A prescient observation from Bob Carr, a master of prescient observations generally, on his Thoughtlines blog today that those who persist in denying the reality of climate change are doing so from a standpoint of religious faith. “The view that we can afford business as usual”, he writes, “is a religious tenet and only explicable as such.”
He makes the point that anyone who can blindly ignore the mounting and irrefutable scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change and refute it without providing any countering evidence, is simply following a line of faith. There can be no other reason.
Religion has provided humans with insurance cover since our ancestors came down from the trees and started to ponder the meaning of life and the reason for being. While I respect those who hold religious faith for spiritual reasons, I have little tolerance for those who use that faith as the basis for a worldview that denies concrete evidence.
Climate change has profound and direct implications for our environment, food systems, transportation and housing. The shift in climatic conditions and accompanying increase in ‘extreme’ weather events will increase our vulnerability. Live on the coast or in a bushfire-prone area? Prepare for higher insurance as the extent of that vulnerability becomes a regular risk. James Lovelock told us back in the 1970s with the Gaia Hypothesis that the Earth is a self-regulating system and, that being the case and notwithstanding the many informed critiques of the hypothesis, if we, the tenants, have trashed the joint, then prepare for eviction so that the landlady can come in and clean up and restore order. Denying, on the basis of faith, the evidence of our folly and that the consequences of it will be serious is not only blind stupidity, it is highly dangerous.
The faith that is really dangerous, however, is that of those who believe that the path business-as-usual will lead to our salvation because we will find a solution. This is the faith that Prometheus will once again steal from the gods and give the proceeds to humankind: extract more coal, drill new oil wells, fell more forests, build new power stations, encourage more consumption – it will be fine because we’re right on the edge of a technological breakthrough. No, really. The gods will provide a solution to all this nasty climate change talk and everything will be fine. You’ll see.
This is the sort of religious faith that sends shivers down my spine and it’s the sort of faith we read in the papers and hear from the mouths of our political leaders every single day. Too afraid to take any action that might upset the economic status quo or draw the disapproval of the industries that really run the country, our government waits for Prometheus to deliver his stolen bounty and save us all.
The story doesn’t end there, though. After Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave itto mankind, Zeus became so angry that he chained him to Mt Caucuses where an eagle could feast every day upon his liver. Being immortal, every night Prometheus would regenerate and every day the eagle would return to eat his liver.
The tale of Prometheus was meant to serve a warning to humans, not provide us with a role model. We need to clean up our own mess before Gaia steps in, evicts us and leaves us to the mercy of hungry eagles and vengeful gods.