Let’s talk about climate change.

There’s an extremely large and cohesive amount of scientific data suggesting that our planet is warming at a faster rate than ever recorded in human history. Globally, the first decade of the 21st century was the “warmest on record” with surface temperatures rising steadily by .14 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1901.

This temperature increase may seem insignificant, yet our planet is a delicately balanced ecological system that is greatly affected by even the slightest environmental shift.

The acting administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Kathryn D. Sullivan, stated that “ … carbon levels are climbing, sea levels are rising, Arctic sea ice is melting, and our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place.”

While there will always be skeptics who believe that global warming is a complete hoax, the current controversy among the scientific community is the human impact have had on our changing climate and exactly what we should do about it.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — a group comprised of scientists from around the world — has stated in a draft of their most recent that “more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature” has been caused by human forces. When discussing the effects of climate change on massive tropical storms seen in recent years, the NOAA acknowledged that, “in some storms … the analyses revealed ‘compelling evidence’ that human-caused climate change … made matters worse.”

In spite of clear evidence that humans are at least in part to blame for our changing climate, voices in both national and international politics, as well as industrial (read: mega-corporation) leaders, like to latch on to conflicting data and the possibility that anthropogenic climate change is untrue. These skeptics argue that the climate has changed in the past, and that there isn’t enough evidence to prove that industrialized society is the driving force behind today’s global warming. They say it’s simply too difficult to measure exactly how much effect humans have, therefore we do not need to change the status quo.

Now, let’s talk about insurance.

Loss or harm aren’t guaranteed to occur in the future, nor are they expected to. However, the purchase of home, health and car insurance gives peace of mind that all will not be lost in the event of a catastrophe. We, as Americans, cannot drive a car, own a home or expect quality health care without receiving a monthly bill from our insurance company that we pay one way or another. We sleep better knowing that in the event of a catastrophe we’re insured — not all will be lost and we’ll recover.

If we’re willing to spend so much money insuring our cars, homes and health against unforeseeable events, why are we not willing to take the same steps to protect our planet against the ravages of a warming earth? I argue to those of you who are skeptics to ask yourself: Why, when we live in a society in which we hope for the best, yet insure ourselves for the worst, do we not approach global warming in the same way?

Paying a little now in order to protect us in case the worst should happen is preferable to paying a whole lot later when we lack the resources to do so. Whether or not one believes in the science of anthropogenically induced climate change, wouldn’t it be prudent to insure the future of our planet by investing a little upfront just in case?

So, maybe you don’t think there is a clear causation between greenhouse-gas emissions and global warming. Maybe you think there should be more research done before we jump in headfirst and blame humanity for climate change. But what if you’re wrong? Without an upfront investment in ‘Climate Change Insurance’ by limiting GHGs, promoting renewables, lessoning our dependence on fossil fuels and moving toward a society with a smaller ecological footprint, we might not need to worry about insuring our cars or homes anymore.

If the worst were to happen, if our industrialized society were to cause the collapse of our environment as our icecaps melt and temperatures rise, the price of it all may be far too steep to pay.

Kate Laramie can be reached at laramiek@umich.edu.

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