Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The New Old-School Environmentalism

“Climate change data might have been cooked by the researchers at blah blah blah...”

That's about as far as I got into the story about East Anglia University recently.  This all happened just ahead of the Copenhagen climate thingy that's going on now. 

If I sound poorly informed, it's because I am.  Happily so.

Are we still talking about global warming?  Does anybody else see this for what it is?  The climate change issue is, at best, an erudite scientific debate that people are hoping will dictate environmental policy that ought to be based on common sense.  At worst, it's a political straw-man seized upon by the anti-environment lobby because they knew it would be a sticky mess and divert the dialogue from the real issue. 

There, I've just written what should be the key word in this debate twice.  Everyone ready for a big surprise?  Environment.  Not climate.

Everybody talks about climate change and global warming like if we could just all agree on that one way or the other, the problem will go away on its own through our collective prayer.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s great that we finally have something on which to blame the weather, unbridled force of nature that it is.  But it doesn't matter that this July was hotter than usual, or that you remember it snowing more when you were a kid.  Weather is weird everywhere and it changes everywhere (except Southern California).

The real issue at stake is the health of our planet and its myriad species, be they cute, hideous, or just kinda-funny-lookin'.  The global warming apologists of the world want tighter industrial regulations, protections for threatened biomes, energy efficiency, less pollution, etc.  They want the exact things that environmentalists used to want simply because they were the right things to do.  Protect life, keep our air and water clean, and find sustainable ways to exist without destroying the planet. 

Sounds good, right?  Who can argue against that?  Some, maybe many, but not most.  But who can argue about scientific findings concerning an issue as big and as old as the planet itself?  Just about everybody.  Enter environmental opponents, erect straw man.

I'm not saying climate change doesn't matter.  It makes me sad that salamanders and joshua trees may become extinct.  But the solutions we've devised to combat global warming are the same as the solutions we have for general environmental destruction and pollution, so stick to the argument with the stronger evidence and get to work.  Don't waste time arguing the finer points of our demise when the tools are readily available to stop it.

Most importantly (for an English major anyway), it’s still acceptable semantics to say someone either “believes” or “does not believe” in global warming.  I believe that anything that is still commonly referred to as a “belief” should not dictate policy.