Climate: February 21, 2018

Dear Mr. VP,

Today seems like a good time to write about climate change and denial of science. It’s supposed to be 67 degrees this afternoon. 67 degrees, in New England, in February. Tomorrow it will be 37 and snowy. This is not a joke.

(You know what else isn’t a joke? The massive potholes being caused by the extreme temperatures. There are some on the way to work that I’m fairly certain my whole car could fit inside.)

Of course, the science is clear. The climate is changing and we are causing it.

To quote the Union of Concerned Scientists:

We know human activities are driving the increase in CO2 concentrations because atmospheric CO2 contains information about its source. Scientists can tease apart how much CO2 comes from natural sources, and how much comes from combusted fossil fuel sources.

Compared to other carbon sources, carbon from fossil fuels has a distinctly different “signature,” essentially the relative amount of heavier or lighter atoms of carbon (technically δ13C). The more negative the δ13C, the higher the proportion of carbon from fossil fuels.

Over the years, δ13C has decreased while the overall amount of CO2 has increased. This information tells scientists that fossil fuel emissions are the largest contributor of CO2 concentrations since the pre-industrial era.

So while it seems pretty clear cut to me, but we’re dealing with three things:

1. Rich politicians who benefit from unfettered capitalism and therefore don’t like regulation, and will also be able to afford some measure of protection from at least the first stages of extreme weather and change.

2. Rich politicians who also believe Earth is disposable, since they’ll all live out their eternities in the paradise of an afterlife. Surely, they’ll be raptured before peak oil forces us all into a real-life The Road scenario where I’m pushing my kid in a shopping cart down I-95 and dodging cannibals.

3. An absolute lack of understanding of science, and no desire to change that because of 1 and 2.

How can I expect you to think about the science of climate change when you won’t even take seriously the mountains of well-accepted evidence that smoking is dangerous?

(“Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill…” – you. A tangent, but you actually claimed the FDA regulating smoking and cigarettes was “big government” so my hope for you to do anything about guns is less than zero.)

I can’t lie. I will enjoy the weather today. I hate winter, and I hate February. I love spring, and I am salivating over the thought of open windows and going to the park, cooking on the grill and hikes where I don’t almost die on an ice slick. The weather will most certainly improve my mood — it always does.

And yet. While I enjoy the weather, I will also be thinking about the world we’re leaving to my kid, and that does NOT improve my mood at all. All I can hope is that his generation will finally fix what all previous generations have been unable to, before we’re all living in an underwater hellscape.


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