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Dublin: 18 °C Tuesday 23 July, 2019
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Column: Climate change is insidious, relentless, and will profoundly alter our world

The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is that climate change is a settled fact. Ultimately our future is a race between education and catastrophe, writes Kieran Rogers.

Kieran Rogers

VISUALISE THE WORLD as a billiard ball. The thickness of our atmosphere is the equivalent of the varnish on that ball. A very thin layer of gases that separates us from space and sustains all life on this planet. The mixture of gases that we call air is a very delicate balance. But unfortunately by poisoning our atmosphere with excessive levels of carbon dioxide we are jeopardising the viability of ‘Spaceship Earth’ as fit for future human civilisation. Rising levels of carbon dioxide are causing the planet to warm by preventing heat from radiating back out to space – much in principle like a lagging jacket on a boiler. This is a very basic explanation of what we refer to as global warming.

Scientists predict that by 2100 average global temperature will increase by at least two degrees centigrade above normal range. Not much really, you might think. Well consider it this way: if the earth is paralleled to a living organism – like a human being for example – how would you feel if your temperature went up two degrees centigrade? Not very well I’d imagine – a little nauseous perhaps, feverish, headachey, feeling a bit ‘off’.

Our planet is ultimately no different and rising sea-levels, floods, droughts and extreme weather events are the geophysiological symptoms of this increase in temperature. Scientists are too wary of ascribing individual weather events to global climate change but the adverse climate patterns of recent years are consistent with computer model predictions.

What is a computer model prediction?

The advent of super-computers has enabled scientists to input vast quantities of data into specially designed computer programmes (models) to calculate how future climate will evolve. The accuracy of these computer models is constantly improving as the variables used are continually refined – in particular satellite monitoring provides a wealth of climate information.

Our hyper-modern, ultra-tech world naturally holds science in high esteem. The theories of Quantum Physics in particular are a supreme intellectual achievement that have transformed society by revealing and harnessing the power of the atom. Such a profound comprehension of the secrets of matter has been achieved by sober, dedicated, objective hard-nosed physicists. It strikes me as remarkable that these self-same scientific supremoes are now being treated with such scepticism by so many. Perhaps it is a product of our cynical age? Perhaps climate-change deniers are getting too much publicity from a controversy-driven media? Perhaps we switch off when hearing scientific
jargon? Or maybe we simply don’t care enough?

History warns us

We’ve grown up (in the western world at least) believing that we are entitled to material
technological and economic progress. History warns us of such a naïve perspective. The glittering achievements of Ancient Rome were followed by ‘The Dark Ages’. The Renaissance was succeeded by devastating religious strife in Europe. Booms go bust and wars and empires are won and lost.

We find it almost inconceivable that modern civilisation as we know it could come to a shuddering halt barring some nuclear holocaust. We still live with a kind of biblical narrative in our heads that the world will end in the blink of an eye one day, followed by Judgement Day the next. A more likely scenario is that we’ll be like that frog in the slowly boiling up tank of water – cooked before we realise what’s happening and neglecting to jump out.

And don’t believe for one second that I’m some latter-day alarmist eco-prophet preaching doom. No! – I am not a voice in the wilderness- the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is that climate change is a settled fact. Climate change is insidious, relentless, and will ultimately profoundly alter the world we live in.

It is irresponsible not to act now

Some problems are too big to fix you might say – and hey I’m only the little guy! But humanity has survived and prospered through its ingenuity and above all adaptability. Mankind will endure but it is irresponsible not to act now to minimise the adverse consequences of climate change. Like the proverbial ostrich we must lift our heads from under the sand and propel environmental policies to the top of the political agenda. Only then will our politicians feel compelled to treat the issues with the requisite conviction.

As an author I feel it is incumbent on me to raise consciousness and understanding of global climate change. Artists and writers are probably more effective communicators than generally academic and dispassionate scientists. I would therefore like to encourage the artistic community engage in a campaign to persuade society to take eco-issues more seriously. Books, pictures and cultural agents can change the world.

Ultimately our future is a race between education and catastrophe. So start educating yourself! Remember that the future is something we borrow from our children. Let us ensure that they do not inherit that most toxic of loans – an ecological wasteland.

Kieran Rogers is an author from Dundalk. His first novel, an eco-thriller – ‘To Tame a Mighty Tyger’ – is being released in late April 2014.

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Read: The world is not ready for the fallout of climate change says the UN

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