Fighting Poverty Vs. Saving Bears?

In this essay, John Baden argues that a consensus on contentious climate change will force difficult choices.

Published: 13-Jul-2006

Three decades ago, it was rare to get three summer cuttings of hay at our ranch -- now this is the norm. Global warming is a plausible explanation. Barbra Streisand, Al Gore, and many scientists have proclaimed consensus: global warming is occurring, we are causing it, and the consequences are significant. But the question remains: If this consensus is justified, how should we act?

Wide consensus on unimportant matters is of little ethical consequence: Coke is better than Pepsi and plaid clashes with stripes. This is also true of important phenomena beyond our influence: the sun rises in the East, liquid boils when its vapor pressure reaches atmospheric pressure, and hairy caterpillars harbinger a cold winter.

But when issues have serious implications for the well-being of others, enforced consensus often signals a paucity of critical thinking and a wealth of cowardice. When consequences affect innocent others, it's ethically and intellectually irresponsible to stifle opposing viewpoints. Under forced consensus, opportunistic pretense trumps honest reflection.


2006 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 is powered by an 8-liter, 16-cylinder engine that produces some 1,000 horsepower and 950 foot-pounds of torque, delivering 0-188 mph in 14 seconds.

Greenland ice cap breaking up at twice the rate it was five years ago, says scientist Bush tried to gag. Photo Credit: E Wesker.

CO2 emissions information is already required on all new cars in Europe; a 2005 California law mandates similar information be provided on all cars starting in the 2009 model year.


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