Thursday, October 24, 2013

Surviving Climate Change–The Elephant in the Room

If we stop all greenhouse gas emissions, will global climate change stop?

Industrial activity has already pumped billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and we have yet to see the full effect of warming from those gases. A great deal of excess energy imbalance is stored in the ocean and will be released gradually over time, continuing to warm the planet.

In other words, some degree of climate change is irreversible. Scientists call this the "committed warming," and estimate that the Earth would continue to warm about 1 degree Fahrenheit (.6 degrees Celsius) even if greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere stopped growing immediately. That is, if all human greenhouse gas emissions stopped tomorrow, the Earth would still warm for at least a half-century. – NASA (emphasis added)

As I listened today to Alberta Government Minister Diana McQueen poke jabs at Opposition Leader Danielle Smith’s personal beliefs about climate change versus what Ms. Smith’s official party policy will be, I couldn’t help but notice the elephant in the room.

As we all argue about whether it is a natural cyclical phenomenon or a man-made one (or both), whether we are warming or cooling, whether someone’s data is accurate or exaggerated, what reasonable reductions in greenhouse emissions are needed, what carbon tax regimens will work best to expedite reductions, etc., we face a reality that I never hear any politician speak about.

It is the reality that if, as opined by NASA, we could stop all greenhouse emissions tomorrow, we have at least 50 years of climate change inertia before us where we will continue to experience significant events in the environment.

Events like ….

- the droughts in Australia

- Hurricane Sandy

- flooding in Calgary and High River

- insert personal event experience here

These are events that are likely to increase in frequency and intensity.

And so as I listen to people argue about melting versus freezing ice caps, whether sea levels will rise an inch or a yard, whether the changes are natural or artificial or I see personal attacks to score political points, I would like to ask a question that doesn’t seem to get much airtime.

What do we intend to do to survive larger, more frequent floods, hurricanes, droughts and everything else?

I’m not saying that research into our contribution to climate change is not important.

But finally identifying our contribution will offer little comfort if we continue to be steamrolled by it because we put more of our focus into stopping what may be unstoppable or if stoppable, not stoppable in a heartbeat … or my personal favorite …. what company, industry or country is mostly to blame.

I wonder if we have secretly thrown in the towel, finding it more satisfying personally, professionally, politically, reputationally and economically to pretend that preventing it is within our reach and that on the day that the magic pill is found, everything will simply reverse to pre-climate change levels?

Are we willing to bet our survival on it?

Climate change will always be with us, regardless of the reason.

Are we able to demonstrate our ability to change with it or are we going to continue to act surprised when events steamroll over us, followed by the inevitable political rhetoric of how we “rose to the occasion yet again”?

Because if we aren’t able to provide better strategies regarding surviving climate change, I would posit that we are more like ostriches than humans.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – November 2, 2013

An interesting item – President Obama passes an Executive Order to prepare the nation to survive the effects of climate change.


  1. 97% of climate scientists now officially say that human activity directly causes Global warming. To me, that is not a theory anymore, and is a fact that does not bear discussion. However, the statement that if we stopped carbon emissions tomorrow, we would still warm for 50 years - that is a theory; We do not know this to be true. We must have a two-pronged approach - one to sincerely find alternates to carbon-based fuels, and secondly, to remediate the effects of climate change. Since we are not going to stop emitting carbon tomorrow, expect our coastal areas to be inundated. Figure out how to fight that and prevent millions from being without a home, and without a country (for nations such as Bangladesh and the Maldives). In fact I think Climate Change Remediation (a term I coined) is going to be the biggest industry in about 15 years.

  2. Thanks, Vin.

    I don't know about the statistic you quote since you don't cite a source. Even the IPCC, one of the groups promoting climate change officially state "that human actions are "very likely" the cause of global warming, meaning a 90% or greater probability."

    "Very likely" and "definitely" are two different things.

    So whether your stat is a fact and NASA's a theory is something I don't have enough information to debate. It's like listening to a bunch of economists. Remember that in August of 2008, many official economists were citing how we were on the edge of some wonderfully positive things and then a month later, everything had collapsed.

    We also cannot deny that the Earth has gone through its own cyclical changes without man-made intervention. I am writing this today in Alberta, which was once lashed by tropical COASTAL storms and where tropical dinosaurs once roamed. As you know, Alberta is now located in semi-arid prairies.

    As for your quote "We must have a two-pronged approach", I agree totally, which was the point of this blog.

    And as for your final comment "I think Climate Change Remediation is going to be the biggest industry in about 15 years.", I agree and would posit that we better get started earlier. :-)

    Thanks for weighing in, Vin.

    Create a great day.


  3. You did prove one point though, Vin. :-)

    I had two primary points:

    1. Climate change is happening (regardless of the reason)

    2. We need to increase attention to surviving it as well as preventing it (if preventable at all).

    You opened your argument with returning to what is the cause. While you did return to the importance of surviving it, most people who start off their argument with "who / what is to blame" never move beyond THAT argument ... leading me to write this article.

    If you look at the international conferences EVERY year for the last 20 years, you will note that the attendees are still arguing over:

    1. The cause
    2. Decreasing of emissions - how much matters

    Every year, they announce that the greatest achievement they have reached is the agreement to continue dialog.

    After 20 years of meeting, they are still talking while the clock continues to tick.

    Cause is important to know for prevention / reduction purposes.

    But to your point and mine, we need to escalate the second part - surviving it in the meantime.

    Thanks again, Vin.

    Create a great day!


  4. The climate-cult needs to calm down. The zany predictions of environmentalists very rarely come to pass. If the weather is 1 degree warmer fifty years from now will anyone notice?
    Let's do nothing. Nothing sounds good.