Let's say climate change is a conspiracy
For the sake of argument, let's say that the doubters of climate change are right.
Let’s say that the world’s scientists are all in a conspiracy to dethrone the emperor, cooking their results to make it appear that man is changing the makeup of the atmosphere.
Let’s say that human CO2 emissions are not actually over a hundred times greater than global volcanic CO2 emissions. (Volcanos average 200 million tons of CO2 annually while global fossil fuel emissions totaled 26.8 BILLION tons in 2003, but let’s say those evil scientists just made that number up to make us look bad.)
Let’s say they fabricated the research that shows "people who live within a half mile of a fracking well are at a high risk of developing health problems because of the emissions, especially during the well completion period in which fracking fluids and natural gas return to the surface."
If the critics of human impact are right, we could eliminate all use of renewable energy. In fact, it would be most profitable in the short term to make renewable energy illegal, require automobiles use only V8 or bigger engines, and write building codes that prohibit insulation in houses.
Let’s say we should make decisions about energy with the assumption that human fossil fuel use has no effect on the atmosphere - oh, wait, in the United States we're already making decisions with this assumption.
We could ignore the massive forrest fires burning in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and assume that the recent study that showed climate change will increase the frequency of wildfires in the western United States is another conspiracy by those darn scientists.
Option one: Assume scientists all over the world and the rest of the modern countries investing in renewable energy are evil, make renewable energy integration too difficult and expensive to work in the United States, subsidize fossil fuels, burn all our oil, our coal, and our natural gas with the frivolity of a backyard barbecue and fight to the last man for the last drop of oil. Then what?
Option two: Invest in renewable energy while we still have fossil fuels to ease the transition. Put our vast capacity as a country into developing the best renweable energy systems in the world. Reap profits for generations.
Why wouldn’t we choose option two? There is no advantage, other than the short term profit of a few already rich individuals and corporations, in making decisions with the assumption that humans have no effect on the environment.
On the other hand, let’s say the scientists are right, and that fossil fuel use is causing a massive change in the makeup of our atmosphere. Right now we have an opportunity to create a renewable energy system that will both prolong our current lifestyle and health as well as create a new energy paradigm that is safe and profitable for centuries.
Even more compelling, what if, like the theory of gravity, the scientists are essentially right?
Photo of the 2010 Gold Hill fire in Colorado by Topher Donahue.