Scientists continue to make breakthroughs in understanding the state of climate change science, and have reached a significant turning point that should impact policy, economics and technology for years to come. This September, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report concluding that human activity, not random chance, is responsible for rising temperatures and sea levels.
The report, filled with the contributions of more than 800 authors and 50 editors, present with 95 percent confidence that there has been an unprecedented increase in carbon dioxide concentration and climate change of the last half century. The greenhouse gasses produced by industrialization, sprawling cities, power generation and deforestation of the last 250 years would not have been created without human activity, pointing to more than coincidence as the source of climate change.
The most distressing section of the report suggests we have passed the point of being able to offset the changes that are already taking place. Even if we quit producing carbon emissions immediately, the effects may remain for hundreds or thousands of years. Some changes may be irreversible.
In the past 50 years, extreme weather has become increasingly prevalent, especially droughts and floods. The study points to these conditions worsening throughout the century.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry challenged climate change deniers to accept the mounting evidence and begin to take action. Soon, we could see many more Colorado floods and storms like Sandy, and with Arctic ice caps possibly melting during summer months, an increased threat to coastal regions worldwide.
Many are quick to point blame at fossil fuels and their inconvenient greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate change. Policymakers call for a carbon-free future, but what does that actually mean when talking about an element that is omnipresent throughout the universe?
If the United Nations report is accurate in that we have passed our environmental tipping point, our technological focus ought to shift toward carbon capture technology, not just producing energy more efficiently and continuing our wild consumption.
Whether we use fossil fuels or renewable energy, we need to consume and waste less. Our abuse of natural resources is what has caused these environmental issues, not carbon. According to the National Resources Defense Council, about 40 percent of food in the United States is thrown away annually, totaling about $165 billion. Ultimately, to curb climate change we must accept that our lifestyle destroys the environment, not our fuel sources, and act accordingly.
Maybe it's human nature to destroy our surroundings. But worse yet, it seems to be human nature to defer blame, on an element that is essential to life and has been part of the universe far longer than we have.
By Paul Batistelli: freelances in the energy field for the promotion of a greener society and energy means. He works to raise awareness on ecological issues, energy dependency, and reducing carbon footprints.