Do we want to risk ignoring climate change?
By Michael Gardiner, student delegate on the 2011 Students On Ice Arctic expedition.
As someone who often discusses climate change, I give answers such as the preservation of biodiversity, to ensure agriculture can continue (avoiding extreme droughts and floods), to stop a positive feed- back loop that could change the Earth’s eco-systems permanently, etc. However, there are a million retorts to those statements, (not my fault, can’t change it anyway, do you expect people to change their way of life?). To me the answer to the three of these questions is obvious (although much easier said than done).
Of course I continue, having convinced hopefully at least a few people (but admittedly by no stretch a majority) that climate change is worth acting on. My arguments to me seem to need no further support than the idea that the Earth and mammals that live on it are likely to go through a mass extinction because of us. Us, and our growing need for food leading to deforestation (the new fields have to go somewhere), our growing population demanding more and more resources, and the pollution (heavy metals like mercury, pesticides, and many more).
Glacier calving, Monaco Glacier, Liefdefjorden, Spitsbergen, Norway. © Steve Morello / WWF-Canon
Then it hit me. The best reason to act, to learn, to be interested and concerned with any issue such as climate change is for people. Let’s face it: this “Pale Blue Dot” (to quote Carl Sagan) that we live on is the only place in the entire universe we can exist. It might even be the only place life, as we know it, can exist. Why risk all of the world’s culture, music, art, technology, and intelligence? Why risk all the world’s people?
The point is life will go on. The geological record shows many mass-extinctions, caused by different combinations of asteroids, volcanoes, solar variation, and earthquakes. Throughout the history of the world we’ve lost 99% of all the species that have ever lived on Earth. The question then becomes two questions. Do we want to join the 99% of species that didn’t make it? Do we want to risk ignoring climate change?
We are smarter than that. We are able to do better. People around the world are creating the conditions for a better world and they are proud of it. That’s the world I’d like to be a part of. Will you join me?