Can Humanity Help Science Solve Climate Change?

With each new wildfire incident in California and every sheet of ice that falls off the Arctic, climate change is becoming more and more of this time’s most defining event. And it’s not just an event either. Unlike the great recession of the early 2000s or dot-com boom back in the 1960s, climate change can lead to irreversible damages, ones that can and will be felt by all other generations moving forward.

Of course, since this worldwide problem mainly deals with the slow but sure degradation of our planet’s life support systems, it’s easy to see how this is a scientific issue. And in ways more than one, it is. Very much so. The solutions scientists and environmentalists have are mostly scientific in nature after all.

According to Japanese economist Yoichi Kaya, climate change is still a human problem, stemming from the collective behaviors of people from all over the world. Per Kaya’s equation, which is known as the Kaya Identity, climate change is a problem made by human population size and economic activity as much as a problem made by energy use and technology.

Furthermore, Kaya also said that our overemphasis on science might dwarf the effective climate solutions that can come from studying climate ethics, social justice and human values. In fact, the IPCC report spends over 10 pages emphasizing just that.

The report also did a good job of combining technical fixes with “soft” technologies or intangible tools based on non-scientific knowledge. For example, one such proposed solution is to release chemicals that would reflect sunlight back into space. While this may work, injecting some ethical principles into it begs the question: But should they? After all, schemes like this can potentially benefit future generations, the poor and indigenous populations less, all of which are the most affected by climate change.

Scientific facts have also failed to motivate people to start acting for the most part, with some even rejecting the idea of climate change itself. However, this matter would surely be taken more seriously once people can see how it could affect their own families, their livelihoods and in some cases, even their beliefs.

Tapping into what makes people really move therefore, will “humanize” climate change and make it all the more approachable for everyone to understand, which has the highest likelihood of urging everyone to start making some real changes.

Climate Change Climate change started to worsen once human society began to thrive during the Industrial Revolution. Photo courtesy of Pixabay, public domain