• Shawn
    I think that one day our future descendants, (if that day ever arises for us to witness), will look at us just as we view the people of the pre-Copernican revolution, or those who believed that the world was flat before them, what I call "flat-landers".

    All of this is in regards to the present day climate change debate.

    If that is so, then we haven't made that much progress in terms of morality or ethical behavior.

    But, it might not be "morality" or "ethical behavior" after all?

    Maybe it is "education" that conditions the soul?

    Yet, there are plenty of educated people who are climate change deniers...

    So, what is it then if not an "education," "morality," or "ethical conduct"?

    Will our descendants be that much different from us? Just as many climate change deniers are steadfast in their belief as were the flat-landers?

  • Mongrel
    With the shape of the earth, we don't run into challenges to determining its shape. With the long-range impact of AGW, there are challenges.

    Unfortunately, some of the people who have broadcast concerns about AGW didn't point to best information and didn't take seriously the challenge of determining what we should do about it. Surrounding the issue with apocalyptic sermonizing gathered attention, but it ultimately sets the stage for apathy when people find out that the fireball generators didn't know what they were talking about.
  • BCAccepted Answer
    If historians 500 to 1000 years from now are worth their salt, they will understand what we were up against in the 21st century.

    They would understand that we were accustomed and committed to a vast use of fossil fuel ever since the industrial revolution began. Fossil-based industrialization was, indeed, the root cause of climate change.

    They would understand that those with the greatest financial investment in fossil fuel--energy corporations and allied industries (transportation, chemicals, heating, electrical generation, agriculture, manufacturing, etc.) were loathe to give up their wealth.

    They would understand the extraordinary difficulty of making horrific changes in lifestyle to benefit unknown people of the future.

    They would understand that even though many people perceived that a solar/wind/nuclear power alternative was possible, it would not mean life could go on without total disruption in every aspect of life.

    I'm not quite sure how we would have escaped our limitations, such that there would be historians 500 in the future with a good view of what happened to us. It's not looking very promising now. The recent Paris agreement falls way short of reducing CO2 enough to avoid catastrophic consequences. I assume that we will pump oil out of the earth until it is gone.
  • Janus

    This is, I think, a very nice, clear summary of the situation. I think many people don't realize that the prosperity we enjoy is reliant on cheap oil, and that all the benefits of modern medicine that go with that prosperity are reliant on the production and consumption of megatonnes of cheap and ultimately useless shit, the affordable production of which is itself reliant on cheap oil.

    When oil becomes a lot more expensive which it seems it inevitably will soon enough, then some of the alternative technologies may really come into their own. But by then we will all be enjoying much diminished prosperity. And that's the best case scenario!
  • Benkei
    This is, I think, a very nice, clear summary of the situation.John

    Not "very nice" though...
  • Janus

    No :’( .
  • Cavacava
    I wonder what ethical or other argument can hold our actions responsible to future generations. Do we have a duty to the unborn, and if so, is there a limit, our children, their children, their children's children?
  • Soylent
    Do we have a duty to the unborn, and if so, is there a limit, our children, their children, their children's children?Cavacava

    Our duties to future generations are limited by the length of the causal chain between our actions and the outcome. If the causal chain is long and there are multiple opportunities for intervention, then our obligations are diminished. A short causal chain confers more responsibility on the acting agent even if the time duration is long (the force of such an obligation will likely be negated by the affect heuristic). Part of the challenge of getting people to act on climate chain is a perceived ambiguity in the length of the causal chain. Scientists warn we are close to or passed a point of no return for action, indicating a short causal chain, and are also proposing long-term solutions that work on the scale of generations, which seems to indicate a longer causal chain for intervention. Those two are not mutually exclusive, but it can make it difficult to discern the scope of our present obligation. Another problem is that new technologies, even within view to us now, can extend the causal chain and diminish the obligation.
  • Shawn
    Thoughts? Seems like flat-landers are nowadays everywhere or people just trolling?
  • Thorongil
    Thoughts?Posty McPostface

    I said this some time ago:

    Let's ask ourselves what "climate change denial" could mean:

    - One could deny that the climate literally changes (which no one believes, except maybe people who have never seen daylight).
    - One could deny that climate change is in any way affected by human activity.
    - One could deny that climate change is largely affected by human activity.
    - One could deny that we know enough to make a suitably informed opinion either way with respect to the human impact on climate change or that we have done enough to study it properly.
    - One could deny that the effects of climate change are going to be as bad some people predict (given that lots of predictions have already failed miserably).
    - One could deny that the government, of all institutions, is uniquely capable of "solving" climate change, whatever its origin may be (that is, one could deny that the government throwing money at the problem would lead to any substantive positive results, given its poor track record of trying to solve other problems with this method).

    Leftists like to conflate all of these positions, so that they can brand anyone who doesn't line up exactly with their views on the climate an irrational science hater and pollution/corporation lover, but that's clearly not the case.
  • BC
    "They believed the world is flat" is a 18th/19th century assumption about what people in the middle ages thought. In fact, the spherical, globular world was settled science centuries BC. Here's an article in the Washington Post about it.
  • BC
    There are climate change deniers, true enough. And there are people who shy away from affirming climate change because they can't quite grasp enough of the complex concept to agree with it. It's a bit over their heads. There are people who WISH it wasn't true, and there are people who SAY it isn't true because they have too much invested in the status quo.

    Some people have shut down about all this stuff because they are overwhelmed by bad news. Aside from global warming, there is soil loss, invasive species, plastic in the oceans, drugs flowing across porous borders, people dying left and right from gun violence and drug overdoses, new diseases (Zika, West Nile, AIDS, Ebola, etc.), failure of the economy to improve the wellbeing of a majority of Americans, pandemic obesity, and so on and so forth.

    The majority of people, though, recognize that climate is changing. Your average American can't do much about plastic in the ocean because a lot of it is coming from SE Asian countries that simply don't have the infrastructure to deal effectively with solid waste. Flimsy bags blowing around a Walmart parking lot in Iowa, Texas, or Massachusetts are not ending up in the ocean, for the most part. A lot of problems are simply out of people's individual control.
    Posty McPostfacePosty McPostface

    I think that you are framing the whole situation the wrong way.

    Comparing people hundreds of years ago denying the facts of geometry and people today not heeding ecological and meteorological reality is comparing apples and oranges.

    An apples to apples comparison can be found in books like Ronald Wright's A Short History of Progress. Wright shows how people in earlier civilizations such as Easter Island and the Maya saw the red flags of impending ecological collapse but​ were no match for the powerful in their societies who had a vested interest in the status quo (sound familiar?).

    The problem, Wright says, is that unlike earlier civilizations our ecological crisis is global in scope.

    Therefore, future generations may not live to judge our response to our present ecological crisis. If humans and civilization do survive they will likely repeat the cycle of building a progress trap and then collapsing ecologically. Or civilization may become an archaeological footnote and some new form of social organization may emerge.
  • fishfry
    They discovered that most of the evidence for a round earth has been faked? Cool.
  • Michael Ossipoff
    Will our descendants be that much different from us?Posty McPostface

    Better swimmers?

    Michael Ossipoff
  • Wayfarer
    Let's ask ourselves what "climate change denial" could mean:Thorongil

    It could mean putting someone in charge of the agency responsible for climate change, who has a long track record of disputing the evidence - in fact, denying climate change. It could mean taking down the many inter-agency reports on climate change from the EPA's website. It could mean instructing all your staff not to use the term 'climate change' in communications with journalists. It could mean letting go a lot of scientists who are engaged in researching climate change. And all of these things have been done, by the current US administration, during 2017.
  • Thorongil
    So, you didn't read my post?
  • Wayfarer
    Yeah, it insinuates that 'climate change is a left wing plot'. All of your points are right out of 'climate denialism central'. And, incidentally, I abhor 'green left politics'. You should be aware of conservatives for climate change action, of which there are many.
  • Thorongil
    My post was about the different ways one could "deny climate change." The whole idea of my post was to critique this phrase as unhelpful, given all the different things it could mean, which I sketched. Its vagueness is then used by those on the left to smear anyone who doesn't agree with them about this issue, as they define it, and how to solve it. And now here you are, apparently tone deaf to the irony of doing so, telling me that I'm a climate denier. Bravo.
  • Wayfarer
    If it was intended as ironical, my apologies, but it really didn't come off that way.
  • Thorongil
    What?! No, I'm saying your post was ironic. I was trying to show how accusing someone of being a "climate change denier" is unhelpful, due to all the things that phrase could mean, ranging from lunatic positions to reasonable ones. You then, ironically, claimed I was a climate change denier.
  • Wayfarer
    So, you do think that human-induced climate change is a real problem which requires urgent action?
  • Thorongil
    :-d Define climate change, and you'll have my answer.
  • Wayfarer
    There are references too numerous to summarize here, but I will take it from your answer that you do, in fact, tend towards denying the problem.
  • Thorongil
    Why can't you give me a definition of climate change? How am I supposed to affirm or deny something, if I don't know what it is? I've not given you an unreasonable request, Wayfarer.
  • Wayfarer
    climate change
    a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.

    Further references here.
  • noAxioms
    If historians 500 to 1000 years from now are worth their salt, they will understand what we were up against in the 21st century.Bitter Crank
    This rings true.
    What we are up against seems to be an inability to even suggest a solution. Pushing for greener energy will help delay the change, but I've never seen a suggestion for an actual way out of this mess. I don't have one myself except possibly the wild-card of the AI singularity.
  • Wayfarer
    Australia introduced a carbon tax which was working exactly as intended back in 2012. All of the indicators were in line with expectations and rates of growth of emissions were indeed beginning to fall as a consequence. And then, for purely party-political and ideological reasons, a conservative government axed the tax, promising that electricity prices would fall as a result. As a matter of fact, Australia now has among the most expensive electricity prices in the developed world, not least because of investor uncertainty in which kind of plant to invest in.

    Had the Australian Liberal-National coalition not politicised the issue and demonised the carbon tax, Australia would have been well on its way to meeting its Paris obligations. As it is, it doesn't have a credible program at all in this area, and only generates more hot air talking about it.
  • Thorongil
    Thank you.

    a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards

    Global and regional climate patterns do change and have changed during the timeframe mentioned. So I have no problem with this part of the definition. It's self-evident.

    attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels

    Here's where I am a bit more skeptical, not because I wish to deny the claim, but because I don't know enough about it to have formed a definite position. Climate science, like most other forms of science, is in fact rather complex. I certainly think humans have had an impact on the climate (how could they not?), but as for whether our burning of fossil fuels is "largely" responsible for global and regional climate change, I don't know. Most scientists say that this is the primary cause. But some of these scientists' research is paid for by ideologically driven interest groups, which is somewhat suspicious (though does not in itself invalidate said research). Scientists are also discouraged from research that might be critical of the consensus view, a profoundly anti-scientific practice, given that all major scientific breakthroughs and revolutions in the past have occurred due to some individual or individuals challenging the consensus view. That, too, is somewhat distressing.

    A minority of scientists disagree with the consensus view and publish research in opposition to it. Some of these scientists' research is paid for by ideologically driven interest groups, like the fossil fuel companies, which is suspicious (though, again, does not in itself invalidate said research). Other scientists have risked their reputations by challenging the consensus who are not paid for by any such groups. They seem sincere in their pursuit of the truth, but they are in the minority. In sum, I am not one to normally be skeptical about what most scientists take to be the case, but I find this particular issue to be so politicized and complex that I cannot in good faith assent to the claim in question. That is to say once more, I can neither affirm nor deny that climate change is to be "attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels."
  • Wayfarer
    My view is that the evidence for human-induced climate change is unequivocal and undeniable, but that there has been considerable fear, uncertainty and doubt generated by various interest groups, including corporations and right-wing political groups. Their aim is to make it 'politicized and complex' and to sow doubt about the facts, and they've been successful in so doing, unfortunately.

    As far as facts go, I think this graph from NASA is pretty unequivocal:

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