Global Warming. Global cooling. Everyone disappearing in a “cloud of blue steam”. We’ve had no shortage of induced alarm regarding the climate over the years even in spite of the fact that, time and again, the dire predictions fail. Antarctica isn’t the only inhabitable continent. None of our major cities are underwater. We still have the ice caps. So, what is it that keeps the population on edge and the “experts” churning out the dystopian visions of what is to come?
Let’s address the experts first. To do so, we have to look at what a scientist is and what drives them in their community. A scientist is generally regarded as someone who takes their knowledge and observations about the natural world around us and uses that to make wondrous discoveries or finds new, useful ways to use what we already have. It’s a tall order and most don’t really fit into that category. The majority of scientists will spend their time running various tests and going through untold “drone” activities day in and day out without any of the breakthrough moments that we romanticize define the field. Out of the multitudes of scientists in the world, how many find a life changing cure? How many devise new technologies that revolutionize an industry or a way of life? The ratio of those who do and those who don’t is extremely one-sided. If one was in that position and held those lofty aspirations when choosing their profession, how would that affect their sense of self? How would that inform their decisions? Could it, in some situations, push one to do things that would propel them to that level of “achievement” even if it caused them to make questionable claims?
Human nature tells us that the possibility is very real.
One could reasonably assume that this is what we see in the ongoing effort to produce one climate catastrophe after another. We have at least 50 years of one scientist/expert after another coming forth to let the population of Earth know that our days are numbered for one reason or another. Each one presents a claim that guarantees the extinction of our species or our environment or our way of life that MUST not be questioned. After all, they are “experts” and should not be second guessed in the face of such serious consequences. Don’t you care about the Earth? Humanity?
And if you disagree? Science denier! I’ve always found this slur to be particularly humorous. The very nature of science REQUIRES question. It requires those who believe in it to acknowledge that what is “known” is often only so until science moves forward to the point of new knowledge.. which can often put the old to a status of irrelevant. The very notion shows very clearly that those who call out “deniers” have no interest in one of the most basic tenets of the science that they profess allegiance to.
But why? Why would those who are CLEARLY working in humanity’s best interests want to shut down questioning? Want to shut down those who clearly believe that if questions still must be answered for a point of scientific relevance to be settled?
Multiple points of fear come into play. If we refer back to human nature, we can say without a doubt that fear is the most effective motivator. Humans have a tendency to be lazy. While we have access to more knowledge that at any other time in human history we know that the vast majority of us use it to keep up with celebrity gossip, distract ourselves and find ways to substitute the virtual world for the very real world around us. Each of us has the opportunity to be as knowledgeable as the scientists or the clergy of the past. In mere moments, we can know most anything that is known in the world. But we don’t.. because we just don’t care. Our level of civilization has made a place where we don’t have to worry about much that plagued the old world and so we sit back in our comfort and distract ourselved from the world that passes by as opposed to using this awesome power of knowledge that we have to try and master it. Fear changes that. No other emotional response will make someone take notice more than giving the impression that they will have their comfort impacted. The notion that, if they don’t stand up and take action, they will have their lives damaged in a way that they will never recover from.
Climate alarm can’t be successful without this. The impending dystopia is the mechanism by which individuals are rallied to these calls for action. A populace in fear is a populace ripe for manipulation. Merely showing facts and figures would never rouse people the way the picture of a barren wasteland would. Have you ever heard of one of these predictions that ever ended in a situation other than absolute desolation? Have you ever wondered how ALL of them can be predicted to produce the absolute worst, irrevocable outcome? Would anyone take notice if they ended any other way?
Another point of fear to acknowledge is the fear of irrelevance for the scientist. Imagine what mindset you might have if you devoted your life to study so that someday you might be the one who discovered something so mementous as splitting the atom or curing the incurable.. and came to the realization that statistically you’re more likely to spend your career studying the world changing accomplishments of others while never producing any yourself? Is it possible that would drive someone to extreme measures? Is it possible that someone could decide that by making predictions of the worst possible scenario, that they will most likely never be held accountable for, they could elevate themselves to this status of greatness that they envisioned for themselves when they embarked on this career path? With just a simple claim an individual could make more of themselves than what they could expect statistically? Produce just the right amount of panic and it’s easy to position yourself as a savior, a benevolent entity who stood against the oncoming disaster purely for the benefit of mankind.. and just happened to get some much desired notoriety in the process.
We also have to consider the harm that this kind of tactic can do. For those who question and are met with derision as opposed to intellectual discussion, we can safely assume that they will only be pushed even further from coming around the ideas proposed. Those who question do so because they feel that there are inconsistencies that they would like to have cleared up. To be answered with insults could only lead them to believe that there is no substance to a claim and further deepen their existing suspicions. Even if it turned out there WAS relevance to the alarm they would no longer even be willing to listen and then a real emergency would go unheeded. Think of it in the vein of the boy who cried wolf. Once a real threat emerged, he stood alone because he had lost the trust of those he had duped before.
True science doesn’t rely on fear. True science doesn’t rely on making claims of guaranteed destruction to gather people to a cause. If we are to claim that we are on the side of science then facts, analysis and pragmatism have to be the way. Don’t blindly throw in your lot with anyone based on the status of “expert”. Question everything. Analyze everything. The alternative is that after all of the “crying wolf” you’ll be standing alone when a real crisis arises.