It’s one of the most popular taboos among younger and older people. An inconvenient topic between developed and emerging countries, between the West and the Rest of the world. The climate. Dividing us instead of uniting us.
A matter of a more and more probable human responsibility. Guess what? a small terrestral being capable of changing the rhythm of rain, snow, draughts and average temperatures!
Revealing all the human emotionality. A wide spectrum of sentiments and reactions: from a total lack of interest and a tactical denial, to a more or less sincere concern and beyond, hyperactivity on the climate issue.
Skeptics long lead the run, among the scientific community. In France, former Minister of Scientific Research Claude Allègre defended the right to doubt the climate change. Apparently ‘true merit is recognised when one’s back is against the wall’. Maybe didn’t he take the opportunity to climb up alpine glaciers in order to observe, scientifically, the quick melt-down? Not a tiny one. Just follow the signs on la Mer de Glace, nearby Chamonix. And ask the elderly highlanders.
Elsewhere, climate skeptics sometimes join forces with « politics skeptics ». They distrust and fear this carbon affair, just another trick to raise more taxes. On paper, a carbon tax should allow any wise government to reach a great opportunity for revenues. Indeed solving the « carbon issue », this atom accumulated and stored underneath our feet during millions of years, will take quite a while. Provided the economic machine doesn’t slow down, hence shrinking the tax base!
So what shall we answer them? That it’s time to surpass Socrates? That our knowledge has made huge progress. Like at school, do we have to remind that the invisible hand doesn’t work apart from of an aboveground theory, blindly separating man’s culture and earth’s nature? That it’s also time to break up the artificial boundaries between different knowledge. That laisser-faire is an open door to chaos, and that a wise regulation is possible?
Skeptics managed, for a while, to distract us from the climate question. It’s a fact: the common man is quite short sighted, mainly focused on the short run. Plus he can’t stand opposite figures, too abstract and often scary. He runs away from misty and heavy probabilities! And despite record autumn temperatures and flooding rainfalls in France, then came the news of another record snow episode in the US, that amplified our sense of incomprehesion of what is really going on. However nowadays the skeptics block starts to crack among the most conservative side. So that even some pension funds start challenging oil and gas giants and demand carbon action plans, which may look like a death row threat, according to a recent FT news. No to mention more ambitious alternative funds, deliberately aiming at virtuous capitalism.
Climate change, if actual indeed, found its main foe: our perceptions. A urban way of life, daily air conditionned comfort in homes, cars, public spaces and offices have eventually turned ourselves into disconnected beings. Disconnected to climate reality and variations. Strangely, on the one hand we tend to overreact to daily weather changes, overexcited by the media buzz and short term focus. Cold waves are depicted as the latest calamity. Any snow flake make us panicking. On the other hand, we’ve become almost insensible to seasons variations over five, ten years and beyond. Collectively amnesiac of past days weather. On top of that, the wealthiest men and women live in the most temperate areas on Earth, the less sensible to climate change as a matter of fact. A quite different situation than the least « lucky » inhabitants, living down the rivers, prone to floodings. Quite a different perspective too for people living in polar regions or tropical zones. These are hypersensitive to climate change – not us.
No doubt we would experience it differently if we remained living in the countryside with less air conditioning and indoor occupations! Eventually, the climat issue is a mere victim of our cognitive disharmonies. Because we don’t all live in flooded Gard or Hérault divisions nor in the melting Alps (see OECD’s report on economic consequences, issued 15+ years ago). Nor are all Americans gathered only in South California, facing repeated forest fires and extreme draughts.
So let’s go crazy and assume this all was fake! Try to stick to an optimistic and dissident view on the climate topic. Forget the « hockey stick » scary curves, symptomatic of CO2 and world temperatures inflation. What if climate change would just be another natural event? Still there is a quite long list of (other) challenges ahead.
History matters, and it’s never one-way. Former problems, environnemental and sanitary, we solved or are about to be, from asbestos to tobacco (well, it’s under way…), from the hole in the ozone layer to acid rains. Sure, as we turn digital, there’s a rat race between technology and our society. However, no matter how hard, it will always and only take a minority of active and organized people to make the change happen, be it locally or globally.