Several years ago, I worked for Webb Elliott at a company called Connection Software. Some crazy things happened at the company. Some people got hurt. I almost killed Webb at one point, literally, but I won’t go into that now. The story has been well documented.
I still don’t care for Webb, but I do respect his intellect and his business instincts. A week ago, I ran into him at a coffee shop, and we chatted about this and that. Somehow we got on the subject of global warming. He had some interesting ideas, and with his permission, I recorded that part of the conversation.
Joe: I want to chat briefly about climate-change deniers.
Webb: Okay. It’s your blog.
Joe: I find it fascinating that some politicians deny the science behind global warming. I’ve got a quote here from Scott Pruitt’s interview on CNBC:
“So no, I would not agree that it [human activity] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”
Webb: Surprise. Surprise.
Joe: I gather from your tone that despite what these guys are saying, you think they agree with the science community’s conclusion.
Webb: Of course they do. They’re not idiots. You’d have to be slow-witted to read these studies and not agree that human activity is the primary driver to climate change.
Joe: But . . . but elected officials are supposed to act in the interest of citizens.
Webb: Please. Spare me the naiveté. That’s always been your Achilles heel. But as long as we’re quoting politicians, let me pull up a statement Rick Perry made on his interview with CNBC.
“The fact is this shouldn’t be a debate about, ‘Is the climate changing, is man having an effect on it?’ Yeah, we are. The question should be just how much, and what are the policy changes that we need to make to effect that?”
Joe: Interesting. I don’t think I’ve heard that quote.
Webb: This is the key. This is what the so-called climate change deniers truly believe: Yeah, we are changing the global climate, but what should we do about it?
Joe: All right, let’s say I accept your premise. What do these politicians believe should be done?
Webb: Here’s where it gets tricky. I see three camps.
First, you have the survival-of-the-fittest types. The Koch brothers, and anyone they support, fit in this group. Here’s what they believe: Sure, global warming exists, and there may be terrible consequences for polar bears and coastal cities and so forth, but not in my lifetime. I’m the strongest, and I get to take what I want. That’s what it means to be a human. Might makes right. Don’t try to muck that up with a bunch of feel-good-about-the-planet regulations.
Joe: I can see some folks subscribing to that position.
Webb: Now comes the second group. They believe that humans will always find a way. We are the most adaptable species on the planet. Originating in the warm climes of Africa, we have figured out how to live everywhere from rain forests to the frozen north. We will sort out how to survive global warming when we have to. In the meantime, let the party continue.
Joe: Uh huh. Charming folks. Who is next?
Webb: The third group—and you can count me in with this bunch—believes that we’re doomed no matter what we do. Humans may be adaptable, but we are also the greediest species that ever evolved. Ninety-plus percent of the people on the planet want one thing: More.
Joe: More what?
Webb: More of everything. We all want a higher standard of living. So long as we crave better food, bigger houses, faster cars, and luxurious vacations, the planet is screwed. We can recycle plastic water bottles to the moon and back, but it won’t change a thing. The extreme weather will only get worse.
Joe: So according to this group, and you, there’s no hope.
Webb: Pretty much. Actually, the only chance I see is the one you referred to in your post on negative fertility rates. I hadn’t focused on that before. If women reach a collective decision to have fewer children, the human race might have a chance.
Joe: I’m depressed.
Webb: Sorry, man. As much as I’d like to believe it, capital markets won’t save us this time.
End of interview.
So that’s it, folks. The conversation left me feeling uneasy about the ethics of politicians. But I did learn something. I believe Rick Perry spoke the truth. It’s not whether global warming is happening. It is. The question is what should we do about it.