Climate Change Denial and Human Ingenuity

In my job I get to learn a bit about the common arguments against climate change. As I’ve mentioned before, the new charge is not that it doesn’t exist, it’s that it is just too hard to do anything about climate change right now. It’s too expensive, the technology is just not there, we need to talk about it more, and not be rash.

Talking about it actually is a big one — it’s like your horrible ex-girlfriend from 20 years ago who is still looking for closure – “I just want to be sure, we are really both ok with this break up?” It’s not that we can’t ever address those greenhouse gases, we just need to talk and talk and talk and maybe wait for the future when technology is better and human ingenuity has kicked in.

Maybe this is a good argument … people are just hopeless slackers that have never been able to accomplish anything, right? I mean, look at stuffed-crust pizza, Slankets and Honey Boo-Boo– only a truly lazy species would invent that combination.

If only we humans had more, I don’t know, elbow grease? I mean, wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world where human intellectual and political resources could be utilized to solve seemingly impossible problems?

In the spirit of the New Year, I thought we could travel in time to the futuristic society the climate deniers speak of. A world that would have the technological wherewithal, the human ingenuity and political will to tackle major issues like climate change.

Let’s take the trip!

So what would this hypothetical daisy-land look like? Well, right off the bat, I’d want researchers in this future world to have addressed worldwide epidemics…the really bad one’s that paralyze children and destroy entire communities. They could use, I don’t know, some sort of injections or pills or something. And they get these shots and pills to poor communities in remote regions all over the world through a strong political network of affiliated nations or something like that. Could never happen right? Too expensive. And getting so many countries to work together? Impossible.

While we’re living in la-la land, we could have amazing infrastructure that required both large amounts of money and political will, but also compromise to create and maintain. This infrastructure could power your house, water your garden and heat your pool. It could also take away all that horrible waste you produce, you pooper, and safely treat it before returning it to nature.

Ok, so if I’m going to get crazy with ideas, let’s just go there. In this future world we could have robot pets, or better yet, robot maids! Machines could replace household servants to instantly cook food and fling it in the air when it is done, wash dishes, and take out the chamber pot, while making lovely music and warming your bum at the same time. Hey, this is my dream future. You can get whatever you want in your dream future.

Ok, what else, what else. I know we could send a dog to space! Oh we did that. Ok, a person to space! Did that. Lot’s of people….hmmm, space station? Been done. Moon trip? Golf on the moon? I know! Robot to mars….commercial flights to space…. Hmmm….. Ok space is pretty much covered it seems.

We could have a free or inexpensive substitute for the slow pony express. Something faster – almost immediate even – where you could share important documents or chat with someone on the other side of the world! All in seconds. But this of course would require large global infrastructure, political support and incredible human ingenuity. Impossible, I know.

Let’s see, what else. Well, we could have second lives in an electronic community where we were warriors (or farmers) by night, and librarians by day. We could meet our future mates through this community, or use it as a forum to harass people and complain about stuff.

Oh heck, since we’re dreaming, I want a bionic eye, sneakers with microprocessors, cups that identify drugged drinks, a house made of transparent concrete and a glow in the dark bunny. And since I’m so absent-minded, I would like to request a pocket-sized personal assistant that would remind me of meetings and send flowers to my mother on her birthday.

It’s a shame though that human ingenuity is so lacking. We just aren’t resourceful and never have been. We lack the technology, political will and ability to compromise. Maybe deniers are right, humans are doomed.

Happy New Year.

Minda Berbeco has a PhD in Biology from Tufts University and is the Policy & Programs Director at the National Center for Science Education. She wants to thank her friends for the long list of human innovations that helped her write this blog, including: magnetic induction, cotton gin, vinyl, indoor plumbing, printing press, Doritos, cordage, corrective lenses and internet, internet, internet. Oh and a couple other things that aren’t appropriate to put on this blog….but apparently are quite common on the rest of the internet. Also, if you read the whole blog post without clicking on a link, please do so, otherwise you might think she was serious about the whole people-being-slackers thing.


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