Delegates from around the world are gathering now in Paris for the Conference of the Parties (COP) 21 to discuss climate change. Whether anything of substance will come from the conference is a conversation for a future date. Whether it is needed at all is a topic of much debate in the media. I fall on the side of thinking it is necessary. Having lived part of my life in a closed ecological system I have a perspective on atmosphere contamination and the narrow tolerances in which the human body will survive. My duties on submarines included monitoring the atmosphere where 140 people lived in a cramped tube breathing, as we so delicately put it, recycled farts and working with chemicals calls for an attention to detail to insure everyone’s health and welfare.
The whole earth is nothing more than a large scale submarine. Instead of moving through the ocean we are moving through space. The same principles apply to both atmospheres, except on a submarine we could always surface and get fresh air.
We have one chance at this environment. It’s been set up quite nicely for us for a few million years. It’s like it was made for us, except it’s the other way around. We are product of the environment. Earth has had different atmospheres throughout it’s long history, many inhospitable to human life. Don’t think of this argument as one about saving Earth, it’s about saving humans.
Whether climate change is man-made or it is happening at all is still a hot political debate. The debate in scientific circles is mostly over, but let’s forget about science for this argument. Let’s go a step further and assume all the science is wrong. The argument for acting on climate change can be made without science.
With or without science we will not know for certain where the point of no return is for our environment is until we’ve crossed it. Then we’ll be able to say, “gee, if we’d only…” Too late. Life will go on. It just won’t go on with as many, if any, humans in the equation.
It serves human kind well to be aware of our effect on the environment, even if it’s not as great as we might think. If the environment is going to become inhospitable without our input there is nothing we can do about it. On the other hand, our inattention to climate change could be the single grain of sand that tips the scales towards a bad outcome. Again, we’ll only know when it’s too late.
There is no doubt that fossil fuels are a finite energy source. The questions are when will they run out and can humans tolerate increased CO2 in the environment for burning them?
It’s obvious that we’re not ready to rely solely on renewable energy sources. The technology just isn’t there yet. In the meantime a balance can be achieved. We need to ensure that in 100 million years when a different sentient being might evolve to take our place on Earth, they won’t be wondering what caused the mass extinction of the human fossils.