“People Who Believe In Climate Change Should Have Their Heads Examined”

The pronouncement above is what a friend just said to me after we bumped into each other while grocery shopping. I hadn’t seen him in a while, as he and his wife winter south of the border, and come home to Canada in the summer to run their fly-in fishing lodge business. He went on:

We’ve just had the coldest Florida winter ever, and we’ve had two cold summers here in northern Ontario. Anybody who thinks global warming is happening is out to lunch.

When I pointed out to him that “weather weirding” is exactly what climate scientists have been saying would happen if we continued to warm up the atmosphere with our burning of fossil fuels, he dismissed it out of hand. Tactfully, he then changed the subject and we chatted about other things.

So what is it that makes intelligent, competent people dismiss out-of-hand the predictions of over 90% of scientists who study this for a living? If nine out of ten pilots told you a plane you were about to board was going to crash, would you get on anyway? I think not! Yet this is our planet, our only home, that we are talking about changing irreversibly because we won’t listen to the experts! Is it because we can’t see the carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane gas in the air that we can dismiss these emissions as being insignificant? It is true, that based on our experience for the last 200 years since the beginning of the industrial revolution and our love affair with burning carbon began, we have gotten away without significant global consequences. Only when the air or water pollution in specific locations becomes a problem do we sit up and pay attention, at least if it’s close to us. However, tell the people in Chernobyl or the Love Canal that because you can’t see something it isn’t significant and can be dismissed!

Now, this friend has two daughters, just like I do, and I know he loves them just as much as I do mine. If only he – a pilot and businessman with no scientific training – would take the time to consider what their futures are going to be like if he is wrong and the scientists are right. The crazy thing is, humanity is up to this challenge. We are innovative, intelligent creatures who unfortunately have let the destructive side of our nature run rampant with the environment recently. But it doesn’t have to be this way – we don’t have to be this way. The solutions are myriad, and are not the same for every community, or country. But they are achievable – if we start before we reach the tipping point. As Kelly Blyn wrote recently on 350.org:

The truth is, there is no silver bullet to stopping the climate crisis, no single technological solution that can fix everything at once. We don’t just need solar power, or wind power, or efficiency. We need all of these things and more. What we need, in a word, is diversity.

For example:

Germany’s energy could be 100 % renewable by 2050

Cool roofs save money, save energy, cut pollution, and directly reduce global warming

New Mexico Village uses sun-power to help fight fires

How the world can (and will) stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm: The full global warming solution

Still not convinced that this issue is important? Maybe this will change your mind:

How hot is it? Masters reports that 9 countries smashed all-time temperature records, “making 2010 the year with the most national extreme heat records.”

Photos Reveal Receding Himalaya Glaciers

The New Normal? Average Global Temperatures Continue to Rise

And, because the town I live in has a thriving tourism industry based on hunting and fishing, here’s a new link I’ve found, Target Global Warming, for and by hunters and anglers confronting climate change.

For a more examples of how climate change is changing the world here and now, go to Father Theo’s recent blog posting, Climate Change Notebook, July 2010.

We can do this – let’s join together and build a better future for all our children. I’ll quote from 350.org again:

Looking over the list of campaigns above, it becomes clear: there actually is one silver bullet to solving the climate crisis, and it’s not solar power.  It’s people power.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s keep building this movement.

11 thoughts on ““People Who Believe In Climate Change Should Have Their Heads Examined””

  1. Another great write Christine and I really like the analogy regarding the aircraft, although, if Anderegga et al. (2010) are correct, you’re probably looking at 97 pilots saying that the plane would crash to 3 pilots that don’t think it will. It’s really staggering how confidently many people are disregarding such a wealth of expertise…

  2. Christine, I’m reading “Plan B 3.0”, by Lester R. Brown (Plan B 4.0 is out, but it’s not what I have). It lays everything out pretty clearly, and has 100 pages of references at the back. You can order copies online, at . You might consider buying a copy for your friend. It’s an impressive read.

    I also like your pilot analogy. SO true! Keep up the good work!

    “First they ignore you
    Then they laugh at you
    Then they fight you
    Then you win”

    • Thanks for the book recommendation, Pauline, and the kind words. Sorry it took me so long to post your comments – I was out of town, away from the internet. You’re good now, once I’ve approved one comment the rest go on automatically!

    • Thanks Moriah! You’re right, the more people who are concerned about this issue speak out, the sooner we will get the change we need so desperately!

  3. This from Wikipedia, in respect of the Florida climate: “In winters where an El Niño climate cycle exists, rainfall increases while temperatures are cooler statewide.”

    We just went through an El Niño cycle, explaining your friend’s cool winter.

    No one, no one, no one ever does their research.

    But so many are ready with unassailable opinions regardless.

  4. *heavy sigh* Yet we’re all in this together, and when we hit the wall with peak oil and ocean acidification in a few years, I’m afraid they’ll be the ones to say “but nobody told us!”

  5. Christine, you wondered “what is it that makes intelligent, competent people dismiss out-of-hand the predictions of over 90% of scientists who study [climate change] for a living?”

    Well, it may be partly that the greenhouse gases are invisible, as you suggest. But I also think we need a lot more practice “thinking globally” about climate.

    Last year, for example, tied for second warmest globally in 130 years of records (and was the record warm year in the southern hemisphere). But much of North America had a particularly cool summer. Last December was also quite cold in some mid-latitude areas including parts of North America. (See Jim Hansen’s discussion of 2009 on the Real Climate site)

    If I’ve been experiencing abnormally cool weather for months in my area, it may not occur to me that the world as a whole is having unusually hot weather. Well, you and I can “do our research” as Father Theo suggests, but most people won’t or can’t (maybe not through any fault of their own). People may hear that the globe is warming and that it’s a big problem, but they’re likely to find it all quite confusing and are unlikely to take the issue seriously if their personal experience seems to contradict what they hear. In my case, I stumbled on Hansen’s article about the weather of 2009 and found it very helpful for me in thinking globally about last year in spite of the cool weather I’d experienced then. Parts of Hansen’s article are pretty technical (as you’d expect on the Real Climate site), but I think you’ll find that the most relevant non-technical parts are quite clear.

    Perhaps no amount of argument is likely to change the opinion of someone who would say “People Who Believe In Climate Change Should Have Their Heads Examined”, but I think most of the rest of us would understand better when we think globally, and realize that a year like 2009 might have been a hot year for the world, even if we live in a region that happened to be otherwise.

    Politicians don’t take effective action on climate change because people don’t demand it. People don’t demand it because the public is not well informed on the issue. The inability of people to think globally about climate may be one of the most serious problems the world faces in dealing with climate change.

    Dan W.
    (Agroclimatologist, retired 1985)

  6. I appreciate your thoughtful comments, Dan – and will definitely check out Hansen’s article on Real Climate. I interpret my exchange in the grocery store to be a directive to me to keep bringing this issue up, in a non-aggressive way, with as many people as possible. If I talk to 10 people about it, and get 1 or 2 of them to rethink their indifference to it, that is a good outcome. Indifference is more of an issue than denial, I think. As you point out, it’s difficult for people focused on making ends meet, looking after their children, dealing with health issues, etc to lift up their eyes from their daily demands and focus on the global “horizon”. But if we are to meet this challenge, it is what many of us need to do – as Joe Romm over at Climate Progress says, get informed, get outraged, then get political!

  7. We are supposed to believe and follow the scientists because thinking and experimenting is what they do for a living. Global warming is true. We should reduce or if possible eliminate the use of the fossil fuel that warms up the atmosphere. Also because of the pollution the ozone layer is damaged. Maybe in this lifetime we will not yet feel the effects of global warming but the future generation surely will.


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