For the moment, let's assume the worst. Let's say that the leaked "Climategate" e-mails are, in fact, a canary in the coalmine, and the bulk of global warming data has been distorted, or rests on a less than sturdy foundation.
The e-mails I refer to emerged last month from an e-mail server — hacked from somewhere in Russia, an energy-rich nation that will have difficulty dealing with demands for innovation — that trace 13 years of correspondence with climatologists at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the U.K. All told, 2,000 documents and 1,000 e-mails were leaked to climate-skeptic sources. The body is, without dispute, an important hub of climate science.
So let's take this proposition: There is no global warming.
If that were the case, but we remained quite certain that oil would eventually run dry — be it in 50 years or a hundred — and remained confident that the bulk of oil is controlled by either adversaries or tenuous friends, Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and King Abdullah, to name a few, wouldn't it then, still, be wise to dash toward green?
Wouldn't it still make a great deal of sense to shield ourselves, after decades subject to wild price fluctuations at the whims of a cartel of despots?
The America I know should be investing in alternatives because it recognizes our dependence as, quite simply, an issue of national security.
And wouldn't it be wise, even if there were a fraction of a chance that the climatologists, many of who have spent their lives studying the issue, were right in their predictions, to do everything in our power to ensure their dire predictions don't come to fruition? Don't we see the logic in purchasing insurance in our own lives, sacrificing up front to protect ourselves from the cataclysmic? Can't we begin to recognize moving away from fossil fuels, in addition to making sense from a security standpoint, as little more than hedging against what, by nearly all measures, is a credible threat?
Because, in reality, there remains a preponderance of evidence to suggest climate change is real.
In reality, the rate of ice sheet melting, rate of sea level rise and current carbon emissions outpace projections from the beginning of the decade. Those that cling to the notion the earth moves in normal cycles of climate fluctuation betray the reality that our orbit and rotation should, in fact, be inducing a period of cooling, rather than warming.
And, perhaps most importantly, there remains a pit in our stomachs. The fact that everything we feel and see — aboard planes looking down at the scarred earth and while stuck on our clogged highways during commutes — leads us to believe that such development could not, in some way, have affected our planet.
To be clear: A good portion of the tension playing out is between those who believe that global warming is human driven and others that concur, but go a step further and believe that the direst predictions are accurate.
Two members of the Climate Research Unit acted unethically. They, and perhaps several others, embraced scare tactics and expressed concern over data that didn't fit perfectly with what their hardened positions. They weakened the standing of scientists in all fields, and data must be released more quickly to undermine skepticism.
The consensus on climate change is not, however, built on anything less sturdy than granite. No matter how much we wish it were.
Brian Till, one of the nation's youngest syndicated columnists, is a research fellow for the New America Foundation, a think tank in Washington. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about the author and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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