Among all the hot-button issues of modern-day American politics, climate change is perhaps the one whose effects are most masked by the limited bandwidth of human perception. Most of us have never been caught in a wildfire or hurricane, are not farmers with bottom lines at the mercy of shortened growing seasons, and do not regularly fraternize with polar bears. Therefore, we are left to pick out the marks of climate change from its degree-sized effects on mean temperatures and the annual variations in rainfall. All the while, the adverse effects of a changing climate compound, and get harder and harder to mitigate or undo.
It is imperative, then, if our goal is to protect civilization from climate change’s attendant harms, that we cultivate a keener sense of the threat we are facing. One avenue that works for some involves a close study of the data. The abrupt rise of global temperatures coincident with the increased carbon emissions of the past few centuries is as compelling to this type of person as the projected outcomes are frightening: dozens of species going extinct by the day and a single degree’s temperature increase comes with a price tag in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
However, some respond more readily to human stories and accounts. With the increased incidence of wildfires, droughts, and hurricanes thought to be attributable in significant part to climate change, these stories are becoming less scarce. Personally, I would very much like to never experience one of these catastrophic events; nonetheless, it is important to comprehend how they are changing the lives of those whom they are thrust upon. James Balog’s newest film, “The Human Element” — which Boulder’s Citizens’ Climate Lobby is screening at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder on Sunday, Sept. 16 — presents an excellent opportunity to grapple with the human side of this global challenge. If you are interested in attending the free screening and to hear a little bit about CCL, an organization working to change the political climate around climate change to one of cooperation and solutions, don’t hesitate find us online and sign up.
Daniel Palken, Ph.D. student and research assistant at the University of Colorado, Boulder