As someone who was a Greenpeace activist at the age of 14, you would expect the answer to be YES: I should be spending every waking hour defending our climate. But in reality I’m not.
I study Ecology and Conservation here at Sussex, my reasoning for choosing this degree was a childhood fantasy of finding out how to save the world. I’m now in my 3rd year, and I still haven’t got a clue. Instead I’ve discovered the world is in even more of a state than I originally thought. Yet climate change itself has only been mentioned in passing during my studies.
Somehow the idea that the world is warming up has slipped out of my head, no longer do I worry that 50 years down the line the world will be at least 2°C warmer. Instead I worry that humans are causing the fastest extinction rate since whatever wiped out the dinosaurs. I worry that the human population will be 9 billion by 2050, and that with the increase in personal resource use the world won’t be able to cope; not just in terms of greenhouse gases, but also the lack of resources – from clean water to agricultural land. When I’m 70 I do not want to be explaining to my grandchildren what rainforests were or what the birds of paradise looked like. I want them to see the diversity of the world for themselves.
There are a lot of issues to think about. It seems to me that people care too much about little political and economic issues and not enough about conservation and actual ethics. And even climate change. Although I may have done nothing with Greenpeace or any other environmental campaign group since I joined Sussex, I haven’t given up. Climate change is a big issue, it will affect all of us, it will worsen any conservation effort, prevent development in drought ridden countries, reduce food supplies, cause sea level rise and make extreme weather disasters more frequent. And these are just a few.
Yet there are still climate change critics out there, they question the reliability of the research carried out by climate scientists and research groups. The collaboration between the UK Met Office and University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU), which has been in the news about the email controversy in November 2009, nicknamed Climategate, proved that many sceptics thought global warming was a scientific conspiracy.
A recent study by Berkeley Earth Project has confirmed that global land temperatures have risen since mid 1950’s by 1°C, proving once again that global warming is real. Berkeley Earth project is different from previous studies for several reasons. It is independent, non-profit, open source, and used 1.6 billion individual measurements (more data than any other study). It has also directly addressed the sceptics concerns, including issues with heat islands, and quality of monitoring stations. It concluded that sceptics concerns have no scientific backing and that global warming is happening without a doubt.
If the sceptics still have questions about the study, they can check the data and calculations. Thankfully the whole study is being open source: all information is available online at berkeleyearth.org. But will the sceptics, including the billionaire Charles G. Koch, whose foundation gave $150,000 to the project, finally admit that global warming is happening? His fortunes are from Koch Industries which has companies that are involved in everything from oil refining, chemical manufacturing to ranching, so personally, I doubt it.
As Lord Stern, writer of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, says “It is very important that their arguments are seen to be wrong. The risks are clearly enormous, and the argument must move on to how to respond.” There is no doubt that there are enormous political, social and economic battles ahead of us, but the longer we leave it the more problems we will have in the future.
So even though it sometimes seems I do not care about climate change, simply because I’m no longer handing out leaflets about switching light bulbs, campaigning against airport expansion or camping out in the fields in front of coal power station. I do still care, climate change is an important issue, but I also know there are billions of other issues, and there is only 24hrs in a day.
We all have our fights, mine is the human caused destruction of Earth, and climate change is just a small part of it. I’m still trying to do my best to reduce my personal contribution towards global warming, but I’ll spend my waking hours fighting for other issues too.