Climate Change: How Would You Act If Your House Was On Fire?

For decades humans have known that we are driving climate change.  And for most of that time, it’s been clear that unless we change our ways, the planet may become largely, if not wholly, inhospitable to humans as well as many other plants and animals.

The experts tell us that we’ve reached a tipping point.  We cannot reverse climate change any longer.  The best we can hope for is to stop the progress and mitigate the damages we’ve already wrought — the impacts we see now as well as those that are already in motion due to current actions.

Concretely, the United Nations warns us that we will experience hotter temperatures, more severe storms, increased droughts, rising ocean levels, loss of species, not enough food, increased health risks, and increased poverty and displacement.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘What are you willing to sacrifice?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What do you believe?’


Our house is on fire.

It’s been burning for quite some time.  But the fire, until fairly recently, progressed slowly.  Not so any longer.  The pace of climate change has been increasing.  And every year, it seems we need to recalculate the rate of change to faster still.   To stop the progress and mitigate the damages will require immediate changes to the world, national, and local economies; more sustainable agriculture practices; assistance to struggling regions of the world already seeing life-threatening impacts; sustainable technologies (old and new), and dramatic changes to our personal lives.

While some advocate for the necessary immediate changes, the dominant view appears to be kicking the can down the road. We convince ourselves that new technologies will save us or that younger generations will take this seriously and enact needed changes. So, we’re either pinning ourselves to shallow hope or acknowledging that the pains of change are not ones we will initiate.

We should expect more of ourselves.  How would you act if your house was on fire?  Because it is.

Related questions: How is climate change impacting you? What is keeping us from sustaining the planet? What is the greatest problem facing humanity?

Should We Pursue Nuclear Energy?

Nuclear energy , like any other form of energy, has advantages and disadvantages. Do the pros outweigh the cons?

Our knowledge of the workings of atoms and the subatomic particles that make up those atoms marked a significant breakthrough in our understanding of the universe. It also allowed a leap forward in technology, which led to power plants that generate lots of electricity.

Energy that is generated from nuclear reactions has one primary advantage: no carbon emissions are produced. Most of the world’s energy currently comes from burning fossil fuels, which releases carbon into the air. That carbon is now threatening us all in the form of climate change.

Time is growing short to find an alternative form of energy, one that does not pump billions of tons of carbon into the air each year. Nuclear energy is one such possible alternative. (As are solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and others.)


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘Is technology neutral?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘Freedom or security?’


The drawbacks to nuclear power are, primarily, two-fold.

First, nuclear plants produce radioactive waste, and no one has come up with a satisfactory plan for its disposal. That waste will last for hundreds of years. The current strategy for dealing with it is to put it somewhere that seems to be geologically stable, and far from any human civilizations.

The second danger comes from accidents that produce radioactive fallout. We’ve seen this play out most recently in Japan in 2011, when a tsunami destroyed a nuclear power plant. As a result, radioactive material was released into the surrounding air and ocean.

We have an energy problem. To live a lifestyle that is common in a first world country is energy intensive, and the energy demands of the human population across the world are expected to increase for the foreseeable future. No combination of alternate energy sources can meet our current needs, let alone larger ones.

Should we explore all possibilities, including nuclear? Or are the risks associated too great — even greater than those posed by climate change? Should we pursue nuclear energy?

Related questions: What is keeping us from sustaining the planet? What is the greatest problem facing humanity? How is climate change impacting you?

 

What Role Should Government Play In Our Lives?

We pay taxes — income, property, sales — to the government. We vote for the people who hold public office at the local, state, and federal levels. What, then, should we expect in return?

In some circles, government is seen as a bad thing. However, it must play some part in our lives.

For example, perhaps that role is to protect us from other countries and threats across the world. A strong military would perform that task.

Maybe, though, the government can keep us safe from other dangers besides bad actors around the world. The current pandemic is an example. A strong state or federal entity can coordinate efforts that individuals, or even powerful companies, might not be able, or motivated, to do.

Does that also extend to other threats? Climate change? Dirty food or water? Guns?


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where we discuss the questions ‘Where does authority come from?’ and ‘What does your favorite music say about you?’


Whenever disputes between individuals arise, there needs to be some intermediate to resolve them. The legislative system serves as a way to codify this, and the courts allow for interpretations of those laws. Is this a valid governmental role?

There are many other tasks that the government oversees: education, land governance, roads and bridges, libraries, postal service, and on and on. Are there areas that the government currently manages that they shouldn’t, in your opinion? Conversely, are there roles it should have, but currently doesn’t?

If you like the government or not, it is true that in a democracy the government is a manifestation of the will of the people. In your mind, what do you want our civic institutions to do? What role should the government play in our lives?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? Where does authority come from? What role does technology play in your life? How much power does an individual have?

How Is Climate Change Impacting You?

Climate change is reshaping the world we live in. But has it started impacting you directly and personally, where you live?

As the average temperature rises across the globe, the increased temperatures are setting off a number of environmental changes.

One example is sea level rise. As temperatures warm, the ice at the polar caps are melting, which is causing sea levels to rise. This, in turn, threatens coastal cities with flooding.

Storms are also getting more numerous, and more extreme. Changing weather patterns lead to events like the wildfires of California, or even the current freeze in Texas. Flooding is more common, as are droughts (and, really, all weather extremes).

In addition, there are more subtle impacts. As natural habitats for wildlife are threatened (by the flooding, wildfires, droughts, and so on) there are more chances for interaction of wild animals and humans. Or more endangered species.

There are a myriad of ways climate change is manifesting in the world today. Do any of them directly touch your life? How is climate change impacting you?

Related questions: What is keeping us from sustaining the planet? What is the greatest problem facing humanity? How can we turn sadness into constructive action? What do we do about plastic?