Whether climate change is all too real has been a hotly contested debate for some time. For years, scientists have been issuing reports filled with supporting data and calling on the global community to take action. Politicians, on the other hand, are often driven by what voters want to hear in their local and national communities. With the backing of an international organization like the United Nations, it is surprising that world leaders frequently dismiss the scientific evidence and often judge the issue strictly from an economic perspective.
Emissions from fossil fuels are the culprit whenever the greenhouse effect is mentioned. However, a planet dependent on energy for its overall survival is unlikely to curtail or diminish its energy usage. With a worldwide infrastructure that supports the production of energy through the use of fossil fuels, changes will take some time to emerge. But the harvesting of wind, water and solar power has already begun. Unfortunately, to this point, it has had a limited effect on the overall energy-producing industry.
What makes climate change difficult to understand is that the geological clock beats at a ponderously slow pace. Nevertheless, it is very real. Normally, what people cannot envision, they have difficulty understanding. What escapes many is that it only takes a couple of degrees to accelerate the warming process. Signs of climate change such as rising sea levels and temperature changes are minor indications of what could potentially lie ahead.
The United Nations is increasing its efforts to combat climate change by drastically reducing world-wide carbon emissions, a move that could potentially reshape the global economy. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is charged with overseeing and coordinating the anti-greenhouse gas effort. It estimates that the global community is currently lagging about 25 percent behind the effort required to eliminate 58 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It has another six years to complete this program.
There are, however, opponents to the plan who claim climate change is not the dire emergency it is made out to be. Speaking before members of the Christian Science Monitor in Washington, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) expressed concern that the greenhouse effect exists but that people are essentially helpless to do anything about it. He feels that regulatory efforts to reduce emissions from existing power plants is an excuse by the current administration to slow down economic growth and raise taxes. He feels that the required regulatory legislation will make the U.S. economy less competitive.
With potential widespread effects to the national business community, global warming policies appear to be divided along party lines. Republican Senator Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma recently blocked a resolution that simply stated that climate change is real. In the scientific community, there is an overwhelming consensus that temperature change is an issue of utmost importance and needs to be addressed before conditions become irreversible.
What has not helped global efforts is the defection of Russia, Canada, Japan and others from extensions of the Kyoto Protocol, the basis of the UNFCCC’s effort to combat the greenhouse effect. Citing economic concerns, they feel that costs do not warrant the benefits realized. At this time, only 11 countries have agreed to participate in the “second commitment period” of the Kyoto Protocol.
In spite of national and international concerns, climate change, according to scientific consensus, is all too real and remedial actions need to be taken now. There are consequences if policies to reverse the trend are not enacted soon.
Opinion by Hans Benes