For some odd reason, while reading Gary Wechter’s commentary, “Climate change nonsense,” in your July 3 issue, the long dormant image of Richard Nixon standing in front of the press proclaiming “I am not a crook!” popped into mind. Very soon after making that proclamation, of course, Nixon became the first American president forced to resign for breaking the law.
Thus, in your paper, Mr. Wechter avers, “I wish I could say I was a climate change denier, but I cant ... ,” and then proceeds to deny and/or minimize climate change and its effects.
His arguments are bizarre. He strangely cites the Ice Ages as an example of “natural” climate change, “when no one was burning fossil fuels.” Yes, Mr. W., there indeed are forces at work on the Earth that do not depend on human interference, certainly not on the puny human presence of 100,000 years ago. We were then a force merely to be smiled at. Today, the Earth is no longer laughing. Our numbers and destructive powers are infinitely greater now, and anyone who cannot see, feel, and admit their effects is not just wearing rose-colored glasses, but a blood-stained blindfold.
Mr. W. then shrugs off Rachel Carson’s work, which every biologist recognizes as the dawning, 50 years ago, of ecological awareness in the world, leading to the banning of DDT and the saving of most of what is left of the earth’s bird population.
He ridicules Paul Ehrlich’s premature prediction of mass starvation. Yes, Mr. W., we’re not all starving yet, but at least a billion of us are at or near that level, and the effects of population growth and climate change are just beginning to be manifest. (One may as well criticize George Orwell for warning us that the world we are finding ourselves in now did not materialize by 1984.)
He goes on to impugn Heidi Harmon and “her ilk” (climate change non-deniers?) for warning us of dire impacts such as floods, violent storms, droughts, etc. He says he will not be “taken in” by such talk of doom and gloom. My question to Mr. W. is, Don’t you ever watch the news these days? You certainly should be “taken in”—to the mental institution of your choice.
Before we put him safely away, I will say this for Mr. W.: He somehow manages to sound much more reasonable than most of his fellow deniers, and he does make one or two valid points. For example, he mentions the unavoidable fact that putting the brakes on carbon emission (only one of the steps necessary to avoid plunging off the cliff looming in front of us) will entail some pain, and that this pain will be felt mostly by those of us who can least afford it. This is a meaningful concern and will need to be dealt with. But the pain from the effects of willful ignorance and inaction will, in the long run, be much more devastating to all of us, and probably too late to deal with.
Gene Strohl lives in San Luis Obispo. Send comments to the executive editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.