I have encountered fewer and fewer people who deny climate change. What I continue to encounter, however, are those who refuse to believe— despite all the available scientific evidence— that humans have anything to do with it. As a result, these individuals, many of who have the best of intentions, throw their hands into the air and claim that there is nothing that they can do about it. What I have come to realize, however, is that more than anything else this reflects despair in the face of a global crisis over which many of us believe we have little control.
Just before the holidays, I read a couple of articles concerning methane bubbles that have been bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean just north of Siberia. With the increased disappearance of ice on the Arctic Ocean as the planet heats up, methane that had been trapped in the tundra and under the ocean for, quite literally, thousands of years is surfacing. If this continues, the introduction of the methane into the atmosphere will likely expedite dramatic climate change.
When you read something like that, your impulse could be to run and hide. For those who believe that humans have little or nothing to do with climate change there appears to be an assumption that this view somehow let's them off the hook from coming up with or addressing solutions to potential climate catastrophe. Unfortunately, humanity does not have such a luxury.
What can we do? Well, even if you happen to believe that humans have nothing to do with climate change, any recognition that global climate is undergoing dramatic shifts means that we have to take a look at different directions— directions that must be introduced by governments. These may include:
•Reversing desertification- Desert expansion eliminates trees and contributes to rising temperatures. Agricultural practices that are dominated by mega-corporations focusing on one crop (rather than diversifying crop growth), destroys the land. Instead, economic policies that promote smaller scale farming and/or the use of cooperatives that rely more on natural or organic production than on the use of chemicals, pesticides, etc., could, quite literally, change the landscape.
•Aggressive fight against air pollution- Even if you believe that air pollution does not contribute to climate change, it is more than clear that it contributes to illnesses, such as the expansion of asthma. In this sense, the objective of turning away from the use of fossil fuels, e.g., oil, is a very concrete step that has positive ripple effects.
•Population relocation- This will be a hot button issue, but what is clear is that the oceans are rising (insurance companies will tell you that, just try insuring waterfront properties in many states these days). Whether you want to attribute this to
humans or to supernatural forces or that "things happen," ultimately does not matter. The bottom line is that many islands and low-lying areas face extinction if things continue as they are. What happens to the populations of places like Fiji, or how about Bangladesh? Therefore, steps will need to be taken to ensure that these populations can relocate if efforts to hold back the water fail. That means different immigration policies, for one, unless we are prepared to see millions drown.
My point here is that steps can and must be taken immediately to address the climate crisis. It just does not work to endlessly debate the human role in climate change if the objective is to justify ignorance and inaction. There is no place to hide or to borrow from Bill Cosby's famous line in his story of Noah— “how long can you tread water?”