Confronting Climate Change
Posted on Sep 04, 2012 in News
We’re all busy. If it’s not school, work, or trying to find time for friends, it’s something else. It’s hard to stay engaged with what’s happening in the world. So, you may have missed the scarcely reported recent blockbuster that the Arctic sea ice has hit a record low level. And the melting season’s not even over yet.
You might ask, “So, what?”
Well, it means a great deal for that small group on Earth, affectionately known as all living organisms. With more melting comes a higher coastal water rise, which was previously predicted to reach record levels in the coming decades. The melt has also led to carbon that had previously been held in permafrost, or frozen subsoil, being released in larger-than-expected amounts.
There also has been new research into the methane found under the Antarctic ice sheet. Similar to carbon dioxide, whose effect is generally known in anthropogenic climate change, methane interacts with molecules in our atmosphere and more efficiently traps solar heat. The real long-term damage of this release of methane might be the positive feedback loop it sets into motion. This loop occurs when there is increased ice melt, exposing once covered methane to the air, and causing the methane to react with the atmosphere and further heat up the planet. More warming leads to more melting, and the vicious cycle continues unabated for centuries – potentially longer.
It’d be slightly heartening if in the face of this fairly sobering news, there not only was adequate attention given to the issue but also was concrete action taken to move towards more renewable sources of energy that don’t exacerbate the problem. But so far, the reaction has been less than stellar.
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In The Guardian, which is a UK based publication, one commentator stated that the coverage of new runways at Heathrow Airport received more attention than the record ice melt. And back in the States, the focus was on the campaign and the Republican National Convention, where barely a mention of climate change was given. Maybe the candidates and delegates there were practicing the technique of denying reality as obstinately as possible, in the hope that it would convince others that the issue doesn’t exist. Their farming constituents in the Great Plains and Midwest, whose crops have been decimated by recent drought conditions, might be happy to oblige in jumpstarting their memory, though. Moreover, those in the Gulf region, who sustained record levels of rain when Hurricane Isaac came ashore concurrent to the convention party, might also have a say.
Even President Obama is indecisive on the issue, saying climate change is a reality that must be tackled while allowing Royal Dutch Shell to start exploratory drilling in the Arctic. He has even been pushing for an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, in which he continues to stress the importance of fossil fuels and natural gas, along with renewables, in any future program. Similarly, by giving the go ahead for the construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport over one million barrels of dirty tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S. every day, Mr. Obama doesn’t seem to be acting with the sense of urgency that is needed.
So, what can we do? Instead of feeling apathetic and getting understandably overwhelmed with these truly global issues, we need to stay engaged. By keeping up with the latest science and remaining informed, those who may try to diminish or silence proven facts will have a more difficult time of spreading the propaganda.
The problems affecting our planet supersede all other and need to be treated as such.