Science Has Identified The Problem, So Let’s Argue About Solutions | Vol. 4 / No. 16.1

Smokestacks, detail of “Coal Power Plant” | Photo: Flickr user eutrophication&hypoxia, CC BY 2.0

Because Climate Change is real, is caused by humans, and is no longer a valid political debate.


Most people wouldn’t know it to look at me, because most of my friends down here in the US of A know me as a left winger. But in parts north from where I originally hail, I’m actually fairly right of centre in a lot of respects. I don’t think the government needs to own things to regulate them, for instance, and I favour market-based solutions whenever there’s evidence to suggest they’ll work without doing much harm. I like the efficiency that comes by harnessing incentives. I like balanced budgets unless the situation is dire. I like small-c conservative policies that wait for research and evidence and sober consideration before making changes to things that are likely to have a major effect on a lot of people’s lives. I like the government staying out of people’s personal lives as much as societally possible.

Which is why I’m really, really happy to hear that there are Republicans in the government down here who are at least proposing a solution to Climate Change. It’s a solution that’s been tried elsewhere, can be implemented well or poorly depending on certain choices, and most importantly it’s a completely valid thing we can debate.

According to the New York Times last week, “a group of Republican elder statesmen is calling for a tax on carbon emissions to fight climate change. The group, led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, with former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Henry M. Paulson Jr., a former secretary of the Treasury, says that taxing carbon pollution produced by burning fossil fuels is “a conservative climate solution” based on free-market principles.”

There are a lot of ways to fight Climate Change. There are left- and right-wing and centrist plans, from carbon credit systems to outright elimination of coal power to emissions regulations for cars. But they all have something in common: they accept the overwhelming scientific consensus that Climate Change Is Real, Is Happening, And Is Caused By Us.

And I am over the moon that these “Republican elder statesmen” have come to that realization. I don’t know whether they’ll be able to make any inroads with a government that seems hell-bent on sticking its head in the sand, but I desperately hope so.

Because what we need isn’t a debate on whether Climate Change is real or not — that ship has sailed. It is. We know. What we need is a debate on the best ways to deal with it in an efficient and timely manner, with the least negative effects (or even potentially most positive effects) on people’s lives.

And this is the first step to that very valid, very important, and very overdue debate.


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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as Deputy Managing Editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.