Irreversible and severe damage is being inflicted on the planet from climate change. Science tells us we are responsible.
“I wonder what price the people of tomorrow will pay for the stupidity of today” (John Lord).
My youngest grandchild is 3 years old. In 70 years she will be my age. I often contemplate just what sort of a world the leaders of today are bequeathing the children of tomorrow. The evidence is irrefutable. The absence of political leadership in the face of a problem that might make two world wars by comparison seem superfluous, is deplorable.
So why are we not raising new generations to be better stewards of the environment and why is our government turning a blind eye to it all?
I write this not under some pretext that I am some kind of expert on the subject. On the contrary I am writing it because I am not. In fact I have no deep understanding of science at all. Ask me how the internet or even a common x-ray works and I am found wanting. Test me on carbon dating, DNA, genetics or how the atom is split and I would fail the simplest test. But then I suppose a lot of people share my ignorance. But we can all apply the principle of common sense.
I do know that science in my lifetime has made the most staggering achievements. The only areas I can think of where science has not been embraced, recognised and enjoyed for all manner of reasons by an appreciative society are religion and climate science.
Science is constantly questioned when it conflicts with a literal view of creation and the other is climate change. Creationists generally answer that God’s creation was a divine event and is therefore outside of science. Given the state of our world religious people might well ask, “When did God die?”.
Climate deniers fall into many categories but the main protagonists seem to be from big business, media interests and the right of politics who by and large see it as a threat to capitalism and the free market system. They allow the stench of greed to invade their nostrils and to permeate their minds.
How does the layperson like me reach a view on such subjects without any formal training? It’s simple. There are many areas (medicine for example) that I don’t have a deep analytical understanding. Like many others I listen to experts, apply common sense, observation and what my life experience tells me. It is not difficult to understand a theory. Generally people assume that a theory (for example the theory of evolution) is something unproven.
In the scientific world, a theory is something that has evolved to fit known facts.
A scientific theory summarizes a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing. A theory is valid as long as there is no evidence to dispute it. Therefore, theories can be dis-proven. Basically, if evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, then the hypothesis can become accepted as a good explanation of a phenomenon. One definition of a theory is to say it’s an accepted hypothesis.
Science for the most part is honest. There has at times been bad science but it is always open to counter argument, revision and constant peer examination. On the other hand simply denying climate science on the basis of faith, mysticism or political ideology is tantamount to denying rational explanation. Using common sense, I basically know that science through reasoned, judicious enquiry, evaluation and testing is the best way forward.
“The ability of thinking human beings to blindly embrace what they are being told without referring to evaluation and the consideration of scientific fact, truth and reason, never ceases to amaze me” (John Lord)
The world is changing in so many ways, not least a warming planet and all the problems it will bring forth for future generations, may very well exceed all others. In Australia the subject has gone off the boil (Pardon the pun) because of a campaign by vested interests who would place business, ideology and profit before environmental sustainability. The effectiveness of their work has been demonstrated by the public decline in interest on the subject. Tony Abbott is good at demonization and has successfully done so with Asylum Seekers and similarly with the carbon tax, arguing that if there was a cost involved he wouldn’t have a bar of it.
“First, let’s get this straight. You cannot cut emissions without a cost. To replace dirty coal fired power stations with cleaner gas fired ones, or renewables like wind let alone nuclear power or even coal fired power with carbon capture and storage is all going to cost money.”
For the life of me, I cannot understand people who accept science as fact, reap the benefits and use it every day, but who somehow become brain dead when it comes to climate science.
However, lay people such as myself who believe in the existence of climate change cannot honestly claim to know the veracity of the science for ourselves but are happy to delegate this task to climate scientists. Laypeople simply do not have the knowledge to adjudicate on the issue.
Conversely, those who deny the overwhelming scientific consensus seek to justify their belief by attaching themselves to a minority of science deniers with obscure qualifications or worse, to right wing shock jocks and journalists with no scientific training what so ever. These people (like you and me) have no way of evaluating the volume of data produced by the various scientific institutions. One of the most outspoken deniers (Andrew Bolt) has, in recent times, been found guilty of deceptive lying in that he defamed some white skinned aboriginals. One has to wonder how many he has told when writing about his favorite topic climate change.
If I do not support the 95% of scientists, every major scientific institution and the research that is constantly peer evaluated then I am obliged to accept the alternative. That is, that I should take seriously the likes of Andrew Bolt, (A journalist) Alan Jones, (I’m not sure how you would describe his contribution to society) Lord Monckton (A discredited something who was once a lobbyist for the tobacco companies), Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott. (Both politicians). In fact, Minchin is on the record as saying that climate change is a left wing conspiracy to replace communism. None of the aforementioned people has a background or expertise in climate science. Now that’s not to say that they should not have a view and that that view should not be considered as should any laypersons if they are of that ilk.
But surely, we must respect the science otherwise; you put into question all science.
We are led by a technology luddite Prime Minister who doesn’t even understand the reason for the internet or indeed its value to society. Remember he wanted to destroy it. He has no grasp at all on the subject of Climate Change and refuses to heed the mountains of evidence that is peer tested year after year. Instead he offers often contradictory glib observations about it being some sort of socialist plot. Or we have always had droughts and always will.
But worse is the deplorable lie he tells when he says he believes in climate change but only differs on the methodology in approaching the problem. So unbelieving of the science is he that he is busy undoing all research and other institutions within the framework of government. Even the science ministry itself.
His alternative is a so called direct action policy where taxpayer’s funds are given (repeat “are given”) to the polluters to clean up the mess they have created without any guarantees they will do so. And no penalty if they don’t. This method has no credence among professionals.
Indeed, Abbott has not produced one economist in support of direct action.
Treasury has qualitative evidence to suggest his plan will cost twice as much as they have committed. It is a shame, indeed sad to see shadow minister Greg Hunt who wrote his university thesis (with honours) in support of a carbon tax now trying to defend something he so obviously does not believe.
‘’Second, as we are being blunt, the fact is that Tony and the people who put him in his job do not want to do anything about climate change. They do not believe in human caused global warming. As Tony observed on one occasion “climate change is crap” or if you consider his mentor, Senator Minchin, the world is not warming, its cooling and the climate change issue is part of a vast left wing conspiracy to deindustrialise the world.’’
The International Panel in its latest Climate change report singles out five key points
The world faces threat to food supply, conflicts over water rights and growing inequality. The only option is to cut emissions.
1. Food threat
Climate change is already taking a sizeable chunk out of global food supply and it is going to get worse. Increases in crop yields – which are needed to sustain a growing population – have slowed over the last 40 years. Some studies now point to dramatic declines in some crops over the next 50 years – especially wheat, and to a lesser extent corn. Rice so far is unaffected. The shortages, and the threat of food price spikes, could lead to unrest.
2. Human security
Climate change poses a threat to human security, and could lead to increased migration. Potential shortages of food and water, because of climate change, could be drivers of future conflicts. These won’t necessarily be wars between states, but conflicts between farmers and ranchers, or between cities and agriculture industry which wants water for food. On the flip side, those conflicts are going to get in the way of government’s efforts to protect people from future climate change.
Some are more vulnerable than others. Poor people in poor countries – and even the poor in rich countries – are going to bear an unfair burden of climate change, the report said. Climate change is going to exacerbate existing inequalities, and it is going to make it harder for people to claw their way out of poverty.
4. No-one is safe
As temperatures rise beyond 2 degrees to 4 degrees – our current trajectory – there are limits to how far society can adapt to climate change. The only way out is to cut emissions now – and buy some time by slowing warming – and at the same time make plans for sea walls, relocations, and other measures that can keep people out of harms’ way.
5. Hard but not hopeless.
The report notes that research on the effects of climate change has doubled since the last report in 2007 – and so has understanding about what needs to be done to insulate people from more severe consequences.
American Secretary of State John Kerry had this to say after reading the report.
“Read this report and you can’t deny the reality: Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy,” Kerry said in a statement. “Let’s make our political system wake up and let’s make the world respond.”
But the question remains will we? If we accept the Australian Prime Minister’s response the answer can only be an emphatic NO.
Further reading. The effect on food supply. What they IPCC chief had to say and how deniers reacted.