Well congratulations, everybody, we did it. We can all go home now. We solved global warming. It snowed in Petaluma last week.
Yes, while families frolicked in the rare Bay Area dusting of white stuff, there were the inevitable uninformed comments on social media that cold weather proves global warming is a myth. It’s a familiar refrain from the woefully, perhaps willfully, ignorant that was even parroted by President Donald Trump last month during the Midwest’s polar vortex event.
However misguided these statements are — of course weather and climate are two very different things — they are extremely dangerous, especially when uttered by those in power.
As the evidence for climate change continues to mount, the issue resembles the debate humanity once had over the roundness of the earth. The earth was, without a doubt, flat, everyone knew. That is, until scientists proved that it is actually round. Eventually, public opinion shifted until no one seriously believed that the earth was flat. (There are still a handful of “flat earthers,” though the movement seems more like a rhetorical exercise than an actual belief.)
Public opinion continues to shift toward climate change being real and being a major global problem, though amazingly, two decades into the 21st century, officials can still get elected by denying its existence. Unlike denying the round earth, which doesn’t harm anyone, denying climate change to the point of inaction on the problem is reckless and puts the entire planet at risk of disaster.
One of the go-to cop out lines that climate change denying politicians like to use is “I’m not a scientist ...” OK, then let’s instead listen to someone who is a scientist.
Here’s what science has been telling us:
Last year was the fourth-hottest year ever recorded, according to a report last week from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA. The past five years have been the five warmest years in the modern record.
“This warming has been driven in large part by increased emissions into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases caused by human activities,” the report said.
The man made climate change has spawned terrifying natural disasters, including droughts, wildfires, more intense and deadly hurricanes and, yes, even snowstorms.
The only group of people who have any interest in denying climate change is the fossil fuel industry — and the politicians in their pocket — who would like you to please ignore the overwhelming heap of scientific data and continue to consume record amounts of their products.
The big tobacco industry also got people to believe falsehoods against their own self interest, convincing smokers that cigarettes are not harmful to their health until science proved this to be patently false.
Knowing this, it’s not necessary to feel guilty each time you fuel your car at a gas station. An immediate boycott against all fossil fuels is not practical as our transportation system currently does not provide viable alternatives for most people.
What you can do is purchase more fuel efficient vehicles while demanding incentives and deregulation to develop renewable technology in the transportation and energy sectors.
You can educate yourself and others on the threat that unmitigated climate change poses on the earth. A local advocacy group this week held a workshop in Petaluma to discuss the groundbreaking book “Drawdown,” a collection of environmental essays and calls to action on climate change. That’s a good start.