By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
In response to a commentary I wrote, I received a note the other day from a reader. Among other things they were most concerned about what they believed to have been the dismissal of those who challenge the very notion of climate change. As far as this reader was concerned, there are all sorts of people who have questioned climate change, so the matter is up in the air, so to speak.
What is critical for us all to understand is that the preponderance of the evidence indicates that climate change is underway. Many people have gotten confused because of the usage of the term “global warming,” thinking that this means that the Earth is turning into a desert. When they see snow storms they conclude that global warming cannot possibly be happening.
“Climate change” is underway. We all, actually, know that. One example that scientists warned of was the development of extreme weather. The hurricane that hit the New York/New Jersey area is one example of that, but so too are the droughts that we have been experiencing in the Midwest, the increasingly warmer summers, the winters that have started to feel like springs, and, yes, the very odd snow storms. There are, of course, other examples of climate change, such as the melting of the polar icecaps.
Though it is factually correct that the climate of the Earth has evolved over millions of years, with ice ages and warmer periods, again the evidence points to the increase in the usage of fossil fuels as contributing to what has been described as the “greenhouse effect.” In other words, even if you were to assume that the human contribution to climate change was minimal, you would still be faced with a reality that has profound implications on how we live.
What the reader who commented on my column missed is that the fact that there are many people who disagree on the very existence of climate change means little. The question is more what does the evidence show? What is the balance of opinion among reputable scientists on the question of climate change? It is important to keep in mind that to this day there are those who assert that the world is flat and that what appears to be a curved Earth is nothing more than an illusion! While everyone is entitled to their beliefs, the fact that someone believes something that is unsubstantiated (and sometimes irrational) does not mean that it needs to be respected at the level of policy.
I sit here writing this commentary during a week when the temperature has dropped to the low 20s. What is odd is not that fact, but that most of the winter so far has been above normal in temperature. While many of us have enjoyed the more pleasant weather, to be honest, it has me very nervous because we all know that it is not supposed to be this way.
Let’s start looking at the evidence rather than listening to the commentators on many of these right-wing talk radio shows who seem to want to keep us in an ignorant bliss. The reality is that there are things that we can do about climate change IF, and only if we act now.[Note: for more information on this, please check out http://www.350.org for excellent information and suggestions on what needs to be done.]
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. You can follow him at http://www.billfletcherjr.com.