By Thomas I. Warren
Climate change is a social and environmental problem unlike any we have seen before. The largest and most prestigious non-governmental scientific society in the world, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, with over 125,000 individual and institutional members, released on March 18 a public warning of the dangers posed by climate change,
The report focuses on three messages: 1) Climate change is happening here and now. 2) We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts. 3) The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost will be. According to the report, 97 percent of climate scientists have concluded that humans are changing the climate. (The full report can be downloaded at whatweknow.aaas.org.)
Combating climate change requires not simply banning a substance, changing our personal habits of consumption (paper or plastic?) or buying sub-compact cars. Climate change will require that the human race immediately stop what it's doing, reorganize its social, economic, and political systems, and engage in an orgy of policy-making which focuses on long-term solutions enacted in the short term, for the whole of the human family. We've never thought, planned, or enacted change like this before. Yet for some it's just too much.
The voices and power blocs that seek to censor climate change discussions are those ideologically committed to a rapacious, free-market capitalism. It is this system, with its uncontrollable appetite for resource consumption, that has brought a small slice of humanity a level of wealth never before seen in history. Those who benefit from this system, the global 1 percent, can neither imagine nor entertain any other possible future. As Francis Fukuyama wrote in his 1989 essay "The End of History?", we are, along with the uncontested dominance of global capitalism, at the end of an epoch. Beyond our current economic order, we can imagine no other possibilities. With history's end, does this mean that the planet must go, too?
When the next storm hits, the next drought commences, the summer fires burn, the permafrost melts, and our shorelines erode, one hopes that there will be those who can hear the deafening roar, just outside humanity's door, of a planet in mortal anguish.