My local newspaper in Evansville, Indiana, recently published two letters on the editorial page denying that climate change is caused by human activity. After those letters ran, a friend of mine found herself in a discussion with a woman who said there are respected scientists on “both sides” of the issue – using the letters she’d read in the Evansville Courier & Press to back up her argument.
Evansville isn’t the only place this phony “debate” is being carried on in the editorial pages. And knowing the stakes, it’s frustrating to continue to see column space devoted to denying the reality of climate change.
We just don’t have time for this nonsense anymore.
The Los Angeles Times announced last fall that it would no longer print letters claiming that humans are not causing climate change. Editor Paul Thornton wrote, “I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published. Saying ‘there’s no sign humans have caused climate change’ is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”
In a yet-to-be-published letter to the Courier & Press, I asked their editors to consider the same. To paraphrase the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), “You’re entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts.”
Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, said the recently-released UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report – a seven-year effort based on more than 12,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies – is “the most solid evidence you can get in any scientific discipline.”
The report states: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, human influence on the climate system is clear, and limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.”
As each year passes, the chance of avoiding those consequences grows more remote. Climate change is already having “widespread and consequential” effects on the world, according to the IPCC, and even if we begin to reduce emissions now, we’ll continue to suffer the effects.
Thomas Stocker, a co-chair of an IPCC working group, said, “As a result of our past, present and expected future emissions of CO2, we are committed to climate change, and effects will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 stop.”
In March, I had the opportunity to meet with Gina McCarthy, administrator of the EPA, through my work as Indiana field manager for Moms Clean Air Force. Meeting with other “Clean Air Moms” and kids in McCarthy’s Washington, DC office, I talked about the impact of the many coal-fired power plants that surround us here in Evansville, and the threat they present to our health and our future.
I told her that on the previous Friday – the first spring-like day of the year – my daughter and her friends couldn’t play outside because the air was unhealthy to breathe. Administrator McCarthy was visibly moved by my description of the air quality issues we deal with here, and is committed to regulating carbon pollution from power plants. It has to happen if we care at all for the future of life as we know it.
Again I say: Let us move beyond this phony debate and act.