Have we just written off this planet?

Blue Marble
I wonder why global warming isn’t the headline story of every newscast. It isn’t even talked about frequently, and when it is, it gets a one or two minute fluff piece before going on to the much more “important” missing white girl of the season story. This is despite the problem getting rapidly worse. It now seems that humanity is on for a collision course with an unavoidable 2 degree Celcius temperature increase, a figure that has generally considered by those in the scientific community as catastrophic. No, it won’t end all human life on Earth just yet, but it will kill many millions because of food shortages caused by drought. And don’t forget the millions of refugees that will be created when sea levels rise and flood out highly populated low altitude urban areas.

I know why global warming isn’t being addressed with the urgency that it should. It’s because of geographical luck. The “First World” won’t be suffering the same kind of fate as the rest of the world. The linked article gives the following consequences of a two degree Celcius increase for Africa:

Between 350 and 600 million people will suffer water shortages or increased competition for water. Yields from agriculture could fall by half by 2020 while arid areas will rise by up to 8 per cent. The number of sub-Saharan species at risk of extinction will rise by at least 10 per cent.

And what are the consequences for North America?

Crop yields will increase by up to 20 per cent due to warmer temperatures but economic damage from extreme weather events such as Hurricane Katrina will continue increasing.

So, you see, it’s simply not getting “bad” enough yet for us Americans to worry about it. Many people will suffer, but hey, we can grow more crops! There are sadly far too few people like Al Gore who really get it. And frankly, I feel like he has an obligation to run for President in 2008, because humanity needs a singular focus on this issue and nobody else is giving it.

5 Responses to “Have we just written off this planet?”

  1. Darmok Says:

    I, too, cannot believe that more people don’t care about this—or worse, argue that it is not a problem! I think climate change is probably the most serious threat facing us today. That and ignorance in general.

    I don’t know if you’re interested in this sort of thing, but there’s an initiative called “Blog Action Day” that’s gained quite a bit of momentum. The idea is to post about the environment on October 15th. I’m planning to do it, too.

  2. Gordon Says:

    This from someone who drives 300 miles every week just to get to work.

  3. Cyde Weys Says:

    Gordon: You’re attempting to use an argumentative fallacy known as tu quoque, a type of ad hominem. Additionally, I don’t prefer having to drive 60 miles each day to work at all. I would much rather take mass transit, but said mass transit simply does not exist along my current commute. Global warming is such a large problem that it cannot be solved by individual actions; a few people deciding to stop driving won’t do much of anything at all. The only way it can feasibly be tackled is by governmental action. And obviously a part of that is a switch away from a petroleum-fueled industry, but until that happens, I can’t really do much on my own about having to drive to work. I have to earn a living.

  4. Alex Says:

    Clyde,

    I disagree (not with the fallacy, with the “individual actions.”) While large, well-funded policy shifts are necessary, individual action on a mass scale does make a positive difference – just as individual inaction on a mass scale makes negative differences.

    Saying that you can’t make a difference is almost a reverse form of tu quoque – “Everybody else ISN’T doing it, so I don’t have to either.”

    Respectfully yours,
    Alex

  5. Cyde Weys Says:

    Alex, you’re right too. I do try to make all sorts of individual decisions that are beneficial to the environment, including always being sure to recycle metals, driving my current car into the ground rather than buying a new one, turning off the lights when I leave the room, etc. But there are some things that only the government can handle. For me, that’s transportation. There simply is no feasible way for me to get to work without driving. Government action is needed to put in more mass transit systems.

    My next car is going to be a hybrid (or even full-on electric, assuming they are ever available). But it’s actually better for the environment to keep driving your current car until it totally gives out than to get rid of a perfectly good car and buy a new one (even if it’s a hybrid), because the environmental costs associated with production are so high.