Politics of climate change leading us away from science and into ignorance – Commercial appeal

Hurricane Irma off Florida’s coast Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017 (Photo: NOAA)

Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma were canaries in the coal mine of what is happening to our changing climate. Let anyone who denies climate change and the human contribution to it be forewarned.

No one can prove a direct cause-effect relationship between 3-to-7 degree warming to the coastal waters in the Gulf of Mexico to the floods in Houston, the Caribbean and the Florida coast, but no climate scientist can deny that these temperatures had a contributory effect on the storms.

n fact, climate scientists suggest that 30 percent of the rainfall in Harvey was due to human contribution to climate change. This is how it happens: Burning fossil fuels such as coal and gasoline leads to excessive carbon dioxide emissions and green house gases which in turn leads to the melting of the glaciers and the rise of ocean waters.

With warmer waters, hurricanes garner tumultuous force, as the air begins to hold great water vapor leading to greater rainfall. In effect human factors likely made hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which may have been tropical depressions, into major hurricanes.

Identifying cause-effect relationship is not simple. It took decades for the government, general public and the cigarette manufacturers to accept that smoking leads to cancer and heart disease. Lung cancer, which was once a rare disease (only 140 cases reported in the medical literature by 1900), now kills 1.5 million people annually. Cumulatively cigarette smoking killed over 100 million people in the 20th century, more than all the wars combined. We can only wonder how many more millions will die in the 21st century.

In 1954, 60 percent of the US public were undecided or did not think that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer. At the time, nearly half of doctors smoked. Likewise, a 2010 Gallup poll shows that half of Americans do not believe that the effects of global warming are occurring. According to a 2009 Rasmussen Report poll 47 percent believe global warming is not caused by human activity and 40 percent of American do not believe global warming is a serious problem.

The deaths and suffering from climate change will not be so personal, agonizing and sudden as that from cigarette smoking. The prevention will also not be the same. If we do not take action, estimates show that 200 million people will be displaced by the year 2050 due to climate change and it is not individual effort but a collective global action that is needed.

The evidence for the lay public could not be clearer. Satellite photographs show that 84 percent of the Antarctic glaciers have receded with a 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit rise in temperature over the past 50 years. And oceans have risen by two inches over the past century. Recent study by British scientists showed through computer simulation that the number of hurricanes and floods would have been half of what they are now if the excessive pollutants such as carbon emissions and green house gases were not present due to human activity.

Sadly, it is the politics of climate change that is leading us away from science and into ignorance. Just as there are no two sides to the argument of smoking, there are no two sides to the climate change argument. Smoking is to a person what fossil fuels are to our planet. Denying science is not foolish but fatal. Smoking cigarettes has taught us that lesson; let’s not make the same mistake with our planet.

Source: Commercial appeal

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