Why are we not mitigating climate change with vigor? by Julie Peller Ph.D

Nearly every day, there are reports on the effects of climate change around the world.  The unprecedented warming of the earth from human activities (mainly the burning of carbon fuels) has led to distressing changes in nature over the past decades. The most rapid changes have been taking place in the Arctic and surrounding areas, regions of low human population. A recent news report described the 2020 Arctic summer as one “marked by raging fires in the Far North, with smoke extending more than 1,000 miles downwind, along with alarming new temperature records and ice melt.” Climate change is also affecting low income areas around the world. Last year, a UNICEF report stated “Devastating floods, cyclones and other environmental disasters linked to climate change are threatening the lives and futures of more than 19 million children in Bangladesh.” These drastic events should be strong signals that motivate immediate actions across the globe to minimize further warming and catastrophes.  

Why are we not mitigating climate change with vigor? Many see the inadequate action as a lack of political will.  Given the vast amount of scientific data that links climate change to extensive, dire consequences, elected officials at all levels should put climate change mitigation high on their list of priorities. A 2019 survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communications revealed that 72% of Americans believe that future generations will be harmed by climate change, and 67% indicate they are personally concerned about climate change. About 40% of those surveyed indicate their family and friends make a moderate effort to reduce global warming and about half believe that technological advances will adequately address the problem of climate change.  

I am grateful to be part of the scientific community that works to understand and address problems of all sorts.  The current pandemic is demonstrating how science moves forward, without regard to religion, skin color or nationality.  Scientists most effectively tackle worldwide crises by engaging teams of experts, those who have committed their lives to understanding their work in utmost detail. The work of scientists is highly scrutinized, reviewed by peers before publication/release, before acceptance by other experts. I very much appreciate the talents, hard work and dedication of the scientists working to understand and stop the spread and devastation of the coronavirus. 

God has blessed each of us with abilities.  I pray that we find the inspiration to listen to scientists whose knowledge and understanding of the world’s science-based problems are gifts to all of us. “Will we adopt, as an international community, the necessary measures to stop the devastation of the environment, or will we continue to deny the evidence [of this devastation]?” (Pope Francis) (The average American is responsible for 33 times more planet-warming carbon dioxide than the average Bangladeshi.)

Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~5 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.

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