I don’t believe that climate science is young or unreliable. I believe the entities pushing those ideas are doing so to preserve their economic interests and the people buying into those ideas also have some stake in the game. Private industry has known since at least the 70’s that burning fossil fuels causes global warming and potentially earlier than that. Science as a whole has understood the impact of carbon dioxide on global warming since the 1850’s.
I believe that the reason little to nothing has been done about climate change is two fold. Most of the reasoning lies in economics. It is simply not in the interest of fossil fuel companies and the millions of people they employ, pay campaign funds to, and sell their products to admit that they are in the wrong. The blame lies in part on us, the consumer; it’s cold in fall in Montana (especially at night) and instead of bike the five minutes to my 6pm class and back home at 9, it seems much nicer to have my boyfriend drop me off and pick me up at the SUB. In short, I am lazy, and although it really isn’t that inconvenient to put on an extra layer and spend some time outside, I and the fossil fuel companies, have convinced myself that it is just inconvenient enough. Not only do I not bike, but I buy goods wrapped in plastic, I order one day shipping off Amazon Prime, and I never ever unplug devices from the walls when they’re not in use. I’m not entirely to blame though, think about Exxon, the giant of fossil fuel producers. I’m sure you’ve seen the ads of Exxon trying to play themselves off as some kind of eco-friendly, renewables loving corporation. (Who are you trying to kid? We all remember the Exxon Valdez.) The reason you ask? They have a super sized share of the natural gas market, commonly seen as a bridge between fossil fuels and renewables. They’re trying to gobble up an even larger portion of the energy sector by shifting us to a system that is good for their economic interests. If Exxon and other energy giants had not doubled down on fossil fuel production and pivoted earlier then there is a good chance we would not be in nearly as bad a situation as we are today. The second fold goes back to the idea of politics and science becoming two increasingly separate fields as touched upon in The Invention of Air. Unlike during the founding of our country, we no longer have a class of political scientists. This means that despite having scientific knowledge of climate related dangers for some time there has been no action precisely because those running our country have no working knowledge, and therefore trust of, science. We are no longer conducting a great experiment, science and politics live in completely different realms. Specialization in today’s society has led us to a point where if we have experience with one thing stepping out of that one thing is considered an overstep. Perhaps it’s better than a world in which some of the people living in our country are only considered 3/5th human, and those of us with child bearing capabilities are property of the ones that impregnate us, but only by so much.