Using Common Sense to Understand Climate Change

If you’ve ever watched TLC or The Discovery Channel you’ve probably seen at least one show about the history of our planet. You would know there have been multiple Ice Ages, intermixed with warming periods. The warming periods support life, and life flourishes during these periods. The most recent warming period started 14,000 years ago and is still going. This is our time; the time of humans.

If you think about life on earth before we humans arrived on the scene, you can imagine an atmosphere which is undisturbed by pollutants from man’s activity. There is a balance of chemicals in the atmosphere that allow all manner of life to emerge and thrive. As humans populate the planet, we begin tearing down hundreds of thousands of acres of forest. We dump an untold tonnage of waste and toxic chemicals into our oceans and rivers. We build factories that spew toxic chemicals into the air. We put millions of cars and trucks on the asphalt roads we’ve built, and they spew the reside of burning petroleum into the air, 24 hours a day. You don’t need a scientific degree of any kind to understand that none of that existed in Earth’s atmosphere prior to the emergence of humans on the planet.

Scientists and climatologists who study our Earth have shown us the warming trends in Earth’s temperatures. They have also shown us that the warmest 10 year period since records have been kept have occurred in the last 15 years.

Now you can say this is just part of the normal cycle of Earth’s temperature changes and I would say, sure, that makes sense. After all, we agreed back in the first paragraph that the Earth’s history of climate change is pretty extreme. But common sense would tell us that it’s at least possible that all the unnatural things that have occurred to Earth’s atmosphere and its oceans from man’s activity might have some impact. After all, that’s what our scientists are telling us:

  1. An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system (The global average surface temperature has increased over the 20th century by about 0.6 °C; Temperatures have risen during the past four decades in the lowest 8 kilometers of the atmosphere; Snow cover and ice extent have decreased).
  2. Emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols due to human activities continue to alter the atmosphere in ways that are expected to affect the climate (Anthropogenic aerosols are short-lived and mostly produce negative radiative forcing; Natural factors have made small contributions to radiative forcing over the past century).
  3. There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the past 50 years is attributable to human activities.
  4. Human influences will continue to change atmospheric composition throughout the 21st century.
  5. Global average temperature and sea level are projected to rise under all IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios.

So now we come to the crux of the matter; the acceptance or denial of this premise. Personally, in the face of this rather overwhelming body of scientific evidence combined with some basic common sense, I’m fairly certain the activity of human beings has had enough of an impact on the natural state of affairs as to have some affect. The question I think we should ask ourselves is “am I being skeptical or am I in denial?” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being skeptical. In fact I am quite skeptical myself. But denial is a horse of a different color. Studies have shown that humans are rather prone to denial. It’s threatening to our psyche to admit we’re wrong, to absorb information that is contrary to how we feel about something and actually change our beliefs. In fact, many times when presented with facts that are contrary to our beliefs, we buckle down and believe our own information even more strongly. Ask yourself if this has ever happened to you. Go ahead, it’s okay. I know it’s happened to me. But facts are stubborn things; they won’t go away.

So we sit here with some basic facts:

  • Humans have changed the natural Earth.
  • Data shows us the Earth’s climate is changing, and that change is a general warming.
  • The trend is likely to continue as man’s activities are likely to continue and our population is ever-expanding.

So you can use a little common sense to have a basic understanding of what’s going on, or you can choose to deny it.

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