Hi, I’m Jim Durdin, postgraduate student studying sustainability and climate change. I’m interested in climate change, ecological limits to economic growth and other environmental issues, and in good communication, public relations and media management.

I come from a non-scientific background. I have since studied the basics of climate science, modelling, politics, adaptation strategies, economics and a few other areas as a postgraduate, so I would claim to understand a scientific argument put in front of me but my critical analysis may be limited.

I am a card-carrying member (figuratively speaking) of the climate change consensus, I believe in acting to mitigate and to adapt to man-made climate change. Not because of my grasp of the science but because I believe in risk management and believe that with this much smoke we should be ready for fire. A lot of very able scientists are telling us there is cause for alarm, and a lot of able policy analysts are putting the time and effort into providing mechanisms for mitigation and for adaptation.

J.S. Mill - A firm believer that truth lies between the varying sides of a disagreement and progress comes by reconciling them to form a new position

I also believe that while there would be social and environmental costs to climate change action over and above what is necessary, if the consensus are all wrong, that the cost of inaction, or insufficient action if the scientific consensus is right would be much more damaging. The Stern Review will back me up on this.

But there is no such thing as perfect knowledge, and every decision involves a leap of faith, so I am a firm believer in the importance of free discussion and debate. The inclination of the consensus to dismiss anyone who disagrees with them and treat anyone who can be branded a “sceptic” or a “denier” as an oil-funded stooge sits uneasily with me (I do not rule out the possibility, incidentally, that some climate sceptics are indeed oil-funded stooges). The comparisons drawn between climate deniers and holocaust deniers set my teeth on edge. From my teenage years my intellectual hero was the philosopher John Stuart Mill. There are many quotes of his that speak to this debate, but I will settle for this one: “We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and even if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.”

I believe firmly in the need to move beyond argument and have decisive action, and, like many, wish there was more of it, and oppose anyone who says climate science is too uncertain to merit action. The uncertainties involved do, however, lead me to believe that climate change is best tackled alongside other social issues, like reducing air pollution and transitioning away from social fossil-fuel dependency. Strong rhetoric and impassioned argument are valuable tools for those campaigning for action on climate change, but should not be allowed to entirely swamp reasoned debate.

Advertisements