According to Google, climate change is ‘a change in global climate patterns apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards, attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.’
Whether climate change exists, and what action should be taken to avoid it or the effects of it, has been the subject of public debate and many government policies. Since 2009, however, ‘green fatigue’ appears to have set in, leaving just half of those surveyed now considering it a ‘very serious issue’.
Here are three reasons why you should continue to engage with the climate change debate and not yield to green fatigue.
1. A greenie’s plea for nuclear power
2. Pascal’s Wager (a small chance of armageddon)
3. Adapt or avoid, we’re taxing future generations
More information: http://www.monbiot.com/
ONE: A greenie’s plea for nuclear power
George Monbiot is an English writer who is best known for his unapologetic and swashbuckling approach to political and environmental activism. Over the years, Monbiot has both been an opponent of nuclear power and proposed all manner of drastic measures to arrest climate change; he is the consummate greenie.
However, it took the 2011 Japanese nuclear meltdown disaster and a moment of humility from Monbiot for me to fathom the importance of us all continuing to engage with the potentially real or perceived threat of climate change. In the days following the initial explosions at the Fukushima reactors, Monbiot was predictably preaching on many major news platforms. However, his plea for countries to refrain from shutting down their nuclear power stations was a surprise to most.
Monbiot’s premise: If nuclear plants are shut down, they will not be replaced with clean renewables, but instead be replaced by inexpensive and dirty coal, which will increase carbon emissions and, in turn, accelerate climate change.
Greens are notorious for activism without realism and, as such, I often find them unpersuasive. However, if an environmental activist, such as Monbiot, is prepared to swallow his opposition to nuclear power to prioritise climate change, shouldn’t we remain open and engaged on the issue too?
TWO: Pascal’s Wager (a small chance of armageddon)
Even if you conclude that there is only a minute chance that climate change is real, it is not impossible that inaction could contribute to a drought and extreme weather disaster laden future. Pascal would reason that because such dire consequences have the potential to threaten the existence of humanity, it is rational to incur the mammoth cost of avoidance or adaptation, despite the probability that such a response equates to jumping at shadows.
Pascal’s Wager has been criticised for its ability to rationalise a response to every crackpot threat (think an alien invasion) under the sun. Despite this, its application here should act as a reminder that, until climate change can be dismissed with certainty, we all should continue to engage.
THREE: Adapt or avoid, we’re taxing future generations.
If we conclude that the threat of climate change requires a response, the two options are to avoid it or to adapt so that humans can survive the effects of it.
The path of avoidance involves the expensive development and introduction of carbon capture technology and renewable energy; both governments and the private sector would have to borrow extensively to pay for it. Because long term debt is just like a giant home loan, it is likely that future generations will be the ones making most of the repayments.
Adaptation, on the other hand, would allow future generations to better understand the consequences of climate change and only cure the symptoms that matter. For example, research into genetic modification could be, and already is being, targeted to allow crops to continue to grow, even if the climate is radically different from today. Once again, however, it will be future generations who will be making the repayments.
It follows that, if our generation is enjoying a lifestyle that is causing climate change, we should be concerned that future generations will bear the entire cost of an expensive, yet rational response.