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Seven years ago I was a devout climate skeptic. I hated Al Gore and his "An Inconvenient Truth" (though I'd never seen it), I often repeated the line about scientists in the 70-80's thinking we were experiencing global cooling, and I had a general distaste for the climate change doomsayers of the environmental movement and scientific community. And then I read actual science about the issue. 

I'll be the first to admit my convictions were wrong. I started exploring the facts, reading scientific reports, and educating myself on the topic of climate change. This point of this article is to help anyone interested in the future of our planet reach level-headed conclusion based on climate science data. The conclusion?

Climate change is real. Global warming is happening. They are both caused by human actions. It's a humongous problem, and we've got to take action now. Or yesterday. Or twenty years ago. 

The Consensus is Real

There is an overwhelming scientific consensus among climate scientists that climate changed is happening and caused by humans.  More info below from the aforelinked The Guardian's Climate Change FAQ's:

  • Of the 928 academic papers on climate changed published between 1993-2003, none rejected the consensus of man made warming. 
  • 97-98% of climate scientists that actively publish papers support the consensus. This has been verified twice. Also, those that reject the consensus have published on average about half as many academic papers as those in support. 

Here is an excerpt from a report published by the top national scientific boards in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US,  entitled "Climate change is real

"...There is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring... This warming has already led to changes in the Earth's climate."

Dissenting Voices

There are dissenting voices, but they are almost never climate scientists. Let's take the example of Forbes Magazine contributor Larry Bell, a writer on "climate, energy, environmental and space policy issues" and an endowed space architecture professor at the University of Houston. He has an impressive resume, and has published at least six articles on space architecture. He's also a determined climate skeptic, having written articles such as "The feverish hunt for evidence of a man made global warming crisis", and "Global warming alarmism, when science is fiction". The problem?

Larry is backed by environmental scientist Pete Singer, a man who has been on the wrong side of the debate on smoking and cancer, ozone depletion from CFCs, and DDT. Unsurprisingly, Larry's articles in Forbes and his book have been fought by shocked and outraged climate scientists. Yet Forbes still features his column, and encourages scientists to comment so that readers can "have both sides". 

It's a 98% consensus of climate scientists vs. an architect and some environmental scientist who thinks smoking doesn't cause cancer.

If you look deeply into anti-climate change efforts, you'll find the majority of scientists or writers involved have little to no background in climate science. They are mostly scientists working outside their area of expertise and being funded by ExxonMobile to manufacture uncertainty on climate science, or by conservative billionaires who donated more than $120 million to fund anti-climate change think tanks from 2002-2010.

What About Climategate? 

In November 2009, hackers broke into a server at the Climate Research Institute at the University of East Anglia and stole thousands of emails and computer files. These emails were then posted by skeptics who alleged that climate scientists were manipulating data in order to boost their results and quiet skeptics.

The real climategate? It was all a manufactured crisis. Since 2009, 8 independent commissions (both US and UK) have reviewed the files and email exchanges, finding "no evidence of fraud of misconduct".  Many scientists have concluded that the emails were purposefully taken out of context to manufacture doubt about the consensus on climate change ahead of the Copenhagen conference on climate change in December of 2009.

The Consequences of Inaction

We are in trouble, big trouble, and the math is stacked against us. In this fantastic Rolling Stone article from 2012, "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math", Bill Mckibben breaks down what we are up against with three numbers, 2 degrees, 565 gigatons, and 2.765 gigatons. 

Most scientists agree that we need to avoid more that a 2 degrees Celsius rise in temperature to avoid global catastrophe. We can burn about 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide  into the atmosphere and still stay below that target. Problem is, we've got 2,765 gigatons of carbon dioxide we plan to burn in the form of oil, gas and coal reserves. As the article says, "We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We'd have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate."

That's the challenge. Not only do we have to completely switch to renewable energy, we also have to leave trillions of dollars worth of fossil fuels in the ground, untouched. Sound challenging enough?

What happens if we rise 2 degrees, or more than two degrees? We don't know exactly, but it's not looking good. The article provides some context, saying 

"So far, we've raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.)"

Climate change is real, and let's start doing something about it. 


Want to read more? 

Kurt Berning

Seize the Day
Hug the Rhino

Cheers again to Dr. Kolmes at the University of Portland for some great information on this topic, to Justin Koufopoulos for the Rolling Stones article, and to Larry Bell for being such an easy target.