Monday, November 12, 2012

Our changing climate

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, I, along with many others, have been thinking about climate change. I was engaged in a conversation just the other night with a family friend who does not subscribe to the argument that indeed our planet is warming due to increased emissions of CO2. So I asked him, "Why do you choose not to believe in it?" He immediately replied by asking me why I do believe.

I believe for three reasons.

First, I have concern for future generations of humans, wildlife and plants and the overall life of the planet. I do not want us or them or it to become extinct prematurely. Just as I exercise regularly to be sure I live long and prevent premature death, or someone quits smoking cigarettes or another person receives heart bypass surgery to do just the same, I am willing to take action to prevent the premature extinction of our earth and its inhabitants.

Second, I am a scientist. I have read research on global warming and climate change and understand the use of statistical models to predict the future, and based on my read of the decades of evidence, see a potential for truth. In other words, the evidence is strong enough to me that I reject the possibility that the patterns we are observing are happening by chance alone.

Third, I appreciate the argument's ability to raise ecologic consciousness. If I choose to believe that the warming of our climate, rising of sea levels, and melting of ice caps are a result of me and my fellow humans, it makes me very conscious of what I do on a daily basis. What natural resources do I consume, and can I potentially reduce my consumption? How far do products travel to get to me, and can I choose local purveyors to reduce that travel time? This daily self-reflection, I think, is healthy, because it makes me consider things in a broader perspective. It connects me to so many layers and nodes around the globe and empowers me to realize that what I do matters.

My friend's response to my question of why he chooses not to believe can be boiled down to two reasons, unfortunately (mind you, I'm boiling them down): because the solution costs too much and he doesn't like being told what to do. It's a fascinating response, and I wonder if there are other reasons to shrug off the evidence of climate change... in spite of the storm that flooded NY and NJ after years of rising sea levels and a changing jet stream. I am very willing to listen.

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