As we sit here freezing and dreaming of southern climes, it is hard to conceive of global warming. But it is happening and the long term effects will not be pleasant. How do I know that the climate is changing? Well, I remember that when I was back in high school, we used to start playing hockey on outdoor rinks in December and played at least up to the end of February. There was never any thought of a mid-winter thaw that might prevent us from playing. That just did not happen. Today, there are many days in winter when the thermometer climbs above zero. So what does this mean? Absolutely nothing. This is anecdotal evidence, which in the pursuit of science does not amount to a hill of beans. The reason I believe that we are experiencing a significant warming trend is because that’s what the vast majority of scientists who are specialists in this area believe. And they believe it to be so because of the evidence that has been collected and published in thousands of peer- reviewed papers. Furthermore, they believe that the warming is due to human activity. Do all scientists believe this? No. There are those who get hot under the collar when the notion of global warming due to human activity is brought up. But they are a small minority. Albeit a noisy one. They cherry-pick data to try to prove that global warming is overstated and that there is no crisis in the offing. And with the hacked emails at the University of East Anglia, they got a gift.
They were quick to pounce and claim that these secret emails proved that climate change was a fabricated phenomenon. The emails did no such thing. To be sure they raised some questions about the ethics of some of the people involved and clearly reflected anger at the climate change deniers, but there was nothing in those emails that counters the observations made by hundreds of scientists around the world. The melting glaciers, the rise in sea water levels, the disappearing permafrost were all predicted by computer models but only when human activity was taken into account. These changes are not due some cyclical natural environmental trend. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Let’s just think about it at a primitive level. Billions of cars and trucks cruise the world’s roads every hour of the day. Freighters and passenger ships criss-cross the world’s oceans and airplanes take off some fifty thousand times a day. Most of the world burns coal to produce electricity. All these activities spew carbon dioxide into the air. And carbon dioxide levels have been steadily rising, and in fact have preceded the warming temperatures, indicating a cause and effect relationship. And it isn’t only carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide released from fertilizer and methane from the cattle we raise contribute significantly to the greenhouse effect. So it just isn’t reasonable to think that human activity is not playing a role in global warming. On rare occassions it happens that maverick scientists who swim against the current are proven to be right. But climate change is not going to be one of those issues. It won’t be long before the deniers are swept away by the current. Climate change is real and it is time to do something about it. What? That’s a much tougher question to answer.