Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

We believe in solar eclipses, why not climate change?

(Joe Brusky/Flickr)

On August 21, 2017, people all over the United States, including me, stared at the sun (with eye protection). Why? Because there was a solar eclipse, an event that had not happened across the entire contiguous United States since 1979 and will not happen again until 2024, when an eclipse passes from Texas to Maine. It was a spectacular occasion. But as Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted on August 10, “Odd. No one is in denial of America’s Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. Like Climate Change, methods & tools of science predict it.” So why does everybody buy into the eclipse, but not climate change?

If people deny that the climate is changing due to human factors, it should not be because of a lack of data to support climate change. For example, data taken from ice cores drilled from Lake Vostok in Antarctica shows that carbon dioxide, methane, and global temperature levels all trend together, suggesting a correlation between greenhouse gases and temperature. The ice core data stretches from over 450,000 years ago up until the present, and past fluctuations in global temperature are present in the data. Before the Industrial Revolution, Earth’s global temperature was near its warmest, meaning that its global temperature should slowly begin to fall over time.

However, the opposite is true. Last year was the warmest year on record, and carbon dioxide levels are higher than they have been in hundreds of thousands of years. This is backed up by increasing land and sea temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, as shown by data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In their press release from 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted, “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” The evidence suggests that the Earth’s climate is changing, and that humans are causing the problem.

Still, many Americans do not buy into the data. In the United States, only 48 percent of Americans believe the climate is changing due to human activity, while another 31 percent believe it is changing but due to natural climate patterns, according to a Pew study from 2016. Other data from the same study is even more concerning, showing that only 33 percent of Americans believe climate scientists understand “very well” whether climate change is occurring, and 28 percent feel climate scientists understand the causes of climate change. Only 39 percent trust climate scientists. And yet, over 97 percent of published climate scientists have come to believe that climate change is caused by human activities, as shown in a 2016 study led by John Cook, and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. There is a disconnect between what many Americans believe about climate change and the conclusions reached by the experts. Many Americans do not trust climate scientists.

So why do so many people feel they know more than scientists? There are a few reasons. First, many people who do not believe in climate change cite that they do not notice any change in the weather around them. In fact, 33 percent of deniers make this argument, as a study from 2014 by the Public Religion Research Institute and the American Academy of Religion found. The next most popular answer from that study was that the “temperature varies naturally,” and after that was the claim that there is conflicting scientific evidence.  Potentially surprising is that that same study also found that education level did not influence whether someone supports or denies climate change.

The evidence points to the conclusion that climate change is real and human-caused. A slight majority of Americans believe otherwise, not necessarily because people reject science as a whole, but because they disregard the research of climate scientists.  If they do not believe in climate change for that reason, it is most likely because of a lack of understanding of the scientific evidence. Still, that does not mean that the problem is any less real than a solar eclipse.

Joe Frank is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • T

    travinkSep 7, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    Seriously, that is the link that convinced you? Just wow.

  • N

    NitzakhonSep 7, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Here’s why I NO LONGER believe in man-made climate change.

  • J

    JoeBeanSep 7, 2017 at 7:43 am

    Its all about money and power, not science