By Dr David Laing Dawson
I was reading today about the “climate change deniers” Trump is putting on a panel, The Presidential Committee on Climate Security. One of these people has publicly compared our demonizing of CO2 to Hitler’s attitude toward Jews.
But, overall, the tone that strikes me most is that of adolescent thinking processes.
That’s where sharks come in.
If you ask a child the simple question, “Would you swim with sharks?” almost all will quickly and firmly say “No.”
If you ask an adult if he or she would be willing to swim with sharks the answer comes quickly and in the same form as the child’s. “No. Are you kidding?”
But if you ask the same question of a teenager what often follows is a pause, some consideration and deep thought, some partial sentences, some qualifications, some reasoning such as, “Well, humans are not the natural prey of sharks….so…”
They are exercising their newly formed reasoning processes, often arriving at something like, “In a supervised pool, with a well fed shark, and ensuring that I am not bleeding anywhere, I think the odds of surviving are pretty good, so yeah, maybe I’d try it.”
Similarly the adolescent male’s reasoning process can arrive at the following conclusion: “I think there is an 80% chance that I can make this sharp turn driving at 100 K an hour (in mom’s car) without crashing, so let’s go for it.”
What is missing is perspective in the adolescent thinking, and in the climate change debate. An 80% chance of winning would be wonderful at a casino, and not too bad for a necessary heart operation. But not for taking unnecessary risks with one’s life.
Risk benefit analysis requires a pretty clear understanding of the potential long term results for self and others. This is often a task for which the adolescent brain is not yet equipped. This is not always a bad thing. For it is our youth, our teenagers, who are willing to embark on a journey with only 10% chance of success.
The consequence of persistent global warming is the destruction of human life on this planet, preceded by years of increasing turmoil, migration, wars, destruction, suffering. Though not of my life or the lives of Mr. Trump’s proposed panel.
Is man made CO2 the cause? The cause or a major contributor?
The facts and the science support this to be the case with a small percentage of doubters. If the consequences of being wrong were minor we should let the argument continue. But they are far from minor.
Even if the odds were only 40% that man-made CO2 is a major contributor, we are not adolescents and so, considering the stakes for my grandchildren and their grandchildren….
And therein may lie the problem. Though Trump’s experts have adult brains perhaps they do not have the ability to imagine what life will be like in Africa, India, the small islands in our oceans, out coastal communities, our plains, and for our grandchildren – that is, for others.