Climate Change – Facts Matter

January 29th, 2013 | Simcha Weinstein | 1 Comment »

What I find most startling about the climate change debate is… well, the fact that we are even having a debate about the authenticity of the issue. I would welcome a debate about different approaches to how we should go about solving the problem; but the fact that most of our discussions in the United States focus on whether or not climate change is real, or whether or not the warming of our planet is in any way caused by human activity, is quite frankly, absurd.

Americans need to realize that on the world stage we tend to look like imbeciles. This may seem like a pretty harsh word to use, but it’s completely accurate, and sadly, very fitting. Climate Change is not a political philosophy or belief system. It’s fact. Like it or not, there really is no debate in the scientific community about climate change. Ninety-eight percent of scientists and experts, not only believe that climate is changing and the earth is warming, but that human activity is a primary cause of this problem.

The very same people who deny climate science, if they were alive in the 15th century, would probably be the very same people who believed that the world was flat, or that the earth was the center of our solar system. Science matters. Facts matter. And when we turn them into belief systems we lose a critical and vital component of what makes us a somewhat civilized society. If our beliefs are allowed to overturn facts, then the long-term result will be chaos. Facts create a semblance of order. No one is denying, or even encouraging anyone to abandon their belief system. The ability to have faith – to recognize and understand life as it exists beyond what we can see or know through our senses, is a true gift. But being able to distinguish between fact and belief is also extremely important, and critical for any community to function and create stability and safety for its inhabitants.

So, why is the discussion of climate change in the United States still struggling and focused on whether or not the issue even exists, instead of how to solve a very real and very impending problem? There are many theories floating out there about the psychology of this issue. I tend to think the answer is pretty apparent, and sadly pretty easy to understand. It all comes down to money.

Essentially the battle is a fight between the researched data from scientists vs. the wealth and power of the entire fossil fuel industry. It’s no secret who has the larger microphone in this fight and who is better funded. For scientists, their role is complete neutrality with an adherence to facts. They are only looking to promote what is actual science – what is true. The fossil fuel industry, on the other hand, has a different agenda. They have hundreds of billions of dollars invested in this battle and will do whatever is necessary to preserve the status quo.

The oil and coal industries have pretty much followed the playbook used by the tobacco industry. For decades big tobacco was able to fend off the idea that cigarettes directly caused cancer. They did this not by flat out refuting the evidence; they did it by merely keeping the conversation alive. They didn’t want to sound too radical by making a denial that most people would find too extreme. Instead, their favorite line was, “we don’t yet have conclusive evidence linking smoking to cancer and so we need more research to be done”. And cleverly, they would even fund some of the research, giving the appearance that they were a true partner in this debate. All the while, however, it turns out that what was initially perceived as “being a true partner”, was simply a tactic to slow down the debate, keep the discussion alive, and create doubt as to whether or not smoking was really dangerous to your health. The longer the conversation continued, the more beneficial it was to the tobacco industry, for debate precluded taking any action.

Eventually, these tactics employed by the tobacco companies stalled out and science eventually had its day. We can only hope that the day for climate scientists comes soon. But in the meantime, big oil and coal have mastered the tobacco playbook, and we’re all getting played by their wizardry. As long as the fossil fuel industry keeps calling for more research and more studies, they win. They buy themselves time. And while that time may be advantageous to them, it’s dangerous not only to Americans, but to the world population.

Selfishness and greed masquerading as understanding and partnership, are incredibly dangerous, and the height of arrogance. This is the game that’s being played right now with climate change. And while time may be the friend to those who wish to prolong a very unnecessary debate, it is not the friend to the world’s population. It put’s every living being in peril on this planet… and sadly, that is not an exaggeration.

Climate change is real and human activity is the primary cause for its acceleration. Full stop.