The vast majority of the world’s nations and citizens are gambling with the global climate and the stake is humanity’s well-being. But how real is the climate change threat, and who is really to blame?
Let’s first deal with the biggest obstacle standing in the way of saving our planet: the people who simply deny there is a problem or that we have anything to do about it. I am of course referring to climate sceptics, like Tea Party activist James Inhofe who claims that manmade climate change is impossible because God exists and humans cannot change whatever God decides to do with the planet. I will refrain from pointing out that this would logically entail that Inhofe suggests humans have no free will. Also I won’t focus on the fact that the climate sceptics lobby was greatly strengthened by George W. Bush.
Instead, I will deal with more ominous climate sceptics: those who brand themselves as rational and cite ‘science’ that disproves global warming. Political figures espouse such views, but worse yet, political movements are forming in countries like the “No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics” party in Australia. Are their arguments true? Are 97.2% of the world’s scientific community who agree to anthropogenic global warming wrong? Let’s examine some of the most credible arguments.
“Changes in Co2 concentrations and in temperature are natural.”
Yes, this is, from a geological perspective, however what is unnatural is to burn 350,000,000 year old carbon and fossil fuels. We have consumed most of this in 300 years, and within our century we will have exhausted virtually all fossil oil reserves. This is causing an unprecedented rapid rise in Co2 in our planet’s 4 billion year history. The last time our planet had an equivalent Co2 concentration of today was 20 million years ago. One thing has changed since then: humans have come into being. The planet will do well without us, but we cannot do well without it. So even though climate change is geologically natural, humans have the power to do something about it, which we have to if we want to live the way we do.
“There is no correlation between Co2 and global temperatures/it’s caused by the sun.”
Firstly, let’s quickly debunk the solar argument; since 1978, satellites have been circling the earth that measure solar irradiance. There has been no increase or change in solar irradiance since 1978, yet the global temperature has increased. Even if you deny the evidence provided by all climate scientists that Co2 causes temperature increase in the atmosphere, this doesn’t change the fact that the world oceans are acidifying and warming because of the diffusion of Co2 from the atmosphere. World oceans haven’t acidified at this rate in 300 000 million years. Oceans have almost reached a level of toxicity that would make it impossible for plankton to produce calcium carbonate. This will mean the extinction of virtually all advanced marine life and the loss of one of our biggest food sources. This has led the International Programme on the State of the Ocean in its October Research report to declare that “the next mass extinction event may already have begun.”
“Climate scientists are simply wrong.”
Somehow, climate sceptics take the liberty to reject the science of over 97.2% of the worldwide scientific community. This is the largest paradox of all. These people do not question the same science which provides them with antibiotics, combustible engines, rockets, satellites, GPS, electronics, nuclear power, and the technology which allows for the mining and oil and gas extraction which these sceptics are so fond of. Science is correct in its theories and evidence in all these areas, but for some reason they are all incapable of reading climate data. They cite the faulty hockey stick graph of Al Gore. And the following logic applies: look at how one movie maker misconstrued one graph for a Hollywood produced movie. This means all evidence, graphs, and research done by all climate scientists who say humans are to blame is wrong. Imagine if the American climate sceptics had existed in the 1980s: they could have jeopardised the Montreal Agreement and our ozone layer would have been gone today. Thanks to the Montreal Agreement, only last year has our ozone layer finally started recuperating.
If you ever have problems contradicting the mind-numbingly misinformed arguments of a climate sceptic I would recommend the website “How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic” http://grist.org/series/skeptics/. It provides good cannon fodder.
So who is to blame? Most of the world is to blame. Countries perceive it to be rational to do nothing. And so do consumers. Many people believe that turning off that light bulb doesn’t really matter. Citizens believe their contribution is too small to be measured, too insignificant in the big picture of things. What matters is closing down the factory next door. As a Western citizen, your decision to consume meat, to fly to other countries instead of by boat or train adds up. This kind of logic legitimises entire corporations and nations to not react either. This kind of logic is always wrong. That lightbulb, when left on by a collective mass of 7 billion people, or when 7 billion people choose to fly instead, it adds up.
The same logic allows entire nations like Belgium, Denmark, or Singapore to claim that they don’t really have to cut that much. Their pollution is virtually zero when compared to China or the U.S. However this logic solves nothing of course, because everyone’s emissions matter. This article has already refuted the fallacious arguments of the climate sceptic movements in the U.S and Australia because they cannot reject the need to cut and reverse Co2 emissions. It is causing major damage, and it is already doing so.
It is against the interest of capitalism to deny climate change. All capitalist nations should be at the forefront of this battle. Future economic growth will be impossible in an environment where wars over water, mass starvation, and extreme weather make the stable cooperative societies capitalism relies on, impossible. Yet so many Westerners deny climate change, thinking it would be in their and their economy’s benefit and interest. But one cannot deny the increasing extreme weather. One cannot deny the disappearance of the North Pole. One cannot deny the measured acidification of the oceans that is making microscopic marine life almost impossible. The costs of global warming will continue to compound in its effects, the longer that nations wait to react. Capitalism will provide solutions once consumers demand change. And it will do so in a way that provides economic growth.
We all have a responsibility. Developing countries and developed alike. Everyone needs to realise that continued carbon intensive economic growth is not sustainable. Not only will it destroy the world’s economic system because of the extreme environmental pressures and changes submerging and/or bankrupting countries, but the entire planet will become unfriendly to human life. Within just 37 years, 150-200 million people will become climate refugees as their homes become unsustainable for life. And much worse awaits unless we change. Just because China and India are not as filthy rich as the West does not legitimise their pollution. Or, Africa for that sake. All humans are collectively responsible for the environment whether you are a nation or an individual. Of course the West should pay to help the developing world invest in clean energy, but the developing world should not demand to pollute as if it’s some sort of right. It is time we all started acting like responsible adults and not like petulant children who don’t want to realise the truth because it involves hard work.
 Beeson, Mark and Bisley, Nick (eds.), Issues in 21st Century World Politics, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). p.55