We need to take aim at those who
are environmentally indifferent and hit them with an effective call to action.
If climate advocacy is to succeed, we must do more than regurgitate the same tired rhetoric,
we must work on a targeted message
that encourages action. While a growing number of people accept the facts
about our environment, inaction threatens the survival of our species. Time is
running out, and unless we can find a way to get through to those who refuse to
act, we will not make the needed changes in the time we have available.
It is easy to understand why many
laugh at the Luddites who ignore climate change. However, this group is no
laughing matter; they are in fact a serious threat to planetary health. Deniers
are in the way of efforts to enact progressive national and state policies on
energy and the environment.
In April, 2012, the Yale
Project on Climate Change Communication released a poll indicating a solid
majority of the U.S.
public feels that global warming is real. While almost 70 percent of U.S. citizens
accept the fact that the climate is warming, there are almost 90 million
Americans who do not.
According to a study published in
the spring 2011 edition of the Sociological Quarterly, the vast
majority of Democrats accept the science of climate change, while more
than half of Republicans deny its existence. The pernicious
ignorance of deniers threatens life on this planet and as reviewed by a
study, the gap on climate is more of a partisan issue now than ever
The data is irrefutable, even
scientists who started out as climate change skeptics are being compelled to
accept the overwhelming body of evidence. This includes people like Richard
Muller, a physicist and global warming skeptic.
has been a consistent flow of data supporting the existence of global warming.
For more than three decades there have been reports warning us about climate
change. In 1980 we saw evidence for global warming coming from scientists who
were studying Greenland’s
buried ice. In 1988, NASA climatologist James Hansen appeared before a U.S.
Senate committee to warn us about climate change. In 1997, the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change report indicated that global warming is
“unequivocal”, and is “very likely” due to human activities. In 2007 a Nobel
Prize winning group of climate scientists released a report that said that
extreme weather is just getting started. In 2009 the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explicitly linked climate change
to CO2. In 2011, the Department of Energy said that greenhouse
gas (GHG) levels have actually surpassed the worst-case scenario set by
climate experts. and NASA has shown that there are measurable increases
in global temperatures and decreases in sea ice.
At the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992,
the concentration of CO2 was at 360
parts per million (ppm). Since then, it has risen to 400
ppm in the Arctic and that number is continuing to grow with no end in
To combat the growing body of
research, the fossil-fuel industry invests millions of dollars into
disinformation campaigns that try to undermine the science of climate
change. They also bribe their Republican allies to board the denial train. Now
there are a plethora of pseudo-scientific groups, think-tanks and others that
help to perpetuate doubt.
In the U.S.,
the failure of environmentally oriented legislation, the rejection of Kyoto and resistance to
binding international climate agreements is attributable to these powerful
lobbying efforts. As these initiatives fail, emissions keep increasing and the
global climate keeps getting warmer.
Republicans are now the world
heavyweight champions of denial. Climate denial is now sewn into
the DNA of the GOP. Republican propaganda casts the science of
climate change into the tired old narrative that all government is bad.
As recently as the 2008, Republican
Presidential candidates accepted the science of global warming and advocated
efforts to address it. Senator John McCain had even co-sponsored one of the
first congressional bills to create a carbon cap-and-trade system. Mitt Romney,
the 2012 GOP nominee, supported a regional cap-and-trade program while he was
governor of Massachusetts.
Now Republicans dismiss the science of climate change and their passionate
partisan efforts have succeeded in blocking domestic legislation on energy and
Republican confusion is dangerous,
it threatens our very survival. As such, engaging Republican supporters must be
a priority. While there are many who are so entrenched, they will refuse any
reasonable discussion, there are others who will respond to reason. These
individuals must be the focus of environmental advocacy.
We cannot wait if we are to avoid
runaway global warming. If we surpass key tipping points, there will be no
turning back; the planet will pass critical thresholds which will have
irreversible long-term consequences.
According to research published in
the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, there are nine
possible tipping points:
Indian summer monsoon, which is needed to sustain crops
Sahara and Sahel in Africa could change
Amazon rainforest could dieback significantly
Boreal Forest could die back
Atlantic thermohaline circulation
Nino Southern Oscillation
The Greenland ice sheet
West Antarctic ice sheet
As opposed to the gradual,
long-term warming trend we are seeing, tipping points could accelerate or
change the effects already being perceived. The timeframes suggested by
these researchers indicate it may come quicker than previously believed.
“Society must not be lulled into a
false sense of security by smooth projections of global change,” said Tim
Lenton of the University
of East Anglia, and lead
author of the research. “Our findings suggest that a variety of tipping
elements could reach their critical point within this century under
human-induced climate change. The greatest threats are tipping of the Arctic
sea-ice and the Greenland ice sheet, and at
least five other elements could surprise us by exhibiting a nearby tipping
According to a new study, we are
on the verge of an imminent, irreversible ecosystem collapse. This
research indicates that the planet’s ecosystems could quickly and
irreversibly breakdown this century. These conclusions were arrived
at by scientists using a combination of scientific theories, ecosystem modeling
and paleontological evidence.
As reviewed in SFU
News Online, a team of 18 scientists reviewed the Earth’s
worsening trends in biodiversity and extreme weather. Researchers factored
these elements in the context of the Earth’s interconnected ecosystems and
presented their results in a recent Nature article.
As stated by one of the study’s
authors, “once a threshold-induced planetary state-shift occurs, there’s no
going back. So, if a system switches to a new state because you’ve added lots
of energy, even if you take out the new energy, it won’t revert back to the old
system. The planet doesn’t have any memory of the old state…In a nutshell,
humans have not done anything really important to stave off the worst because
the social structures for doing something just aren’t there. My colleagues who
study climate-induced changes through the Earth’s history are more than pretty
worried. In fact, some are terrified.”
Deniers are a minority, but there
are powerful interests keeping their lies alive. It is important to reach
deniers because these people are preventing us from adopting the policies we
need to see to stave off tipping points in our immediate future.
Even those who accept the science
of climate change need to be encouraged to do something about it. We need
to build support for actions that reduce CO2 and other GHGs and this
involves reaching out to both Republicans and Democrats.
As we ebb ever closer to the 2012
U.S. Presidential elections, voters need to understand that Obama and the
Democrats are more likely to support energy and climate legislation, while the
Republicans are a fossil-fuel-powered denial machine. However, even
Republican candidates will respond if there is enough popular pressure. Unless
a critical mass accepts the facts and is prepared to vote for change, we will
not be able to avert a tipping point.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
said, “How long? Not long.” At some point it will become painfully obvious even
to those who have their heads in the sand. The day will come when no candidate
who denies global warming will be electable.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for
those who advocate on behalf of the environment is to remain hopeful
in light of increasingly dire scientific warnings. We must cultivate the
audacity to believe that we can step back from the precipice because
without hope, there will be no action.
The industrial revolution took 200
years; the sustainability revolution will need to take a tenth of that time.
The clock is ticking, which is why we need approaches that engage those who
cannot see as well as those who see and do not act.
Source: Global Warming is Real
Crafting a Positive Environmental Narrative
Pessimism is Impeding Environmental Advocacy
Why We Need to Reach American Climate Change Deniers
A New Study Indicates We Are Reaching a Tipping Point
Environmental Tipping Points