Monday, June 11, 2012

Wild fire.

A wild fire is burning in the mountains near where I live. The smoke is thick, and it stings our eyes and burns our throats. It's making my little daughters cough. They couldn't play outside yesterday, and they won't get to today either. We're running an air purifier in our house, and we're thinking of buying more because it still smells like smoke in our living room and the fire shows no sign of slowing down. This could go on for weeks. Even months.

Fires are a natural part of the cycle of any forest in the western United States. What isn't natural are the thousands of dead trees still standing, red tufts among the green, made ready for the flames by years of rampant pine beetle infestations. The pine beetles have been loving the warmer winters we're had over the last two decades. These warmer temperatures were predicted by scientists studying how the climate would change due to man-made pollution. These same people are predicting that temperatures will continue to rise, which means worse tornados, worse wild-fires, worse hurricanes...

There are a lot of people who want to deny that man-made climate change is real. None of them are, however, climate scientists. Sure, Fox News can find the occasional weatherman to act as an "expert" and tell us all to go on using our lawn mowers and driving our giant cars. But a weatherman is not a climate scientist. He's a meteorologist. He studies local weather patterns and makes predictions on a small scale. The climate scientist is the guy who dedicates his life to studying long term global weather trends. Man-made climate change has been tested and re-tested and verified hundreds of times by thousands of scientists. Yet so many people refuse to believe it. Why?

I think a lot of it has to do with a distrust of "experts." Because some experts are wrong some of the time, in some people's minds, they think that means experts as a group are untrustworthy and foolhardy. But this anti-intellectualism isn't the whole problem. Huge corporations spend gazillions of dollars on propaganda designed to make everyone feel better about our present energy and transportation infrastructure, because these companies stand to make a whole lot of money harvesting non-renewable resources like coal and oil and selling it to the very people they're poisoning. Because of these huge propaganda machines, lots of regular people are fully willing to bet the planet that the true experts have got it wrong.

For the sake of argument, let's ignore the science for a moment and imagine there's a 50% chance climate scientists' predictions about climate change are wrong. I'm not such a gambler that I'm willing to bet the entire WORLD on a coin toss. Are you?


  1. Well said. Thanks for going out on a limb on such a political hot topic (no pun intended).

    Too many people, it seems, will believe a politician (or oil company executive) over a scientist. Hell, almost half of America doesn't believe in evolution because, you know, it's "just a theory."

    It's like many religious people I know who argue that if they live a pious life then, even if there's no heaven, they've lost nothing and gained everything by living a "good life."

    I tell them, for argument's sake, even if the current science on climate change is 100% wrong, what happens if you live a "green" lifestyle? You've preserved the environment, or even bettered it, for generations.

  2. Oh, I think that pun was fully intended.