Climate Skeptics: Would you cover your kids in Agent Orange?
Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-11-23
By the logic of climate-change skeptics, deniers, or action-delays (from now on, I’ll just use "deniers"), they would see no problem with dusting your kids with Agent Orange, nor would they think you negligent if you dusted their kids with the stuff. If not Agent Orange, then at least blowing smoke in the faces of their kids isn’t something they should complain about.
If you really want to make the analogy watertight, simply find something that is now has the same level of proof/doubt as to carcinogenicity and teratogenicity as Agent Orange did prior to 1991, or second-hand smoke did until recently. How much doubt? Well, if we go by the proof demanded by the deniers for the need for rapid and strong climate change, even if every reputable medical journal in the world, and every expert say the compound is probably carcinogenic, any dissenting opinion, even if only from those on the payroll of chemical companies, would be enough to satisfy the deniers that more proof was needed. Certainly there were numerous inquiries by governments that (conveniently) absolved themselves of any responsibilities for the continuing birth defects in Vietnam, and in families of Vietnam veterans, those inquiries constantly issuing a "case-not-proven" decision.
Besides, dioxins (a major part of Agent Orange) are still being churned out by large incinerators and other industrial processes, including paper recycling. As a by-product of industrial processes, and with industry claims over the years that it is too expensive to rework all their processes or not burn waste, the analogy with CO2 is quite appropriate.
So, let’s just call such a chemical "Compound X", something we could doubtless find that the vast majority of toxicologists regard as a strong human carcinogen, but with a very small minority of deniers.
If a climate denier complained when you dusted their kids, their food, and their houses with "Compound X", what would you say?
- It is not proven to be a problem:
Sure, there are some who say it is, but they are panic merchants, and there is enough scientific doubt to say that dusting your kids with the stuff isn’t wrong.
- Even if it does prove to be a problem, it’s a long way down the track:
Cancers (and birth defects generations hence) can take decades to show up after any exposures, and by that time, surely there will be better medical technologies and cancer treatments. In the meantime, until the lumps start appearing, we’ll just keep throwing Compound X around.
- If lumps do start appearing, don’t do anything unless all doctors advocate exactly the same treatment:
Even if every medical opinion you seek says that a lump is a problem, if 20% say surgery, 20% say chemo, 20% say radiation, 20% say surgery and radiation, and 20% say all three, well that means the experts are still not in agreement. So, continue to do nothing.
Somehow, if the climate-change deniers had this sort of thing happening to their kids, I think they’d either admit that they are totally inconsistent in their risk-appraisal and mitigation approaches, or they’d get a sudden attack of the sensibles with respect to degrees of proof required, early remediation, prudence, etc, etc.
Even in the absence of evil people poisoning their kids, climate-change deniers probably demand prompt action with much less agreement of experts when it came to environmental risks to themselves or their kids.
So, let’s imagine some other scenarios where climate-change deniers can’t object if you give something to their kids:
- A variation on amphetamine or ecstacy, perhaps not chemically related but hitting the same receptors, is discovered, and before the authorities make it illegal… give it to their kids.
- Spray a range of insecticides and herbicides around a school playground, just beneath the open windows of classrooms while the kids are in there.
- If you are babysitting kids between 4 and 8, give them a hefty dose of films rated MA because of explicit violence or sex, or teach them to play similarly-rated computer games – after all, those things aren’t illegal, and there is lots of debate over how much permanent damage, if any, it does to the kiddywinks, even if a few scaremongers think they twist the psyche of adults.
If any readers are climate-change deniers/skeptics/do-nothing-yetters, but have a very different attitude to what you expose the bodies and minds of kids to, the level of proof and agreement of experts required for you to consider something an unacceptable risk, then it would be very interesting to hear how it is possible to justify different rules for risk assessment.
But, to climate-change deniers (etc) out there… I’d hope your first comments relate to the following questions:
Before the recent law changes that prohibited smoking in cars with kids, what would you have thought of a family of two adults who had a toddler and a 10-year old in the back of a car, windows up, chain-smoking all the way between Melbourne and Sydney. What if your babysitter, outside the house, blew smoke constantly in the face of your babies? Would the babysitter be stupid, immoral, or criminally negligent?