inconvenient Truth, have been stretched or just completely false. Al Gore said in the film that within the decade, Mt. Kilimanjaro would be snow free (the film was released in 2006). That one is easy to disprove. And while arctic ice may be shrinking, the polar bears that seemed so endangered are now thriving. On top of that, antarctic ice is actually growing. I don’t want to get into a whole review of every claim made by An Inconvenient Truth or any other such piece. One google search will produce endless arguments for both sides. All I’m saying is that a lot of these types of predictions don’t come true, and that casts some serious doubts on any new claims.
What’s very important here, that I think a lot of people miss is that whether you believe in it or not, what can be done about it is minimal. At least right now it’s minimal, and throwing mountains of money at it is not going to solve the problem (See: Solyndra). All roads of government intervention lead to more control over your life. A carbon tax is just another way for the government to pull cash from your wallet right under your nose. Various government investments into solar and wind energy have not produced good results at all.
Skepticism in catastrophic human-caused climate change does not mean I don’t want advances in technology. I just don’t think current government solutions are helpful, even if it is a real problem. I don’t think shutting down coal production or limiting fossil fuels is a good idea when there is no viable alternative in place. I would love to see zero fossil fuels used and coal burning become a thing of the past. The pollution from these energy sources is very real. Garbage is dumped into the ocean, toxic waste has to go somewhere, and air in big cities is often smothering with clouds of smog. There is no debate on that. If nothing else, it makes Earth a disgusting place to live. And it would be silly to think that 7 billion people constantly consuming, throwing things away, farting, breathing, driving, and so on has no effect at all. The Earth is not that big, and all that shit doesn’t just go away. For that reason, I want to believe “science” and that they have the answers. But I don’t think politicians do. If you want to convince me, you need to: 1. make a better case, and 2. have a real solution.
Political leaders are only human, like you and I. It is impossible for one person to be an expert on all things that can effect policy, or more simply people’s lives. Somewhere along the line someone else had to convince them that one position is right and one is wrong. Individuals should do whatever is in their power to find the same conviction, in whichever way you find to be true. But that conviction should be backed by reason and facts, not faith. All I’m asking is for some semblance of individuality. Don’t believe your leader of choice on everything just because they say it. Don’t treat this like a religion, in which you must blindly accept the one true path. I roll my eyes when former Secretary of State John Kerry says climate change is the reason we have terror sprouting in the middle east.
If you’re a firm anthropogenic climate change believer, I just want you to know that when I say I’m skeptical it does not mean I am denying science or in the pocket of big oil or even tricked by some evil Republican overlord. Those people exist, yes, but those of us who take some time to think about it are not in that category. I’m skeptical that it is going to be the end of life as we know it, and that anyone, even the POTUS, has all the answers. I’m skeptical when people like Al Gore make millions in promoting their propaganda, while flying around the world in private jets.
At the same time I do care about environmental issues. I want to stop relying on fossil fuels and creating mass amounts of pollution. I want to develop clean energy alternatives that are safe and efficient. I want to not be wasteful and to stop piling up the landfills to the moon and back. I have confidence that people will find real solutions and that we don’t necessarily need the United States government to intervene. Yelling and screaming at the other side will never convince anyone, it will only push us further apart. If you want to convert people to your Church of Climate Change (CoCC™), stop treating it like a religion and give me more than faith based evidence. I really want to help you but you make it so difficult.
Take that for what you will, I will keep an open mind and continue to seek new information that could change my mind. I know there is plenty of information and data out there, but there is an equal or greater amount of conflicting data to counter it. To finish off with something a little lighter here is comedian Bill Burr on how to solve the problem, telling us to just stop having so many f***ing kids (strong language). It’s comedy, but good comedy always has a little truth at its heart.
¹Is anything Trump says “ON the cuff”?