This is not a negative political hit and run piece. This is not a partisan agenda. Rather, this is the sleeper issue that neither candidate is discussing in the run up to the 2012 election, despite the very real fact that it is the single greatest issue facing our generation. It is more important than Chick-fil-A, Mitt Romney’s taxes, Paul Ryan’s budget or Barack Obama’s record. It’s even more important than the economy. In fact, it’s an issue that will dwarf all others when future generations look back on ours to see what we chose to do with our lives. It’s the defining issue of our time.
I’m talking about climate change, and while Americans continue debating whether or not humans are solely responsible, the science is certain. It’s going to happen, we just don’t know when. The general consensus is soon. One scientist, renowned physicist Vladimir Paar, says maybe as soon as five years:
The reality is that mankind needs to start preparing for the ice age. We are at the end of the global warming period. The ice age is to follow. The global warming period should have ended a few thousands of years ago, we should have already been in the ice age [Emphasis mine]. Therefore we do not know precisely when it could start – but soon.
Obviously climate science is a complex and mysterious thing. To the lay person, those unknown variables may be misunderstood as a reason to delay action, yet the growing concern in the scientific community is that a major change is already upon us.
This means that there is an increasingly real chance that you, your children, or your unborn grandchildren will live to see it—or die as a consequence of it.
But let’s suppose I’m wrong. Let’s suppose I’m a few generations off. Suppose it isn’t your grandchildren, but your great, great grandchildren. Is that enough reason, in your mind, to kick this issue down the road for another generation?
The answer to that question is another question: What will it take for humans to survive an environmental catastrophe of this magnitude? Answer: A lot of energy. Previous ice ages lasted about 70,000 years and the next one cannot be avoided.
Dr. Paar explains, “The nuclear energy we know today will not last longer than 100 years as we simply do not have enough uranium in the world to match the needs in an ice age.” He’s talking about survival. Producing food and heat for 70,000 years will require some technological know-how.
Yet, he remains optimistic, citing a consortium project in France which aims to replicate a fusion process occurring naturally on the sun, and could provide energy for thousands of years. The downside is we have to wait another forty years to learn how well (or not) it’s going to work.
The cost for research like this is split between the European Union, United States, Russia, India, China, Japan and South Korea, and requires the sustained effort of all nations involved. (The EU is contributing 45%, everyone else is contributing 9%.)
In today’s political climate, in our country alone, funding can dry up in the blink of an eye, and forty years is a long time to wait for results which are uncertain at best. So I’ll ask the Big Question again: Even if I’m a few generations off about when this catastrophe will occur, and knowing the scope of what we must prepare for, do you still think we should kick this issue down the road for another generation?
Extinction knows no politics. This is the defining issue of our time.