As the Copenhagen summit on climate change hovers into view, it seems like everyone is being drawn into it- like waiting for an ingenious twist in a Mexican soap opera. It has certainly got people talking.
One of my friends is a sceptic- infact his scepticism is so strong that he has also become a sort of world-weary cynic.
For him not only is the science behind climate change still unclear, he sees the whole narrative as being a sort of power play in which the developed world tries to keep the developing world in a state of underdevelopment. My friend thinks the Copenhagen summit is a waste of time.
But aren’t the stakes too high to justify scepticism as a default position? After all if the scientists are right, then mankind is heading merrily down the road marked ‘environmental apocalypse’.
However if my cynical friend is right and climate change is a hoax, then the costs of adjusting our behaviour are much less.
In fact, it will provide immense benefits to the planet by driving innovation and creating cleaner technologies. In fact, in this narrower sense, whether climate change exists or not is immaterial.
If man behaves as if he does, the positives arising from these actions will far outweigh the negatives. This certainly is not the case if the climate change science is completely accurate. And it seems to me that any short-term economic losses will be rectified in the long-run.
“But, my friend argued, isn’t it suspicious that most major companies-including oil corporations- have joined the bandwagon? They know they have something to gain. They see this as a business opportunity.”
This might reinforce people’s cynicism, but I don’t see what is wrong here.
Climate change plans would be on life support if the world’s major corporations continued to ignore these calls for change.
If the new shift gives them the opportunity to maintain their profit levels, there is nothing wrong with that. After all, tackling climate change is not going hand in hand with the utter destruction of capitalism as we know it. If I’m mistaken on this point, I certainly did not get the relevant memo.
Like many others who do not quite buy into the orthodox view that climate change is real, my friend also called into question the capability and agenda of the scientists creating these climate models.
For one, how can something as unpredictable as long-term climate be modelled accurately? Yet scientists have consistently predicted these patterns.
These predictions have occasionally gone awry- I think we all remember El-Nino coming out of nowhere a few years ago and catching the scientists with their pants down.
However by and large, they have been accurate, and this has been backed up by the vast majority of experts in the field.
The only other explanation would be that there is some kind of giant conspiracy among them to hide the truth or at least to pretend they know.
However that would be absurd because a) There would be no valid reason for it b) That would require a large-scale conspiracy among thousands of reputed scientists the world over. Even James Bond films would not abuse our intelligence with a plot along those lines.
SO let us be positive about Copenhagen. Scepticism is always a good starting point, but when the potential costs are so high then pragmatism must take its’ place. At the very least, we will be talking.
The author is a lawyer with Trust Law Chambers