For years, I have heard scientists lament that, despite the evidence ‒ that is now agreed upon by at least ninety five percent of scientists ‒ and the facts regarding human induced climate change, governments and people seem to be heading like lemmings on a suicidal course en masse. We are on the Titanic having set sail without enough life boats and we have been warned about the iceberg in our path. Yet the band plays on while we dance.
Climate scientists are mystified by this, and have turned to the social sciences for an explanation. In part, the answer to this conundrum seems to be, that humans are often irrational and believe what they want or need to believe until the truth and its consequences are unavoidably present.
Many scientists, like James Hansen, have warned us for decades about the greenhouse effect. His paper in the eighties predicted many of the impacts that are now occurring. These include the melting of ice sheets, increasing extreme weather events and loss of species. Hansen equates our failure to act as the equivalent to knowing that a giant asteroid is approaching earth, having the means to avoid it, yet doing nothing to stop its catastrophic impact.
The seminar concluded with a warning. Unless we seriously cut our fossil fuel usage leaving 80 per cent of coal reserves in the ground we were relentlessly heading for four degrees of warming.
This looming reality, of the fear of stranded assets, has lead the coal industry to doggedly oppose putting a price on carbon in this country, as though in a race to sell off horses and buggies as the car industry emerged. There was resistance and disbelief in the rise of the ‘horseless carriage’, now the fossil fuel industry debunks renewable energy as though it will never be as ‘reliable’ as good old coal.