Climate Change Will Happen to You
By now, many of us have some sense of the basics of climate change.
We've seen images of melting ice, stranded polar bears, and calving gla-
ciers. We've examined the charts depicting the rise in atmospheric car-
bon dioxide or heard about them. We've surmised whether Hurricane
Katrina and various floods or droughts were caused by global warming.
Maybe we've seen An Inconvenient Truth or read topics about climatol-
ogy. In fact, if polls are to be believed, most Americans accept the basic
reality of climate change and would like the nation and the international
community to do something about it.
But many of us might also hesitate to accept aspects of the science
about climate change—whether it's actually happening or whether
human activities are causing it. Since nothing I will say in the rest of
this topic will make much sense unless readers grapple irst with these
questions, if you are still cautious in these respects I recommend that
you turn now to the Appendix, where I discuss them, and then return to
Working through those concerns carefully is essential: if our deci-
sions are to have a firm basis, if we are to live with real deliberation,
we should not skip over any stage of the process. It's not likely we can
become fully conscious of our situation as human beings without having
paused to learn the fundamental physical facts of climate change. If you
have already done so, keep reading: this is the chapter for you.
As it turns out, recognizing the reality of climate change—and its
being caused by human beings—is only the start of a deep engagement
with what confronts us. The further we go and the more we recognize the
potential impact of climate change on our own lives, the more we may try
to protect ourselves from what we learn so that we can continue with our