Global climate change — fiction or nonfiction?


Some Americans argue over the very existence of global climate change and site local weather phenomenon (rather than world patterns) as proof of their disbelief. (“Look at all the snow we have! How’s that climate change working for you?”) Other Americans, more educated, realize that of course the climate is changing, but do not believe that we, as humans, have anything to do with it.

I mention “Americans” with these statements because it seems that America is perhaps one of the last countries in the world to have citizens who doubt that A) Global climate change is real and B) Humans are causing it.

An interesting conversation occurred at Thanksgiving between our son’s college roommate from Australia, our exchange student from Sweden, our daughter who spent last year in France, and some well-meaning Americans who brought-up the climate change “debate.” The Swede and the Aussie at first thought they were telling a joke. Global climate change, accelerated due to human activity, is for them, a fact. It is not a debate and has not been a debate in their countries during their life-times. My daughter said that it was not argued or debated in France, either. It was accepted as fact by everyone. As part of her research to be a Rotary exchange student, my daughter had to find out about the Kyoto Protocol which is a United Nations agreement to reduce emissions that produce greenhouse gases causing climate change. The United States and its corporations have never agreed to this UN proposal, perhaps because it would cut down on corporate profits. However, it has been signed and ratified by nearly every other industrialized nation in the world.

So, even if you are proud to be an American who denies what most of the rest of the world believes to be fact, then what? Are you saying that you think it is entirely fine to go on the way we are going? Should we just not worry about how much pollution we dump into the atmosphere? Should we not regulate anything – let people dump garbage wherever they please? Should we let companies do whatever they need to do to make the highest profit? Should we encourage as much industrialization and consumerism as possible because the Earth is simply too large for us humans to make an impact? Do you believe that even if we do make an impact, the Earth will somehow heal itself? (I have heard all of these arguments) Even if you do not believe that climate change is happening, do you also deny that we have more cancers and more human illnesses than ever before? Do you deny that human activity and pollution have anything to do with that as well?

Now what? Do we continue to argue this, or do we take care of this Earth and set some limits on our behaviors for the benefit of future generations?

Laura LaMarche