On taking the climate seriously

Photo courtesy of Sara Schmitt

With election season coming to a head, the American people have pretty much heard it all when it comes to the important issues facing the nation; emails, genitals and stamina have all been discussed at great length between the two parties. However, amidst the corruption, sexism and Ken Bone memes, one issue has sat almost untouched: climate change.

Once upon a time, a group of people much smarter than I am decided that between 350 and 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere was probably the highest level we could have without facing irreversible climate damage.

This September, more smart people announced that the global average levels of carbon dioxide had passed the 400 ppm mark, bringing with it the potential for a temperature increase of up to 4 degrees Celsius.

But do a few degrees really constitute “irreversible climate damage”? Can’t we just cut off our sleeves, invest in some Chubbies and pretend none of this ever happened?

That was my opinion on the matter, at least until I heard a very sobering piece of history. There was once a period of time during which the global average temperature was four degrees Celsius lower than it is right now. We call this epoch the “Ice Age” because almost the entirety of North America was covered in ice. Those 4 degrees are pretty damn important. If we continue on our current path, the year 2100 will see temperatures 4 degrees higher than our current average. That is within our lifetime. We could live to see climate change occurring on the scale of the ice ages once again.

But maybe I am doing nothing more than simple fear-mongering. Haven’t temperatures always fluctuated according to a cycle? How do we even know that carbon dioxide is involved? What if The Donald is right and it is all just a conspiracy by the Chinese?

Two of those are good questions that I would like to address. It is true that, due to many factors I do not understand, global temperatures operate on a cycle spanning thousands of years. This is the cycle that led us from the frightening extremes of the Ice-Age temperatures to the where we are in the world today.

Over the past 100 years, however, the average global temperature has risen approximately 10 times faster than should be expected in the cycle. Conveniently, this trend began at the same time as the Industrial Revolution. That same Industrial Revolution that marked the beginning of the world’s “Fossil Fuel Madness.”

Bringing this all together, we are left with two options: either this is all part of a Chinese conspiracy, or the world is getting warmer because we started releasing ungodly amounts of carbon dioxide 100 years ago. One of them has more scientific backing than the other.

So at this point in our history, climate change should not be an opinion or a debate topic. This is a thing that is happening. This is a thing that will affect us in our lifetime. This is a thing that could kill our entire species.

So how can you help? By accepting that climate change is not just some over-hyped buzzword spouted by pandering liberals, you are already moving in the right direction.

Unfortunately, as individuals, there is not much more we can do. We can stop buying Hummers and start supporting some of the environmentally conscious businesses, but a bunch of future Burning Man fanatics will still have trouble enacting tangible change. Fortunately, our country still has some semblance of democracy left, and it provides avenues through which all can express opinions.

This is not even about the presidential election, since I have very little doubt that neither The Donald nor Clinton will do anything to mitigate the increasingly dire situation that we are all facing. Fortunately, we have the ability to select a much larger portion of our government than we normally consider. Vote for people who will not be completely ignorant, be it on a national, state or local level.

Officials are elected to carry out the will of their constituents, so write them a letter and let them know that you are pissed off. Our entire political system is based off of the idea of an “enlightened electorate,” so encourage your friends to get enlightened and start doing the same.

Without an increased effort to develop renewable energy sources, we are putting ourselves on a path to runaway climate change on a catastrophic scale. So don’t be a moron.