At the doctor’s office
Doctor: We’ve found a shadow on your MRI. We can’t be sure exactly what it is before we operate, and that operation will be painful, but there is a very high risk this is a malignant tumor. You could die!
Patient: What are we waiting for! Let’s act now!
At the IPCC
Scientist: We’ve found some very disturbing links between carbon dioxide emissions and temperature rise. We recommend immediate action, even if that action will be painful. Temperature rise is bad news and there is a very high risk that several hundreds of millions of people will die if we do nothing.
Politician: Let’s wait and see what happens.
Now swap the answers!
Do you trust a politician that has not been able to do what must be done when hundreds of millions of lives are at stake, but will (if they are wired like any sane person) risk suffering to save their own life?
Why is it that some people with fringe opinions aren’t “allowed in” on the conversation of their topic?
This could be creationists wanting to discuss the origin of the universe, or mankind, with a scientist, or alt-righters wanting to discuss immigration and integration policy with politicians from more established political parties.
One other example is the climate change denier wanting to discuss climate change with a climate scientist.
This, however, happens, and it is the key to understanding why no other scientist or politician wants to make the same mistake.
You’ve probably seen the debate? One scientist that claims climate change is not caused by humans and another scientist claiming the opposite (apparently it’s usually Bill Nye…) So, you sit down in front of the TV, keen on figuring out who of these two representatives of this deep division in the scientific community will have the best arguments and may be able to convince you to believe in their side of the coin.
The reality is rather what John Oliver did on his “Last Week Tonight” show (hopefully you can see that above…)
For every one scientist that doesn’t think climate change was caused by mankind, there should be about 10-30 scientists believing it was (depending on what sources you use).
The scientific society is not divided in two on this question, and most of the people against human-made climate change are either paid off, blind or lousy scientists. It’s also possible their sister is married to someone that owns an oil company…
Having the debate at all indicates there’s something to debate.
There’s a reason we never saw a debate between Stephen Hawking and some creationist about whether God created the universe or not. Hawking knew, and every other scientist knows that even having that debate, having that “Stephen Hawking vs Some Creationist Cucko” poster on campus would give the whole topic a weight it doesn’t deserve.
It would suggest this is an issue scientist are pondering, researching and trying to solve.
The same can be said about politicians not wanting to discuss if humans should be divided into groups, and how these different groups should be valued against one-another. Or whether our society should respect human rights or not.
Having that discussion would suggest every politician “has a proposal on his desk” (Achim Gercke, 1933) with an answer to that specific “question.”
I think everybody should be allowed to not have discussions about things they don’t find disputable.
They could be wrong, but when everybody really means everybody and not just everybody I know, it’s pretty much why extremists are not allowed to discuss at the grown-ups table…
But I am also very aware that the total lack of discussion or counter-arguments have allowed some right-wing extremist movements both in the US and Europe to gain votes just because they are the poor underdog not being let in on the discussion.
This allows them to spread conspiracy theories about who is trying to stop them, and how evil the establishment is. And being drama-starved, some people eat that shit up like ice cream on a Sunday…
Generally speaking, this is a problem humanity has faced many times and failed rather spectacularly at as well. One would think after the second world war and the rise of Nazism in Europe we would have learned… but I guess those who did learn from that are now in their graves (turning)… or in an elder care home, clueless… or helplessly wondering what the hell the grandkids are doing…
So, the reason that poor alt-right guy with all those witty comments on politics and especially politicians isn’t usually taken seriously is because his (or her) opinions on things like ethnicity, history or human rights is of the we’ve-been-visited-by-UFOs variety (oh, and that’s another group of people you’ll very seldom see in a discussion with an astronomer, for instance).
It’s not because of a conspiracy.
It’s because sane people realize there isn’t enough soap in the world to get clean after one has taken a dive into that shit pool.
The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C basically stating that 1.5°C will be bad, 2°C will be even worse, clearly indicating a maximum temperature rise of 1.5°C should be preferred. The report also covers several “pathways” to reach that goal.
I must confess, I haven’t read the whole report. But I am still going to suggest one thing we could do to keep resource usage lower. I don’t even know if it would impact greenhouse gas emissions, but I think sooner or later it will have to be done:
Going back to a replace and repair culture.
Replace and repair
I like my things, from my kitchen table and refrigerator to my mobile phone and my Mac. However, they all seem to follow the same philosophy of being used for a few years and then thrown away.
Take smartphones for instance. A modern, watertight phone is glued shut to be watertight. Trying to replace the battery requires it to be “broken” open and then it might not be watertight anymore if you’re even able to get in open in the first place without it shattering…
And yet. From an energy consumption point, a smartphone battery should possibly not be used more than a certain number of years. It seems after 2-3 it starts losing its charge pretty fast. After 5 you pretty much have to keep the phone constantly charging.
I could buy a new battery for my older phones, but newer ones, e.g. iPhones, seems to require that I hand the phone in for service.
Not to mention that the memory or processor can’t be replaced at all.
Another example. Refrigerators and freezers. A refrigerator/ freezer should be replaced after a while. Because they might leak freon, and they will use more power to reach the same temperatures.
However, is it really required to replace the whole unit? How about a repair that replaces only the parts that may leak or over consume power? I don’t see how the case should have to be replaced as well… but sure, make it higher quality and one might be inclined not to want to replace it.
Twice the price / twice the quality
In fact. My basic theory here is that if the quality of things increased, and parts could be replaced to upgrade them and make the need to throw away and buy new decrease, the cost for nature would be lessened.
For instance. A mobile that lasted twice as long, would use half as much resources … I’d be willing to pay twice the price (obviously! :))
To make this happen, though, the mobile might need replaceable parts (memory/CPU/battery) but mobile manufacturers would also need to slow down with the new-model-race.
Sure, they need to make their money and compete and all…but the whole point here is that they have two choices (like any other manufacturer of “the model of the year”-products from cars to TVs and so on) either compete and make money today, to see pretty hefty climate effects tomorrow, or think about the climate effects today… and see a much brighter tomorrow.
Beyerdynamic gets it right!
Let me offer an example of what I’m talking about:
My Beyerdynamic earphones.
I got my first pair back in… I think it was 2003 or 2004. I got my next pair last year. Yup, that’s 13-14 years lifespan.
Sure, they cost me 1500 SEK (that’s about USD 165). Pretty steep for a pair of headphones (they are in fact pro studio quality) but then again, divide that by 13 and you get a price per year of about $12.
How many years does a regular pair of earphones last and what do they cost?
Maybe you have a pair that would be on par with my Beyerdynamic’s… or better… but then again… I made a mistake when I bought my new headphones, because, guess what?
They have replacement parts for basically everything on the headphone… so my broken ear pads or the worn down headband cushion… I could easily have replaced only them.
Although, when I compared the old headphones with the new I realized the speaker elements in the old ones was pretty worn down. Literally no base at all. However…
You can even replace the actual speakers!
The only thing I think can’t be replaced is the plastic cups for the speakers. (But you’d pretty much have to jump on the headphones to break those…)
If every manufacturer followed this example the resource usage would be minimal!
Sure, studios might devour earpad cushions by the kilo, but they also have the option to keep them longer if they want to.
I believe in the new gadget economy, the price we should be most concerned about isn’t the price in money, but the price in resource usage.
And the best way to make that price as low as possible is to increase the quality and lifespan of products by embracing a replace and repair culture, rather than the use-and-throw-away culture we have now.
Besides, it would create new jobs.
Or, did you think I’d try to do the thing on the IKEA-compile-like image above myself? I’m pretty certain my earphones would never be the same again if I even tried…
Is the climate changing?
Was it caused by humans?
Regardless of the answer, think about this: If you’re going to argue humans does not cause climate change, then what?
What causes it? How do we stop it? Can we stop it?
Or are you just going to sit with your arms crossed, shrug your shoulders and hope the problems will solve themselves?
Even if there was little evidence climate change was caused by humans (there isn’t — 97% of Climate Scientists says so) I’d prefer to err on the side of caution and act even if it’s not needed rather than not acting and finding out later that I should have because it was needed.
I also hate not being in control, so I like to believe that we are causing the problems and we can fix them by changing our behavior.
The alternative would be too horrible:
We’re facing an extinction event. We don’t know what causes it. All we can do is pray and hope. But, since we didn’t cause this, God probably hates us. We’re fucked! Let’s jump off a cliff…
Although… if every climate change denier did jump off a cliff, we’d probably be halfway to solving the problems just there and then… Ok. That’s a joke. Don’t jump off a cliff!
My point of view does not mean I argue for a total ban of fossil fuels right now. That’s a ridiculous and reality-deprived standpoint. And, seriously, what real debater would think that was the answer?
But fossil fuels won’t last forever, so why not start looking for the alternatives right now anyway?
The winners of the future are… cough-Musk-cough…
The debate about climate change is running hot (no pun intended) through most political avenues. You may support the notion that it is caused by humans, or you may not. In fact, you may even question that climate change is a thing. But are we debating the right thing? Or are we missing the forest for all the trees?