After going through the entire campaign season, including three debates, without addressing climate change, President Obama delivered the following message during his second inaugural speech:
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
We reveal our flaws as human beings with the lack of political will to address climate change. That we have known of climate change (global warming) in the mainstream now for over two decades, but offer precious little legislative action, is a testament to how much we live in the moment as a species. While people pay lip service when it comes to making a better future for our children and grandchildren, rarely do we see critical action needed to make that happen, at least on a global scale. The problem is we forever see today as the most important time and tomorrow as a vague but hopefully improved version of today. Even people who are pessimistic about current economic or social prospects still cling to hope for a better tomorrow. That means people are more likely to put a greater effort into working to solve problems seen and felt in the moment, and not problems we, our children, and our grandchildren will face in some possible future.
But regardless of your opinion on climate change, the consensus of the people who have dedicated their lives to studying the climate is that climate change is real and we are the cause. Is it possible they are wrong? Sure, I’ll concede that. Any intelligent and thoughtful person must always allow for the possibility that we, or the experts we rely on, are wrong.
But we never advance as a species and as a society by ceding expertise to uninformed conjecture.
I’ve got a secret to share, I was once a climate change skeptic. While I didn’t take my skepticism to the level of denialism like so many on the Right of the political spectrum, I did have serious doubts that human beings could affect global climate. This was back in the late 1990s. Around 2000 or so I began to open my mind and read about climate change and realize that I had no particular reason to elevate my own uninformed opinion above scientists who have advanced degrees and study the climate every day. I realized that I was full of shit when it came to my climate change skepticism. I was deluding myself. — If you believe climate change isn’t real based on opinion alone, you’re full of shit as well.
So when it comes to the issue of climate change, I ask one thing of every person who reads this article — open your mind. Do you know climate change isn’t real based on science, peer review, and mountains of evidence? Is climate science your area of expertise? If you answer no to those questions, then as yourself the following question — What is informing your skepticism?
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