This is a statement I saw from a discussion thread on LinkedIn, and it made me think about evidence and belief in the climate change debate.
An overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that the earth is warming due to human activity. They also agree that the process is accelerating. There are many statistics to support this view such as shown in this graph from NASA.
(This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.)
This seems to make sense especially when we see images of melting icebergs part of the earth parched by years of drought, wildfires blazing out of control and flash floods killing thousands. Maybe it’s always been like this, but perhaps it’s happening faster than before because of the impact we are having on the planet.
Al Gore’s 2006 documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth‘ explains how humans have caused damage to the planet. He issues an urgent warning on what he believes must be done to save the earth.
The Associated Press contacted more than 100 climate researchers and questioned them about the film’s veracity. All 19 climate scientists who had seen the movie or had read the book, said that Gore accurately conveyed the science, with few errors. But his ideas have been challenged by websites such as skepticalscience.com points out factual errors made in his story. I suppose there are always two sides to every story.
The respected Wired magazine published ‘11 terrifying climate change facts‘ in September 2017. At No. 2 was ‘There is no scientific debate about the reality of climate change’. It says that 97 per cent of researchers believe global warming is happening and that they agree that trends observed over the last past century are probably due to human activity.
So are we really in an era of dangerous and accelerating climate change? Or is this just another cyclical blip in global weather patterns stretching back millennia? Are we all being duped by hysteria and faulty thinking, or are we really facing the biggest threat to our planet’s very existence?
Some scientists have spent their entire careers studying climate science. There is so much information on this topic and it would take a lifetime to read it all. A search for ‘climate change’ gives you 370 million hits, that’s a lot of opinion and information.
I don’t have the time or climate science expertise to study and understand all this to make an informed judgment based on ‘fact’ – whatever that is in this ‘post-truth’ era!
So I must form an opinion based on what I believe to be reasonable and logical.
Let’s talk about facts, truths, and beliefs for a second. I think this is important today as we are in a ‘post-truth’ era. The lines between fact and fiction are sometimes deliberately blurred by politicians and business people, who want to further their own agenda. It can sometimes feel like we are in The Matrix!
A fact is something that’s known or proved to be true. Truth is generally agreed to be something that’s in accordance with reality. Notice that I said ‘generally’ that’s because some people refer to ‘alternative facts or truths or realities’.
Steve Jobs famously applied his ‘reality distortion field’ to convince himself and others to believe almost anything. He is also said to have used it to steal other’s ideas as his own.
A belief is trust, confidence or faith in something being true. This concept has driven humans to create empires, build mass religious and political movements and do amazing things. Belief in an ideal has also caused havoc across the planet with misguided people following flawed thinking to create wars and disaster.
As a student, I studied economic and social history, and I was fascinated by the Industrial Revolution that started in Britain around 1760. This transition from rural to urban living and hand-made to mass-produced goods was the foundation of the capitalist system that we have today.
This is the point at which many scientists believe human activity started to influence the climate. They point to the widespread pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels to drive industry. This released carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which is directly related to climate change. This is described well on a NASA climate change website.
In its Fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded there’s a more than 95 percent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet.
“Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”
The industrial activities that our modern civilization depends upon have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years. The panel also concluded there’s a better than 95 percent probability that human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have caused much of the observed increase in Earth’s temperatures over the past 50 years.
Sometimes people just refuse to accept facts. Usually, it’s because they have a vested interest they want to protect. For years, tobacco companies refused to accept the overwhelming medical evidence that smoking kills.
The sheer weight of evidence has now put that debate beyond doubt. The same thing will probably happen with fossils fuel and climate change.
Infographic by Kristine Lofgren
I believe that climate change is real and it’s happening now. That’s why almost every country on earth signed the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gases that cause climate change. It’s why the Science-Based Targets Initiative is attracting more corporations every day who are pledging to reduce their GHG emissions.
So next time someone says that climate change isn’t real and there are no ‘numbers’ to support it, ask yourself why they would think that. Especially in the face of such a plethora of overwhelming evidence. Either they are in denial or they have a vested interest. Or they just haven’t bothered to do some basic research.