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A cooler headed approach to climate change

With yesterday’s news that the US will be exiting the Paris Climate Accord the issue of climate change has once again entered the MMA cage match that is American political discussion.  Even the Weather Channel, the most apolitical news organization there is, jumped into the fray yesterday.  I don’t usually wade into political discussions and legitimately try to hear both sides before I form an opinion.  As a weather geek climate change is an important issue to me and one that I believe needs to be addressed, however before you judge me and my opinion just hang with me here in this post, I’m not going to go totally hippy dippy on you.

I have always tried to take a level-headed approach to the issue of climate change, and try not to give too much stock to the extremists on either end of the spectrum.  Do I believe that it is happening? – Yes. Do I think we are all going to burn up or drown from the melted ice caps unless we all start driving Priuses (or is it Pri-i, im not sure) tomorrow? – No.

Those on the extreme climate activist side like to point to every warm data point or extreme weather event as irrefutable evidence that climate change is happening and that we are all doomed.  A changing climate will absolutely jack with weather patterns and will lead to more frequent occurrences of what people deem extreme events. (In my opinion the classification of extreme is subjective, I would prefer to say “unusual”) However that doesn’t mean the next category 5 hurricane or devastating flood is the result of climate change. Tying a single event to a changing climate like some activists do is just silly. There have always been strong hurricanes, droughts, and floods on this planet and there always will be. Take for example the Memorial Day 2015 Flood or Tax Day Flood.  There were people who argued that those events were human induced. I will agree that they were, but the significant human factor had a whole lot more to do with how the city is developed than it did with climate.  Activists also point to warming trends shown in records across the globe.  While this trend absolutely exists, it is also true that the planet goes through various cycles that can effect temperatures; and these cycles can occur over the span of thousands of years.  Speaking of time, that leads me to my next point.

On the other end of the spectrum are the climate change deniers who either say there isn’t enough evidence to show that humans are causing climate change, or simply say the whole idea of climate change is made up.  Reliable climate records have been kept for about 100 to 200 years.  That is so insanely minuscule on the planetary time scale where events and changes are measured in the millions if not tens of millions of years.  In fact, the entire length of human existence is barely a blip on the planet’s clock. So yes, I am open to the fact that our data may not be extensive enough to definitively say that humans are the sole cause of the changes and trends that have happened thus far. However, I do disagree with those who say climate change is a made up hoax.  I disagree because of the basic science behind it.

The basic theory of climate change is a sound one. You can argue over whether the data set we have is extensive enough to make definitive claims of human involvement to this point. What you can’t argue with though is basic physics and chemistry.  The release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere does cause warming through the greenhouse effect.  That’s a demonstrable fact.  Also a fact is that human activity has led to much more carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere than would naturally occur.  At some point if the emission of carbon dioxide isn’t curbed there will be an effect on Earth’s climate.  While I don’t think the advertised worst case scenarios will be something we see next week or next year like some climate activists say,  I think changes will gradually occur – death by a thousand paper cuts.

If human activity is not the sole cause of the changes that have been observed in the Earth’s climate to this point it eventually will be if nothing is changed. The world coming together in agreement on the issue of climate change is both extremely telling and significant in the course of human history.  I don’t think anything other than this has brought together almost every country in the world and I doubt anything else will aside from an alien invasion or threat of an asteroid strike.  Seeing as there is no realistic prospect of the human race leaving Earth en masse any time in the foreseeable future it only makes sense to take steps to make sure we can continue living here.  By now choosing to ignore the effect human activities can have on the planet we are essentially throwing our fire extinguisher over the side of the burning bridge we are standing on before the other side is even in sight.

If you read this far, thank you. If you disagree with me, great, I would be happy to have a conversation about it.  Maybe its not the opinion you hold but I like to think it is a more level-headed approach than you see plastered all over the media.

 

Follow me on Twitter @stephenuzick

 

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