Does it matter how many bullets are in the gun?

The morality of climate change
kids fly fishing - believe - dave mccoy
Photo: Dave McCoy

At its heart, climate change is a moral and ethical issue; especially for sportsmen. Most of the current debate centers on the science, but the science is only one part of it.

A while back, M.I.T. put out a study showing that temperatures could rise by more than 10 °F this century if we don’t get a handle on our greenhouse gas emissions. That kind of temperature increase would destroy fish and wildlife habitat all over the planet and leave humanity in (and on) a world of hurt. Our kids and our grandkids, not to mention our fishing, would be completely screwed.

I think we can all agree that trashing everything we care about and leaving our children a sick planet is a really bad idea. Still, the debate rages on. Is global warming real? Are the climate projections correct? Are the scientists right?

Now let’s set those questions aside for a second and focus on a more important one instead. What kind of risks are we willing to take with our future?

Last I heard, our top scientists were saying with 90% or greater certainty that the earth’s climate is warming and that humans are causing much of the temperature increase. But let’s throw out that 90% figure. For argument’s sake, let’s stipulate that the odds are lower and drop them all the way down to 50%. Is it moral for us to reduce our future to the toss of a coin? Heads we win, tails we’re toast? Is that a wager we’re willing to make?

You know what? The heck with 50%. Let’s cut it all the way down to 20%. Let’s say there’s only a 20% chance that those incredibly smart scientists at M.I.T. have their projections right. Would you let your kids play in the road if there was a 20% chance they’d get run over by a truck? Would you let them swim across the river if you knew there was a 20% chance they’d drown?

Here it is in black and white: none of us can say for sure what’s going to happen in the future. We can offer educated guesses, but the reality is that we simply don’t know. But no rational human being should be willing to bet everything we care about — every last thing; our fishing, our economy, the lives of our kids and grandkids — that our scientists are wrong. That’s the act of a madman or a sociopath.

There’s not a person alive who can guarantee with absolute certainty that our scientists are mistaken. And since that’s the case, the folks on the other side of this issue are literally asking us to play Russian Roulette with our future — to simply ignore the warnings and cross our fingers and hope things turn out okay. I don’t give a damn how many bullets are in the revolver; there’s no way I’m putting that barrel against my son’s head and pulling the trigger.

Climate change is a moral issue. It’s a moral issue for anglers, and for patriots, and for parents. It’s the moral issue of our time. Even though a recent scientific study puts the expert consensus on human-caused climate change at 99.9%, we don’t need to focus on scientific certainty. We simply have to ask ourselves if we’re willing to wager everything we care about that our experts are wrong. I’ll tell you one thing right now. That’s not a bet I’m willing to make.

Todd Tanner is a lifelong angler, an outdoor writer, a former fly fishing guide, and the president of Conservation Hawks.


Hmmm typical. All emotion, no facts, no content, no solutions.

Great writing. Can't stand it when people deny the facts especially when so much is at stake.

Great article and perspective, Todd. I couldn't agree more!