I have recently become aware of some people who are expressing the view that instead of “wasting” money and effort on tackling the causes and effects of climate change, we should just let it happen and enjoy the benefits of a warmer climate. I am writing to argue against this misinformed, selfish, and profoundly shocking viewpoint. Firstly, I should explain what I am talking about. When we use fossil fuels such as oil, gas, or coal, they release carbon dioxide, a gas that escapes into our atmosphere and acts as a sort of blanket, trapping in lots of the Sun’s heat and so warming up the planet. Global warming causes changes in climate, as when the weather gets warmer there are more storms, more floods, rises in humidity in some parts of the globe while others get drier and drier.
As the Earth gets warmer, the ice caps are melting, making the sea levels rise and causing devastating floods in low-lying countries like Bangladesh and the Maldives which have killed and misplaced millions of people. As weather gets drier, the people in those parts of the world find it harder to grow crops, leading to famine and disease. The seas heating up will lead to regular destructive hurricanes and storms - events like Katrina could become common place.
Amongst all of this then, it is hard to see what long term benefits could possibly come out of climate change. The only reason I can possibly think of for the mistaken viewpoint mentioned earlier is that the advocates of such an idea are severely misinformed of the facts. They may have heard members of various fringe groups saying that global warming is a myth, or that there is no evidence to prove that it is being caused by human activity. However, there is no debate among mainstream scientists about the existence and causes of climate change, who unequivocally agree that the current extreme rise in global warming is manmade, and that its extent justifies if not demands government involvement to stop its causes.
Some people may take the recent cold winters and rainy summers to cast doubt on global warming, but they can be explained. Warmer oceans mean more rain, and besides, a cold winter in one part of the globe is not an indication of a trend in the global climate, which refers to a long-term average over the entire planet. Global warming, if it continues to go unchecked, will bring major hardships and untold human suffering, especially for our children and grandchildren. We are already seeing significant effects, for example, one hundred residents were recently evacuated from Tegua Island in the Pacific Ocean to escape rising sea levels that are flooding their homes - a further two thousand people are being prepared to leave soon. In America, the 400-year old Alaskan village of Shishmaref is collapsing as the permafrost it is built on melts.
Climate has changed in the past, and human societies have survived, but today more than six billion people depend on fragile, interconnected economies and complex technological infrastructures, which are all at risk from climate change. Poorer countries and island nations, the ones who have done the least to cause climate change, will suffer the most and have the hardest time adapting. If we do nothing to limit the heat-trapping gases that we are releasing into our atmosphere, then we will face a global environmental disaster the likes of which have not been seen since the start of human civilisation, and - the worst part - we knew it was coming.
27 October 2010
HI&MH Crown Prince Jonathan, King of Moylurg
Prime Minister and Minister for the Environment of Austenasia