Monday, November 20, 2006

Global warming deniers miss the point

If skeptics refuse to accept that human behaviour is causing global warming, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, that in itself is of little importance. Even if governments choose to remain skeptical, it hardly matters. What does matter is that, regardless of their skepticism, they are morally obliged to act as if it's true.

Allow me to offer an analogy. Let us assume CSIS reports to the government that 99 per cent of its agents believe terrorists are planning to plant bombs in Pearson airport that will blow everyone in it to smithereens. Skeptics in the government might very well respond by saying they can round up a number of agents (if CSIS has 1,000 agents, they could round up ten) who don't believe this, who insist it's an unproven theory, and therefore there's no pressing need to do anything. This would, of course, be a profoundly immoral approach. If 99 per cent of the government's experts say the threat is real, then the government, regardless of who it believes, has no moral choice but to act decisively and powerfully to protect the airport. The risk is simply far too great to do otherwise.

With global warming, we are not talking about the security of a few thousand people in an airport, but about the security of six billion people and a good many other species as well. If 99 per cent of scientists believe we are changing the climate, and they do, then governments, regardless of what they believe, have no moral choice but to act decisively and powerfully to protect the planet. With one per cent of scientists to play with, skeptics can easily round up a few dozen to challenge the established wisdom, but that is entirely irrelevant.

So let's by all means debate global warming ad infinitum, but in the meantime the moral imperative is unequivocal: we must act as if it's real.


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