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Arguements VS Action (Draft)

Tralfamadorian's picture

For some reason climate change is an ongoing argument in the scientific community. Some people say that it isn’t occurring, the icecaps aren’t melting, and there most certainly isn’t a problem with an increased number of natural disasters. What are you talking about, Global warming what’s that? The only proof anyone else needs to prove that climate change is happening is opening their eyes and looking outside. Global warming is controversial, indeed, but where the controversy starts is whether or not humans started it and where it should end is resolving the issue.

            The main focus of Elizabeth Kolbert’s Novel, The Sixth Extinction is that humans are causing climate change. We are causing this sixth extinction. In the fifth chapter of her novel, rightfully titled “Welcome to the Anthropocene” Kolbert mentions that the first extinction of a species was caused by plants. Another fact she includes is that rats have the ability to cause deforestation. Rats and Plants are relatively harmless to us as humans, they are small, and almost depend on us humans for their survival. Yet plants have the capability to cause entire species and rats are capable of deforestation. In context if something so small can cause these terrible things to happen what are we humans capable of destroying?  Kolbert states that humans are capable of plenty, among those things are that, “Human activity has transformed between a third and a half of the land surface of the planet. Most of the world's major rivers have been dammed or diverted.  Fertilizer plants produce more nitrogen than is fixed naturally by all terrestrial ecosystems.  Fisheries remove more than a third of the primary production of the oceans' coastal waters. And Humans use more than half of the world's readily accessible fresh water runoff.” We are in a new era, The Anthropocene Era, the period in which human activity is the most dominant influence on the climate and the environment.

            In The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, Naomi Oreskes ad Erik M. Conway portray a fictional depiction of what the world will be like if we continue to argue over the existence of climate change, instead of trying to fix it. This idea that ignoring climate change will make it go away is fully ridiculous, and according to this fictional yet scientific book we see the real consequences. Soaring temperatures, rising sea levels and wide spread drought are just a few of the impending disasters on our world. One of the main criticisms that Oreskes and Conway have on modern science is the 95 percent confidence level. The confidence level refers to the fact that scientists won’t make any call for an action or causation until they are 95 percent confident. They are extremely critical of this confidence interval, because they think that each situation has to be based on a different merit. If we ban tobacco for being dangerously addictive are we going to ban soda too? The same goes for science and climate change. Oreskes argues that it is time for scientists to change their standards, because it’s wrong not to look at each situation and place separate standards for them.

            Now the question is what we should do about climate change, and what can we do. Kolbert belives that there are two choices here, we could take preventative measures and deal with the causes before it gets out of hand. Or we could take a reconstructive path, where we would deal with the consequences after the event happens. Oreskes and Conway argue that preventative measures or the precautionary principle is “moot.” Conway states “Precautions are taken in advance of damage, not after it has already begun. We have overwhelming evidence that we’ve already triggered a rapid rate of oceanic and atmospheric warming. We’re currently reacting to climate change already in progress, not deploying precautions against warming that might or might not happen in the future.” Conway is right, we have already triggered climate change and what we do right now is only combating what we have already caused, not preventing it. The other argument of reconstruction does not seem valid, if we let climate change happen and get to a point where we must reconstruct it will be the end of western civilization. Just as described in Oreskes’ and Conway’s book. If we continue to argue over the existence of climate change instead of focusing on ways to solve and combat the problem we will see the end of the western civilization sooner, rather than later. 


jccohen's picture


I think your primary impulse in this piece is to establish that instead of arguing over the existence of climate change and our role in promoting it, we/human beings need to act.  Of course in order to act with the greatest possible impact, we need to figure out what kind of action is most likely to have a significant positive impact. 

The heart of what you’re saying/moving toward in this essay seems to me to draw on O & C rather than Kolbert.  So I don’t think you need the long paragraph on how “humans are causing climate change” from K’s perspective; couldn’t you quickly establish this (using Kolbert) and then get on to the more pressing question of your essay – what we should do about that – for which you’re more likely to use O & C?   

In your last paragraph, you talk about “preventative measures and deal with the causes before it gets out of hand” or “a reconstructive path, where we would deal with the consequences after the event happens.”  Along with O & C, you rule out the usefulness of preventative measures at this point.  About “reconstruction,” are you saying that this is the path shown in O & C’s book, and that they’re telling us to look for other ways to act?  I suggest you go further with this:  what can you glean from O & C’s analysis (and you could include some work with their Glossary and/or the interview at the end of the book) about what they’re saying we should do?