The Internet has become an instrument for the mass destruction of honesty, decency and empathy, and has descended into a cesspool of hate-and-lies spreaders, often automated by nefarious regimes and other anonymous deviants (“Info warfare threatens democracies,” May 8, page 6).
Democratic governments are doing precious little to rectify the situation by bringing the hate-and-lies spreaders to justice. Therefore, I repeatedly tell my students that they should avoid automated news services generated for example by Facebook and Google, and instead use reliable sources of information, e.g., Wikipedia and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), or the Guardian and Taipei Times newspapers.
Why are they reliable? Because they have editors, who, if they are good at their jobs, check facts and filter misinformation, protecting readers from outright hate and lies. That is the reason why scientific journals, such as Nature and Science, are almost always reliable sources of information: They have the best and brightest minds in the world as their editors. That is also why Infowars, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and all the other, often even worse, hate-and-lies spreaders of the world have no editors and fact-checkers, because they are in the business of spreading hate and lies.
Hence, it came as an unpleasant surprise to read a blatantly bad and often misleading editorial in the Taipei Times (“Give voice to climate facts, not fear,” May 7, page 8).
Its first argument was that striking high-school students are encapsulating “a worrying global trend toward climate alarmism.”
Alarmism? If you are not alarmed about climate change, which is condemning most ecosystems to collapse, with certain harmful effects on human health and well-being, then you must be deaf and blind.
Every year, the number of respected scientists who scream bloody murder from the rooftops is increasing (“Climate emergency: an open letter,” Dec. 11, 2018, page 8).
Remember, scientists deal in truth instead of lies. A roll call of the brightest minds in the world are all telling the same story.
Two recent UN-sponsored global reports written by the best scientists in their respective fields, one by the IPCC about climate change (“‘Unprecedented’ climate steps are needed, UN says,” Oct. 9, 2018, page 1) and one by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services about biodiversity and ecosystems (“Fix nature to avoid misery: UN report,” May 5, page 4), paint a very bleak picture of the future if “business as usual” continues.
Incidentally, these global reports also outline perfectly feasible alternative scenarios that could avoid the doomsday scenarios of business-as-usual.
The editorial then goes on to say that governments are already addressing the climate change threat.
The author goes on to cherry-pick two examples out of context. One is that the UK has reduced emissions by 38 percent since 1990, but the author also admits that it is the best among major developed countries.
That means that all the other countries are doing worse, so that is an obvious example of choosing the best example to paint a wrong impression.
The second one is that Taiwan has committed to have 20 percent renewable energy by 2025.
There are two problems with that. One, it is just a commitment and the government might not reach that target. Second, it is not fast enough, because the planet needs to reach zero-carbon emissions by 2050, if not earlier.
However, if I use linear extrapolation, at this pace of change Taiwan only reaches zero-carbon emissions by 2067.
Most importantly, these kinds of arguments, which cherry-pick the facts, deflect from the reality that greenhouse gases continue to increase in the atmosphere, and that, globally, people are undeniably heading for a climate crisis.
Furthermore, it ignores the reality that the climate crisis is just part of a greater environmental crisis based on a completely outdated business model of everlasting growth, which causes the accelerating depletion of natural resources and pollution of the biosphere (“Environmental logic,” Sept. 22, 2010, page 8).
Instead, people need to move away from the fiction of growth as a panacea for all of society’s woes and instead embrace true sustainability. One important contribution for true sustainability is replacing all fossil fuels with renewable energy as fast as possible.
Others are: 100 percent recycling, biomimicry, sustainable cities, much better ecosystem protection and management, greater socioeconomic equality, and a steady-state economy (“Global economy must be rebuilt,” Dec. 21, 2009, page 8). In other words: abandon traditional economic growth (“the madness of more”) and replace it with what improves people’s quality of life (“the wisdom of enough”).
As for the last problem with the editorial: The completely false conclusion that a rapid decarbonization of the economy would lead to the “shutting down of swathes of industry, the loss of thousands of jobs and would probably crash the economy.”
This is misleading fearmongering at its worst.
Nobody wants to go back to living in caves or trees — two common accusations thrown at environmentalists.
Replacing fossil-fuel energy with renewable energy changes nothing about how society operates except the source of the energy. Changing the energy source allows everything else to continue as normal, except that people now have a much cleaner environment and perhaps even more jobs, because renewable energy usually creates more and better jobs than the fossil-fuel industry (“Obvious ‘green’ solutions ignored,” Dec. 28, 2017, page 8).
What people should advocate for is a much improved world, with much better socioeconomic-environmental security, reasonable income equality, good health, strong personal relationships, happiness and life satisfaction, and reasonable working hours to allow more time for family, friends and fun in life.
Now that is definitely worth striking for.
Bruno Walther is a professor of biology at National Sun Yat-sen University’s Department of Biological Sciences.
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