A friend of mine recently shared a video with me titled “BURNED: Ben Shapiro Destroys Climate Change Argument”. Although I am not familiar with Ben Shapiro or his works, once I clicked on the video, I had a good idea of how it would play out. Before deconstructing Shapiro’s arguments, I’d like to first sincerely give him credit for being a brilliant debater. He’s a prime example of why I ask people to avoid turning to debates for information. In short, a skilled debater such as Ben Shapiro can defeat unprepared opponents, and even prepared opponents, with arguments built on an ounce of truth.
The argument Shapiro constructs in the video is as followed. First, scientific estimates are far too high which is why those studies are often accompanied by low confidence. Second, other countries are emitting greenhouse gases so the United States shouldn’t change its ways. Third, humans will adapt to mitigate the effects of climate change. Lastly, because climate change is a slow-moving crisis, it is actually not a crisis, just another problem.
Climate models consist of several mathematic equations and thousands of data points. However, climate models must also take into account a wide number of variables which leads to uncertainty. Those variables, air temperature, pressure, density, water vapor content, and wind magnitude in three directions, cause uncertainty due to their constant fluctuations and variability between regions. This is why some scientific projects don’t predict reality to a T. Even though these models are not perfect, multiple independently-made climate models consistently show that adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere will cause average temperatures to rise.
Tossing blame on other countries not only shows a lack of accountability, but in this case, it only has a single drop of substance. That drop of substance is the fact that China emits more greenhouse gases, which Shapiro correctly pointed out. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), China is responsible for about 30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, the United States firmly sits in second place at 15% which is twice as much as India, the country Shapiro wrongly used in his argument. The United States’ emissions also surpass those of the entire European Union. The entire world benefits whenever a country cuts its emissions, and the United States is no exception.
I apologize in advance but I’ll be using a rather crude comparison to expose the faults in the remainder of Shapiro’s argument. Climate change is like depression in that there is trouble without immediate crisis yet the advancements in medical technology continue to provide hope for a permanent cure. For someone who has depression, life comes with an extra burden. Whether it be a lack of energy or feelings of worthlessness, there is no guarantee that the ultimate crisis, suicide, will immediately follow. Likewise, climate change has led to rivers drying up but the odds of a 100-year drought starting tomorrow are unlikely. Technology has been over our noses for years now. The truth of the matter is that even though some of these projects seem promising, there are still doubts about if they will be successful, especially when upscaled. Furthermore, with conditions steadily worsening, technology must advance that much further. Similarly, the leaps seen in the medical field could lead one to believe that a cure for depression is but a day away. Though that may be true, it is commonly accepted that in the meantime, those suffering from depression should seek proper help for a slow-moving crisis will soon snowball into an unescapable crisis if ignored.
This is not a critique of Shapiro’s intelligence or his character. Ben Shapiro may be a brilliant man, but it’s clear that his expertise is not environmental science. I only wish to show the flaws in his argument as it is easy to be fooled by his tactics, especially if you are simply looking for information. If you do find yourself searching for more information regarding climate change, I highly recommend you search for government or university sites, as this is where you will find experts. If you do decide to look elsewhere, take the extra step and check the sources.
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