Zero Hour for climate change: the time is now to back the Climate and Nature Bill Peter Spring The Skeptic

How do we know climate change is happening? How do we know species are evolving? There was, and remains in some places, strong denial of the latter. The same kinds of responses have emerged to deny the former, too. The big difference is that climate change has the supercharged facet of huge economic impact. Greed, need and vested interests often trump rationality, sometimes perilously.

Fossil fuels are epicentral to the huge expansion in human economy over the last 200 years. It will take massive changes to policy and ways of living to extract ourselves from this self-destructive machine. The pain of failing to do so will far exceed the pain of grasping the nettle now. The rational response is to follow the science and reconstruct our economies on a low carbon, sustainable basis. It won’t be easy, but it is doable – or at least it was, had we started in the early 1980s.

In the 1970s a major American oil company hired the best climate scientists of their day to do a well-funded study to evaluate exhaustively whether the greenhouse effect would lead to global warming. It seemed innocuous. After all, one of the theory’s discoverers thought global warming could benefit humanity, at least in Scandinavia.

But those scientists reported back that continued use of fossil fuels will increase global warming, and to such a degree that by 2050 climates will have changed dramatically and detrimentally. Their data were congruent with the famous hockey-stick graph of CO2 emissions over time against average global temperatures that emerged shortly afterwards. Its projection is very worrying.

The rational response by that company should have been to invest in sustainable energy production and move away from fossil fuels. This would have given them a huge lead over their competitors, who would have to scramble to stay in the game, once this epoch-making study got into the public domain. They could claim to have saved humanity. They might even have been awarded a Nobel Prize.

Instead, they buried the report and doubled down on fossil fuels. Inevitably, the bad news trickled out. Friends of the Earth became aware of this report in the early 1980s. Sadly, Big Oil’s response was to carry on exploiting fossil fuels, so that levels of CO2 pollution have significantly increased since that report. Like the tobacco industry two decades before, they hired PR merchants to peddle denial and obfuscation.

How do we know whether climate change is happening or not? Some claim confidently that it is, or it isn’t. They often confuse, sometimes wilfully, climate with weather. Their source: the media, who find extreme weather events and their tragic aftermaths ideal click-bait.

So, we now see dramatic footage of every hurricane, flood, drought, landslide, and wildfire. The seemingly increasing frequency of these calamities confirm for some that climate change is actually ‘true’; Others dismiss these as the extreme weather events that humanity has always endured, and that the media are just having a field day. They are both to some degree correct, and incorrect.

Climate is not weather; rather patterns of weather, and those complex patterns are best left to meteorologists, geographers, and climate scientists to ascertain. And they have. And they are very concerned, witness the exasperation of the UN’s IPCC climate scientists’ latest opinions.

Rational citizens place trust in those scientists in the belief that their scientific processes are properly scrutinising their findings, so that those findings are reliable enough to base policy upon. But obscurely funded think tanks exploited the relativism of truth as well as weaknesses in some social aspects of scientific method to claim the greenhouse effect theory is flawed and selective, the conspiratorial workings of a liberal elite, out only to perpetuate endless academic research funding – ironic, given the inordinately bigger payouts available in the world of Big Oil and its financiers.

They proffered any and every alternative theory that could dispute it. If done in goodwill, this is fine: it is how science works. Some theories they mooted do have a bearing on climate change, such as solar activity. But none of them can explain the hockey-stick graph. Scientific process promotes the survival of the fittest theory for the facts in question, and this theory has survived all attempted refutations to date.

Then social media, that perfect channel for misinformation and deceit, came along. The think-tanks went into overdrive, morphing no longer defensible outright denial into weaselly ‘climate scepticism’. On the flimsy evidence of a misconstrued use of jargon, one climate scientist was harried into attempting suicide. All the alternative theories disputing CO2-induced climate change get rehashed into that digital miasma where critical thinking and rational debate is replaced with conspiracy theorising and gaslighting. It wouldn’t matter, but these people vote, yet are rarely exposed to contrary views. When they are, they’ve been gaslighted to dismiss them as conspiracy theories. The IPCC gets dismissed in this vein.

What can the rational person do? I ardently supported Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace for decades, but little changed. So, when the explicitly science-led Extinction Rebellion (XR) arose, I joined it in 2019 and participated in several actions. We did inspire Caroline Lucas’s Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, but that remained a Bill (it has since been revived as the CAN Bill – more on which in a moment). XR splinter group Just Stop Oil was even more disruptive, but still nothing changed, other than good young folk getting banged up in prison, our rights to demonstrate diminished, and the government cynically signing off more oil and coal production, with the laughable excuse of energy security.

Rationally, you would think that, with surveys such as this ONS survey showing about 75% of people are worried about climate change, acting on climate would be the most important political objective. Yet the Tories are now rowing in the opposite direction to the Paris Agreement, and Starmer has watered down Labour’s green initiatives on the grounds that we cannot afford them. Can we afford not to? Short-termism is the blight of all our politics but is particularly problematic for long-vista climate solutions.

So, one last push, I’ve joined Zero Hour. They are asking every Parliamentary candidate in the forthcoming UK General Election to commit to the all-party Climate and Nature Bill (aka CAN Bill) and to steer it to becoming law in the next Parliament. To persuade them, Zero Hour are inviting their constituents to sign up to declare that candidates will only get their vote if they commit. They are also asking local businesses and organisations to sign up too, flying their logos in solidarity.

Anyone who can vote in UK elections can sign up on their constituency’s page, found via their postcode. Local businesses, societies, schools, churches, and anyone else that wants quicker action on climate change can sign up as organisations.

I’m hoping that sceptics and humanists and their societies will sign up, and wave the flag of science and rationality, against vested interest and short-termism.

The post Zero Hour for climate change: the time is now to back the Climate and Nature Bill appeared first on The Skeptic.

Given the need for climate action has never been more urgent, Zero Hour and Extinction Rebellion are putting climate change firmly on the political agenda
The post Zero Hour for climate change: the time is now to back the Climate and Nature Bill appeared first on The Skeptic.