Environmentalists Need To Listen to The Science – Conservative Article
Point of Information
It’s not just environmentalists; we should all listen to the science – A Labour Response
This piece did make me giggle, I initially thought it was satire. Oliver did bring up a lot of points, some good, and some (more importantly) just wrong. Let’s go through them.
1. Environmentalists don’t listen to science
Honestly, I don’t think this is a totally unfair observation. It is inevitable that when you have a widespread movement made up of multiple groups from different backgrounds, people will differ in opinion and practice. However, exactly for that reason, such a generalisation is unfounded. Climate science is the foundation for most climate activism. Without it, we’d probably be unaware of the danger that global warming poses to us.
Obviously, climate science cannot faultlessly predict the future. Rather, it can only gather evidence and research to make predictions. This is exactly what ‘the ice caps will be gone by 2014’ was. A prediction. Weirdly, I had never heard this, so I looked it up. It was actually Al Gore, a politician (aka not a scientist), who touted this in 2009. Most of the climate scientists did not back this prediction.
Despite the inherent uncertainty of climate science, nearly all climate scientists do agree that ‘billions dying, widespread starvation and regular deadly natural disasters’ are inevitable consequences of climate change. Scarily, this is not a far-off future. We are beginning to face these consequence now: extreme weather events are occurring more frequently, according to the UN; the scientific model that said climate change will cause 250,000 climate-related deaths annually was found to be too conservative a prediction. A UN report concluded that we only have 60 years of topsoil left for agriculture (although this has been heavily contested).
Ultimately, certain factors of climate change are disputed amongst climate scientists. So much depends on factors we cannot control or know. For example, many climate models do not take into account the snowballing effects triggered by certain tipping points. These include the permafrost melting, Amazon rainforest dieback, or West African and Indian monsoon shifts. Nevertheless, the one thing that all climate scientists agree upon is that climate change’s results will be catastrophic and the future apocalyptic.
2. Environmentalists (commies) actually only want system-change
Again, a fair point because most environmentalists do, in fact, want system-change, myself included. This is primarily because our current system of neoliberal capitalism prioritises profit over the environment. It is premised upon the exploitation of both people and natural resources (primarily people and resources in the Global South). So, when concerned for the planet, it makes sense to oppose the system that is responsible. Oliver even admits that he ‘has no idea what system change would involve’. My advice: research it and talk with environmentalists to understand such a position. Here to help if you ever want to chat.
As highlighted, Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a prominent group that advocates as such. XR is far from perfect, its tactics (as outlined by Oliver) have been extremely ostracising and elitist. However, I think it’s also important to note that climate scientists have to present their research neutrally. What’s more, their data is often too inaccessible and complicated for most people. XR’s role is the opposite; it aims to inspire climate action and political revolution. As noted earlier, hyperbole is a politician’s best friend and so the same tactics are used by XR.
Personally, I do not see much wrong with this due to the difficulty of comprehending climate change as a threat. Humanity evolved to be psychologically unable to prioritise a long-term, existential threat over short-term concerns (such as the economy). Consequently, election cycles of five or so years make it unlikely that voting will produce the action necessary to avoid the worst consequences of greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Environmentalists are against nuclear waste
Actually, there are just as many environmentalists who promote nuclear waste than there are those who dislike it. One of the most prominent is James Lovelock, literally the climate scientist who created Gaia theory. He argues that we do not have enough time left to experiment with other, safer resources. To him, renewable energy such as wind turbines or solar panels would not produce enough energy for us all.
Many agree with him, citing how nuclear energy is low-carbon, is not intermittent (unlike renewables), and is relatively cheap to run. However, for many, the risks outweigh the benefits. The examples of Chernobyl and Fukushima are enough to make anyone wary. When nuclear energy goes wrong, it goes seriously wrong. Ultimately, it’s a matter of opinion of whether one fears a nuclear meltdown more than the sixth mass extinction that we’re currently experiencing.
Overall, I would stress that everyone should be listening to climate science. I beg, please do your research before spreading dangerous misinformation around. Climate denial is partially why we have been so inept at combatting climate change.
Written by Senior Labour Writer, Abi Smuts
The science does suggest we should be worried – A Liberal Response
While I share Oliver’s frustration that more needs to be done to tackle climate change, I fear the framing of the science in this article is incorrect. The “hysteria” of the environmentalists cited here might be an “artistic liberty”, but that does not change the reality that the science does give us a lot to be fearful of.
Climate science, like all science, has areas and degrees of uncertainty. What is near certain however is that the cumulative effect of CO2 and of other greenhouse gases is of paramount concern. There is a growing body of evidence which suggests a worrying time lag between emissions and the increases in temperature and shifting weather patterns.
The point is, science is telling us that while the effects of climate change are not imminent (although it is likely weather patterns have begun to be influenced by Climate Change) we are likely reaching a ‘tipping point’ in which we will have started a sequence of events which will harm the planet beyond any hope of human control. That is why there is “hysteria” amongst climate activists and academics. The fear is that we are not doing near enough to prevent this first domino from falling. Hence, why people like Extinction Rebellion are demanding radical change.
Not knowing when the climate will disastrously change is not the same as knowing it won’t happen to us, the current generation. It also ignores the already negative impacts it is having in parts of the developing world. If the arctic permafrost completely melts, which is possible in the near future, 100 years worth of methane will be emitted. This is enough to increase the prevalence of it in the atmosphere 12-fold. Methane is between 28-36 times more potent for warming compared to CO2. Such an event would most likely be the end of hope for us to prevent the worst, leaving the wealthiest and most able countries scrambling to adapt while the rest suffer.
While the nuclear debate is an interesting one, I feel Oliver does not portray the risks associated with nuclear waste to its full extent. Its long-term storage is expensive, space-consuming, and dangerous. Whether you consider it a necessary evil or something to avoid comes down to the extent you are willing to burden future generations. It is also a cybersecurity threat. Although all electrical grids are vulnerable, you can only disconnect a wind-turbine, not create a nuclear bomb out of one.
We need to take significant action, which is why Extinction Rebellion are being so disruptive. The actions we take today are all but locking in extinction down the line. That is not alarmist, that is what science tells us. We do not have the luxury of time. I cannot condone all that Extinction Rebellion has done. Nor can I support upending the entire economic system. But I do share in their anger that things are not being done fast enough.
Written by Junior Liberal Writer, Daniel Jones