Contentious climate

It is manifestly apparent in many parts of the world that each side of the political spectrum is unable or unwilling to talk to their opponents. In the U.S., many Republicans can’t talk to or listen to the Democrats, and similarly, many Democrats can’t seem to talk or listen to the Republicans. In such an atmosphere, political advantage almost always appears to trump common sense. It doesn’t matter how sensible an idea is, it only matters who uttered it and what their affiliation is. As a result, Congress is utterly broken.

Unfortunately, such a mindset is beginning to enter into the engineering and scientific community. Case in point: We recently received a book and video review from one of our contributors (See p. 12). It only consisted of a few paragraphs. But the fact that it concerned climate change and that the author presented a contrarian opinion to the usual view of the causes of global warming elicited controversy when it appeared in our online blog.

Some were vehement in their condemnation of our coverage and one reader felt that this now called into question everything we publish. These individuals seemed to infer that we were not allowed to do anything other than express strong support for global warming initiatives. Others were happy to see the book mentioned and expressed agreement with its opinions. But they assumed that we were now advocating on behalf of the anti-climate change lobby. Both views are a) incorrect and b) serve to highlight all that is wrong in the climate change debate.

This magazine is technical as opposed to political and always has been. We have a policy of eliminating from contributed articles any strong political stands or staunch views either for or against climate change. We insist the author focus on the technical and turbomachinery matters to hand. That said, our news section is the one area where we provide an outlet for items of interest that might be pro- or anti-environmental. As a result, we have printed stories favorable to wind and solar, as well as giving space to those who consider renewables an expensive waste of money and a severe energy policy misstep. If it is relevant to our readers, we will consider printing it in our news section.

What really irks me in the thorny area of climate change is that neither side appears able or willing to have a civilized conversation. Each side professes to be scientific while asserting that their opponents’ science is faulty. There is no room for a middle ground, no forum for discussion, no common ground allowed. This is the kind of stance that leads nations to have wars. They can’t talk to each other, become convinced the other side is evil, and begin lobbing bombs.

My wish, therefore, is that we learn to get along. Bickering and invalidation should have no place in the engineering world. Instead of civilized dialogue, we have the adoption of a narrow-minded attitude on both sides where they instantly attack any alternate view or smear the credibility of those saying it. This is the road to nowhere.

It would be much better if we decided to foster some harmony and made the words “climate change debate” actually mean something. A good place to start is by finding areas where both sides can agree. Few, for example, would doubt that the planet is too polluted already and that we must take steps to clean it up. Whether they agree that global warming is a reality or not, most can accept the idea of reducing pollution. The progress made in recent decades to curtail harmful emissions is testament to this. By working to achieve broader agreement, communication and understanding can then flourish.