A hat-tip to Anthony Watts, who points to an interview in the Chicago Tribune with head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri.
Q: What do you think about the small but vocal group of doubters still out there?
A: There is, even today, a Flat Earth Society that meets every year to say the Earth is flat. The science about climate change is very clear. There really is no room for doubt at this point.
Of course, no room for doubt = no room for science. But leaving aside Pachauri’s errors such as this, there is a bigger question about the way in which ‘science’ is used to make statements about the future of society.
We are creating conditions for the social structure to break down. If that happens, clearly there will be more conflicts. With coastal flooding, there could be hundreds of millions of environmental refugees.
The argument that Pachauri uses here is nothing more than environmental determinism; the idea that human history is shaped by its environmental circumstances.
There is no doubt that there is a degree to which the circumstances people find themselves in determine the outcome of their lives. We can take it as read that the human race evolved in circumstances which were beyond its control. But in today’s world, people’s lives are no longer dictated by their environments, not by virtue of environmental stasis, but because of our own abilities.
Society now thrives in a wide range of conditions, from the frozen arctic to the harsh deserts. Entire rivers have been diverted in order to irrigate fields, and serve new cities with water. Marshes have been drained, and low-lying areas raised. Cities have been constructed below sea level. Valleys have had dams built across them. But now, Pachauri claims that a mere few degrees change in temperature over the course of a century – the time it took us to develop the internal combustion engine, atomic energy, powered flight, cures for many diseases, to land men on the moon, the Internet… – will cause society to collapse.
Pachauri is simply wrong. Social structure has very little – and as we develop, less and less – to do with environmental conditions. Furthermore, social conditions are our defence against environmental conditions. For example, where there is industrial development, there is less vulnerability to the environment. Tsunamis, earthquakes and storms in the developing world kill thousands. Deaths from similar conditions in the developed world kill far, far fewer. This is a cold, hard, measurable, scientific fact.
That Pachauri gets things arse-about-face wouldn’t be so tragic if it didn’t threaten to undermine the very social structures he claims to wish to protect. In emphasising climate stability over industrial society’s influence over outcomes for people’s standard of living, he prioritises, wrongly, an anti-development agenda. This will leave more people more vulnerable to climate.
Pachauri is the flat earther. It is time he was exposed as such.