Why Should I Care About Climate Change?

Joe Stech

June 4, 2017

Note: I first published this post over at compellingsciencefiction.com.

Hi friends, with climate change all over the news lately I've seen a lot of misconceptions (both intentional and unintentional) about global warming. I want to address just one of the grossly disingenuous things I've seen printed in the last few days, and briefly explain why I'm concerned about climate change.

The most frustrating idea that I've encountered is the straw man argument that "the planet is always undergoing warming and cooling periods, and life has always been fine in the past." I want to make one thing perfectly clear: real scientists are not worried that climate change will destroy all life on earth, or that global temperatures don't fluctuate greatly on geologic time scales. The concern is that the rate of warming is drastically higher than anything ever recorded or inferred in the proxy data (NOAA factsheet). The rate is high enough that huge numbers of people could end up dying as result of droughts, heat waves, floods, severe storms, and ecosystem disruptions. It's completely true that we don't know and can't prove how bad things could get for agriculture, industry, and housing, but we've already seen evidence linking extreme weather to climate change (Extreme weather events linked to climate change impact on the jet stream). The US Department of Defense (and many other organizations) has spent a great deal of time and money aggregating conclusions from research on this issue, and acknowledges that it is "clear that climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water" (Congressional Report on National Implications of Climate Change).

What I'm ultimately trying to convey is that even though the planet doesn't care about climate change, human institutions should. The stance that "we don't know how big the problem will be, so we shouldn't take action," is a fantastically dangerous one in this case, and I oppose it.

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