Topical Tuesday: The UN Climate Summit

Happy Tuesday Transylvanians! The onset of autumn is delightful for so many reasons: crisp cool temperatures, fantastic fall foliage, pumpkin spice-flavored everything. However, the diminished hours of daylight as our plucky planet starts to tilt its axis away from the sun have me feeling downright Dracula-esque.

One mile repeat, Two
One mile repeat, two mile repeats, THREE mile repeats

I used my headlamp to light the way during this morning’s tempo run, but still managed to stumble a little bit over a hidden crack in the sidewalk.

Autumn means time for arm-warmers!
Autumn means time for arm-warmers!

I shouldn’t complain: fall is my favorite season. April showers may bring May flowers, but a frigid fall welcomes a wonderful winter.

Frost on my rosebushes!
Frost on my rosebushes!
Have I told you about my cabin? A.K.A. the site of the most scenic outhouse in the continental United States

It’s only october and I’m already salivating for ski-season. As I was wasting time on Instagram perusing some mountain porn, I stumbled upon the feed for Protect Our Winters (POW), an organization that combines two of my favorite activities: activism and athletics.


POW’s website reminded me about last week’s UN global summit on climate change in New York City. President Obama gave a great address calling for action by the US and our partners around the globe to address this urgent issue.

Climate change is a real, undeniable fact. I’ve ranted about this several times. Humankind has altered the course of the planet and now it is up to us to address the consequences. It is unfortunate that so much rhetoric is spent debating (and debasing) the scientific merit of the phenomenon when that energy could be far better spent in search of a solution.  Climate change is complex and scary; any plan of action will have to take into account multiple factors, weighing the costs and benefits of each. I will admit that sometimes we in the scientific community do ourselves a disservice by adopting extremist positions that distract from the real issues at hand and discredit our arguments. For example: up here in the Pacific Northwest one group claims that the recent warming we observe is attributable to natural variations in climate cycles, another claims that the increased temperatures stem from human activity. The local weather guru, Cliff Mass, dissects each paper on his blog and comes to the conclusion that humanity likely isn’t to blame for the weirdness happening up here around Seattle.

The WEATHER weirdness, that is
The WEATHER weirdness, that is

On the other hand, a colloquium of 13 different research groups has concluded that the Australian heat-waves during the summer of 2013 were definitively caused by humans. In other words: some of the strange weather we see is really just due to inherent oddities of the Earth, and some of the freakiness is completely our fault. Pundits and politicians use this inconsistency as an excuse for inaction, which is inexcusable.

Who needs evidence when you've got LOUD OPINIONS!?
Who needs evidence when you’ve got LOUD OPINIONS!?

Just because EVERYTHING isn’t caused by climate change, these blowhards argue that we ought to do NOTHING. The BCR-ABL chromosomal transversion doesn’t cause EVERY type of cancer, that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to develop the next Gleevec! The fact of the matter is that some areas will be more impacted than others, but humanity as a whole has a responsibility to act. The coldest cold years will be hotter than today’s toastiest temperatures by 2047.

Source: Mora et al., Nature, 2013
Source: Mora et al., Nature, 2013

The Socialist Republic of Seattle will likely remain relatively temperate, becoming a  climate haven; yet we can’t write off the regions that will be hard-hit by rising sea levels, warmer temperatures, and increased extreme weather events.

Even if we REALLY want to write off some spots
Even if we REALLY want to write off some spots

We’re staring down a grim future, make no mistake. However, the magnitude or difficulty of a task should never be used as a reason to do nothing. Humanity as a whole is creative, adaptable, and inventive. We may have totally screwed up with our fossil fuel fixation, but I am optimistic that we can face the challenge head-on and innovate our way out of this mess. Surely the species that is capable of creating deep-fried beer on a stick can figure out perovskite solar cells and a renewable future?

Yes this through the picture to find out how to do it at home
Yes this exists…click through the picture to find out how to do it at home

I’d like to leave this post off with a link to some hope. The New York Times asked a collection of world leaders, scientists, artists and authors to share their thoughts about the issue of climate change. From the Dalai Llama to Neil DeGrasse Tyson, each one offers profound insight, but I think Margaret Atwood says it best:

What gives me hope is that more and more people are aware of the dangers we face, and many smart people are at work on solutions. Our smart brains got us into this. Let’s see if they can get us out.

I think a Dahlia fits pretty well right about here.
I think a Dahlia fits pretty well right about here.

What makes you hopeful? It doesn’t have to be about climate change, lets share some positivity in general! 


6 thoughts on “Topical Tuesday: The UN Climate Summit

Add yours

  1. Random acts of kindness from stranger to strange makes me hopeful! Also, inter-species animal friendships. They kill me every time.

    In California, the drought is making climate change real – whole lakes are disappearing. It’s craziness.


    1. I love stories of random acts of kindness! I read about a “pay-it-forward” phenomenon sweeping the midwest this summer: people were paying extra for their coffee and instructing the baristas to give the next customer a complementary drink. It’s such a minor thing, but the absolutely anonymous giving melts me. Oh man. Animals in general always cheer me up. Otter holding hands at the aquarium? I die (of happiness).

      The drought, the wildfires…CA has had it tough. It’s terrible that it takes a catastrophe to convince people to take action.


  2. Pingback: GMOs | marathonsam

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