Ron Colone: On the subject of all those scars

RON COLONE

For those who claim that there is [still] some level of disagreement among the scientific community as to whether climate change is “real” or not, and whether it’s been caused by humans, I direct you to a survey conducted and compiled by researchers at Cornell University, which looked at 88,125 peer-reviewed studies published between 2012 and 2020.

Only 28 of those papers (0.03%) expressed any skepticism about climate change and the role of humans. Those few skeptics attributed the changes we’ve observed in temperatures, sea levels, polar ice caps, extreme weather events and increased ocean acidity to things like solar flares, cosmic rays and natural cycles. Meanwhile, 99.97% of the 88,125 studies agree that the Earth is heating up and that humans are the cause of it.

Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus, 18% of Americans continue to reject the proposition that climate change caused by humans is occurring, and they remain dismissive of the existential health threats — I think, because they don’t make a direct connection to their everyday lives.

For instance, you can tell people that pollution contributes to the collapse of insect populations, but unless they realize that losing those bugs has a profound negative impact on food production and that, production aside, higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air stimulate higher carbohydrate production and significantly lower the protein levels in many widely consumed crops, then they might not comprehend that the reason half the world is starving and the other half is obese has something to do with the insects.

If they don’t understand that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere depletes calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc and other minerals from the crops, and decreases plant demand for water — resulting in fewer nutrients in the produce found on their grocery store shelves — then they might not understand why they feel so tired and weak, and why they get sick and have to take so many medications.

The No. 1 thing we can do to slow the effects of climate change is to transition away from fossil fuels, just like we transitioned from wood to coal to oil to nuclear and natural gas.

The most rapid period of energy transition occurred in the 1970s, when OPEC (code for those dreaded Arab countries) suddenly shut off the supply of oil to the U.S. and other industrialized nations. Faced with long lines and rising prices at the gas pump, and an uncomfortable sense of vulnerability, Americans decided to take action.

We united behind the call for energy independence. We cooperated with federal mandates that asked us to conserve energy and control emissions. And we changed all sorts of habits and behaviors, including turning off the lights, dialing down the thermostats, driving slower, and carpooling back and forth to work and school.

Now, the cause is even greater, but the effort, the will and the willingness to cooperate is less. Climatologists, oceanographers, astrophysicists, geophysicists, engineers, meteorologists, marine biologists, paleontologists and biochemists all tell us that if we are to stave off the effects of climate change, we need to transition to renewable energy at an even more rapid rate than we did in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, right now, we’re going slower than that, even while everything else in the world is going faster.

It’s no wonder when you consider that in our current (117th) U.S. Congress, 30 U.S. senators and 111 members of the House (all from one political party, I might add) have come out as climate-deniers. (I wonder if the $62 million they got from the oil companies, in campaign contributions, might have anything to do with that?)

With these people steering the policies, how are we going to make the needed changes in the time we have, and what does it mean, really, if we don’t?

All I know is that when we talk about an existential threat, we’re talking about national security and overall human welfare … and those things should not be a matter of political agenda, or editorial or programming philosophies.

Ron Colone can be reached at ron.colone@gmail.com

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