There’s an old story—which started in the 1970s—still going around about the growing human influence on Earth’s warming climate and the dire consequences that are sure to result from the buildup of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In fact, people, like me, have been writing about it for years.
I don’t mean to put a buzzkill on your holidays. But as we approach the end of yet another year with no significant strides in dealing with the problem, it might be useful to examine why we have failed to take meaningful actions to abate what ultimately will probably turn out to be humanity’s biggest and most important challenge.
In this Age of Us, which scientists are now calling the Anthropocene, Earth’s operating systems are increasingly falling within our sphere of influence. In the years since the first climate change studies, circa 1979, average global temperatures have increased by about one degree Fahrenheit. As a result, the Arctic ice cap has shrunk by nearly half; the subtropics have migrated toward the poles; coastal storms have become more destructive; and in the American West, millions of acres of forests have been killed off by warming-related pest infestations. Just a few months ago, in May 2014, scientists reported that a large segment of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has begun to irreversibly melt, which will eventually raise global sea levels by four feet. Yet decade after decade, we continue to just watch and wait.
According to Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, scientists overwhelmingly agree that our climate is changing, Earth is getting warmer, sea levels are rising, and it’s primarily because of humans putting tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, only 42 percent of Americans believe that “most climate scientists think global warming is happening.”
This blocking out of the facts has resulted in a new field of study called “Cli-Psy.” In the video below, which is a segment from “It’s Okay To Be Smart” from PBS Digital Studios, host Joe Hanson, Ph.D., explains what psychologists and sociologists have found out about why some still refuse to believe in climate science.
As Dr. Hanson says in the video, we humans have a “finite pool of worry, and climate change isn’t allowed in the water.” But with September 2014 being the 355th month in a row that was hotter than the 20th-century average, we may want to unpadlock that pool gate.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,