The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) says, “97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities” (NASA, 2016b).
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report says, “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.” (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2015).
The British Royal Society says, “Scientists know that recent climate change is largely caused by human activities from an understanding of basic physics, comparing observations with models, and fingerprinting the detailed patterns of climate change caused by different human and natural influences.” (The Royal Society, 2016b).
And the Government of Canada says, “The science behind man-made climate change is unequivocal. Climate change is a global challenge whose impacts will be felt by all countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable. Indeed, impacts are already occurring across the globe. Strong action is required now and Canada intends to be a climate leader.” (The Government of Canada, 2015b). What do these mean, plainly?
In short, the vast majority of those that spend expertise, money, and time to research the climate affirm that global warming is a reality, and a looming threat to the biosphere (Upton, 2015; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2015). So that means, in general, if you know what you’re talking about regarding the climate, you understand it’s changing. You know it’s warming globally — not necessarily locally, wherever any particular local is, which would be weather. What does this imply?
Well if it is inevitable and ongoing, then its solution or set of solutions is a necessity, which should be the center of the discussion. Not if, but when, and therefore, how do we work together to prevent and lessen its impacts? There can be legitimate disagreement about the timeline and the severity within a margin of error based on data sets, or meta-analyses, but legitimate conversation starts with an affirmative. So why is it significant?
Because most of the biosphere exists in that “extremely thin sheet of air” (Hall, 2015) with a thickness of only “60 miles” or ~96.56 kilometers called the atmosphere. It is happening to the minute sheet of the Earth, and in turn affects the biosphere. So small, globally speaking, contributions to the atmosphere can have large impacts throughout the biosphere and climate, as is extrapolated from current and historical data. What is the timeline, and why the urgency?
Because, in general, it will cause numerous changes in decades, not centuries (Gillis, 2016). That translates into our parents, our own, our (if any) children, and our (if any) current or future grandchildren. In other words, all of us, present and future. What kind of things would, or should, we expect — or even are witnessing?
For starters, we’ll experience average increases in global temperatures, impacts to ecosystems and economies, flooding and drought, and affected water sources and forests such as Canada’s (David Suzuki Foundation, 2014b; David Suzuki Foundation, 2014d; David Suzuki Foundation, 2014e).
It affects the health of children and grandchildren, and grandparents, through heat-related deaths, tropical disease increases, and heat-aggravated health problems (David Suzuki Foundation, 2014c). It is adversely affecting biodiversity (Harvard University School of Public Health, 2016) and threatening human survival (Jordan-Stanford, 2015).
Recently it was reported that the Arctic winter sea ice is at a record low (Weber, 2016). There’ll be sea-level rise and superstorms (Urry, 2016). And it affects all, not just our own, primate species, according to primatologists (Platt, 2016). So even our closest evolutionary cousins, via proximate ancestry, will be affected too. This is a global crisis. What are major factors?
Population and industrial activity are the big ones. Too many people doing lots of highly pollution-producing stuff. It’s greatly connected to the last three centuries’ human population explosion and industrialization, which was an increase from about 1 billion to over 7 billion people (Brooke, 2012). So life on Earth is changing, in part, because of human industrial activity with increasing severity as there are more, and more, human beings on the planet (Scientific American, 2009). What’s being done to prepare for it?
Nations throughout the world are preparing for the relatively predictable general, and severe, impacts of it (Union of Concern Scientists, n.d.). The international community is aware, and that explains the Paris climate conference (COP21) during late 2015 (European Commission, 2016), which Prime Minister Trudeau attended for our national representation at this important global meeting (Fitz-Morris, 2015).
Alberta is making its own preparation too (Leach, 2015). And, apparently, small municipalities in Canada are not prepared for its impacts (The Canadian Press, 2015; The University of British Columbia, 2014). But there are those in Alberta such as Power Shift Alberta, hoping to derive solutions to climate change from our youth (Bourgeois, 2016).
So there’s thoughtful consideration, and work, from the international and national to the provincial and territorial, and even municipal levels, for the incoming changing crisis. Whether something can be done about it at one magnitude or another, it is being talked about more with concomitant changes to policy and actions following from them.
All of this preparation, or at least consciousness-raising, is relevant and needing further integration. Climate change will only get more severe unless we do something about it. So, again, that means it’s all a question of when, not ‘if’.
If we want a long-term, robust solution to assist in the reduction of CO2 emissions, a carbon tax fits the bill for a start. Then there’s future energy resources including Hydro, bioenergy, wind, solar, geothermal, and ocean (Natural Resources Canada, 2016). And the flip side of the coin for an energy source is a place to put that energy via future storage technologies also (Dodge, 2015).
But there’s something needed prior to and alongside all of that, which leads back into the original point. Talk about it. Discussion and conversation is the glue that will bind all of these together. The energy sources and storage-devices of the future, the preparation for the effects of climate change that is happening and will continue to happen, and so on, need chit-chat throughout democratic societies for even more awareness of it.
So let’s do something about it, by talking about it more through a national discourse.
Here and now.
Prior publication in Science, Technology & Philosophy.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.