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Ditch the Climate Change Debate

Dec 15, 2009 - Green Builder

A recent editorial cartoon that I ran across cleverly expressed a great deal of my own thoughts around the climate change debate. The cartoonist (Joel Pett, Lexington Herald-Leader) depicts an obviously unconvinced audience member at a presentation where benefits of clean energy are being displayed on the stage screen. The attendee is shown demanding an answer to a question similar to the following:

"What if it turns out that climate change is all a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?"

The presenter he is questioning has a list of goals on the screen including:
• Energy Independence
• Preserve Rainforests
• Sustainability
• Green Jobs
• Livable Cities
• Renewables
• Clean Water, Air
• Healthy Children

In a single frame, and with surgical irony, the cartoonist has masterfully steered us to the question I have been asking myself and others for a long time, which is essentially, why are we not able to shift the dialog onto a productive level that leaves the polarization and bickering behind so we can just get started on the enormous task of cleaning up the mess we've been helping to make?

We don't have to reach some final, indisputable conclusion on the "climate" debate to know that there are plenty of good reasons to take steps to replace 18th and 19th century technologies and the polluting energy sources that have been fueling them.

The answer must reside somewhere deep in human nature. There seems to be an irresistible force of passion that makes us dig in our heels and refuse to budge when we feel strongly about something. In this case, it doesn't really matter if we're talking about those who view "climate change" or "global warming," as some prefer to refer to it, as the great challenge of our time or those who are absolutely convinced that it is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind.

It seems that those who have taken a passionate stand either way are prepared to fight over this for as long as takes, and unfortunately, the fact that people in both camps seem determined to drive to an "all or nothing" resolution keeps getting in the way of potential progress on the things we could agree on.

Even the most hardcore climate skeptics don't try to make their case by denying or stating opposition to goals like those listed by the cartoonist, they just refuse to go there. At the same time, their counterparts, who are every bit as passionate in their insistence that mankind's activities are at the center of all the problems in the world, often appear to be pushing for absolute and immediate solutions with little or no willingness to explore common ground. The net result is an ongoing bitter conflict that is often stalled by distractions leaving those of us in the middle stranded and feeling like we can't do anything meaningful to influence the outcome.

I am personally convinced that we are indeed witnessing measurable levels of global climate change. I only make this statement based on personal observation and certainly not because I believe the reports of governments, including our own, or the findings of scientists I have never met. I have reached my conclusion because I have observed certain evidence with my own eyes. I've visited glaciers from Alaska to New Zealand that are receding at unprecedented and alarming rates. I have flown over millions of acres of America's western forests and seen the beetle kill that is resulting from milder winter temperatures to the detriment of not only the trees, but also virtually every species in that ecosystem.

What I have no way of verifying on my own is how much of this shift is attributable to the activities of the human species. I seriously doubt that it is the primary factor. Both sides of this debate agree that the scale and complexity of the Earth's atmosphere and its global climate have seen numerous dramatic shifts to one extreme or the other over time.

What I do know is that I have seen the contrast between the air in Beijing and other cities in the Northern Hemisphere with that of still pristine regions of the South Pacific. The calamity is there for anyone who is interested to see. I have also fished a variety of streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs throughout North America where the fish populations face collapse from human-caused pollution and where signs are posted to warn against consuming the fish that are there.

Put simply, we have used our one and only planetary home and all of its natural systems as a garbage dump of one kind or another for practically all of recorded human history. Sadly, the situation has only worsened over the last few centuries as we made industrial "advances" and as human population has swelled. We have treated it like a trash can and no matter how big the can is, it can only hold so much. We are reaching that point and before it's too late we need to revise our practices. It's time to clean up our act and "create a better world"—whether global warming is a hoax or not.


Updated: 2016/06/30

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