Oct 08 2008

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Global Warming and Dread

Posted at 10:04 am under Blog Post

Global Warming is one of those subjects so fraught with misconception that only the fearless and the foolhardy feel comfortable discussing it.  As a lover of wisdom, a philosopher that is, I have done my best to avoid this subject like the plague.  There’s no wisdom to be garnered here, and any discourse on the matter between those holding divergent views is likely to degenerate into a shouting match.  But there comes a time when even the most dreadful of subjects must be broached.

The two dominant positions regarding global warming amount to this:  Either global warming is caused by humans or it is not.  If it is, then we must take action to correct the problem before it’s too late.  If it is not, then the matter is largely beyond our control so there’s no sense getting all worked up about it.  The former incites mass hysteria; the latter is a comfortable delusion.  In short, either the sky is falling or the naked emperor is fully dressed.  Take your pick.

Earlier this year, I read the report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and that convinced me that global warming is not only real but most likely the result of human activity.  Being a skeptic at heart, I delved as deeply into the science behind that report as my rather unscientific mind could handle, finding a mountain of data supporting the IPCC’s claim.  Core samples taken from glacial ice are the most compelling.  It looks like we’ve been having an impact on this planet since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago.  Maybe before that.  So why the denial?  Because some people dread the implication, that’s why.  Reversing a 200-year trend will require a radical change in the way we do things, and some people like things just the way they are.

We must reverse global warming before it’s too late, the advocates of change warn us, before the global ecology completely unravels and nature as we know it comes to an abrupt end. Hmm…  I’m inclined to believe that a 200-year trend will take just as long to reverse, and that much of the damage done will never be fixed.  I’m inclined to believe that fear mongering only dilutes the real science behind the IPCC report and distracts us from the long, hard task ahead.  So why the threat of doom?  Because some people believe only the threat of doom will spur others to action – to immediate action that may or may not address the core problem.

Nature is resilient even if human nature is not. The wild will persist in one form or another, even if humankind is foolish enough to self-destruct.  No doubt we’ll take tens of thousands of species with us when we go, but nature doesn’t care.  Other life forms will prosper, either on this planet or the next one, long after our kind has perished.  As far as the wild is concerned, it’s never too late.

Will it soon be too late to preserve an environment that’s so friendly to us?  It’s already too late in that regard.  The glaciers are melting, the deserts are growing, the weather is becoming increasingly more violent, and soon the oceans will rise.  Fresh water is fast becoming a precious commodity and the air we breathe is only relatively clean even on the best day.  As far as the mass die-off of plants and animals go, the situation is practically biblical.  With six and a half billion of us crammed into this world and more on the way, it’s already too late to regain paradise lost.  The best we can hope for is damage control and a reasonably habitable environment in the centuries to come.

I take heart in the fact that Homo sapiens sports a massive frontal lobe and that the problem-solving powers found therein are formidable indeed.  As a species, we have survived some tough times before and it’s likely that we’ll get through this.  But I suspect that things will have to get a hell of a lot worse before we collectively rise to the challenge.  Dread is a hard thing to beat.  It will take all the mental powers we possess to get beyond fear and denial then dive into this problem headfirst.  I look forward to that day.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Global Warming and Dread”

  1. Deedee Burnsideon 10 Oct 2008 at 8:31 am 1

    So well put!

  2. Phil Ruddon 12 Oct 2008 at 8:41 pm 2

    Either or, huh?


    I think we are deluding ourselves to suggest that the human race can deal with anything collectively on this scale. It’s much more likely that we devolve into global famine, war, and the return of tribalism. I’m giving animal pelts to my kids for christmas this year, along with spears, and a nice lightweight aluminumm club (aka baseball bat). It will come in handy when they leave their cave 30 years from now.

    On the bright side, famine and war are already here so it won’t be a shock.

  3. Walton 13 Oct 2008 at 7:40 am 3

    Phil, I think you’ve been watching too many Mad Max movies. But if things ever do get that ugly, I’ll probably upgrade my backpacking gear significantly.