Letters to the Editor

Not happy with Mr. Morgan

As a geoscientist who, for over 30 years, has followed the evolution of our scientific understanding of human-caused global climate change and its predicted consequences, Ivan Morgan’s recent (April 26th) column (“Whatever happens we have to endure it”) in The Shoreline made me groan out loud. According to Mr. Morgan he is not a climate change denier, but he has obviously absorbed the denial propaganda dispensed by the fossil fuel industry and its bought-and-paid-for lobbyists and political minions.

For example, he rolls out one of their favourite arguments, namely: Earth has experienced numerous natural climatic changes during its long history, and we are now in the midst of yet another. Yes, but the all-important difference today is that the net rise in atmospheric CO2 levels following the Industrial Revolution has occurred, geologically speaking, in the blink of an eye (not over many millennia), and at the fastest rate known from the last 300 million years.

In addition, Mr. Morgan employs another tried and tested tactic of the denial campaigners – attacking the credibility of the messengers. Even though the two are not remotely equivalent, he conflates the fact-based conclusions of modern climate scientists with the opinions of religious leaders some 200 years ago. Apparently, he does this because he hates orthodoxy. Presumably then, in an earlier age, he would have felt duty-bound to challenge the scientific consensus that the Earth is not flat and orbits the sun.

Critical thinking and questioning perceived wisdom are to be applauded of course, whereas gratuitous sniping and non-constructive criticism are not. Nowadays it seems that anyone with access to Google and Wikipedia qualifies as an instant expert; but as Andrew Keen notes in his important book “The Cult of the Amateur” (about the effects of the Internet and social media), “those who know most can be persecuted by those who know the least.”

Meanwhile, cynical opportunists continue to play upon people’s short-term self interest to score cheap political points by, for example, attacking a carbon tax – an economic measure that actually helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, their long-term “vision” only extends as far as the next election cycle, and strikingly, they never propose credible alternative solutions nor discuss the immense future costs and consequences of continuing with their beloved business-as-usual model.

Mr. Morgan also trivialises the perfectly justified fears of the young about the nature of the world they and their children are going to inherit and asks whether they are taught about World War II anymore. WW II lasted for six years, while the effects of what we are doing to Earth’s climate will last for many hundreds of years. As a result of the combined threats from anthropogenic climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and overpopulation, humanity is facing an existential crisis. Modelling suggests that the eventual death toll and destruction engendered by these threats will dwarf those resulting from previous catastrophes like WW II and, in all likelihood, by 2100 civilization as we currently know it will have been rendered unrecognisable.

To my mind, Mr. Morgan’s column encourages complacency and inaction, whereas what we urgently need is a global, WW II-style mobilization of all our resources to combat the aforementioned threats. Without such concerted action we will soon pass tipping points and initiate positive feedback mechanisms that will make runaway global warming a certainty. If that occurs it will create conditions that humankind will be unable to endure.

Richard Thomas

Portugal Cove South

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