Many theories are commonly accepted by the public. The theory of gravity, for example, is a theory that I hope everyone knows is true and is not willing to test out. However, other theories, like global warming, seem to be a point of contention. People often think that putting the word “theory” in front of something is indicative of some sort of speculation or potential margin of error. There is a consensus among scientists that human activities are altering the earth’s climate, so why is it that many Americans deny the reality of global warming? Perhaps they are sheltering themselves from the guilt that our lifestyles actually have a damaging effect on the world.
First, we should start off with what global warming actually is, for there are many common misconceptions. Global warming is caused by rising levels of greenhouse gases and is a very gradual process. Greenhouse gases absorb infrared radiation (heat) that is emitted due to human activities (National Academy of the Sciences). This trapping of heat increased drastically at the start of the Industrial Revolution, when more and more gases were necessary to fuel our economies. Since the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric CO2 has increased by over 40%, with over 20% being only since the 1970’s. The general statistic proposed by climate scientists is that the average temperature of the earth has risen between about 0.4 and 0.8°c over the past 100 years (livescience, 2016). Through the burning of fossil fuels, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are causing this increase in temperature. This 0.4-0.8°c temperature change sounds like nothing to us, but the implications of this change are much greater than you might imagine. Scientists estimate that the average global temperature could increase between 1.4-5.8 °C by the year 2100 and just limiting global warming to 1.5 °C could help save tropical reefs, restrain water scarcity in the Mediterranean, shorten heat waves, and allow for greater agricultural surpluses (National Geographic, 2016).
Some people see global warming as nonthreatening because we won’t live to see its effects. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Scientists project that the detrimental effects of global warming will be seen as early as 2050 (Independent, 2016). During a meeting at the Paris Climate Summit, world leaders agreed to attempt to limit global warming to roughly 1.5°C due to the unknown effects of what temperature changes past this number may result in. Now less than a year later, we are already at 1°C. There has been a 0.15°C rise in just three years, which is a testament to how rapidly we are burning fossil fuels and how industry is continuously expanding. This temperature change will result in storms, wildfires, droughts, and floods- all threatening agriculture and various species in our ecosystem. The 1.5°C projection is clearly an oversight, and even if all participating countries successfully went through with their promises to prevent climate change, the average temperature is inevitably set to reach 1.5°C in the early 2030’s. The fact of the matter is, there is no reversing climate change. Once damage is done, there is no going back. Our concern is seeing if we can possibly delay our inevitable fate in order to limit the fatal effects of climate change.
Global warming conspirators often propose the argument that CO2 is naturally in our atmosphere, so how could CO2 emissions damage the climate? While it is true that CO2 is naturally in the atmosphere, the concentration of CO2 is drastically higher than it was in comparison to the 19th century, before rapid industry occurred (National Academy of the Sciences). Through the observation that the high levels of carbon in our atmosphere are those of the isotopes 14C and 13C, it is seen that this increased percentage is due to the combustion of fossil fuels. Through burning these fuels and deforestation, we are disturbing the natural carbon cycle of the environment. The natural rate at which our environment regulates excess carbon is incomparable to how quickly we are burning these fuels.
If there are copious amounts of data to back up global warming, then why is there a conspiracy? That is simply because of the politics involved in global warming. Political corruption and government funding for specific research projects in order to produce results in their favor have lead to misleading data (Forbes,2011). A quick google search of “global warming conspiracy” leads to unreliable and untrustworthy sources. One of the first works to come up is a novel titled, “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future,” with the description: “Americans are over-regulated and over-taxed. When regulation escalates, the result is an increase in regulators. In other words, bigger government is required to enforce the greater degree of regulation. Bigger government means bigger budgets and higher taxes. More simply doesn’t mean better. A perfect example is the entire global warming, climate-change issue, which is an effort to dramatically and hugely increase regulation of each of our lives and business, and to raise our cost of living and taxes. In ‘The Greatest Hoax’, Senator James Inhofe will reveal the reasons behind those perpetuating the Hoax of global warming, who is benefiting from the general acceptance of the Hoax and why the premise statements are blatantly and categorically false.” This description is the epitome of why people choose to deny the reality of global warming. Recognizing the effects of industrialization on the climate and attempting to address this problem evidently means limiting industry. And once it affects the wallets of these individuals, the debate begins to take full form. However, it is important to note, that this book was written by a senator. This further proves the point of who would decide to have this bias and why it would favor them. This is not a scientific book but, rather, a political agenda. A quick search of Senator Inhofe on opensecrets.org reveals that his campaign is financed by over 1 million dollars from oil and gas companies. Now, I wonder why someone whose entire career is possible due to oil and gas companies would want to release a novel claiming global warming is a hoax? While this novel is riddled with falsities and biases, it would make a great addition to the horror novels seminar here at OHS. And this novel is only one of the many works that projects the idea that global warming is a hoax. Works such as this manipulate individuals who don’t know enough scientific background to agree with their ridiculous assumptions because of the benefit disputing these theories will have towards their selfish causes.
We can try to deny the realities of global warming all we want, but the evidence of climate change is in our backyards. Sea levels are rising, polar ice caps are melting, wildfires are making appearances, species are dying out, floods, droughts, and storms are taking full form, and we can see it with our own eyes. The longer we waste time denying we have a problem, the more time we waste in not finding renewable sources of energy, the sooner we’ll witness the fatal effects of our overheated world.