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I don’t believe in climate change, do you?

By Patrícia Gallo

I want to start our talk by telling you that I don’t believe in climate change. I don’t believe in global warming. I don’t believe that the sea levels are rising. I don’t believe that rainfall patterns are shifting. I don’t believe that the temperatures on Earth and in the oceans are increasing. I don’t believe that climate change disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable groups, especially women and children. I don’t believe that climate change intensifies human migration and displacement. I don’t believe that the negative impacts of climate change on species, biodiversity and ecosystems are already evident. I am a scientist. We can then argue that this denial is a conflict between values and facts. Admitting that climate change exists it involves the capability of accepting certain facts. Still, being alarmed about climate change, it consists of building bridges between the science (facts) and peoples’ commitments and convictions (values). I am a scientist, I acknowledge, and I am alarmed about climate change. Nevertheless, people not necessarily must believe in climate change to act on it.

It is commonly accepted that there will always be some uncertainty surrounding the expectation of changes in such a complex system as the Earth’s climate. However, it is indisputable among climate scientists that the climate-warming trends are extremely likely due to human activities. More than 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that humans are causing the effects of climate change and global warming. Practically, all our actions, especially those concerning the use of energy, involve the emission of a certain amount of carbon and the use of natural resources. Earth Overshoot Day shows us that to maintain our current lifestyle; we already need almost two Earth(s) of ecological resources. In other words: we all contribute in some way to climate change and the depletion of natural resources. 

We can observe, and we can sense that our world is characterized by multiple crises. Climate crisis, financial crisis, food crisis, and so on. We consume and operate as if there were no tomorrow. However, the “price is paid” by the environment, other generations and people in less privileged situations or other regions of the world. For this imperial way of life and production, forests are exploited, ecosystems are destroyed, rivers are polluted, animal stocks get into distress or whole species die out, people starve and work under conditions unworthy of life.

It is also known that sinks that can naturally absorb greenhouse gas (GHG) are not sufficient: Forests that act as sinks are being cut down. The oceans are still important sinks, but their absorption capacity is also limited. Forests contain nearly 60% of all the carbon stored in terrestrial ecosystems, and when sustainably managed can have a central role in climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. Particularly in tropical countries, deforestation is one of the significant causes of carbon emissions. In addition, a large amount of emissions is released when changes in land use occur for the establishment of crops and pastures.

Yet, climate change is an abstract concept for many of us. We get used to the new normality – for example, more heatwaves, more heavy rainfall, or forest fires – and often no longer perceive such changes as threats. Some lines above, I mentioned that to act on, we don’t need to believe in. You may be asking yourself, what she means by that?  A recent study from Columbia University suggests that some communities are acting in favor of climate adaptation measures as they have recognized negative socio-economic impacts, along with climate change effects, which influence their lives. Hence, the communities are acting on these impacts, seeking resilience as a way to support their livelihoods to deal with constraints that they are now facing. Still, they don’t spontaneously associate and describe these actions through a climate change frame. 

Moreover, one thing that many of us have realized in the last times – also due to current occurrences – is that the time for convincing the world about climate change is over, now is the time for action. Thus, rather than investing time on discussions and trying to convince people that climate change is real, we should better engage those that know that it is a real problem.  So, what is the message here?

It is precisely that =) Let’s not even think about climate change, let’s do something different for the environment and our subsistence. Picturing about climate change and admitting the anthropogenic influence on our reality, clashes with our personal goals. It is commonplace for the humankind to feel more comfortable about the present than the uncertainty that the future brings. However, if you think through about your life, your neighbourhood, the places you visit, I am almost sure that you can perceive how such places and landscapes are already changing. Are such changes mostly showing positive effects on livelihoods? We can argue about that. Therefore, the question here is: “What does it matter to you? What are the values that build your actions and your decisions?” 

If you and I are directly in this dialogue, you may answer to me that the government is the responsible for giving us the basis to make changes possible. And I would respond that you are right, BUT, we as civil society should make better use of our political power. However, to do so, we must show that we are ready to change our lifestyle, or should we allow resources to be exploited even more radically to secure a short-term competitive advantage toward development?

Lastly, I would like to say to you that I don’t believe in climate change, but I do believe in a better world!

My son Antonio Rudolf also believes in a better world!

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