Climate Change is Real

Climate Change is Real

by Barry Stephenson

Any adequate response to climate change must necessarily be rooted in the knowledge that climate change is real. There is much obfuscation and denial in the media, as well our economic and political institutions.

Environmental activists protest Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate accords, which set a goal of avoiding warming beyond 2C. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

These are some basic truths that we need to acknowledge–and come to terms with:

  • Climate change is real; among the effects of climate change are higher temperatures, the melting of glaciers, elevated sea levels, more frequent wildfires, increasing levels of drought, increase in the duration and intensity of tropical storms, loss of habitat, damage to ecosystems and water systems.
  • Climate change is not merely an environmental issue; it is a social-cultural issue; a moral issue; a religious issue; an economic issue. For example, we know the poor, the elderly, woman and children are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of climate change.
  • The impacts of climate change will vary depending on geographical location and the nature of a society’s cultural, economic, and political systems. Different environments, different societies, and different strata within a society have differing capacities to respond in mitigating the impacts of climate change.
  • Climate change is caused by elevated levels of ‘greenhouse gases’ in the atmosphere (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide), the cause of which is human activity, in particular the burning of fossil fuels (anthropogenic climate change).
  • Anthropogenic climate change is a serious threat to species well-being, even survival, and this includes the human species; more than this, climate change is here, it is happening, and, literally, people are already dying from it.
  • The scientific consensus is that further temperature increases should be limited to 2 degrees C, a position enshrined in the Paris Agreement of October, 2016, ratified by a large majority of nation states.
  • A crucial element of responding to climate change is to reduce the levels of greenhouse gas, by reducing emissions, and by producing sinks.
  • The fact of climate change demands that oil stay in the ground. We must reduce CO2 emissions by reducing the use of fossil fuels.
  • The dangers associated with anthropogenic climate change have been known for decades, though we can take Al Gore’s documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, released in 2006, as the moment when the issue started to receive widespread public attention.
  • A recent study (published in Nature, July, 2017) projects a 5% chance of meeting the Paris Agreement target of 2 degrees increase. The study concludes, “If we want to avoid 2C, we have very little time left. The public should be very concerned” (Nature Climate Change 7, pp. 637-641, 2017).

Given these facts, and given the indifferences, the denials, and the snail’s pace that individuals, industries, social institutions, legislative bodies, and judicial systems are taking in responding to climate change, it is high time to get organized; it is time to respond. 

“Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. The following is a partial list of these organizations, along with links to their published statements and a selection of related resources.” – NASA, Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet