en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wannsee_Conference#/media/File:Haus_der_Wannsee-Konferenz_02-2014.jpg, A. Savin, CC BY-SA 3.0
Watching the movie Conspiracy, and always ruminating on what our descendants might think of us (yes, it is a theme here on this blog); has anyone thought of the realities of climate change, knowing full well what the models are, wholeheartedly believing in their veracity, and made big decisions that completely fly in the face of what should be done?
We have to be a bit careful here; the science of climate change is still science, and nobody knows the future for certain. The folks at the Wannsee Conference knew full well what they were doing, and the actions they were taking (and the methods they were using) were fully known to them, and already being utilized at a smaller scale. Had they not acted, millions might not have died in such an industrial fashion. The movie dramatization of the original Wannsee Conference was chilling; no blood was spilled, no gas chambers and images of concentration camps were trotted out to scare you. What was the darkest part of the movie was how even-keeled all the participants generally were, and as much as they might have argued over details, they came to a conclusion without any vehement opposition. Heydrich is portrayed as a man whose heart breaks at Schubert, runs the meeting with polite overtures, and smiles as he plans genocide. One infuriating part of that calm, quick, and yet horrific planning meeting was that only a few participants were brought to justice. For example, Eichmann didn’t see justice until Israel captured him and brought him to Jerusalem for trial. Many survived the war, faded into the background, and continued to live.
Will we have a climate version of the Wannsee Conference moment, or has it possibly already happened? Will some mid or high-level bureaucrats meet, and say to themselves “Yes, we absolutely feel that climate change is real, is happening and will be very bad, but we will do this other thing, and accelerate this process to expedite another ideal or project?”
The analogy may be a bit weak; planning the direct killing of millions of innocents via concrete, direct human action is a cold-blooded and horrific thing. Deciding to continue to extract fossil fuels, even when many think they must remain in the ground might be considered madness, but even those planning might have rational (or rationalized) points for their decisions, and think that it is a survivable thing, or that in spite of some “rough patches”, things will work out. It might not be considered genocide directly, but if sea levels rise, droughts become more frequent, and weather systems wreak havoc and cause millions to suffer, the net effect could be the same.
There are those who truly and absolutely think man-made climate change is an illusion, and that humanity who has no real influence over what is going on. For them, decisions to burn more fossil fuels may make sense from their perspective. However, if you feel the climate data and science is real, and you are one that makes big decisions that fly in the face of this data, how much blame be placed on you by your descendants; how harshly should those decision makers be judged? Climate change will affect us all, of course, but some may be affected a lot more, and a lot sooner than others. Climate change doesn’t single out one ethnic or religious group; it affects us all.
Some may pull in the classic tropes of a secret or semi-secret group of folks who meet and control the world. Some claim that Exxon knew about climate change as much as forty years ago, but the models and projections of forty years ago (as claimed in the article) may have been just been scientists being cautious. There is a comprehensive article on this, but Wikipedia may not be the best reference on any controversial topic and there may be biases (it’s all enough to make your head spin).
What sort of smoking gun would it take to have a clear and unambiguous signal that someone up the food chain knew fairly well what would happen, and deliberately made policy in direct contradiction to their understanding? In the fictional movie Twilight’s Last Gleaming, for example, a damning secret report on the Vietnam War (we went to war to prove to the Russians we would continue to fight, even if we were to lose) was the predicating factor for the action of the movie. Will we ever see the minutes of a climate Wannsee, showing a deliberate and cold decision to put some other goal above that of mitigating what could be the greatest disaster to ever befall us? Conversely (and very much playing devil’s advocate here), is there are converse, where climate change (manmade or not) has been trumped up to further another goal?
If there is a glimmer of hope, it must be said that there are large and well-funded organizations (such as the US military) who have already noted that climate change is a serious problem (not exactly a group of left-wing treehuggers). Climate change is seen as a threat, and the US military plans for a wide variety of possible scenarios. Groups that see a reality of climate change, and work against mitigating it may exist; will this pit the bureaucracy of the US military against that of whatever group flies in the face of this? If the military sees a threat, they can plan on countering it directly via reaction, or via preemption. Will preemption ever become, as they say, “kinetic”?
As always, there are many questions.