Climate change is not the long term problem, environmental degradation is.

By Eco Guy 12:28am 24th November 2010
We propose that man-made climate change, as a risk to society as we know it, is less of a real risk than current environmental degradation and pollution.

It seems that in the media and the general public at large that concern about the environment is actually just concern about man made climate change and how we have 'wrecked' the environmental balance by our lack of worry for our collective actions.

Now the trouble with this view point is that is 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' - let me explain. We know that we, through our actions, have an impact on the environment, that impact has known short, medium and long term consequences. Some of these impacts are claimed to have an effect on the global climatic system, although we believe the science is not yet at the point in understanding where we can state categorically that there is a strong causal relationship for all actions - rather there are specific cases of cause and effect that are understood, but that does not imply an understanding of the whole.

Now, as for environmental degradation and pollution - the cause and effect is often much much easier to see and understand; there is no express need for global studies or computer modeling or the like, it's almost intuitive to known when a place is degraded or polluted. Yes, there are other types of more 'hidden' eco system specific pollution and degradation, but again; these can be understood through direct observation and analysis to the larger degree. You always have a mechanism to compare against a known 'pristine' state; so your analysis of impact will always be grounded in observed fact. Also pollution and degradation events are often over a relatively shorter time than climatic processes and often regional or local in effect - so therefore more readily able to be 'attacked' with traditional observation and analysis techniques.

Now the 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' bit refers to how, at the moment, we seem to be focusing the majority of environmental research efforts (and secondary scientific research) around dealing with climate change as enemy #1. I think this is wrong, the real enemy at the gate that could do us all in is environmental degradation and pollution - i.e. we seem to be spending an in ordinate amount of resources on dealing with what 'could' happen 50 to 100 years down the road with climate change, when we have environmental issues now (like plastic in the eco system, bio pollutants, deforestation, etc) that are seriously impacting the environment directly that could be dealt with now.

Also some of this environmental degradation and pollution is also 'assisting' in producing climate change 'marker events' (like trees being removed from around glaciers, deforestation of rain forests producing CO2, urbanization of flood plains, etc) - so the two are actually linked.

Basically we need to get back to good old fashioned 'environmentalism' and concentrate on caring about the environment and the planet through direct and immediate action guided by solid scientific research and understanding. The man made climate change 'scare' has put us back several years on dealing with the important issues of environmental degradation and pollution in particular (just look at China's level of pollution), so we have a lot of work to do now to put things back on a solid footing.

Climate change and environmentalism really need to be 'decoupled' in the mind of the general public; the current close association is really doing nothing to help.

Related Content Tags: climate change, pollution, environment

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Comments left

  • Ian Stathis said:

    Wonderful to come across others who care about the world's environmental challenges and recognise how the near neurotic focus on climate change is ultimately a step backwards in the quest for a 'greener' world. Best wishes, Ian Stathis

    ON Tue, 7 Dec 10, 12:51am probably from Australia  Reply to this comment

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