Thursday, October 4th 2012, 7:22 AM EDT
There have been several of these "How to argue with a climate sceptic" articles, but this one takes the view that only "climate scientists" have the answer and therefore they know best. James could not have understood or read the emails regarding "climategate" to think "climate scientists" have all the answers and indeed there is no mention of "climategate" in this essay. Here is an extract as to what he wants business leaders to say to us, thats assuming ALL business leaders share HIS views, and yes James also reverts to name calling, this time we are "climate reckless".
James Murray argues business leaders must step up to the mark and start pushing back against "climate reckless" arguments.
The next step is to properly name the problem. As numerous commentators have pointed out climate scepticism is a completely inadequate term. All proper climate scientists are climate sceptics, taking a sceptical, dispassionate, and questioning approach to the evidence in front of them and then drawing conclusions from that evidence. "Climate sceptics" are not proper sceptics. Moreover, the term has been made doubly problematic by the shift in climate sceptic arguments from questioning climate science to questioning the efficacy and cost effectiveness of green technologies and policies.
We need a new term. "Climate denier" does not work because many climate sceptics now maintain that they do not deny that climate change is happening (although I often have a hard time believing their partial Damascene conversion), "anti-green" is too clunky and "eco-sceptic" has the same problem as "climate scepticism" in its appropriation of the word "sceptic".
Personally, I favour the terms "climate reckless" and "pollutocrats". Climate reckless because what Lawson and co are advocating is a hugely irresponsible gamble that their climate projections are correct, using the planet and the global economy as the stakes. And pollutocrats because they are at the vanguard of an anti-democratic attempt to promote the short term and narrow interests of unreconstructed polluters at the long term expense of the rest of society, including the hundreds of thousands of progressive businesses who accept that business-as-usual is no longer an option. Although, I accept neither of these terms are perfect and would be open to other suggestions.
The next step has to be to highlight the utter recklessness at the heart of the climate sceptic school of thought - to draw attention to their wager that it is better to continue with business-as-usual in the belief the predicted economy-crippling climate impacts will not occur, than it is to hedge our bets and try and mitigate climate risks, accruing numerous other benefits such as enhanced energy security and reduced air pollution along the way.
There are three crucial questions that help to highlight this recklessness, none of which I have heard a compelling answer to from a climate sceptic.
The first is the environmental campaigner George Monbiot's killer question, what would it take to convince you that you are wrong?
Any honest person can answer this question. On the scientific side of the debate compelling, peer-reviewed, evidence demonstrating either that climate change is not happening, or that mankind is not driving it would convince the vast majority of environmentalists that they had been mistaken. Meanwhile, on the admittedly more complex economic side of the argument a genuine weight of evidence demonstrating that green technologies are flawed and climate adaptation is both possible and cost-effective would certainly force me to re-think.
Climate sceptics dodge this question because their fundamentalism means nothing will convince them that their arguments are based on cherry picked data and discredited theories. No amount of rigorous scientific inquiry on the cause of climate change, nor clear data showing greenhouse gas emissions are falling due to the adoption of clean technologies will convince them. Simply asking the question highlights their intellectual dishonesty.
The next question is, what happens if you are wrong?
The simple fact is that if climate sceptics are wrong and the climate scientists are right we are heading for a deeply challenging century in which an increasingly hostile climate will undermine virtually all of the foundations of a functioning global economy, from food security to stable nation states, predictable climatic conditions to reliable energy supplies. Asking the question and insisting upon an answer immediately highlights the recklessness of the game of environmental Russian Roulette climate sceptics want to play.
Of course, the immediate riposte from climate sceptics is to ask the same question right back to environmentalists. But it is easy to answer. If they are right and we are wrong (and bear in mind the vast majority of scienticts insist this is not the case) we will have invested unnecessarily in new clean technologies and climate adaptation measures, forfeiting the opportunity cost of having invested in other things (climate sceptics tend to argue this money could be better invested in development projects for the world's poorest, which is strange because so few of them have a track record of supporting and promoting development policies in any other way). In investing in green technology we would reduce air pollution, create more stable and predictable energy prices, enhance energy security, improve economic and energy efficiency, invent countless new technologies, and create healthier and more livable communities. As the old environmentalist joke goes, "you mean we've gone to all this trouble and created a better world because of a hoax". Yes, one or two per cent of GDP may have been invested unnecessarily, but we will have accrued countless non-climate related benefits. I'll take the risk of ending up with this world over the risk of ending up with full-blown climate breakdown any day. So would any other rational person.
Finally, and this is the most important question for businesses to ask of climate sceptics, what makes you hate the future so much?
The green economy is nothing more or less than a technological transition; the replacement of old and flawed technologies with new and better technologies. It is just like the first agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, the post war consumer technology revolution, and the digital revolution. Green businesses are in the process of replacing dirty and unreliable carbon intensive technologies with cleaner and more efficient alternatives. In some cases they cost a bit more currently, but costs are falling and the potential benefits, both environmental and economic, of this upgrade are immense.
Climate sceptics are on the wrong side of this transition. Like the original Luddites and their countless descendants through history, they resist technological progress because it makes them feel scared and insecure, clinging to any theory, no matter how crackpot, that helps to justify their position.
Ultimately, the green economy is about nothing so much as it is about modernity. Businesses understand this. That is why many of the world's biggest firms want to invest in this low carbon transition, partly because they want to mitigate climate risks that could do them untold harm, but mostly because they want to do what progressive businesses have always tried to do: make the world a better place, by innovating and creating new markets, all the while making money in the process.
The past few years might have seen a modest renaissance in climate sceptic influence, but it is useful to remember that the continued ebb and flow of this kind of regressive, anti-modern, anti-scientific thinking is not a unique historical phenomenon. There have always been people who have sought to resist the march of progress, protect their vested interests, and fight dirty in order to do so. It is the duty of individuals, communities, politicians, and yes, businesses, who believe in progress to fight for it at every turn.
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