Saturday, October 03, 2009

The most important challenge of our time

There are many issues that I blog about on a regular, or at least semi-regular basis, that are of real importance to not only me, but to a lot of people. Ironically, however, I rarely blog about the one issue that I think is the single most important one facing us. The one issue upon which we, as a whole and as individuals, will be judge by future generations.

I am talking about anthropogenic global climate change (AGC).

The first time I became aware of AGC was back when I was in 8th grade. This was in 1988 or 1989. Back then, there was a whole lot of doubt about the issue, but a clear consensus was beginning to form, based upon not only the observable facts, but also on our understanding of science. Still, there was room for doubts.

Since then, we have seen the temperatures rise to alarming levels, and our understanding of the science behind AGC is much better, leaving no room for doubt. And let's make this very clear - among the scientists working with climate research and related subjects, there is no doubt. There might be a crank somewhere claiming that the evidence is inconclusive, like there are scientists who denies evolution, but the evidence for AGC is overwhelming.

Not strong. Overwhelming. Not just for the fact that the temperature is changing, with temperatures rising etc., but for the fact that this change is driven by mankind.

I cannot emphasis this strongly enough.

Unfortunately, the measures necessary to stop AGC, or at least lessen it, are not being taken. There is not the political will to do so.

At the same time, scientists are starting to panic - fearing that we might soon reach the point where we cannot turn back.

It seems like the voices of the scientists are finally starting to get heard. Perhaps some politicians had their eyes opened by the reports by the IPCC, which unambiguously said that all evidence shows us that AGC is real, and that we have to act now.

I don't know, but I am happy that the politicians are starting to take this seriously.

On December 7th, a climate conference starts here in Copenhagen - generally called Cop15. It is perhaps the last real chance of making a treating addressing AGC in time for it to have effect.

Today, I spent an hour listening to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speak about "The Road to Copenhagen" at the University of Copenhagen. I haven't always been too impressed by the current Secretary-General, but on the subject of AGC, I've always been impressed by his dedication. He, as few other politicians, seem to realize that AGC is the single most important issue, regardless of financial crisis, flu pandemics etc. If we cannot address AGC, those other issues will seem quite small in comparison to what we will encounter in the future.

The Secretary-General was optimistic about Cop15, explaining that a lot of positive signals had already been made by key players, such as the EU and Japan, and even poorer countries like China and India seems committed. Regarding the elephant in the room, the US, he said that the US has changed it position from the previous administration, and while their level of ambition might be lower than we would want (not his exact wording), the rest of us "have to encourage them continuously".

Obviously, I hope he is right regarding the likelihood of getting a treaty out of Cop15, but I also think it's important that we, the public, try to do our best to help it along. If you can, write your member of parliament/congress and ask him or her to support a meaningful, science-based treaty, without regard to personal/nationalistic gains.

If we blow this chance, there very well might not be another. If that's the case, future generations won't judge us kindly.

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Blogger Gadfly said...

I'm not so optimistic. Carol Browner says Waxman-Markey will not pass the Senate this year.

October 04, 2009 6:09 AM  
Blogger Tsutsugamushi said...

As long as emotions and financial gain trump science I remain pessimistic. Mere scdientific facts alone are not enough to counter the vast corporate and political interests involved.

Of course, it is a sign of failure on the part of the scientific community that they are letting people get away with claiming artificial controversies: i.e. Inteligent Design, HIV denialism, Holocaust denialism, antivaccination cranks, global warming denialism, and the list goes on. Get your act together and crush those interest groups by showing their lunacy and willful ignorance.

October 05, 2009 2:05 PM  

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