Last week, Scott Pruitt, the new Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency, said he strongly believes that human activity is not a “primary contributor to global warming.”
I may have popped an artery.
The link between the increasing emissions of greenhouse gases to human activity is firmly established. The link between these increasing emissions and global climate change is also established. I have said in this column before that over 99 percent of scientists support the conclusion that humans are changing the climate of this planet. If this is true, why is it so easy for a public figure in charge of the EPA to deny it? There are definitely benefits to ignoring science.
Some will gain financially in the short term if we do not address climate change now. But we will all lose long term, especially if other countries come up with economically viable solutions before ours does.
If we ignore science, we can avoid discussion of greenhouse gas regulation. But not all regulation is bad, and we’re just putting off the discussion for another day when the climate is worse.
There’s also the issue of cognitive dissonance, which basically means that we don’t like to consider ideas that are inconsistent with our beliefs. That is probably why Galileo was charged with heresy in the 1600s for promoting the idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun. That seems preposterous now. What ideas of ours will seem preposterous in the future? Climate change denial will be at the top of that list.
I hear people rag on science sometimes because its laws and theories can be changed with better evidence. If science can be changed, then it is pretty unreliable, right? No. The amount of evidence needed to create a law or theory is massive. Newton’s Law of Gravity held until Einstein discovered that space and time were continuous, and that black holes could violate gravity. We believe in gravity, right?
Scientists are nerds. They don’t publish about subjects until they have a ton of evidence, and the average person has no patience for tons of evidence. Arguing against the reality of climate change can be very simple. If somebody can say with a straight face that climate change isn’t real because we just had a big snow in March, and the scientist tries to defend against this by explaining how the climate actually works, then the scientist has already lost the communications battle.
Pruitt called for continuing the debate on the science. Science has spoken. Are we listening?
Shannon Moore is the manager of Frederick County Government’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources. She looks for ways for people to save energy, save money, and live greener.