Climate change is always worth a rant.
When it comes to climate change, do some of us think we know better than scientists who base their opinions on evidence?
We can’t know everything and so, yes, we must rely on those who specialise in a field to inform us. Naturally we tend to go with what the majority of experts believe.
But the idea of a simple majority opinion in a scientific field is weird. My thing is economics, so indulge me for a second. Current, provable majority opinion in economics is easy to identify. Keynes was right. Or Milton Friedman. Or Adam Smith. No wait, what about the Supply-siders?
Some test-tube type scientists would argue that economics is not really an objective science. I would argue the more complex the issues scientists study, whether test-tubers or economists, the more difficult it is for them to establish controls for all factors.
Yes, we tend to go with what the majority of experts believe. If it suits us, or if it matches our belief set.
Well, until we realise the world can’t be flat because when a ship appears on the horizon it appears to be climbing a hill.
We might believe stuff for a while until we can no longer deny it – until we learn about falsified study results. Or that a lot of drug trials are funded by drug companies. Or we hear someone has decided vaccination vastly increases the risk of autism when, truth is, there is no way of knowing whether autism has increased at all or is now simply acknowledged for the first time in history.
Well, okay, we would like to go with a majority opinion, if only we knew that it was a genuine majority rather than something as artificial as a papal bull. If only we could be sure what passes as the majority opinion of scientists is not just the most widely publicised interpretation. Or the most easily understood.
No, I’m not siding with
Andrew Ostri Bolt. If his leg was on fire he would
deny it, regardless of the consequences. But he gathers followers because he is
more in touch with his readers’ feelings than most. Acknowledging how people
feel he is able to sell ridiculous ideas. Using the same method – Hitler’s, in
fact – caring journalists would be able to sell sensible or upright ideas, but
they are few and far between.
Arguments against climate change may be straw men - something Bolt exploits quite well – but again, Bolt is one of the few people prepared to acknowledge peoples’ doubts or questions. He might not provide the right answers, or even any answers, but he listens.
I know I’m sick to death of politicians – let’s not call them leaders – who peddle patently stupid ideas using the “the public are stupid we just need to educate them” approach. If I can’t trust them with things I can understand, why on earth would anyone hope I should trust them with things I can’t understand?
Why should I be impressed or suddenly feel educated and informed when a government spends millions of dollars getting over-consumers and hypocritical sellairbrities to tell me – in simplistic and patronising tones – that I’m wrong?
Yes, to be accessible to most, complex ideas must be couched to some extent in simplistic terms. But for every force there is an equal and opposite reaction, and simplistic explanations will draw simplistic responses. And patronising dictates will draw negative responses from those of us who are averse to being told we are naïve.
In a world of information overload, it is perfectly human to draw grand conclusions based on our own experiences, or personal stories we hear whether these are statistically significant or not. It is also easy to accept that many political policies sold as ‘noble’ have had a negative, personal impact on a lot of real, individual people with few financial resources.
Blind faith is required for us to believe something we cannot see or understand. We do see people struggling now, but it is harder to "see" tomorrow with any certainty.
It is much easier to see the tonnes and tonnes of manufactured crap we can buy, before and after it all too quickly becomes landfill. The pollution and waste of resources caused by all of this are a lot easier to understand or believe than consequences repackaged as “a scientific theory of climate change”.
Climate change is a big issue, but an unfortunate side effect of it being so big is that it has been set apart from other forms of pollution. If the crap churned out in factories all over the world is not contributing to climate change I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. If this crap is not really the root cause of climate change then, okay, prove it is not and I’ll call myself an idiot. Well, okay, you don’t even need to prove it, but that’s beside the point.
I don’t doubt there is a link between human activity and weather conditions. I also have no doubt that the earth once experienced an ice age – climates cycle in the medium term, and climates will change over the very very long term no matter what we do. And in
the climate changes every two minutes. Melbourne
What I have doubts about are the motives and competence of those who make grand policies about what we must do next. If I disapprove of the carbon tax this does not make me a denier, it simply means I personally disapprove of the tax and the way it has been implemented.
If climate change is caused by humans, the only way to effect change is to change human behaviour. Ideas might be proven in laboratories, but they can only be effected in the real world, where real people must live.
The only way to achieve real change is to confront the reality of people’s feelings. A paradigm shift in scientific theory is one thing, but a paradigm shift in social thinking at the individual level and on a global basis will not be achieved by assertion or bullying.
A majority of scientists might be passionate, sincere and quite right about climate change, but they will be tainted by association with politicians. The best and most successful ideas come from below – pushed from above ideas will achieve little.
Lest you think I am just being my normal, cynical self here, think of Ghandi and Indian independence, or the moratorium movement against the war in
Think of Rosa Parks.
It is easy to see the obscene hypocrisy in selling coal – and let’s not forget uranium – just because we can, or because if we don’t then someone else will.
It is easy to imagine how smug the west must seem, telling third world countries they cannot or should not do this or that when we have benefited for centuries from an “excuse” like scientific ignorance. Our hypocrisy will do more harm than good in the long run, because it feeds or generates a quite reasonable suspicion the west is, as always, intent on keeping privilege for itself. That all our reasons for suppressing growth in developing countries are just bullshit and propaganda.
Whether we are rich or poor, educated or not, living in the west or the third world, we are most of us the same. “Do as I say, not as I do”, or “Because I said so” do not cut the mustard. Most of us would rather walk with someone than walk behind.
We are human, not silly, and while we are happy to follow a real leader we are loathe to be pushed. Understanding this is the first and most important step to addressing climate change; nothing else will come close.