Last week, two scientists – both experts on climate change – argued over whether our planet is actually heating up, at a meeting to discuss American President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
It was an embarrassment for the politicians and scientists present, to see two brainiacs battle over what amounted to be a footnote in the presentation.
However, it highlighted the biggest stumbling block we have with climate change, and why it is the greatest debate not worth fighting about.
For as long as environmentalists, academics, scientists, climatologists, and others have warned us about our human contribution to the warming of our planet, there have been an equally impressive list of opponents denying that claim.
In a way, it is almost as if both sides are going through the universally human stages of grief, which starts with denial, moves towards anger and then bargaining, through to depression ultimately ending in acceptance.
Only when it comes to climate change, we seem to be stuck in the denial stage.
And that’s a problem, because if we can’t get past the initial phase of denial, we’ll never get through the remaining stages and eventually accept it.
Yes, we have a right to be angry about climate change. How dare our home become inhospitable to our very existence!
Actually, we are extremely lucky that our planet is as liveable as it is. And we don’t have to ask astronomers looking for signs that we aren’t alone in the universe. Just ask scientists studying the deepest regions of our planet, and they’ll tell you how our planet really isn’t as friendly to life as we believe.
Our continental shelves and oceans are teeming with life, but they only represent the superficial view of our home. Beneath the land and the oceans, our planet is a hostile and violently churning mass of liquid molten lava. Clearly NOT very inhabitable by us, or any other life as we know it.
Essentially, the continental landmasses and the surrounding oceans – the habitable parts of our planet – float on top of the majority of the rest of the planet. The movement of the various layers beneath our land and oceans causes earthquakes, volcanoes, the movement of our continents, and even possibly our planet’s magnetic fields.
And our planet is in space – and space is the most inhabitable place to be. First, it is brutally cold – if you went beyond the reaches of our Sun’s heat, the coldest outer areas of our universe are a chilling -270°C (-454°F). If you didn’t freeze instantly, you’d bake from the extreme radiation, and occasional plasma bursts (called Coronal Mass Ejections) released from the Sun.
Even if you could survive the incredible temperature changes, as there is no gravity in space, eventually your bones would elongate, weaken, and break. The force of gravity actually applies just enough pressure on our skeletal system to keep us whole. Our bones would literally collapse without the constant pressures exerted on them from gravity.
That’s why astronauts can only spend so much time at the International Space Station, and when they come back, they are literally picked up and carried out of their returning space vehicles – their bones are so weak, they can easily be broken. They do regain strength and stability as their bodies acclimatize to Earth’s gravity again.
There are other things, beyond our control in space, which pose a real danger to our very existence.
Just think back about 65 million years ago, when a giant rock called Chicxulub collided with the Earth. Chicxulub was about 300 KM of rock, about the size of Manhattan, and from its impact crater off the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, it is estimated to have hit our planet with 100 million megatons of force. Virtually all life on our planet was wiped out by this one cataclysmic event, leaving us with nothing but the fossil remains of what life was like back when dinosaurs ruled the planet.
So, when two scientists debate a footnote to explain or deny the existence of climate change, put in perspective, it all seems kind of small and petty.
Like two kids fighting over a piece of candy, just as their parents’ grab the candy because they don’t want either to spoil their dinner.
If we don’t stop arguing over climate change, and just do something about it, we’ll have more to worry about than a spoiled dinner. Our very existence depends on action, not debate. Which is why climate change is the greatest debate, not worth fighting about.