This one has been puzzling me. When I hear debates about climate change, very often it seems like the debate has been centered around whether or not it is caused by human activity.
To me this aspect feels like a complete red herring.
Presumably both sides would agree that if there is climate change, and if it would be sufficiently harmful (to the planet or to human activity, take your pick) then naturally we would try to reduce it. That's the case whether or not it was human-caused, all that matters is whether there's evidence of change, and whether enough people feel that the prospective/projected climate change we're seeing, would be harmful enough if we don't act globally to deliberately reduce the amount of heat trapped by the earth.
As a (poor) analogy, arguing whether or not it's human-caused feels a bit like planning to develop real estate on a seaside clifftop which some specialists have said might suffer dangerous erosion in the next 70 years unless you put up some seawalls to prevent water action at the base of the cliff - and basing your view whether to build seawalls and other erosion defences upon whether or not there's proof that human activity would be the cause of any future erosion, rather than whether or not erosion is likely and if so how harmful it might be to your interests if nothing is done to reduce it.
Put another way - who cares if it's human caused and why would that be relevant in the debate?
- We can agree if the earth were to retain heat to an extent that global temperatures slightly rise by a couple or so degrees, it would be harmful to us (whatever the cause of that rise).
- We can also agree that as a species, we have the ability to cause an increase or decrease to that retention of heat by our industrial and technical activities.
- So the question surely is whether there is good evidence it's a risk, how big the risk is, and whether the projected impact is likely and sufficient to undertake measures to offset it by reducing the earth's heat retention.
That's classic cost/benefit/likelihood decision-making, and has no relation to any cause of any warming, which seems like a red herring.
So why is the climate change debate so often framed in terms of human cause rather than whether or not it's actually happening or a risk? It's not like, were the same degree of projected climate change present but not human caused, the harm to us would be any different.
Update/note: To be clear, I'm not asking for views whether or not climate change is true, if we have the ability to change it for good or bad, what evidence exists, whether people want or oppose change, or anything like that. I'm specifically looking at why the debate so often gets framed round a point that seems to be a red herring whatever the side one is on.