I watched Jaws for the umpteenth time recently and was struck by similarities a particular scene had with modern-day discourse on climate change. For those of you not familiar with the scene, Chief Brody and scientist Hooper try to convince Mayor Vaughn the local beaches must be closed until a shark, responsible for two deaths, is caught and killed. Vaughn is loathed to agree with their proposals because of the devastating short-term effect closing the beaches will have on the local economy. I have reproduced the scene and selectively edited it for illustrative purposes.
Martin: This is man-made climate change, a big one! And any climate scientist in the world will tell you it’s a killer! It’s a man-eater!
Hooper: Look the situation, is that apparently global warming is affecting Amity Island. And it’s going to continue to be a problem as long as we keep burning fossil fuels.
Martin: And there’s no limit to what it’s gonna do! I mean we’ve already had a number of incidents, two people killed inside of a week. And it’s gonna happen again, it happened before! Superstorm Sandy!
Hooper: 2012. There were—
Martin: 2012! Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin, with particularly severe damage in new Jersey and New York. Damage in the US amounted to $71.4 billion.
Martin: Tell him, tell him about the causes!
Hooper: Global warming is caused when carbon dioxide and other air pollutants and greenhouse gasses collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface the exact kind of activity that occurs whenever human beings burn fossil fuels. You cannot avoid it.
Martin: If you ignore this and keep burning fossil fuels, it’s like ringing the death bell for Christ’s sakes!
Hooper: Look Mr. Vaughn. Mr. Vaughn. I got some bleached coral from the water off Amity Island and it was caused by global warming.
Martin: It was staghorn coral, it was completely white. I helped tow it in, you sh– you should have seen it!
Vaughn: Where, where is that coral. Did you see it Brody?
Martin: No I didn’t see it, he, he lost it. We had a little accident on the way in.
Hooper: I had an accident.
Vaughn: And what did you say the name of this climate thing is?
Hooper: It’s climate change. It’s global warming!
Vaughn: But you, you don’t have the proof. Look we depend on the oil companies here for our very lives.
Hooper: You are not going to have a life unless you deal with this problem!
Vaughn: And if you enact green regulations, we’re finished!
Martin: We’re not only gonna enact environmental regulations, we’re gonna have to stop polluting the atmosphere! I mean, we’re gonna have to tell the public. We’re gonna have to become more sustainable!
Hooper: Mr. you have to contract a scientific research panel.
Vaughn: I don’t think either one of you are familiar with our problems!
Hooper: Uh, I think that I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites you in the ass! Now wait a second, wait a second!
Vaughn: Chief? Hey Chief?
Hooper: There are two ways to deal with this problem. You gonna reduce emissions and your gonna use alternative energy supplies.
Martin: Larry we have to take action now.
Vaughn: Brody? [pointing at the Amity Island sign] Sick vandalism. That is a deliberate mutilation of a public service message. Now I want those little paint-happy bastards caught and hung up by their Buster Browns!
Hooper: That’s it! Good-bye! I’m not going to waste my time arguing with a man who refuses to listen to reason. I’m gonna see you later Brody.
Martin: Aw, now please don’t do this, he’s not…
Hooper: Mr. Vaughn, what we are dealing with here is that the industrial activities which our modern civilisation depends upon have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years. There’s a better than 95% probability that human-produced greenhouse gases have caused much of the observed increase in Earth’s temperatures over the past 50 years. And that’s all. Now why don’t you take a long close look at the research. Those calculations are correct.
Vaughn: Love to prove that wouldn’t ya? Get your name into the National Geographic!
Hooper: Ha ha ha ha ha.
Martin: Larry, Larry, if we make an effort today, we might be able to save future generations.
Vaughn: Future generations? Heh, for Christ’s sake tomorrow is the fourth of July! And we will be open for business. It’s gonna be one of the best summers we ever had! Now if you fellas are concerned about rising water levels, you do whatever you have to, to make our beaches safe. But those beaches will be open for this weekend!