Agreed: We could argue for days on the subject of climate change.
But in the end, we’d be arguing about the impact of an indisputable fact: The burning of massive amounts of fossil fuels. That is what’s responsible for the sudden increase in global production of greenhouse gasses, at least by historical standards.
All of the culprits blamed for global warming—transportation, animal agriculture, industrial activity—are ultimately driven by the burning of coal and oil.
On that much, hopefully, everyone can agree.
But those who deny that climate change is happening at all, or who insist that it has little to do with human activities, have to explain how thousands of scientists from dozens of countries could be dead wrong in their measurements of atmospheric CO2, average ocean temperatures and satellite imagery of mountain glaciers and Arctic sea ice. And why and to what end they would perpetuate what some want to believe is a giant hoax.
Hard to convince anyone that all the scientists are all wrong in their data collection; harder still to explain to what end they would fabricate such an elaborate fraud.
The idea that all the research, all the data analysis, all the scientific scrutiny of objective, measureable data points can simply be dismissed because they don’t align with one’s political posture represents a rejection of the same science that supports animal breeding, livestock nutrition and veterinary medicine—the cornerstones of modern animal agriculture.
Yes, there are natural “climate cycles,” as critics are fond of noting, but they occur over centuries, or even millennia, not in the span of a single generation. We are approaching a crisis, even if we turn our backs and pretend it isn’t happening.
What’s known and what isn’t
But before getting bogged down in argumentation, let’s stipulate what we don’t know:
- We don’t know and cannot precisely predict the extent, the progression or the short-term impact of climate change.
- We don’t know exactly how warming temperatures in the oceans and across continents will affect weather patterns, rainfall or crop production.
- We don’t know which strategies would be absolutely the most effective countermeasures to mitigate the growing presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The list above is all a matter of speculation—not as to whether those dynamics exist or not, but as to precisely how and when their impact will be felt.
But what we do know, what we can measure, what is rapidly becoming a scientific certainty is that by doing nothing different in regard to our consumption of fossil fuel we can be guaranteed some extremely serious consequences for food production, national security and energy availability.
That’s because for all the hot air we waste arguing about the extent and eventual impact of climate change (let’s be grown-ups here and get past the idea that climate change is just some big phony fraud), we’re also wasting time. The time it will take to invest in and develop alternative, renewable sources of energy. The time it takes to develop and commercialize food crops able to withstand hotter temperatures, longer summers and drier weather. The time it will take to create and construct systems of transportation, fuel production and energy usage that focus on efficiency and conservation.
Not only that, but every step we take to reduce fossil fuel consumption, every dollar we sink into renewable energy production, every gallon of gas or barrel of oil we don’t burn provides innumerable benefits beyond and besides any slowing down of climate change.
Even if you remain unconvinced that we need to worry about burning up the planet someday, within our own lifetimes we would gain substantial benefits by weaning our society away from its addiction to coal and oil.
And here’s one last thought for anyone who still maintains it’s all a hoax: Do you really believe that the Defense Department, the U.S. military establishment, with its own intelligence apparatus would be clueless when it comes to determining whether climate change is a security issue or not? Would you really make the argument that the Pentagon brass just aren’t smart enough to figure out if a bunch of scientists are conspiring to perpetrate a fraud?
Because they aren’t, and they’re not.
In fact, the Navy is deeply engaged in planning right now for the eventuality that by the end of this decade there will be ice-free sea lanes across the Arctic, and is desperately engaged in trying to determine how that will shape military policy and defense preparedness.
They know what’s coming, even if some us pretend we don’t.
That’s a fact, and you can look it up.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.