Three Good Reasons For Not Giving A Damn About Climate Change

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My passion for social justice has earned me a lot of labels over the years. I've been branded unpatriotic (because of my friendships with Muslims). I've been called anti-Semitic (because of my commitment to Palestinian human rights). I've been told that I'm a disgrace to the church (because I'm too concerned with feeding bodies and not souls). And, of course, I've been called a leftist ratbag.

One thing I've never been called though is a 'tree-hugger' or a 'greenie', and there's a reason for that. In all my writing, speaking and campaigning, I've never once focused on the environment. Even the subject of Global Warming has tended to leave me cold (pun intended).

It's not an oversight on my part, though I must confess that my primary reason for avoiding focusing on the environment is an emotional one. Environmentalism has always struck me as a lazy alternative to real activism.

It's easy to get worked up about saving baby seals when you're not remotely dependant on the fur trade to feed your family and it's easy to join a climate change campaign when you're at no risk of losing your job if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. It's MacDonald's activism - low cost, pre-packaged, with questionable long-term value.

Of course that's not the only reason I've been hesitant to get involved in the Climate Change debate. A more obvious concern has been that not everybody agrees on whether climate change is a serious issue

I've found a number of attractive conspiracy theories that see the whole 'global warming scam' as part of an elaborate plot to form a centralised world government and so rob Americans of their right to carry guns etc. And after all, wasn't the alert sounded by Al Gore - a politician! Why would a politician ,make so much noise if he didn't have a political agenda?!

The problem we have in all of this of course is that most of us struggled to get through high-school science and so we don't have a clue where to start when it comes to assessing scientific data on climate change. So we have to trust the experts, but which experts should we trust?

Mind you, a little research shows that the number of serious scientists who still reject Global Warming is roughly the same as the number who initially fought to maintain that the earth was flat. It seems now that almost every expert worth his salt has come to support the conclusions reached by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - that the world is definitely warming and that human activity is directly responsible (see Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis).

The Wikipedia summary on the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change goes so far as to suggest that "with the release of the revised statement by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in 2007, no remaining scientific body of national or international standing is known to reject the basic findings of human influence on recent climate change."

None of this is to say of course that the conspiracy theories aren't attractive, but at the same time, my guess would be that the most likely people to be hatching conspiracies about global warming would be those with the most to lose if greenhouse emissions are decreased, and that's not Al Gore!

A third issue that made me suspicious of the Climate Change agenda is the biodiesel controversy.

Biodiesel is a bio-degradable alternative to regular diesel, made from vegetables and animal fats, which makes it sound like a fantastic alternative to fossil fuels until you take into account that every tract of land used for biodiesel production is one less available for the production of food!

There's a lot of dispute over exactly how much of an impact a major transition to biofuels would have on the world food economy but the current picture looks foreboding. More biodiesel means less food production, meaning higher food prices. And the persons who would be hardest hit by that are, of course, those who are already hungry!

Of course, bio-fuel technology is still very much in its infancy and, over time, far higher volumes of fuel may be able to be produced from far fewer crops. Further, a lot of research and development is currently being put into so-called 'second-generation biofuels', made from non-edible crops, residues and waste. In other words, a switch to biodiesel may not always require a trade-off between fuel and food.

So it seems that the Climate Change agenda may not be at odds with the fight against world hunger. On the contrary, the two may be positively linked, since if climate change is going to have an adverse effects on the world's weather patterns, the first persons who will feel the brunt of those adverse effects will be the poor!

I think of the 'natural' disasters. that have hit this region in the last few months - flooding in the Philippines, earthquakes in Indonesia, and the tsunamis that wrought havoc across Samoa and Tonga. Who were the persons who suffered the most in those disasters? The most vulnerable of course - the poor, the hungry and the homeless.

Were these disasters the direct result of climate change? One could argue the point but it shouldn't affect our stance on the issue. If the scientists are right we can expect to see an increasing number of disasters like this across the globe, and we know full well that it will be the same group of people bearing the brunt of any environmental collapse.

And so I've changed my stance on the Climate Change issue. Call me a leftist-ratbag-tree- hugging-greenie if you will, but don't tell me that I've shifted my priorities away from a concern for the poor and needy. For I've come to realise that if you're going to be committed to the poor, you do need to give a damn about the world they live in.

Why did it take me so long to work that out?

Rev. David B. Smith

(The 'Fighting Father')

Parish priest, community worker, martial arts master, pro boxer, author, father of four

Get a free preview copy of Dave's book, Sex, the Ring & the Eucharist when you sign up for his free newsletter at

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