Humans impact climate change
Fact

Both humans and nature contribute to climate change. Moving forward humans can both increase and/or curb their effect on the earth's climate.

The Climate Change Facts: Do Humans Cause Climate Change? Is Human Impacted Climate Change Real?

Science shows, humans can impact climate change for better or worse. Since the industrial revolution the burning of oil, coal, and gas has had an increasing effect on the climate. [1][3][1][2][3][4][5]

Although human and natural factors both impact climate change, recent climate change cannot be explained by nature alone.

The problem here is that:

  1. even a slight rise in the earth’s average temperature can be shown to be devastating using computer models.
  2. Recent data, such as data from a 2017 report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, shows climate change is real and humans are the main contributing factor to climate change.

Although we know climate change is real, and that global warming is the main problem (the average increase in the earth’s temperature due to a buildup of greenhouse gas emissions), and we know humans impact climate change, we don’t all agree on to what extent human’s can make a positive or negative impact (to what degree we can and/or do affect climate change), and thus more research needs to be done.

Now with that in mind “more research” has needed to be done for a while now, and it has been done, and the results are things like the 2017 report that shows 2016 was the warmest year in recent human history.

Now, this doesn’t mean we aren’t in a historic cycle of warming, but it does mean there is some cause to take the data seriously despite “the polarizing the politics of climate change.”

Below we have complied (pretty much everything) a normal person might need to know about human impacted climate change…. but let’s start with a quote from that new report.

“The global climate continues to change rapidly compared to the pace of the natural variations in climate that have occurred throughout Earth’s history. Trends in globally averaged temperature, sea level rise, upper-ocean heat content, land-based ice melt, Arctic sea ice, depth of seasonal permafrost thaw, and other climate variables provide consistent evidence of a warming planet.” – Excerpt from the 2017 report as found on The 2017 report..[6]

According to a 2017 report by scientists from 14 federal agencies: “The global climate continues to change rapidly compared to the pace of the natural variations in climate that have occurred throughout Earth’s history. Trends in globally averaged temperature, sea level rise, upper-ocean heat content, land-based ice melt, Arctic sea ice, depth of seasonal permafrost thaw, and other climate variables provide consistent evidence of a warming planet.”

BOTTOM LINE: The EPA website used to read, “According to the EPA, All major scientific agencies of the United States—including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—agree that climate change is occurring and that humans are contributing to it” now it reads, “According to the EPA, the current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years”. Either way a given administration wants to phrase it, the bottom line is that human caused climate change is real and action is needed. There is room for debate that accounts for both the practical economics of harsh regulation and the morality of destroying the planet for short term economic gain, but there isn’t much room to disagree on the climate science (which can be understood by reading this page and visiting its links).

Climate Science: What You Need To Know. Here are the basics of climate change.

TIP: We know “human impacted climate change is real”. There is no serious debate on whether or not climate change exists, the debate is about “to what extent is climate change a problem, to what extent are humans causing climate change, and to what extent humans can combat climate change by tactics like reducing greenhouse gas emissions. See: How to Understand the Politics of the Climate Change Debate.

FACT: NASA satellite data collected since 1979 (and ice chunks studied since the 50’s) show a long-term decline of global sea ice and land ice (in other words: the ice caps are melting, likely due to human impacted global warming).

FACT: Carbon Dioxide was at 405.6 ppm as of March 2017 according to NOAA data presented by NASA. Greenhouse gasses like Carbon Dioxide are said to create a “green house effect” and cause “global warming” when they saturate the atmosphere (they trap heat, like a greenhouse). The Carbon Dioxide levels are currently at an all time high and the data correlates with the melting of the icecaps. This is what the whole “global warming” conversation is primary about. Global warming is one type of climate change and climate change is something humans can impact for better or worse.[7]

An Introduction to Climate Change and the Climate Change Facts

Climate change is a big subject, as one might glean from looking at the endless sea of insightful NASA or EPA pages on climate change. Thus, we have a problem where we have a lot more compelling evidence than can be conveyed quickly.

To accurately convey the most important parts we could:

  • List out climate facts regarding greenhouse gas emissions, the reducing of which is required to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
  • Point to the effects of climate change like warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, declining arctic sea ice, glacial retreat, extreme weather events, ocean acidification, and decreased snow as a result of increased industrialization and deforestation since the industrial revolution.
  • Talk about higher average temperatures occurring in more frequent cycles breaking new records, wilder weather patterns, rising sea levels, more droughts, changing rain and snow patterns, and the models, data, and empirical evidence to back this up.
  • Or, we could jump right into the politics and discuss how no one is seriously debating whether or not climate change is real here in 2017, and go on to discuss why left-right politics and industry have a big say in how the data on climate change and global warming (the average warming of the earth’s temperature, a real climate change phenomena) is presented.

We’ll cover all of this, but an economy of words forces us to choose a direction.

So, let’s first discuss a few quick “Climate Change Facts” and then finally we will move on to further details and compelling evidence.

Thus, this page is long, but that is because there is a ton of data to discuss regarding one of the most important issues of our time, “Human impacted climate change from increased greenhouse gas emissions as a result of global industrialization”.

If you need to verify what we have claimed or check a specific chunk of text see the references below. This is a compilation of all of our research, so while citations should point you in the right direction, you may need to dig and search to see what bit came from NASA, which from NOAA, which from the EPA, and which from another source.

“The warming we have seen in the past 50 years cannot be explained by natural factors alone” – EPA, NASA, and others.

“Global climate is changing and this is apparent across the United States in a wide range of observations. The global warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels.” – From2014 National Climate Assessment, the Global Change Research Program. Buzzwords aside, we can say, “Many scientists have concluded this from their data.”[8]

Quick Climate Change Facts

Below are some quick climate change facts. These points, based on past NASA, NOAA, and EPA research and more, seek to answer the basic questions we’ve noticed people have about human impacted climate change.

Is there scientific consensus on climate change? From our research it seems that all major U.S. scientific agencies, including NASA, NOAA, and even the EPA, generally agree that climate change is occurring and that humans are contributing to it. This means that, even though “scientific consensus” has a bit of a buzzword quality, for a laymen, it is accurate to understand that “smart people generally agree that human caused climate change is real and a problem”… they just don’t always agree on extent. For example Rex Tillerson thinks more research needs to be done, while entities like NASA, NOAA, DoD, EPA, and others had expressed concern over climate change alongside issues like economic inequality as global long-term issues. The takeaway, “scientific consensus is a buzzword, but the idea that lots of science shows human impacted climate change is real and a problem is fact”.

Do 97% of scientists agree on climate change? Many independent and governmental scientific organizations, both in the United States and worldwide, agree that human impacted climate change is a problem and that the world is warming, and that human activity is the primary cause. It might be tempting to say “there is a scientific consensus on climate change” or 97% of scientists agree on climate change”… but as any good utilitarian knows, the ends (in this case, stopping the destruction of our planet) are more important than the means (clinging to a term like global warming or a phrase like scientific consensus). A woman needn’t earn .73 cents on the dollar for gender bias to be a problem in terms of the gender pay gap, likewise, we needn’t focus on a 97% of scientists talking point when discussing climate change. The thing to get here is that not every scientist agrees on every component of the climate change problem. That means when people take out the 97% stick and start lashing it around, it is likely to disrespect and trigger an intellectual like Rex Tillerson, not giving that group a fair chance to present and discuss their data. This is a form of aggression that we can see, does those who have a real concern over climate science, no favors. Beware using a heavy hand. The takeaway, “97% scientists is a bit of a talking point, but the idea that lots of science shows human impacted climate change is real and a problem is fact”.

The evidence of climate change: Generally, most sources i’ve seen say climate change is primarily caused by excess greenhouse gases from human activities. This isn’t just a hunch, but is what all the data and modeling seems to be pointing at. Evidence includes basic physics, patterns of change through the climate system (like the oceans, atmosphere, land, biosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere, etc). Putting aside metaphysics, where we question things like “I think therefore I am”, within all reasonable measures: we know the climate has changed and is changing because of the physics of how our Earth system works, modeled simulations of past and future changes, and observations of recent trends in climate change indicators. Take all the models, the data, the empirical evidence of snow and rainfall patterns shifting, heat waves and heavy rainstorms, ocean warming, oceans becoming more acidic, ice cap melting, and sea levels rising. Here, basic physics shows that increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere will cause the climate to warm (the reason why a greenhouse works here on earth in reality for gardeners). Furthermore, modeling studies show that when human influences are removed from the equation, the global climate would have actually cooled slightly over the past half century (so we can by deduction show that humans are impacting climate change). And third, the pattern of warming through the layers of the atmosphere demonstrates that human-induced heat-trapping gases are responsible, rather than some natural change (here modeling weather pattern can help show us that those we see aren’t expected naturally). Furthermore,Records from ice cores, tree rings, and other forms of “natural thermometers” show that recent climate change is unusually rapid compared to past changes. Global temperatures over the last 100 years are unusually high when compared to temperatures over the last several thousand years, and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are currently higher than at any time in at least the last 800,000 years. The data goes on and on (see all sources and references below for an endless facts and points like the one’s made above). The takeaway, “there is a ton of evidence showing that human impacted climate change is real, but these complex changes and the data behind them merit real non-political debate; climate change’s impact can be an emotional issue, but our reaction to the data shouldn’t be; see Climate Change Evidence & Causes from the Royal Society and the US National Academy of the Sciences“.

What we don’t know: From our research, we can conclude that Scientists still don’t know all the specifics. There is more research and healthy debate needed to be done regarding exactly how sensitive Earth’s climate is to human emissions of various heat-trapping gases, what the consequences of warming will be in specific regions of the world, and how other future changes in oceans and clouds will affect climate change. The takeaway, “we know enough to know there is a problem, we don’t know enough to get so cocky that we forget that this global issues will take global consensus from the political left and right… the point of science is admitting we don’t know everything and applying skepticism…. still, it would be short sighted not to apply adaptation techniques, including reasonable regulatory policy”.

Isn’t CO2 good? Oxygen causes rust, fluoride is toxic, CO2 warms the planet… these things, like all things, are good in moderation. The idea here is that increased greenhouse emissions at a rapid pace from industrialization is throwing off the balance. Carbon dioxide is a necessary ingredient for plants to perform photosynthesis, and a critical component of our atmosphere, but just like in anything else, you can have too much of a good thing.

But it is cold outside? Global warming is about a rise in the average global temperature of the earth, not what happened in your town last Tuesday. Records show the earth is warming on average.

What can we do about human impacted climate change? At this point, Humans must adapt to climate change to some extent. That doesn’t imply we do nothing to prevent change, rather, it means we both adjust to our new environment and try to limit our footprint. Adaptation refers to doing things like a farmer planting more drought-resistant crops or a coastal community evaluating how best to protect its infrastructure from rising sea levels. Adaptation can be Reactive: responding to conditions that have already changed, or Anticipatory: planning for climate change before impacts have occurred. Of all the adaptation techniques, Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is perhaps the most important. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is required to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. A certain amount of global warming is inevitable, due to the long-lasting nature of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, and to heat already stored in the oceans. Despite this, we can make positive change to offset further impacts. The takeaway, “each of us should take individual and collective action to limit our footprint, the more we focus our efforts just on regulating and taxes industry, the more we make this a political issue. Since by some measures this is a global crisis, we should seek to make caring about the climate a non-partisan issue and remember that while the impact is likely minor, even individual action at home and in the community helps”.

But it is just a few points of rising average temperature, isn’t that “not a big deal”? One might think that a degree or two of change is no big deal, but changing the average global temperature by even a degree or two can lead to serious consequences around the globe. According to articles like Weather To Climate Learning Sequence which use Climate Change Indicators in the United States: U.S. and Global Temperature by the EPA, “For about every 2°F of warming, we can expect to see 5–15% reductions in the yields of crops as currently grown. 3–10% increases in the amount of rain falling during the heaviest precipitation events, which can increase flooding risks. 5–10% decreases in stream flow in some river basins, including the Arkansas and the Rio Grande. 200%–400% increases in the area burned by wildfire in parts of the western United States. Global average temperatures have increased more than 1.5°F since 1880. Many of the extreme precipitation and heat events that we have seen in recent years are consistent with what we would expect given this amount of warming. Increases in average global temperatures are expected to be between 0.5 and 8.6°F by 2100, with a likely increase of at least 2.7°F, depending on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the future.”

The Bottom line: We should avoid politicizing climate change, and we must respect the environment and industry at once. If we try to fight a battle of science vs. industry, and industry wins, then we all lose. In the meantime, enough certainty exists about the basic causes and effects of climate change to justify taking actions that reduce risks. So in words, “reasonable adaptation today, further debate and research tomorrow”.

Climate Science: What You Need To KnowGlobal Warming Facts. The average global temperature is rising on average over time, we think due to greenhouse gas emissions. This video from 2009 showed it was a problem then… but recent years have been the most startling, with the problem seeming to increase and not slow down in this new era of industrialization. This is why “climate change science” and “all the fuss” over “human impacted climate change” of which one type is “global warming” (the warming of the earth on average due to greenhouse gas emissions, which is undeniably real and caused, at least in part, by humans).

TIP: Climate change doesn’t just effect the weather, and it isn’t as simple as finding a snowball in winter. Science is complex and climate change is about air quality, ecosystems, energy production, human health, oceans, drinking water, and just about every environmental factor out there.

NASA CO2 Graph

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.) Source.

TIP: The chart above shows an increase in CO2 trapped in the atmosphere over time, thus this chart is often used to show how human caused greenhouse gas emissions are effecting climate change. The general quips that seek to somehow disprove the above chart’s importance are generally all themselves disprovable, with a little time and effort (see here, and note: 1. Plants, oceans, and soils release and absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide as a part of the Earth’s natural carbon cycle. These natural emissions and absorptions of carbon dioxide on average balance out over time. However, the carbon dioxide from human activities is not part of this natural balance. Ice core measurements reveal that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have been for at least 800,000 years 2. Records dating back to the 1800s show that the global average temperature increased by more than 1.5°F over the last century. Every year since 1977 has had an average global temperature warmer than the 20th century average. In fact, 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have occurred since the beginning of the 21st century. No matter how you look at the data, higher global average temperatures in recent years are unambiguous). Understanding the correct position on any given bit of climate information will require research, but knowing the skeptic vs. science argument, and understanding the basics of human impacted climate change, you’ll be well on your way to having a solid footing for healthy debate. Thus, we are here trying to frame and present information as much as we are trying to make a single point. It is an matter of an economy of words, keep scrolling down, and you’ll keep getting more information.

NOTE: I am confident a non-skeptic can take the time to pick through the NASA climate research, EPA climate research, and other climate research, Googling each term as laid out above, using internet archives like the Wayback Machine if needed to find pages like this old EPA page for reference. For this reason, now that we have the above basics covered, the next section will take a moment to discuss the political aspects of climate science before returning to the Climate Science Facts.

How to Understand Human Impacted Climate Change and Global Warming

Recent science has essentially confirmed that CO2 is the biggest culprit regarding climate change[9] (as has long been suspected).

While figures like the 97% consensus on climate change[10] are generally true, slick talking points are an aside to the main point. The mean point being: Climate change is real, and those who deny it are almost all more focused on economics than science (thus they, when they do read and cite the data, are taking a skeptical stance).

Like the tobacco industry was to cigarettes causing cancer, those who profit off companies who cause climate change are to climate change denial.

NASA is concerned about climate change, the EPA is, NOAA is, the DoD (the military) is, and even ExxonMobil agrees with the data… it is generally only right-wing politicians who take lobbyist money from certain industries who deny it here in late 2016.[11][12]

We’ll prove the facts and myths about human caused climate change below, but for the general reader, don’t believe the hype: pollution is bad, climate change is real, global warming is real, we can impact things positively without hindering our progress toward the future, and more action was needed yesterday.

The debate shouldn’t be about if climate change is real or not, it should be about what the best path forward is from an environmental, social, economic standpoint.

FACT: Global warming is a type of climate change. It is the main cause of negative human caused climate change, but people stopped using the term because it was confusing. Global warming is confused as implying that it will always be hotter everywhere, but it actually means that the average temperature is warming on average due to increased CO2 in the atmosphere. Global warming is real and this is the main thing people mean when they say climate change is real.

Climate Change 101 with Bill Nye | National Geographic.

FACT: The idea that the climate science is skewed because we are only looking at data post 1880 is a clever bit of disinformation drummed up by climate change deniers. See a rebuttal here: No climate conspiracy: NOAA temperature adjustments bring data closer to pristine.

We Know Humans Impact Climate Change, the Debate is About to What Extent

We know humans can impact the climate and cause climate change for better or for worse. Our ability to impact the climate is not typically debated here in 2016, what is debated is to what extent we can impact climate change in a meaningful way. Many believe human caused climate change is the biggest issue of our time, others are more skeptical of what the data is telling us, but generally those who go into full-out denial mode are displaying a big red flag (and i’d suggest taking a look into who they take money from).

Below we will give an overview of all the different ways in which human caused climate change impacts the environment, presenting both the research and citation alongside the skeptics point of view (when applicable).

TIP: See Climate Change Facts: Answers to Common Questions from the EPA to find out more about how human caused climate change actually works.

UPDATE: As of winter of 2016 – 2017 “The Arctic Is Getting Crazy Feedback loops between record Arctic temperatures and the jet stream may be altering our weather“. We are seeing climate change in action, the question is, “to what extent are we causing this, and to what extent can we prevent it”.

5 Human Impacts on the Environment: Crash Course Ecology #10. There are many complex, and not so complex, human factors that impact climate change. This video describes 5, we touch on all the major causes below.

FACT: The United States Department of Defense considers climate change to be “a security risk” and an “urgent and growing threat” to national security (as extreme weather destabilizes regions). See DoD Releases Report on Security Implications of Climate Change.[7]

Elon Musk describes human caused climate change, how subsides incentivize industrial solution, and how a bi-partisan cap and trade solution can help minimize the inevitable damage.

FACT: Global warming, the main type of climate change threatening the earth, doesn’t mean it is always hot or always cold. Once scientists and politicians realized that fact was too complicated for people like Jim Inhofe to grasp they started calling global warming and other types of climate change just “climate change”. Still, global warming from CO2 is the main problem facing our planet. Don’t be like Jim Inhofe, the [and i’m not kidding] Chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, actually be exactly like him and please try to challenge his seat in Congress and get him out of the committee.

Before the Flood – National Geographic. So that is Obama, Leo, Musk, the DOD, NASA, NOAA, EPA, EXXON, now trump, and science on one side, and Jim Inhofe on the other. Some positions are a matter of left-right politics, this one needs more honest conversation. It is the future of our planet we are talking about! There is a left-right debate within the facts, but the one outside of them is endangering all of us.

A Quick Summary of Climate Change and Global Warming

  • In isolation “greenhouse gasses” released from burning oil, coal, and gas have a warming effect. The theory of greenhouse gasses says that if we increase the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the Earth will warm up (just like a greenhouse warms up).[8]
  • The data we have shows that the earth is warming up. The data is hard to quantify, but the best estimates show the earth is warming on average. Data has also shown a number of other signs of “climate change” thought to be caused by humans.[9][10]
  • Data shows that both human-caused “global warming” and “climate change” are real. Global warming describes the increase in average temperature of the earth. Climate change describes changes in temperature, wind, precipitation, length of seasons, and frequency of weather events. So global warming is part of the broader climate change.
  • The ozone hole is also real, but the ozone hole and climate change are two separate issues. Learn more about the hole in the ozone.
  • Data shows the earth is getting warmer on average. Over the past 50 years the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history. Experts think it’s continuing to increase with average U.S. temperatures potentially being 3 to 9 degrees higher by the end of the century.[6] The difference between today’s average global temperature and the average global temperature during the last Ice Age is only about 5 degrees C.[11]
  • Even a small increase in the sea level can have devastating effects. Global sea level has risen approximately 7.5 inches, on average, over the period since 1870, effecting specific types of seaside communities. By the year 2100, sea level is projected to rise another one to four feet.[13]
  • The climate changes naturally, but looking at data from the industrial revolution of the 1700’s until now can’t be explained by natural causes alone.
  • Global warming is when heat get’s trapped by the earth’s atmosphere due to greenhouse gases collecting in the the earth’s atmosphere. Greenhouse gases such as water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), synthetic compounds (Chlorofluorocarbons), Nitrous oxide, and methane (CH4) absorb energy, slowing or preventing the loss of heat to space. In this way, Greenhouse gases act like a blanket, making Earth warmer than it would otherwise be.[5] Most greenhouse gasses are naturally occurring, but humans introducing extra greenhouse gasses seems to be throwing off “the balance”.
  • Humans can curb the effects of both natural and human-caused climate change.
  • The above being said, human civilization as we know it is currently dependent upon oil, coal, and gas (and things like farming, mining, and deforestation which also contribute to climate change). We currently use “greenhouse gas” producing technology like the burning of “fossil fuels” to power industrialization, purposely change our climate (think indoor heating), and to advance our current technology. So then, the smart solution to tackling the problems of negative human-caused climate change, and the wonders of modern industrialization, likely lie in a solution that aims to bridge gap between the two .

Scientists are 95% sure humans are causing climate change. A quick explanation of the data on the polar ice melting.

How does water vapor in our atmosphere contribute to global warming? Higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere cause Earth to warm. Warmer temperatures increase the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. Because water vapor is also a greenhouse gas, this leads to even further warming. In this way, water vapor actually magnifies the warming caused by excess carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases! In other words, CO2 isn’t the only greenhouse gas, nor is it acting alone…. likewise, greenhouse gas emissions isn’t the only problem, nor is natural human impacted climate change the only thing to be concerned about.

The Evidence of Climate Change

The evidence on climate change includes:[10]

  • Sea level rise
  • Global temperature rise
  • Warming oceans
  • Sinking ice sheets
  • Declining Arctic sea ice
  • Glacial retreat
  • Extreme events
  • Ocean acidification
  • Decreased snow cover
Global Warming

A graphic showing the indicators of Global Warming Source.

Causes of Climate Change

The main driving factors in climate change appear to be:[1][12][13]

  • The greenhouse effect caused by greenhouse gasses. – Human-caused
  • Variations in the sun’s energy reaching earth.  – Natural
  • Changes in the reflectivity of Earth’s atmosphere and surface.  – Natural and Human-caused
  • The natural rhythms of the earth movement.  – Natural

Greenhouse gasses are emitted by:

  • The burning of coal, oil, and gas. – Human-caused
  • Deforestation and land use changes, from things like mining and soil cultivation. – Human-caused
  • Agriculture of plants and animals. – Human-caused
  • Natural occurrences like volcanos. – Natural

But Isn’t “the Greenhouse Effect” Good?

Earth is essentially one big greenhouse. Greenhouse gasses like water vapor, small amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide act like a “blanket” by absorbing and trapping heat. This warms the earth’s surface and allows for life on earth. As you can imagine maintaining the “balance” of the atmosphere is and should be a priority. The trouble is, throwing the balance off a little can result in a few degrees of warming or cooling. Even just a few degrees of warming or cooling is the difference between an Ice-Age and Water World (polar ice melting).

Both nature and humans can impact the atmosphere by emitting greenhouse gasses. Also, the natural rhythms of the earth, natural occurrences like volcanos, and importantly the behavior of the sun also play a role in “how warm the Earth is”.

Give the above, it stands to reason that we would act by:

  • Limiting our negative effect on the climate (while keeping in mind our need for some of the things that cause greenhouse gases).
  • Figuring out how to change the climate to offset the inevitably impending natural and/or human caused atmospheric climate problems we will face.

FACT: A greenhouse gas is any gaseous compound in the atmosphere that is capable of absorbing infrared radiation and thus trapping heat in the atmosphere. Like “climate change” a greenhouse gas isn’t inherently bad or good. It only matters in context. In the context of us warming the planet at an unnatural rate, it’s bad.

The Climate Change and Global Warming Debate

Almost everyone agrees that climate change is real. The majority of scientists also believe that human-caused climate change and global warming are real. The only real disagreement is on the exact causes, how severe it is, and what can or should we do about it.

A discussion on global warming and climate change by “skeptics”. They discuss climate change from a skeptic’s view. Please note, that there is a difference between “healthy skepticism” about the severity of climate change caused by humans and “the intelligent climate change deniers handbook 2015”. This video arguably errs on “the handbook”, but it also makes some valid points. If you can listen to the video without being “sold” you’ll learn some important pieces of the puzzle and you’ll know what to expect in a climate change debate.

Is Climate Change a Theory or a Fact?

We have lots of facts that point to the theory that humans are causing climate change. We have so many “facts” that it would be unreasonable to deny climate change as a whole (this is why skeptics / deniers tend to say they believe in climate change but they “don’t believe humans cause it”, or they don’t think it’s “severe”).

The trick is understanding that a fact is something we have proved true and that theories are explanations of things based on facts. In science a theory is something that has many facts pointing at it. We have lots of climate change facts and those all point to a climate change theory.

FACT: The EPA[1], 97% of scientists[2], 44% of moderate Republicans in the United States[4], NASA[5], Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Barak Obama[6], and many more believe in the theory that humans are impacting climate change in a negative way. They believe this because they look at facts that suggest that the theory of climate change is real.

Who Says Humans are Causing Climate Change?

Although some are “skeptic” that we are making a substantial impact most scientists that look at the data all agree that humans are causing climate change. For example:

According to the EPA: “research indicates that natural causes do not explain most observed warming, especially warming since the mid-20th century. Rather, it is extremely likely that human activities have been the dominant cause of that warming.”[1]

According to NASA: “Most climate scientists agree the main cause of the current global warming trend is human expansion of the “greenhouse effect”1 — warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space.”[5]

Is it True that Scientists Don’t Believe in Climate Change. Is Climate Change a Myth?

There is a myth that a significant number of scientists don’t believe in human-caused climate change. This is all confusing best, and at worst, is simply propaganda pushed on people by those who depend on fossil fuel or their paycheck. When we examine those who deny climate change we start to see suspicious things like trails of money back to “big oil” (not directly, but say because their paper fits a narrative it gets attention), really bizarre cherry picked data, and models that only make sense out of context (although, admittedly, this is found on the other side too).

Skeptics, Deniers, and Bias

People with agenda’s aside, there are of course valid “skeptics” (or “deniers” if you like semantics) out there. Some “skeptics” will take a hard line stance against human-caused climate change, this is a big red flag, someone like this is perhaps best labeled “denier”. Some simply disagree with a specific “model” or “theory” accepted by other scientists, or debate the exact extent of what the data means (this is much more understandable, or if you will “skeptical”).[7]

Some of the “absolute” support on both sides of the debate can be traced back to an agenda. But, it’s important to remember that people have deep-rooted bias. It can be hard not to see what you want to see in data. Not every scientist or thinker who doubts climate change works for big oil, and not everyone who supports taking action is secretly working for some hippie commune.

Remember “the flat earth society” exists in the present day. People don’t always have an outside agenda, often it’s just simply preprogrammed biased from well meaning individuals.

A Skeptical Science peer-reviewed survey of all (over 12,000) peer-reviewed abstracts on the subject ‘global climate change‘ and ‘global warming’ published between 1991 and 2011 (Cook et al. 2013) found that over 97% of the papers taking a position on the subject agreed with the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.  In a second phase of the project, the scientist authors were emailed and rated over 2,000 of their own papers.  Once again, over 97% of the papers taking a position on the cause of global warming agreed that humans are causing it.[2]

A show looking at “why people still deny climate change“.

NOTE: Just because we admit climate change is real doesn’t mean the answer is “tax the daylights out of the oil companies”. This is, in a way, the reason we get so much pushback on the science. These companies understandably don’t want to get “crippled” as a thank you for the role they played in the industrial revolution to today. It’s important to ensure politicians know that fixing the climate isn’t just an excuse to kneecap the fossil fuel industry as much as it is about saving planet Earth.

The Diagram that Proves that You Should Support Efforts to Stop Climate Change, Even if You Don’t Believe in Climate Change

Even as just a matter of self interest it’s important to think about climate change in simple logical way as shown in this image:

Climate change diagram

Climate change diagram showing what happens if we do something, and what happens if we do nothing. What would you choose as a logical self serving human? What would you choose as a moral person who cared about the future? What would you do as the owner of the biggest oil company on earth knowing you had an underground bunker? What would the effects be if climate change isn’t real and we take a very radical approach to “doing something”? (A radical approach like a giant fossil fuel tax, or eliminating fossil fuel altogether tomorrow, or telling a growing country they can’t use fossil fuel). The diagram is meant to make us consider extremes, but look at rational solutions.

Is Global Warming Real and is it the Same Thing as Climate Change?

Global warming is the gradual increase of the overall temperature of  the earth’s atmosphere. It’s typically attributed to “the greenhouse effect” caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and other pollutants. Climate change includes global warming and other changes to earth’s climate.

Part of the reason it’s called “climate change” today (even though the main problem is global warming) is because the term “global warming” came out before the modern connectedness of the internet made it harder for the truth to fight against propaganda. Back before the time of Bush V. Gore a giant campaign began running to slander the idea of “global warming” based on the false logic that if it was cold outside then “global warming wasn’t real”. The non-science still lingers today, but today we also have “the internet” (which Al Gore incidentally did not actually invent by the way). Using the internet we can actually look at the research (see research section below).

According to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states: “It is a greater than a 90 percent certainty that emissions of heat-trapping gases from human activities have caused “most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century.”[3]

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council: “Carbon dioxide and other air pollution that is collecting in the atmosphere like a thickening blanket, trapping the sun’s heat and causing the planet to warm up. Coal-burning power plants are the largest U.S. source of carbon dioxide pollution — they produce 2.5 billion tons every year. Automobiles, the second largest source, create nearly 1.5 billion tons of CO2 annually.”[5]

Is All Climate Change Bad?

Climate change is not inherently bad or good. One can turn the heat up in their house, this is good climate change. If this was the ice age and we warmed up the earth 5 degrees on average (in a way that had no side effects) that would be good. If we use technology to reverse the issues that seem to being arising, that would be good climate change.

Climate change itself is a bit of a buzz word, but since we also made global warming a buzz word, we simply have to pick something so we know what discussion we are having. Truly, what we are worried about is on one side: Human-caused negative effects on the climate and on the other side: Human-caused negative effects on society by over-reacting to the climate.

What Can We Do About Global Warming and Climate Change?

To curb the negative effects of climate change we have to look at human behavior and natural climate events. So we have to come up with solutions that account for both the natural climate change and human-caused climate change. If we eliminate technology that uses fossil fuels we risk catastrophe if we press forward with fossil fuels without regard we risk catastrophe.

What we (people, industries, countries) can do moving forward is the exact same thing we have started doing already:

  • Funding unbiased science. Right now science is skewed on both sides due to it being such a “heated” issue. The best thing we can do is to fund rational and sane scientists to look at solutions that consider our use of fossil fuels and the changes in climate. Advancements in technology would be needed to advance our understanding. We have a lot of the data and we have a lot of the technology, but if we had already done enough we wouldn’t be where we are.
  • Address Pollution: I can’t say for sure the exhaust from my car is changing the climate for the better or worse, but I can say with certainty that it’s harder to breath in a populated city and i’d advise against drinking the water. Simply put, climate change aside, pollution is a stand-alone issue. Even in a world where climate change is wrong and we can do nothing we can do in the atmosphere, we can still make a difference here on Earth.
  • Address Mining, Plant and Animal Agriculture, Deforestation, and Other Contributors: At the heart of industry and technology are mining and agriculture.  We may burn fossil fuels when we drive, but getting the car built, having a road to drive on, and driving somewhere to get tappas all require an active role in global warming. What can we do to live in a world where we don’t have to face mass extinction or live in tents without the internet hunting squirrels in loincloth. Certainly we are smart enough to figure out “a balance” before it all goes to heck be it our fault or not.
  • Funding for alternative energy sources. If we at least mix up our energy sources between all possible options we “hedge our bets” against any one energy source. We already have working solar, nuclear, wind, and water. Each source has it’s own obstacles, but we have options. We can better utilize and integrate alternative energy sources and continue to focus on science in which we may find new untapped energy sources.
  • Smart Discussion. The more we talk about the issue in rational terms the more support we will have for rational measures.


Notes

Author’s Opinions on the Skepticism Behind Climate Change

It’s hard to feel like you “really know” what is happening with so many .Gov sites and supercharged political opinions behind climate change. It’s important for us all to do our own research and share that research with each other. Certainly we don’t want to give up freedom, tax dollars, and cripple companies over something that isn’t real. We also don’t want to stifle industries that drive technology that could help us overcome the same threats climate change poses. Of course, we also don’t want to make the movie Water World a reality because we bought some corporation’s anti-climate change propaganda so they could keep profits up for shareholders and get a few more years of that sweet government subsidy.

From a logical standpoint, assuming that the Department of Defense, the President, NASA, and the EPA are lying to you and have some hidden agenda to take over the world by fighting climate change with Bill Gates and Elon Musk… is a little paranoid. It’s doubtful that Charles Koch, a climate denier, or Bill Gates, a climate change advocate, is 100% right. Rather, all our research suggests both sides have valid points (with fears of big government and angry mobs having just as much weight as the fear of robber barons and cronyism).

In other words, we should be addressing alternative energy and pollution and continuing to study and take action against human-caused negative effects on the environment without crippling growing countries, businesses, our western ideals of individual liberty… or our one and only collective home, planet earth.

Even we can’t all agree that climate change is real, I think most of us can agree that science and technology is good and pollution is bad. We can at least start there when thinking about what programs to support and what our conversation should sound like. Those who wont start there, as I say, are holding a very suspicious red flag.

Author’s Opinions on the Politics of Climate Change

There is this idea that believing in human-caused climate change is a political thing. While this is true in many respects, the climate is not political at it’s core. With that in mind, here are two ways climate change is politicized often to the determent of rational debate:

  1. Some on the left use it as an excuse to push their agenda. For instance they use it justify taxes that aren’t always the best solution alone. Attacking big oil is a surefire way to get pushback in news media and politics. One could argue that has hurt the advancement of climate change science. If our solution to climate change is tax oil back into the ground, it really only addresses part of a bigger and more complex issue.
  2. Some on the right, but specifically “big oil”, tend to fight against climate change science to keep oil flowing and companies profitable. They deny climate change, create propaganda, and get scientists to back it all up. This is very similar to what big tobacco did, except the consequences could be worse. This isn’t to say they don’t bring some great points to the table, but brushing the whole thing off and suggesting oil, coal, and gas are strictly only good for the human experince seems a little misguided.

Right now in the U.S. and around the world we need oil. Many nations are going through their own “industrial revolutions”, and this will continue to be true for the foreseeable non-catastrophe filled future.

In the long term (and short term) goal has to move beyond politics and political theory and focus on what is best for humankind. We have to realize where we are at and focus on addressing our shared problems together. The more we back the other side into a corner the more vicious the fight will get.


Research

  1. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Summary for Policymakers, p. 5

    B.D. Santer et.al., “A search for human influences on the thermal structure of the atmosphere,” Nature vol 382, 4 July 1996, 39-46

    Gabriele C. Hegerl, “Detecting Greenhouse-Gas-Induced Climate Change with an Optimal Fingerprint Method,” Journal of Climate, v. 9, October 1996, 2281-2306

    V. Ramaswamy et.al., “Anthropogenic and Natural Influences in the Evolution of Lower Stratospheric Cooling,” Science 311 (24 February 2006), 1138-1141

    B.D. Santer et.al., “Contributions of Anthropogenic and Natural Forcing to Recent Tropopause Height Changes,” Science vol. 301 (25 July 2003), 479-483.

  2. In the 1860s, physicist John Tyndall recognized the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect and suggested that slight changes in the atmospheric composition could bring about climatic variations. In 1896, a seminal paper by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius first predicted that changes in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could substantially alter the surface temperature through the greenhouse effect.

  3. National Research Council (NRC), 2006. Surface Temperature Reconstructions For the Last 2,000 Years. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.

  4. Church, J. A. and N.J. White (2006), A 20th century acceleration in global sea level rise, Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L01602, doi:10.1029/2005GL024826.

    The global sea level estimate described in this work can be downloaded from the CSIRO website.

  5. http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20160120/  
    T.C. Peterson et.al., “State of the Climate in 2008,” Special Supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, v. 90, no. 8, August 2009, pp. S17-S18.

  6. I. Allison et.al., The Copenhagen Diagnosis: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science, UNSW Climate Change Research Center, Sydney, Australia, 2009, p. 11

    http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20100121/

    http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/ 01apr_deepsolarminimum.htm

  7. Levitus, et al, “Global ocean heat content 1955–2008 in light of recently revealed instrumentation problems,” Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L07608 (2009).

  8. L. Polyak, et.al., “History of Sea Ice in the Arctic,” in Past Climate Variability and Change in the Arctic and at High Latitudes, U.S. Geological Survey, Climate Change Science Program Synthesis and Assessment Product 1.2, January 2009, chapter 7

    R. Kwok and D. A. Rothrock, “Decline in Arctic sea ice thickness from submarine and ICESAT records: 1958-2008,” Geophysical Research Letters, v. 36, paper no. L15501, 2009

    http://nsidc.org/sotc/sea_ice.html

  9. C. L. Sabine et.al., “The Oceanic Sink for Anthropogenic CO2,” Science vol. 305 (16 July 2004), 367-371

  10. National Snow and Ice Data Center

    C. Derksen and R. Brown, “Spring snow cover extent reductions in the 2008-2012 period exceeding climate model projections,” GRL, 39:L19504

    http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/sotc/snow_extent.html

    Rutgers University Global Snow Lab, Data History Accessed August 29, 2011.

     

    1. USGCRP (2014). Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment. Melillo, Jerry M., Theres (T.C.) Richmond, and Gary W. Yohe, Eds., U.S. Global Change Research Program.

    2.NRC (2011). America’s Climate Choices: Final Report. Exit National Research Council. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, USA.

    3. IPCC (2013). Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

    4. EPA (2016). Climate Change Indicators in the United States: U.S. and Global Temperature.

    5. NOAA (2016). State of the Climate: Global Analysis – Annual 2015. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.

    6. EPA (2016). Climate Change Indicators in the United States: Atmospheric Concentrations of Greenhouse Gases.

    7. NRC (2011). Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia. Exit National Research Council. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, USA.

    8. EPA (2016). Climate Change Indicators in the United States: Snowfall.

    9. USGCRP (2016). The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. Crimmins, A., J. Balbus, J.L. Gamble, C.B. Beard, J.E. Bell, D. Dodgen, R.J. Eisen, N. Fann, M.D. Hawkins, S.C. Herring, L. Jantarasami, D.M. Mills, S. Saha, M.C. Sarofim, J. Trtanj, and L. Ziska, Eds. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC.

    10. EPA (2016). Climate Change Indicators in the United States.


Conclusion

Making a definitive call on the severity of climate change isn’t an easy task. But, it’s easy to say humans and nature can both impact the climate for better and for worse. And certainly, the wonders of industrialization come at a price (be it war, pollution, or whatever). How do we balance our need for industry, technology, and our newfound advancements with the fact that they may be hurting the planet? How do we make the next step of advancements in science and technology to curb the issue? Those are the questions indeed.


References

  1. Causes of Climate Change
  2. The 97% consensus on global warming
  3. How Do We Know that Humans Are the Major Cause of Global Warming?
  4. Not All Republicans Think Alike About Global Warming
  5. Global Warming Basics
  6. BREAKTHROUGH ENERGY COALITION
  7. Scientists tried to redo 38 climate change-denying studies and discovered some major flaws
  8. NATIONAL SECURITY IMPLICATIONS OF CLIMATE-RELATED RISKS AND A CHANGING CLIMATE
  9. Climate Change Indicators in the United States
  10. Climate change: How do we know?
  11. What do we know about global climate change?
  12. A blanket around the Earth
  13. The Facts

Citations

  1. EPA -Climate Change Research
  2. NASA Global Climate Change
  3. Is Global Warming a Myth? How to respond to people who doubt the human impact on the climate
  4. 2017: Read the Draft of the Climate Change Report A final draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. The report was completed this year and is part of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years.
  5. Global Warming is Happening: Fact, Myth, and Fallacy
  6. Five facts about the newly-leaked U.S. climate change report
  7. Carbon Dioxide LATEST MEASUREMENT: March 2017 405.6 ppm. NASA.gov
  8. Our Changing Climate
  9. What’s Really Warming the World
  10. The 97% consensus on global warming
  11. NASA climate change
  12. NASA climate change
  13. Future of Climate Change


"Humans Impact Climate Change" is tagged with: Climate Change, Conspiracy Theories, Environment, NASA, The Earth, Theories


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