It’s a jolly thought. ‘Well, I’d like to able to believe you, but the case isn’t proven. There are plenty of scientists who have quibbles. I can’t pretend to know anything about it myself and the orthodox majority in science has been wrong in the past. So there we have it.’
When I tell you that Jim has a vested interest, a deeply vested interest, in this whole issue, you may think it weakens his argument. It doesn’t of course make any difference that he is a very senior figure in a company that … no, I want to protect his anonymity so I’ll just say that he is in the fossil fuels business. This may explain why he has taken up the argument he has, for the ‘green agenda’ is a potential threat to his livelihood, but again, that doesn’t make his argument logically wrong. In fact nothing makes his argument logically wrong, for he is not making an argument, he is stating a bare fact. He cannot know for himself. The meaning of his stance however is of course that he is, in a transparently faux naïf and disingenuous manner, siding himself with the nay-sayers, and manifestly not occupying some claimed neutral ground of raised-eyebrow abstention. We’ll come to that now.
What I tried to explain next to Jim was made difficult by the animosity that was building up as a result of the charged nature of this debate. I think Jim was not used to being contradicted, I think he found the European admiration for Al Gore disgusting, and the whole British liberal attitude to the environment little short of socialistic, anaemic, pansy and pretentious. All the usual problems red-blooded Americans of his stamp have with Britons, in fact. And I have no doubt my tone, my voice, my vocabulary, my whole demeanour, affect and style contributed to this feeling and compounded it. And I too was upset and angry at his dismissive, illogical, contemptuous tone.
I am not proud that I was unable to have a less strident and, ultimately, mutually intolerant discussion. But there. I am not here to abase myself before you, nor unfairly to trash an opponent as it were behind his back. The subject is too important for any of those considerations to weigh with us.
We’ll come back to Jim later. I feel a bit of a heel or dragging him into the blessay at all, which could stand alone as my feeble contribution to the global warming debate, but I think it’s worth framing it anecdotally as I have, partly because most of us have found ourselves in some similar kind of impassioned debate and partly because it speaks to a particular cultural difference between Britain and America, which, as I say, is a topic I’ve been asked to think about in my blogging.
So we’re down to this thought. One is free to make the entirely valid observation that one cannot know for certain whether the scientific doom-saying on the subject of the planet, its rising temperature and the dire climactic and other consequences is true. One is free to observe that in the past scientists have been wrong. One is free to observe inconsistencies, evasions, exaggerations and discrepancies in the supposed ‘one-voice’ clarion cry emanating from the scientific community, environmental journalists, the green movement, the carbon off-set industry and others. In other words one is free to do nothing.
Ye-es but … you see the one overwhelming fact about the great climate debate is what’s at stake. Not scientific reputation, not the fortunes and comforts of capitalists and their populations, not pride or reputation but our very civilization.
So let’s break it broadly down to three responses to such a cataclysmic prophecy of doom.
There is Response A. Type A believes the preponderance of established scientific evidence. Whether Type A believes it because they are equipped to do so, or whether they believe it because they are gullible, or whether they believe it because they are stupud, or whether they choose to/pretend to believe it because they are anti-progress, anti-capitalist, anti-global economy, communist, hippy or anarchist is neither here nor there. They believe or profess to believe that there is a pressing threat to the continuation of human life on this planet such as we have known it since the earliest civilizations began to build harbours and ports on the edges of the land. It’s a big deal.