Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in September 2013.
One of the major news stories today was that the Obama administration was announcing tough new requirements to limit carbon pollution from new power plants. This is broadly seen as having a major impact on the future of using coal to meet our energy needs.
His proposal would be the first to set national limits on pollution from future power plants and would move Americans away from their dependency on coal into a future where we use cleaner sources of energy. This is part of his effort to tackle global warming.
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy said in a speech announcing the proposal that “we know this is not just about melting glaciers. Climate change – caused by carbon pollution is one of the most significant public health threats of our time.”
Those of us who have long been concerned about global warming welcome the requirements. There is overwhelming consensus among mainstream scientists that we are long overdue on taking such action. Of course, there are those who oppose these limits on carbon pollution. Most opposition comes from those industries and businesses affected financially by the change. Unfortunately, these businesses have used their money to gain influence in Congress and have prevented such restrictions from being placed upon them. No doubt they will try to do so again.
So, get ready for a new onslaught of misinformation on climate change. I went and Googled the term as I was writing this article and already there were new “news reports” being issued by the “climate change deniers” to counteract the President’s proposal.
Of course, we know most people have already made up their minds on the subject. Few people who know climate change is real are going to be swayed by reports to the contrary by Fox News or this recent report from the Heartland Institute. Similarly, those who deny climate change will most likely continue to do so in spite of reports from the United Nations or this scary chart on NASA’s website.
(NOTE: The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued four official reports, the latest in 2007 outlining that global warming is a fact. The latest report currently being circulated in draft and coming out next year will contain minor updates but the same major conclusions. Those who dispute climate change are already miscategorizing some of the modifications in this report from prior reports. Click here for a sample. I suggest that if you want the truth, you don’t take short sound bytes from the media on this issue!)
Why don’t people change their minds? A major factor is something psychologists call the “confirmation bias”. This is a tendency for people to believe information that confirms their existing belief and to discount or explain away anything that disputes it. The more entrenched we are in our beliefs or the more emotion we have around them, the higher the tendency for us to stick to our guns. After all, none of us like to admit that we were wrong.
Which brings me to Blaise Pascal. He was a French philosopher and mathematician who lived in the 17th century. One of the things that Pascal philosophically considered was whether or not God exists. (Of course, the God he contemplated was the “old myth” of an external God in a place called heaven who judged us upon our deaths. Those who read my writings here are probably familiar with the fact that I use the term God to describe a much different power and presence.)
Pascal eventually offered a philosophical argument for God that became known as “Pascal’s Wager”. Briefly, here’s how the logic goes. God either exists or does not exist. As a human being you are living a life where you must make a choice to either believe in God or not. Making a choice is not optional. You must choose. If you choose to believe in God – and God exists – then you live eternally in heaven. If God doesn’t exist, then you lose nothing. If you choose not to believe in God – and God does not exist – other than the self satisfaction of being right, you get nothing. If God does exist – then you lose big time and burn in hell. What should you choose? According to Pascal, the safe choice is to bet on God.
Now philosophers have debated this “wager” and you can find with a little bit of research some of the more common philosophical rebuttals. However, for the most part, the logic holds up. If God is or is not an old man in the sky who judges us upon our death based upon our belief, then the safe belief is to believe in that form of God.
Climate change is bringing us a new round of Pascal’s Wager. We either are or are not contributing to climate change through our carbon emissions. If we really are – and take action to reduce carbon emissions – then we might just save this planet for our children and our children’s children. But if we’re not – and we take action to reduce carbon – then the world will still go on and the only cost will be the financial impact on some industries as we shift to cleaner sources of energy. On the other hand, if we really are causing climate change and fail to take action, then we will turn this planet into a living hell and possibly bring about the end of life as we know it. Which is the safest bet? In my mind, this is a no-brainer.
Of course, there will be those who are fearful of losing their money, their power, their prestige – or having to change their minds on a topic that they have great emotion around. These individuals could certainly conjure up a lot of reasons to dispute the logic here. But again, their reasons will be around money, power or being right. You won’t hear too much from the naysayers on the very clear delineation between “Earth or no Earth?”
The safest bet is to choose Earth.
I applaud the President’s actions. America must take action now. I trust we have the will.
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!