Saturday, December 27, 2014

For the Sake of Your Children and Grandchildren, Don’t Ignore Climate Change

If you have a 3-year old child or grandchild, he or she will most likely live until 2090.  His or her children … your grandchildren or great-grandchildren … will most likely live until 2115.  What kind of environment do you want to leave them … one that creates hardship and even threatens life or one that nurtures it?   That is the question that every corporation head, every member of Congress, and each and every citizen should ask themselves when considering the issue of climate change.

Al Gore was absolutely right when he labeled climate change, “An Inconvenient Truth.”  Corporations find it inconvenient because they don’t want to spend more money to clean up their emissions or change how things are produced.  The public finds it inconvenient because it doesn’t want to change it’s habits … the car culture, wanting consumer goods to be cheap, not wanting to bother with conservation.  And it’s inconvenient for the government because it means having to take leadership and, at least in the short run, displeasing important constituencies.

But guess what?  Inconvenient or not, the evidence becomes clearer every year that we are headed down a path that will lead to major disruptions and hardship for much of the Earth’s inhabitants.  And the disruptions and hardships are arriving more quickly than scientists had anticipated.

In the old days, miners used to take canaries down with them into the mines to warn them of impending disaster.  If gas was building up, the canaries would get sick before the miners had any awareness of a problem.  And the miners would get out as quickly as possible.

We have already had plenty of climate change “canaries in the mine,” but only scientists seem to be concerned.  Whether you look at the disappearance of arctic ice in summer, the weakening of the ice shelf in Greenland and parts of Antartica, the increase in violent weather and drought, the report that most polar bear cubs are not living to maturity, the march of pests from southern to northern areas with accompanying destruction of forests, deadly tick infestations of moose, the movement of fish and lobsters from their ancestral habitats further north as the Atlantic Ocean waters off much of New England become too warm … all of these things are warnings of much worse things to come.  

And each year, the scientific reports contain a familiar refrain … that the changes are happening more quickly than had been anticipated.  Now there is consensus that even with the world-wide agreement to cut carbon emissions currently in process, significant impact cannot be avoided, with such impact appearing by 2050.  Scientists are no longer even sure that the previous standard limit of a “safe” rise in temperature (2º C/3.6º F) is correct; it may be lower.  But even that limit can no longer be avoided.  Only catastrophic impact can possibly be avoided, and even that is less likely as each year without action passes..

We … governments, corporations, and the public … are playing a losing game of Russian roulette with the lives of our children and grandchildren.  If we want our immediate descendants to be able to continue living on Earth in a safe, secure environment, then more drastic broad-based action needs to be taken now.  Everyone gives lip service to “our children are the future,” yet everyone acts like there’s no tomorrow.  Everyone’s planning is short-term.

I don’t know what the exact answer is.  But I do know that denial has to stop.  And significant action has to be taken by government, corporations, and individuals for the sake of our children.