While our nation’s political figures continue on their quest towards utter incompetence, it is refreshing to take a step back and gain some global perspective. In this case, we can rest easy knowing it’s not solely the US that is hell-bent on self-destruction: it’s our entire species.
Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its fifth Assessment Report since 1988 — when the United Nations first adopted the group to review “all aspects of climate change and its impacts.” These sporadic reports synthesize research on surface temperatures, sea levels, and CO2 emissions from hundreds of scientists around the world and make suggestions for curbing severe global changes.
The panel’s latest summation of climate change echos its previous insistence (and what we all pretty much know): Global warming is, indeed, a thing.
The IPCC reports that it is, “extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming.” If trends continue, “the Arctic sea ice cover will continue to shrink and thin”, “global glacier volume will further decrease”, and “mean sea level will continue to rise.”
The panel insists that new technology translates to greater confidence in their findings. Thomas Stocker, Co-chairman of Working Group 1 said the document faced intense scrutiny before its release, claiming it “stands out as a reliable and indispensable source of knowledge about climate change.”
While there are many who fervently believe in climate change and the role we homo sapiens (home sapiens sapiens, if you want to get technical) play in it, there are also those who… don’t. Despite 2,000+ pages to the contrary, some still consider “global warming” a topic for a spirited debate.
Following its release, critics faulted the IPCC for errors in its previous assessments. Chip Knappenberger of the Cato Institute said, “the rhetoric coming from global warming alarmists is inconsistent with actual findings.” And on the BCC, Australian geologist Bob Carter said, “there was no more point in trying to mitigate climate change than in trying to prevent earthquakes.”
Still, as Sir Mark Walport — Britian’s chief scientific advisor — succinctly put it:
“This is not something on which human beings can vote, it’s not your opinion that matters, it is actually the truth of it, there is a correct answer. While there are many questions we can vote on, this is not one.”
But there are more hurdles to global warming than the ever-present nonbelievers. While taking care of Earth is an idea everyone should be on board with, without policy changes (or maybe some metaphysical shift in consciousness) the IPCC report, and reactions to it, are just empty words.
Even the panel’s chairman Rajendra Pachauri (who shares his 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with one Mr. Al Gore) said that while he hopes the world will “receive and accept” the message, “what impact that has on the public and any actions that are taken by governments or society at large is really not for us to comment on.”
His statement underscores the attitude many of us have when it comes to reversing our global impact. And those feelings of apathy and complacency are what really need to shift if we hope to reduce the effects of climate change.
Dennis Quaid can’t save us. But there are steps we can all take to promote energy efficiency and lower our personal carbon footprint. After all, Even if you don’t believe in global warming, turning the lights off when you leave just seems like a nice thing to do. We can also focus our collective efforts on electing politicians who provide resolutions to reduce national, and international, CO2 emissions.
Though it’s difficult to envision a reality where people opt to reduce energy consumption, or politicians opt to care about Earth’s (read: anybody’s) healthcare plan, submitting to global warming because it’s “gonna happen anyways” is not the answer. Deflecting responsibility is not the answer. Denialism (sure as hell) is not the answer.
Action is. (And no, by action we don’t mean throwing a giant ice cube into the ocean).
So, to unpack a cliche we’ve all heard before, Remember: The Earth is our only home… stop being a jerk and take a care of it already.