Virginia loves researching and writing on scientific topics that stimulate the imagination.
How did the biggest threat to life on this planet become a contentious political issue? And how did it become such a personal matter for many people? Despite the differences we have, the preservation of life on Earth should be something that unites us.
And yet it’s not.
How Did We Get Where We Are?
People on the progressive end of politics take for granted that we all agree that facts are facts. And yet, it doesn’t seem to be the case. Climate change is presented by the media as a matter of opinion. One “climate change denier” is pitted against one “climate change believer,” giving the impression that these two positions are equally valid.
Even worse, climate change has been appropriated by political discourses. Politics tend to present issues in an easily-digestible manner as either “this” or “that,” either “pro” or “against.” In this case, it is the existence of climate change that is presented as a polarizing issue. Populist politicians seized the opportunity of questioning climate change as a way of setting themselves apart from progressive political discourses.
It is easy to deny climate change. Populist politicians present an alternative to the doom and gloom scenarios of “climate change believers.” Wouldn’t you want to be told that you can sit back, relax, and continue business as usual and the planet will be just fine? It’s a negative message versus a positive one. No wonder the latter is so strong.
Climate change denial was planted in the fertile ground of discontent with the status quo and establishment. The current system benefits few and drives masses into extreme poverty. Currently, eight of the richest people are worth as much as half the global population! Despite being one of the strongest economies in the world, the USA has also staggering inequalities.
The narration of the disbelief in the scientific establishment fits nicely with the climate of disillusionment with institutions. But populists won’t solve the problems—they will only leave a bigger mess.
Debates, Debates . . .
Climate change debates are fruitless because they have become a matter of political belonging. The liberals present charts, the climate change deniers question them. The liberals say with contempt: “Idiots.” The climate change deniers snap back, “Liars paid by the science establishment.”
The liberals say that 97% of climate scientists have reached a consensus that climate change is real and man-made.
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The climate change deniers reply that there isn’t a single reputable climate scientist who claims that. And so it rages on throughout the Internet.
Climate change debates reveal deeper structural issues with our political and economic cultures. Don’t get me wrong—we should be debating climate change. But we should be debating how to tackle it and not whether it exists.
Part of the reason that people can’t grasp the importance of climate change is that it is an abstract concept. We are told about predictions for the next 100 years. But climate change is happening here and now.
Disastrous Consequences of Global Warming Are Happening Now
Extreme weather phenomena are becoming worse. Higher temperatures change the way water circulates in the ecosystem, causing more rainfall in wet areas and less rainfall in dry areas. As a consequence, floods and droughts are becoming more frequent and more severe, inflicting billion-dollar damages and hindering access to fresh water. Hurricanes are predicted to occur less often but become more powerful. Even lighting is being affected by climate change; its frequency in the United States will most likely rise by 50 percent by 2100.
Ice caps around the world, such as mountain glaciers, ice sheets covering West Antarctica, and Greenland and Arctic sea ice, are melting. The most obvious consequence is rising sea levels, but there are other repercussions, such as endangering polar fauna. For some people in Peru, the Quelccaya ice cap is the only source of drinking water and electricity. If ice keeps melting at the current rate, the cap will be gone by 2100.
The rate of the ocean levels rise is accelerating. If this trend continues, sea levels will be one to four feet higher than they currently are, which would pose an existential threat to people living in coastal areas. Big metropolises such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Mumbai, Sydney, and Rio de Janeiro will also be at risk of inundation. If the worst came to the worst, nearly half the Earth's population could be displaced.
Some of the Earth's species are threatened with extinction as a result of rising temperatures. The shells of sea animals such as corals and oysters get dissolved in water that is becoming more and more acidic due to climate change. Coral reefs, so important for the oceanic ecosystem, are at risk of disappearing.
Scientists have also observed large-scale migrations of many species towards the poles in an attempt to find adequate temperature ranges. If plants and animals don't move fast enough, they will face extinction. Populations of some arctic animals have already drastically diminished; the number of the breeding pairs of the Adélie penguins on Antarctica has more than halved over the past 30 years.
Climate change has countless direct and indirect effects on societies. Extreme weather phenomena are already damaging crops around the world. If this trend continues, future generations will face worldwide food crises. The American Medical Association has reported that mosquito-borne diseases are occurring more frequently, as global warming aids the breeding of insects. The number of pulmonary diseases is also on the rise, as a warmer climate causes more air pollution by increasing ground-level ozone. Hundreds of heat-related deaths are reported yearly.
Global warming is a threat to the whole planet. It causes adverse changes in the oceans, such as rising sea levels or the level of acidity. Climate change makes hundreds of species migrate to colder places and poses an existential threat to those that don't adapt quickly enough. It also damages agriculture and is the culprit of a wider reach of mosquito-borne and pulmonary diseases.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.