August tied July as the hottest month on record, according to NASA data released this past week. This year we’ve seen half a dozen thousand-year floods, along with epic droughts. Mother Nature is telling us there’s a problem. The long-term trend lines are clear. Scientists around the globe are in agreement. Yet we have a Republican presidential nominee who has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax.” “Perhaps there’s a minor effect, but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change,” says da trumpeter.
I cannot possibly explore all the scientific evidence that climate change exists, nor all the effects in a single blog post, nor even a series of posts. There is much reliable information at hand with just a few clicks of the mouse button, so you do not need me, the person who actually flunked biology in high school (probably mainly because I refused to dissect any critter and hung out in the bathroom smoking instead of attending class) to explain climate change to you. What I do want to accomplish with this post, however, is bring to the reader’s attention three groups of people: those who are going the extra mile to help educate and make a difference, those who are doing everything they can to hinder the efforts of the first group, and those who simply refuse to see or acknowledge what is right in front of their eyes.
National Geographic has the best website I have seen yet with more valuable information than a person could peruse in a day, and in terms that those of us who are not science nerds can understand. Please take a few minutes, at least, to check it out here. That is not all they are doing, however. Beginning October 30th, National Geographic Channel will air a documentary series, Years of Living Dangerously in eight episodes. This will actually be “Season 2”, Season 1 having aired on Showtime in 2014. The series will feature such hosts as Thomas Friedman, Don Cheadle, David Letterman, Sigourney Weaver, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It will focus on exploring the effects of rising sea levels, historic droughts and the rapidly increasing extinction rate of species, but also on solutions that individuals, communities, companies and even governments can use to address worldwide climate change. It should be “required watching” for everyone over the age of twelve! Two thumbs up to the producers of this series, and to National Geographic!
Other organizations that are going above and beyond to promote awareness and be part of the solution:
- 350.org founded by environmental activist Bill McKibben with the goal of uniting climate activists into a movement. Activists in 189 countries have organized 350.org’s local climate-focused campaigns, projects and actions. In India, for example, organizers have mobilized people to speak out against the country’s dependence on coal for growth. In the US, the group has campaigned to divest public institutions — such as municipalities and universities — from the fossil fuel industry, and to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
- Sierra Club, founded in 1892 by conservationist, naturalist and explorer John Muir, for years promoted the appreciation and stewardship of the outdoors but steered clear of civil disobedience. A change came last year when, in the face of increasingly dire warnings from climate scientists, the group’s executive director, Michael Brune, and then-president, Allison Chin, were arrested — with about 50 others, including McKibben — outside the White House protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. “This particular project — the Keystone XL pipeline — is so horrendous, it’s so wrong … [it] would guarantee that we’re locked into the most carbon-intensive fuel source on the planet for the next half-century.”
- Greenpeace was founded in 1971 with the goal of opposing nuclear testing, but in recent years has shifted its focus to confronting climate change. Their strategy is direct action with an international focus, and last year, 30 people who were aboard the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise drew international attention when they were detained by authorities after a demonstration at a Russian drilling rig in the Arctic. The activists sought to highlight the exploitation of the fragile Arctic environment for fossil fuel extraction.
- Idle No More, a group of mostly Canadian Native North Americans, came into existence in October 2012, when Canada’s conservative prime minister Stephen Harper pushed a law, known as C-45, through parliament that rolled back both environmental protections and indigenous peoples’ sovereignty in order to make the country’s tar sands, and the crude oil that could be extracted from them, more easily exploitable.
- Union of Concerned Scientists is responsible for groundbreaking research on sustainability standards for vehicles and the disastrous effects of climate change. “Traditionally there have been two types of science: basic and applied. UCS has added a third category to the canon: engaged science,” the group’s website says. “Since its beginning, UCS has followed the example set by scientists: We share information, seek the truth, and let our findings guide our conclusions.”
This is just a handful of the many organizations that are doing good work in the area of climate change, and I wish I could list them all, but I cannot! In just a minute I will tackle the naysayers, but first, there is an even more disturbing group of corporations here in the U.S. that are talking out of both sides of their mouths, so to speak. These are U.S. companies that, while claiming to fervently support President Obama’s climate change initiatives, are actually funding the lawmakers who are skeptics and naysayers, who are blocking legislation to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and other measures. This, friends, is unconscionable! Among the biggest companies known to be engaging in this process are Pepsi, DuPont, Google, AT&T, and Verizon. There are over 130 legislators, mostly Republicans, who are receiving donations from these companies. Again, I cannot list them all, but two prime examples are Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, an energy advisor to presidential candidate Donald Trump who once argued the Earth was cooling not warming, and Republican U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who last year held up a snowball on the Senate floor as evidence global warming does not exist.
Now we come to the deniers, those who blindly close their eyes and ears to all the evidence that scientists have been presenting for years. This year, especially, it must be difficult for these deniers to keep their small heads buried in the sand as they sweat and struggle to breathe! There are a number of individuals and organizations that actively encourage people to deny the existence of climate change, among them:
- Steve Milloy – “We don’t agree . . . that man-made emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases are having either detectable or predictable effects on climate.”
- Fred Singer – “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. On the contrary, it makes crops and forests grow faster.”
- Marc Morano – Climate scientists “deserve to be publicly flogged.”
- Joe Barton – “The science is not settled, and the science is actually going the other way. . . . We may in fact be going into a cooling period.”
- Sarah Palin – “Climate science is to this century what eugenics was to the last century.”
- Rupert Murdoch – “Climate change has been going on as long as the planet is here. There will always be a little bit of it. We can’t stop it.”
- David and Charles Koch – “Climate does fluctuate. It goes from hot to cold. We have ice ages.”
- Bjorn Lomborg – “On average, global warming is not going to harm the developing world.”
Some of these people outright refute the scientific evidence, while others either minimize it or claim the effects will be minimal and therefore not to worry. Why? Why do otherwise reasonably intelligent people turn a blind eye when it comes to climate change? Because, my friends, to admit it, to own it, means that we can no longer continue as we have been, burning fossil fuels, building ever bigger factories that belch contaminants into the atmosphere with no regard for anything beyond profit. And the individuals who listen to the deniers are comforted to think that it is okay for them to continue to drive their jumbo SUVs, to keep their furnaces running 24/7 in the winter, and their air-conditioning in the summer. They can continue to live exactly as they have without regard for the long-term effects. It is simply easier, more comfortable.
To be sure, climate change is a global issue affecting every nation on earth. The scope of this post is narrow, and I do plan to address other aspects in future posts, but for today I just wanted to bring into the spotlight some people and organizations that are doing the right thing, as well as those who are keeping us from taking the steps we need to take. Two thumbs up to those who are doing the good work and getting the word out, and a big raspberry to those who are too blind, stupid, lazy or greedy to take care of our planet!
Just this week, there was a pipeline leak in Alabama, with more than 250,000 gallons of oil spilled, and the main focus of every single news story was that it could mean a temporary increase in the price of fuel at the pump! Little or nothing about any possible damage to the environment. Is this all people care about?
This month, climate scientist Michael E. Mann and the Pulitzer Prize–winning political cartoonist Tom Toles published a new book, The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy that I highly recommend. I apologize for the lengthiness of this post (in fact, I trimmed it from 2,200 words to just over 1,500!!!), but this issue is too important to ignore. Tomorrow I will be looking at Hillary Clinton’s platform on climate change, so please stay tuned!