"My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together." “When I hear people say politics and religion don't mix, I wonder what Bible they are reading.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Philippians 4.19
"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Philippians 2.12
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Climate change, Chamberlain, Niemoller and Pascal.
This post follows on from the two that went before. It would be best to read those first.
There are still those who deny climate change: we are in the midst of a natural climate cycle, they tell us. Well, every year in this century has been warmer than all but one in the last, 1998. Given that I've yet to hear anyone who denies climate change saying that human activity has made no difference, then if we were in the middle of a natural warming cycle I can't see the argument that we have nothing to worry about because our actions must still be exaccerbating the effects of any warming cycle. That doesn't let us off the hook as some would argue. In fact it changes nothing for the Theist because we still have the God given injunction to care for the planet. Doing nothing - even if the sceptics are right, and the world is warming because that's what it does periodically - is not an option. The planet is warming. Does it matter why when we need to do what we can to counter the effects? Or starve: "Consumption of the four staples that supply most human calories — wheat, rice, corn and soybeans — has outstripped production for much of the past decade, drawing once-large stockpiles down to worrisome levels. The imbalance between supply and demand has resulted in two huge spikes in international grain prices since 2007, with some grains more than doubling in cost.
Those price jumps, though felt only moderately in the West, have worsened hunger for tens of millions of poor people, destabilizing politics in scores of countries, from Mexico to Uzbekistan to Yemen. The Haitian government was ousted in 2008 amid food riots, and anger over high prices has played a role in the recent Arab uprisings.
Now, the latest scientific research suggests that a previously discounted factor is helping to destabilize the food system: climate change." (A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself - New York Times)
This is the point at which the two sides part company because the deniers fall back on the economic argument. Why try to make a difference when "thousands of (American) jobs" will be lost in a competative world market?
This economic argument is already looking frayed around the edges. Today's Observer newspaper gives us an excellent example of the faulty nature of the economic argument. "In 2006, Mozambique was refused a request for £2m from the international community to improve its flood defences. A year later, after severe flooding, more than £60m in post - disaster aid was granted." Still, it's Africa: they don't know how to look after themselves there. It's third world. They're used to poverty and disaster.
This approach puts me in mind of Neville Chamberlain's famous quote following the German invasion of Czeckoslovakia. "A far away country of which we know little." -and cared about, presumably, less.
Then we have Pastor Niemoller's famous words "In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up." Is it our intention in the rich First World to simply ignore the plight of the poor in the Third World because they live in "far away" countries of which we know - and apparently care - little until we are the last ones left by which time it will be too, too late? That seems like the current strategy. It'll ruin our economy (America, Australia, China, India, Russia etc). Me first. Me first. Self interst. Never mind anyone else. Not putting the technology available to us now in place is a false economy because it will cost us more in the long term by which the chances of success will be the more limited.
My own view on climate change, other than to care less how it is being caused because it self-evidently is being caused, is to go with the principle behind Blaise Pascal's wager for the existence of God which went something along the lines of: rational people should bet on the existence of God and act accordingly because if they are right they have won everything and if they are wrong they have lost nothing. In climate change terms, then: rational people should bet on the existence of climate change because if they are right and have acted accordingly, they have won everything and if they are wrong they have lost nothing.