Where people use fossil fuels they live longer. They’re healthier, wealthier, safer, and generally more comfortable than people were before fossil fuels were discovered.
Yet, for many climate change activists, fossil fuels are like terrible beasts to be slayed. At any cost.
This is the source of the growing conflicts between climate change activists versus an entire industry that has been inseparable from modern human progress: the industrialized extraction, refinement, marketing, distribution, sale, and use of fossil fuels.
Inventive human beings have found all kinds of applications for fossil fuels, from reliable generation of heat and electricity to the growing of foods and development of medicines to the transportation of both to stores right near you to the materials used in making the smart phone or computer on which you’re likely reading this essay.
And much, much more.
Fossil fuels have become such a large and integral part of our lives that it’s no exaggeration to suggest that most people today, at least those in developed nations, cannot imagine a world without fossil fuels.
NOT A MATTER OF BELIEF
In the public arena, however, and unfortunately, the subject of global climate change has been reduced to simplistic, soundbite, binary alternatives: one either believes in climate change or not. But climate change includes and involves far more than oversimplified matters of personal belief.
The truth is that the global climate changes. Always. Endlessly. Denying the climate changes is like denying one’s own body changes: choosing wishful thinking or fantasy over reality.
It is also true that human beings influence the climate. They have to. If mere human observation of phenomena affects the phenomena being observed, then certainly other human activities influence the world around us in many and possibly far-reaching ways.
This leads to important questions: How much—or to what extent, exactly—or in what ways, precisely—does each human activity and the sum of all human activities influence the many variables that, when combined, constitute “the climate?”
These are disputed questions. There is consensus among some, but certainly not all scientists.
Perhaps the most immediate concern for many is the question: Are human beings in impending, immediate, dire or catastrophic danger from climate change? That, too, is a disputed question. Greatly disputed, in fact.
On the question of what climate-related dangers we face, and the scope, scale, and timeline of those dangers, there seems to be very little consensus among scientists. The reason is that the global climate is an amazingly, almost infinitely complex system. It’s hard to know with any precision the causal relationship between a change in one climate variable and thousands or millions of other climate variables.
And with each interaction and iteration of change, a process that gets repeated ad infinitum, the entire climate system becomes something different while its complexity increases. This is the nature of any highly complex system.
HOW WILL THE CLIMATE BE CONTROLLED?
And here we begin to see that some of the most important questions pertaining to climate change are questions that are rarely if ever raised in public, and never answered in any satisfactory way.
For example: How, exactly, will the infinitely complex system of the global climate be controlled?
For many climate activists, there seems to be some loose agreement that controlling the climate requires controlling human beings and their property (presumably by expanding the regulatory power of government). But controlling human beings and how they use their own property only goes so far. It still leaves much unanswered.
Even if all human beings, everywhere, are brought under strict regulatory control and freedom is snuffed out once and for all, the climate will continue to change. It always changes. It always has and always will. The climate was changing before human beings walked the Earth. The climate will change when human beings are long gone from the Earth.
Human beings can be innovative and creative and try to adapt to changes in the climate, sure. Or, not. But do human beings, or at least some of them, really think they can control the climate and prevent it from changing?
Stated differently: We know something about how and why climate activists want to control human beings. But how, exactly, will they control the climate?
WHAT WILL THE CLIMATE BECOME?
While climate change activists and the scientists they follow have never demonstrated how exactly they will engineer or command or control a system as complex as the global environment, they’ve also never made clear what exactly they want the climate to become.
Suppose that activists, scientists, and regulators truly become the new weather gods. Suppose they have complete control over the weather and everything related to it. What then? What sort of climate will they create? What sort of climate do they prefer?
More human beings live longer and healthier lives right now than ever before in recorded or pre-recorded human history. The environment, as it is today, seems very good for human life.
Is that the goal for climate change activists? Do they want a climate that’s advantageous for human beings?
Or for polar bears?
Or red-eyed tree frogs?
Or something or someone else?
Which species, if any, do climate change activists favor? Are present species preferred, perhaps unfairly, over past or even future species? Should dinosaurs be given another climatological chance? Or should we merely focus on ourselves, here and now? Or is it a form of biased centrism to focus on ourselves, here and now?
If we follow the arguments of post-modern moral relativism and multicultural perspectivism, it seems that all preferences about what the climate ought to be or which species should be favored are nothing but arbitrary moral values, mere prejudices or cultural worldviews, none superior to or more right than any others.
The question of what the world’s climate ought to be, in others words, is not a question that can be answered by science. Science might tell us how to achieve the climate conditions we want. But science cannot tell us which climate conditions we ought to want. That is a matter of choice, or will, or preference. Not science.
If activists want to avoid being accused of geologic period discrimination—accused of thinking that one set of geologic conditions is better than or superior to others—then it seems they are trapped in the impossible moral conundrum of demanding that climate change be controlled and directed, on the one hand, without be able to say that any one set of climate conditions is better or worse, superior or inferior than any other conditions, on the other hand.
WHO WILL CONTROL THE CLIMATE
Finally, if the climate is to be controlled, and if there’s any possibility of knowing what the climate ought to become when it is controlled, we still have the question: Who will control the climate?
This is the part of the climate change conversation that is discussed the least. Because this is the most political part of the conversation.
Many activists seem to assume that it will be those in government who exercise control over the climate, in part by controlling people, and controlling many other things as well.
Will it be elected government officials who exercise most of the control? Do popular politicians know how to control the climate? Or will it be unelected regulators? Maybe specially designated panels of scientists straight out of A Brave New World?
No one knows for sure.
And here we ought to pause and think well. Whatever else might be said about the subject of government, efficiency, precision, and excellence are not virtues typically associated with it.
Consider: Those in government—including regulators, bureaucrats, and scores of scientific experts—cannot manage schools. At least, not well.
The United States federal government effectively took over public education in 1979. Since then, government spending on education has shot upward like a rocket. It’s not even worth posting a graph of education spending over the last four decades, it’s such common knowledge.
More government money on education, every year, every decade, more and more and more and more. And more government education bureaucrats, at every level of government, every year, every decade, more and more and more and more.
The result of all that government spending and all that government planning and all that government regulating and all that government controlling in the realm of education? Nothing.
Many metrics of learning, such as 4th grade reading levels, remain consistently flat over those decades. Some learning indexes, such as math scores, have actually gone…down.
Now, to be sure, managing schools and figuring out how to teach children are no easy matters. But however complex a system of American schools might be, it’s nowhere as complex as the global Earthly climate.
So why would anyone think that a group of government bureaucrats who cannot manage some schools can manage the global environment, the global climate, and the weather all over the world?
SPEAKING WHAT HAS BEEN UNSPOKEN
These kinds of questions pertaining to the subject of climate change, which have been rarely mentioned in the political arena, should be brought to the forefront of public discussion.
Let us not be so quick to dismiss each other as “non-believers” or “deniers.” I, for one, do not in any way deny that climate change is happening all the time and all around us. Of course the climate changes!
I also do not deny that human beings likely contribute to that change. Of course human beings influence the climate!
And yet I am very cautious about abandoning all notions of individual freedom and private property—as well as the real human progress made possible only by fossil fuels!—while granting to government total control over my life and the lives of fellow citizens in the name of climate change.
So let us continue to talk. Let us explore the many questions to which we do not have clear answers. And let us speak about these unspoken questions:
- How will the climate be controlled?
- What will the climate become?
- Who will control the climate?