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Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity

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  • Posted April 17, 2012

    A unique perspective on climate change

    Prior to the latter half of the second millennium, the societies and nations of the human race existed in a sort of multi-cultural Eden. Aside from the occasional invasion of conquering hordes, cultures developed in isolation. In particular, with respect to their relationship to and interaction with Nature, each society developed its own set of myths. Impacts of Nature on these societies occurred in isolation - how one society responded to nature had little effect on how another society responded; and, likewise, the suffering of one society or nation was unlikely to elicit a (positive - it might trigger a war) response from another society or nation.
    The technological, scientific and communications revolutions of the latter half of the second millennium fundamentally altered the human/Nature equation. First of all, how one nation responded to Nature might have real, global consequences. Just as the tribes of New Guinea who idolized models of WWII aircraft as gods, multicultural responses to advanced technology might be quaint, but are, in the final analysis, pathetic. Secondly, the communications revolution of the last two centuries have connected nearly every member of the human race instantaneously and intimately with each other. On what basis is someone in Oslo supposed to base their response to a murder to Nairobi? While there are some (jihadists in the Islamic world and evangelical fundamentalists in the USA) who may rail against the blending of cultures, a global culture will, inevitably, evolve.
    Given the fact that "we live in interesting times", can anachronistic nation states and isolated cultures successfully respond to the challenges of impending climate change? In Why We Disagree About Climate Change, Mike Hulme concludes that the answer is No!...but...
    The author, founding Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and currently a Professor at the University of East Anglia, explores in great depth the philosophical, theological, anthropological, sociologic and economic aspects of human attitudes toward climate to an extent seldom dealt with in books on climate change science and less often yet by a scientist fully conversant with the technical fundamentals.
    While Why We Disagree About Climate Change looks at climate change from every possible angle and airs every possible viewpoint, it does not provide satisfying answers. Perhaps there are none; and, Hulme is to be congratulated on avoiding the all-too-common cries of apocalypse and/or utopian dreams . But, as the author suggests, some form of multicultural response based on new, invented cultural myths is not likely to prevent an inevitable slide into the climatic unknown. Science alone may not be able to sway the multitudes but it will be science that solves the problems as they arise.
    Richard R. Pardi Environmental Science William Paterson University

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