Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
June 18, 2007
Crank down the global thermostat
The most significant aspect of the agreement of G8 leaders to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050 is not the details of the deal but that the U.S. Bush administration has admitted that global warming is a reality and that human efforts can do something to limit its effects.
The Bush administration has not only been in deep denial about the reality of global warming but has gone the extra mile to hide from public view any research that testified to its existence. For the U.S. to now join with G8 leaders in agreeing to try to halt climate change is a major development.
In battling global warming, the world not only needs the U.S. to cut its emissions, it needs its leadership in convincing the leaders of the rapidly growing economies of China and India that they too should get on board.
To admit that the world's climate is being significantly altered by human activity is to also admit to an enormous responsibility to restrain and eventually reverse climate change.
One cannot admit that our actions are causing the polar ice caps to melt - to take but one cataclysmic effect of climate change - and then sit idly doing nothing to stop that process.
Humanity has a responsibility to future generations and to God himself to maintain a liveable planet.
Some view the current concern over global warming as an eco-fad that is stirring up hysteria but will soon pass. The CBC's and Globe and Mail's Rex Murphy argues relentlessly, "It is, for all that is shouted to the contrary, more a cause than a science."
To be sure, enthusiasts have blamed global warming for virtually every tropical storm and undesirable happening thrown at humanity in the past few years. But just as surely, the effects of the vast expansion of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere cannot be easily isolated. Changes in one part of the global ecosystem may well have unanticipated effects in faraway places.
The basic Catholic statement on global warming remains the U.S. bishops' 2001 statement, Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, the Common Good. The bishops admit that in this debate, "Science is too often used as a weapon, not as a source of wisdom."
As bishops, they have no independent wisdom to add on this topic to that of scientists. But they do accept the consensus findings of scientists and the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That panel this year issued its fourth report, saying that the evidence of a warming trend is "unequivocal" and that human activity has "very likely" been the driving force in that change over the last 50 years.
It is worth noting that the panel is not a group of crackpots, but a network of the world's leading climate change scientists and experts. It was established in 1988 by the World Metereological Organization and the UN Environmental Program. The IPCC has concluded that in this century the average global temperature is likely to rise by between 2.2C and 5C. Sea levels are likely to rise between 0.17 and 0.57 metres.
The U.S. bishops' moral conclusion is that even if we don't know for sure that these effects will occur, the level of scientific consensus on the issues obliges humanity to take the necessary action to avoid the potential dangers.
Delays in acting may compound the problem and make future attempted solutions more painful, difficult and costly.
Indecision and delay caused by self-interest are likely to leave an intolerable legacy for our children and grandchildren. "We simply cannot leave this problem for the children of tomorrow," say the bishops.
Now that the U.S. and Canadian governments have admitted global warming is a reality, they have a serious moral responsibility to act quickly and decisively to mitigate its future effects
- Glen Argan
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.