Postcard from a Herculean guilt trip
Schoolchildren love to play games. One of their favourites is blame-shifting. This is particularly common when they feel (or know) they are guilty. As the name suggests, it is usually an attempt to blame a problem on somebody else, or highlight someone else’s misdemeanors and/or deficiencies in the hope that one’s own will be overlooked or forgotten.
On a global scale, blame-shifting is employed by climate change sceptics in developed countries as in excuse for continuing inaction. We are repeatedly told that unilateral action to reduce carbon emissions is pointless because, for example, China is building so many new coal-fired power stations. When it suits them, of course, the so-called “sceptics” will argue that carbon emissions are not causing the problem but, if you tie them in knots with evidence that the emissions are the primary cause, they will quickly revert to such diversionary tactics as this. In this way, trying to defeat climate change denial is a genuinely Herculean task; analogous to killing the multi-headed Hydra – cut off a head and it grows back while you are tackling another…
As if this were not annoying enough, our adversaries also engage in blame-shifting on a very personal level: If we manage to – even temporarily – win the argument that the 40% increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations since the Industrial Revolution is the primary cause of the increasingly-obvious anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD – each of the last 4 decades has been warmer than its predecessor; and extreme weather of all kinds continue to become ever-more frequent – because the dice are now well and truly loaded)… it seems a popular tactic to attack the messenger – question their behaviour; and make them look like a hypocrite.
Oakwood is the most recent person to do this; but he is not the first and – in all probability – he will not be the last… Because people cannot falsify the scientific basis for concern over ACD – the cumulative effects of pumping CO2 into the atmosphere tens, hundreds or even thousands of times faster than the various ways in which the Earth can recycle it (in the formation of sea shells, coral, plants, and ultimately fossil fuels) – it seems almost irresistably tempting to point out that the person who has won the argument is not perfect; and is therefore part of the problem. This, however, does not make the problem go away.
As such, I have been criticised for flying to the Himalayas in 2008 and, now, also criticised (at least implicitly) for flying to the South of France in 2011. Any attempt to justify my behaviour would be to indulge in a futile battle to see who has flown the least air miles during their entire lifetime. There is, of course, one very clear way I could reduce my carbon footprint and that would be to kill myself – although I would have to tell all my friends not to come to my funeral; not to send cards or flowers; and it would, of course, have to be a green burial – preferably a sky burial whereby my body is left in the open as food for animals that feed on carrion with absolutely zero carbon emissions (on the part of humans at least).
But this too would not invalidate the scientific basis for concern over ACD; and it would not really help solve our problem (much). So, with respect…
Will people please stop trying to shift their guilty conscience onto me? It is a tacit admission that you are denying the reality of the problem; and it is not helping any of us to solve it.