Our Changing Climate

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Geoengineering: Our Last Hope, or a False Promise? by Clive Hamilton, is a paper exploring not a method of climate change prevention, but instead offers geoengineering, the large-scale intervention in the workings of the climate system in order to counter global warming and its effects, as a remediation option. On the other hand, What Climate Scientists Want You to See in the Floodwaters by Katharine Mach and Miyuki Hino, is a brief article that discusses how we can limit climate change as it occurs, while simultaneously reducing the dangers that society faces as a result of our careless mistakes thus far, such as home safety techniques and emergency and evacuation planning. Global Warmings Terrifying New Math by Bill McKibben offers three main numbers in climate change: 2 degrees Celsius, the maximum temperature the world can increase without terrifyingly drastic effects on flooding, melting of land and sea ice, storms, and ocean acidity, among other things; 565 gigatons, the amount of carbon dioxide humans can release into the atmosphere while still staying below this 2 degrees Celsius change; and last but not least, 2,795 gigatons, or, the amount of fossil fuels our world is currently planning to burn. This last number, being five times larger than the allotted 565 gigatons, truly accentuates the need for intervention in the occurrence of global warming. Meanwhile, Chris Mooney in his article The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science, intertwines politics and social concepts in order to discern why certain focal groups disregard the incidence of climate change altogether.

In Geoengineering: Our Last Hope, or a False Promise? Hamilton introduces geoengineering, disruption of the climate network, in an attempt to counteract global warming. Scientists are concerned that society cannot come back from the drastic changes in climate that humans are making, thus increasing the apparent need for a new method of intervention.  Geoengineering critically embodies society’s unwillingness to solve the problem of climate change head on, as we would rather build new technologies to offset the negative effects of our currently existing infrastructures while there are perfectly feasible methods at hand to negate climate change. Similarly, in Mach’s and Hino’s article What Climate Scientists Want You to See in the Floodwaters, methods of coping with the effects of climate change are discussed rather than introducing steps that can be taken right now to reduce carbon emissions.

It is a little concerning that time and energy is being put into negating the long term effects of climate change rather than preventing climate change as it is happening. To put this into perspective, if there was a glass of milk sitting on the edge of a table next to a baby swinging their arms, a rational person would much rather move the milk glass to a different location than deal with the time and effort spent cleaning up the spilled milk, especially since this solution is clearly apparent while the scenario is playing out. In this light, climate change, caused majorly by excessive carbon emissions, is the glass of milk, while multiple solutions, including implementing the use of renewable energy, reducing the burning of fossil fuels, expanding carbon capture and storage, and many more feasible options are clearly at hand. However, society waits by as the milk glass slowly tips over — as climate change rapidly increases — setting aside these reasonable methods of prevention, and decide to work on ways to clean up the mess that will inevitably be made. Regardless of our current intention to deal with the messes resulting from climate change, there is nothing to ensure that these intentions will be followed through with. Thus, we must take precautionary and preventive measures now in order to ensure the stability of the earth in the future. As McKibben mentions at the end of his article Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, movements to prevent climate change will rarely have predictable outcomes, however, any movement that may weaken the fossil fuel industry, and thus reduce the harmful effects of climate change, is a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, these actions must be taken swiftly in order to maintain the goal that temperatures will stay below 2 degrees Celsius. McKibben suggests that a tax on carbon emissions be implemented in order to put the burden of climate change on the shoulders of the companies and corporations that are most responsible for it. In response to these taxes, prices of gasoline may go up, but so will awareness of the negative effects of excessive burning of fossil fuels. The problem is not that society cannot execute these methods, it is simply a matter of greed. Large corporations that make trillions of dollars off of the fossil fuel industry are not willing to make more environmentally sound decisions if it means cutting down on their profits. It is a political matter at this point: policies and laws need to not only be made, but also be enforced by the government, starting in the United States. Hopefully our actions will help ignite other countries regulations of carbon emissions. Another problem that is brought to light in The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science, by Chris Mooney, is how identity affirmation and the individual’s sense of self make humans highly resistant to changing beliefs when the facts are clearly indicating they should. Bringing this back to the issue of politics, Mooney argues that the way climate change is being introduced to certain focus groups, such as Republicans, may correlate with their disbelief in the subject. For example, these conservatives are more inclined to believe in climate change if the information comes to them in a way that coincides with their values and beliefs, such as through a business or religious spokesperson. Since scientific evidence is susceptible to selective reading and misinterpretation, people may reject this evidence because the conclusion it holds does not concur with their personal views. Mooney provides strategies to make people more likely to accept climate change, specifically those with Republican backgrounds, so that the urgency for change in the way we treat our planet begins to be ingrained into the political systems. Through the governments advocating for climate change awareness and prevention, more advanced steps may be taken, just as McKibben speculates, with more reverberating effects.

In essence, it is not only a matter of the steps taken by individuals in society, but a matter for politics and government intervention if we wish for climate change prevention measures to be taken. Without the influence of governments, scientists have nothing left to do but accept that climate change will continue to happen, therefore resorting to planning remediation after the full effects of climate change have unfolded. There is a desperate call to change our lifestyles; we cannot simply sit back and let climate change occur right in front of our eyes; we cannot engineer a system we do not understand, and thus it is critical that action is taken now. While there are things to be done to prepare us for the inevitable damage that has already been made, simultaneous collaboration between scientists, the government, and the individual peoples of society is essential to considerable reduction of carbon emissions.  

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