I may have mentioned before that I love a good conspiracy theory. Chemtrails, JFK, the Illuminati, I love all that stuff. It’s not that I believe any of these theories. I think perhaps I’m attracted by the utter conviction these people display in their fringe beliefs despite the overwhelming evidence and logic to the contrary. I also suspect there’s a part of me that really would feel much more secure if we were all subject to the whims of some grand, overarching, malevolent scheme. In some ways it’s so much more reassuring to think that a plan, albeit a sinister one, actually exists, isn’t it? Better that than have to live with the knowledge that they’re all probably just making this stuff up as they go along.
Oops, and you’ll notice, if you were paying attention there, that I slipped into a classic conspiracy theory mindset – referring to ‘them’. And one of my favourite theories I’ve seen recently is the notion that ‘they’ are making up climate change. I know I’ve already claimed we should be starving such nonsense of the oxygen of publicity, but I can’t help prodding at a good conspiracy theory, and this one really is a beauty.
From what I can surmise, the world’s climate scientists are all on the make, promoting dodgy evidence supporting climate change and suppressing a huge wealth of data that discounts it. Why? For the money, of course. The glamour of being a climate scientist is apparently not enough and thousands and thousands of scientists in this and other fields are perpetuating the lie, funded by….ok, this is where the conspiracy runs out of steam. Are they all on the dirty IPCC pay-wagon? Not exactly, all scientists who participate in the IPCC assessment process do so without any compensation other than the normal salaries they receive from their home institutions. So it must be some kind of pan-university conspiracy then? They are all out to make money in the notoriously well-rewarded field of academia!
Now apparently I’m supposed to apply some kind of razor to this sort of theory (which, if I were funnier, would allow me to make some kind of joke about bearded nutters living off-grid), so here goes: Who would benefit from a climate change ‘lie’?
If we take a look at any ‘Top 10 industries worldwide’, what will we find? Oil and Gas, certainly. Farming, fishing and food production? Yes. Also mining, mineral and other extractive practises. Conspicuous by their absence are wind, nuclear and solar, perhaps the industries that might benefit most from the pushing of a climate change agenda (feel free to suggest if you can think of any more). Scratch the surface of any climate change-denying scientist, and you will more often than not find links to one of these industries. This is where the real conspiracy lies.
2 Earth problem
In reality, for climate change deniers, proof remains a 2-earth problem. The burden of proof will never be overwhelming enough until absolutely every factor, variation, shift and change can be taken into consideration. Without a second earth to conduct experiments on, this just is not possible and so climate change deniers will always have an ‘out’ a metaphorical comfort blanket to cling to and claim ‘ah, but what about….’.
But in essence, the anthropogenic origin of climate change, undeniable though it may seem, can largely be dismissed as an irrelevance if two facts are accepted:
- 1) Climate change, generally speaking, would be bad for mankind
- 2) Release of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases has the potential to exacerbate climate change
You will see I use potential there, even though this is irrefutable. This is because when we are thinking about the long-term (and I am talking centuries, millennia) survival of the human race, even this irrefutability is irrelevant. History, hockey sticks, ‘yes, but the climate has always changed’, mini-ice-ages, it all looks rather beside the point. The best comparison I have been able to come up with is of a smoker who has just discovered they have lung cancer. The Doctor advises giving up smoking as it is probably the cause. ‘Ah, but’ the patient says, ‘my family has a history of lung cancer, I would have got it whether I had smoked or not’. ‘It’s possible,’ says the Doctor, ‘but if you carry on smoking it will certainly make it worse and reduce your chances’. Some real life patients may take a fatalist attitude and make no effort to shake their addiction until the end. Unfortunately we do not have that luxury.
(I’ve just noticed this piece in the Guardian from yesterday. There’s a chance I subconsciously read it before writing this.)