With great ignorance comes great accountability

Renae Burgess wishes to deny the arguments of climate change deniers


Humans have been around for thousands of years, carving out our histories and existence into the earth with painstaking grandeur. We build civilisations that reach for the sky before razing them to the ground, yet our fascination with our world has been a constant. We have never been more advanced in all of our time here than we are today. We have never posed a bigger risk to our entire, globalised species than we do right now.

For the generation that continues to push the peak of our knowledge, our science and our abilities, it is nothing new to be told that we can change the world. And we are changing it, every day, as increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions warm and change our atmosphere and alter our global climate in a way that will prove detrimental to the continued existence of the world that we know.

The Earth is old. It has orbited our sun for over 4.5 billion years—22,500 times longer than us. It has gone through cyclic periods of warming and cooling climates that we know have radically changed the face of the planet. Various species have not endured these climate changes. The Earth has. It does not need the human race, but we sorely need it, as well as the current adequate climate conditions under which we thrive.

Rapid acceleration in climate change and global warming is occurring due to the impact humans are having on the environment and the emission rates of GHG we are steadily pouring into the atmosphere. Change needs to occur now if a favourable future is to be achieved for the generations to come.

There are some, however, who would dismiss such action, halt public awareness and deny the science that tells us that we are causing a possible species extinction-sized event. Call them what you will, ‘climate change deniers’, ‘disinformers’ or ‘sceptics’, there is nothing but blatant ignorance, fear or greed that drives their opposition to the factual existence and continuation of rapid climate change on our planet.

Despite progressive and continually updated reports by credited scientists that Earth is undergoing climate change at a rate never seen before in history, climate change deniers offer up a myriad of excuses. Uninformed, factually incorrect information is used to support their claim that global warming is not, in fact, happening at all.

The favourite argument is often that climate change is not actually a bad thing, but a natural process that won’t detrimentally affect us. Mainly people claim that they cannot be sure climate change is occurring because they themselves are not a credited climate scientist, which certainly means they cannot have an opinion on the subject. As with most socially important discussions, however, you don’t need a specialised college degree to understand the negative impact we are having, or how we need to adapt in order to improve our circumstances.

We can already see the direct results of global climate change, and can only begin to imagine the risks this poses to our future. Heat waves, heavy downpours, drought, rising sea level, increasing severity of natural storms, insect migration to new regions carrying potential diseases and the melting of the polar ice caps. These are all easily recognisable signs of the adverse effect we are having on the delicately balanced atmosphere of our planet. We are accomplishing this result through our excessive use of fossil fuels, deforestation and agricultural practice.

It is a matter of acting sooner rather than later, but it’s hard to get society on board with wide scale environmental and economical change when high profile figures such as Tony Abbott refuse to jump aboard the slowly submerging bandwagon of climate change acknowledgement.

During a speech in July 2009, Abbott declared, “I mean in the end this whole thing is a question of fact, not faith, … and we can discover whether the planet is warming or not by measurement. And it seems that notwithstanding the dramatic increases in man-made CO2 emissions over the last decade, the world’s warming has stopped. Now, admittedly we are still pretty warm by recent historical standards but there doesn’t appear to have been any appreciable warming since the late 1990s.”

Actually, Mr Abbott, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes more than 1,300 scientists from the United States and other countries, released a report in 2013 that stated that global surface temperatures have risen at a rate of 0.15 degrees Celsius per decade since 1990. The IPCC also predicts a temperature rise of 1.5 to 6 degrees Celsius in the next century.

Now, that may not seem like all that much, which is a common opinion of climate change deniers. After all, how can a few measly degrees cause so much damage that it puts our survival at risk?

Well, according to NASA, “Earth’s climate record, preserved in tree rings, ice cores and coral reefs, shows that the global average temperature is stable over long periods of time. But even small changes in temperature correspond to enormous changes in the environment. For example, at the end of the last ice age, when the Northeast United States was covered by more than 3,000 feet of ice, average temperatures were only 5 to 9 degrees cooler than today.”

In the last century, temperatures have risen by a whole degree. If one degree is all it takes to cause the kind of distressing environmental changes we have already seen, what does the future hold for us if we allow our actions to cause a further rise in global temperature? It is a futile and ignorant perspective to believe that humans are not to blame for the rapid rate of global warming when historical temperature figures are compared to those since the Industrial Revolution.

Bill Nye, the famous Science Guy, rejects all who deny climate change. “That living things change from generation to generation through a process … called Natural Selection, or Dissent with Modification, those are facts. And tectonic plates move, and that’s a fact, and the world is getting warmer because of human activity. That’s a fact.”

The earth had been around for billions of years before humans graced its surface, and it will continue to be here long after we are gone. Stopping climate change and potentially reversing the effects we have already caused is not a matter of saving the Earth. The Earth has done this all before, it’s old hat when it comes to climate change. Dismissing those who deny climate change, who would seek to misinform you and ignore hard scientific evidence is the first logical step. It is a step not towards saving the earth, but towards saving ourselves and our future generations from the devastation we could very well be enduring in 100 years if we don’t stop GHG emissions and in turn, give ourselves the chance to change our fate.

It can be guaranteed that no matter how warm we make this planet, how much carbon dioxide build-up is in the atmosphere, how much ice we melt, or how much land is lost to the sea, the Earth will endure, but we are far less prepared to adapt.

So, climate change deniers, you are not preventing unnecessary alarm, and you are not preventing the survival of our planet, you are detrimental to the survival of our race and if you cannot see that, we are doomed.


Image: Nattu, flikr, no changes made.