I’ve made the observation before that a lot of what we consider to be political issues are, in fact, a collection of other issues given a controversial spin that generally leads nowhere but a breakdown in discourse and understanding. The main example I used at the time was that abortion was a healthcare and women’s rights issue, not political, and certainly not religious. The most impactful on a global scale is, of course, climate change.
Climate change is purely an environmental and existential concern. The economics and politics of it are inconsequential in the long term as those aspects of society – or any other, really – will not matter when humanity faces the dire consequences of inaction or blatant acceleration of the crisis. And yet we are faced with denialism and the façade of a “balanced debate” being paraded through the media, corporate, and political spheres, all of which is consumed by the people.
Juggling a few books at once in a vain attempt to diversify my reading and try boost retention of information (I’ve heard it works for some), I’m slowly getting through Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. Even before I reach the climate change section of this 2010 book, already there are parallels with today’s back and forth and historically similar scenarios regarding tobacco and the ozone layer. On the latter, industry groups denied outright that chlorofluorocarbons had anything to do with destroying ozone, but they backed off in steps.
- They argued fluorocarbons did not reach the stratosphere
- After that, they denied they split in the stratosphere to produce chlorine (due to UV radiation)
- Finally, they said chlorine did not do what was being suggested, destroying ozone
“Each of these claims was defeated by evidence during 1975 and 1976.”
This pattern is repeated on the topic of climate change, where the denialists slowly cut away at their own arguments, eventually reaching a point where their only refuge is political opposition.
- Global warming and climate change don’t exist
- It might exist, but human activity is too insignificant to have any real effect
- It exists, but here’s (true but irrelevant) evidence that it has been happening forever
- Okay, maybe humans have some role in this, but it’s still not a problem
- These alarmists are predicting inconceivable scenarios while the science is not clear yet
- It is all part of some global agenda, Chinese hoax, socialist ploy, leftist sabotage, take your pick
The scientific consensus is that climate change is a real threat, but political and corporate interests are the ones with the real agenda of suppressing and sowing doubt around this information. No matter how many facts are lined up against them in the environmental arena, when the battlefield is warped into a political one, they have the image of legitimacy denied to them in reality. Talking points become nothing more than opinions, and you wouldn’t dare stop people voicing their opinions in a free society, would you? Fascist pig.
The problem with opinion, however, is that while everyone is entitled to one, not all opinions are equal. Some opinions are more informed than others and should therefore have more weight given to them in any debate, whether this is due to knowledge or experience. A white man, for example, can have an opinion on abortion rights or racial concerns, but they can never do so from a position of experience. That does not mean their opinion is invalid, but I know which voices I would tend to defer to in a debate, and when it comes to taking action on these discussions, some things transcend personal opinion. Things like facts, and human rights.
Climate change is everything but a political issue, but that is the lens a lot of people end up viewing it through because that is the lens we have had manufactured for our entertainment. Real discourse on what we need to be doing to prevent the more serious outcomes of unrestrained global warming is stifled or at least subdued to allow a deathly slow march towards any progress, all the while exacerbating the crisis. The voices we should be adhering to are sidelined to make way for who can scream the loudest, or whoever has enough influence to make their way into the media. A recent ABC Q&A panel on environmental issues had no scientists, but it did have a lot of pro-fossil fuel members. Balance!
We just can’t have nice things anymore.
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