Why we should be more optimistic on climate change

@Washington Examiner

A number of years ago I was at a friend’s house listening to records. “One day” he told me “you’ll be able to switch on your TV and choose exactly what film to watch, what music to listen to.” At the time, this was the most implausible, futuristic thing I’d ever heard. I need hardly say how true that prediction became.

Interesting opinion piece in the Washington Examiner  criticising “black hole” scientist Stephen Hawking for his political statement that

“Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid.”

I agree. With the author, that is.

Like Venus? 250 degrees? Sulphuric acid? No need to panic then. Not that life for the planet is rosy, far from it. Climate change is happening. And clearly we are all having a major hand in it.

But let me put this to you. If a delegation from some evolved species of aliens came to visit, what would they see?

  • mess everywhere
  • scientists issuing grave warnings to politicians
  • humanity making and selling things we know harm the planet

But also

  • wringing our hands in despair while still not doing enough

The real problem is not the situation, it’s our stuck-ness. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. We don’t have faith in science
  2. We don’t have faith full-stop

We don’t have faith in science
Science got us into this and it can help get us out of it. It’s appalling that a leading scientist like Hawking can throw out such baseless negativity. If science can produce… flying drones, 3D printers, … you-name-it, why do we suddenly lose faith when it comes to finding solutions for climate change?

But even worse, scientists should be leading the way, not issuing domesday predictions.

We don’t have faith in anything
We are addicted to bad news. To make things worse, the news media thrives on turning out bad news:

“A billion people are incredibly happy today” doesn’t shift papers.

What we should be reading is how science is discovering new ways to deal with climate change. Also how governments are leading people to change their habits and millions of people are mobilising and getting together to try and find alternatives, ways to beat this.

My mother once told me there were thousands of people predicting the end of the world when WW2 started. We’re still waiting.

Predictions are not reality
The real prediction is, if we do nothing plastic will outnumber fish, we’ll all fry, and so on. But if we start to do something we’ll clear up a lot of this plastic and the fish will continue to outnumber the plastic. Taking action changes reality.

Stephen Hawking should know better. Imagine if he said 30 years ago “there are no black holes and there’s no point looking”. No one would have heard of him today. It’s scientists we are relying on to help fix things, not tell us how hopeless it all is.

Science and technology can change our reality
In 1950 the idea of a person flying to the moon was pure science fiction. Video phones were fictions, something you only saw in a James Bond film.

In the 1800s millions suffered from diseases that are completely controllable today, including smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, yellow fever, whooping cough, polio, and measles. Imagine if, instead of discovering penicillin in 1928 Alexander Fleming had thrown up his hands and said

“no point, it will never work, we’re doomed!”

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