Last week, I wrote about how I’m dedicating my life to stopping climate change – whatever it takes.
But then there’s a problem: I’m the kind of person who can’t help but generate counterarguments to everything, and have questioned pretty much all of my beliefs at one time or another. Because of that, I can’t help but ask myself the question:
What if climate change isn’t real?
There’s a lot of people who don’t like that question – especially climate scientists and environmentalists, who regularly get told by climate skeptics that climate change either isn’t real, or it’s not a very serious issue. But while the question might be annoying to those who deal with climate change the most, it is a valid question: What if climate change ISN’T real? What am I supposed to do then?
Right now, I have every reason to believe climate change is real:
- I don’t have a good reason to doubt the current model of atmospheric physics, where carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases responsible for keeping Earth at a livable temperature.
- I don’t have a good reason to doubt that humans have released over a thousand gigatons of greenhouse gases (not just carbon dioxide, but also methane and others) into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.
- I don’t have a good reason to believe that observed temperature changes are caused by a different part of the global climate system, like changes in cloud cover or increased solar activity.
- I don’t have a good reason to believe that climate scientists have been lying to the public for decades about climate change, or that there’s some kind of international conspiracy to promote climate change for evil purposes.
While all of those things are possible, I don’t think they’re likely.
I do think that fossil fuel companies have every incentive to lie to the public about climate change, fund climate skepticism/denial where it isn’t justified, create the false impression of a debate, and do everything they can to avoid losing money from government regulations that lower greenhouse gases. One of the books I’m going to be reading in the near future is Merchants of Doubt – if the book is to be believed, fossil fuel companies have worked with the same scientists who spread doubt about things like smoking and cancer in order to spread doubt about climate change.
I have to ask myself which I find more likely: Is our entire understanding atmospheric physics wrong, and climate scientists are all fools/lying/members of a conspiracy… or does the fossil fuel industry not want to lose money due to regulations? Both are possible, but I find the second far more likely. To be clear, I don’t say any of that to hate on fossil fuel companies. I suspect that even the greenest climate warrior would be tempted to do the same thing if they were in the position fossil fuel executives find themselves in. But I think I’ll write about that idea at a later date.
Back to the question: What if climate change isn’t real? Maybe the data was incomplete. Maybe our model of atmospheric physics was wrong. Maybe climate scientists ARE part of a conspiracy. Maybe all of our efforts to stop climate change were wasted, because it turns out climate change wasn’t real or wasn’t very serious.
If that was the case… I would be a very happy man.
Why? Because of a different question: What if someone solves climate change tomorrow?
If I open the news tomorrow and someone has the perfect solution to climate change, I would be relieved. Relieved beyond belief. The oceans won’t rise to engulf the homes of millions. The ecosystems of the world won’t radically change in response to climate change. We won’t get the mega-storms, droughts, famines, and resource wars that climate change is predicted to bring. We can implement this perfect solution someone has found, and then we can spend our time and energy solving the many other problems humans face.
And if someone proves climate change isn’t real or serious… then the world would look just like if someone had solved it. The disasters of climate change won’t happen, millions of people won’t lose their lives, and we can spend our time and energy on other problems.
It might not be intuitive, but the day where a scientist proves climate change isn’t real/serious, and the day where someone has found the perfect solution to climate change, look exactly the same. Either one would be one of the greatest days in human history.
What if climate change isn’t real? I hope it isn’t real. I desperately hope that it isn’t real. I hope some scientist comes along and conclusively proves that climate change isn’t real, or isn’t serious, to the satisfaction of the world’s climate scientists. That scientist would deserve the Nobel Prize, and a central place in the history of science. While I would love for this scientist to come along… I can’t afford to wait for that to happen, and have no reason to believe it will.
I have every reason to believe climate change is real. I have every reason to believe it’s going to get worse. Right now there is no large-scale solution for climate change, and I need to try to find one if it exists…
Whatever it takes.