An observation worth noting … and pondering, from Donald A. Brown:
US politicians frequently assert that it is an open question whether humans are causing the undeniable warming that the Earth is experiencing, thus exposing ignorance of dozens of lines of independent robust evidence of human causation including attribution studies, finger print analyses, strong evidence that correlates fossil fuel use to rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, and other physical and chemical evidence.
Although ordinary individuals may have no duty to go beyond their own personal opinion about the science of climate change, government officials who have the power to enact policies that could present catastrophic harm to millions of people around the world may not as a matter of ethics justify their refusal to support policies to reduce the threat of climate change on the basis of their uninformed opinions on climate science. This is so because government officials, unlike ordinary citizens, have the power to prevent or minimize great harms to millions of people around the world that mainstream scientists have concluded that their constituents or governments that they represent are causing or contributing to.
Donald A. Brown of Widener University School of Law has done a masterful job of covering the issue of ethics and climate change [here].
While his comment is directed to the outright stupidity of elected officials who find difficulty in dealing with facts and the considered opinions and expertise of scientists who actually study these matters, the observation is no less applicable to the state of our fossil fuel supplies and production.
Industry leaders are handsomely rewarded for their companies’ fossil fuel production and the many related services and benefits they provide. Media spokespeople likewise garner their own rewards and benefits—some quite extravagant, given the limited “service” they provide to the public.
When one’s primary interests in any endeavor and in any profession are not to maximize the good for the most but instead to maximize the most for the few, the rest of us are going to have some problems. It’s true in politics, business, energy supply, and climate … for starters.
Citizens would be wise to make use of their own skills and opportunities to start learning a bit more about these matters of great public impact and influence. Two sides of the story can always be found. Whether they’re volunteered or not is another matter.
If we can no longer trust leaders—elected or otherwise—to
prevent provide us with the best information available regardless of how it plays to particular ideologies or interests, then we need to find new leaders, and take it upon ourselves to learn what we must.
Better plans and adaptations can spring only from better information.
~ My Photo: at Coffins Beach, Gloucester, MA – 07.27.10
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