Climate as a game-changer

From my window in Mediterranean France

Despite extensive scientific documentation there is a group of obstinate deniers of the urgent need for preventing an environmental catastrophe. Since Trump’s presidency we know how contempt for science emerges in the highest political circles as a self-serving argument but let us briefly consider what the more serious impediments to action are.

Climate change not caused by human action

The argument is that the Earth in its long history has known many climate shifts like warm periods interrupted by an ice age, etc. Scientific data, however, show that the rate of change is incomparable to earlier geological periods and that the cause of environmental heating (carbon-dioxide) is clearly man-made.

Global action implies losing national sovereignty

Yes, and rightly so, just like arms control which aims at preventing the nuclear disaster that would end human civilization. The argument that our national states are the most logical units for ‘feeling at home’ is often accompanied with the denial of climate change. The Dutch far right politician Thierry Baudet, who believes that the national state is the ‘natural’ political shell for representing human needs, is not coincidentally a raving climate change denier.

Political action aimed at environmental protection is bad for the economy

Direct action (like limiting fossil fuel consumption) is damaging for the industry and entails higher costs for consumers. A policy that would lead to impoverishment of the population would be political suicide. However, this argument does not account for the fact that many new technologies (like solar panels or electric cars) are a catching possession, and that cleaner air would prevent many illnesses and make health costs much lower.

What the latter argument and its refutation makes clear is that a new geopolitical order based on saving the ecosystem desperately needs a positive storyline. We do not simply curtail material pleasures but create a new challenging environment that enriches our mental and material life.