I have assiduously avoided the topic of global warming and climate change. That’s not because of disinterest but due to the lack of clarity on all sides. Those who seem most knowledgeable about it are seldom in doubt. The same can be said for those who are convinced it is all a hoax. The preponderance of scientific data would seem to support the former but those facts don’t dissuade the opposition.
As is generally the case when there is marked polarization it is likely that each side has merit . . . as well as blind spots.
Twenty thousand years ago the land on which rest our dwellings was under one mile of ice. That accounts, in part, for the gently rolling mountains that surround us; they were squashed flat. But then the ice melted, leaving behind the Great Lakes and our pleasing landscape of valleys and hills.
The unfrozen southern oceans are said to have released carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and global warming took place for ten millennia until the ice retreated to its current locations. No one seems to know why that gaseous release occurred but we can rest assured it was not from cave dwellers’ campfires.
The predictions of what is going to happen because of anticipated global temperature change are all over the map. We hear that Florida will be underwater in the next century and that Manhattan will be the North American Venice. Contrarian views say that our verdant land will be turned into a dessert because of unremitting droughts and the rainforests of the Amazon will become the new Sahara. On one thing both sides seem to agree: human activity is at least partly to blame.
I can recall flying into New York forty years ago having just left the pristine waters of Bermuda. Miles before Long Island was in view, I noticed the ocean had changed from a cerulean blue to a dismal yellowish-green. I thought it was because the sea was shallow but as we descended, I could see the water was laden with garbage. The same phenomenon was noted in driving into Los Angeles. The cloud of smog was visible like a yellow mushroom hovering over the still distant city. Without doubt both of those alarming sights were due to human activity.
We have made remarkable strides in the last decades in eradicating some of the causative factors. Carbon emissions have been substantially reduced and new energy sources are being developed. Regardless of which side one finds oneself in the climate change controversy we should all be grateful of the progress we have made.
Doubt has been cast on the role humanity is playing in the problem. The record of past natural changes is indisputable; Mother Nature has an agenda and calendar about which we have little understanding. Common sense would suggest that we should concentrate on the factors we can control and change as well as prepare for the results from those we cannot influence.
The predictions may be wildly off the mark but that doesn’t mean they can be ignored. What is required is a sensible approach to both sides of the argument, the recognition that sacrifices will be required by many if the common good of all is to be served. One other thing is painfully obvious: Vilification and name-calling will produce two things: a lack of meaningful progress and an ignorance of the inescapable fact that we are all on this lonely rock together.
It is time for leadership to step up and help all of us find a way to leave the planet in a better condition than we found it. That is a gift that we must pass on to the future. To do that will require widespread cooperation which has heretofore been sadly in short supply.