Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The New Climate Change Debate

I must admit that I do not really understand climate change. The basic mechanic of the process has been explained to me hundreds of times since I was in school. To be fair, I presume that the vast, overwhelming majority don’t understand it either as one really needs to be trained in climate science to actually understand it. However, I don’t really understand how many ecological processes occur, but I accept the information presented by biologists, botanists, etc. inform me as scientific fact.

It strikes me as a remarkable amount of hubris that so much of the general population feels comfortable discounting the assertions of the near-unanimous chorus of climate scientists. This is the same public that will snag on any half-reported news article about what latest common item has been linked to cancer.

Recently the New York Times reported that the West Antarctic ice sheet has become irreversibly unstable. The scientists interview in the article claim that as the ice sheet breaks up it could raise sea levels between four and twelve feet. Even if you do not believe in man-made climate change there appears to be irrefutable proof that our governments have to address shifting realities of our planet’s environment. Four feet may not sound significant, but it would mean significant problems for every coastal city in the world and the displacement of millions of people.

Living in the Northwest Territories has provided a particular insight for me. Recently I have heard about several species moving north. Earth worms, magpies, seagulls are just a handful of examples that are being seen more in more north of 60. The expansion of these creatures’ ranges is not a product of random chance, but a friendlier environment for their survival. When the topic of climate change comes up in the North I rarely hear sceptics, just more anecdotal evidence on what is happening to the subarctic and arctic world.

Ignoring the coming impacts of climate change the current realities of harsher weather, floods, droughts, and rising sea levels will be enough to give pause to governments faces with mitigating such disasters. The scientists quoted in the New York Times seem abundantly convinced that we have likely reached, or passed the tipping point. Earth Hours and carpooling is no longer sufficient and will merely slow what seems to be an inevitable process given our refusal to act. Therefore the debate about climate change will be what shall we do to mitigate its effects or reverse the damage as opposed to preventing it, or more foolishly, does it exist.

John Oliver takes on the Climate Change debate.

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