Category Archives: climate change

The Path Forward, Part One: Seeking and Telling the Truth

“Everything is political.” “Knowledge is merely a power struggle.” ‘My job as a journalist is to tell my truth.” “Objectivity and seeing things from both sides are overrated notions.” “Hate speech is anything we hate.” These are just a few of the observations of that reveal our current crisis of knowledge and further deepen cultural and political divisions across the globe and in the USA.

In our data-saturated and wisdom-deficient age, the very notion of objective truth is questioned, with particular “narratives” gaining prominence over exploration of evidence, critical thinking, and continual modification of understanding. Humility demands that we are tentative about final conclusions of many matters, but this does not mean utter agnosticism or an absence of relative certainty.

Along with profound public contention, this subjective view of truth leads to devastating personal and social consequences. First, we are paralyzed by self-deception and unable to tell the truth to ourselves, lest our carefully-crafted, protective “safe space” be shattered by the laser-light of reality. We adopt (even unconsciously) feigned humility and smug confidence utterly unjustified by any empirical facts or rational reflection. “My opinion is just as good as yours!” is the petulant cry of infantile thinking, not an invitation to debate as maturing adults.

A second consequence of this subjectivity and solipsistic mindset is that we no longer voice our ideas to each other, with a view toward civil debate and growing in wisdom. We are quick to cancel, slow to listen, and hastily place people in categories that allow us to avoid hearing their thoughts. We assume way too much, instead of looking for common ground, nuance, and potential refinement of our own ideas. For example, in the (often simplistic) debates between capitalism and socialism, caricatures abound and reality is tossed out the window. Most thoughtful women and men do not want a return to Maoism or Stalinism (though it is surprising how many will exchange freedom for security!). Free-market thinkers do understand that personal and social ethics are at the heart of the confidence and trust needed for free exchange and opportunity. The Scandinavian nations are capitalistic with a large safety net (and rather small, homogenous populations), and have been cutting back on the size of government for a decade or more. We need economic debates – without the labeling and libeling.

A third consequence is building public policy on insufficient information. Partisan loyalty is prized over careful stewardship of public resources, and immediate power gains take priority over long-term fiscal and social consequences. For example, better stewardship of the environment is the right direction, but the apocalyptic rhetoric is leading to policies devasting to the working classes and enriching to high-tech firms that will parrot the party line. The progress of the last several decades and the resistance of non-Western empires to any change is ignored in favor of “climate catastrophe.” Anyone not emotionally engaged in this crisis is deemed a “denier” – placing their views parallel to Holocaust denial! Research? It only matters if it furthers the narrative of massive wealth transfer. Criticism? You are destroying the earth. We can do better than this.

Looking forward, there are three positive dispositions and disciplines that are helpful. First, we can choose humility, courage, and love as our foundations for fruitful learning and discourse. If our motives are right, our minds are open, and we desire for all others the opportunities and wisdom we enjoy, the world is a better place. Second, we must – with kindness and patience – refuse all attempts at intimidation and state our convictions and ideas and allow them to germinate, be refined, and be either discarded or improved. Finally, we can consciously and consistently dialogue with women and men who see the world quite differently. Minds may not immediately change, but friendships can form, arenas of cooperation be discovered, and exemplary civil discourse can help set the tone for coming generations.

Let’s tell the truth to ourselves and others.

“Science is Real” Separating Facts from Ideology

As Kathy and I walk our neighborhood, we occasionally see signs that include a variety of slogans, including, “Science is Real.” This phrase is part of a campaign by climate activists to demonize any “deniers” that question human-caused climate change and support radical proposals to “save the planet because we have only 9, 12, 20, or 50 years left.”

Science is a wonderful part of humankind’s creativity and curiosity. It yields amazing breakthroughs for human flourishing, from healthy foods to medical care, technology for the workplace, and so much more. The founder of the modern state of Singapore was asked about the most important invention of the 20th century. His response? “Air conditioning.” Without it, computers cannot function and billions living in tropical climates cannot be productive. Science is an ever-evolving series of experiments and findings, discussions and discoveries, and the source of much debate! For people of faith, science is a gift from God, part of common grace or natural revelation. Science is not a deity, but the amalgamation of human inquiry. It can be used for good or manipulated for evil.

Human-influenced climate change is tracked using a combination of historical temperature readings, computer modeling, and current observations. Leaving aside exaggerated terms like, “97% all agree that…” or “there is no problem” – how do we sort our facts from ideology? And, just as important, how should consensual science inform economic and social policies affecting billions of people?

Let’s assume that “the science is real” and humankind is having a deleterious impact on the climate. Current solutions emanating from the UN and the West are radical and have little actual impact on global temperatures. Adding to this reality is the fact that we have seen a shift in language from “global warming” to “climate change” because the trends are not conforming to early computer models. Science is being used as a cover to destroy the fossil fuel, natural gas, and nuclear power industries, with inadequate replacements.

The way forward is neither denial nor apocalyptic measures. Good ecological stewardship is good economics. Science is already reducing emissions enormously in the developed world. Alternative energy solutions are emerging, but are not yet cost-effective as complete replacements. And here is the key: Global elites and politicians love greater control over people’s lives and arranging massive transfers of wealth – none of which affect them (unless they benefit)! The losers are middle- and working-class folks around the world that need affordable energy. We can improve the environment and ensure all can flourish without impoverishing billions for the wallets and power grabbing of a few. We need a concomitant strategy of improving the emissions of current sources while developing low-cost alternatives. As the science catches up to our dreams, we can see a better world without chaos and the loss of liberty.

Toward Principled Compromise: Reimagining the Common Good, Part Two

Continuing our conversation on the common good and better pathways for solving seemingly intractable problems, here are some more arenas crying out for creativity.

Education: Current Reaction: Write off a portion of student debt without reforming the bloated, inefficient systems that lead to the debt. A Better Way: Let’s open trade school avenues for high school grads (with remediation in general education available) so that we can fill the millions of job openings with skilled workers and prepare a new generation of qualified women and men for the exciting changes ahead. Let’s get out of the loan business altogether and increase scholarships for qualified students, while making schools much more efficient, focused and less political. Avenues for redeeming poor K-12 experiences through community colleges are worthy of support, and we must repent of the immoral practice of accepting loan money for students ill-prepared for higher education.

Education (K-12): Honor teachers, pay them better, reduce overhead costs, and rid schools of foolish programs having nothing to do with a real education for the future world of work. Learn from successful charter schools. Give parents choices, for a competitive landscape will improve quality. Federal ethics and general guidelines matter, but administration is always better locally and we should eventually have a very small Department of Education.

Climate Change: Recognize that the American carbon footprint continues to decrease while China, Russia, India, and others are responsible for most emissions and pollution. Recognize that all the current UN and treaty solutions, even generously interpreted, only minimally reduce global temperatures. This does NOT mean a return to old policies, but a wiser approach to environmental sustainability without exaggerated apocalyptic rhetoric and economically destructive solutions, including coercive transfers of wealth.

Gender and Sexuality: Affirm adult freedom to identify as they choose, while acknowledging the sincere beliefs of billions of people who hold more traditional beliefs. Toleration is not affirmation – it is living peaceably with different views of the world. End the war on the biological nuclear family and work on the crisis of fatherlessness (something President Obama cares deeply about) and help a new generation understand that their choices of intimacy and welcoming a child include immense responsibilities. 

And two deeper issues (for future essays): We need conversations on anthropology and epistemology. With compassion and respect, we need robust dialogue on what it means to be human and biologically male and female, and the implications for the family, education, and society. Epistemology speaks to the nature of knowledge. We are in a crisis concerning objective understanding of reality. Living with deep differences of perspective is a sign of liberty and maturity. Refusing to listen to other perspectives and attempting to suppress opinions (I am not speaking about direct evils or threats) is unhealthy for our future.

There are thoughtful pathways forward, if we have humility and love, listening ears and clear heads.