Mark Lawson is a journalist at the Australian Financial Review noted for his climate scepticism and frequent posts on any climate change thread on The Conversation. Indeed, he is the frequent target of criticism by other posters for making basic errors of fact.
Be that as it may, in the comments section of the post reprinted on WtD, Mark made the following comment in relation to the challenge of establishing global agreements:
I have no quibbles with the article but the main surprise is that anyone seriously thought that an enforceable, global system for limiting emissions could be put in place in the foreseeable future. The immense difficulties were apparent before the Copenhagen conference in late 2009. Activists are only now reluctantly acknowledging this reality.
Getting the US to agree to anything nationally is simply impossible for the reasons the author sets out. Even the well-supported multi-state programs are largely tokens. As for the Chinese, there is big talk but mostly it’s all just hot air. A pilot program for emissions trading in a few cities doesn’t even apply to power stations.
Basically forget it. Come back in a few decades.
Yes – let’s just “basically forget it”.
Indeed, let’s do nothing at all.
Let’s be like Mark and throw our hands in the air and say, “To hell with you humanity, I can’t be ars*d!”
I’m certainly not underestimating the challenges climate change presents – it is truly a problem from hell.
Indeed, there is a real possibility it is beyond humanity’s collective efforts to respond adequately.
However there is a difference between articulating the complexity and scope of the problem and giving up.
Mark employs what I call the “Maginot Line Defence”: it is not so much an argument but the psychological process of moving from denial and/or indifference to defeatism:
Climate change is not real! > Climate change is not real! > Climate change is not real! > Climate change is not real! > Maybe it is real? > Oh cr*p it is real! > It seems like a hard problem… hmmmm > We should all give up!
The Maginot Line, for those who don’t know, was a line of fortifications built by the French between the First and Second World War to protect themselves from another feared German invasion.
When war broke out again, the Germans simply – and quite literally – drove around it.
This led the dispirited French armies to collapse in confusion. France fell in a matter of weeks, and the rest they say was history.
At the time the French army was regarded as the most effective fighting force in the world, however the French national psyche had been badly mauled during WW1. Millions had died in the trenches.
Those losses haunted the French in the decades following the Armistice of 1918.
And so, the idea of fighting another such bloodbath was intolerable to many of the French populace.
So they built a wall and hid behind it, feeling safe behind the imagined security it offered.
The rise of Hitler, new developments in military technology and the innovative combined land-air tactics of Blitzkrieg (not a term the German’s used themselves by the way) was a reality many people did not want to face and refused to even see.
Hence the inflexible, supposedly invulnerable, wall of defence built to shelter them from a threat without having to directly confront it.
Those who employ the Maginot Line Defence in the climate debate are doing likewise, but at the individual level – primarily to protect themselves from the uncomfortable thoughts about the future (something akin to terror management theory) or having to address thorny questions about justice and lifestyle change:
“Climate change real? That’s a change not worth thinking about!”
For many, the response is to hide behind a reflective – and reflexive – wall of indifference in order to avoid disquieting feelings.
But reality can only be kept at bay for so long: eventually it circumnavigates even the most artful defences.
It is then people can resort to defeatism:
“Climate change!” you now hear many sceptics and defeatist cry “…even it if was real, way too hard to solve! What are going to do about it?”
The solution they offer:
“Forgot about it – give up! Come back in a few decades!”
Perhaps these people won’t ever personally know someone forced to relocate due to rising seas, floods or collapsing regional economies in drought-impacted areas.
They may regard these as other people’s problems.
Do not they not have the right to ignore the suffering of others and prohibit such trivia punctuating their consciousness?
Of course they do: there is not – nor should there be – any compulsion for them to do so.
The garden of our soul is for us alone to tend.
But should we only consider our own well-being and short-term needs?
Is that an ethical way to move through the world?
Denial is not so much the refusal to accept scientific facts, but a failure to employ the moral imagination.
Those who employ their moral imagination have the capacity to imagine different futures and the suffering (or flourishing) of others; to pay attention to the pull of their individual conscience; and to acknowledge the impact they have as they move through the world.
Or – we could all just give up.