Friday, September 28, 2007

In global warming we trust

To call someone a 'believer' is a very curious term of abuse in the context of climate change.

Leo Hickman - CiF.

"Climate change is just a religion. Why are you a believer in it?"

This question was put to me recently and I have to admit that I spluttered a little when trying to answer it. Not because I doubt for one moment that climate change is real - and predominantly being caused by the actions of our species - but because it struck home to me that some people have so much disdain and hatred about "this climate change obsession" that they see its "believers" in much the same way that Richard Dawkins sees the believers of the world's religions - without a shred of rationality or logic to justify their unwavering faith.

But to call someone a "believer" is a very curious term of abuse in the context of climate change (although religion is a convenient metaphor as it allows "non-believers" to continue their argument by saying they don't like being "preached at"). After all, climate change is a reality utterly drunk on Dawkins' favourite tipple - peer-reviewed science. But then again the "believers" have their own odd riposte, too, in that they often like to accuse those who don't sign up to the veracity of climate change as "deniers" - a term dripping with an implicit reference to the Holocaust. Both "believer" and "denier" are ugly, clumsy phrases and, in my view, only act to further polarise what is becoming such an entrenched and spiteful debate.

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But if it helps my questioner's argument then, yes, I am a believer. Just like I "believe" that gravity will cause an apple to fall to the ground. Just like I "believe" that the sun will rise again tomorrow morning. Does that, therefore, make me a "fanatic", as some have also said? (Again, it's an interesting term of abuse, because those that use it know full well what that term means in today's world.)

Well, I would never advocate that the book be closed on further scientific investigation into anything, but I do feel that the "do you believe or not" ever-cyclical debate, whipped up into a vitriolic frenzy by such name-calling, conveniently obscures the real debate: do we have faith in ourselves as a species to actually try and do anything - be it centred on mitigation or adaption - about climate change?

Now that's something that I sometimes struggle to keep believing in.


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