Conservatives take the position that Climate Change is not happening, and if it is, Man cannot be held responsible. Both of these positions are morally untenable for any number of reasons.
Firstly, in order to stake a claim to a particular position, we must first produce sufficient evidence to justify our position. We cannot make a claim without first being certain that we can support that claim in the face of alternative evidence. Conservatives either do not possess the evidence, or produce domesticated scientists who support their claim, or they attack some largely irrelevant set of facts that does nothing to disprove the larger fact of climate change.
The evidence supporting climate change is overwhelming. Scientists are for the most part in almost unanimous agreement that Climate Change is happening, and it is highly likely that humans are to blame. Scientists from a wide array of disciplines are seeing increased evidence of human activity as the proximate cause of a rapidly heating planet. These include climatologists, geologists, botanists, evolutionary biologists, marine biologists and others.
Unlike conservatives, climate scientists do not base their theory of climate change on political whim, but on specific indicators gathered from around the globe. Temperature readings taken from boreholes, cores drilled from permanent ice sheets laid down over hundreds of thousands of years, readings from sedimentary rock and evidence of sea levels over millions of years are all used to create models of climate change.
Undoubtedly, there are other influences on climate including volcanic activity, variations in Earth’s orbit, solar flares and the movement of tectonic plates. None of these can account for the rapidly changing climate of the current era. The massive spike in temperature rise has taken place over only the last two hundred years with the advent of the Industrial Era. Rapidly increasing levels of Carbon Dioxide, methane and other gases are directly related to human activity. No natural source produces as much of these gases.
All science is provisional, based on the evidence as we understand it at the time, and conservatives use this as a weakness to attack science. In fact, this makes science more robust than alternate belief systems. Scientific theories are generally accepted until a more satisfactory explanation can be found. Most theories do not disappear; rather they are modified as solutions are found for unanswered questions.
Science is often attacked because of the controversies within science, or the unanswered questions always present in any human endeavor. Climate science is no different, with many open questions. Merely because there are open questions does not mean that science is wrong. It is likely that there will always be questions raised by any scientific theory or hypothesis.
Skepticism of any human thought is warranted, and welcomed, but skepticism must be accompanied by a sufficiently compelling argument, evidence and consideration of the opposing view where justifiable. In the case of climate change, physical evidence must be produced that successfully negates the vast body of evidence supporting human induced climate change. In the United States, denialism as distinct from honest skepticism is led by the fossil fuels lobby, especially the Koch Brothers and other adherents of the free market. Their opposition is based not in science, but in the unwarranted belief that efforts to combat climate change will reduce the profits produced from carbon-based fuel as well as an ideological opposition to government regulation. Increasingly, denialism relies on political expedience rather than evidence-based reasons for skepticism.
The effort to undermine public perception of climate related science is likely to have real world ramifications that could potentially affect billions of people around the world. The cost to life and quality of life vastly exceeds the possible gain in economic activity of deregulation claimed by the skeptics. The impact of climate change and the environmental destruction that accompanies it is likely to be profound in coming decades and the effects far-reaching.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecasts a rise in temperature of 2.5°F to 10°F. The U.S. Global Change Research Program released its Third National Climate Assessment Report and concluded that some results of climate change are already being seen across the states. These include heat waves, heavy downpours, sea level rise that will affect infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries and ecosystems. This will result in dramatically increased costs to the economy over time.
Increased flooding of certain areas is likely to increase, endangering human and other life and adding to costs in affected areas. Drought will put pressure on ecosystems and on humans in those areas, increasing the cost of food production. Wildfires will increase in drought-stricken areas, threatening homes and environments. Insect infestations are likely to increase, as well as the spread of tropical diseases to areas formerly free of those diseases. Forests are likely to come under pressure from invasive species, in many cases killing off old growth forests.
It is likely that as climate change advances, populations will be displaced by increasingly adverse weather conditions, causing potentially massive migrations from affected areas to already highly populated cities and towns. This is likely to increase poverty, violence, gang activity and internecine wars.
Considering the costs to communities, not just economic, but in lost environment, land and lives, all of which will increase over time, how do conservatives and the business community justify their obstructionism? By obstructing measures to mitigate climate change, they in effect exacerbate it, and should take responsibility for their part in increasingly common disasters. The increasing cost to lives and livelihood undermine the argument that measures to mitigate climate change will have a negative impact on economic growth. The cost of climate change is far worse, and likely to increase human suffering. There is no moral justification for this position.
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