What is Climate Change and Why Should We Care?

The answer is found in a report that was released on April 13 by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The report is a warning to all the world governments that we, as a collective body of nations, are not doing enough to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are pumped into our atmosphere. If we don’t reduce greenhouse gases and keep the global mean temperature (no higher than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above the pre-industrial level) at a relative standstill for the next 15 years, there may be hope in averting environmental catastrophe in the coming decades. The report admits that world leaders are doing something, but we have to do a lot more than something to save everything.

Climate change is essentially the significant and irreversible changes of average weather patterns on Earth. For example, instead of rain, there are floods. Instead of an average dose of rain, there are droughts resulting in a withered crops and lower-than-usual water reservoirs. Instead of moderate sea levels, there are higher sea levels as a byproduct of melting ice caps in the Arctic. In many respects, the mechanisms powering climate change are natural, including solar radiation, variations in the Earth’s orbit, and continental drifts. But humans have done a lot of damage.

So, where’s the media on this? Most of the basic and extended cable news stations have focused on the latest conspiracies surrounding the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, or the ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia or a bunch of teenagers sending bomb threats to airlines on Twitter because they think it’s absolutely hilarious. But when all of these stories reach an end of their lifespan, chances are that climate change won’t be covered. The report, which arguably supplies the most definitive data on climate change, will likely receive little to no coverage. This is not unfounded speculation.

In their 1995 and 2001 Assessment Reports, the IPCC determined that the media in the United States portrayed climate change as being a source of controversy more than a large groundswell of consensus among climate scientists.  The IPCC has tracked mass media reporting in the United States for nearly 20 years. The panel would ultimately realize that the media treated climate change with casual indifference or severe pessimism that winds up being dismissed by skeptics as exaggerating the problem.

It’s true. It’s hard to accept the dire consequences alone without presenting the solution. Without a solution, what we get is a lecture — and lectures don’t have guaranteed longevity in the news cycle. As time goes by, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power are getting cheaper and more accessible to residents. Using these environmentally friendly solutions on a large scale would reduce the global dependency on fossil fuels, but we have a long way to go before solar panels can be found on every home.  Axiom Capital’s alternative energy analyst Gordon Johnson reviewed the latest cost data furnished by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and determined that solar power is still expensive. The costs are getting better, wrote Johnson.

If the media were to educate people of climate change while showcasing the pros and cons for using alternative energy sources — such as geothermal, hydroelectric and wind energy — it’s possible that we can keep the conversation going.

From that conversation, we need to put words into action. Inaction is not a solution. If we cannot stabilize our global mean temperature, we will experience more hot and dry conditions, which often spurs devastating wildfires; increases in people suffering from heat-related illnesses like heat stoke; extinction of wildlife, which would radically disrupt our ecosystem and the predatory chain; the loss of glaciers will contribute to dramatic sea level rises over the course of the century. With the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, we cannot deny who is largely responsible for the acceleration of our environmental deterioration. We, the human race, are at fault –and why should future generations carry such an unfathomable burden?