“I worry that our politicians are so mired in scientific confusion, fossil-fuel dollars, and political jousting that they do not, and will not, see the evidence for what it is; that they will not act on the Paris 2015 agreement.”
To My Great-Great Grandchildren:
As we approach the Paris 2015 climate talks, I have fears as well as hopes. My first hope is that this letter finds you and the Earth, six generations from now, in good health!
I have two perspectives on climate change: one as a geology professor, tasked with instructing students about climate change science; the other as a parent, bringing up two children in a planet with an unsure future.
As parent I am worried. I worry that our politicians are so mired in scientific confusion, fossil-fuel dollars, and political jousting that they do not, and will not, see the evidence for what it is; that they will not act on the Paris 2015 agreement.
The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that the window of opportunity for mitigating the worst of the damage is closing swiftly – at most another decade. So the Paris agreement could be our last good opportunity for timely global action. If the USA fails to participate, then industrializing nations such as India and China may see it as an excuse for complacency. Why should they commit if we refuse to? The potential outcome of that scenario – temperature increases of 4˚C or more, more severe droughts, massive upheaval to Earth’s ecosystems, greater spread of human diseases, and freshwater shortages, to name a few – may have left you with a world much changed for the worse.
As an educator, however I tell my students that there is hope. That as a big-brained, resourceful, and adaptable species, we have the ability to mitigate the worst of the damage. That by limiting global warming as much as possible, by investing in alternative fuel sources as well as conservation methods, by acting now rather than twenty years from now – we can overcome the worst of the mess we’ve created for you. Of course I know that we have already left you a world changed from that of my childhood. Species extinctions, water shortages, ocean acidification and other effects are already happening. But so far they are not insurmountable. That is what I hope.
Which of these worlds do you occupy? Obviously I hope for the latter, because the former is simply unacceptable. We owe it to you – future generations – to do something that I constantly remind your great-grandparents to do: pick up after ourselves.