Question of the Day: Is it Too Late to Combat Global Warming?

by Roberta Seldon on April 30, 2012

Is it really too late to do anything about global warming? Yes — at least that’s what some climate scientists say.

According to these scientists, the world is close to reaching tipping points that will make global warming irreversible. The tipping point for ice sheets has already been passed, Will Steffen, executive director of the Australian National University’s climate change institute, said, according to Reuters. The West Antarctic ice sheet has shrunk over the last decade, and the Greenland ice sheet has lost around 200 cubic km (48 cubic miles) a year since the 1990s.

And as emissions continue to grow, the world is close to reaching thresholds beyond which the effects on the global climate will be irreversible, such as the melting of polar ice sheets and loss of rainforests, the scientists added.

In a 2010 interview with Alison van Diggelen of Fresh Dialogues, Robert Ballard, a U.S. oceanographer best known for discovering the sunken Titanic, had this to say about global warming: “It’s too late…There’s a lag, and it’s already in the system.”

Despite this, Ballard suggests that we continue to make efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. While we can’t do much about natural global warming, we can do something about manmade global warming, which increases the severity of natural warming, he said.

But exactly how much can we do about it? The writer of an article on Grist.org makes this point: “Even if our government did act, we can’t control the emissions of the developing world. China is now the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet, and its inherently unstable autocratic political system demands growth at all costs. That means coal.”

Climate change talks in the past have been unsuccessful, including a decade of discussions between the United Nations’ ICAO and the European Commission over carbon emission. At the UN’s annual climate change talks in Durban, South Africa in 2011, India, among other nations, voiced its opposition to a global treaty on greenhouse gas emissions that includes all of the world’s largest carbon emitters. And let’s not forget about the many Republicans, including Senator James Inhofe, who insist on telling the world that global warming is just a hoax and that we shouldn’t even be focusing on it at all.

Given the damage that’s already been done and the fact that so many are unwilling to fight against global warming, it just may be too late after all. What do you think?

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