This is the 4th post in an ongoing series exploring the spectrum of climate change skepticism. This post describes the 3rd segment, Skeptics of Importance. Unlike previous segments, this group acknowledges the occurrence of climate change and humans being the cause. Rather, their skepticism centers around how important stopping climate change is in relation other issues the world has to contend with.
You might not qualify these individuals as climate change skeptics since they acknowledge its occurrence and humans role in causing it, and I would agree. However, these individuals are commonly referred to as skeptics because they don’t share the urgency to put an end to climate change that more fervent believers do.
These skeptics exist because the threat of climate change is slow and distant, making its perceived threat seem less severe. Additionally, it has not helped that climate change has had a history of alarmists with dire and aggressive predictions that ultimately did not pan out, giving these skeptics more reason to doubt the importance of the issue.
Slow and Distant Threat
Humanity has a lot of different issues to contend with, and limited resources to address them. When allocating resources to address issues, the ones that rise to that top are those that pose the most immediate and severe threat.
This isn’t meant to downplay the purported threat of climate change. The projected impact of rising temperatures include loss of homes, industry and life. But despite the gravity of the claims, climate change happens gradually, over years and the most disastrous scenarios are still decades away.
As I write this piece, U.S. inflation is at 9.1%, there is war in Europe, and the Supreme Court is reevaluating landmark cases on civil rights. These issues threaten people’s ability to put food on the table, threaten people’s rights and threaten people’s lives in the timespan of days, weeks or months. When compared to the distant threat of climate change, these issues will always win out in the battle for resources and mindshare.
And, while these more immediate threats will ultimately be resolved. There is no shortage of immediate threats ready to take their place, thus ensuring climate change is never really prioritized by these skeptics until its danger clearly and directly impacts their day-to-day lives.
One Too Many Doomsdays
In addition to the threat of climate change being slow and distant, the dangers of climate change also lack some credibility in the eyes of these skeptics. While climate change has had some impressively accurate predictions over the last 40 years, it has also been riddled with alarmists peddling doomsday predictions.
These predictions include:
For skeptics of importance, what’s to say today’s alarmists aren’t just peddling another doomsday scenario that won’t really pan out?
Importance Is Relative
Ultimately, the importance of any particular issue is relative. It’s difficult to convince a father of 3 that the temperature rising by 1-2 degrees is more important than him being able to afford gas to drive to work. It’s difficult to explain to a woman that has recently found out she is pregnant that her right to choose should take a back seat to lowering carbon emissions.
Some will argue this is a false choice because some of these issues are not mutually exclusive. We are capable of tackling multiple important issues at once. Addressing immediate threats does not mean we can’t make progress in mitigating climate change. That is true and skeptics of importance are not averse to addressing climate change. However, ultimately, when push comes to shove, these skeptics would be satisfied if only their immediate threats are addressed and climate change continues to take a back seat.