If climate change is a battle, let’s have a war
IF climate change really represents a threat to our civilisation comparable to the Nazis than it is time for us to stop backing off in half-hearted surrender and instead tell Mother Nature to shove it.
Recently in arguing against the “disaster track” of a Copenhagen UN compromise agreement on reducing emissions, NASA scientist James Hansen - in many ways the granddaddy of climate change theory - said global warming should be treated like an evil enemy.
“This is analogous to the issue of slavery faced by Abraham Lincoln or the issue of Nazism faced by Winston Churchill,” Hansen said. How did Winston Churchill and more broadly the Allied powers defeat the Nazis and their Axis partners?
One thing they did not do is cut industrial production and hand over their best weapons to make the Nazis more harmonious.
OK, they did initially try that strategy but Hitler kept leaving tank tracks over wider stretches of Europe.
Perhaps appeasement would have worked eventually, but its price would have been half a globe dominated by Axis slave states and almost unspeakable horrors.
If climate change presents as a credible menace to our way of life we would be silly to give up the great weapon of industrial civilisation - cheap power - in the hope that nature will take it easy on us.
To give ourselves the best fighting chance we shouldn’t contract our industrial base, we should expand it.
We need to be open to wider strategies than just reducing carbon, which because it is the by-product of cheap energy, no one really wants to do.
Forsaking the cheapest form of power is like poking ourselves economically in the eye with the expectation our ears will develop better hearing to compensate.
The Copenhagen conference is about trying to get countries to jump off a cliff together with a supposed parachute that might turn out to be little more than a few bits of string and a small table cloth.
So with no one willing to make the sacrifices being demanded, it would be better for us to be wealthier than poorer to deal with climate change to the extent it happens because richer countries are hurt less by natural disasters than poor ones.
If the most dire climate change predictions don’t eventuate, masochism will look like sheer folly especially when there are so many other desperate problems the world could be tackling.
It’s time to take a positive rather than a negative approach.
Sure our government should fund research into climate change “solutions” in the same way the Allied powers bought whatever the labs and factories could produce to defeat the Nazis.
However the best solution to climate change, going by history, almost certainly does not involve a “top down” bureaucratic central regulatory restructure of the economy through rationing and tax, with some picking of winners (preferential subsidies for renewables while ruling out no nuclear power).
The winning strategy or idea may not involve trying to stop or minimise climate change at all but figuring out the best way to live with or adapt to it, which is what people generally do brilliantly to changed circumstance.
The best idea is probably still waiting to drop into someone’s head when the situation becomes clear.
Politicians and bureaucrats who are telling us they have the answer and it is reducing carbon emissions most likely won’t like this change of tact.
They won’t be able to paint themselves as world savers and experts, valiantly struggling to rescue us from ourselves.
Those who see an ETS as a way to curry favour from government and earn money from buying and selling energy permits won’t like it either.
Greens won’t like this approach because it does not assume we should bow down to nature.
If humanity had always obeyed the dictates of nature humans we would still be huddled in comparatively small hunter/gatherer tribes on the plains of Africa.
We would die earlier.
Depending on food availability, life would either be relatively easy or we would starve.
We would live in constant fear of the elements and predators.
Entertainment would be mostly limited to wrestling and picking the nits out of each other’s fur.
Actually that sounds like the recreation options still favoured in some all male university dorms.
The old, sick or those vanquished in power struggles would be excluded from the tribe to die.
Life would be nasty brutish and short, in other words.
However once evolution gave us opposable thumbs and big forebrains it was game over.
From my work desk I can see windows that look out over Sydney’s west.
The brooding mountains are OK although I prefer the tamed patch of greenery visible from the windows opposite, Hyde Park.
Between the park and the great semi-arid expanse of wilderness is a city full of people living about the best lives any population en masse has lived.
More people have more freedom from basic survival needs to do whatever it is that they think will make them happy than in any era previously.
To climb down from the highest points of industrial civilisation just because the weather might get hotter seems almost like species treachery.
Perhaps Mother Nature now wants to give us some weather whacks for getting too uppity, but let’s not land the first blows on ourselves.
Besides which we can take her. If she wants a piece of us as the video gamers might says: “Come and get some b!tch!”
The best form of defence is offence, as sports coaches say.
So let’s not plot partial retreat to make Gaia happy but go unabashedly forward and realise the full panorama of human potential.
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