Blue Marble

Dear Friend,

I am alarmed about climate change
and here is why I hope you will be too.

There are so many things to be worried about these days that we hardly know what to pay attention to. If you follow me on Facebook, for example, you know I have many concerns, so why I am raising this particular alarm now? The details will have to follow later, but to be clear our planet is headed for disaster and we don't have much time to turn things around.

In a Nutshell

warming
  1. The Earth's climate has been stable for ten thousand years.
  2. Since 1900, the Earth's average temperature has increased substantially, a trend even more noticeable over the past 30 years.
  3. Almost all of the warming is attributable to human activities, particularly emissions of greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide and methane.
  4. Already we are seeing the destructive effects of climate change on human existence.
  5. The dire consequences of continuing at this pace are hard to imagine and almost impossible to exaggerate. The term "Hell on Earth" is not too harsh.
  6. Is it too late? No, but if we delay long, it will be. Soon conditions will become irreversible.
  7. I hope you will come to see that your participation in averting this crisis is essential.

An Alarmist?

What if I am just an alarmist? Many think the whole idea is controversial at best, and at worst a conspiracy or a hoax. Maybe you include yourself in this group. Surely if things were as ominous as I have stated, our leaders would be paying more attention, wouldn't they? They are not, and for two reasons: our society is addicted to cheap energy, and the fossil fuel industry is addicted to big profits. Moreover, we take for granted the rewards of science while being distrustful of scientific knowledge. (Healthy skepticism is a part of the scientific method; suspicion and distrust of its findings are not.) So if I am an alarmist, all I can say is that I don't have a history of going off the deep end, and I intend to defend my reputation for being sensible by giving you sound reasons for my concerns. In other words I don't expect you to take my word for it; I want you to be able to evaluate the evidence for yourself.

Science

In the meantime, I want you to know that >95% of the active climate scientists and >99% of the scientific articles on this topic support the notion of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) as described in my statements above. Numerous scientific academies and societies have endorsed this position, and no scientific body of national or international standing has maintained a dissenting opinion.

In some of my Facebook postings, I have been criticized for using the word "consensus" in regard to climate science, the implication being that there is no such agreement. Well, if this is not consensus, I don't know the meaning of the word. I have also been taken to task for using the word "settled" in regard to the science of climate change, and for saying, "there is no serious scientific debate" on this topic. I understand these objections and, except for this little rant, I have agreed not to say these kinds of things in public any more. But know this. Today there is more scientific debate about the health effects of tobacco than about climate change. Yet biomedical science clearly considers it "settled" that cigarette smoking is hazardous to your health.

A Parable

Tobacco CEOs with CongressThis is an instructive allegory. Prior to 1964 there were over 7000 scientific articles showing that smoking increases health risks and that nicotine is addictive. That was the year the Surgeon General reported on smoking and health for the first time. Thirty years later tobacco company CEOs were still denying this evidence in front of Congress. If you have one extra minute, watch this unbelievable video!

You may object that tobacco risks and climate change are unrelated, but I will show that they are not. The doubt and delay tactics are precisely the same. In fact, the PR firms involved are mostly the same and many of the same individuals are implicated. It is a strategy that has worked for manufacturers of asbestos, lead, vinyl chloride, dioxin, and other products shown by science to be hazardous to our health. The goal is always the same: to protect profits.

Why you should care

If you "love your neighbor" you should care that climate change is already disrupting the lives of millions of people around the world every year, disproportionately so among the most helpless and needy, including children. If that is not enough, there is a high probability that climate change will be devastating for your own children and grandchildren. For the sake of future generations, please get involved. And if that does not move you, climate change may well effect you personally in the next few years if it hasn't already. True, some people are more vulnerable than others, but no one is safe or invincible.

What you can do

In the coming weeks I will outline a dozen or more specific ways we can all participate in confronting this crisis, but the most important of these is to become informed. The better our understanding, the more effective each of us will be. Please join me over the coming weeks and months in taking climate change seriously.

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