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Climate Change is Real

by Janet Lawson

It was five years ago that my husband and I saw Bill McKibben speak before a packed church in Concord and decided that we had better start doing something about climate change. In the years since, our conviction that climate change is an urgent crisis has only grown stronger. Just consider the recent rains in Colorado that even the National Weather Service has called “biblical.”

But, perhaps you aren’t yet convinced that climate change is real and that fossil fuels are the cause. Indeed, most of society behaves as if they don’t believe we actually have a problem. If this is true of you, let me start with four words– National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a nonprofit society of the country’s most respected scientists. Established by President Lincoln in 1863, the National Academy has the specific mission of providing advice to the government on matters of science. According to the NAS, in a 2009 joint statement with the National Academies of Canada, Russia, China, Brazil, India, Mexico, UK, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and South Africa, “the need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable.” And, in fact, there are no national or major scientific bodies anywhere in the world that dispute the theory of human caused global warming. Not one.

Or you could look to a survey of scientific papers related to climate change and see what the consensus is of scientists actually publishing in the field. This has been done several times for climate papers published in the last two decades and each time, over 97 percent of publishing climate scientists agreed that the Earth is getting warmer and that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the cause.

If the extent of the consensus itself makes you suspicious, if it suggests some kind of orthodoxy, or even some kind of conspiracy, as some have charged, then you should heed the conclusions of Richard Muller, a renowned physicist and long-time climate skeptic, who recently conducted a thorough and independent review of the evidence and methods of climatology. His conclusion, after analyzing more than 1.6 billion temperature readings from around the world and dating back to the 1800’s, is: “global warming is real…(and) humans are almost entirely the cause.”

The most obvious reason for the strong scientific consensus is that the evidence supports the theory. Advanced climate science may be very complex but basic climate science is simple. First, CO2 is a proven greenhouse gas and adding a lot more is like putting a blanket on the Earth. Second, we’ve been drilling, baby, drilling for over a century and have added more than a million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. Third, measurements show that atmospheric CO2 is, in fact, 42 percent higher than it was in pre-industrial times. (It may be invisible, but it’s there, and it will take hundreds of years to dissipate.) Finally, global average temperatures have been rising, about 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit since pre-industrial days. Along with this we are observing rising sea levels, melting ice, and changing weather patterns. This evidence supports the obvious conclusion: Climate change is real and we humans are causing it.

So now what? Every generation has its challenge and climate change is ours. If you want to help, please join us on Friday, Oct. 25, 7:30 pm at First Parish Church. Craig Altemose, Executive Director of The Better Future Project, will speak on “The Climate Crisis: Why Only A Movement Will Save Us”. I hope I will see you there.

Janet Lawson is a member of the Trinitarian Congregational Church Social Action Committee and the ConcordCAN! Steering Committee .