Sunday, November 29, 2009

Melting Arctic: Forget About Polar Bears. Worry About Humans

Here's a well-told story from New Scientist about the great transformation of the Arctic that is currently taking place.  For the most part, the author takes us on a journey through the vast environmental changes taking place.

How is it, he wonders, that so many humans can still be so lackadaisical about such dramatic climate changes? 

For too long, too many fruitless efforts to combat climate change have been billed as "Saving the Planet". Right now, in the last week or two before the climate negotiations at Copenhagen, there are few signs of dramatic action. Perhaps that is because the message is wrong. As the changes in the Arctic show, the planet continues. Species come and species go. The planet does not need saving, even from us.

Far better that the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is portrayed as simple self-interest; that we focus on the coming losses of agricultural production, the droughts, the mass migrations and political instability that will follow rapid climate change.

Political will might be better stiffened by listening to generals rather than to environmentalists. As a former head of the US Central Command, Anthony Zinni, explained, if we don't pay the price to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, "we will pay the price later in military terms".

Add this one to the climate change messaging folder...  Most of the world seems to get it.  It boggles the mind what's happening with the U.S. Republican party's views on the issue -- so long as they continue to ignore the world's best scientists, their ideas don't have a chance of being effective for making our world better.

As a registered Independent, I find it highly frustrating that one party's ideas are so out of step with what our top scientific societies are telling us (see also this recent joint statement from the world's top National Academies of Sciences).

Imagine this was the case with a Congressional minority ignoring the medical science's consensus about causes of and cures for cancer (as happened with the tobacco industry -- a striking parallel)!

As somebody who votes based on ideas and proposed policy solutions rather than by party, I'd much rather have two parties with different, but well-informed, high-quality approaches to choose from.  The current political situation that we have right now in America clearly isn't cutting it for solving society's most pressing problems.

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