I’m preparing for an upcoming presentation of An Inconvenient Truth as part of a program to discuss the religious response to climate change. I’m somewhat active in our congregation, not because I am moved by theology, but rather because it is a community of people who share common moral and ethical values.
We hope to reach open-minded people of all religious and political persuasions. Thus another member of our committee asked me to help her respond to an Orthodox Jewish, politically conservative friend who was reading one of the many websites that are obfuscating the science for political purposes.
Please note that my reply respected the sensibilities of the Orthodox person and represented the deity as G-d. If I were speaking in nonreligious terms, I would have written “Nature” instead. I also suggested that the person look at my collection of reviews of books about weather and climate.
Please note that I can’t take the time to get involved in extensive discussion at this time, but readers of this blog are welcome to chime in.
Here’s what I wrote:
The Intergovernmental Panel and Climate Change is a United Nations panel of hundreds of the world’s leading climate scientists, whose membership includes people of a wide range of political views. The IPCC is currently in the process of issuing a number of reports as it does every five years. These reports, from scientists who have considered all the objections raised in the material you cite, have shown an increasingly strong consensus over the 15-20 years of the panel’s history.
This year’s report for policymakers is out, and it states that to a high degree of certainty, global warming is occurring and the primary cause is human activity. Furthermore, among the greatest scientific uncertainties is the prediction of sea level rise, because the report’s estimate does not include the dynamic melting and slippage of the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets, which appears to be occurring but needs further study. Without that dynamic melting, sea levels are expected to rise about two feet by 2100. But if dynamic melting is indeed happening, a 20-foot rise is within the realm of plausibility. Five years from now, we may know better, but do we dare wait to find out?
A small number of dissident scientists voice very vocal disagreement with the IPCC conclusions, but I believe it is prudent to make policy based on the consensus while considering the possibility of other scenarios, both more benign as the noisy opposition would have us believe and more threatening as in the case of dynamic ice-sheet melting.
I think the doumentary An Inconvenient Truth does an excellent job conveying the data and analysis behind the scientific consensus. It also mentions the threatening scenario not as a certainty but as something that might happen within the lifetime of our grandchildren if people do not act to minimize global warming. As a Jew, I feel obligated to consider the possible consequences of all my actions. I’m afraid that the advocates of not acting are risking much more than we can possibly gain by continuing current policies. Conservative thinkers should not allow their political allies to obfuscate what is becoming an ever clearer scientific case. When G-d sends us a message, we need to pay attention and act.