The topic of climate change has been reenergized by hurricanes Irma in Florida and Harvey in Texas – the first time in recorded history that two category 4 hurricanes have ever made landfall on the continental U.S. in the same year.
In Florida the writing seems quite menacingly on the wall. In April, Chris Flavelle, writing for Bloomberg, described the very real possibility that changing weather conditions and the threats they pose could be catastrophic for the state. And not just for its coastline but its real estate market.
“Relative sea levels in South Florida are roughly four inches higher now than in 1992,” Flavelle wrote. “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts sea levels will rise as much as three feet in Miami by 2060. By the end of the century, according to projections by Zillow, some 934,000 existing Florida properties, worth more than $400 billion, are at risk of being submerged.”
The first sentence is scientific fact. The rest is scientifically based predictions. None should be ignored.
Yet we’re debating man’s role in climate change. From where I stand, it’s a moot point.
Regardless of what is causing climate change, its consequences are beginning to add up. Anything that human beings can do to help at this point would be a step in the right direction. Instead so much effort is put into a logically faulty series of assumptions that would urge us to ignore positive steps to lessen our output of climate changing chemicals because, well, climate change isn’t our fault.
The denial can run even deeper. Beyond a refusal to believe humans have accelerated climate change, many believe there’s a left-wing conspiracy to promote climate change, for a whole host of difficult to comprehend reasons.
Even Pope Francis, a man in charge of an organization not renowned for its adherence to scientific principles, has taken the side of science on climate change.
“Anyone who denies [climate change] should go to the scientists and ask them,” he said recently. “They speak very clearly … climate change is having an effect, and scientists are telling us which path to follow. And we have a responsibility — all of us. Everyone, great or small, has a moral responsibility … we must take it seriously … history will judge our decision.”
And, to be honest, his advice might be the best. Our responsibility to the planet is a moral one.
As extreme weather patterns intensify – as storms submerge more and more areas around the world and set others on fire, the debate about what causes climate change really needs to end. Unlike other debates we have over policy – from taxes to health care to human rights – none is nearly as important to get right as our response to a changing climate. If we screw up on climate, there’s no easy fix.