LGBT Rights Is No Analogy to Global Warming

Melting GlaciersI’m with Erik Loomis on, The Despair of Climate Scientists. This is in reference to some happy talk by Gavin Schmidt. He’s a climate scientists, who does actually seem to think that all hope is lost. But he thinks we should put on the best face. In an article in Esquire, it noted, “But things can change much quicker than people think, he says. Look at attitudes on gay marriage.” It could. And flights of angels could sing thee to thy rest! Anything at all is possible.

The problem, as Loomis noted is that “fighting climate change means taking on huge corporations and gay marriage does not.” He also said that Americans have a special fondness for “freedom” issues. I think he’s wrong about that. But the fact of the matter is that same sex marriage doesn’t cost corporations a dime. So they don’t have a problem with it. Climate change is something that will hurt the current corporate structure of the world. I actually think that addressing climate change would be great for the world economy. But that’s not what corporate CEOs care about. And they certainly don’t care about anything that might happen more than a year or two from now.

Now some people may know that I’ve often dismissed drawing broader conclusions based upon gains in LGBT rights. And they might point out that usually I talk about how the LGBT community has an advantage in that it is evenly distributed among the large community. That’s still true. But that’s the reason that LGBT rights are not a good analogy for African American or Latino or basically any other minority group’s rights. And that is the mechanism by which LGBT rights have made major progress. But the corporate side is big in a different way. It isn’t that they helped a great deal, but it didn’t stand in the way.

When it comes to corporations, we aren’t just dealing with them wielding political influence. When I was studying this stuff in graduate school, there really wasn’t much in terms of global warming denial. Certainly the oil industry was finding any scientists it could that pushed against the developing narrative. And they were funding their own science. But they hadn’t figured out then that they didn’t even need to do science. They could just fund freaks like The Heartland Institute and pretend that they weren’t spouting nonsense. But even that didn’t seem to go all that well until they had Fox News to make global warming denial really big.

Part of the problem here is that if corporations were humans, we would all agree that they are psychopaths. They have no empathy and they are required by law to do whatever they can to maximize shareholder value. (You really have to wonder if the people who created that law weren’t psychopaths!) Now it is certainly true that some small number of corporations will see addressing global warming as being to their advantage. But most will not. And so they will continue on pushing the idea that global warming is just no big deal. Because millions of people dying in the coming decades — and even the possibly of a global mass extinction — is nothing compared to next quarter’s profits.

So no: there will not be a sudden change of policy on global warming like we saw with same sex marriage. As it is, same sex marriage is only legal because of a bare majority on the Supreme Court. If it were up the Congress, same sex marriage would be outlawed. Regardless, we head into global warming at full speed. And I know that people will look back on this time and wonder why we did nothing. “It was irrational,” they will say. And they’ll be right.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “LGBT Rights Is No Analogy to Global Warming

  1. Frank wrote: “Part of the problem here is that if corporations were humans, we would all agree that they are psychopaths. They have no empathy and they are required by law to do whatever they can to maximize shareholder value. (You really have to wonder if the people who created that law weren’t psychopaths!)”

    Frank, does this law really exist? Where? When I look for it, I find many articles like http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/maximizing-shareholder-value-the-goal-that-changed-corporate-america/2013/08/26/26e9ca8e-ed74-11e2-9008-61e94a7ea20d_story.html
    which includes: “Driving this change is a deep-seated belief that took hold in corporate America a few decades ago and has come to define today’s economy — that a company’s primary purpose is to maximize shareholder value. The belief that shareholders come first is not codified by statute. Rather, it was introduced by a handful of free-market academics in the 1970s and then picked up by business leaders and the media until it became an oft-repeated mantra in the corporate world.”

    • Excellent point. I have heard this before. But it seems to me that there is case law — probably at the Supreme Court level — that has concluded this. I’ll see if I can get more information. The bigger issue I think is that there are lots of ways to read “maximize shareholder value.” Squeezing labor and maximizing quarterly profits is probably not a good way to maximize shareholder value. But that is certainly the way this is interpreted by here in America.

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