Is climate change for real?

Climate change has been in the newspapers, on television news programs, and internet news sites a lot lately. Just in the past few weeks we have read about record heat in Europe, the melting of glaciers in Iceland, Greenland, and even Mount Rainier, and stories of decimated sockeye salmon runs, and starving orcas. Earlier in the year, we all read or watched reports of extraordinary flooding, hurricanes, and cyclones. And on August 9th, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a concerning report on climate change and its adverse effects on world food security.  

But if you talk to a number of people, either in person or social media about climate change, you will invariably run up against a few people who claim that there is no such thing as climate change or that it is all a hoax. Maybe you too have your doubts about the climate crisis that I have written about, week after week in this column. And while skepticism can be healthy, at some point you have to accept something as factual when the evidence is overwhelming. Well, the preponderance of evidence suggests climate change is real, and it has set us on a dangerous course that will soon be irreversible. For example, from the NASA Climate website:

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.

The IPCC couldn’t be more clear:

Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.

And from Pope Francis in Laudato Si:

Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.

Some people would use skepticism in a dishonest way to sow doubt and prevent action, because, to quote our former vice president, Al Gore, climate change represents an inconvenient truth, especially for those with vested interests in maintaining the status quo.  But the truth must be faced, no matter how inconvenient. No one said doing the right thing would be easy. But as Catholics, we know that it is our only choice:

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:17) 

There is so much at stake. The time for questioning climate change is past and the time for action is now. At a Vatican summit on the climate in June, Pope Francis said this:

…we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations.

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.

Paul Litwin

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