Image via McKay Savage

Image via McKay Savage

We can’t see, day to day, the changes we’re making to our planet with our ongoing, uncontrolled climate experiments. Out of sight, out of mind. I saw an image meme going around recently: A group of people about to cross a bridge that looked perfectly safe, captioned “97 engineers said the bridge is going to collapse, 3 said it’ll be fine. Who do you believe?”

James Balog, in his incredible documentary Chasing Ice, attempted to correct this oversight of ours by showing how glaciers have receded just in the last few years. Many other scientists have raised the alarm as well. Most people realize that global climate change is something that’s happening. The problem is that nothing much is being done about it, and we’ve almost certainly passed a point of no return. We’re not going to be able to stop climate change. It’s too late for that. What’s left to us now is to mitigate our impact, and adapt quickly to the dramatic changes we’re going to be facing in the next decades.

That’s really the bottom line. Play with the dials all you want, we can’t take back the last three centuries’ worth of greenhouse gases. We can, and should, start to shift our policies and priorities toward sustainable human futures. What’s frightening is that we’re not even doing that.

In an attempt to literally put a recognizable face on all this, Tim Flannery recently photographed climate scientists in the midst of talking about their worries and fears regarding climate change. The results are as bleak as the latest findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

We’re falling victim to the biggest tragedy of the commons in human history: We couch things in terms of ‘saving the planet,’ which means it’s someone else’s job. What we should be saying, and what we will probably be saying sooner rather than later, is that we need to save ourselves.