Everyone’s heard that our Earth is heating up because of the energy sources(gasoline, ethanol, wood, coal, methane)we burn in our everyday lives. Some people do not accept the reality of climate change despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, as in temperature records dating back to over a century ago. No matter what you believe, climate change is altering temperatures across the globe, harming nearly all the species that call this planet home. People deny climate change because accepting its existence challenges their very identity at its core.
Temperatures across the globe are continually changing for the warmer, and it’s our fault. As a matter of fact, there is a general consensus among scientists that climate change is real and caused by humans. NASA supports this with the quote, “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.” Since all of these climate scientists study our atmosphere for a living, their opinion on climate change is based upon the data they collect and the facts they know as a result of their field of study, and the simple fact that this many people can agree on something this significant while people still debate whether or not pineapple belongs on pizza is saying something. The reason for all of this heat would be an increased amount of carbon dioxide(CO2) coming from us burning fossil fuels. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that, when put into our atmosphere, allows less of the sun’s heat to escape, warming the planet. The latest data from NOAA shows that we currently have a CO2 level of 405.25 parts per million(ppm), which is 105.25 ppm greater than the highest historical CO2 levels, as we know from ice cores. Since carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, like methane, nitrous oxide and water vapor, we know that it is heating up the planet. For those who think that perhaps the sun is just getting a little hotter, so our planet is warming up, and we’re all overreacting, NASA has something to say about that. NASA tells us, “The most recent analyses of these proxies indicate that solar irradiance changes cannot plausibly account for more than 10 percent of the 20th century’s warming.2” Even if we factor in the sun, and how it does not have a very stable temperature, the fact still remains that there is another 90% of the cause of global warming, and that is our constant burning of fossil fuels and release of other greenhouse gases in our day-to-day lives. Our planet is warming up, but how will it affect us?
Climate change around the globe will harm nearly everything living on the planet, ourselves included, destroying ecosystems and even biomes as we pump more greenhouse gases into the air. The effects of our planet warming up have been felt already, such as in coral reefs. According to the National Wildlife Federation, “Rising ocean temperatures have already caused massive coral bleaching, leading to the collapse of these ecosystems which sustain huge numbers of fish.” If we allow climate change to continue like it has, coral reefs won’t be the last major casualty. People who live near forests have a definite cause to be worried about the effect of our planet warming up. The Union of Concerned Scientists says, “Wildfires are increasing and wildfire season is getting longer in the Western U.S. as temperatures rise.” Wildfires are incredibly dangerous, destroying anything in their path that catches flame. While they are necessary for an environment, too many, as will happen, can destroy ecosystems for many years.To add insult to injury, burning forests release even more carbon dioxide into the air. Another cause of global warming, the release of more methane into the air as a result of increasing animal populations due to human intervention, doesn’t just warm up the planet, it can and has caused health issues. About a White House report on climate change, Elizabeth Chuck writes, “The percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled in the past three decades as air quality has decreased, the report said.” If you would like for your children(if you want to have children), or even your children’s children to be able to breathe well and not struggle with asthma, you probably don’t want our planet to become more polluted. So, if climate change is this obvious and harmful, why do people still deny it?
Many people deny climate change, and the reason is not stupidity, but identity. Who we are politically is, however small it seems, a big part of our identity, meaning that we will often deny actual facts because of our party loyalties. As David Berreby puts it, “An opinion about global warming is one of the flags we fly to show that we’re down with our fellow Tea Partiers (or fellow members of the NRDC[Natural Resources Defense Council]). Unless you’re required to face reality (maybe you’re planning the system that will deal with massive storm surges in a future New York or London), that flag-flying is much more motivating than geophysical facts.” People can and will prioritize who they are over actual, literal facts. It’s kind of like how if you can’t choose between chocolate and strawberry ice cream, and your friend picks chocolate, you’re probably going to pick chocolate too even if the cashier tells you strawberry is to die for, because they are your friend, and you stand with them even in their uninformed ice cream decisions. However, one might think that people who aren’t required to face facts will if extremely convincing facts are shown(so if 5 other customers also told you strawberry is the best). This is not the case, as Berreby also explains. He says, “we’re all inclined to protect damn fool arguments that are associated with our identities” So no matter how much you throw facts at people they are probably not going to change their views, unless something important depends on it, like their jobs. In our ice cream analogy, this means that if you’re at the ice-cream stand with two of your friends, unless one wants chocolate and the other wants strawberry, you might actually listen to the reason of those who are not your friend and get strawberry. But if you’re just there with one friend, you’re probably not going to make a very well-informed decision. A perfect example of denial of facts because of political party can be seen in our current president’s view, or lack thereof, on climate change. In an online “debate” on the site ScienceDebate.org, in response to the question “What are your views on climate change, and how will your administration act on this views?”, our current Commander in Chief said, “There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of “climate change.” Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water.” The most significant thing about this reply is that President Trump does not answer the question, and doubts the reality of climate change, which, as you can see, is rather real. The Republican Party is mostly of the opinion that climate change is not real, and the fact that Mr. Trump is a member of said party means that no matter what you tell him about climate change, he probably won’t believe you because that harms his identity as a Republican at heart. Hopefully, in the future, we can learn to separate facts from identities so that global warming can become a thing of the past.
Climate change is a very big and very real issue, and one that we do sometimes deny despite what’s standing right in front of us. As you know, a lot of data supports the reality of climate change, and the effects are just as enormous. I hope that as a planet we can all work to make the world we live in a better place.
Featured image: NASA