Get Real About Climate Change

A recent Letter to the Editor in The Observer betrayed a fundamental misconception about climate change. 

The writer claimed that since there were heavy snow storms occuring in the US it must mean that global warming is a bunch of baloney.  She painted an amusing picture:  Al Gore, Nobel Peace prize winner for raising global warming awareness, is stuck in a snowstorm, denying the reality of the blizzard all around him.

The misconception is that our local weather today is an indicator of global weather long term.  It is not.  Weather is a complex, dynamic system.  Distant, unseen climate forces can have widespread and persistent consequences.

Because of this misconception the letter writer simply brushes aside decades of scientific research as "baloney".   As a result, she is denying the reality of climate change around her. 

The picture that the scientific evidence paints is not so amusing.  Greenhouse gasses are at the highest levels in history.  These gasses cause steadily rising air and ocean temperatures.  Human activity, particularly burning fossil fuels, is mostly to blame.  If this decades-long trend continues unchecked, the environmental impact will be widespread and devastating.

The evidence is overwhelming and no reputable climate researchers dispute it.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), NASA, and the NOAA - to name but a few organizations - have mountains of peer-reviewed research documenting the facts of climate change.  Even the Pentagon and the CIA now consider global warming a grave national security threat.

The letter reminded me of a joke that goes something like this: "Global warming isn't real.  But if it is real, then we can't do anything about it.  But if can do something about it, then it's too expensive.  But if it's affordable, then we don't like Al Gore."

Let's work to overcome our misconceptions.  Let's get real about climate change.  We owe that much, at least, to future generations.