Sometimes you just have to write…
Why do people keep arguing when the battle’s already been lost?
That may sound like I’m talking about the shutdown, but I’m not. I’m talking about climate change. Last month, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came out with a report saying that there is 95 percent certainty that humans are the cause.
Carbon dioxide levels are going up, and so are sea levels. And the ice sheets are melting. No one disputes any of that.
But climate change skeptics argue that global warming is a natural phenomenon that has happened before in Earth’s history, so we shouldn’t be changing our behavior to try to prevent it or slow it down. They particularly point out the IPCC’s inability to explain the pause in global warming over the past 15 years as proof that global warming can’t be caused by human activity.
Whenever I read about these arguments – the BBC and other news outlets have been criticized for giving climate change skeptics air time equal to climate change believers – I feel exasperated that they’re fighting over something that’s completely beside the point!
We’ve known about global warming since … what? … the 1970’s? We knew we needed to cut our use of fossil fuels, reduce our carbon footprint – even if that term hadn’t been coined yet – and in general change our way of life.
And yet we didn’t. The fact is we don’t want to change our way of life. We’re too selfish.
Sure, we’re willing to use higher-efficiency lightbulbs and hybrid cars and so on … but only if it doesn’t bring down our standard of living. And it’s so much easier to drive everywhere!
We’re willing to recycle … as long as it’s not too inconvenient.
We’re happy to pass laws to reduce pollutants released into the atmosphere by power plants and factories … as long as we can still consume as much as we want whenever we want, and as long as the consumer goods we use up so quickly remain cheap.
It’s clear that we’re unwilling to make the kind of changes across the board that we would have to make to produce any kind of dent in slowing global warming. That’s not to say we shouldn’t. Of course we should. But we won’t.
So what does it matter whether it’s human-caused or natural? Really, who cares?
What we need to do is deal with it! Not waste energy arguing about the cause or fight a losing battle to get governments and individuals to change their ways. We need to figure out how to adjust, how to accommodate what’s coming. In other words, it’s too late to prevent it, so let’s find out how to live with it.
We have a lot of time to do this, of course. The water levels won’t rise over years; they’ll rise over decades. Each country will have to figure out ways to deal with it, whether that means building dykes, moving people, whatever. The same goes for higher average temperatures – and lower, in some areas. Agricultural practices will have to change, if we want to be able to feed the world, even if it’s only in the insufficient, inefficient way we do now. Lots of things will have to change, and we won’t be able to just go along as before, blithely pretending it’s not happening, as we’ve been doing so far.
We all agree that climate change is happening, so let’s stop arguing about why and get on with it!