In his column on “Skepticism and climate change,” in the July 31 Ledger, my friend and worthy opponent Dr.Winfield Rose accurately represented the standard Republican talking points explaining why we are unable to address climate change as a problem.
While I do take issue with several of his contentions, I find myself agreeing with what he perceives to be “the third cause of climate change skepticism.” If I understand correctly, he is saying that many folks see those predicting dire consequences as alarmist. Many people do, however ostrich-like that seems to the rest of us.
More importantly, he correctly points out the hypocrisy of those who bemoan inaction on climate change while “continuing to live in your gated communities with your large, luxurious and air-conditioned homes and ... continue to fly around the world in private jets.”
Indeed, there are many well-to-do liberals who behave this way, and thus those rich Republicans who simply deny that we can or should do anything about climate change while they live large probably do have more integrity – or at least less cognitive dissonance.
I will “pass over and leave unmentioned,” to steal a phrase from the Roman author Cicero, Dr. Rose’s criticism of the Green New Deal, which is itself a bit alarmist in the way it gives American economic and political problems priority over legitimate scientific concerns.
And by the way, the earth’s temperature will of course continue to rise for 30 or even 50 or 100 more years even if we do address issues arising from climate change. That is how serious the problem is, according to most scientists. Yet, without action, the earth may become so different that our species may not survive.
And that is the first point I would make: since the climate is indeed getting warmer faster than expected, using past patterns in global history, we should do something before it is too late to even adapt to the changes that will occur. Human population has grown just a bit since the last ice age, and that certainly affects our ability to adapt.
The situation reminds me of the famous wager made by the 17-century mathematician and religious thinker Blaise Pascal. Pascal challenged people to believe in God, saying that if there was no God, they would lose nothing, but that if there was, they would gain salvation.
If we don’t address this problem of warming and its geophysical, psychological, and biological consequences we may become “the sixth extinction,” in the words of science writer Elizabeth Colbert. If we do address the consequences of sea level rise and glacial melting by reducing carbon emissions, we might just have a chance to either limit the heat levels or the length of the heating long enough for us to learn how to adapt and survive. We will risk destruction if we delay much longer.
You have my permission to consider this last sentence as alarmist if you must — despite the scientific evidence that supports it.
However, there is some good news in my second point. The efforts of the Trump administration to halt our efforts to reduce carbon emissions and to continue the use of coal to generate electricity (even though the coal supply is running out), is not as effective as we might think.
For example, the five states in which clean energy jobs are growing the fastest are Nevada, Kansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and KENTUCKY. Four of these states have Republican governors. Clean energy jobs in Kentucky have grown by 7.2% recently, a rate of growth exceeded only by Nevada, where the increase was 32.4%.
In addition, I read recently that the big three American automobile makers have, for economic reasons to be sure, agreed to meet California’s requirement for lower emissions and higher miles per gallon gasoline requirement for vehicles, even though they are not required by federal standards to do so.
Maybe, just maybe, reducing the effects of severe climate change might be good for business? Think about that.
Ken Wolf is a Democrat and a retired Murray State University history professor. He speaks here as an individual and not as a representative of either of these organizations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.