Climate Change and Sharks

Image by Hermann Traub from Pixabay

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.

6 thoughts on “Climate Change and Sharks

  1. You’re not wrong. But the fact you single out adolescents and specifically male adolescents says a lot about you and your fears. There are more relevant ways to engage with epistemological issues than engaging in psychological projections and psychobabble.

    Google “climate change epistemology” and you’ll see how deep the rabbit hole goes. Don’t cherry-pick!


  2. I have just read about Churchill having a much needed relaxing swim (naked as the day that he was born). This was shortly after he had spent 3 weeks in the White House during WORLD War II, negotiating with FDR. Dear old Churchill went down to the Florida sea shore. Risky swim for him, but then he had destiny on his side. Can’t you just see him wallowing in the rough waves like some big dolphin losing his footing from minute to minute? BUT Churchill knew his maps and his history .

    Now we get to Trump and his operational dysfunction in the frontal lobe! Can’t the stupid man see all the obvious signs of planet catastrophe? OR is his defective brain just carrying on not caring a “fig” about anything but himself and his OWN short term survival. Like a teenager he is viciously dabbling with stuff to the detriment of all of us.

    And where is Melania in all of this? She spends an awful lot of time having a coif and painting her nails. Is she biding her time? If so she must be made to see that time is running out for her young son. Flying too near the sun may be more of a risky business than she appreciates. Funny that the TRUMPS like the colour yellow, particularly the hard variety. Icarus came to a very sticky end.


    1. “Now we get to Trump and his operational dysfunction in the frontal lobe!”

      What evidence to have to be able to claim that?


      1. F68.10 Are you receiving me down there in the rabbit hole? The last I heard the executive function depends on a pretty well functioning frontal lobe, but perhaps you think it is else where? Ask the “White Rabbit” !

        “It grows curiouser and curiouser”said Alice.

        Epistemology …. now there’s a word for you!


      2. Yes I’m receiving you perfectly well down there in my rabbit hole.

        I do not see any problem with executive functions in Trump. Far from it.

        Wikipedia: “Executive functions (collectively referred to as executive function and cognitive control) are a set of cognitive processes that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior: selecting and successfully monitoring behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals. Executive functions include basic cognitive processes such as attentional control, cognitive inhibition, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. Higher order executive functions require the simultaneous use of multiple basic executive functions and include planning and fluid intelligence (e.g., reasoning and problem solving).”

        Trump’s functioning perfectly well on many fronts in these areas. He’s politically misguided, that’s clearly my opinion, but I perceive absolutely no problem with him when it comes to executive functions.


  3. Are we playing the blame game already? We adult Canadians continue our lifestyle of gas run cars, flights south for winter vacations, water in plastic bottles, purchasing out of season fruits and vegetables which have to be transported across a continent, braising beef on the BBQ, buying new synthetic oil based clothing we don’t need. Major carbon producing corporations fund our pension schemes. Only recently summer wild fires and unusual floods have lead us to pause and reflect a little on what scientists have been telling us for years. The truth is we would rather relax with Netflix than read a climate report. We focus on the short term and the personal. At best, we will plan for floods in our neck of the woods rather than the causes of a dying planet. Why do we choose blindness and inaction in the face of a perilous future for all creation? Why do we ignore the scientific and political leaders who attempt to effect positive change? Addressing the issue would require self reflection. It would require both personal and societal change. It would require sacrifice. Apparently we prefer to go on our habitual merry way to oblivion and blame Trump for it. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.

    Liked by 1 person

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