Hurricane Sandy pelted the eastern seaboard with high winds, devastating storm surges, fallen power lines, billions in damages and a death toll over 60. The cover of Business Week is rather blunt in its position: "It's Called Global Warming, Stupid." The article goes on to state that it would be irresponsible to causally link any one given storm to climate change, while nevertheless pointing out that this storm, and others like it, have become ever more frequent and greater in scope, on account of climate change.
And yet climate change deniers and detractors will try to argue this is an isolated incident, whilst ignoring the reality surrounding them: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydroflourocarbons (HFCs), and other compounds all contribute to the warming of our planet via the greenhouse effect. Hurricane Irene last summer was also considered to be an unprecedented event, (it was commonly referred to as a hundred year storm, signifying its rarity), there have been a record number of droughts world wide, resulting in an increase in global food prices, and extreme heat waves have now become the unfortunate norm.
When I was growing up being conscientious of the environment was more or less apolitical. Captain Planet was a popular cartoon, and even the heroes in a half shell used to take the time to advise children on how to be a friend to our planet.
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During the 1980s, the depletion of the ozone layer was seen as a serious threat to mankind, and people took note. Similar to climate change, the destruction of the ozone layer was caused by the anthropogenic increase of compounds in the atmosphere, and like many greenhouse gases, these ozone-depleting substances also exist naturally in the atmosphere (specifically chlorine and bromine), but it was the increasing concentrations of these compounds that disrupted the natural balance. Yet unlike greenhouse gases, ozone-depleting substances have dramatically decreased in use and production in industrialized countries since 1980. This was because of an aggressive and concerted effort to do so, as evidenced by both the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the subsequent Montreal Protocol.
So, why do we have such a problem with admitting to ourselves that climate change is real and it's here? A rather ugly answer is that as a society, we are becoming increasingly afflicted with a phobia of sorts when it comes to science. America is arguably one of the greatest countries in the world, and yet it is progressively lagging when it comes to accepting scientific facts -- all under the premise of religion. Climate change deniers and detractors may very well cite the economy to support their view, but the truth is, economically, we can no longer afford (pun intended) to ignore climate change. It literally costs over a trillion dollars.
So there must be something else, and I would argue that something is religion, specifically, the rise of a rather dangerous breed of dogmatic Christianity. After all, you can take your pick from an onslaught of GOP members who have either questioned evolution, biology, or climate change and have all cited their belief in God as justification.
Rep. Paul Broun, a physician who sits on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, recently stated:
"God's word is true. I've come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. It's lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior. There's a lot of scientific data that I found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I believe that the Earth is about 9,000 years old. I believe that it was created in six days as we know them. That's what the Bible says. And what I've come to learn is that it's the manufacturer's handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually. How to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all our public policy and everything in society. And that's the reason, as your congressman, I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I'll continue to do that."
If Rep. Broun truly believes what he is saying, and I believe he does, then there is no reason why denying climate change would be unwarranted. Yet the scientific reality is that oceans are becoming increasingly desalinated, sea levels are rising and sea surface temperatures are warmer all due to record melting of Arctic sea ice. Ask any child what causes ice to melt and they will invariably answer heat. Funny how we can't get our politicians to retort in the same way.