The debate over climate change has raged for years; with one side doubting the extent to which humans have played a role in the warming of our atmosphere, and the other doubting whether we can stop a runaway train that they say we started.
Well, the evidence has been piling up lately, and the conclusions to be had aren’t pretty.
Just last week, an iceberg twice the size of Manhattan split from Greenland. In the month of June, 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States were broken or tied. The month of May was the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average. The likelihood of that streak occurring by chance, 3.7 x 10^-99, cannot even be represented by all of the grains of sand on every beach on Earth.
On Tuesday, a NASA press release displayed images of Greenland’s ice cap melting “over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations.” Recent heat domes bombarding the island led to a stunning 97% shrinkage of the ice covering it. Though NASA scientist Lora Koenig says this type of melting occurs, on average, every 150 years, other recent findings shed a troublesome light on these occurrences.
A study published in Nature Climate Change, and conducted by scientists from multiple countries posits that much of the recent changes in atmospheric temperature can be attributed to human activity.
In fact, according to a co-author of the report, "Natural variability could only explain 10%, or thereabouts, of the observed change."
This paper is groundbreaking in that it alleges, unambiguously, humans are to blame for rising temperatures. In finding incontrovertible proof of human-induced warming, expert oceanographer Nathan Bindoff said, "We did it. No matter how you look at it, we did it. That's it."
But what does assigning blame matter if we cannot halt the progression of the world’s melting caps?
A recent Rolling Stone article laid out simple ceilings for average temperature and the number of carbon dioxide we can leak into the atmosphere that, if surpassed, present dire consequences. Also included was the amount of fossil fuel the oil companies of the world have in store and intend to burn, a number that far outstrips the amount of fuel we can burn and still have a dry Eastern seaboard.
Previously, climate-change dissenters could label claims such as these as ‘alarmist’, ‘exaggerated’, or even question whether the environmental findings are just indicative of natural trends. Not so anymore.
I have no solution to this problem to submit. Neither, it seems, does anyone else. Clever schemes to cut back on our greenhouse gas emissions, such as an Israeli entrepreneur’s ecosystem for electric cars, offer no guarantee of safety. What I do know is that we can not, and will not succeed in crafting legitimate solutions to this potentially catastrophic issue if we do not first agree upon its existence.
Even among scientists there will always be pockets of dissent; the European Organization for Nuclear Research scientists mistakenly thought they broke the speed of light, for God’s sake. It is time we cease deliberating over the ifs, buts, and maybes of the climate discussion and start acting upon the hard facts, such as this recent, eye-opening study. It is time the climate change ‘debate’, ceases to be just that. What -- as icebergs fall apart, the temperature steadily rises, we experience 327 consecutive months of above-average temperatures -- is there to even argue about?
There is no ultimate panacea out there, waiting to be found. No entrepreneur will be able to enlist us in the saving of our own planet, or we would already be well on our way in doing so. The only path we can take to avert our looming fate is that of wide-scale change, and the only proven conduit for wide-scale change is government.
But if we continue to send signals that we either don’t care or are ignorant of the environmental consequences of our actions -- evident in our ongoing “debate” over the legitimacy of climate-change claims, as well as the staggering eco-footprint we each leave behind each year -- why should the government take note?
The change starts with you and me, and the first obstacle we have to overcome is our own denial.