Hope in Bali: the December Meetings on Climate Change (Part 2)

EoF News / 03 December 2007

An opinion by Jeremy Hance, special to mongabay.com (part II - end) (Mongabay.com, November 28, 2007) --The Meeting in Bali

Some may believe I am shrilly overreacting and that somehow I am threatening the world through my desire to make our society sustainable and protect ecosystems as they are. But when the IPCC report states that within thirteen years up two hundred and fifty million Africans may face water shortages, when it states that the heavily populated coastal areas of Asia will see widespread flooding and increasing storms, when it states that significant biodiversity loss could occur around the globe (and already is occurring), when it states that rain-fed agricultural yields may be halved, it is then that I feel I am not reacting strongly enough. Others will counter that one should not listen to the IPCC. They will state that that UN has purposefully exaggerated the warming and threats. For what reason, I am not sure—something about wanting to control the American economy or to not allow third world nations to grow economically. It seems strange then that it was third world nations who were courageously pressing for stronger wording in the IPCC's report.

If we cannot trust a massive international body involving research from thousands of scientists, who do we trust? Should we trust the few skeptics left, many of whom are not experts? Or should we trust the oil and coal industries, since they have no ulterior motives? Obviously, there is no question that climate is incredibly complex and that we cannot possibly know everything. There is also every possibility that aspects of the IPCC report may prove to be mistaken (this is why the entire report is made up of probabilities), but because climate is a complex system and science imperfect does not mean we know nothing. We know a lot—more than enough to act.

The evidence for global warming is there (and no longer questionable). The possible outcomes are well-known. And the solutions are here. Now, what we need is action by those who have so far been lacking and dithering. The governments of every nation need to take climate change as the most significant long-term threat to their nation's stability, quality of life, and safety. We need courageous policy leaders who are not afraid to demand change and sacrifices from the corporate and civilian sectors. We need leaders who do not fear implementing the necessary regulations to deal with the issue at hand. And we need governments that will hold other nations accountable for dragging their feet, or promising one thing and delivering another. If nations such as the United States and China continue to balk at scientific findings, if they continue to put short-term monetary wealth above the well-being of their citizens than it is up to other nations to take a stand. Smaller, poorer nations should band together with wealthier, more enlightened countries to make their voices heard loud and clear. They will not go unsupported: while the governments of the US and China may wish for wealth and warming, many of the citizens of these nations understand the stakes of climate change and are horrified by their country's inaction.

Bali is the time for the world to tell blind and delaying governments that we will wait no longer for action. That drastic action must be taken here and now. History has shown time and again that people will rise up to complex, threatening problems if their leaders are not afraid. But history has also proven the consequences of non-action and incoherent squabbling when what is required is communal action. While we are not the first civilization to be threatened by environmental disaster, this is the first time in human history in which our actions threaten the whole world as we know it. The world will not end with climate change, nor will human civilization. But it will be a lonelier, bleaker earth; one filled with strife and competition; the value of life—both human and non-human—will be lessened. Will we really risk such things, because we are too comfortable to change our ways, to sacrifice, to challenge some of our deeply held views? Will we allow a few blind self-serving governments to threaten our future? Is our material wealth really worth more than our children's quality of life?—and by quality of life I mean the greater pursuit of happiness for all: to live in a world that grants security, the essentials for life, and a place as beautiful and hallowed as the one in which we have been fortunate enough to inherit.

The stability of our nations, the future happiness of our species, and the welfare of every living thing is dependent on how nations respond. Now is the time.

--courtesy to mongabay.com