The climate-change deniers are forever stubborn among us. Their refusal to accept the truth is both amazing and confounding. To add to the already existing, convincing evidence that “Our Common Home” is in the most intense battle for its very life that it has ever faced, a new U.N. report essentially confirms that battle is being lost by the inaction of many nations and corporations over past decades.

The report on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is “terrifying,” says the New Yorker. The thrust of the report is that inaction has set in motion an irreversible sequence that will result in the planet’s warming intensifying over the next 30 years. The report dispenses with any doubt about who or what is responsible for global warming. 

The unjustifiably willful ignorance so many of our fellow humans insist on maintaining, in the face of the greatest threat to life in human history, is frustrating beyond all understanding. Devastating consequences continue to take life and property.

In his encyclical letter “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” Pope Francis six years ago described the human origins of the ecological crisis — how human life and activity have gone awry, to the serious detriment of the world around us. Much has been written about the global climate condition, but nothing seems to change. And yet no other “life issue” supersedes its urgency.

So what causes the consistent confusion, and even malice, that motivates the denialism of so many within our human family to disregard the existential threat to us and all life on the planet? Their chosen spin doctors and fiction narrators have them believing otherwise.

Is the deniers’ behavior part of what Freud calls the “death drive,” that inherent and often unconscious tendency toward self-destruction? Or is it simpler: people’s inability to think on such an enormous scale — no ability to comprehend? Or do people simply not want to think about it?

The IPCC report offers those with eyes and ears a grim reality check. The result of pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for over a century is that the planet has warmed close to 2 degrees Centigrade since the 19th century. The scientific conclusion is that what we’ve been witnessing in recent years, in terms of extreme droughts, heat waves, wildfires, flooding and other destructive weather phenomena, will worsen in the years ahead.

More troubling are the long-term consequences of our failure to act: the enormous ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica will continue to melt through the end of this century. Global sea levels will continue to rise for at least 2,000 years.

Francis in his encyclical talks of the need for intergenerational solidarity and justice — the impact he has in mind. He says the notion of the common good extends to future generations. He states our present lifestyle is precipitating catastrophe. The cataclysmic effects can only be reduced, he says, by our decisive action, here and now. We have an accountability for those who will be enduring the dire consequences. 

The IPCC report reveals we are exercising the opposite of intergenerational solidarity, condemning future generations to a world Francis bluntly referred to as “desolation and filth.”

The IPCC report is described by the U.N. Secretary General as a “code red for humanity,” adding: “The alarm bells are deafening.” We have little time and few options to make any meaningful impact on the course of planetary history, but we can try. 

If deniers will not be convinced by the blunt facts expressed by the global scientific community, then what will? How do we answer for the gravity of our willful “ecological sin,” an action or omission against God, neighbor, community and environment?

Sources: 

NCR, Daniel Horan; 

NY Times on IPCC Report to U.N.; 

Pope Francis: “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”

Tom Lynch, an Oak Park resident, is the founding board chair and former CEO of Visit Oak Park.

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