Environmentalism frustrates the hell out of me. I try to live a very low impact life but I still end up arguing against environmentalists on a regular basis. Largely this is because I don't accept bad arguments regardless of whether or not I agree with their conclusions. I am certain this makes me extremely annoying to many people, but it isn't as if I can be somebody else. I saw a link today that attempted to give a bulletproof argument for acting to prevent climate change. The argument boils down to a simple four box truth table with climate change being true or false on the side and human action to prevent climate change being true or false on the top. Essentially he says that if we act to prevent climate change and it is real, we win. If we don't act and it is false, we win. However, if we act to prevent climate change and it is false we lose a lot of money, and if we don't act and it is true then civilization collapses. Since civilization collapsing is a lot worse than losing a lot of money, we must act!
He certainly sets up his table nicely and I appreciate people trying to argue that we should act on climate change but unfortunately this is complete malarkey. Climate change is not a yes/no scenario, and neither is our expenditure of resources to combat it. We could, for example, try to keep emissions in developed nations at the same levels they were in 1980 and let developing nations rachet up their emissions to match ours. Some people might call that 'acting on climate change' even though such a plan will do nothing to stop substantial temperature increases. We could instead cut all emissions in the developed world by 80% immediately and prevent developing nations from exceeding those values and this would be highly effective at stopping climate change but it is completely impossible.
Realistically the situation is as follows. Climate change is inevitable - scientifically it is preventable (we could all just commit suicide) but practically it can't be done. However, climate change is not an all or nothing proposition. What we can do is lower our emissions where it is easy and effective to reduce the overall impact and prepare for some change to occur. The world has been warm before and will be warm again and with enough ingenuity, money, and effort we can carve a good place for ourselves in it.
We in the developed world can use a hell of a lot less power, fuel, and stuff than we do with virtually no impact on our happiness, health, or safety. We can use government to force corporations to be environmentally friendly. What we can't do is 'win the war' against climate change. Instead, we can take small steps to make our world a better place in the future and we should do so even if 'positive incremental change!' doesn't make much of a rallying cry.