By JUDI LUTZ WOODS
Opinions are not the same as facts. Weather is not the same as climate. Politics has no business interfering with science. And most importantly, climate change and Global Warming are real, are based on scientific data and research and currently affecting our planet right now.
Unlike some in the media claim, there is no debate among climate scientists that our planet is warming at a rapid rate and that much of it is caused by the activities of us humans. In fact according to the NASA web site "Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position."
Some of those organizations include the American Association for Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Medical Association and American Meteorological Association. (A link to over 200 worldwide scientific associations who hold the position that climate change is happening, and that it is due to human activities is provided on the NASA website).
The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society with a membership of 121,200 scientists and "science supporters" globally, just released an 18-page report confirming that the world is at growing risk of "abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes" due to climate change. The report is named simply: "What We Know."
In fact it is hard, if not impossible, to find any scientific organization that disputes the fact that our planet is heating up, that the increase in temperatures will have a devastating impact on every part of the planet and it is caused primarily by human activities, specifically the amount of carbon dioxide released into our atmosphere. Consider this, the president of the National Academy of Sciences, in an interview with AP said "the scientific certainty regarding climate change is most similar to the confidence scientists have that cigarettes contribute to lung cancer."
Most of us accept without much dispute that smoking can and does lead to lung cancer. Is it now time we accept the science that clearly, using real data, research and facts, indicates that the planet is warming at a rapid rate, that the rise in temperature is due to burning fossil fuels and that the increase will result in devastating climate change?
A recent assessment of climate change conducted by our own government concluded that increased global warming is affecting every part of our country. The impact of climate change is not something that will occur at some time in the distant future but rather, people are feeling the impact of climate change right now with rises in sea levels, storm surges, extreme weather events (such as Hurricane Sandy), droughts and wildfires. This report mirrors the findings of the recent global report by climate scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which concluded, "Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change."
Most of us need not go further than to turn on the weather reports to know something is not right. The five hottest years on record have all occurred since 1997. Climate change is making hot days hotter, storms and hurricanes stronger, rainfall and floods heavier and droughts more severe.
Historic rainfall has resulted in flooding and major mudslides in England, France, Afghanistan and Bosnia. Historic droughts and increase in temperatures in California have contributed to major wildfires. Increased number and strength of tornadoes and hurricanes have been seen in the Midwest and South.
This past winter in western New York we experienced some of the coldest days on record, with the historic, first time in recorded history two blizzards in one snowfall season. (Yes, a warmer planet has affected jet streams causing some of the arctic air to dip way lower than we normally experience).
As the temperature of the planet increases it will directly have an impact around the globe. Warmer temperatures will impact vegetation making it more difficult to grow food in places we now consider to be "bread baskets" for the world. Scientists have dire predictions that up to one quarter of earth's species could become extinct by 2050 due to climate change.
Rises in sea levels could displace tens of millions of people (where will they go?). Increase in risk of floods, droughts and wildfires will result from increased global temperatures. Stronger, more extreme weather events and storms will result, as we are already seeing across the planet. Heat related illnesses and diseases will multiply. Huge economic losses will be felt as businesses who relay on seaports, fishing, farming, etc., will suffer from the affects of a warmer planet. Climate scientists have predicted a decrease in the water levels and an increase in algae blooms on the Great Lakes, including our beloved Lake Erie, due to increased temperature of our Earth. There is no place on Earth that will not be directly affected by global warming and climate change.
How and why climate change has become such a political issue rather than one of just science is up for debate. Climate change, global warming, is science. It is not a political tool for liberals to push forward more regulations merely to impose unwarranted limits on businesses. Just as it must not be ignored by those on the right who want to continue business as usual without consideration as to at what cost to our environment. We the people, not politicians or political pundits, must demand that the facts and scientific data direct the conversations. We must step out of our roles as liberals or conservatives, Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Green and come together as one in defense of our planet which is being threatened with devastation and much destruction if we fail to act. The entire planet and all the living species who call it home, including us humans, are depending on us.
Will we fail them?
To paraphrase Neil deGrasse Tyson we are headed toward a climate last seen by the dinosaurs, where coastal cities will drown, our entire environment will be in chaos, and our ability to even feed ourselves will be threatened. Why can't we summon the ingenuity and courage of the generations that came before us? The dinosaurs never saw that asteroid coming. What's our excuse?
We all must become more knowledgeable of the facts of climate change, what is causing it, and what we can do to address the impact that higher temperatures will have on the entire planet. We must demand that our governments, local, state and federal, make this a high priority. We must come together as one people for the future of our planet.
There is no issue more urgent, more important, than the issue of global warming/climate change. For without a viable planet, what else matters?
Judi Lutz Woods is a Fredonia resident.