Scared and confused about Climate Change.

I have just finished reading some thought provoking hand written letters from some of our nation’s best scientists. These were not analyses of data or the usual science abstracts but heartfelt, emotion filled letters about how they are feeling about climate change and our response to it. Read some of them here.

The letters resonated with me as I have found myself feeling increasingly frustrated by our lack of response to the already present threat of climate change. I feel guilty that I am not doing enough to fix our ailing planet and atmosphere – and I work at an environmental education centre! I am educating students on a daily basis and trying to connect them to the living world and how they can move through it sustainably yet I am feeling increasingly frustrated that these kids will grow up in a world that is vastly different from my childhood.

Here at Brewongle we devote much of the year to a fantastic program called Climate Clever Energy Savers. This educates students from primary and high schools about the science of climate change and asks them to provide solutions that can be practically applied in their schools to reduce energy and greenhouse gas emissions. These kids are doing admirable things and have a vested interest in the future that they will grow up in.

Why then are so many of us, especially our politicians, not paying attention? Some would call it willful ignorance. This is a planetary scale problem with some of the best scientific evidence ever recorded and yet many people listen to the loudest (often incorrect) voice who often has a vested financial interest in not acting on climate change. Would the task be so hard if there was not gazillions of dollars tied up in the fossil fuel industry?

The science is pretty simple. Humans are digging up carbon rich stuff from the earth (coal, oil, natural gas). We are then burning it and releasing carbon dioxide gas (CO2) into the atmosphere. This gas prevents heat escaping from the planet, causing warming on a planetary scale. This warming is changing weather patterns in the short and long term. This then influences every natural cycle and organism on earth. The consequences are far from simple.. The reality is that it is far from it. These CSIRO scientists explain it well:

I like this analogy: The scientists at the Bureau of Meteorology tell the people of North Queensland that there is a cyclone moving towards the coast that will cause massive damage to everything in its path. Human life is at risk. What do you do?

A: Ignore it and go about your business as usual?

B: Think “I will be ok, it might change course” and then go about your business?

C: Argue that the science is not conclusive and that your mate who lives on the coast says that the weather is fine and you should go about your business?

D: Listen to the scientists, take whatever measures are necessary to prevent damage to yourself, your community and the living planet?

The one difference between this analogy and climate change is that we can do something about climate change! We can prevent that metaphorical cyclone from hitting the coast. As humanity procastinates, the elephant in the room taps its foot and waits for us to notice…..

Is it because it is not a clear and present danger? There are no immediate consequences? It is all a bit abstract and in a hazy future that most of us try not to think about. Derek Muller is a physicist and popular online and TV science presenter who thinks this may be the case and he poses some of his views in the video below. What do you think?

Another website of Scared Scientists are also expressing their fears and frustrations. Have a look it is well worth it. Share with your friends.

It helps that I am not alone in feeling like I do – it seems that plenty of our best and brightest share my emotions. How do you feel about all this? Are you confused? Apathetic? Should change come from our governments? From ourselves as individuals? What legacy are we leaving for our children? What do we do? The cyclone is approaching…..

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