Ooh! Ooh! We know this one! Nature! Coz, she’s the ol’ cow what done it! (Zwick likely thinks otherwise)
Every time anyone posts anything on climate change, the discussion degenerates into an exchange of claims and counter-claims. The “denialists” will bring up well-worn talking points that they say proves climate change is a swindle, and the “warmists” will shoot them down. Then comes a second wave, and a third… The flurry eventually peters out, but by then, the only people following the string are the people posting.
On Friday, I posted an intentionally provocative piece that I thought would bypass this loop but spark an insightful debate about one of the most complex issues facing us today: namely, who should bear the costs of adapting to climate change if the scientists are right? After all, if they are right, this mess is going to drive up food prices around the world, and it’s going to hit indigenous people in Africa, Latin America, and Asia the hardest, and that’s not fair.
To make these distant people more immediate, I channeled my inner Michael Sandel by throwing out a left-field analogy. Remember those Tennessee firefighters who refused to put out house-fires when the owners hadn’t paid their service fees? I compared that dilemma to the climate-change dilemma: if the scientists are right, do we save the people who caused the problem, or do we save the victims first?
Well, instead of a challenging debate on a sticky issue, I found myself accused of telling people to go out and burn down houses. I said no such thing, but after reading my piece with fresh eyes, even I have to admit that the analogy is more of a distraction than a point of departure for debate.
The issues, however, remain – and if the scientists are right, we will have to deal with them sooner or later. What’s more, I suspect if we frame the discussion right, we will find that we have common ground on some basic principles – beginning with the principle that you don’t go burning people’s houses down, which is a corollary of the larger principle of justice.