Address of climate change needed

If an asteroid the size of Los Angeles were hurtling toward Earth, threatening to put an end to life and the very record of its existence, governments would mobilize immediately in an international effort to deflect it. Every country in the world, along with a retinue of top scientists, would rush to the negotiating table, ready to pour entire GDPs into the initiative. No expense would be spared.

Linda Xu | Daily Trojan

Linda Xu | Daily Trojan

Though the unprecedented magnitude of the situation might cause some initial disagreement over the best approach to resolving imminent doom, there is no doubt that we would eventually arrive at an agreed-upon solution. And we would do so rather quickly. Why? Because even though the political and financial costs of such an operation would be astronomically high, the consequences of the alternative, while not entirely understood, would be decisively negative and irreversible.

So why is it that in addressing climate change — a matter of more insidious danger, top political figures are reluctant to adopt policies concurrent with the prevailing science? In its Fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) endorsed the unequivocal reality of atmospheric and ocean warming, and for the first time in the IPCC’s existence, declared the extreme likelihood of human influence as the dominant cause of these trends.

The IPCC Report is not anomalous in its conclusions. A 2013 conglomerative study out of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute considered nearly 12,000 climate science abstracts from peer-reviewed journals, finding overwhelming consensus in the opinion that recent warming is anthropogenic.

Despite what amounts to a smoking gun of scientific evidence, policymakers are still dragging their feet. In the United States, Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, recently named chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, continues to deny the very existence of man-made climate change, a manifesto made public in his 2012 book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.

Of greater offense are politicians like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has publicly acknowledged global warming and human contribution to the phenomenon, has rejected policies that could mitigate the further accumulation of greenhouse gases. In 2011, he vetoed New Jersey’s involvement in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program for carbon emission in the Northeast.

The refusal to take action on climate change isn’t an exclusively American oversight. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott wrote in his political memoir Battlelines that “debate rages among scientists” on the “unknown” and “perhaps even benign” effects of climate change.  These views manifested in regressive action last July when the Australian Senate made good on Abbott’s campaign promise to “ax the tax” and repealed the country’s carbon pricing program.

Far too often, high-level officeholders default to the “I am not a scientist” excuse, as if this claim somehow pardons them from enacting responsible legislation. If anything, such a statement necessitates a reliance on scientists. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is currently exploring a run for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, might not have a background in geology or chemistry, but there is no shortage of potential advisers who do. Failure to incorporate their expertise in a policy platform exhibits an inexcusable neglect that will prove inauspicious against the test of time.

Time is the chief adversary in the fight against climate change. As with the hypothetical asteroid tumbling toward Earth, the risk presented by continued warming grows every day. Wildfires, flooding and the devastation of coastal communities by tropical storms and rising seas are amplified by our inaction. Not far from sight, major crop failures and the proliferation of diseases like malaria constitute a direct affront to the sanctity and security of human lives. The costs of mitigation are certainly high, but, as reported by the IPCC, they will only rise if we continue on this sluggish trajectory.

Neglect of the scientific literature amounts to a tremendous disservice on the part of public leaders who identify as climate skeptics. Their resistance to progress puts everybody, including their constituents, in the way of harm. Though rogue asteroids might only be the stuff of science fiction and Earth’s deep past, the occurrence of climate change poses a reality of comparable nature. And this asteroid is growing dangerously close.

Austin Reagan is a junior majoring in environmental studies and political science. His column, “The Scientific Method,” runs Mondays.

5 replies
  1. ReduceGHGs
    ReduceGHGs says:

    Polluting the atmosphere and deforestation are the main causes of climate change. There’s no reasonable doubt about it. But to change course we need new laws and policies. But the problem is more than half the members of the U.S. Congress are NOT on board with any plan to reduce global emissions. They are on record saying that humans are not the cause of global warming despite what our respected scientific institutions have been telling us. They reject the reality and put our future generations at risk.
    More of us, from all corners, need to confront them and work to see them replaced with law makers
    willing to face and deal with the reality.
    Please join the efforts.

  2. Liberty Minded
    Liberty Minded says:

    the largest difficulty around with climate change is what are we going to do with the people that say no. Like every human endeavor, there are limitations. Are you ready for a global war? Free peoples do not take kindly to orders from the UN. Will war to kill the nonbelievers cause more climate harm? Scientists are not always right. Sometimes science is wrong for hundreds of years. Consensus among a small group is not enough. If the science is correct, it will take 70 years to see the single degree of effect. Even then, the factors that make up my mitchell sodium that any change are so numerous, that skeptics will easily be able to attribute the one degree to another cause.

  3. Don Harmon
    Don Harmon says:

    I suspect that human-generated combustion activity may very well be creating significant global warming. But it doesn’t matter.

    The politicians all over the world who can make changes are driven by their own selfish motives and so are the business and industrial persons who influence them. The short-term costs of necessary changes to industry and transportation are simply too high. It is profoundly easier and more self-serving for them to do nothing. “Let future generations worry about it,” they say to themselves, “it isn’t my problem – and I am not going to end my career for something in the future that will not happen until I am long gone anyway.”

  4. farmrdave
    farmrdave says:

    That’s an easy question to answer. No one believes the IPCC. This issue was kicked off with a poorly made movie filled with lies and half truths. Narrated by Al Gore (a professional liar) pointing to charts and graphs (that were faked). Telling of polar bears dying off (when their population is actually on the increase). Reporting on a consensus of climate scientists that were coerced (climate gate). Shall I go on? Any scientist or politician who openly contests the failed theory of man caused global warming is in danger of character assassination or political ruin or both. Any person such as myself is instantly labeled as a crack pot, idiot, misinformed neanderthal, or any one or more of a hundred choice pet names.

    All this and still no one in the climate alarmist crowd is proposing anything constructive to help with the claimed damage we humans are causing by living on this planet. US Government is regulating Thorium liquid salt reactors into oblivion. The time required to do testing is sometimes measured in decades. It is sure odd this is the case when Thorium energy production is the best hope of mankind to move into the next level of human advancement, cheap, clean, safe, energy and the mere thought of it makes the worlds oil economy shudder with fear. If carbon dioxide is such a serious problem why are we not developing forests? Two trees per week for each man woman or child and soon we would have a huge carbon sink to sequester in. But no it is all about taking money and freedoms from citizens. How convenient that the only workable answer to the climate alarmist problem is to tax and restrict. It’s too bad there isn’t a way to include disarm US citizens in this manufactured problem as well.

    • ReduceGHGs
      ReduceGHGs says:

      Your comments about Gore and the state of climate science are ridiculous.

      Odd how you talk about thorium energy and planting trees but deny there’s a climate change problem. What tha?

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