The Climate Change Controversy

So, as you've probably heard, there's a bit of a controversy about global warming. If you watch Fox, you've probably heard a lot about the controversy and very little about the warming. If not, you probably have a better grasp of the truth, but I'd really like to take a few minutes to put things into perspective.

Now, there is a pretty solid bit of truth to the claim that scientists aren't completely in agreement about the causes and effects of climate change. The problem, though, is that certain people are grossly misrepresenting what this actually means. That's right- It's allegory time.

Let's Imagine that Chuck walks into the lobby of a building and threatens Bob in front of a dozen witnesses. At this point, Bob starts to walk away, so Chuck pulls a knife and starts chasing him up the stairs. Nobody sees what goes on in the stairwell, but the security camera on the roof records Bob trying to fend off the blows while Chuck stabs him over and over again in the abdomen. At this point on the tape, a pigeon lands in front of the camera. A minute later, Bob splatters all over the pavement 30 stories below. Obviously, the district attorney feels this needs to be looked into, so they search Chuck's house and find a written plan detailing how Chuck planned to stab Bob to death, and a list of names titled "People I Plan To Kill After Bob". The DA brings in a whole bunch of forensics experts to look at the evidence.

Now, the forensics experts are not entirely convinced of exactly how Bob died- Some say it was from the stabbing, a few say he was alive until the impact with the sidewalk, and one or two aren't willing to completely rule out the possibility of the stress causing a heart attack or stroke at some point between getting stabbed and and hitting the ground. We also don't know how Bob left the roof- Some say Chuck pushed him, others think he tripped while trying to get away. What all 49 experts do agree on is that Chuck needs to be charged with murder. A 50th forensics expert, hired by Chuck's lawyer, insists that the stab wounds were superficial, Chuck and Bob settled their differences amicably in the stairwell, and that Bob actually jumped off the roof of his own volition.

This is pretty much the situation with climate change. 97.5% of scientists insist that it is happening, that humans are having a dramatic effect, and that we are going to face serious consequences if we don't take drastic action. There is a veritable mountain of evidence- So much, in fact, that scientists can't seem to agree on just how bad the problem actually is: Some say it will be severe, some say catastrophic, and some that it literally means our extinction. Nobody, however, is saying that there's nothing to worry about- Except for that 2% who, surprise surprise, get large amounts of funding from people who would lose millions of dollars if we actually took that drastic action to fix the damage we’ve done.

This is the actual controversy and the actual disagreement among scientists: Whether a particular model accounts too much or too little for some variable; Whether the percentages of cause X versus cause Y are accurate; Whether temperatures in region A will rise by 4 degrees or 6 degrees over a specific time span. Nobody is claiming that the model is fundamentally wrong, or that X and Y aren't both contributing factors, or that the temperature is rising. They disagree on specific points of minutiae, not the overall conclusions. Everybody but Chuck and Chuck's lawyer agrees that Bob is still dead and Chuck is still responsible.

Except that is, for that 2-3% who get equal time in the “debate”.

The idea that there are two sides to every story is an increasingly dangerous fallacy. Just because someone disagrees with the general consensus does not mean they have any kind of evidence behind them, and if in fact they do not, then they certainly do not deserve equal time. If the issue is one without strong evidence behind any position, then there are likely to be dozens, if not hundreds of sides, rather than just two.

If we treated history the way the media treats climate change, textbooks would include a chapter supporting the theory that the Holocaust was something the Jews just made up. If the DARE program operated this way, they’d invite a weekly guest to explain to teenagers just how great crystal meth is for weight loss. Geography books would seriously discuss the possibility of a flat Earth.

The fact is that climate change is happening. The evidence is overwhelming, the consensus is profoundly overwhelming, and we are seeing the effects on a daily basis.  A global temperature rise of 5° doesn't mean 5° year round: It means that summers get maybe 10° hotter, winters get 5° colder, and the overall total adds up to 5° warmer on average.  It means that storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires are getting worse every year. Everything is becoming more and more severe, and more and more unpredictable. This is happening, and no amount of denial will change that.

And still, there’s hope.

Green technologies hold the promise not only of sustainable agriculture, healthier food, cleaner air and water, but of virtually limitless energy, an end to reliance on hostile nations for oil, and hundreds of thousands of high paying new jobs in brand new industries. We could fix our infrastructure, our economy, and our planet with one fell swoop by redirecting our energies towards real solutions.

But first we need to admit the truth. That climate change is happening now, and there is no actual disagreement- Everyone either knows it, doesn’t understand the science behind it, or is motivated by something other than the facts.