“Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth”
Turns out we proved David Thoreau wrong, and didn’t need wings to ruin the planet.
The divisive topic of climate change was once again on the agenda at the start of the month, with new evidence coming to light of hacked emails at the University of East Anglia. Commentators have all thrown their hat into the ring; the main sticking points are whether the new evidence has been taken out of context, and if there is any truth in the ranting of climate sceptics.
The main flaw in the debate is the notion of absolutism. Climate change is perceived to either be real, or a fallacy. You either believe in it, or you don’t. Such a debate (if it can be called that) is not only strongly irrational, but fundamentally damaging to the notion of progressing to a better understanding of climate change. To the uninitiated, the climate change community seems a hotbed of exclusivity and reactionary tendencies. Any notion of criticism directed towards environmentalists is inevitably met with a call to arms, lest you even think about criticising the movement.
Such a refusal to allow analysis and self criticism means that they keep the stigma of being something only of relevance to the chattering classes. It’s unfortunate that public figures who champion the green movement are almost without exception seen to be elitist (Messrs Goldsmith, Monbiot and Prince Charles). The combination of a ubiquitous green lobby and the topic being adopted as de rigeur by Westminster means that any dialogue sounds like white noise. That it’s been trumpeted in the liberal media as a catastrophe waiting to happen also does little to help the situation. Bombarding the public with yet more studies and statistics only has the effect of disenchantment, further stalling any progression to universal understanding.
This universal understanding is key to the development of environmental policy of the future. Polls show that in the UK we have a fairly good understanding of climate change issues- we are aware that it exists and are definitely more concerned about it than many other countries.
Contrast this with the United States (still emerging from the Bush administration of denial) and the blank refusal of China to co-operate at the Copenhagen summit to see that we still have a long way to go to achieve a global plan. Scientists have been given the benefit of the doubt for too long. If you read the hacked emails that caused this latest farrago in the UK, they are mostly taken out of context and of little real significance to question the effects of global warming.
But that doesn’t excuse politicians for raising scientists onto an unaccountable plinth.
Climate change is a problem. We know this. But what can’t happen is to let urgency cloud judgement. Facts need to be checked, studies carried out and cross referenced, and scientists know this better than anyone. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecasts a rise in sea levels between 90mm and almost a metre. Hardly a paradigm of accuracy and diligence. There is much written about misinformation, bias and skulduggery in the media. But what about the green movement? Surely they, like everyone else, are equally fallible? I’m no climate sceptic, but am tired of the halo bestowed on the green movement.
Where can neophytes fit in with all this? Do your research. Most people take in information passively, letting other people make decisions for them. Individual empowerment is something that is scarce within the youth population.
I’ve lost count of the amount of hoops I’ve had to jump through in the past, despite “independent learning” being a university’s main ultimate selling point. A culture of being patted on the head, bombarded with “yoof” television and demonisation means that it’s a lot better to go and get the information yourselves. Read the literature for and against, and make your own minds up. Then, and only then, can we start to properly compare, contrast and analyse the theories, and maybe it won’t seem quite so dull after all.