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I have got myself into thinking about climate change again with the torrent of depressing news concerning the environment, our climate and biodiversity. Recently, such news includes Brazil, under right-wing President Bolsonaro having an 88% increase in Amazon deforestation, governments and firms in 28 countries being sued over the climate crisis, this year on track for being the hottest year ever since records began (with the last five years being the hottest on record), last week’s heat wave being made at least five times more likely by climate change, and Moody’s Analytics stating that climate change could cost $69 trillion by 2100Wildfires have increased dramatically in size and frequency. Antarctic ice is at a record low. Greenland lost 2 billion tons of ice in one week last month. I could go on.

And yet, people still deny climate change, or at least the human causality in climate change. I’m sorry but the science is in. You would have to be an inductive ostrich to think otherwise. These climate change science denialists need to lock themselves in a room never to be seen again. I almost have less time for such people than any other kind of reprobate in the world because this not only affects everyone else in humanity, but our children and every generation to come.

We already know, due to vast amounts of documents, that many corporations in the fossil fuel industry like ExxonMobil and others knew about climate change some 40 years ago, but instead of trying to mitigate against it, they decided to pile huge amounts of investment into misinformation and PR spin to change the public’s perception of the environment. I don’t need to detail the egregious activities of organisations like the Heartland Institute…

As Scientific American detailed some years back:

Exxon was aware of climate change, as early as 1977, 11 years before it became a public issue, according to a recent investigation from InsideClimate News. This knowledge did not prevent the company (now ExxonMobil and the world’s largest oil and gas company) from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformation—an approach many have likened to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Both industries were conscious that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks, so much so that they used the same consultants to develop strategies on how to communicate with the public. …

In their eight-month-long investigation, reporters at InsideClimate News interviewed former Exxon employees, scientists and federal officials and analyzed hundreds of pages of internal documents. They found that the company’s knowledge of climate change dates back to July 1977, when its senior scientist James Black delivered a sobering message on the topic. “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s management committee. A year later he warned Exxon that doubling CO2 gases in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by two or three degrees—a number that is consistent with the scientific consensus today. He continued to warn that “present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.” In other words, Exxon needed to act.

I have just watched the David Attenborough BBC documentary Climate Change: The Facts and, although there was an attempt to be uplifting and talk about solutions for the last part of the programme, it left me feeling rather depressed.

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The most anxiety-inducing parts of the documentary was the sheer scale of deforestation that is taking place in the world and continues to take place on a daily basis. We really started finding out about this when the US government decided to make NASA satellite images public domain. The analysis of these images is nothing short of shocking. As they mentioned in the documentary, looking at it reminds one of seeing how a disease might spread over the world.

Sadly enough, the US is one of the worst perpetrators of science denialism in this context. The President himself is a prime candidate:

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Yes, we must rely on some good technological fixes to help us out of this mess. The fossil fuel industry is inexorably being overtaken at the moment by low cost, much more efficient renewable sources that are coming into play. The trick is making being environmentally responsible also economically attractive. This would be about trying to make, say, America the leader in green technology (something that Obama tried to do). Read this fascinating article about massive solar farms in Georgia that, interestingly, have nothing to do with climate change or regulatory mandates – it’s about market forces.

Both the US and the UK recently had periods of time where coal or fossil fuels, in general, were outperformed by renewables nationally. This is brilliant. But it needs to be quicker. Another solution is not eating as much meat (or, preferably, becoming a vegetarian) and even switching from dairy to milk alternatives. These require far less energy, land and water by an absolutely massive margin.

People seem to generate an extraordinary amount of cognitive dissonance when justifying their meat-eating. People love eating meat and so they will, therefore, create all sorts of post hoc justifications for continuing to do so. I’m sure I will see a bunch in the comments section below! However, if we are being properly rational and using empirical evidence wisely, this is a no-brainer. Just eat less meat. Better still, cut it out completely. I’m a vegan, but it took me getting primary progressive multiple sclerosis to force me to be one. However, as I have mentioned to you many times before, I always wanted to be a vegetarian or be vegan but recognised that I was morally imperfect and loved eating meats too much for me to give it up. At least I was being rationally consistent, if a little weak in my willpower. However, the silver lining to my illness cloud is that I am now a pescatarian vegan and am a lot more comfortable with what I eat in terms of its environmental impact.

What’s the point of me writing this piece? Well, it is to remind my readers of the importance of the lungs of this earth; trees are still the best way of sequestering carbon and giving us a wonderful biodiversity at the same time. Meat is one of the primary reasons why we are deforesting our planet, combined with our insatiable desire for palm oil – our behaviour and technology need to change here, too. Yes, some deforestation takes place on account of soya bean farming but this rather skirts around the issue. You could easily transfer dairy farms into soya bean farms if the demand was there.

So this is about highlighting our plight as well as asking all of you to do one little thing. Eat less meat. If you eat out, take the vegetarian option for a change. When you’re buying mince or sausages, try the Quorn alternative, or whatever. Do what I used to do when I was a flexitarian: start by mixing Quorn mince with real mince, half and half. Whatever it is, just eat less meat. I can vouch for the quality that is now available in meat substitutes. Even since I’ve become a vegan, in the last six months, there has been a revolution in supply choice of meat and dairy substitutes. It’s been quite incredible; long live the fad! This is not me being one of those evangelical vegans. I am not that and never will be in terms of always proclaiming the moral high ground, so on and so forth. As the quip goes, you know someone is a vegan because they tell you within the first 30 seconds of meeting you. But as the other quip goes, a vegan paedophile introduces themselves to someone at a party. “Oh my God, I can’t believe you’re a vegan! Urrrgh.” No, I just think it is a necessary path to choose for environmental responsibility that I will bring up from time to time.

Another thing I would suggest is voting in people who will make a difference. Nothing has as much impact as good old regulation. Changing people’s behaviours is bloody difficult and is a much easier thing to accomplish when they are forced to by law. The US has been pretty much the only nation not to sign up to various accords. It’s just plain disgusting. Change your politicians. I will work on changing mine. The huge problem for us in the UK is that the overwhelming majority of Brexit Party politicians or Leave politicians are also either right-wing and in bed with the fossil fuel industry and other corporate’s entities or are libertarian and argue for less regulation. The sort of excellent legislation we were receiving from the EU…

Buy better quality that lasts longer and saves you money and resources in the long run. Be less disposable. Repair things. This is all difficult in the attractive, disposable society that we live in. It is annoying that being morally responsible takes a greater effort than not being so.

And yes, idiots like See Noevo will come on here and splurge their ill-founded conclusions harvested from the most insidious of irrational fields. Perhaps we will never convince these people to change their habits and become more responsible citizens of the world. Perhaps they will forever be lost causes, claiming the illogical moral superiority whilst leading lives empty of moral rectitude and civic responsibility. But to everyone else who has an ounce of rational meat, the meat that counts, in between their ears, think about meaningful ways of changing your behaviour to try and help where you can. These are, admittedly, little ways that might seem insignificant in the grand scheme, but it is a matter of changing outlook, of changing perception, of changing our behaviour, such that a butterfly flapping can at some point become a benign tornado.

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...