Position Paper: Global Warming

Why is Global Warming A Problem?

The ACT Humanist Society (ACTHS) accepts the evidence from over 97% of all practising climate scientists, most other scientists, scientific bodies and credible organisations such as NASA, the United Nations, the Climate Council and many others; that:

  • Global warming is occurring and is largely caused by human activity, especially the use of fossil fuels. This has been recognised in many reports on climate change, including the comprehensive report released by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018.

  • The need to address global warming now is urgent to avoid future catastrophe. Global warming, if left unchecked, is projected to make the Earth uninhabitable for most living things. Before it gets to that stage, it will cause great disruption to our way of life and lead to the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.

  • Already, the effects of global warming around the world are manifest in record temperatures, more prolonged droughts, more bushfires, more severe weather events, the melting of polar ice, and changes to ecosystems. As global warming becomes more severe it will be harder to reverse its impact on life on Earth.

  • While many individuals, organisations, cities, states and countries have started to implement strategies to ameliorate or decrease the impact of global warming, much more needs to be done. The IPCC report on global warming says that limiting global warming to 1.5°C by 2030 requires unprecedented global cooperation and commitment as well as economic and social transformation.

Why should Humanists Get Involved?

Humanism advocates the application of science and free inquiry to the problems of human welfare. As Humanists we have a responsibility to help fix problems within human society for the sake of all humanity. Global warming is having and will continue to have a shocking impact on people's lives, therefore we should do what we can to help ameliorate the impact of global warming, not only on people, but all living things.

Humanists recognise that we are on our own and cannot rely on any form of supernatural intervention or on chance to solve our problems. As Humanists we understand our dependence on, and responsibility for, the natural world. Therefore, we should do what we can to help reduce the impact of global warming on the natural environment as we did with reducing the gases destroying the Ozone Layer.

Humanists believe in the fullest possible development of every human being; we support democracy and human rights; and try to offer ethical and rational means of addressing the challenges of our times. The IPCC indicated that limiting global warming will require major changes in our economy and society. Humanists support actions addressing climate change that are consistent with respect for the dignity and welfare of all human beings. There is no need to choose between the planet and humanity in addressing climate change. We need to work to make the best interests of both compatible.

Humanists believe that we should behave ethically for the good of all humanity. The IPCC report shows that even a 1.5°C rise in global temperature is enough to unleash climate mayhem. It is imperative we do what we can to reduce the impact of global warming on people living today. We also have a duty of care to future generations, to protect them from impending catastrophe due to global warming.

Humanism is committed to treating people with respect and compassion. It affirms the worth, dignity and autonomy of individuals. This philosophy places Humanists in an excellent position to undertake interventions that are open, non-judgemental and useful, such as conversations which acknowledge where people are coming from and can suggest an approach to global warming that is more future oriented.

What Can Be Done to Address Global Warming?

Governments, political parties and other organisations need to recognise that global warming is already happening, that it is going to get worse, and if urgent and concerted action is not taken now its impacts on people, the environment, economies and societies will be severe. They need to have a deep understanding of the causes, current impacts and future impacts of global warming based on the best available scientific evidence and the large body of reliable reports and research that are available now.

Governments and political parties, in conjunction with other organisations, need to develop strategies to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2030 and make a commitment to implementing these strategies, which should include the phasing out of fossil fuels as soon as possible. These strategies should cover how to bring about the transformation of the economy and society necessary to address global warming in a way that maintains a civil society; takes care of the vulnerable; and caters for those people who may be adversely affected by these changes. They should be based on ensuring a satisfactory future for people not yet born rather than short-term political aims.

Organisations that understand the perils of global warming must work together to maximise their effectiveness. They need to win both the hearts and minds of people who are not yet committed to taking action on global warming. They should do this through compassion, open-mindedness and a focus on our common humanity, if they are to help people re-examine their position on this issue. They need to listen to the concerns of such people and recognise that our transformation from a fossil fuel dependent society will involve some difficult challenges.

Individuals can support organisations that are working to ameliorate climate change through membership, donations, volunteering, participating in events and campaigns. They can ensure they are well informed, they can lobby politicians and the media and other organisations to support urgent action to limit global warming to 1.5°C. They can change their own lifestyles to demonstrate a commitment to reducing global warming and they can intervene in a non-judgemental way to counter critics of those who support action on global warming. Through respectful conversations with others, they can provide insights into why urgent action on global warming is so important.

Image: Highest Maximum Temperature, December 2018 - January 2019.
Copyright Commonwealth of Australia 2019, Australian Bureau of Meteorology