Although Human-Induced Climate Change has now been generally accepted as an evidenced based scientific phenomenon there still remains many skeptics across all arenas of society – scientific, business and political. Their claim that ‘Climate Change is a myth,’however, is inconsequential. This is because even if Climate Change is an utter fallacy, it is a timely warning for humanity who, with or without Climate Change, is rapidly driving this earth to destruction and thus, Climate Change or not, every person has an obligation to preserve their environment.
Although there have been vast developments in the understanding of science and weather patterns there continues to be much uncertainty, conflicting information and complicated data surrounding the Climate Change crisis. Thus, whilst there has been a general consensus within the scientific community that human-induced Climate Change is occurring, there are many grounds for debate regarding the limitations of the science and extent of the causes and consequences of human impact on global weather trends. There are still those who argue that the current environmental era is merely a normal part of the fluctuating weather patterns that have existed since the dawn of time and thus there has been no disruption in the normal cycles of planet earth. Needless to say, this argument is wholly redundant. Planet Earth has been disturbed in so many direct ways by the current parasitic human lifestyle that even a plateau in global temperature could not slow the destruction that is being caused by unsustainable living. Problems such as water, land and air pollution, natural resource depletion, land deformation, and flora and fauna disturbance have drastically damaged the natural environment. Of course the issues are inextricably linked as seen in recent reports linking Climate Change with air pollution, water supply and natural resource depletion, but there are many threats to the natural environment even without Climate Change superimposed on top.
What is Climate Change?
The Australian Government has a Publication entitled “Climate Change – What Does it Mean?” It explains that Climate Change is “changes in our weather patterns because of an increase in the Earth’s average temperature.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ascribes to a more comprehensive explanation. In the glossary to their reports Climate Change is defined as a “change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g., by using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. Climate Change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcing, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use.”
If Climate Change (Human-Induced) is Just a Post-Modern Fanciful Melodrama
If the phenomenon of Global Warming and Climate Change was premised on nothing more than speculation, pure fallacy or exaggeration this would make no difference to the obligation to continue on a worldwide reformation to care for planet earth. This is because the present environmental issues are not being driven purely by a change in ozone layer composition leading to altered radiation absorption. Instead, it is pollution on a grosser scale that is rapidly torturing the natural environment. The current lifestyle is actually somewhat primitive and rather analogous to simple bacteria behavior. Place a pathogen in a petri dish and it will flourish at a great rate until the nutrients are depleted and the waste products so intolerable that they die. Is the human race so backward that self-limitation is an insurmountable inevitability? Problems other than Climate Change appear to suggest so. These include pollution affecting aspects other than the atmosphere e.g. solids and liquids polluting land and water, Human ventures e.g. mining, land clearing and stripping of natural products, Overpopulation of some areas and Eutrophication (over-enrichment of natural water sources with nutrients from agriculture, energy production by-products and wastewater) amongst many others.
Thus the collateral benefits of adopting a sustainable lifestyle to combat Climate Change are excellent in many other dimensions, and it is these extra benefits that may be more directly advantageous. For example by planting trees it is not just the resorption of carbon dioxide that will be beneficial rather it is the prevention of erosion and the preservation of habitats that can be achieved.
If Climate Change is Real
Assuming that Climate Change is real then all of the above apply but the consequences are even more drastic and each individual’s obligation to act is exponentially higher. Evidently, it depends on who you are as to the affects that will be felt from Climate Change. A high flying executive may be inconvenienced by extreme weather events, lost resources, risk to reputation if complacent, “shareholder concerns, possible litigation and compliance and competition risks. But if their beachfront property is destroyed by rising sea levels then they will can just relocate every few years. Conversely the humble low-income tax payer will bear the cost through increased water prices, insurance premiums and food expenses. Ultimately however, it is third world populations that will bear the real burden, through increased difficulty accessing water, decreased food production capacity and disaster management inability. Cynicism aside, environmental degradation has severe consequences for all concerned and the delayed response of many of the consequences means that the implications will plague society long into the future unless an intelligent response combining prevention and adaptation is promptly and adequately initiated.
The Nature of an Individual’s Obligation
The consequence of it being unnecessary to prove the validity of Climate Change in order to justify an environmental revolution is that it places an obligation on every individual regardless of their perception of the science. Hence the decision to help save the environment is not a choice. Unfortunately, although it is currently in vogue to claim to wish to ‘save the environment,’ the decision is perceived as an optional personal choice that is sadly too often tokenistic or for ulterior motives. For many it is a choice based on political, financial or social reasons that one can choose “if that is your thing” or otherwise leave it for the more ‘alternative’ folk.
Notably however, this reluctance is slowly dissolving and its impact is even extending to the financial arena. In fact the willingness of Company Shareholder interests to consider the environment is dumbfounding. Slowly and surely the legal duty of companies to purely maximise shareholder profit is being subtly eroded by a social justice value. Where nothing else could – not even Human Rights Issues – the environment is making its mark. Thus if one does not ascribe to Climate Change at least save the environment to save your business!
Thus Climate Change: A Mere Lucky Coincidence? An Allegory for Action? A Fortunate Fable? Call it what you want because even for those who don’t believe Climate Change is real, it sure is the best fabrication yet and it is exactly what this earth needs to inspire an environmental reformation. Fancy technology such as recapturing carbon dioxide from the air is exciting but when it comes down to it, it is what each individual can integrate into their daily lives to protect the natural environment that will make a difference. The purpose of this article was not to articulate practical aspects that can help to preserve the natural surroundings – these are varied, infinitely numerous and well published, rather it is to recognise this higher change that needs to be made: an acceptance of some personal responsibility without being able to hide behind the protection of scientific uncertainty and disbelief. The global financial crisis is nothing if there becomes a global existence crisis. So even if Climate Change is a complete farce to you consider it a lucky coincidence to kick-start the conscience of even the most environmentally lethargic!! The cost of complacency is too high.
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Levin K, Tirpak D & Pershing J. “Climate Science: Major New Discoveries.” World Resources Institute. Washington D.C. <http://www.wri.org/publication/climate-science> at 09/08/09