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If Climate Change Was Not Real...

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… there would be a lot of other environmental issues to deal with. This is no big revelation, but it’s a question I’ve been pondering recently: What is the state of the world, not counting climate change? Or rather, what if we managed to reduce CO2 emissions to necessary levels, what would our focus be on then?

Don’t get me wrong, climate change is real, and if you need a proper education on why it is, please see John Oliver’s excellent ribbing on the topic. Rather, what I am wondering here is: what are the pressing environmental issues left, once climate change is left outside the conversation?

There are two reasons for asking this question: first, perhaps climate change is side-lining other environmental issues that need urgent attention; second, perhaps there are synergies between “solving” climate change and the other issues.

To the first issue, I am no ecopragmatist à la Nordhaus or Lomborgh, and I’m not going to say it’s a zero-sum world and we can’t try to solve climate change and malaria at the same time: we can. Nor am I saying that if you do something such as expand a marine preserve, you’re not able to fight an insurgency in Iraq; sorry, but human beings can multi-task. However, the fact remains that there is a very, very narrow window of the environment in the media, and that window keeps narrowing.

To the second issue, there are already-identified intersections for cooperation and synergy in improving the state of the environment and climate. Some synergies are already taking place, such as increased attention to the climatic effects from deforestation and the role of oceans as heat sinks.

A Scarlet Ibis Water Bird in the once-receding Amazon rainforest. Courtesy: Brandon Hoover.

So what exactly are the big areas of concern? Oceans, forests, and soil perhaps?

What got me thinking about non-climate-change issues was an article in The Guardian newspaper on June 24th, showing results from a report that the global food supply might be in peril due to insecticides. This sounds like Silent Spring all over to me, and unfortunately it appears to be pretty much along those same lines. The End of Food? I hope not.

However, it’s not all doom-and-gloom; there are some promising moves in the right direction.

So all in all, among the glimmers of hope, there are some very worrying developments that we need to keep track of, outside all the attention climate change is getting, but again, just because the news cycle can only focus on one item at a time, doesn’t mean we have to.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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