Facing the consequences of inaction on climate change

Buse Lake, Barnhartvale, BC. photo: Norm Dougan

Most of the time I’m really fond of humanity. I love the art and literature that we’ve created, the music that inspires me and allows me to play something created in the mind of a composer hundreds of years ago on my violin that was crafted by hand almost 100 years ago.

The reason I’m such a committed urbanite is because I really like the idea of living in a big city where there’s a mass of humanity on my doorstep and everyone has a story.

But when it comes to taking care of our environment, a lot of the time, people suck. When I’ve had a bad day or week and run out of faith in people doing the right thing, I start to think that maybe, the next mass extinction happening over the next several hundred years might just be the best thing that could happen for this planet.

New York City – one of my favourite masses of humanity (photo: Amy Huva)

What would that look like? What world will we create if we fail monumentally to do anything about climate change?

If we fail to even begin meaningfully weaning ourselves off our destructive addiction to fossil fuels and stick with the status quo (or "business-as-suicide" as influential climate writer Joe Romm calls it) what kind of world are we creating for everyone’s children? What kind of world are we creating for my generation to try and retire in?

Will we choose a future that looks like Gwynne Dyer’s Climate Wars? Perhaps something closer to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road?

Because that’s the key here – it’s our choice. We get to choose the future we are creating. Through the infrastructure decisions we collectively make, through the energy choices we collectively make and the political choices we collectively make.

The decisions we make today will affect how people source their energy and their ability to live comfortably within our atmosphere for the next 1,000 years. So if we screw this up, it won’t just be your children who turn around and demand to know why you were so preoccupied with Miley Cyrus, Gangnam Style and the Real Housewives while humanity was collectively pissing away its futures.

Our short-sightedness, selfishness and greed will be questioned and criticized for generations to come as they try and eke out an existence farming in dustbowls, moving their cities and infrastructure ever inland away from the rapidly rising sea levels of oceans so acidic that no coral reefs survive and only the jellyfish are left.

Because that’s what we’re doing. We’ve been told, over and over by not only respected scientists, but by the World Bank, the IEA, the military, the re-insurance industry and more.

The problem with climate change is that it’s not something that goes away if you ignore it. In fact, the more you ignore it or deny it or try and rationalize why it won’t affect you, the harder it gets to fix.

Much of the original modelling done by climate scientists on the effects of increased CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere only modelled out to 400 or 500 parts per million (ppm), because the scientists didn’t honestly think that once they discovered how destructive those concentrations of carbon dioxide could be to our atmosphere’s energy balance that humanity would be wilfully destructive enough to go further.

But for those who haven’t been keeping track, CO2 concentrations reached their annual peak this year with a new record of 400ppm. That's right, we’re already there. Scientists are now modelling what 1000ppm might look like for humanity, because that’s exactly where business as usual will take us.

CO2 trends from NOAA, hitting 400ppm in May of 2013.

So what’s the point of me telling you all this doom and gloom? Mainly, to make sure no one has an excuse. To make sure that you can’t get to the point of where climate change gets catastrophically serious and shrug, ‘Oh, but I didn’t know it was going to be that bad’. It's to make sure you know that it’s a choice, and by doing nothing, you choose the status quo. You choose that future.

Because we have a choice. Our future does not need to be fuelled by fossil fuels and ravaged by drought, disease, storms and famine. So make your choice. 

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