Media and policymakers are irresponsible to mislead the public on climate change
by Benjamin Hayward
Who can argue with the facts? Apparently Forbes magazine can. In February of this year, an article by James Taylor proclaimed that “record cold and snow destroy global warming claims”. Taylor referenced one single report as backup, and insisted this was enough to invalidate the thousands of scientific papers cited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that have found otherwise. Along with engaging in this unscientific balderdash, Taylor neglected to mention a possible conflict of interest. Though he is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News at Forbes, he is also a senior fellow of the Heartland Institute, which is notorious for the funding it receives from oil and gas company ExxonMobil and its dissemination of climate change denialism.
The planet’s average temperature is increasing; the primary cause is greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuels. These scientific facts are a certainty to anyone who has reviewed the mounds of research on the topic, but realistically, the immense amount of data that supports these findings is incomprehensible to the average voter. That is a fact some, like James Taylor, have taken advantage of in order to intentionally sow doubt about climate change. These misinformers, complicit in global warming by blatantly denying simple reason, can only be oil-industry lackeys or ignorant ideologues of the free market.
More and more evidence comes out every year proving climate change deniers wrong and revealing just how dangerous their campaign of misinformation has been. July was the hottest month in all of recorded temperature history. The effects of this were both deadly and costly. A heat wave in India killed 2,500 people in June. California’s drought, now in its fourth year, cost the state $2.7 billion this summer alone. These are the results of a climate that has warmed 0.85C since the start of the Industrial Revolution, and these effects are only the beginning of the extreme weather fluctuations that society is not prepared for.
We are setting a new normal for warm temperatures, and it’s only uphill from here. The sort of temperature highs that used happen once every three years—an unusually mild January or a stiflingly hot July—are now happening once or twice a year, according to a study published recently in Nature, the world’s most-cited scientific journal.
If the global average temperature rises to 2C over pre-Industrial levels, however, which was the limit set at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, those previously rare temperature highs will be the new monthly high. And if the climate is allowed to warm up to 3C, those old three-year records for the season will be hit every other week. The same study found that already one in five extreme rain events experienced globally are a result of our 0.85C temperature rise, and that when temperatures hit the 2C limit, any given area will, on average, experience 60 percent more rain storms than it does now.
More and more thorough and accurate studies keep coming out that support the same conclusions: action needs to be initiated immediately in order to limit warming to 2C, and preparations need to be made for the consequences of that warming. The problem is that more and more studies aren’t convincing the people who aren’t reading them.
Climate change is a divisive political issue in the United States. In a January vote put forth by the Democrats to uncover the “sense of the Senate”, all but two Republican Senators indicated that they do not believe climate change is caused by humans. Burning fossil fuels is causing climate change whether the senators believe it or not, and it is chilling that these policymakers …
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