Taking a Knife to the Gunfight
The following is a copy of a letter I intend to send to members of the AGU.
Members and leaders alike of the AGU are nonplused by the public’s disinterest in the threat of climate change. Yet it is precisely the reticence shown by the AGU and its members that has fostered this acceptance by the public. The AGU has, in effect, brought a knife to a gunfight.
There are vested interests with a lot of money wanting the public to remain complacent on the issue of climate change for as long as possible, for they are making money every day of delay. Members of the AGU, on the other hand, are only aware of the negative personal consequences which they may accrue if they become known professionally as alarmists. Hence they hedge all of their observations with an aura of, “There’s still time left.” Climate change can yet be avoided, or, at worst, adapted to, if we only do x, y and z. We bring a knife to the gunfight. It may be of our own design. But it is only a knife.
Already no one believes that climate change is still avoidable. Now most people, even in the general public, can see that climate change is real, coming, and inevitable. But few recognize its potential. That is largely our fault. We are the ones they turn to for an answer to the question, “How bad might it get?”
And it is past time we address that question, We now must throw caution to the wind. How bad might it get? We know temperature is rising. Originally runaway rise was the alarm. If it is no longer, we should be revisiting that assurance from the prospective of knowing what we know now that we did not know then. To do less is to become a pawn in the game being played by the vested interests. If the fear remains, then we have to recognize it, for exploring space should interest us far less than colonizing it.
Let’s not make the mistake of waiting too long. It will take generations of actively searching for an alternative and/or aggressively terraforming a marginal destination to be able to survive elsewhere. If Earth is not to be our future, we must know as soon as possible.
The evidence seems to indicate the worst case may be the most realistic: Mars appears to have once been much more hospitable to life than now; Venus may prove to be likewise. Life is yet to be found off-Earth. Extremophiles comfort us as evidence of how persistent life is. But let us not forget that the current evidence leads more to the conclusion that nature may prefer sterility to habitability by a select few species than otherwise. As members of mankind’s only scientific community, it rests with us to explore the possibility that the future might not be so rosy as we would like to think.
If error is to be made, the side to err upon is clear.