What it Means to “Not Believe in” Climate Change
Flatiron Hot! is honored to have renowned scientist Eugene H. Kaplan, the author of several Peterson Field Guides as well as memoirs charting his global travels as a researcher and activist (take a look at his works on Amazon here), contributing a weekly column on scientific issues of interest to layman readers.
What better place to start than climate change, one of the most controversial political issues of our day? Without further ado, here are some words of wisdom from one of the world’s foremost authorities on ecosystems and the perils they face.
The composite of the data produced has been interpreted as the result of global warming in joint statements by the American Academy of Science and the equivalent institutions of European nations, as well as respected individual scientists from universities all over the world in fields of climatology, physics, biology, etc. This contrasts with the opinions of a tiny number of scientists with the opposite interpretations of the data.
Listed below are some phenomena recently reported by scientists from NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), a governmental agency set up to monitor changes in global atmospheric and oceanic temperatures.
- 2012 was the hottest year ever in the U.S. Global temperatures are the highest they have been in 4,000 years.
- The oceans are much warmer than 100 years ago and are rapidly rising in temperature.
- Coral reefs, one of the major ecosystems of the ocean, are dying off all over the world. Deserts of north Africa are becoming larger. The polar ice caps are a fraction of their size 100 years ago.
- The oceans have become more acidic, hastening the obliteration of many species that have shells, which are dissolved by the acidification.
- Glaciers are melting to 20% of their original size in some areas. This rapid melting causes floods and damages crops hundreds of miles away and destroys breeding grounds of fishes, such as salmon.
- Conversely, many rivers are drying rapidly, causing legal “water wars” in California courts and in the Middle East, threatening to initiate “hot” wars.
It is apparent that “anomalies” or extremes in weather or climate have increased in likelihood to a significant degree. That means we can expect more frequent episodes of droughts in the American Midwest and Southeast, as well as storms and other weather-related disasters that have been occurring all over the world.
Floods or droughts in North Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Central America are causing mass migrations of starving people throughout Europe and the United States. This has caused political backlashes against natural human migration — which has occurred throughout history, as recorded in archaeological and biblical records (the Joseph and Moses stories).
Immigration (legal and illegal) of desperate Turks and North Africans (in Europe) and Mexicans (in the U.S.) has stoked social unrest.
Yet, 14% (or 43.8 MILLION AMERICANS) don’t believe in global warming. In addition 30%, almost a third of Americans (twice the number of Hispanic-Americans and six times the number of Asian-Americans) are not convinced that human activity contributes to global warming. By contrast, there was only a 2% difference in the number of votes cast between Obama and Romney in the last election.
In a future column we will examine the reasons for this misguided skepticism of a broad scientific consensus.
Eugene Kaplan, Ph.D. is Axinn Distinguished Professor of Conservation and Ecology at Hofstra University. He has published 10 books and many scientific and educational articles in peer-reviewed journals.