Can humanity tackle climate change without believing in it? Medical history suggests it might probably

Strange as it could sound, the early germ theorists could tell us loads about today's attitudes toward climate change.

While researching a brand new book concerning the History of emerging infectionsI actually have noticed many similarities between previous debates concerning the existence of microbes and current debates concerning the existence of world warming.

Both controversies reveal the difficulties related to perceiving an invisible threat. Both reveal the influence of economic interests that profit from the establishment. But most significantly, each reveal how individuals with different beliefs and interests can nevertheless agree on vital strategies and courses of motion to deal with a world problem.

What you don’t see can harm you

Seeing is believing, and until the mid-Nineteenth century it was very difficult to see the tiny organisms chargeable for our so-called “fever diseases.”

Although the indirect evidence was convincing, many individuals remained skeptical about “animalcules” – as microorganisms were formerly called – until the microscope was sufficiently developed. Even then, Acceptance was gradualThe once prevailing ideas about disease-causing gases, called miasmas, endured for several a long time before most individuals recognized that fever had a living cause.

Climate change presents us with similar challenges by way of visibility. Although everyone can see and feel the weather, it is usually difficult to larger patterns and longer trends without the assistance of technical diagrams.

Charts show that global temperatures and sea levels are rising, while carbon dioxide emissions are increasing faster than at any time in thousands of years.
Charts show how global temperature, carbon dioxide emissions and sea levels have increased over time.
NOAA, NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center/PO.DAAC

Even if people recognize the larger picture, human responsibility is made tougher by the proven fact that CO2 emissions The diseases that come from our engines, just like the germ infections in our bodies, are invisible to the naked eye. It is difficult to search out human solutions when the evidence of human causes will not be visible.

Economic aspects could also be more vital than evidence

What makes matters worse is that economic interests often stand in the way in which of scientific recommendations.

In the case of the germ theory, early recommendations to forestall the spread of infection included Reintroduction of quarantines at ports and border crossings, thereby hindering the flow of international trade.

In the case of climate theory, the recommendations for slowing global warming include Reducing the consumption of carbon-based fuelsand thus reduce the flow of oil. These strategies can threaten each livelihoods and profits, so it will not be surprising Unions disagree over green initiatives and energy managers spread Misinformation about climate science.

Beliefs and interests don’t have to coincide

However, people's beliefs and interests don’t have to coincide for everybody to profit from the recommendations.

This was the case within the last a long time of the Nineteenth century, when germ-denying surgeons nevertheless the antiseptic techniques of Joseph Lister.

They did this mainly for the sensible reason that their patients were higher with the brand new methods. But when a proof was needed, a lot of these die-hard sceptics claimed that Lister's methods had Transmission of miasmas and non-living organisms.

In response to those allegations, Lister stated:

“If anyone supposes that the septic material is not of the nature of living organisms, but is a so-called chemical ferment, without vitality… such an idea, although in my opinion not justified by any scientific evidence, is, from a practical point of view, equivalent to a germ theory, since it inculcates exactly the same methods of antiseptic treatment.”

Lister was more inquisitive about saving lives than in winning arguments. As long as surgeons used his methods, he was not concerned with their justification. When it got here to stopping infections, behavior, not belief, counted.

An illustration of doctors working with a patient on a table and a nebulizer spraying a liquid over the surgical area.
A surgeon and his assistants use Lister's antiseptic spray during an operation.
Welcome images via Wikimedia, From

Behavioral change through complementary interests

The same will be said about global warming: changing behavior is more vital than changing beliefs.

A typical example of it is a large and growing Environmental movement amongst evangelical ChristiansOrganizations equivalent to Green Faith and the Creation Care Task Force cite the Bible to advertise environmental protection as a sacred duty.

While a lot of these groups acknowledge human-caused climate change, a few of their basic beliefs contradict evolutionary theories that my colleagues and I take advantage of as scientists. But we don't need to agree about fossils to wean the world off fossil fuels.

The same applies to priorities and economic interests.

A recent national Pew survey found that a big majority of Americans support the event and use of renewable energy. However, this features a narrow majority of Republicans Their motives are sometimes different of those of the Democrats.

Republicans are more likely Prioritize the economic advantages in renewable energy than Democrats, who usually tend to cite global warming as their driving concern.

The economic advantages could explain why Red states produce the most important share of American wind energy and why three of those states are among the many top five solar energy producers within the country. Their adoption correlates with the geography of the wind and solar belts, where farmers see good returns on electricity generation and a stable source of income to cushion the value fluctuations of weather-sensitive crops. Livelihood is a powerful motivator.

Finding common ground could change the world

None of those examples address climate change on all fronts. And there are differing opinions amongst each Democrats and Republicans about how quickly and the way far the Transition to renewable energies should work.

But we are able to learn one other hopeful lesson from the Nineteenth century: Although there was not agreement on all measures to forestall disease, there was enough common ground to the most important decline in mortality in recorded history.

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