Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Accepting Climate Change

While most of the rest of the civilized world seems to have accepted climate change, it is still a very hotly debated topic in the US.

The first step for us, from a very high level, is to decide for ourselves whether there has been a change in our climate or not.  We have all said and heard comments such as “the winters are starting later”, “the winters are shorter”, “it’s hotter”, “it’s muggier”, I think you get the idea.  What we’re really saying is “the climate has changed”.  So the first step is pretty much set, the climate has and is changing.  We just need to recognize it for what it is.

The next step is to try to come to some understanding of what is causing the change.  The climate changes regularly, in geological time terms anyway.  It’s pretty well understood that ice ages come and go, that the earth warms and cools naturally.  Scientifically, there are a number of reasons as to why this takes place.  Volcanoes erupt; the ash cloud circles the globe, blocking sunlight, creating a cooling effect.  When events such as these occur, the biosphere cleanses itself over time.  But these events don’t occur constantly, minute after minute, day after day. 

We (the human species) expel the same gasses that occur naturally, every minute of every day.  I don’t know that there is much argument that we send carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, black carbon (soot) and halocarbons into the environment constantly.  So really, we all agree on the second step of understanding.

The third step is accepting the science that our continual introduction of these gasses contributes to climate change.  There are basically two camps; the science camp, which includes both scientists and non-scientists, who conduct the tests, report the results and agree that human activity (you may have seen it referred to as anthropogenic impact) contributes and accelerates climate change, and the political/corporate camp that simply denies that the accelerated introduction of these gasses by human activity has any effect on anything (including our health).

This is the hard part.  People like you and me don’t really know much about halocarbons, what they are or where they come from.  What we do know is that we put people in place that we thought we could trust and would stand up for our interests.  We look to these people to do what’s right for us.  Because of this, we are torn between what to believe, the science or the politics.

We also see corporate officials, some even scientists, who say the corporation would never do anything to harm its consumers.  The problem with that is that’s what corporate scientists get paid to say and the corporation is in business to make money.  But we see these successful corporations and think the people running them must be pretty smart, so they must know what they’re talking about.

We need to be careful.  I’m not sure how many of the elected officials have science degrees and can read a study, or how many corporations would be willing to say, “Yeah, this is going to kill you, buy it anyway”.  We need to sift through what we are given and understand climate change is about science.  It isn’t about shareholder profits or the next election and the campaign contributions needed.  Climate change is about you and me, our children and our grandchildren.  The best thing you can do is read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.  There’s also a good book, Dire Predictions, Understanding Global Warming, that uses terms you and I can understand and very good accompanying graphics.

Just saying…

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