Follow the money on climate change

I’ve just spent a couple of hours trying to work out what makes climate sceptics tick by checking out some of their websites.

Apparently they, like their opponents, claim that science is on their side and they, like their opponents, are equally convinced that they are right and the other side is wrong, however the sceptics also seem to have this ‘we are the under-dog and proud of it’ mentality that would resonate with me if I could accept their side of the debate .

Quite frankly I like being an under-dog. There is something satisfying about not being one of the herd. Call me egotistical but I have always preferred marching to the beat of my own drum which is why I’m actually feeling rather disturbed at the moment. I feel like a flat-earther scoffing at Gallileo or Christopher Columbus.  Could the sceptics possibly be right?

To answer that question I went looking for science to solve my dilemma and found that there is a Goliath’s worth of science refuting all the sceptics’ arguments. Hmmm…. Goliath vs David. Logic vs gut instinct. Still very disturbed.

Clearly I don’t know enough about the science one way or the other to make an informed choice so what should I do?

Carry out a thought experiment, that’s what! I’m going to assume that the sceptics are right and I’m further going to assume that the status quo remains the same. What are the likely outcomes?

Assuming that nothing changes one of the obvious outcomes is that power utilities and industry in general will continue to work exactly as they do now. I already know that business as usual means making ‘things’ in the cheapest way possible. Up until now that has meant burning brown coal, flushing waste into rivers, streams and the ocean and generally not having to take responsibility for the damage all this activity may cause. The nett result of all this activity has been pollution, profit, employment and a high standard of living for those in the West.  So if the sceptics are right and nothing changes then we should continue to live comfy lives. Right?

Well  no, in reality that projection of the future has already changed because of the global push towards outsourcing and off-shore processing. Every industry has costs which include the cost of materials, the cost of transportation, the cost of plant and equipment, the cost of R&D and the cost of labour to name just a few. In the West the cost of labour is high because the workforce has become used to a high standard of living.  One way to reduce this labour cost is to automate. Another is to relocate your manufacturing to a country with lots of people and low wages. This process has already seen countries like China emerging as the new power houses of industry.

So for Western industries, off-shore processing and outsourcing have allowed costs to go down while profits have stayed high. This is a fundamental change in how they do business but it is a change that maintains the ratio between cost and profit. Clearly then, industry is not averse to change, it is only averse to change that reduces profits. For ordinary Westerners though this voluntary change by industry has already caused the emergence of an underclass with little money and few prospects. Many people fear that middle class, white collar jobs will be the next to go so the future is not looking so rosy after all.

And this brings me to the next part of my thought experiment where I ‘follow the money’. Clearly it would not be in industry’s best interests to have their costs increase so any kind of price on carbon, or pollution in general, would have an impact on profits, at least in the short-term. Therefore, if industry were telling me that climate change is real and that something must be done about it I would have to wonder what was in it for them? Were they secretly ready with startup companies producing new green technologies? Or were they perhaps looking for subsidies so they could invest in new green technology at the taxpayer’s expense? Or what?

But wait…silly me, I’m putting the cart before the horse! Industry is not trying to convince us that climate change is real, it’s scientists doing that. So what do these scientists have to gain? Fame and fortune? Hmmm… Given the way scientists have been reviled lately I don’t think fame is quite the word for it – notoriety perhaps. But what about money? Well, I guess they do get grants…but that money funds more experiments NOT Lamborghini’s so where are all these rich scientists?

Call me blind but I just can’t see why all those climate scientists would want to perpetuate such a huge hoax on the world. Unless perhaps they are all incompetent, or deluded. Yes, that could be it. Having studied and worked for decades to become the tops in their fields they have all suddenly come down with dementia. Thank heavens experts like Lord Monckton and scientists in completely unrelated disciplines had the courage to point out that all these poor, demented climate scientists were wrong.

Phew… I am so glad I cleared that up.  I don’t know what I was thinking. Doing something about this non-existent climate change would really mess everything up. Change to a low carbon economy? Innovate new, greener technologies that could give employment to millions? Clean up all the pollution so asthma goes away? I must have been mad…

Ok, thought experiment over. As much as it pains me I’ll just have to live with not being an under-dog on this one. Climate change is real and the consequences are going to be real as well if we do not collectively do something about it so….

Hold on! I’ve just had an epiphany! If the sceptics win the debate and nothing is done then history will show that voices like mine belonged to the under-dogs after all!

Why is that thought so depressing?

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

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