Having just watched Greta Thunberg’s appeal to the United Nations [ https://youtu.be/TMrtLsQbaok ] a friend asked me, “So Mr Logic, what’s the logical way forward with all this?” Well, in the time-honoured tradition, I have risen to the task.
It has always seemed to me that logic requires a degree of clarity. To that end, I propose that we first state/accept that, as a result of human activity, global temperatures continue to rise with potentially catastrophic results.
[Please note that I am starting from the premise that global warming is real and a deadly threat based on the observation that the scientific evidence is overwhelming and compelling to the extent that there is no rational/logical way to contest it!]
In line with what I was asked, I would like to propose that we define the question to be answered to be: What is the best strategy to employ in order to prevent a global warming catastrophe?
UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM
OK, my attempt to use logic to define the main cause of this problem is probably the first part of this blog that is likely to be controversial.
You see, it is not the fact that we are increasing, year on year, our level of industrial activity that is inherently harmful. We could, in theory, double our energy usage whilst cutting CO2 emissions significantly! It would simply require the replacement of fossil fuels with renewables! Wind and solar power for example.
The same goes for the population explosion. Just like more industrialisation, having more people doesn’t help, but you could double the world population and still cut back on the emissions, that having even more people might be expected to create, if you could just modify their behaviour sufficiently.
So, although there are many bad things happening that contribute to global warming, they are not the real problem. The real problem, although something that may seem obvious when revealed, remains hidden from view, for most of us.
Perhaps an anecdote would help here.
When I was about five I sat in front of our black and white TV whilst a woman spoke of her devotion to Jesus. To my utter astonishment, she said something that, to my innocent mind, seemed impossibly strange. She said, ‘I choose to believe’ and throughout the conversation, she said it several times. You see, in common, with Greta Thunberg I have a type of autism that, whilst it may render us less able to do certain things than would be the case if we were ‘normal’, it does, perhaps, enable us to excel in others. We see the world through the filter of logic and we never, ever get to choose what we believe. What we believe is imposed on us by evidence and logic alone and we don’t get a choice in the matter. So, to see an adult actually indicating that what she believed was determined by how she felt about something, seemed utterly ridiculous to me then and frankly, in that respect, nothing much has changed since then.
I now believe [based on the available evidence] that the biggest single source of humanity’s problems, past and present, is this tendency for ‘normal’ people to ‘choose to believe’. To select those things they choose to believe are true or false based primarily on how those choices make them feel, leaving them wide open to all sorts of confirmation bias, conspiracy theories, propaganda and indoctrination. Open to all sorts of, what to us ‘logicals’, appear to be absolutely ludicrous mystical and irrational belief systems.
At its core this explains why Germans thought they were better than Jews, Jews better than gentiles, Turks better than Armenians, Japanese better than Chinese, whites better than blacks and so on… why the majority of people walk around thinking that there is an invisible man who magicked the universe into existence and, for some reason, loves us all. This, of course, being why we have suffered centuries of religious conflict, the burning of witches, self-flagellation, pointless crusades and the enthusiastic activities of the Spanish inquisition for example. (You could probably lump most terrorism and a vast array of other nefarious activities in amongst that lot as well if you like. I won’t hold it against you, but I’m sure there are those that would!)
So it’s not people that are the real enemy, it is the way they think!
When I watched Greta Thunberg’s address I felt her rage and her frustration, but I saw something else. Confusion. Her mind simply could not make sense of a world where people ignore its slow, but inevitable destruction. I know all this because, unlike her, I’ve been around a long time and I have had time to work it all out. I remember that same confusion that I felt when I first realised that the USA and USSR were building enough bombs to kill us all several times over. That is probably why she said, “You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency, but no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil.” She was wrong, however. President Trump, for example, is more than capable of understanding the situation, a child could and Trump is not necessarily evil. What is happening here is this. He believed his route to a successful, and possible two-term presidency, lay in an extensive ‘rejuvenation’ of the American economy via reindustrialisation and that acting to reduce carbon emissions was incompatible with that aspiration, so what did he do? He chose to believe the global warming doubters and he chose to believe that there is no real danger at all. That global warming is all mostly fake; exaggerated etc!
Now I don’t propose that I know the source of this phenomenon. It may have evolved, along with our increasing intelligence, because it helped counter the adverse effects of becoming aware of the somewhat bleak and irrelevant true nature of our existence and, perhaps, the knowledge that if we are lucky, we are going to grow old, no doubt suffer and then die!
I suspect that it is quite possibly, partially subconscious, but the fact that people can often be heard to say, “I choose to believe” would tend to suggest that somehow, it is also often the product of some sort of conscious intent. In any event, the reason why this happens is not something I am able to discern, the fact that it does is, nonetheless, an observable fact.
So, that, believe it or not, is the real reason why we have a global warming crisis. Armed with this knowledge a number of approaches to solving this problem might be suggested and that is the subject of the next section.
You could try, maybe through education, to change the way people think, so that they all become logical beings like me and possibly Greta, but even if that was desirable, changing a world dominated by Dr McCoys and Capt Kirks into one full of Mr Spocks is something we don’t have the time or the means to do!
You could continue to rail against the behaviour of the general public, demanding, begging and cajoling them into changing their selfish ways, but there’s a reason why that has and will continue not to work. Sure you can tell Mr Jones that from now on he should cycle to work in the rain, no longer jet off to sunnier climes for three weeks a year with his family and, of course, give up the burgers and the Sunday roast.
The problem is that humans are basically selfish beings. They don’t want to give up their creature comforts and constantly telling them that they should tends to just make them feel guilty. At least that is the case with the ones that believe you until of course, they choose not to! Disseminating information about required/desirable lifestyle changes is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but in the long run, doing so is not going to save the world. In the end, most people will simply choose not to believe you!
What about civil unrest? Last year, in London, we had ecology protesters interfering with transport links. I saw pictures of people sitting on the tops of tube trains, for example, successfully creating a considerable amount of transport disruption. So, let’s put ourselves within the mind of one of the passengers. Maybe late for work he/she gets a dressing down from the boss. “That’s the third time you have been late this week, you know about the protesters. What, you think this is some kind of charity? Just get your arse out of bed and get here on f***ing time” Or imagine that you’re trying to explain it all to your inconsolable daughter whose birthday party you just missed. It’s the sort of thing that makes people very angry. Even people that might previously have believed in the cause. This situation, within their minds, creates a kind of uncomfortable dissonance. They believe that there is a global warming problem, but, at the same time, hate the people that are trying to do something about it and suddenly, to the angry traveler, the protesters now seem like a bunch of extremists. So one of two things can occur within the traveler’s minds to resolve this dissonance problem:
1. Conclude that, given the importance of the global warming problem, their blind rage is unjustified.
2. Choose to believe that their rage is justified because the extremist’s concerns are not!
Want to guess which they will choose?
Well, even though I like to keep my personal feelings and opinions away from this website, I think I should say, that the protesters who carried out these selfless acts, knowingly put themselves in grave danger for a cause that they believed in. They knew they were unlikely to get out of the situation, unscathed. They couldn’t even have been certain that they would survive it, but they did it anyway, not for their own benefit but, rightly or wrongly, for the benefit of all. I can’t think of a better definition of courage than that.
A climate change protester being dragged off the top of a tube train before being punched, kicked and stamped on by an angry crowd.
So, although I’m sure you are already aware of where I’m going with this, just to be clear, I would like to say that, laudable though these protesters actions may be, it is sadly the case that they may also be counter-productive. You see, they may not just be turning the public against themselves, they may also, inadvertently, be turning the public against what they believe! That there is a climate change emergency!
So what, you may ask, would work?
As you might suspect, saving the world is never going to be simple or easy, but I believe there is a path that, logic would seem to suggest, is the one most likely to be successful. Rather than dive straight in and start preaching I think, lest my proposal seem a little outlandish, I should firstly set out some of the circumstances that have led me to the above conclusion.
1. To cut a long story short, I wrote a book, got trolled by a troll on the Amazon review page, I complained to the Amazon complaints department and got nowhere. Then I wrote an email directly to Jeff Bezos, the man who owns Amazon and is possibly the richest man in the world. To my surprise, he responded and ordered the offending insults removed. The point being that I am not famous or even particularly well known, so if I can do that…
2. Based on my observation of human behaviour, I have come to the conclusion that most people are largely driven by their emotions. You can tell them, the people of the UK for instance, that among the many deaths (34,361) so far, approximately 27,000 people have drowned, many of them children, whilst trying to illegally migrate to the UK. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/20/the-list-europe-migrant-bodycount)
Sure, they will acknowledge it’s a bad thing and ponder it for a moment but show them this:
The body of just one of the many innocent children that have died this way and suddenly the ‘normal’ people are all mortified. This terrible, sad picture then appears on the front of every national newspaper and is the main subject of every news broadcast in the UK for almost a week!
3. For the reasons I have set out above, it would not be possible to basically shame enough people in to giving up the things they love. Sure some will, but nowhere near enough. You can’t expect to change human nature overnight so all you, at best, could hope to achieve would be a slight slowing of the process, but there is a group of people who could very easily stop global warming and these people are the politicians. Shouting and ranting at politicians, for the reasons set out above, will not work. They will always follow to where they believe their best interests lie. But they all have an Achilles heel. Even dictators must try to remain popular if they want to stay in power and in democracies the vote is everything.
So what I propose is the following. We need to persuade people to just do the one simple, painless and yet most powerful thing they could ever do to help solve this problem. Draw an ‘x’ in the right box! How do we persuade them? Well, we know that people are generally driven by their emotions so rather than fight that tendency I would suggest it be accepted and used, just as it has been by propagandists over the centuries, but this time to our and, of course, humanity’s advantage. So sure, tell people about and explain climate change:
But far more effectively, show them climate change:
An island home before being completely submerged by rising sea levels.
Safe Britain where Annie Hall was recently swept away and drowned by floodwater.
What happens when your hunting grounds just melt away.
There are many more harrowing pictures that I could have shown you, but those of you who have got this far are not the ones that need convincing and the climate change deniers? Well, they won’t be reading these words, will they!
So, you might ask; why I don’t do this myself? The answer is that to be effective this sort of stuff would need to be popping up on the computer screens of the world on a regular basis. Maybe once a week. For this to work, it would have to be carried out on a very large scale. That would take money and expertise that I just don’t have, but I have already communicated with someone who does!
And Jeff Bezos recently donated $2 billion via the Bezos Day Foundation set up to help the homeless.
Bill & Melinda Gates recently gave $35 billion to their Charitable Foundation and others.
Warren Buffett also chipped in with $37 billion.
In 2017 Mark Zuckerberg donated $1.8 billion to his foundation. Back in 2013, $1 billion.
It is believed that that Elon Musk’s Foundation secretly hands out billions on an annual basis.
These are the people who have shown, by their actions, that they are capable and caring individuals concerned for the well-being of others. People that could provide the funds and expertise to do this:
To create a completely non-political, one issue website/blog that would be boosted/pushed to nearly every personal computer screen in the world.
So far we have seen some very compelling television programs outlining the nature of global warming and the need for urgent action, but what has been largely missing is clear, easy to follow instructions on precisely what the viewers should be doing about it. This blog, as well as ‘showing’ global warming should, most importantly, be identifying the politicians who are taking appropriate action and those that are not and then indicating, purely on this basis alone, who those concerned about climate change should vote for and against. Who they should support or oppose. This would give almost everyone a very easy way to do something effective about global warming.
Recently we, in the UK, as a result of a general election, were been bombarded with environment centric sound bites. ‘A greener economy’ ‘self-sustainable’ ‘tackling the climate emergency’ were phrases that British politicians were shoehorning into their public speeches. Just one example of the misleading nature of these sound bites (as we see yet another price increase in the cost of train travel, forcing more people out of the trains and into their cars) is the fact that the installation of solar panels in the UK has recently fallen by 94%. And the reason? A government pledged to, and repeatedly promising “a greener economy” has cut solar panel installation subsidies and feed-in tariffs.
And here is another one:
Another well known British politician was promising to plant 2,000,000,000 trees by 2040. That represents the entire paraphernalia of digging a small hole and planting a tree occurring 190 times a minute for every minute of every day and every night for the entirety of every year until 2040. That’s just over 3 a second. Clearly, that was never going to happen, but even if it did and in fact, even if the entire UK economy was to somehow become completely carbon neutral tomorrow, it would make almost no difference to the climate crisis at all!
The UK contributes barely 1% of worldwide CO2 emissions!
So there, in a nutshell, is a perfect example of the problem that needs to be fixed. It’s a global problem and I think most people are aware that politicians can’t always be relied upon to honour their promises. However, if enough people, around the world, started responding to the blog/website, then it would be a problem that would tend to fix itself. Politicians, seeing what was going on, would soon begin to realise that choosing to believe in the climate emergency, and therefore acting accordingly, would now be the politically expedient thing to do and that putting out slogans and sound bites and then doing nothing or perhaps making things even worse, would not! The world would be watching what they did and not just listening to what they said! You see that fact is, unless the ‘powers that be’ can be persuaded to stop setting carbon neutral targets off in the distance, presumably for other people to achieve (2050 is a common one) and start taking the sorts of actions that are urgently required to actually counter global warming now, this problem is just going to get worse. Much worse!
Just some thoughts and possible objections:
I suspect that some people would say something along the lines of, “This will never work because people tend to vote on the basis of loyalty to a particular party and expecting them, en masse, to change their voting habits is fanciful and unrealistic”.
To this, I would say that this objection, in fact, highlights one of the reasons why this tactic might actually work quite well. You see, the loyal block votes often tend not to be the ones that finally determine who does and does not stay, or get into power, and the politicians know this. In the UK we call them ‘swing voters’. Voters for whom political parties are not like football clubs to be supported come what may, but are the ones who will change their allegiance dependent upon how they feel about individuals and/or their policies. These are the people, across the world, a blog like the one I propose would need to be affecting.
Others may ask, “Who is to say what it is the politicians should actually be doing?”
What I see going on at the moment looks a lot like a sort of, ‘scattergun’ approach. Some protesters doing something here, a television programme there, speeches and a whole raft of articles on the internet and in magazines for example.
My hope is that this website/blog would draw on the knowledge of the world’s leading experts in order to define exactly what it is that should be done by each and every administration to counter global warming. To develop a surgical approach precisely targeted, through voters, at those most responsible for global warming, with clear and unequivocal requirements. Some ideas might be a requirement to provide significant funding to assist in the installation of solar panels, funded perhaps by putting tariffs on products that result from unsustainable beef production, palm oil and hardwoods derived via the destruction of the Amazon rain forest for example. The imposition of a landing tax at airports to help fund the development of far less damaging aircraft that in turn would, of course, be allowed to land tariff-free, might be a good idea. With political will, a great deal is possible, for example, twenty years from now we could all be flying about in carbon-neutral electric planes. Sounds like science fiction?
How about now?
Then there are wind farms. The UK is such a windy island that we could easily produce enough electricity, from wind farms dotted around our coasts and rural areas, to power the country to the end of the century. The technology already exists and the installation process, given the scale involved, is actually quite straightforward, but nobody has set about doing this or for that matter, is even promising to do so. Perhaps that needs to change, but to be honest, I’m not an expert in these matters and it would seem to me that the best people to determine what the followers of this blog should be requiring of their representatives, should be the experts in the field.
Some might ask, “What about countries like China and Russia whose governments seem largely independent of public opinion?”.
Definitely a problem, particularly since China is the worst carbon polluter in the world, but countries like these still rely heavily on the west for their commerce and this gives our politicians considerable power to influence them! Banning or putting heavy tariffs on ecologically immoral products might well have a considerable effect and don’t forget that even if you’re a dictator you still need to worry about your popularity.
Some might suggest that I am just asking everyone to vote for the Green party or the equivalent, but I think that to work, this site would have to be completely apolitical and focus only on what the people in power are actually doing and those likely to obtain power are promising to do. Given the obvious urgency of the situation (at least obvious to me that is!) I do not believe we have the time to waste on protest votes etc. It seems that the best way forward would be to focus on getting appropriate action as soon as possible.
Many would say that we should (somehow) be targeting the large international companies, but just as it is irrational to expect Mr Jones, to cycle to work in the rain, forgo sunny holidays and give up the burgers and the Sunday roast. It is the case that it is also completely illogical to expect companies to unilaterally take sufficient action to solve the climate change problem by themselves. Mr Jones would be able to see that his neighbour, Mr Smith is not taking these actions and therefore he and his family might well ask why the hell should they! (It is also the case, of course, that Mr Smith might be thinking exactly the same thing!) A similar thing happens with companies. You can’t expect company ‘A’ to take action that it perceives, rightly or wrongly, will disadvantage it when competing with company ‘B’ and of course the same thing works in exactly the same way the other way round. After all, changing the way you operate normally incurs costs. In some instances, massive cost!
Would you risk upsetting your investors or even bankrupting your business to save the world for everyone else, including those that would inevitably replace you in the market place? What we need to deal with this dilemma is something that is perceived to maintain ‘a level playing field’ for all concerned and there is one way and only one way that this could ever be provided! It’s called legislation!
So I believe this site could perform three vitally important functions. It could:
1. Provide compelling evidence of the horrific damage global warming is already doing.
2. Indicate which politicians are carrying out appropriate actions to mitigate the problem and those that are not, with the strong suggestion that those concerned about global warming should use their votes accordingly.
3. Offer advice/ instructions, provided by experts, regarding the sorts of actions that the politicians should be taking.
Just another thought. Although I might be able to do a passable job of running such a site, I am sure that there are those who could do a much better job than me. People who are already respected and listened to. People like Sir David Attenborough or maybe Greta Thunberg herself. After all, it was her speech that prompted the question I have responded to here in the first place. There is also a certain Mr Gates. When he has time away from saving millions of lives by eliminating Polio and improving sanitation for the poorest of us, I am sure he could do a passable job!
So can I now ask you for a favour:
If you have got this far and agree with what I have proposed here, please send this on to your friends etc. The more people that see this the better and the less likely it is that the rest of the Amazon rain forest will end up looking like this:
The Amazon Rain Forest
Did you feel my pain as you viewed these images? If you did then know that the whole world should be feeling that pain right now and that is something you can do something about. Share this with your friends because this is the logical way to save the world!