Facing the facts about climate change

By Isaac Simon

(A.H.M. Zahidur Rahman/Flickr)

There are countries in the world that condemn the denial of undisputed truths. Forwarding a platform based on lies for one’s own personal gain should be reprimanded. There is a case to be made that undisputed scientific knowledge should be treated the same way. It should be against the law to deny the global threats this planet faces by the forces of climate change. Like evolution, or other key events in history that have sparked fierce debate, I feel little need to present public opinion polls that further my own thoughts on this issue. It doesn’t matter whether the population believes it is happening because science is not about one’s belief system. “The good thing about science is that it’s true weather or not you believe in it,” as Neil deGrasse Tyson once put it. There is no consensus that questions the reality of the times in which we live. Like other points in history, whether in this country or others, there have been spirited debates as to why certain things happened the way they did, the forces that lead to the occurrence of certain events, and whether or not the strong men of world history had possessed the clout that historians have given them.

Congress denying facts is nothing new. As of February 2015, 56 percent of Congressional Republicans denied that climate change was taking place. Of the 50 states, only   eight had no congresspeople who denied climate change. Such opinions can be explained by the more than $60 million the 114th Congress received in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Given that all but seven states in the great 48 are home to elected officials who deny the existence of climate change, over 300 million people have been affected by more than “500 climate related disaster declarations since 2011.”

Facts don’t care about your feelings, but that doesn’t mean that people care about facts. The election of Donald Trump, someone who believes that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese, is a testament to this. The furthering of lies and misinformation perpetuated by the current administration has been continued by Scott Pruitt, the current head of the Environmental Protection Agency. In March, Pruitt spoke about his doubts with regards to the effects carbon emissions have on global warming. Pruitt said, “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so, no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see” during an appearance on CNBC. He went on to add, “We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.” Pruitt, taking advice from Trump, has put plans in place to cut 31 percent of the EPA’s current budget, more than any other agency of government for the 2018 fiscal year.

With the current administration ignoring the facts on climate change, the United States faces an uphill battle when it comes to adhering to the Paris Accords signed by the US along with 194 other nations in 2015. The level of carbon in the atmosphere is at its highest in over 600,000 years. Since scientists began keeping records of changes in global temperature in 1880, of the 10 warmest years on record, nine of them have taken place in the 21st century.

Although there are no plans to make the denial of climate change illegal, it is worth noting that cities all over the country have implemented laws against littering and smoking in public places. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, smoking was banned in bars and public parks in New York City. New Yorkers can also be fined for littering. It is worth asking why these laws are in place. Is it because New York City is strapped for cash and needs more revenue? Maybe Bloomberg wants the city to look better and the most effective way to go about it is to control where people put their trash and how they harm their bodies. He did it for the public good. Everyone benefits from clean streets and clean air, so a healthy environment is a public good.

During his lecture at the Mullins Center this past Thursday, Noam Chomsky raised the question several times of whether it’s better for us to be smart or stupid. The answer was far from simple. On the issue of climate change, as Chomsky continued to spell out the doomsday scenario that our world is all too close to experiencing, he outlined how the United States, much to the amazement of the rest of the world, has continued to stand alone in the face of facts. We have chosen to exploit the planet for the profit motive while having total disregard for the planet we inhabit and exploit in the process. It is incumbent upon the average citizen to take note of the 170 congresspeople who insist on having an elementary understanding of facts about this issue.

A global citizenry must unite against the destruction of the planet. If people want to live in a world where they can continue to value what’s important to them, then they are going to need land, clean air and hospitable temperatures in order to be able to do so. That can only happen when we decide to be smart instead of stupid and put fact over fiction.

Isaac Simon is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]