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Why should ecocentrists care about climate change? - Transience Divine
October 6th, 2013
07:09 pm

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Why should ecocentrists care about climate change?
We all know that climate change is happening. And we (humanity) are causing it. The future will be tough, with drier wells, fewer resources, lower crop yields, more extreme weather events, and flooded cities. It's even worse for other species: we're causing one of the greatest extinctions in the world's history. And polar bears can't afford air conditioning.

But very little of the problem for other species is climate change, per se. Plenty of species are ill-adapted for a warmer world, and but that's not why they're going extinct. We're destroying the Amazon far faster than drought is. When the oceans rise, animals won't mind moving inland, and in most places it will happen slowly enough for plants to do the same. Human settlements are in the way of these migrations, but that's not the climate's fault.

In the history of Earth, this kind of climate change is normal. For most of the past billion years, the Earth has been 10 degrees C warmer, and CO2 has been multiple times greater than currently. In fact, in that time it's only been this cold four times. All our carbon emissions are just accelerating our exit from the present ice age.

The past warmer climates have been more arid with large deserts, but not entirely inhospitable. The last one was the time of the great lizards. It only took 65 million years for human kind to evolve from rats: the natural world will recover from this extinction and adapt, and it will do it pretty quickly. Earth has another good 4 billion years in it, so there's plenty of time.

So why should the ecocentrist worry about climate change? Because, unfortunately for most species, human kind and its descendents probably aren't going to die in this extinction. The anthropocene will continue, and the coordinated effects of humanity will be global. Worse, the effects of our lack of coordination will be global. Climate change is a coordination problem. If we could all just agree, we could solve it tomorrow.

The effects of carbon emissions will unfold over millennia, but now is the time that we decide what global coordination looks like. We have arrived in a new world of global communication, at least amongst one of our species. Climate change is just the first of many case studies in global coordination that we will encounter.

Climate change is both a natural consequence of our situation, and the shared experience that we need to confront. It will take all of our ingenuity, commitment, and wisdom to handle it, because we are really trying to figure out how to handle ourselves. This exercise will help define who we are as a mature global civilization, and our descendents will learn from it for millions of years.

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