Friday, August 15, 2008

Why Can’t We Do Anything About Peak Oil and Global Warming?

One of the mysteries of the age is the public complacency concerning peak oil and global warming. The evidence is there. Both are extremely serious problems. They must be addressed immediately. The consequences of not doing so are serious. Yet the answers being promoted don’t begin to address the problem to be solved. The most prominent answer to peak oil is to drill for more oil and turn to coal. The answer to global warming is “clean coal”. We are told renewable sources of energy will not be viable until the second third of the century and then only if we are fortunate. Until then we must continue to use fossil fuels. That the fossil fuels may not be there is ignored. That global warming might be out of control by the end of the first third of the century if we don’t act now to reduce our use of fossil fuels is ignored. The public is in a state of denial.

The saddest fact is this state of denial is a result of the general public taking the evidence seriously. The public looks at the evidence scientists bring forth concerning peak oil and global warming. They know this evidence means drastic change in their way of life. So they begin to grieve the way of life to be lost. The first step in the grieving process is denial. So the general public looks at the evidence and goes into a state of denial. There is no way to avoid the state of denial. Change leads to grief, grief leads to denial. Before any progress can be made on either peak oil or global warming the public must move beyond this state of denial.

Scientists who wish to do something about peak oil and global warming often fail because they think the general public uses evidence the same way they do. Scientists use evidence to get to truth. Most members of the general public already have truth. This truth comes from faith in a particular system of belief. For the general public evidence merely confirms presently held beliefs. If evidence doesn’t confirm such beliefs it is ignored. Belief systems don’t change until reality hammers them really hard.

This means, simply put, many people won’t believe in peak oil until the price of gas goes to ten or even twelve dollars a gallon. Indeed some people may never believe in peak oil. And belief in global warming won’t become universal until the world average temperature actually increases by four degrees. Until then the tenaciousness of faith will make shaking faith by the use of evidence difficult to impossible. The evidence just isn’t strong enough.

Ultimately the problem here is that scientists are what they are and the general public is what it is. The scientist is in a quest for understanding. Since how we understand reality can change over time the scientist likes intellectual flexibility. Unfortunately the general public confuses belief with truth. This means the general public likes people who fight for what they believe in even when those beliefs are completely inaccurate descriptions of reality. Scientists just aren’t comfortable with closing their minds like that. But because scientists are not comfortable with presenting a closed mind to the public they come across as weak willed nerds and wassies. This ultimately is why so few people take peak oil and global warming seriously enough to do something about them.

1 comment:

paulm said...

great statement!