Those arguing climate change issues use lots of studies, analysis and reasoned argument to make the case for and against. But the vision behind the science seems to be driving most of the passion and anger between the camps.
When the climate consensus team talks about climate change, for example, they will sometimes compare it to lung cancer, a fatal and malignant disease. They speak of skeptics as the type of patient who dismisses the doctor’s warnings and continue to puff away.
And yet, if the IPCC is to be believed, the medical condition climate change resembles would actually be closer to either obesity or diabetes–conditions that can and must be managed, but crucially, can be managed.
The Consensus vision of the future is apocalyptic–it seems to be informed by cinematic images from Waterworld mixed up with Mad Max. This colors their thinking and their emotional reaction to arguments from those who disagree.
Those who disagree have their own cinematic version of the future, but it varies depending on how strongly they disagree. I’m sure there are some true-blue skeptics that picture The Sound of Music when they think of the future, or some other bucolic landscape that is unpolluted and ever-beautiful.
Personally, I think some global warming is in our future and it won’t be a good thing. But I don’t see Kevin Costner or Mel Gibson battling Smokers or even Tina Turner–maybe more like Tina Fey…
My worst case scenario looks like Bladerunner–rainy, overcrowded, dystopian, with some technological marvels sitting alongside overcrowded pedestrian malls. We’ve already got the electronic billboards–I guess the Replicants are next.
And I don’t even think we’ll get to a worst-case scenario. Take the recent heat waves in Moscow and flooding in Pakistan and China. These are touted as the types of event that will become more common as global warming progresses. And I can see that as a possible future.
But if that’s the worst global warming can throw at us, we’re okay. We can move people out of harm’s way more efficiently and manage urban populations to reduce the effects of heat waves and floods. It will be expensive to get better flood control systems throughout the developing world, but they’re doing it now–China has 10 more giant dams planned for the Yellow River, which killed 2 million people with flooding 120 years ago. Muscovites would be better prepared for heating with a little more air conditioning and a little less vodka.
The point is, I think our mental visions of the future color our speech when we try and discuss this issue. What worries me more is that I think it colors the thinking of some, as well.