Things are heating up on the global warming front. In New York City on September 21st, hundreds of thousands of people from across the US and around the world will gather together to make an un-ignorable demand that world leaders at the following UN Climate Summit act faster and more decisively to reverse the growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, I have a friend walking across America as part of the Great March for Climate Action, and I’ve been invited to give more Climate Reality presentations in my local community.
Of course, there are entrenched interests who want to expand our self-defeating fossil-driven economy for their own selfish gain, so naturally they are beating the drum of climate denial. Last week Lorne Gunter trumpeted a study by an economist in a pay-to-publish Chinese journal which supposedly refutes global warming, showing the past couple of decades have had a relatively stable temperature. Now, stable is hardly the word I would use to describe the weather weirdness we’ve seen over the past decade, but I guess economists see things differently.
But it’s a weak argument. There is no denying our climate has warmed significantly over the past century, as our growing population’s land and energy use have altered the chemistry of our atmosphere. The past 354 months, without exception, have all been warmer than the 20th century average. That means that anyone born since February 1985 has never, in their whole entire life, ever experienced a month that was at or below global average temperatures.
|Pick two points at the same height and call it a "pause".|
Who cares about the bigger trend?
This supposed “pause” only appears when you cherry-pick your end points and focus solely on surface temperatures that under-sample arctic regions, and totally ignore the actions of the world’s oceans, a major heat sink. It’s expected for climate change to come in fits and starts, rather than as a steady one-way trend, just as a road ascending a mountain has level or even short downward stretches.
The key is to look at the wide range of indicators – temperatures at the surface, in the high atmosphere, and in the oceans are a start, but shifts in weather patterns (like floods and drought) are also important, as are the responses of natural species. When you put those together, the picture is quite clear – we are rapidly changing our climate in unpredictable ways by adding more heat-trapping gases to our atmosphere.
It’s ironic that even climate deniers must admit the climate is warming to give the term “pause” any meaning.
This whole politicization of climate change is unique to English-speaking nations; in the rest of the world, the debate between left and right isn’t whether our pollution is changing the climate, but how best to address it. Even here, at the municipal level and among building and infrastructure professions, climate change is a given.
Now is the time for the conversation on climate to shift from debate and despair to determination and solutions. Accept no more fuddle-duddle from our national leaders! This Tuesday, September 16th, you can tune in to “24 Hours of Reality: 24 Reasons for Hope” at www.24HoursofReality.org and learn what is happening to our climate, and the many existing tools we can activate, either individually, as communities, or as a nation. We have the technology, let’s build the will and the movement to use it!
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Reversing the growth in greenhouse gas emissions"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a certified member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.