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Climate Change is Real and Deniers Will “Forget” That They Denied

A warning to all readers:  this is long and bitterly sarcastic.  Read at your own risk.

Climate change.  It seems simple enough.  The scientific community overwhelmingly agrees that the earth is warming at an unprecedented rate and that the cause of said unprecedented rate is directly related to human activities and carbon dioxide emissions (CO2).   Moreover, scientists agree on the effects of climate change – those being:

  • Glacial melt and rising sea levels which will be felt over the next few decades primarily in coastal areas. Think erosion and loss of beaches and property.
  • Drought in areas that are used to predictable, even rain falls and caused by increased evaporation of water in land and sea.
  • Wildfires caused by excessive drought increase CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere.
  • Parched land cannot absorb water efficiently when the rain finally does fall.  Inconsistent weather patterns (due to climate change) have led to more powerful storms – so the showers we used to see are now extreme storms leading to downpours, floods and soil erosion.  Wildfires leave something call a “burn scar” which like a scar on your skin, is “dead ground.”  These areas are less able or even unable to absorb water leading to floods and landslides.
  • Well, this would make sense, right?  If the earth is warmer, then sure…we will see more heat waves.   A report released in November declared 2016 the hottest year on record.
  • Stronger and more destructive hurricanes and typhoons. Hurricanes really like warm water, in fact, it is warm water that feeds the intensity of the storm.

The solution?  Reduce CO2 emissions.  OK – how do we do that?   Well obviously, it would be difficult to curb the natural forms of CO2 I mean, every time a human breathes he or she emits a certain level of carbon dioxide.  Our body produces it and plants need it.  Remember photosynthesis?  We are also unlikely to curb decomposition or ocean release and respiration (I have no idea what this even is but most of the articles cite this as a natural phenomenon).

But we CAN do something about the burning of fossil fuels:  coal, oil and natural gas.  In fact, under President Obama, the United States entered into the Paris Agreement back in 2015 whereby the United States agreed, along with over 100 other countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.  That is – keep the earth from warming too much.  Each country agreed to determine an individual goal to reduce emissions within their own nation and to report results to the global community.  As with any treaty, the devil is in the details but at a high level, the Paris Agreement constituted a major step forward in the global effort to save the environment.

Saving God’s planet, the one He created in six days should be priority number one to all Christians, right?  I mean – all you have to do is Google, “What does the Bible say about caring for the environment” and you see dozens and dozens of Bible verses that apply.  Sure – I can see how gay marriage might be controversial, but climate change?  Preservation of our natural resources?  Of course not!

I am sure by now you are on to my sarcasm because yes, there is a great deal of controversy around climate change and humanity’s role in it.  Not by scientists of course – those educated in this area, those who spend their lives researching these topics, are on the same page.  Global warming is real and it is caused by an increase emission rate of carbon dioxide.  Furthermore, the earth is warming at a faster rate than EVER BEFORE which has resulted in real and negative effects on the peoples on this planet.  Note that scientists have never claimed that global warming is a recent trend:  they admit that the climate has changed over the course of the millennia.  What their research shows is that it is now warming at a faster rate than ever before, thus putting the entire globe at risk for the effects noted above.

I will give you three guesses as to where the controversy emits and the first two guesses do not count:  Conservatives in the United States of America.  And because the Republican Party has been frankly, overrun by the modern conservative movement, we have men and women in positions of power that are self-declared “climate change deniers.”

The rationale used to deny science is impressive.  I mean – conservative think tanks had to put a lot of money into publishing papers that our Republican leaders could leverage to discount what is obvious to everyone else.  They will point to one or two disaffected scientists or even better, studies produced by the fossil fuel industry, as evidence of dissent.  They will point to the inconsistencies in the effects (how can you have droughts and floods???) without reading the scientific explanation.  My favorite is:  “the climate has always changed” and “we only have temperatures for the last 200 years or so.”  They also point to media reports from the 80s that predicted an upcoming Ice Age.  “So which is it?”

A few responses if I may:

  • Yes, the climate has always changed. No one is arguing this point.  The qualifying statement is “unprecedented rate.”  This would imply that something has changed from said “natural phenomenon.”
  • While I can appreciate the earth’s age (tens of thousands of years…), is the last 200 years, not the most important? It was within the last 200 years that the entire world industrialized – so it would make sense that the impact of said industrialization is now being seen through scientific data.
  • The “ice age that never happened.” What skeptics apparently do not do is read ANYTHING about this impending ice age.  By far, the majority of scientists (6 times more than not) predicted a gradual warming of the earth at the same time this smaller group staked their claim to an upcoming Ice Age.  At that time (the 1970s) however, the media picked up on the Ice Age rather than global warming and thus, the sensationalist ideas of polar bears roaming the earth took hold.  Today, over 97% of scientists point to more than enough data on global warming.  (And please do not post a link to the Time Magazine article titled “Ice Age” next to a penguin.  That story and that cover never happened).

But people remember – and point to – all of these things in an effort to avoid the hard truth.  The earth is warming.  Humans are responsible.  Done.

Why are educated people so insistent that global warming is a hoax?  What further evidence do they need?  (It should be noted that overwhelmingly, climate change deniers are American.  The phenomenon is not nearly as prevalent in other countries).

The answer is quite easy:  money and principle.

You see folks, the fossil fuel industry is huge and very powerful.   It really likes to make a lot of money and regulations OR government policies that promote energy alternatives OVER fossil fuels are just a bad business model.  And the principal part?  Well, conservatives cannot stand government and they really hate international government (anything that might infringe on US sovereignty.  The Paris Agreement was especially painful for Republican presidential candidates, with all of them pledging to withdraw from it).   The fossil fuel industry is not going to self-regulate emissions – it would cost money.  The only way to manage such a national effort is through government regulations.  And regulations are a slap in the face to the free market.

As a liberal (one that seems to move farther and farther left every day), I am amazed – AMAZED – at how well the conservative community of think tanks and donors have shaped public opinion on this issue.  The Heritage Foundation, CATO Institute, Koch Brothers….you name it –have done a fantastic job of cultivating skepticism and distrust of institutions such that a large population of white men in this country refuses to believe what the data clearly shows.   If climate change did not have such irreparable effects, it would almost be a form of entertainment to sit back and watch the show.  I mean really – We.  Are.  A.  Case.  Study.  In.  Denial.

But here’s the problem.  These effects are real and they are dangerous.  When Bernie Sanders said in a Democratic debate that climate change was the single biggest threat to our national security, he was mocked and panned for days.  But he is right.

Wait.  What?  Amy come on – everyone knows that the single biggest threat to US national security is terrorism – specifically the Islamic kind.

Let’s go back a few steps.  How did the Syrian Civil War start?  Do you know?  Unlike the US Civil War, the origin of the Syrian debacle was a bit murkier.  Yes, the Assad regime was totalitarian and fraught with human rights abuses.   He maintained order through violence, intimidation, and support from Iran and Russia.  And protests erupted in 2011 for a lot of reasons.  But one of those reasons was mass dislocation.  Farmers in the fertile crescent had experienced a severe drought for several years and as a result, there was a mass migration from rural to urban centers.  Public resources, including housing, water, sewage, and electricity within those urban centers were unable to absorb the increase in population.   Moreover, the job market could not accommodate the influx of labor.

The uprisings against the government were a partial result of these conditions and given the dictatorial nature of the Assad regime, it should be no surprise of the government’s response.  Uprisings were met with reprisals and violence against the protesters.  Violence begets violence and within a very short period of time, Syria found itself in a civil war.

That civil war directly resulted in the rise of ISIS and the refugee crisis that we face today.

Now.  There is a lot of debate over whether the Syrian drought was caused by climate change.  Frankly, I doubt we will know for decades.  My position is:  it does not matter.  Let’s say this case was a result of the natural ebb and flow of climate change.  The point is that we are guaranteed to see more drought and more extreme weather conditions.  Those conditions will easily result in mass dislocations of people across the globe.  And in most countries on this earth, governments will be unable to deal with the effects.    We will see more mass dislocations and more political instability resulting in more refugees.  It is a very simple cause and effect.

I also believe that skeptics recognize that even if they are wrong and climate change is real, that they are unlikely to be negatively affected.  Think about it.  If you are in your 50s or 60s, do you really care about something that MIGHT happen in your 80s or after you die?  Sure – you say you care about what you leave to your kids and grandkids, but do you care enough to support regulations that might increase the price of gas?  What about an increase in your taxes to subsidize alternative fuels?  We all know the answer.

Furthermore, the United States is perhaps the best equipped to handle the ill effects of climate change.  Look at California – they’ve had a drought for years – and what has been the impact?  Do you even know?  Those of us in the First World and specifically North America are incredibly fortunate in that we have avoided a lot of the man-made destruction inflicted on the rest of the world.  All you have to do is Google “where will climate change be felt the most?” and you think, “whew – not us.”  Results of my own search call out the following high impact zones:

  • Cambodia
  • Vietnam
  • Bangladesh
  • Senegal
  • Mozambique
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Coastal cities in China, India, and Ecuador

Can you point to all of these places on a map?  If yes, you know that they are thousands of miles away from your house.  Does that make the urgency a little less real?   Are you less likely to support policies that negatively impact you today but might improve the future?

I believe that most of us fit into this last category.  Sure, we believe in protecting the environment, but we do not want to risk damaging the economy.  And we certainly do not want to pay more for oil and gas.

I know this is true because of Senator Marco Rubio.  In one of the dozens of Republican debates, he was asked about climate change.  Uncharacteristic for a Republican, he softened his stance on whether it was real (presumably because Floridians on the shoreline are experiencing significant coastal erosion) but said that we could not tip the balance towards reducing CO2 emissions if it meant more government regulation, lower profits, and a weakened economy.  Of course, he ended his response with “this is the United States of America.  We can do both.”

I argue that sometimes – and this is one of them – sometimes we cannot have it all.

We did not always have this attitude.  Conservation and environmental protection are in our history.  Teddy Roosevelt led the way in setting aside millions of acres in the west to preserve America’s natural beauty.  While he did not found the National Parks System, he is credited with its birth.  FDR initiated government programs to preserve and conserve farm lands under the extreme stress of the Dust Bowl.  President Nixon signed legislation that formed the Environmental Protection Agency (an act that infuriated conservatives).  And according to NASA, as a result of the significant reduction of CFCs, the “hole in the ozone” discovered in the late 80s / early 90s, is closing.

I believe that when the history of environmental protection is written, the United States – and specifically the Republican Party will look really, really, really bad.  I think that the advances made by both parties from FDR through Reagan were a direct result of American suffering during the Dust Bowl.  The generation that lived through that period knew the impact; they felt it.    They remembered the feeling of dust in their mouths and of not being able to see their workhorses 5 feet ahead.  They remembered the hunger that they and their families felt, as a result, the drought.  They remembered losing their farms to the banks because they could not pay the mortgage and heading west to live in migrant camps.   Even those not directly affected could empathize because they knew someone affected.

That generation is gone.  My own grandfather talked about the Dust Bowl and the depression the week he died.  He was emotional as he reminisced on those times – even in the last days of his life, he did not forget the suffering.  And with the loss of that generation, we have lost the firsthand account of man-made environmental destruction.

We now have a President who called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.  After the election, he softened his stance and admitted that perhaps it was real and perhaps humans played a part.  However, his nominee to head the EPA is a noted climate change denier (with absolutely no experience in science) and his nominee for Energy Secretary (the illustrious Rick Perry) once aspired to eliminate the department he will now lead.  (To his credit, he indicated during the confirmation hearings that he had done some research and now had a different perspective…..from that which he held AT THE TIME HE RAN FOR PRESIDENT.  Somehow we are to feel better about his nomination).

The president has a majority in Congress that is hell bent on reversing regulations enacted during the Obama years and reinvigorating the fossil fuel industry.  Trump has spoken about withdrawing from the Paris Agreement and has invoked an Executive Order to restart the Keystone Pipeline.  Environmentalists are frightened and rightfully so.

I hate hypocrisy.  We are all guilty of it, including me.  When I see it in myself, I call it out and try to adjust my behavior to better reflect my beliefs.  I’m not always successful, but I try.  But even more than hypocrisy, I hate Christian hypocrisy.  It does nothing for the faith and in fact, discourages those struggling with their beliefs.

Those same Christians (politicians and voters) who voted for Trump and their local Republican congressperson or Senator because they were concerned about abortion, are supporting leaders that day in and day out, violate God’s instructions about the earth.  Seriously – Google “Bible verses on the environment.”  You will find pages of them.  Abortion is not mentioned once.  Not once.

The very first commandment is “Thou Shalt Have No Other God Before Me.”  In Moses’ day, those other gods were golden calves.  But today, those other deities include money, political power, hubris, and ego.  When we choose one of these over the earth – and we do EVERY TIME we vote for a climate change denier, we are violating the first commandment.  When we make policy decisions that we know will adversely affect poorer and under-developed parts of the world, we violate the Golden Rule of “do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”

God only knows how much damage this administration will do in the next four years, abetted by a Republican Congress and a conservative Supreme Court.  If it makes you feel better to believe that the opposition is just a bunch of liberal whiners who hate America, then by all means…believe it.  But younger generations will know better.  Kids today are learning about climate change (at least for now…who knows what the Trump Administration will do to the public education curriculum).  Higher education – universities and colleges – are offering bachelors and master’s degrees in a variety of environmental topics and policy.  In time, the denier population will die off and the “kids” will be in charge.  The problem is – all those warnings indicate that it will be too late.

Oh well.  I’ll be dead.

Amy, from the Archive

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