Using an authority to support a point of view is not a good idea if the assumed authority is really not an authority. Recently Michael Shellenberger was referred to as a scientist who disputed claims about the seriousness of climate change. In an article appearing in an Australian newspaper he is quoted as saying, “On behalf of environmentalist everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the past 30 years.”
If the “we” he is referring to is the scientific community he is wrong on two counts. Michael Shellenberger is not a scientist or a climate change expert. He graduated from a program on Peace and Global Studies at Earlham College, a Quaker School in Richmond, Indiana and he received a Masters Degree in cultural anthropology from the University of California. These are not the credentials of an environmental scientist or an expert on climate change.
Let’s be honest about it, there are scores of companies and individuals in the U.S. and around the world who make a living from things that are harmful to earth’s life supporting ecosystem. Warnings about the negative effects human behavior is having on our atmosphere is threatening to many people. The same is true of the coronavirus pandemic. Any time something poses a threat to someone’s livelihood they will react. The first line of defense is to deny the problem. And when someone who appears to be an expert questions the findings of science this simply reinforces what people want to believe.
Climate change is a long-term threat to the survival and well-being of life on planet earth scientific findings clearly affirm this. The coronavirus pandemic is a deadly short term threat to human life and well being that calls for swift action from everyone scientific findings also affirm this. It is foolish to deny or ignore what scientists are telling us. But at the same time it is foolish to deny or ignore the economic realities we face because of these threats. There is no easy way around the negative effects of climate change or the coronavirus pandemic.
If we continue to politicize these problems they will get mixed up in the quagmire of partisan controversy and problem solving will be impaired by those caught up in trying to get elected to public office and those trying to remain in office.