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.