In March 2007 the British Ch4 offered a documentary under the title The Great Climate Change Swindle. This documentary criticizes what it calls the so-called scientific consensus on human made climate change. Of course this documentary has been hotly debated – but given the fact that it is extremely well made, it manages to create more confusion at a moment when all of us should unite to develop both mitigation and adaptation strategies with regard to global warming, and when a political space and will should emerge to allow for this.
I want to take my bearings from some reflections by Peter Tom Jones and Vicky De Meyere in an excellent article that will be published very soon in the Flemish-Dutch periodical Streven under the title “Het verbeten tegenoffensief van klimaatsceptici”, “The Stubborn Counter Offensive of Climate Sceptics”. In their article they first stress the urgency of the climate issue, based on the IPCC reports: the earth is warming up and human beings are the main responsibles for it (a fact confirmed in an article in the August 2007 issue of Scientific American: The Physical Science behind Climate Change). In a second move they rely on the war of trenches waged by the climate sceptics and illustrated precisely in The Great Climate Change Swindle. The confusion created by the climate sceptics touches on various levels: is global warming real? are human beings really responsible for it? is the problem really so serious as the climate scientists claim? does it make sense from an economic point of view to tackle the problem forcefully right now? Of course, climate sceptics also question the personal integrity of those scientists who warn for human made climate change. Our authors refute all those arguments. In a third move they attempt to look for the origins of climate change denial in the perspective of social psychology. The fourth and last move is a call to concrete action at individual, political, juridical, economic and educational levels.
I don’t think that we can continue to seriously doubt human caused global warming, even if we still have to learn the precise extent of it (reports, such as on the melting of arctic ice, seem to indicate that it is even more serious than our usual models predict), but these are rear battles that should not occupy us too heavily, given that now is the time to take decisions and to move into action. I hope religious and political authorities will understand that. I say “hope” as I see that this is not yet the case and that politicians and religious leaders, for various reasons (economic and political self-interest, distrust of science, etc.), as well as many of us who are frightened by the perspective that sustainable life for all requires profound changes in our life styles, are practical climate sceptics unwilling to pay the price of action and commitment. Therefore, this is also a spiritual and an ethical issue. It may help to realize that the globally unsustainable life styles of a few mean distress to many human companions, and that global warming will first and foremost strike the poorest of our fellow human beings. This should trigger in us creative and productive anger and compassion.