Green Piece: Risk of climate change is not overblown

groves_standardIn his recent opinion piece “Dangers, extent of climate change overblown,” my colleague Keith Fierro said a recent edition of this column spouted off “some of the most egregious lies concerning climate change,” in an attempt to make the argument that climate change is no big deal.

Though at first I considered abstaining from even responding to Fierro’s statements, I decided it was necessary for me to respond.

The reason I’m responding to Fierro’s piece is because I want to provide some counter arguments to the ones he makes.

I happen to think he believes in the points he’s making, but I also think he himself is lacking context.

So let’s begin with his point that global climate change is really just kind of a fad.

He compared fears of rising temperatures to fears of Y2K and mad cow disease.

Essentially what he is arguing is that fears of global climate change are a new phenomenon and ultimately, with the passing of time, these fears will go away as people begin to realize this so-called problem is no big deal.

However, when we look at what is really going on, the inverse of Fierro’s argument is true.

This so-called “fad” has been a topic of discussion amongst some (certainly not all) scientists since at least the ‘60s.

The funny thing about fads, is they eventually go away, and based on my estimation, it doesn’t seem people are any less concerned about climate change now than they were 10 years ago. In fact, the world’s populace is becoming increasingly sensitive to the issue.

Look at all the “green” organizations we have here on campus. Look at the number of fuel efficient vehicles on the market and the number of startup energy companies we have; many of these things have established themselves for a while.

As time goes by, we hear more and more about being green. Fads go away, but this movement is growing.

Fierro, at some point mentions Richard Lindzen, the messiah of pseudo climate science. Conservative politicians and anthropogenic climate change naysayers will often cite Lindzen whenever they think they’re making a smart argument about climate change. However, they often fail to mention his ties to the big oil companies. I tend to invalidate the opinion of a scientist who works hand in hand with corporations that have a vested financial interest in denying climate change. Not to mention the fact that most of his MIT colleagues disagree with him.

The thing that I really want to talk about is when Fierro mentioned the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

He points out the fact that there hasn’t been any warming in over 15 years, and he’s right on this point. There has been no substantial warming in 15 years.

However, that does not mean the report didn’t have some sobering statistics about climate change and its eventual impact.

Experts believe we haven’t seen an increase in warming in recent years because the sun has been in a downward phase of activity.

Eventually the sun will reach a peak and we will see a period of warming once again.

So the Earth’s climate is not warming now, but has in the past and will do so again in the future.

Besides the fact that we haven’t seen steady increases in warming within the last 15 years, the report does show that the last three decades have been successively warmer than the decades that came before them since 1850.

A thing Fierro didn’t mention about the report is that it stated definitively that man-made warming is a certainty at this point in time. It also said that in the coming years there will definitely be more f loods, storms, droughts and many other problems associated with warming. This is a problem because these events don’t just affect the animals, they affect us.

Fierro points out a gain in polar ice caps to continue his argument that warming is a sham. However, to do so ignores the fact that we have had more than three decades of consistent loss of ice within those regions.

In 2012 alone records for ice loss were shattered. Any gain from year to year pales against the trend of continued melting.

Fierro then attacks my stance that the coal industry is dying. He asks if someone has to tell the more than 220,000 Americans employed by the coal industry that their jobs are now unneeded because of some crusade against carbon emissions.

Well, my answer is no, not at all. I support the first phase of the EPA proposal because it would make it hard for new coal plants to be created (the key word being “new” here). Society should push for new forms of energy, but there shouldn’t be a complete shutdown of the coal industry at this point in time. To propose such a thing would be dumb and I’m sure Fierro understood this wasn’t what I was advocating.

Essentially what we have here is the indication that critical thinkers shouldn’t just follow a plethora of convenient facts and statistics that support an agenda. People who pride themselves on intellect should strive to consider all possibilities and all sides before dismissing a complicated issue (such as climate change) as a falsehood.

About Alex Groves