Twining: A problem right now

The most important negotiations in the world start on Monday in Copenhagen. At stake is no less than the future of our planet’s climate. International delegates will gather for two weeks in Copenhagen at the United Nation’s 15th Congress of the Parties, COP15, to discuss how we can prevent catastrophic climate change.

Yet if you’ve been paying attention to the press lately, you might be under the impression that climate change isn’t even happening. Recently, someone hacked into a computer server at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. Climate change skeptics have been a field day with what was found: thousands of e-mails between scientists that contain everything from how to make graphs show more obvious warming to unprofessional comments about fellow researchers. Many are arguing that these e-mails prove that climate scientists have been colluding for years and that global climate change is all a big hoax.

As an environmentalist, I wish their claims were true. But they’re not.

There are so many other pressing environmental issues out there to solve that discovering that climate change isn’t happening would be the best news an environmentalist could hear. We’d love to move on and focus our full attention on neglected issues like endocrine disrupters in plastics, toxic algal blooms in our oceans or lead in our drinking water. But our climate remains the biggest issue out there because the scientists in East Anglia aren’t the world’s only climate scientists. The top international scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nation’s committee on climate change, agreed in their latest report that the evidence in favor of human caused global climate change was overwhelming and that we needed to act immediately to stave off its worst effects.

The IPCC report came out in 2007 and their research has been corroborated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Global Historic Climatology Network and the International Research Institute for Climate Predicition at Columbia University. Yet, two years later we are still debating whether climate change is even an issue. This December was supposed to be the time to do more than shake hands and agree that there’s a problem — this was supposed the time to finally get it right. Yet, our world leaders have decided to delay signing any binding commitments once again. In November, Obama and others held hands and agreed to essentially nothing at this year’s negotiations. Is it just too inconvenient to take responsibility right now?

Well, it can’t be because the small inconveniences we face by taking action today pale in comparison to the great hardships we’ll face tomorrow if we do nothing. We’re not talking about starving polar bears and homeless penguins here; we’re talking about starving farmers who can’t grow crops because their farms have become deserts and homeless refugees who’ve had their homes washed away by the rising seas. But we have the power to take control ourselves before things get even worse. It might not be easy, but we can do it.

But we need for someone to step forward and motivate people. We need to do the right thing as opposed to just saying it. We need someone like Jimmy Carter who isn’t afraid to wear a sweater on national television and tell people to turn their heat down so that in 50 years the winters will still be cold enough that we want to wear sweaters.

It may seem difficult to motivate people to protect the future, but that’s what your parents’ did every time that they made you wear your seat belt. They protected you and allowed you to have the bright future that you’re living today. We need to take the same approach when it comes to protecting the climate of our children’s future. We need to be proactive.

Global climate change is everyone’s problem and everyone can be part of the solution. We can shut the window in January, we can turn off the light when we go out and we can turn down the heat and put on sweater like Jimmy Carter did. In turn, our leaders can take real action by doing the inconvenient, but absolutely necessary — committing to climate goals that are more than mere rhetoric.

Lily Twining is a junior in Pierson College and a co-chair of the Yale Student Environmental Coalition.


  • Y’10

    Everything about your article is rhetorics.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not denying that temperature increasing, but what climategate showed me was that the top people in charge of climate research can be as deceiving and self-serving as any politician or special interest groups. All I want is transparency. If their research is legitimate, there should be nothing to hide (emails, raw data, modeling programs,…) But for some reason, they have ALWAYS been very reluctant to release them, even though they are required to do so by regulation.

    I’d like to decide for myself if the world’s melting away. But all I’m being told is: “Trust me. Global warming is so real that it’s not even debated.” Umm… why are there still very respected environmental scientists at well-known institutions who say otherwise? And yes, I have read quite a selection of papers from opposing viewpoints. And no, I don’t need a PhD in “climate science” to understand them. I’ve been studying quantum mechanics for three years, so I think I can handle statistical manipulation. As Mr. Scrudato said in his article, as long as the margin of error is plus or minus 0.5 degrees (when the incline where’s talking about is 0.6 degrees), and as long as there’s no transparency in the head climate research institution of the world… there’s always going to be that nagging voice in the back of my head. I’m sorry if I don’t take everyone’s fluffy “evidence” for granted.

    And really?? Jimmy Carter?? Seriously?

  • Anon

    But, I don’t like wearing sweaters and cold harsh winters. And I value homeless penguins more than retrograded hick farmers. After reading your article global warming doesn’t sound half bad at all. Bring on Kevin Costner’s ‘Waterworld’.

  • y11

    As if everything climate skeptics ever say ISN’T all rhetoric.

  • Justin

    Fantastic article. And it names leaked emails for what they are puts climate skeptics back in their place: as recklessly ignorant citizens who will do anything they can to believe it’s not true, I guess until *their* homes are washed away.

    “I’d like to decide for myself if the world’s melting away.”

    Good luck. If unprecedented droughts, the consensus of 3,000 peer reviewed scientists, and the fact that leaders representing the vast majority of the population of the earth are meeting to discuss what do do about climate change — not whether it exists — doesn’t sway you, I hate to think what finally would.

    The pyschology of those who think they know better than the IPCC:

  • Yale Alum

    Justin, that link does not sound like me or any other Yalie who also are skeptical about global warming. We have fully read the scientific evidence. Long term evidence. We simply do not think that this is man-made. There are other environmental issues at stake, such as overfishing and deforestation. Fewer fall due to temperature than due to overuse of resources. Temperatures simply make a bad situation worse. Don’t be so quick to label all skeptics. Do you go to Yale? Take a historical environmental class and read the evidence objectively and see where it takes you. You’ll understand why there are still skeptics, even within science.

  • @ Justin
  • Hannah

    This is a fantastic, yet incredibly frightening article. I live in New York and the waste, lack of recycling and overall disinterest and ignorance towards environmental initiative is appalling. Thank you for shedding some light on the risk we face.

  • Anono

    The movement to arrest global warming reminds me of the early years of the civil rights movement. From that movement emerged a leader with tremendous oratorical skill and powerful moral suasion who motivated millions of people who otherwise would most likely have remained on the sidelines. Dr. King was a catalyst; the people he motivated became the political force that drove Congress and the President to act. Here’s a parallel I want to emphasize: then, as now, people were arguing over whether government action was appropriate. What Dr. King and his colleagues did, through their oratory and actions, was transform this argument from an intellectual argument about political theory to a heart-touching argument about fairness. I agree with the writer that the climate movement needs someone to step forward and motivate people. I will be watching Copenhagen to see if a gifted motivator emerges.

  • Joel

    The author is right about wearing our climate seat belts, and James Murdoch agrees in today’s Washington Post. He writes: “You do not need to believe that all climate science is settled or every prediction or model is perfect to understand the benefits of limiting pollution and transforming our energy policies.” The side benefits like cleaner air and water and freedom from dependence on foreign oil, as Murdoch points out, make reducing greenhouse gases a smart play–if done with market methods like those to be discussed at Copenhagen.

  • Another Anon

    To #2 Anon: I wonder how many of the victims noted in “Cholera Epidemic Follows Severe Drought in Kenya” (NY Times today) are just “retrograded hick farmers”? Perhaps we, therefore, should all be unconcerned if the drought contributing to the lack of sufficient clean water in Northern Kenya might foreshadow more frequently occurring droughts and concurrent outbreaks of disease predicted in the not so far off future, if the Global Warming denier’s succeed in stiffling progress. Since the worst disasters in the future, if global warming continues to climb, are most likely to create the worst problems for the “retrograded” people of the world, not us lucky, intelligent and sophisticated Elis, maybe we should all sit back, down another micro-brew and say “Surf’s Up” with a big smug smile. What, me worry ?

    Being an optimist, I believe that you will eventually grow up and develop a more nuanced view of the “hicks” of the world who have not had the wealth of opportunities that you and I enjoy.

  • Yale ’75

    Before taking sides on Global Warming, take a moment to ponder the following questions:

    1) Should we stop demolishing the irreplaceable rain forests of Brazil?

    2) Should you have fast train service in the United States like Europe, China & Japan?

    3) Would you drive an electric car if it was just like a gas powered car?

    4) Would you use electricity made by the wind and the sun instead of by coal?

    Did you answer YES to a few of these questions? Then you probably agree they would make your life better? The proposed Solutions to Global Warming would allow us to say YES to all of these questions, and make our lives a lot better. So, whether or not you agree on the scientific Cause of Global Warming, it seems that we would all benefit from the proposed Solutions. So lets move beyond arguing over the Cause and start implementing the Solution. How bad can it be to implement a Solution that allows the planet to live longer, cleaner water and air, cheap renewable energy, fast trains and may even save some of the Rain Forests?

  • what’s hurting us faster

    As much as I’m committed to environmental conservation, what we put into our body has a much more direct impact on the individual. As such, I am much more concerned about the takeover of our entire food chain by a few corporations, who use corn subsidies to make happy meal less expensive than a pound of broccoli, who feed cattle other animals and corn even though it’s not digestable, and who patent genetically modified foods and then sue any farmer whose crop gets cross-pollinated with their seed.