Are We Toast?

Or, Do We Have The Time And Wisdom To Protect Our Planet's Climate?

Toasty says

Disclaimer: I am taking advantage of this page to offer some purely personal observations and thoughts. While I shall attempt to remain objective, the reader will no doubt detect a personal bias of a former research biologist.

Global Climate Change (GCC) provides an unparalleled intellectual, scientific challenge, a challenge far exceeding any other in the history of science. Within the world-wide scientific community, GCC is also unique for the number of involved research scientists, the extraordinarily high level of collaboration, and for the unanimity of their conclusions. Their work has left no doubt that GCC is real and that it is the direct result of man's activities. The science has only just begun, with much remaining ahead of us, but we have learned enough to know that Climate Change presents the greatest challenge known to mankind and a ultimately a direct threat to our civilization. 

Climate, and thus climate change, impacts every dimension of our existence. The physical, biological and social spheres that comprise our environment are each intertwined with climate. Consequently, GCC research must involve physical, biological and social scientists. To date physical scientists have taken the lead, defining the problem and identifying some of the casual mechanisms, providing estimates of scope and direction, and importantly establishing a framework for future research. The biologists are building upon the physical science data and are primarily starting to publish observational data on the impact of GCC upon individual species. As in the physical sciences, the development of a predictive capability is in its infancy. As far as I am aware, contributions from the social sciences is scarce, and sorely needed.

Will we heed the warnings of science, and take the actions required to preserve a viable environment? No matter what we do, nor how extreme our sacrifices, it is most unlikely (impossible) that anyone alive today will see a reversal of, or even slowing of global warming. It will take centuries for temperatures to stabilize, at a considerably higher level than today, and millenia for the natural systems to return to equilibrium.

It is simply not in human nature to act when it is not in our individual best interests; and due to the time frames involved we cannot see any return for our actions. The only inducement for human action appears to be that "it could be worse in the future", which hardly seems sufficient to stimulate an energetic response. Likewise, our political leaders tend to focus on the return of short-term "benefits" to keep the citizenry satisfied rather for the benefit of future mankind. In democracies, political attention spans seldom exceed the length of the 2, 4, or 6 year election cycles; in other forms of government the required actions may be even less politically palatable.

It is thus easy to be pessimistic about our willingness to set aside national, economic, cultural, religious and ethnic differences to act in the common good, primarily for the benefit of future mankind. But I would also hope that it is not our nature to merely turn our back on the mess that we have made and selfishly walk away, for to do so means that we are morally Toast and that we condemn future generations to being literal Toast.



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