I came across a climate change post today that disturbed me greatly. It was not a denial of climate change. It was not even a denial of humanity’s role in global warming. Quite simply it was a denial of the future.
According to the poster the earth has already passed the tipping point [re global warming] so any action we take from now on will be futile. The poster went on to say that we should just relax and enjoy what we have while we have it. His reference for this glass half empty attitude is a scientist by the name of James Lovelock.
Lovelock, who was born in 1919 [do the math] is a chemist who’s main claim to fame is that he was the one who came up with the concept of Gaia. As I understand it Gaia is the name he gives to the planetary system of interconnected mechanisms that keep the world fit for life. He now believes that the feedback loops inherent in this system will ensure that runaway climate change is inevitable.
According to my research runaway climate change happens when changes begin to feed upon themselves and cannot be stopped. So for our purposes runaway climate change would mean that the earth would just continue to get hotter and hotter until it turned into another Venus. Nothing [that we know of] can live on Venus because of the extreme temperature [894 °F or 480 °C] so runaway climate change could mean the end of all life on earth. Ouch.
My research also showed that runaway climate change is just a theory and a worst case theory at that. So for now at least, runaway climate change has more in common with doomsday fiction than scientific fact.
The reality is that the climate is changing and will continue to change for some time, even after we move to a low carbon economy. Nonetheless we can still determine the severity of the changes that lie ahead. In other words we still have the power to decide how bad it gets.
Because it is bushfire season and I am obsessed with the risk of fire this is how I see action on climate change :
– if I find a burning match in a pile of dry leaves and put the fire out straight away then no harm will be done,
– if however, I wait for the CFA to come put the fire out – because I don’t want to get smoke and soot on my clothes – then the fire will get a whole lot bigger before it is finally put out and I might lose my house in the process,
– however if I do nothing at all, just turn my back and walk away, then that tiny fire could easily burn down a whole town.
Turning the juggernaut of global industry around is obviously going to be far more complex than putting out a ‘simple’ bushfire but the principle is the same for both – doing nothing only makes things worse.
As a glass half full person I believe that it is never too late to make things better so don’t tell me what I can’t do, tell me what I can do. And if you are a glass half empty person who thinks we should all just roll over and play dead… please keep your pessimism to yourself because I have a world to save.