On Being Wrong

WAMC Audio for “On Being Wrong”

Dr Steven A. Leibo is the Sage Colleges Professor of International History & Politics.

For a professor of modern world civilization this has been quite a week watching a good chunk of the leadership of the entire planet gathering in Copenhagen to protect a significant percentage of human civilization from catastrophic man made climate change. But doing so by looking for ways to transition us away from the very fossil fuels we built much of modern human civilization with.

How dramatic can it get! And of course, as has been the case for decades, there in Copenhagen has gathered as well a nasty crowd of anti-scientific climate change deniers. Folks who have so gullibly bought the fossil fuel industries understandable efforts to protect their long term profits by orchestrating a massive disinformation campaign

But just for the moment it seems worthwhile to ask the obvious question. What are the implications of either group the deniers or the international scientific community simply being flat out wrong?-

Ok, maybe it’s a silly question but stay with me for a moment. Let’s just put aside that the world’s climatologists have more than a hundred years of solid research behind them. Forget that the academies of science of all the major nations in the world back their claims that we face a planetary catastrophe.

Just pretend we are simply dealing with two opinionated blocks fighting over some issue more opinion based then temperature measures and ask ourselves what if one group or the other is simply wrong.

I mean, so what really happens if those who so loudly insist we must move toward a carbon free energy future because humanity’s generations long burning of fossil fuels has upset the equilibrium of our fragile planetary heat balance are flat out wrong. What do we end up with?

Well, let’s see, in that case we end up well prepared to deal with the reality that the world’s sources of conventional oil, the very fuels that power the global transportation system are running out. Indeed the international energy agency just recently doubled its estimates about how quickly we are depleting global oil resources, estimating that those conventional sources will start declining by 2020, only a decade from now. All that will happen of course, during an era when Asian giants like India and China, are using more and more of the stuff.

Let’s see, what if the world’s scientific community is wrong? And we blow money building the infrastructure necessary to tap the enormous potential of the world’s wind, solar and geo-thermal energy sources. Well in that case we will have employed enormous numbers of people for decades to tap the green energy resources found within each country, jobs that in large measure can’t be outsourced. With the eventual result of having created clean and less expensive energy sources for our children. Energy that unlike fossils fuel are absolutely renewable resources

Yes, what if the climate scientists are wrong and we unnecessarily wean ourselves from our addiction to the petroleum products largely dominated by nations that so often despise us. Well then, God forbid, we end up less likely to fight wars over foreign oil fields.

But what if the anti-science crowd is wrong? What if they are wrong in their effort to block America’s transition to a clean green energy future. What if their wrong in their claims that all this climate crisis talk is poppycock.

Well, that’s an easy one. We’ll see increasingly flooded cities, millions of climate refugees fleeing the world’s coastlines from Florida to Vietnam. While the continental interiors of the world, from north central China to the American west dry out faster and faster. Less and less able to support the agriculture production we absolutely depend on while the world ends up facing massively higher prices for diminishing oil resources. And seeing America face an increasingly aggressive energy competition with the ever more oil thirsty nations like China.

While the millions employed by our petroleum based global economy find their futures destroyed even as the leaders of the anti-scientific denial crowd end their days with their grandchildren lining up to spit on their graves

About Steven Leibo

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This entry was posted in American Politics, The Climate Crisis, Uncategorized, US Foreign Policy, WAMC Northeast Public Radio Commentaries. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to On Being Wrong

  1. Bob Walquist says:

    Good points on Climate Change that no matter “who” is right, that it is in our best interests to change our behavior. The only problem that we have is that the people that must help decide these changes are politicians, who have a difficult time making hard decisions. I look at Copenhagen as a complete failure, and something that could set back the Climate Change movement for awhile. There are three major problems that need to be solved before we can move forward, and they all were on display at Copenhagen. they are (in ascending order):

    1. Time Element- We talk constantly about reducing carbon emissions by certain percentages over certain time periods. I believe the US has talked about reducing by 17% by 2020 or something like that. The issue becomes that the hardcore climate folks what drastic changes right now, and others want to phase them in. We hear if we do not act now it may be to late. Therefore no agreement can be reached. Here is a message to those who want us to reduce our emissions by 50 or 75% real soon, “Not Possible”! No matter if we wanted to, we could not get it done. Think about it. We cannot make change that quickly. How about a sensible plan that phases in new technology and reduces carbon.

    2. India and China- Let’s get real, those who claim that the US should reduce their carbon emissions more than India and China because we have emitted more in the past and shouldn’t hold them to the same standard should not be involved in climate change talks. Let’s say we reduce our emissions by 95% and don’t ask anyone else to do the same. Does anyone think that India and China will follow suit? No, what China will see is an opportunity to control more of the world stage. This is why no agreement can be reached without them. The US (rightfully so) will not make a deal that will destroy our economy. We may all die from the effects of climate change, but they are much farther in the future that mass unemployment, poverty, etc. This leads into the last point.

    3. Politicians- I want to try and not be to cynical here, but it is impossible. Politicians are human, and by the nature of their job self-preservationists. They talk a good game about being concerned about the future of our children 20, 50 years down the road. that sounds good, but in actuality they are concerned about now. Nobody cares what they do 20 or 50 years from now. They will be long gone, and they need to take action that will have effects now and help them get re-elected. Once in a generation is there someone who comes along that can transcend this and make a change like this happen. However can they get all world leaders to agree and make these changes on a global scale? That person hasn’t emerged yet, until then you will continue to have countries like the US not willing to play ball until China agrees, and not willing to pay African countries 100 plus billion for possible climate change damage only to see it go to dictators who will use on themselves. The last thing you will see is any politician agreeing to destroy their economy in the near term for some possible long term goal. That may be misguided, but is politics and human nature.

    I close with this, if climate change is a reality, then let’s do something about it. Something sensible, that we can phase in over a period of time. Something that all parties can get their hands around and make work. Is that solution out there?

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