Thursday, November 9, 2017

Climate Change and Human Culpability

I was dismayed by two recent letters in The Christian Century denigrating the work of authors of articles on climate change, asserting that life times of disciplined scientific research into human effects on climate are nothing more than hunches.  Similar letters in our local paper are not  surprising, but readers of The Christian Century tend to have well honed critical thinking skills,  and are unlikely to label verifiable scientific research as mere hunches.  

There are some who are consistent in their certainty that the climate is not changing, or perhaps it is changing, but within the context of normal climactic cycles extending over eons.  They are equally consistent in asserting that humans have nothing to do with it.  I don’t get it.  Why is it so important for them to deny human culpability in this one area?  They’re certainly willing to blame fallen humanity for most everything else. 

To be sure, there is something to be said for those willing to stand defiantly alone in an unfriendly crowd.  Great leaps forward in humanity’s ascent have come from courage  like that.  But not always.  Sometimes they’ve been the last ones insisting that Copernicus was wrong, cars would never replace horses, Malthus was right, etc.  It’s a long list.  I suspect those who deny human impact on changes in earth’s climate are among them.  

What’s more troubling is their apparent indifference to the suffering and damage already caused by a changing climate, and their dismissal of actions that can help prevent more suffering and damage, for fear they will hurt the economy.  If economic prosperity is that important to them, how are they not able to see that the future of economic growth is precisely in the other direction, not just here but all over the globe?  Energy production and distribution systems moving away from fossil fuels are changing almost as fast as the climate, and with them the possibility of doing something useful to mitigate climate change suffering and damage.  That should be celebrated and encouraged, not ridiculed.  Even now there are more domestic jobs in solar and wind than there are in either coal or petroleum.  Good paying jobs with a real future, isn’t that what we want?

Sadly, from time to time we need to be reminded that this island home of ours, careening through space in the company of its life giving sun, enveloped by its life sustaining environment, is the only one we have.  At no other time in earth’s long, long history has it been populated by enough people with enough technology to do it great harm, or to care for it as responsible stewards.  That’s something new, arriving in the last two hundred years of its four and a half billion years of existence.  Suddenly, we have before us the possibility that we humans can so abuse our home that it will become uninhabitable – for humans.  With or without us, it will go on.  Which it will be is up to us.  

I encourage climate change skeptics to employ their gifts of skeptical reasoning in more constructive ways that may contribute to the well being of us all, and even more, the well being of those yet to be born.  In the remote case you are like a guy I knew years ago who believed the end times were imminent, so environmental protection was pointless – get over it.  That’s the logic of someone who would trash their home the day before they moved to a better place.  It’s not a Jesus way of thinking or acting.



2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you need to make a distinction between the science of climate change and its politics. I think most people agree that climate changes over time (just look at the historical record), and most people agree that human activity has affected the climate and weather. To what degree seems to be open to discussion. But the politics of what to do is where it gets complicated. Mitigating the human impact on the climate would require the kind of global consensus that has never happened in modern times. And even if there was some consensus, and we started doing something about it, mother nature could upset the tea cart as she is wont to do every now and then. For example, the summers that didn't happen in the mid 6th century because of the eruption of Krakatoa; or the mini-ice age in the 17th century -- its cause is still unknown. More to the point, this country can't muster the will to deal with easy problems; what makes you think the entire planet will ever muster the will to deal with something as complicated as climate change?

Country Parson said...

Always appreciate comments, but perhaps you need to say more. Yes, we agree that climate has changed over the aeons, sometimes quite dramatically. Yes, we agree that humans have affected it, although the extent to which you believe that is not clear. What yet needs to be said is your take on the probabilities of effective remedial action. The nations of the world, except for one, are in agreement something must be done. Most are doing something. Moving to solar, wind, electric vehicles, etc., and away from coal, wood, and petroleum. The implied tone of your comment suggests all that is for nothing, so why try. I doubt you meant that, so you may want to continue with more. For me, it's a matter of godly stewardship - a theological question. Of course that dives into politics. Can't be helped. I also have to be honest in admitting to a lifestyle of extravagant energy use, at least by world standards. We have a warm house, two cars, travel as we please, eat well, etc. Wealth, even relative wealth, has its privileges.