A meeting of minds on climate change?

A letter to the editor Wednesday, “Fear socialism, not climate,” provides an excellent opportunity to consider the big picture, from science to politics, and perhaps beyond. Many people fear that climate change is a false pretense for establishing a one-world, socialistic government. But what does that mean?

The writer contends I am “being deceived by … fake news.” When I began researching global warming, I was misled by fake news because I had no prior frame of reference, no appropriate scientific background. An online course helped me to better understand climate change and to distinguish between reliable and unreliable information about it. In 2015, I taught “Understanding Climate Change,” a series of classes for the Pullman Parks and Recreation Department. Since then I’ve continued to research the topic, give talks on it, and write columns about it.

Good science often demonstrates that yesterday’s good science wasn’t quite so good after all; our understanding always improves. The goal of good science is to disprove hypotheses. Only when hypotheses withstand rigorous testing by independent scientists can they be tentatively accepted. Even then, further experiments based on new evidence can disprove them.

As a newspaperman I learned to check my sources. As a scientist, I review media reports and pursue links to peer-reviewed scientific publications on climate change. I try to evaluate studies before sharing the information. Last May, in response to several questions from a reader, I wrote a 26-page explanation, “Some Questions Answered About Climate Change and Related Issues.” The discussion is supported by 108 references. Readers can request a copy at petes.pen9@gmail.com.

To say the science on climate change is settled is misleading. New information drives out old, but international consensus among scientists from research centers around the world points to a warming planet. Evidence has been mounting since Eunice Foote demonstrated experimentally the warming effect of carbon dioxide on air. In 1856 she reported, “An atmosphere of that gas would give to our earth a high temperature.”

Measurements since 1900 demonstrate “average surface air temperature has risen 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit,” according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, with Earth “warming at a much faster rate than it warmed over the 7,000 years since the last ice age.” Climate change “is driven by human activities.”

This change affects populations across the planet, sometimes raising concerns over a potential “likely global government.” Partly because of the environmental problems creating havoc among the least advantaged populations, international organizations have formed to help those populations. The United Nations and its nongovernmental affiliates have been working since the end of World War II to create a more just global civilization. These have been augmented by countless charitable foundations and international volunteer groups, all helping to create and maintain a sustainable civilization. Contemporary scholars such as Stephen Pinker and Hans Rosling have documented these positive and encouraging activities.

The need for humankind’s coming together is a theme that runs through most world religions, even though their founders taught when a spherical Earth was unknown. But by the 19th century, Baha’u’llah could recognize that, “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.” Both science and religion have increasingly borne out that statement.

Systems thinking across scientific disciplines demonstrates how we’re all interconnected, physically and biologically. In the 1940s, physicists and engineers replaced their analogue slide rules with digital computers, allowing them to ditch their paper-and-pencil models. Biologists and ecologists soon followed, modeling wicked complexities of ecosystems. Earth is one ecosystem, comprising infinite smaller ones, all interlinked on a single planet. Political borders are artificial. What is needed is international governance representing, and supported by, all its constituent cultures and citizens.

This isn’t socialism. It’s enlightened self-interest that recognizes individual dignity and inherent potential within all human beings. Such self-interest encourages human potential to develop in ways that best suit each individual, allowing her or him to become a productive, contributing member of a global civilization.

All religions promise such a civilization. Christ called it “The Kingdom of God on Earth.” It’s only a matter of time before a critical mass of humanity recognizes its inevitability.

Pete and his live-in editor and wife Jolie, share ideas like these over dinner. Contact him at petes.pen9@gmail.com. His internet posts are at spokanefavs.com/author/peter-haug/.

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