Climate Change Again

Posted on December 11, 2009 by David Creech

This picture was taken in January, 16 months after Hurricane Felix. The communities on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua are still struggling to recover. Scientists predict that should the globe continue to warm, we can expect fiercer and more frequent storms.

I guess I should not have been surprised when Palin came out and denied climate change.  This of course led to a delightful response from Al Gore.  And the blogosphere rejoiced…

So with the Copenhagen meetings climate change is a big topic of conversation.   To kick of the summit, the results of a recent poll were announced in which it was found that fewer Americans believe in climate change than did just six months ago (a fifteen point shift in just six months).  Coincidentally, I was speaking with a climatologist from Iowa State this past weekend, and I asked him if all the recent scientific reports (such as the 2005 IPCC report that unequivocally stated that climate change is indeed happening and 2007 IPCC report that stated that human produced carbon emissions play a role in it) have helped in shifting public opinion.  He told me it’s actually brought more people out to challenge it, especially from energy sectors.

I won’t delve into the discussion, you already know my thinking on it from here and here.  While I appreciate the public debate (I just wish it was more often based on facts instead of ideology, on both sides), I want us to think more about those who are poor and vulnerable (like this story on NPR this morning).  Often the debate is about protecting self-interests–energy consumption and energy independence, national security, economic strength, and so on.  While these are important issues, and may be excellent motivators to actually get something done, I think we fail to see that this is fundamentally a justice issue.  Those who are least responsible for climate change bear the brunt of its impact. They suffer from new disease vectors, fiercer and more frequent storms, changing weather patterns that disrupt crop cycles, among other things.  (For more on the impacts, see our Climate Change and Hunger Toolkit–a ready to go “program in a box” you can use to lead a forum or discussion on the issue.)

In short, whatever the case is about climate change, this topic also gives us a chance to talk about hunger and poverty, and our role in addressing them.  While it is inevitable that our own interests inform our commitment to any issue, I would hope that we can remember those who are on the front lines, those who are poorest and most vulnerable.