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