Real question is, how much climate change will we let happen?
Unfortunately, the issue of climate change has become tied up in partisan politics. Because one party says it’s a top priority, the other says it isn’t. They seem to care more about beating each other than saving everyone.
Instead of treating it as a campaign topic, we should treat this as a simple matter of reality.
The argument that climate change isn’t really happening, or that it isn’t really caused by human activity, is pretty hard to support, based on logic and evidence.
Not only is there almost universal agreement among climate scientists, but there are plenty of signs of it happening around the world. It’s really obvious in places that normally have a lot of ice. Huge chunks are breaking off of Antarctica’s ice shelves, glaciers worldwide are receding, Greenland’s ice is melting at an alarming rate, and nations of the world are now fighting for dominance of Arctic shipping lanes and mining, since so much of the ice up there is now gone. Polar bears that survive are having to move south in a desperate attempt to adapt.
Here in the Adirondacks, we are beset by ticks; they used to only live south of us.
Given those facts, what are the chances, really, that it’s not happening?
When campaigning for president, Donald Trump said climate change was a hoax invented by the Chinese. Does he actually believe that? Consider that he offered in vain for the U.S. to buy Greenland, whose mineral resources will become accessible as its ice melts. (Denmark, which holds Greenland as an autonomous territory, said no.) Nevertheless, having an authority figure such as a president deny climate change gives many voters comfort in the illusion that they don’t really need to worry about it, or make the changes needed to counter it. And it’s kind of a subconscious relief for many liberals, too, since opposing the other party’s president is easier then changing our lifestyles.
The real question humans face is how hard we are willing to work to keep Earth’s climate closer to the way it is, to minimize species die-off and to let our great-grandchildren live in places like Florida and ski in places like New York. If the climate change deniers were more informed, honest and realistic, they would be saying, “Hey, we just don’t want to change. Future generations of humans and other life on Earth will just have to deal with it.”
But “dealing” may mean that even by the time today’s kids are old, some populated parts of the U.S. will be underwater, and the Adirondacks won’t have enough snow to ski on. Big storms and wildfires will become increasingly common. And it could accellerate from there.
Maybe that’s just how it’s going to be in the Anthropocene — the era of Earth’s history, already underway, in which human activity is the main physical influence. But there’s a whole lot of destruction down that road. Do we accept it, simply because we are overwhelmed by how much work it would be to clean up our act?
Today’s young people are making it pretty clear that don’t want to inherit a planet with an out-of-control climate.
While many individuals, cities, states and nations are taking steps to counter climate change, much of the world is doing little, or is fighting internal, unproductive arguments over the issue. Many young people are fed up with such slow progress. Hence the Global Climate Strike this past Friday, influenced by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, that included a rally in Saranac Lake’s Riverside Park.
Speaking out, however, is easier than making the changes needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: driving and flying less, eating less meat, planting more trees and replacing coal-fired power plants with solar panels — plus major cleanups by large-scale polluters.
Younger people show that they’re more willing to make these changes then older generations are. On this particular issue, we of parent and grandparent age should acknowledge that we don’t necessarily have the high ground, morally or logically. There is a time for the young and passionate to heed the wisdom of the older and experienced, but this is a time to listen to the young and work together to deal with the reality we all face.