You are probably aware that as I write these words the leaders of many of the world's countries are in Paris for a United Nations conference on climate change (COP21). The sole focus of this meeting seems to be either countries making commitments to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, or aiding other countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
It is striking that all of the people involved in this conference (I assume that it is all, but at least the overwhelming majority), have a shared underlying view. It is such a common and widespread view that I am sure that you hear it on a regular basis. It such a widespread and common view that people just keep on repeating it, and it gets repeated so much that people just seem to automatically believe that it is true. When people utter this view they never, ever, seem to get questioned as to why they believe it to be true. Of course, this view is actually completely wrong! The view is, as expressed by Professor Martin Attrill from Plymouth University's Marine Institute, and concerning taking action to prevent man-made climate change:
- "It's not about saving the planet - it will carry on quite happily when we are gone... It's about protecting society. If we don't check things within 50 years, then it will be a very difficult place to live in." (Western Morning News, 29 November 2015, p. 7).
This view entails that the human species is totally insignificant as far as the planet is concerned. We are of no importance to the planet, to life on Earth, whatsoever. In other words, according to Professor Attrill, and all the people at COP21 who share this overwhelmingly dominant view, we are, as a species, a total waste of space and the planet will be happy when we are gone. How utterly clueless these people are!
Let us help these clueless people out a bit. The planet, specifically the planet as a life-bearing thriving part of the Solar System, would not "carry on quite happily" if the human species were to become extinct. This is the opposite of the truth. The human species, as the enabler of the technological birthing process, is the most precious part of the planet that has ever come into being. The future thriving of live, and ultimately its survival, depends on the continued existence of the human species. If the human species were suddenly to get wiped off the face of the Earth, then life would not "carry on quite happily". It would be a day of such great immense sadness, despair and depression for life on Earth, that we can barely comprehend the extent of this desperation; this day would be the death knell for life on Earth.
In the context of COP21, is the realisation of the planetary significance of humans important? Of course it is! If the planetary significance of the evolution of the human species in the context of the unfolding planet / Solar System is realised, then one will know that the deployment of technology to control the atmospheric temperature is an inevitability, and that it is a very good thing. If one comprehends the place of the human species in the unfolding planet / Solar System then one will also realise that the phenomenon of significant climate change (human and non-human) will not be averted by reducing fossil fuel emissions. So, focusing so much energy on this non-solution is a futile waste of energy.
Of course, fossil fuels will run out. by definition, so we do need to move to renewable sources of energy. However, this is a very different thing from believing that such a switch is a solution to the phenomenon of global warming, or global warming-induced climate change. Let me repeat this. As fossil fuels run out, the smooth operation of energy-intensive societies clearly requires renewable energy sources. Everyone knows this. The important thing to realise is that this switch is no solution to the phenomenon of imminent global warming and significant climate change. Not only is our planetary significance due to our ability to deploy technology to enable life to survive and thrive, but the only way to prevent significant global warming and climate change over the next 100-200 years is to deploy our technology to control the atmospheric temperature. Initially this just involves mastering the art of directly removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and returning them to underground storage.