Im very confused when it comes to people speaking about the environment. I hear some groups say we need to cut emissions and protect the environment while others say we don't need to do a damn thing and we can pollute. Some say we should do nothing to harm it but there is no reason to protect it. What is the deal?

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People are idiots.
Hahaha. Well said!

It took millions of years for all the carbon in the atmosphere to be enclosed deep in the ground through the work of the biosphere. In the process the Earth's climate cooled and stabilished, and natural movements and circulations of the atmosphere came to be.

 

When we release those carbon back to the atmosphere, we are practically reversing this process, making it hotter and more unstable. It is important for us to really understand that the Earth is one finite system. When we pollute it, we pollute ourselves and our children too, when we use it up, we won't be able to sustain ourselves anymore.

 

The only thing that would legitimate our long-term existence is the surplus we help nature produce, meaning our impact makes the ecosystems we depend on preform better, use energy more efficiently, so we can safely take what we need. Michael Moore phrased it this way: 'you are committing a sin when you benefit at the expense of others' - which is basically what we do since the dawn of our species.

 

That what I think the deal is. As Derrick Jensen says, we won't undergo any kind of voluntary transformation to a saner way of living - so, it is pointless to fantasise about these things. An individual could not do anything about it, and society will not do anything about it. You can guess the outcome.

I think this is the general state of the academic discussion:

1. Are we experiencing climate change? Yes.

2. Is the planet warming up? Yes.

3. Is CO2 increasing? Yes.

4. Can human activity impact the climate? Yes.

5. How much of the climate change is caused by human activity? Not entirely sure.

Despite what you may think from the public debate, it is really only point 5 which is being discussed. Some answer 'all', others 'none', most think 'some' and try to find out exactly how much.

Pretty much dead on, Arcus. I think that the consensus is currently leaning towards "most, but not all".

@Dave - I've spent the last few weeks education myself a bit and I stand corrected. It appears to me that all say 'most'.

Thanks for inspiring me to do so :)

Great list, Arcus.
In social and political spheres, the science surrounding anthropogenic global warming is a mixed blessing. On one hand, the doom and gloom, armageddon aspect is great for marketing. I mean, a great deal of environmentalism calls on humans to change their behavior or to make (perceived) sacrifices. Understandably, people are reluctant to do this without sufficient motivation. The impacts of many environmental issue seem too abstract, too distant and are to easy to dismiss and ignore for the average person. The potential consequences of AGW are so dramatic that it's hard for anyone to just shrug them off provided they accept that AGW is real or very likely to be real.

Then there are two notable downsides that I'm aware of. Like most science, the science surrounding AGW is not well understood by the average person. To complicate matters, global warming is an inherently complex situation to begin with. Too many people seem to want simple, straightforward and easy to understand answers that require little to no research or comprehension on their part. They want marketing. While the impacts of AGW are easy to market, the science of it isn't. If people don't have a reasonable grasp of the science involved, they're going to be easily scammed by pseudoscience and bullshit apologetics from those politically motivated against AGW research.

The other downside is that environmentalism has almost become synonymous with climate change. Because so much of environmental advocacy has been linked to AGW, I think some people are getting the impression that if AGW is demonstrated to be false (to their personal satisfaction), environmentalism itself will be shown to be bunk. That's sad. In reality, with or without AGW, there are multitudinous environmental issues that need to be addressed, a number of which unequivocally affect human health (for those that will only act in immediate self-interest). A lot of those environmental issues target the exact same industries and behaviors that AGW is largely concerned with.

When it comes to the actual science behind AGW, the research is (or at least should be) apolitical and indifferent to personal desires of motives. To be honest, I can't imagine why anyone would want AGW to be true. Why would the average scientist be personally motivated to take a shot at fossil fuels? It's a beast of an industry to oppose, not to mention how entangled it all is in politics and economy. I think some people envision scientists as little sadists in white lab coats who are constantly looking for new ways to inconvenience the rest of the world. Truth be told that's utter nonsense; the lab coats don't have to be white. I'd wager many academics would be happy if the worst demonstrable side effects of acquiring and using fossil fuels were rainbows and orgasms. Industries like big oil pay pretty decent salaries to researchers and engineers. Who wouldn't want to get in on that (without facing an ethical dilemma)?

I work for "big oil" and I can assure you that all the major players fully and wholly accept AGW and their responsibility in it. But it must be possible to also accept that hydrocarbons form the backbone of modern societies and that the consumers shares at least as much responsibility as producers. Solutions must therefore be global in terms of geography, industry and emission source. 

ExxonMobil stance:

"We are not a denier; we understand that the climate is changing."

Chevron stance (quoting IPCC):

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level."

BP stance (intrinsic acceptance):

Climate change is a major global challenge (...)

Shell stance:

"For us the debate on climate change is over."

And the same goes for the other companies.

"I work for "big oil" and I can assure you that all the major players fully and wholly accept AGW and their responsibility in it."

 

That oil companies acknowledge their environmental impacts isn't something that requires assurance.  As a point of semantics though, I would probably replace the word 'responsibility' with 'culpability'. At the very least where Canada is concerned, not the oil industry nor the government nor the general public fully accept responsibility.  I can't rightly speak to attitudes in other parts of the world.

They are merely suppliers of hydrocarbons. Actually very small suppliers, even combined. We cannot have the same level of welfare without the product, and I have yet to meet one single coworker who doesn't want to do everything as clean and safe as possible. Even from a strict business standpoint it makes sense: Pollution is waste, and waste is inefficiency.

They can only control the pollution the cause themselves. To focus only on one thing, oil companies are responsible for emissions in production, refining and distributions, car manufacturers are responsible for the emissions of the car, the guy driving is the responsible for emissions from the car. They all need to be held accountable, in Norway the oil corps pay 75% profit taxes, car manufacturers have to pay CO2/km based tax on each vehicle, and the consumer pays 80% tases on gas. It's a good system, even the oil industry can accept that, but it tends to not be the system proposed abroad.

"They can only control the pollution the cause themselves."

I'm not holding them accountable for anything else.

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