Letter to the editor – climate change

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Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to Jo-Anne Bell’s “Re: “Ceasing to Think” and the ensuing backlash.” I was pleased to see a Geologist weighing in on the climate. For me, that was the only pleasing aspect of this opinion piece, whose goal was to debunk every possible claim of contemporary climate science.

I say “opinion piece” because, although the author clearly has much expertise in geological science, and could theoretically publish an informative piece of journalism, she failed to support any of her claims with any references or sources at all.

There is no doubt that climate science has been a sticking point these last decades, and that makes perfect sense. Accepting that humans have played the lead role in dramatically changing our only habitat is a hard pill to swallow. Dr. Bell listed a great number of postulated catastrophes caused by climate change – she claims ice is not disappearing, extreme weather events are not increasing, the ocean is not acidifying, species are not disappearing at alarming rates. She states this is “inconvenient but true.” I am astonished by this assertion. On the contrary, it would be incredibly convenient if these realities were in fact fabrications of erroneous science, as she believes. I truly wish it were so, and if climate change skeptics prove to be right, I will be the first to hug them. It is not, however, convenient that Arctic sea ice is receding at a rate faster than natural variability can account for: “This ice loss appears to be unmatched over at least the last few thousand years and unexplainable by any of the known natural variabilities” (Polyak et al., 2009). It is not convenient that we have already pushed plant and animal species to the brink through our wholesale destruction of biodiversity, and now they are left with limited capacity to adapt to this acceleration in planetary warming (Diaz, Settele, Brondizio et al., 2019).

Dr. Bell also points out that climate change has become the domain of politics, and to some extent, I agree with her. But climate change isn’t getting political because it’s profitable or sexy. Leaders around the globe are taking action on climate because their citizens are demanding it of them. Although the process is painfully slow, they are realizing that transformative policy is part of the solution – rather than just expecting that our neoliberal status quo can safely carry us forward forever. While the global poor (including our own northern indigenous communities) are already suffering the effects of climate change to the tune of displacement, conflict, natural disasters, contaminated food and water, and disease, wealthy countries continue to consume at unsustainable rates. Suggestions to buy less, compost and reuse, while essential components of a more sustainable future, are not going to fix a problem of this proportion. The issue is political because it must be political in order to be prioritized.

If there is one point upon which I agree with Dr. Bell it is that we ought to stay away from name-calling and mud-slinging. This is a critically important issue which deserves the coverage it is getting in our local paper, and the conversation should be respectful. BUT – there will continue to be frustration, perseverance and passion communicated by those of us who want to see this community and this country effect profound change in the way we interact with our habitat.

Dr. Sarah Tuck, Kemptville

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