SEATTLE, Washington — The theory of climate change caused by human activity is no mere hypothesis, but a consistent observation based on mountains of data supported by the world’s leading scientists. Preventing climate change is at the forefront of many government agendas around the world, particularly in northern Europe and the BRICS nations, but others are taking longer to implement transformative policy.
- Levels of carbon dioxide have surpassed 400 parts per million in our atmosphere, surpassing the 400,000-year historic high of 300 parts per million in 1950.
- Sea levels have risen 34 inches in the last decade, compared to 17 inches in the century before, largely due to glacial melt.
- Fifteen of the 16 warmest years on record (since 1880) have occurred since 2001.
- Based on current trends of ocean acidification, ocean water will be capable of dissolving shells made of sodium bicarbonate (such as those of pteropods or oysters) by 2100, causing cataclysmic disruptions in the global food chain.
Today, 97 percent of climate scientists believe that human activity is the primary cause of changes in Earth’s ecological stability. Despite this, fossil fuels still burn. The World Bank estimates that high impact climate change will push an additional 126 million people into poverty based on destruction of agriculture, disease, natural disasters and reduced labor productivity.
Australian public intellectual Robert Manne says not enough is being done to combat climate change because the politics of national interests is an ineffective tool for addressing global dilemmas. “The United Nations is powerless to compel cooperation. Even in military alliances, national sovereignty is preserved. Very occasionally, as with the Montreal Protocol, international cooperation to solve an environmental problem through economic self-denial is successful,” he wrote in the Guardian.
Additionally, it is difficult to encourage fossil fuel divestment while it remains profitable. Many leaders today will not be alive to see the effects of their actions, or inaction, on Earth’s ecological stability. Some leading experts hypothesize based on current trends that there will be a two-to-five-meter sea level rise by 2300, and 10 percent of the carbon emitted today will be impacting the global climate for up to 100,000 years.
Global movements have proved effective in the past, such as the Montreal Protocol of 1992 that enacted swift mechanisms to protect the ozone layer. The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Summit in Paris has shown that there is a path forward that avoids a catastrophe for generations to come.
However, human activity has never had as profound an effect on the Earth as it does right now, and humanity has perhaps never faced a crisis with such far-reaching effects. A fundamental shift in how global leaders view the implications of their actions is necessary for preventing climate change and ensuring that life on Earth will be possible for the generations to come.
– Patrick Tolosky