WASHINGTON D.C. —There has been a big controversy in the media about a college e-mail system in England that was hacked, and a bunch of private e-mails published on the Internet. Disbelievers in global warming like to cite some of this e-mail as proof that global warming is a hoax. Believers in global warming argue that this e-mail is not significant and that it proves nothing.
I am happy to support openness in science, but I continue to think that the e-mails hacked is irrelevant to the validity or invalidity of scientific arguments. For example, some early 20th century scientists reached conclusions, not supported by evidence, regarding evolution. This fact does not call evolution into question today. Just because some early 21st century scientists did questionable deeds in support of a political position, does mean that global warming should come into question today.
When Einstein proved that some of Newton’s observations and equations were inaccurate, we did not all conclude that gravity didn’t exist. The fact that seven billion humans have a huge effect on our planetary ecology is beyond question. The fact that some of those effects are resulting in consequences that are not optimal to the continued existence of our species on this planet is similarly beyond question. The identification of certain largely optional behaviors as being especially prejudicial to human survival is an inconvenient truth only because those optional behaviors are the foundation of a considerable segment of the current human economy. What is required here is for a sizable portion of the human population to accept less (profit/material wealth) voluntarily or by force, so that the operations of humanity on their planet can be adjusted in such a way that our collective actions do not result in the suicide of homo sapiens on this planet. What is required is a transition from an opportunistic to a sustainable economy.
The central issue being argued when people debate “global warming” is whether human kind can afford to continue to operate using a for-profit planetary management strategy. Those who argue against “global warming” are not willing to accept the need to change the human paradigm: they stipulate that 10 or 12 billion humans can carry on the same as 10-100 million humans, without serious consequences to the species or the planet. That they are wrong is beyond question.
Global warming is merely one case in point – a simple and easily understood reason why we must make changes in how we live immediately. It’s like the cliff edge we’re driving toward, and the recommendation from mainstream scientific authority is that we turn left or right really soon so we don’t thunder over the edge like so many lemmings. Let us say that the cliff is imaginary, but the road we’re on is going down towards the same destination —the bottom of the cliff. As we get closer and closer to that bottom it becomes inevitable that billions of human beings will certainly die, and there will be nothing we can do to prevent it. Perhaps some of us will survive more or less, but those who survive will inherit a dark future. Isn’t that a pretty good reason to change course?
The only reason to continue on in the direction we’re going is financial. In the current world, we already place the material wealth of certain individuals above the welfare of millions of human beings. If we took the accumulated fortunes of a handful of the richest human beings and used that to address the root causes of the billion destitute humans who have nothing, we could prevent hundreds of millions of people starving to death in our own lifetimes. The question is: how do we manage our planet? a) for the benefit of all human kind or b) for the benefit of a tiny minority of fabulously wealthy individuals. Choose. Choose quickly.
In the final analysis, it does not really matter whether reducing one’s carbon footprint results in less greenhouse gasses or even whether global warming is a result of human activity. What matters is that reducing one’s carbon footprint is achieved by changes that are heading in the right direction, toward a more sustainable economy and the continued existence of humans on this planet, just as increasing your carbon footprint is heading in the other direction. Data aside, the benefits of a lower carbon footprint on the natural world, in which we must live, are beyond question.