Md. Khalequzzaman, professor of geology at LHU, said the problem in finding a solution to climate change lies in the ethical dilemmas of mitigation and adaptation on Wednesday Oct. 7.
The Industrial Revolution began the largest advancement for humanity and one of the largest short-term changes in the climate. The advancements include: longer life expectancy, economic growth and prosperity. The problem is it has taken its toll on the environmental landscape through deforestation, atmospheric composition through a rise in greenhouse gasses (GHG) and causing biological problems. In 1988, James Hansen, former atmospheric physicist for NASA, testified on climate change before congress and said, “ Our climate is changing, humans are to blame, you should listen.”
Since 1900, the amount of GHGs has been steadily rising, and humans are the problem. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the largest problem accounting for 75-80 percent of the GHGs. It has risen to over 400 parts per million (ppm) from 255 in 1900. The overall temperature of the globe has risen by roughly one degree celsius, or by roughly two degrees. The problem with this is that the poles rise more than the equator, so an overall change of two degrees would translate to around ten degrees in the poles.
Sea level change is problematic, without the poles the sea levels will rise up to two meters, or about seven feet. This could wipe out entire countries like the Maldives and Fiji causing climate refugees and resulting in another dilemma with who will take them in.
Rick Lilla, Media Librarian at LHU, said, “People will keep going until they go off a cliff.” This has been the problem of ethics and how to mitigate the responsibilities of fixing this problem. The U.S., China, U.K., Japan and India account for 55 percent of the overall GHGs; the problems arising are due to the “blame game”. As of September 2015, China has superseded the U.S. as the largest GHG producing country and they blame the U.S. and Europe. The argument they present is that the need for so many Chinese manufactured products is causing them to produce so many GHGs, therefore they should not be responsible.
The goal is to keep CO2 in the atmosphere under 450 ppm. This comes from the goal of keeping away from a change in the average global temperature of two degrees celsius. The last time the average temperature was two degrees above the 1900 average was 125,000 years ago in the last warm period. On the other hand, the last time the temperature was two degrees below the 1900 average was the last ice age.
The solution to this came from the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) and the idea of differential common responsibility. Differential common responsibility is the idea that everyone has the responsibility to help find a solution, but with varying degrees of depth. The U.S. and China would have the most to do while smaller countries like the Maldives and Fiji have a responsibility, but not as much. DDPP has had the largest CO2 producing countries come up with four solutions each to assist in the overall decrease of carbon in the air. According to Khalequzzaman, “The U.S. agreed to come up with a clean power plant to reduce CO2 emissions by 32 percent by 2030.” For the world to put itself on track it would need to reduce its overall usage of CO2 by 50 percent by the year 2050.
The biggest concern is the cost of fixing this problem. Khalequzzaman states, “If the global temperature rises two degrees celsius it would cost the global GDP $2.8 trillion. The cost to fix this problem is estimated to be only $700 billion, which is only one percent of the globe’s GDP”.