Sunday, March 1, 2009

State of the World 2009: Confronting Climate Change

So, I was reading that the American taste for soft toilet rolls is worse than driving Hummers. Not that lack of environmental concern is a uniquely American thing by any means, and then I came across this, recommended in a credible national newspaper:

PD Smith The Guardian, Saturday 28 February 2009

State of the World 2009: Confronting Climate Change Edited by Linda Starke Earthscan, £14.99

Published annually in 28 languages, this is probably the most authoritative guide to the state of the planet. This year, the 26th edition of the Worldwatch Institute's handbook focuses on climate change. It is packed with chilling facts about global warming. Within as little as 12 years, the impact of climate change will mean water shortages for as many as 250 million Africans. Arctic sea ice is now at an all-time low, and for the first time in recorded history it has been possible to pilot a ship from the Atlantic to the Pacific without travelling by way of the Panama Canal or Cape Horn. In the 20 years since climate change was first identified, greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 37%, and the rate of increase is accelerating. Welcome to the Anthropocene, the first geological age of our own making. As a species we find it difficult to think long-term, and this could be a fatal flaw. But the contributors to this essential primer on the climate crisis think it is not too late to act: "How we handle the challenge ahead will make for history on an epic time scale."

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1. American taste for soft toilet roll 'worse than driving Hummers'

Comment: I have been thinking a lot about this topic over the last few days since contributing to another blog discussion. Now I know I shouldn't do this. I shouldn't comment on a blog where the original post and the content of the subsequent string is clearly entrenched beyond the point of hearing an alternative perspective. It isn't just that I enjoy being the voice of dissent: on this topic I really feel evangelical.

I am not a scientist and a quick look on Google shows an amazing 20,000,000+ articles recognising or supporting the science of climate change and an equally impressive number supporting the counter argument.

Great. Where does that leave a Christian who wants to be a good steward? What constitutes a credible document?

I am not a scientist and so I am not on strong ground when I try to defend climate change, but equally I suspect those who argue against it are generally no better informed - and I have to say it, often less well so. I at least teach environmental ethics to Advanced Level exam standard.

I suggest an approach consistent to Pascale's wager: You might as well believe in God because if you are right you have won all but if you are wrong you have lost nothing.

The response to that analogy to climate change was, I felt, telling: "You have lost nothing? Only industries which are being destroyed!"

Why do I feel I am not having the same argument? Are we talking ethics or are we talking political self interest?

Why are some people determined to argue against climate change when that is by far the most dangerous option assuming that there were to be no compelling evidence either way?

Or is it just me?