Monday, February 04, 2008
Climate Confusion: Who Wins?
by Michael O'Brien
Climate change is the biggest challenge we face as a humans. Any serious student who analyses the information recognizes that the overwhelming consensus from scientists is that we have a very small period of time in which our efforts will have a positive impact for our planet and our children's future. For the past 10 years or so, there has been rigorous debate both by the scientific community and in the press about climate change. The debate is over, the issues have been discussed and now is the time for us to take responsibility for our future.
It is fascinating to watch the media feel the need to present the “other side” of this issue when there is discourse about climate change. My guess is that they feel vulnerable from the vocal skeptics or right wing talk show hosts so they include a dwindling number of scientists or spokespeople who argue against human causation. It seems there is an inordinate amount of air time devoted to this topic in proportion to the actual amount of credible evidence against human contribution towards climate change. This creates a real problems from a public perception perspective as the general public is falsely led to believe that human contributions are inconclusive. The result is that it leads to confusion about the nature of climate change and delays the necessary changes that we must make so that we do not rob a future away from our children. Unfortunately, confusion is a strategy that Exxon-Mobil has embraced as a public policy strategy. Confusion is thought to keep people from making change and therefore maintain the status quo. We saw the same tactics from the cigarette companies. When the truth came out about the “research” they sponsored it became apparent that it was entirely self serving. With climate change its deja vu all over again.
Open debate and dialogue is the stuff of democracy. As a witness to the debate between John McClaughry and Bill Mckibben in Manchester some months ago, I marveled at just how one sided the debate of climate change has become. As a regularly reader of John's postings in the Rutland Herald I seek to challenge my own assumptions and have looked to John to help me see myself and my world from a different perspective. As John Stuart Mill wrote in On Will, one must listen attentively to those that criticize our positions as we must assume that we are susceptible to make mistakes. Only then can we move forward with a certainty and conviction that the road we take is the right one. John has at times opened my eyes to a different and sometimes important perspective and I have developed a broader appreciation of some issues as a result. I was dismayed that John did not do that at the debate in Manchester. John's arguments were feeble attempts at throwing stones at the burgeoning data and information coming out of the scientific community. His paper tiger arguments did not stand up to the light of scrutiny. John clung to his arguments refusing to accept the evidence seemingly because it did not fit into his world view. I was saddened by the fact that John's motives were so transparent. In the course of the discussion, John's self interest in perpetuating his narrow free market agenda (his bread and butter) trumped any recognition of human survival or the threat to the human species. It is hard to take John seriously when he describes himself as being interested in the common good or wanting to maximize wealth and happiness. What is especially disappointing is that John touts his scientific background in an attempt to add validity to his message, yet betrayed that training for the sake of public relations. Good gracious, even Newt Gingrich has written that environmentalism knows no party and recognizes the need to not plunder our natural resources. I think that John could find comfort in entrepreneurial environmentalism from a philosophical point of view and for an area for business growth.
The definition of delusion is: despite overwhelming information to the contrary, a person continues to cling to a belief. I don't think that John is delusional, I do think that his role is to serve as a mouthpiece for a radical free market approach to solving problems. In this instance he represents those who wish to create confusion in regards to climate change. As we look around the state there is evidence that this confusion is bearing fruit for those with a laisez-faire policy towards taking aggressive action. One has to question our local leaders and those in positions of power and authority in state government in regards to creating actionable responses to the mandate we have received from the world community. Typically, those in power are reticent to take bold action as it often increases the risk of criticism or disfavor. Inherent in these positions is a significant level of inertia in making change. We ask them now to be bold because as Goethe as said “ Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
To read more about the McClaughry-Mckibben debate..........