I cannot remember how much knowledge I actually had about the condition of our planet prior to starting an environmental science degree; I was at the very least well aware of climate change. I had some understanding of land, air and water pollution and why it’s good to recycle. I wanted to save the whales and the sea turtles and the bees and all that jazz, which is why the degree appealed to me in the first place but I have found it is much more than that. Two years later and I honestly believe I’m seeking one of the most valuable degrees of this century, especially considering the opposition in response to solving climate change.
Yes, there are still people out there who do believe climate change exists. There are others who do not see enough immediate threat posed by a quickly steadily and increasing global climate, to take immediate action.
Well I have news for you, there is and I cannot stress this enough: IT IS NOT UP FOR DEBATE AND YOUR LIFE VERY LITERALLY DEPENDS ON THIS EARTH.
The simple evidence for this is air. We all breath it, we all need it. I can tell you with 100% certainty you will die when the air becomes so polluted by CO2 your lungs can’t get any oxygen. If you think I’m being dramatic, lets take a look at India where 1.1 MILLION people die every year because the air is toxic. If those numbers aren’t daunting enough, 4.6 million people world wide from air pollution. Do not think for a second this is a problem that only affects other countries. Almost half of Americans live in areas where the air quality puts them at high risk for premature death.
Most republican politicians chose to resist or ignore any effort to combat climate change. I find this ironic considering they are the same people telling me stricter gun laws infringe on the peoples second amendment right.
Well what about my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? I’m not sure I have the opportunity for any of those things when air quality is so poor it is difficult to breath. So explain to me how it’s legal for industry: manufacturing, agriculture, mining etc., to put toxic chemicals in the air with absolutely no regulation. Explain to me how thats not a violation of the constitution and explain to me why it’s “not that big of a deal”.
Let me break something down for you:
Climate is defined by long term weather patterns. LONG TERM. Your definition of long term and the earths definition of long term are very different. Most of Earths processes happen over hundreds of thousand of years, which is why Earths ecology doesn’t seem to change too much in your lifetime but if you open a biology book you’ll find the earth is drastically different than it was 500,000 years ago. With that in mind lets talk about the inevitability of climate change. Has the earth warmed before? Yes, the earth has gone through previous natural cycles of very hot and very cold global temperatures and previous warming periods were due to increase CO2 levels. However, those cycles happened over a very long time. The first warming period, during the Cretaceous happened over millions of years and the planet warmed a total of 5 degrees celsius. The second time the earth went through this cycle was the PETM. Warming happened over thousands of years (around 20) and overall warming was also about 5 degrees celsius. In the last 100 years we’ve increased global temperatures almost 1.5 degree celsius. Relative to natural cycles that seems a little excessive doesn’t it?
If you’re still thinking, so what? Lets go back to geologic time scales and earth processes. During other warming cycles (and cooling), while some went extinct, many species survived because natural selection had time to run its course. Species were given the time to genetically modify themselves in order to better survive the circumstances. Unfortunately, we are not going to have that luxury and neither will most (if not all) species that currently exist. Natural selection doesn’t happen in 200 years. The generation after us or the one after that will not suddenly have some superior thermoregulation adaptation to survive extreme heat. They aren’t going to acquire gills to live underwater. Science is cool and weird things happen but it takes a lot of time.
While we may have the technology to keep us off the endangered species list for a while, we cannot do it forever. Earth has forces at play that are much bigger than we can imagine or even begin to understand. The planet has gone through many cycles and has always found a way to stabilize itself.
Climate change is not a problem for earth.
Even if we burn up every plant, animal and tree, she will survive. Humans on the other hand, we can’t survive without those things. It is us who will suffer.
The earth is a closed system; new materials are not added and do not escape. Instead resources are recycled through various processes. In turn, these processes are extremely complex and interconnected. As humans, we are intertwined in these processes because we use and depend on those resources. Therefore our decisions affect these processes in ways we will probably never understand. What we do know is that simple changes in one ecosystem can lead to drastic changes all over the world, changes which ultimately affect our survival.
Whether you realize it or not, whether you want to accept it or not, your (not so distant) future depends on choices we make regarding the environment today.
If you can’t see enough intrinsic value in the earth and in nature to care about climate change, I urge you to at least find value in your life and your health and your future.
You are going to see devastating consequences produced by what we have done to this planet. Though most may not impact you at all, sometime in the next 20 years the effects of climate change are going to hit closer to home than you’re comfortable with. I hope you realize the urgency before then.