Derek Bok: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
Worldwide political news this week had three key focuses: 1) Donald Trump’s aggressive stance on North Korea; 2) The French Presidential Election; and, 3) Kim Jong-Un’s aggressive and non-compliant stance against any state that could threaten the survival of his regime.
The dissemination of news, nowadays, repeatedly covers ‘news stories of the week’, and this is amplified by the culture on social media consisting of sharing, re-posting and liking. This has created a worldwide e-culture of ‘trending’ news, which seeks to corroborate opinion, against another opinion, instead of exploring the world.
The layperson would be forgiven for thinking that the key weekly news focuses are the main issues the world is facing. But, the fact that they are covered by news organisations repeatedly does not necessarily give them greater status.
This news piece seeks to shine a light on an enormous issue: climate change. Dr Carl Schleussner, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, stated that there is a statistical link between outbreaks of extreme weather events and widespread violence. The Economist reported this week that the Arctic will be ice-free by Summer in 2040. These events are not covered as much, as it is a slow and painful burn and not inasmuch an imminent danger.
Noah Diffenbaugh and his research group at Stanford University are conducting studies linking individual weather events to climate change. In one case, the Arctic sea ice had declined by approximately 40% in the summer season over the past three decades. This could cause uncontrollable climate change, destroying the biosphere and ecosystems, leaving devastating impacts for humans. Results showed that it would be “extremely unlikely to achieve record-low sea ice without global warming”. The imminent danger is near.
According to the Synthesis Report realized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the most authoritative international body on climate science), produced by over 800 scientists constituting the most comprehensive assessment of climate change ever undertaken, human influence on the climate is unequivocal and rising, with impacts observed across the globe. If left unchanged, climate change will increase the likelihood of pervasive and irreversible damage to ecosystems and people. Some of the other key findings include: by the end of the 21st Century, it is very likely that more than 95% of the ocean area worldwide will experience a rise in sea levels and, if global emissions continue to rise, then global temperature will rise by 3.7 to 4.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100. This report suggests that this level of increase would be catastrophic.
Organisations dedicated to climatic action continue to strongly advocate for it. There are five that are having the most profound impact: 1) 350.org; 2) Sierra Club; 3) Greenpeace; 4) Idle No More; and, 5) The Union of Concerned Scientists. Greenpeace is possibly the best known. It began in 1971 as a grass-roots advocacy organisation opposing nuclear testing. Now they strongly advocate for climate-change action. However, many organisations still oppose it.
The current US administration is populated by well-known climate change skeptics. Yet they are not alone. The Union of Concerned Scientists on their website have highlighted these organizations’ disinformation efforts and funding sources from the fossil fuel industry. Many organisations receive financial aid by the fossil fuel billionaire Koch brothers. Other organisations exist to preference their financial, economic, personal, corporate or other interests, over the environment.
We have a choice: engage and advocate for climatic action or choose to ignore it. As Derek Bok stated, the cost of ignorance is expensive. In this case, the expense might mean millions of people’s lives, ecosystems and even more.
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