The apocryphal King Canute placed his throne on the beach to demonstrate the fact that the power of kings was subservient to that of God. This is a message yet to be learned by those who believe that man can control the temperatures of earth – that man is more powerful than nature.
“Denier” is what “climate change absolutists” call those who, like me, acknowledge the fact of climate change and that man has played a significant part, but are skeptical that the precise magnitude of man’s effect is determinable, let alone dominant. “Denier” is the term used by those who profess moral and intellectual superiority to those they condemn as being in the pay of fossil-fuel lobbyists, or as being too stupid to understand what they claim is undeniable. “Denier” is what we are called, we who believe in evolution – that adaptability is key to survival – by those who, like Canute’s entourage, believe that man can compel the tide not to rise.
No reasonable person doubts man’s impact on the environment. He has dammed rivers, so that lands might be cultivated. He has developed energy sources, so that we might be comfortable in winter and summer. He has broken laws of gravity, so that we might travel through air and through space. He has built cities where marshes and virginal forests once stood, so that we might enrich our lives, form societies, educate our youth, finance our businesses, create employment, and erect museums and symphonies to exhibit the art we have created. We know we have had an impact. We also know all living things are interdependent. When one species becomes extinct, others must adapt or die; for change is a permanent feature of life.
Nations, like species, develop unevenly. With species, the ability to adjust to change is crucial. Among nations, survival is tied to liberty. Free men, living under the rule of law and with the prospect of private profit, are more willing to take risks, thus more likely to enjoy the fruits of creativity, ingenuity, perseverance and hard work. A victim and a beneficiary of the wealth created has been the natural world. We have exploited our resources, but we have allowed people to live with clean water and air.
Environmental extremists attack those who extract resources that help all, but they rarely acknowledge the benefits that industry and wealth have brought. When oil was first discovered in Pennsylvania in 1859, the woods of New England towns (like the one in New Hampshire where I grew up) were largely denuded, with trees used for heat, cooking and construction. Wood charcoal was used to make steel, before coal was first used around 1875. New York apartments ceased being heated by coal before the EPA was created. It has hard to imagine how we would live had fossil fuels not been discovered. We may rue the damage they have caused, but without them our lives would be absent comforts we take for granted; nor would we have the moneys they have generated, which have helped conserve our rivers, forests, mountains and beaches.