Scientists and activist groups are warning that Earth’s environment is rapidly becoming unsustainable. Two weeks ago, a United Nations report compiled by leading scientists from around the world and confirmed by the governments of the UN countries issued the most dire warnings.
Are things really this bad? If they are, why do so many people think that warnings about global warming and environmental destruction are just hype? Are they right? But if things really are as desperate as scientists say, what can we do about it? Are governments doing enough? Can what we do as individuals have a meaningful impact or does recycling our trash and insulating our houses merely increase our feel good factor?
Each of these questions are so complex that I think I need to tackle them in parts. Otherwise I will descend into fuzzy platitudes that we’ve all heard before.
The first question is whether warnings are based on sound scientific research or if they are motivated by governments, business, professors, and plain ordinary people (if there is such a thing) seeking to maximize their own gain.
- George Bush says there isn’t much of a problem. Is this because he and his friends are oil men? because he believes that a world dependent on oil might be an opportunity for America, armed with Iraqi oil, to gain greater world-wide power?
- Some businesses say there isn’t much of a problem, but an increasing number are saying there is. Is this because they believe the researchers or do they think only that it’s a chance to make big money selling “green” products and services to a gullible, frightened world?
- Even scientists don’t agree with each other, and most are even changing their minds over the years. Are they seeking career advancement by climbing on the “environment bandwagon,” or is their research truly convincing? Whatever the reason, the majority of scientists around the world in fields as diverse as astronomy, geology, agriculture, paleontology, archaeology, forensics, economics, mathematics, and population say they believe the problems facing us are becoming dangerously challenging. They all agree the questions are immensely complex, and by the time we understand them completely and know for sure who is right and who is wrong, it will be far too late to act.
Given the size of the risk involved, I think we have to assume that the scientists are generally right. Assuming they are broadly talking about real problems, what are they?
There is a great deal more to worry about than the Earth getting warmer and thawing ice caps. But rather than start out with the complexities of climate change, tomorrow I want to post some findings about our population growth and what it means for life here on Earth.