Global warming is causing massive changes to the Earth's climate. Humans are responsible for most of the warming.
This is the consensus of 97% of the world's climate experts. Anyone who doesn't take these facts seriously is a danger to humanity.
Here's a quote from Elizabeth Kolbert's book, "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History." I found it in an Amazon reader review when I was trying to decide whether to order the book. (I did order a copy.)
"If you want to think about why humans are so dangerous to other species, you can picture a poacher in Africa carrying an AK-47 or a logger in the Amazon gripping an ax, or, better still, you can picture yourself, holding a book on your lap."
Actually, the problem of extinction is even worse than this.
Humans are not only causing countless other species to go extinct, matching the record of past global disasters like a large asteroid hitting our planet, our trashing of the environment through carbon pollution and other activities threatens Homo sapiens as well.
We need to protect many species to help our own.
It is often forgotten how dependent we are on other species. Ecosystems of multiple species that interact with one another and their physical environments are essential for human societies.
These systems provide food, fresh water and the raw materials for construction and fuel; they regulate climate and air quality; buffer against natural hazards like floods and storms; maintain soil fertility; and pollinate crops. The genetic diversity of the planet’s myriad different life-forms provides the raw ingredients for new medicines and new commercial crops and livestock, including those that are better suited to conditions under a changed climate.
For this reason and many others, human-caused climate change is the biggest problem facing humanity. Yet a disturbingly large number of people either refuse to admit that global warming is happening, or deny that humans are the cause.
Even more disturbing: among these global warming skeptics and deniers are public officials who have a big say in governmental policy decisions that affect our carbon footprint (huge, and trampling on the environment more powerfully with every passing day).
It's important for citizens to know who they are. It's long past time for a "coming out" on global warming. Public officials need to be transparent about what they know and believe on this super-important issue.
I don't care about their sexual orientation, drug/alcohol use, or other personal habits and characteristics. I do care about whether they agree with the scientific consensus on global warming.
After all, what is more important for life on Earth than having a planet that supports the sort of human living we've been accustomed to? And not just for we who are living today, but also our children, grandchildren, and generations to come.
So I'm planning to ask our local public officials, elected and appointed, whether they agree with the scientific consensus that (1) global warming is occurring, and (2) humans are mostly responsible for this. I might also ask those who answer "yes" if they think we need to do something about global warming/climate change.
Tonight I tried this notion out on a group of friends.
Most thought it was a good idea. Maybe a great idea. (Probably was me who said that.) But one person said, "Many public officials won't respond to you. What will you do then?"
My response: "Declining to openly agree with an essentially indisputable scientific fact would be an act that speaks for itself. It would be like saying no comment to someone who asked if they believed in gravity or electromagnetism. Shunning an opportunity to agree with a scientific consensus reveals a person's mindset almost as clearly as if they directly stated their disagreement with that consensus."
I'm looking forward to learning how Salem's Mayor, City Manager, Public Works Director, and City Councillors respond to my simple two or three question survey. Also, how the Marion County Commissioners and other top county officials do.
Hopefully they are in tune with one of the most important findings of modern science. If not, some education is in order. And some kicking out of office, if the educating isn't embraced.
"Declining to openly agree with an essentially indisputable scientific fact would be an act that speaks for itself. It would be like saying no comment to someone who asked if they believed in gravity or electromagnetism..."
Don't go pulling the ole "silence implies guilt" trip (as bad as "guilt by association"). You're smarter than that. At least your writing indicates you are.
You admit that there could be a reason not to believe when you used the phrase "essentially indisputable"; I read that as there may be a small chance to dispute.
I can think of many times that I have not answered things where the answers required more than a yes or no answer (yes, you did not indicate wanting a yes or no, but it is implied).
I would have rather see you state that you would pursue a conversation about the topic to understand why the person prefers not to answer, and base your conclusions on that.
(BTW, I am a firm believer in man's involvement in the advanced changes in our weather and atmosphere. I don't call it Global Warming because then the whackos start pointing at the bad winter back East as "not warming", ignoring the drought in the West. Global Warming was a baddddddd choice of names).
Keep 'em honest, Hines! Just don't trap yourself.
Posted by: Lew Hundley | February 16, 2014 at 04:02 PM
The way that local officials will respond is probably: To not respond, or: To say that they are concerned but can (or won't) take any significant action. If one were to request a locally established position by the City or County, one might expect the same response that was received when the "move to amend" folks asked the City for support. The City considered the issue of trying to actually make government work (by reducing its ownership by a small number of very wealthy and powerful individuals) to not be an appropriate issue for them to be involved in. Because it is unrealistic to believe that real action can be taken to ameliorate the effects of humans on climate without limiting the influence of corporations on governmental decisions, it is of little concern that the local leaders will act negligently by failing to take a stand and they will not do whatever they can to make people aware of the critical need for action.
Posted by: Kurt | February 16, 2014 at 07:22 PM
I think that the most significant finding with respect to human-caused climate change is the one that even the most proactive champions of the issue are scared to admit: the irreversibility of the situation. The fix is in. There is no escaping the predicted comeuppances. In the best-case scenario, all that humans can expect is piecemeal mitigation of widespread misery.
Reduction of the release of carbon into the atmosphere will only occur with a radical reduction of the human population. In that sense, the problem will solve itself, given enough time.
In the meantime, it is business as usual. Remembering the words from a Yes song from the 70's: On a sailing ship to nowhere, leaving any place...Caesar's Palace, morning glory, silly human, silly human race.
Posted by: Willie R | February 16, 2014 at 08:40 PM
Lew, obviously I would follow up with a no-response public official to make sure they got my message, understood it, etc. But it certainly seems entirely appropriate to take an official to task for not stating his/her position on the biggest problem facing humanity.
Again, this isn't a personal issue which involves subjective opinionating. It is a factual issue. Nothing is certain in science, or in life. But if I went to 100 oncologists and 97 told me I had a serious cancer that needed to be treated, I'd damn well think "I have cancer and I need treatment."
Likewise, 97 out of 100 climate experts say the Earth is warming dangerously, and humans are responsible for this. Just as a parent would be irresponsible to deny a cancer treatment to his/her child when 97% of doctors agreed this is needed, so is a public official who denies the reality of global warming/climate change.
In this day and age, any public official who isn't aware of global warming, and/or doesn't have an opinion about it, is unqualified to hold his/her office. So if someone tells me "I have no opinion on this issue," that indeed is good grounds for criticizing them.
Posted by: Brian Hines | February 17, 2014 at 08:00 PM
I entirely agree with Willie R. The best treatment for the "cancer" suffered by the planet would be to go on with business as usual (it will anyway) and let "global warming" kill off a few billion of the silly humans who helped cause it. We complain about global warming but continue to purchase consumer goods whose production cause greenhouse emissions. Even the majority of environmentalists are hypocrites in this regard...silly humans being what they are.
Posted by: tucson | February 19, 2014 at 12:33 PM
You nailed it Tuscon. We live a life-style that will continue to do havoc to the earth. The whole economic system is a train wreck in the making.
The pain I feel is knowing how much I contribute to the problem in the first place - I drive, use a dryer, refrigerator, heat the house, fly in airplanes, invest in retirement accounts, and so on.
Even so-called alternative energy technologies, such as electric cars, wind power, and so on are dependent on crude forms of energy to a certain extent.
Finally, we need a whole new way of being. And, I just don't see that happening under the current system that is in place and expanding into other countries. It would take enormous sacrifice by so many of us in the west, in China,etc. to turn things around. It ain't going to happen.
Posted by: Bob | February 23, 2014 at 10:43 AM