2018-01-11 01:27:42 UTC
Most North Americans know that human-caused global warming is real, even
if political leaders don't always reflect or act on that knowledge.
According to a recent poll, only two per cent of Canadians reject the
overwhelming scientific evidence that Earth is warming at alarming rates
a figure that may seem surprising given the volume of nonsense deniers
(many of them funded by the fossil fuel industry) spread through letters
to the editor, blogs, radio call-ins, and website comments.
Polling indicates more deniers live in the U.S., but they still make up
just 15 per cent of that population.
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It's getting harder to ignore the evidence: record high worldwide
temperatures; increasing extreme weather events; devastating droughts,
floods, and wildfires; animal and plant species turning up where they've
never been found before; record ice loss in the Arctic and Greenland;
melting glaciers... The trends are exactly as climate scientists
Meanwhile, one of the few "skeptic" climate scientists, Richard Muller,
recently reversed his thinking. Muller and colleagues at the University of
California, Berkeley, studied climate data dating back to 1753, then
looked at possible causes of the unusual warming observed since the mid-
1950s. (Ironically, the study was funded in part by the Charles G. Koch
Charitable Foundation, founded by climate change skeptics with heavy
interests in the fossil fuel industry.)
Their conclusion? It's not the sun. It's not volcanoes. The most likely
cause is humans spewing massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the
atmosphere, mainly by burning fossil fuels. This isn't news to most
As evidence builds, deniers are starting to change their tune. They once
said global warming isn't happening, and some claimed the world is
actually cooling. Now, heat records are being broken worldwide this past
decade was the hottest on record. Many scientists say the situation is
even more severe than first thought, with temperatures and impacts
increasing faster than predicted.
Faced with the evidence, many deniers have started to admit that global
warming is real, but argue that humans have little or nothing to do with
it. Muller's study was just one of many to demolish that theory.
Our climate has always changed, and natural variation is part of that. But
scientists have long known that carbon dioxide and other gases trap heat
in the atmosphere. Recent warming is occurring at an unprecedented rate
that corresponds to burning fossil fuels. According to NASA, global
average temperatures have been rising significantly since the 1970s, "with
the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the
warmest years occurring in the past 12 years." North America just
experienced the hottest July on record, and the first seven months of 2012
were the warmest, on average, in more than 100 years.
This evidence has caused some deniers to change their tune again. Yes, the
Earth is warming, they say, but whether it's from natural or human causes,
we can't do anything about it, so we might as well continue with business
as usual, maybe employing technological fixes to help us adapt.
There's also a subset of deniers who see some nefarious conspiracy in
climate science and "Agenda 21" (a nonbinding, voluntary UN agreement on
sustainable development) to impose a world government or something, but
their irrational arguments aren't worth the time of day.
The truth is, as most of us know, that global warming is real and humans
are major contributors, mainly because we wastefully burn fossil fuels. We
also know solutions lie in energy conservation, shifting to renewable
sources, and changing our patterns of energy and fuel use, for example, by
improving public transit and moving away from personal vehicles.
Scientists have been warning about global warming for decades. It's too
late to stop it now, but we can lessen its severity and impacts. The side
benefits are numerous: less pollution and environmental destruction,
better human health, stronger and more diversified economies, and a likely
reduction in global conflicts fuelled by the rapacious drive to exploit
We can all work to reduce our individual impacts. But we must also
convince our political and business leaders that it's time to put people
especially our children, grandchildren, and generations yet to come
For more insights from David Suzuki, please read Everything Under the Sun
(Greystone Books/David Suzuki Foundation), by David Suzuki and Ian
Hanington, now available in bookstores and online.