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We’ve long been aware of the saying that nothing’s certain except death and taxes. Now most of the world’s scientists are now saying to add the certainty of manmade climate change.
A study released Monday at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, based on 40 years of data from researchers in the United States, Canada and Scotland, said confidence that human activities were raising the heat of the earth’s surface had reached a “five-sigma” level, which scientists consider the “gold standard” of certainty.
A “five-sigma” level is a statistical gauge meaning there is only one chance in a million that the evidence — satellite measurements of rising temperatures over the past 40 years — would not reflect warming.
Mainstream scientists have long been warning that the burning of fossil fuels has been causing more floods here, more droughts there, increased intensity of storms, heat waves and rising sea levels. Glaciers are melting or breaking up into the sea. Some ocean islands are already submerging and some animals and fauna are facing extinction.
And while other natural causes continue to exert their influences, giving fading hope to client change deniers, the extensive data that has been collected and the obvious correlations have persuaded almost all the world’s scientists of manmade global warming.
In 2013, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that it was at least 95 percent probable that human activities have been the main cause of climate change since the 1950s.
Benjamin Santer, lead author of Monday’s study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, told Reuters, “The narrative out there that scientists don’t know the cause of climate change is wrong. We do.”
We’re not talking now about weather — the day-to-day, hour-to-hour fluctuations in whether it is hot or cold, rainy or sunny. We’re talking about climate, the average temperature and natural forces over a long period of time.
And we’re not talking about huge changes in temperature, like we can sometimes see in our weather. We’re talking 2-4 degrees in the earth’s average temperature. But our planet’s ecosystems are so delicately balanced that even the tiniest of changes we are already seeing are beginning to wreak havoc, with the likelihood of a catastrophe yet to come if we do nothing.
What’s sad to me is that the scientists are now saying that it’s too late to avoid adverse climate change; the best we can do now is to minimize it by taking as much carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as we can by reducing the burning of fossil fuels and making greater use of natural alternatives like wind and solar.
What’s sadder to me is that we have leaders in Raleigh and Washington who put politics before science and pander to the ignorant and special interests rather than lead our communities and our country to adopt constructive solutions where possible and prepare for adaptive survival where not.
The rising sea levels that flood our coastal communities are not going to step because legislators in Raleigh tell scientists to ignore the data. The human suffering headed our world’s way is not going to wait for climate change deniers to stop their self-denial. And disaster doesn’t distinguish between conservatives and liberals.
What’s really, really sad to me is the response of so many evangelical Christian leaders and organizations, who should know — and do say they believe — that humans are the stewards of God’s creation. Yet I’ve gone onto some of their websites and seen videos and articles mocking climate change and those who warned about it. Churches should be leading efforts to protect the earth, not looking for excuses to abandon responsibility.
Let’s start expecting more from ourselves and our leaders to address the problems of climate change, not laugh them off. There’s plenty of room for debate, but no more time for denial. After all, the earth over eons will survive any changes to its environment. The real question is — will we?
Ken Ripley is a resident of Spring Hope and The Enterprise’s editor and publisher emeritus.