We are beginning a new year, and the silence in Congress is still deafening. Will there ever be a debate about what should be done to deal with climate change?
Oh, you don't "believe" in it? If you do not, please, suspend that belief system for just a few minutes and take a look at what the major scientific organizations in this country say. Go to their webpages. Examine the mountain of evidence that has convinced 97 to 98 percent of climate researchers that climate change is a stark reality, and that human behavior has been a contributing factor to it.
NASA: The startling timeline chart on the first page leads you directly into a summary of why the evidence for rapid climate change is compelling. There are extensive sections documenting sea level rise, global temperature rise, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, declining arctic sea ice, glacial retreat, extreme events and ocean acidification.
National Academy of Sciences: There are more than forty reports on this web page, each of them supporting the Academy's conclusion that "climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities and poses significant risks for a range of human and natural systems."
The American Association for the Advancement of Science: The world's largest general-scientific society also offers more than forty reports on climate change on its web site. AAAS sums them up by "reaffirming the position of its Board of Directors and the leaders of 18 respected organizations, who concluded based on multiple lines of scientific evidence that global climate change caused by human activities is now underway and it is a growing threat to society."
The American Chemical Society says, "Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for -- and in many cases is already affecting -- a broad range of human and natural systems."
The American Geophysical Union says:
Human responsibility for most of the well-documented increase in global average temperatures over the last half century is well established. Further greenhouse gas emissions, particularly of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, will almost certainly contribute to additional widespread climate changes that can be expected to cause major negative consequences for most nations.
Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth's climate. These effects add to natural influences that have been present over Earth's history. Scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century.
GSA concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science, the National Research Council, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that global climate has warmed and that human activities (mainly greenhouse‐gas emissions) account for most of the warming since the middle 1900s.
Even the American Medical Association says, "scientific evidence shows that the world's climate is changing and that the results have public health consequences."
I could list hundreds more. Virtually every reputable organization of scientists in the world has reached the same basic conclusion. Climate change is real and poses a threat to every living thing on the earth.
To not take climate change seriously, you must somehow believe there is a gigantic international conspiracy involving the world's top scientists, all of whom have agreed to distort their data. Come on. I realize that people on both sides of the political spectrum can twist themselves into pretzels to reach an ideological result, but that's way beyond improbable. I believe that scientists, as they have down through history, are basing their conclusions on unbiased scientific inquiry.
The debate we need now is not about whether climate change is a reality. It is. The massive and complex problems it poses are among the most difficult human beings have ever faced. Hopefully, for the sake of our children and grandchildren, 2012 will be the year our leaders finally listen to the scientific community and begin to fashion solutions to protect the world we will leave them.
This piece first appeared in the "Wilmington News Journal."