Back in July, I posted a response to a piece written for The American Scholar by Robert Laughlin. I was hoping they would make my letter available on their website, but they still have not done so. Here is what I sent:
The recent article Robert Laughlin wrote about climate change (“What the Earth Knows”, Summer 2010) perpetuates a dangerous fallacy – namely, that anything that doesn’t imperil the Earth as a whole cannot imperil humanity. Unfortunately, there is good reason to think that climate change is an exception. It cannot cease the yearly orbit of the Earth around the sun, but it could well undermine the stable climatic conditions that have accompanied the rise of human civilization during the past 10,000 years. By pointing at the robustness of the planet as a reason not to worry about climate change, your article commits an error comparable to seeing a baby driving around on a bulldozer and saying: “There’s no need to worry, that bulldozer will be just fine.”
The Earth will be fine, but for the sake of humanity we need to end our dependence on fossil fuels and move to energy sources that will last forever and which will not destabilize the climate upon which we depend.