Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Debate on global warming heats up - And misses the point

The global warming debate has been raging for a while now, with many arguing over the impact man made carbon emissions are having on the planet and climate. Those in the Al Gore camp contend we humans need to drastically cut our carbon footprint or face an environmental catastrophe. Others say the science is flawed and that any changes in climate are the result of normal cycles, periods of cooling and warming that this planet has undergone for aeons.

So which is it? I for one don't really care, I just want to see a cleaner environment for my children.

Has the planet's climate changed during my lifetime? There's no doubt in my mind. Growing up in the seventies my mother never worried about covering me from head to toe in sun screen when I was outside for fifteen minutes. Sunburns were de rigeur during my childhood summers. Newscasts were about fires and murders, not the shrinking polar ice cap.

Oh we were concerned about the environment back in the day, but not globally. We had more simple worries back then. You know, things like smog polluting our air, clean water, endangered species and contaminated soil. There were plenty of tree-huggers around reminding us about what we were doing to the planet, but they had trouble holding our attention. In our consumer driven society new cars and newer toys were a lot sexier than saving whales or pandas.

That all changed when the threat of global warming took hold. Suddenly words like 'clean energy' seeped into the collective vocabulary. People started worrying about going green, recycling and composting became the norm. Almost everyone was willing to do their part to stop us from frying ourselves and destroying the planet that is our home.

Now some are suggesting that our efforts may be useless, that this big green movement has been a hoax. Efforts to cut the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere are openly questioned, with many worrying about the effects on our economy.

And that's a shame.

Even if global warming is not man made, concern over its effects had people engaging in efforts that were reducing smog, cleaning up the water supply and eliminating contamination from our soil. I know I'd much rather live in a world with clean soil, air and water, even if there has to be a period of negative impact on our economy.

If Canada's woodland caribou had a voice in the matter I'm sure they'd be hoping for continued concern on the environmental front. I'll be writing later about the debate over allowing logging in Ontario's northern boreal forest, logging which could severely impact the 5,000 animals still living there.

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