December 14th, 2007

Edge of the world

(no subject)

I would like to address climate change, as I do not think I have ever touched on it in this blog. Honestly, I perceive that as a terrible failing, but it's not due to a lack of effort; I have tried to write more than once on the topic but scrapped the entries due to being excessively vitriolic and inflammatory. Accordingly, I will not actually make any effort to argue the case for the reality of climate change. I feel it is not necessary. The debate has been settled; it is like the evolution vs creationism debate, which has been settled emphatically and undeniably in favour of evolution but some wilfully ignorant individuals choose to continue to argue for creationism and don't wish to be bothered by the facts. The climate change skeptics are the creationists, refusing to let the facts get in the way of either 1. their desire to subjugate the planet and do with it as they please and/or 2. their vested interest in maintaining the status quo and resultant unwillingness to alter their behaviour. The facts are there for all to see (not to mention worrying, such as this article), and if you wish to deny the reality of climate change and that human activity has impacted upon the process, then you are either grossly misinformed (this is not helped by the media giving equal airtime to skeptics despite the fact that over 99% of the scientific community accepts the basic facts) or are wilfully ignorant and anti-intellectual. If you are the latter, frankly, I have no time for weak-minded cretins such as yourself.

What I most want to say with this entry is that I don't understand the need for much of the debate that is currently being had. Essentially, whether or not climate change is a reality and whether or not it is going to this or that extreme, shouldn't we still be urgently pursuing the most environmentally friendly policies and taking a long term perspective? So often, I see environmentally friendly actions condemned and obstructed by people advocating short term economic interests and immediate maximisation of financial wealth. These perspectives suffer from an absolute blindness or a refusal to acknowledge that environmental damage, while perhaps convenient in the short term for a company's bottom line, is hugely detrimental in the long term. Even localised pollution will ultimately come back to haunt an employer through declining employee health, negative impact on other industries that sustain the local population and provide a source of workers, and of course a tarnished reputation. Ultimately, what is best short term must be considered in light of its long term consequences. If it is detrimental in the long term, then the short term economic growth disappears into irrelevancy as it cannot be maintained and will in the end cause more decline than growth.

Whether or not you accept the reality of climate change, it simply makes good sense on every level to act in the best interests of the environment. It provides economic security and sustainability in the long term. It provides the social benefits that come with a healthy ecosystem; just compare the sickness, squalour, and poor quality of life in Industrial Revolution England or some of the rapidly industrialising cities of the third world with the health, sanitation, and high quality of life in communities where environmental degradation and pollution are low. It provides cultural benefits, especially in regions with large groups of ethnic communities that possess strong ties to a pure and undefiled land. It provides political benefits nowadays too, as climate change increasingly becomes a significant election issue. And from my own special interest, it's good for the development of public transport and especially railways and tramways, as rail is the most environmentally friendly form of transport.

Essentially, I am presenting an "even if" case. Back when I debated in high school, it was one strategy we routinely employed - "even if this point and that point presented by the opposition are true, here is why their core contention is false". Even if climate change skeptics are justified in their skepticism, we still gain more from pursuing environmentally friendly action. We achieve long term economic and social stability, while unregulated or minimally regulated action that focuses on the potential for short term growth and gain is ultimately disastrous. Just look at Nauru, which I wrote about yesterday. The failure to sustainably manage its phosphate resources provided it with brief wealth - it was once the wealthiest Pacific island state. However, it is now on the verge of insolvency and faces the possibility of a very bleak future. Climate change or no climate change, I don't think any of us want to see that happen elsewhere. Climate change or no climate change, I think all city dwellers want to live in a city where the air is safe to breathe and stars can be seen in the city. Climate change or no climate change, I think all those whose living is dependent on the land do not want to be destroyed by issues such as erosion, soil degradation, desertification, and drought. Why squander the beautiful planet we have?