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Dear Climate Change Doubters,
We have been sparring for more than 15 years now. Over the course of that period, you have successfully delineated climate change as a political issue subject to partisan debate.
Time and time again, you have shrewdly challenged overwhelming scientific consensus on the issue, pinning your campaign’s central arguments to insignificant data discrepancies and irrelevant anecdotal arguments.
Remember when that ship carrying global warming researchers became stuck in the same Antarctic ice they claimed was “supposedly melting”? It was like Christmas morning for you deniers.
As one naysayer noted after the ship’s 52 passengers were rescued after being stranded for a week, “global warming idiots out of danger.”
It didn’t matter that the incident had absolutely nothing to do with anything related to climate change. The irony of it all was evidence enough for you.
At times, you’ve even tried to suggest that if global warming were real, we would stand to benefit from its effects.
The National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based free market think tank established and funded by wealthy conservatives like Charles and David Koch, issued a report suggesting that the modest increase in global temperatures over the last century has helped raise the standard of living around the world.
“Contrary to popular belief, climate change thus far has had positive effects, and the net benefits of warming are likely to be positive for the foreseeable future,” said NCPA senior fellow H. Sterling Burnett, an author of the report.
But I’m not here to argue the validity of your claims. Rather, I’m here to offer a concession.
In fact, you won a long time ago. The moment you planted the first seed of doubt suggesting that the effects of climate change were either overblown or totally manufactured, you prevailed.
By turning climate change into a wedge issue, you ensured that our policymakers would never seriously consider taking the drastic steps required to reverse the warming trend, even as panels of the world’s foremost experts on the issue raise the alarm over the urgency to act decisively before it’s too late.
But it’s already too late.
A new Gallup survey shows that the number of Americans who have serious doubts about global warming has more than doubled since 2001. What’s more, roughly 1-in-4 Americans are not worried about global warming “much or at all,” while only 39 percent “attribute global warming to human actions and are worried about it.”
This is where the American public now stands, more divided on the issue than ever before.
It doesn’t matter that 2013 ranked as one of the top 10 hottest years in recorded history. Nor does it matter that 600 daily heat records were broken in the United States last year, or thatCalifornia endured its driest year ever, driving up the cost of produce nationwide.
We pay little mind to the fact that the World Health Organization determined that air pollution killed roughly 7 million people in 2012 and that taking steps to reduce carbon pollution could have spared many of them.
On the whole, we brush aside ominous declarations from organizations like the American Association for the Advancement of Science, who say that, “The evidence is overwhelming: Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising. Temperatures are going up. Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heat waves are getting worse, as is extreme precipitation. The oceans are acidifying.”
Met with equal skepticism was the new authoritative report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which concluded that we need to take immediate action to avoid the worst impacts (not all, as some have already occurred) of climate change.
“Delaying mitigation efforts beyond those in place today through 2030 is estimated to substantially increase the difficulty of the transition to low longer-term emissions levels and narrow the range of options consistent with maintaining temperature change below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels,” cautioned the report’s authors.
The IPCC drew these dire conclusions after analyzing decades of data.
Between 2000 and 2010, global greenhouse gas emissions rose at 2.2 percent annually, even as more attention was paid to climate change than in any decade prior. In contrast, between 1970 and 2000, emissions rose at an annual rate of 1.3 percent.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has grown by 40 percent, meaning that regardless of what actions we might take, we’re still in for more warming.
While the majority of climate scientists believe that we can avoid the most severe consequences of climate change if we limit global temperature rise to 4 degrees by 2100, we’re currently on track to see a rise of 8 degrees.
If we stay on that same course, we can expect to see our way of life drastically altered.
Consider that during the ice age, the world’s average temperature was only about 4 degrees cooler than it is today. The difference was significant enough to cause large glaciers to form over large areas in Europe and the United States.
According to the IPCC, a temperature increase of the same 4 degrees could produce similarly drastic results, including “substantial species extinctions,” a massive decline in global food production, and sea level rises that would leave the majority of the world’s most populous cities fully submerged under water.
In spite of it all, we are left no closer to brokering a compromise or setting a real course of action to address this crisis that is already well under way.
So I’m here to offer an olive branch of sorts. Let’s drown and burn together, hand-in-hand. While you might have won the battle, we all have to reap your rewards.
Written by AARON KAUFMAN
Originally from Washington, D.C., Aaron started his career working at the intersection of business, journalism and politics after graduating from Kent State University in 2010. Prior to joining Elite Daily, Aaron spent time at Bloomberg BNA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Turkey, Middle East and North Africa Department. Aaron has also worked in public relations at FleishmanHillard and Brodeur Partners’ Washington offices. In his spare time, Aaron likes to travel and surf, though he wishes he had time to do both more often.