You probably heard that last week 11,000 scientists signed a declaration that the Earth is facing a climate emergency. I was one of those scientist signatories, and I was interviewed about why scientists who are supposed to be objective and neutral would step up and take a visible stand on an issue that’s considered political.
But here’s the crux of the issue… it’s not political. Climate change doesn’t care what your political orientation is, what your income or education level is, it’s happening with or without your belief in it. Or if whether you believe humans are the cause of it.
These 11,000 signatories doesn’t represent all the scientists that make up the 97% consensus on climate change (for more: Doran & Zimmerman, (2009) and Anderegg et al. (2010)), it really only represents those that were reached by the authors. I know scores of scientists personally whose names do not appear in the published list, but who I know very strongly support the conclusion in the paper.
Natural orbital changes (like Milankovitch cycles) and volcanoes do not explain the increase in global temperatures, the sun is not getting hotter, and a local cold snap does not mean that global temperatures aren’t on the rise.
What is damnable is that we’ve known about climate change for a long time. In the late 1800s scientists started to postulate how increasing CO2 could result in climate change. In the 1950s scientists were not only hypothesizing that CO2 emissions could be a problem, they started to prove that atmospheric CO2 was in fact rising. In 1979, scientists at the First World Climate Conference in Geneva agreed that alarming trends for climate change made it urgently necessary to act. But business continued as usual and CO2 has continued to rise.
We’re seeing major changes including sea level rise, changing ocean currents, glacial melt, tree line creep, species range shifts, more extreme weather events, and more! Which were all predicted by climate change models. If anything, the models under-predict the severity and speed of the changes we’re seeing. So climate change is happening and it’s faster and more severe than science could predict. And yet we continue to argue about climate change as if it’s a political ideology.
I’ve heard climate change deniers say that it’s a global conspiracy of scientists that are being paid off by the government (or insert special interest group of your choice here) but that’s outlandish. Think of the scale of that conspiracy. What government could possibly have enough money to pay off the world’s scientists? It’s a ludicrous suggestion.
But the philosophical underpinning of science is that you can (and do) change your mind when provided with evidence. Given the weight of scientific evidence about climate change, how can deniers maintain their stance in the face of overwhelming evidence? Well when you look at the research that that 3% are doing, you’ll find that they’re united in having cherry picked data, questionable scientific methods, and inappropriate statistical methods. Not great evidence of their ability to do science… Of those that are commonly cited as questioning climate change, they only represent ~0.3% of science graduates in the US alone (it’s even less if consider science grads around the globe), and only contains 39 scientists that actually specialize in climate science. Now that puts it down to 0.001%, of US science grads alone. That’s so few, it’s equatable to the number of people who adamantly maintain that the earth is flat even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Let’s just toss out those bad studies and personal opinions, and let’s allow the weight of scientific evidence to speak for itself.
What the science tells us is that climate change is indeed happening and that we have a history of being too conservative with our estimates of impact. So when many of the worlds scientists come together to declare a climate emergency, that’s likely also an understatement.
Climate change is real and it’s time to act.