Climate Change Hysteria: Environmental Science or Social Engineering?

Climate change is a serious problem, but what’s the difference between a serious problem and a hysterical problem?  A serious problem is one that people can talk about, whereas a hysterical problem is one you cannot talk about because everyone else is shouting at you to jump.  Jump certainly, but in which direction and how far?  Those are not unreasonable questions to ask.  I’m an environmentalist, scientist, pescatarian and admirer of poetry that personifies nature, but rather than feel empowered by any discussion of the carbon tax, I feel like I’m outsider whom everyone else in the room can’t hold their tongue long enough to resist admonishing me as an extremist life-hating ignoramus.  Allow me to attack the whole discussion on climate change on these four fronts:

Firstly as an environmentalist I’m frankly appalled at how children are educated about climate change.  I came across a number of articles this weekend about how children are terrified about climate change.  As an atheist this immediately irks me because I remember being told that Hell was a real place I would go if I did something awful like use an condom.  Later I was told that Hell wasn’t really real, it was metaphorically real.  That’s great, for adults who can tell the difference between metaphor and reality, but to my knowledge children struggle with this distinction hence we don’t usually get children involved in politics, however, a lot of well meaning greens think a little trauma for the greater good is fine.  Indeed I can remember having nightmares myself when I first found out about global warming (what we used to call climate change before the world didn’t warm up as predicted) when I was in grade 3.

Climate change is real, but beyond that fact there isn’t a lot anyone is sure about: that goes for both the doomsayers and the naysayers.  As a rule of thumb, whenever someone tells you, “do this else you’ll die/suffer for eternity!” immediately tell them to take a chill pill because they’re either not thinking straight, because they’re panicking, or they’re trying to manipulate you.  Yes, the Greens are politicians like Labor and Liberal and they’re just as conniving.  Every generation has people convinced the world will end, be it from a war of the gods, a falling star or a man-made catastrophe; all of these people are scared about their well-being and the collective well-being of the planet.  Which is nice, but like anyone hysterically screaming help, you need to stop shouting and get your bearings so you know what the problem is and how to fix it.

My personal opinion as an environmentalist is that scaring children to death about environmental catastrophe, no matter how well intentioned, is ultimately unhelpful.  My charitable feelings towards the well-being of this planet spring from a love of nature.  I want to see more parks, more reserves, more efficiency, greener energy and more powers for the EPA to prosecute polluters because I see nature as having an intrinsic value.  What if scientists build a machine that controls the weather?  Does that mean we can just continue to rape and pillage the Earth because our imminent destruction has been averted by science?  I don’t believe it does, but I don’t believe many people in the Greens particularly care about pushing for the development of weather control technology, rather I think they’re hoping such a machine will never be invented because they aren’t advocating a case of “here’s a problem, what’s the solution?” they’re saying, “here’s the solution (change your way of life to the way we want you to live) and here’s the problem (if you don’t, you’ll all die).”  I’m an environmentalist, but I don’t trust the Greens one ounce because they’re telling us there is only one solution to the problem: changing our values, way of life and political orientation instead of a pragmatic approach of “just invent a machine that cleans the air and water.”  Failure of imagination?  Perhaps, a failure to think is more likely.  I mean seriously, the weather’s uncontrollable let’s stop producing carbon and hope it’ll just magically go away. Interestingly, carbon and other pollutants might actually be helping ward off climate change, global dimming is a thought provoking topic in the scientific community that I’ve never heard a politician mention.  For all we know stopping carbon emissions will make things worse.  It’s like a rabbit caught in a snare, the harder it tries to escape the more it gets choked to death.  Don’t be a rabbit, stop, get your barrings and consider that the greens might have an ideological agenda and they’re hoping to scare you into accepting it without thinking about it first.

My second objection to this political discussion is as a scientist.  As a scientist I’m very clear about one thing: there is very little I know and there is always someone else who knows more than I do.  The consequence of this is to never claim to know something with certainty, you’ll just make a fool of yourself.  People who claim that climate change is simple and that it is obvious that we humans have caused it are actually very ignorant.  While most scientists believe humans are affecting climate change most of them are really unsure how much of an impact we are actually happening: 100%, 50%, 1%?  Think about this the next time someone says, “there is a scientific consensus that human activity is influencing climate change” because they just might be missing the rest of the sentence that goes, “by at about 10%”.  Why do I say this?  I was reading this really interesting article on a pro-environmental hysteria website that pointed out that the argument regarding sunspots had been discredited.  What was interesting was that I found another article saying the sun spot theory hadn’t been discredited because it takes many years for the effects of sunspot activity to affect the Earth and this article fails to convince that sun spot activity doesn’t influence climate change based on the historical data… which is much more extensive than their graph suggests.  What if climate change is 20% human and 80% sunspots?  It is still a problem, but it isn’t the end of the world either.  It is also a problem that the temperatures of the other planets are warming at the same time as Earth suggesting that this is a solar system wide event and not limited to Earth at all

There are smart reasons why we should be taking a deep breath, sit down and think about the scientific evidence for climate change again.  Because if the polar caps stop melting in the next 20 years the greens are going to turn around and say “Look we told you so” even if there wasn’t nearly enough time for the things that we’re doing now to influence the problem.  This is a problem when talking about acting on a problem before it exists.  We need to be sure, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we know what’s happening and as a scientist I’m just not convinced yet.  That isn’t to say new evidence couldn’t convince me, just that before we spend taxpayers’ money we owe them the respect of doing our homework properly first.

Thirdly, as a fussy eater, a pescatarian (a vegetarian who eats fish), I’m really concerned about the mercury, pesticides and chemicals we spray on food because these things are hazardous to human health.  I don’t understand why the Greens and the government are pushing a carbon tax when carbon dioxide not only makes plants grow faster, but is actually mostly non-toxic to humans (we produce it naturally, and the plants wouldn’t grow with out it).  I don’t care about carbon dioxide, I’m really pissed off about pollution of streams, rivers and the ocean.  I want to know that my food is fit to eat and I want over fishing and whaling heavily cracked down on.  I want a strong EPA who can protect our natural resources from being spoiled and will punish polluters.  But the Greens don’t appear to have the same priority as me and frankly pushing for this carbon tax when there are more clear and pertinent problems (no one wonders whether or not mercury poisoning is real) they should be focusing on.  Like the radioactivity from Fukushima that’s been pumped into the pacific ocean perhaps?

Finally, I admire the aesthetics of nature: sunrises, landscapes, animals, the mysterious waters of this world.  I believe if we taught children to love, understand and respect nature, for she is both kind and cruel without mercy or compassion, we would get a lot further in getting children to act responsibly towards mother Earth.   Plus there are good reasons to teach children a comprehensive education about nature:

1. We are part of nature,

2. Healthy living is healthy living,

3. Avoiding waste is better for everyone,

4. Taking care of the environment today means that there will be a planet worth living in tomorrow,

5. We are still just at the beginning of understanding ourselves and life on Earth, if we destroy our past, our future may not make any sense to anyone.

But if we continue to scare people about apocalyptic doom then all people will want is a machine that controls the weather and hey presto, who cares what we do to the Earth after that?

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Categories: Business, Health, Medicine, People, Politics, Law, Science, Technology

Author:Jason Sutherland

Resist the temptation to assume that you're always right or wrong. Never succumb to thinking you're so insignificant to trust your own thoughts and feelings. Always be responsible and listen carefully to others before passing judgement. Don't trust governments bearing stolen goods.

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9 Comments on “Climate Change Hysteria: Environmental Science or Social Engineering?”

  1. Richard Lee
    July 12, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    I agree with this article. What galls me is the unwillingness of the climate scientists to bring out evidence and mathematics that the public at large can examine and draw their own conclusions… they hide behind averages, carefully selected data and sometimes even destroying the original data sets. Nobody is allowed to hold them to account because “they are not climate scientists and not qualified”… bulldust. If the raw data was irrefutable it would speak for itself.

    I am a voter and I am not convinced.

    To add insult to injury the carbon tax is a tax grab spun as an environmental initiative, and will do nothing for the climate.

  2. July 13, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    “It is also a problem that the temperatures of the other planets are warming at the same time as Earth suggesting that this is a solar system wide event and not limited to Earth at all.”

    Wow, that’s a big fact to drop if that turns out to be the truth. Together with the historical global climate graph (which you mentioned above, and, for your reference, is here: http://www.scotese.com/climate.htm) I am convinced mankind is sitting ducks over the next few thousand years of warming regardless of what we do… unless we adapt, which we’re pretty darn good at. Our species allegedly survived an ice age, after all.

  3. July 13, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    By the way, on Polar Ice Cap melting, it reportedly would take about 18,000 years for the whole of Antartica to melt if it was suddenly dropped into a warm ocean. I read that the main continent which accounts for 80% of the world’s ice, is not melting significantly and has remained in existence throughout all of the +25 degree celcius global climate change range throughout time. Do I believe it? Well probably more than I believe what politicians say.

    • July 13, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

      The polar caps melting is a wonderful example of most people’s ignorance about climate science. If one fills a glass with water almost to the top and then adds an ice block large enough to bring the water to the rim the ice block will float above the top of the water. If one waits long enough the ice block will melt but interestingly the water in the glass will not overflow! That’s because the displacement of the water is due to the entire mass of the ice cube and not simply the part of the cube that is sub-merged. The melting of the ice caps will not cause the oceans to rise, rather the heating of the water along the equator will. Some might say I’m being nitpicking about these things but the details are important.

      Did you know that deserts expand during ice ages and contract during heating phases? Because less light means less evaporation and less evaporation means less rainfall which means more deserts! The expansion of the Sahara desert probably has more to do with local mismanagement of the land than a global phenomenon.

      • July 13, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

        Didn’t I hear and read somewhere that the ice which contributes to ocean levels rising is not the ice that is floating in the ocean but rather the combined efforts of glacial ice and land ice sheets, whose mass is very significant and not already displacing the ocean the same way as ice bergs or floating islands of ice do?

        • July 13, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

          Total world ice ~29,960,000
          –grounded ice only ~29,340,000 97.9 %
          –floating ice only ~620,000 2.1 %

          http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/environment/waterworld.html

          • July 14, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

            Interesting! Those figures quote a lot of water sources that I previously thought as floating as being grounded, like the Antartic ice sheets. I think my concern is that people join political movements based on what’s trendy: anarchism, communism, libertarianism, environmentalism etc… but seldom examine each individual decision government makes in favour of just batting for their favourite team.

      • May 13, 2012 at 11:35 am #

        Well – I am with this post… except that if ice on land melts into the ocean, it will affect sea level rise. That said, we’ve been warming since the little ice age… and it looks like we could see some cooling off in the next few decades… blame it on the waning sun 🙂

  4. May 13, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    Jason: Nicely written and very sane article. I have one comment. You mention casually that CO2 is a pollutant. I am not sure if you meant to write that. CO2 is not a pollutant, it’s a necessary product of life. We could use more of it to encourage more life on this planet. CO2 is green after all 🙂

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