Whether you call it “climate change” or “global warming,” roughly one-third of Americans simply don’t believe in it – at least as a genuine threat to humankind, according to surveys conducted this year by Monmouth University, Pew Research Center and Gallup. That reality might come as a shock to some, but there’s a reason why thousands of people ask the internet whether the phenomenon is merely a myth each month. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there.
Some people can’t quite wrap their heads around the science of climate change; some object on religious grounds. Others acknowledge that the climate is changing but don’t think humans are to blame. And many are no doubt buoyed by the president-elect leaving room for interpretation whenever asked about the issue.
Where doubters see grey areas, however, the scientific community finds overwhelming. At least 97% of scientists agree that manmade climate change is hurting the planet, according to recent studies, and many have been making the case for well over a decade. For example, Dr. Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University wrote in 2004 that, “Politicians, economists, journalists, and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement, or discord among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect.”
Regardless of where you currently stand or what preconceived notions you may have, climate change remains one of the fundamental issues facing society and our wallets. Increased regulation has the potential to disrupt an array of industries, for example, putting many people out of work. Green infrastructure spending could provide a stimulus in many respects, but would also depend on taxpayer dollars. And doing nothing, or even delaying much further, could literally drown many of the country’s largest economic centers while sparking a massive migration inland.
Considering the level of disagreement that surrounds this matter and how much ultimately is at stake, it’s at least fair to say that everyone needs a truly informed understanding of the issues at hand. With that in mind, we posed the question – Is global warming real? – to a panel of leading experts in related fields. In the interest of promoting an informed discussion, we limited discussion to professors and researchers with a doctorate in environmental science or public policy. You can find their bios and responses below. And if you’d like to join the debate, please share your thoughts in the Comments section at the bottom of the page.
Yes & It’s Bad
- It is easy for the 3% of climate-change denying scientists, who are based in the wealthiest country on the planet, to hold their ground. It must be nice to not worry about this daunting catastrophe about to threaten our lives, but for the majority of the people of the planet, especially those living in climate-vulnerable geographies, climate change is too real.
John Seager – CEO and President of Population Connection
- In a world full of problems, there are none that come close to the scope and potential for destruction, as global warning. Every citizen of Earth, not to mention the scores of flora and fauna that share our planet, has and will be increasingly affected by the man-made heating of our home.
Roland Lewis – President and CEO at Waterfront Alliance
- The false debate about global warming is not being waged in the scientific realm of facts and theories, but instead is being posed by special interests heavily invested in carbon-intensive industries, using the same tactics (and often the same firms) used to delay health warnings on cigarette labels and resist the removal of harmful lead from gasoline and paint. These criminals have no place at any debate, unless it is occurs behind bars.
Gabriel Filippelli, Ph.D – Professor of Earth Sciences and Adjunct Professor of Public Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Director of the Center for Urban Health
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Yes, But It’s Not Bad
- If we can move beyond arguments about the reality of global warming, accept the fact that change is an inherent part of our climate no matter what we do, and direct our attention to more important matters, we can help ensure that important and constructive dialogue take place.
Derek Monson – Director of Public Policy at Sutherland Institute
- Evidence of a global warming crisis does not exist. Indeed, if a several-degree temperature increase by the end of the century should sometime appear likely, previous warming cycles have shown planetary survival could again, miraculously, occur. Certainly, nothing has been written, said or done that suggests spending trillions of present and future dollars to prevent, it would actually do so. Studies are available, however, that have identified far more beneficial uses globally for such huge expenditures.
Paula Easley – Former Executive Director of the Resource Development Council for Alaska, and Independent Consultant specializing in Energy, Land & Natural Resources Policy
- Global warming is natural. The human impacts on climate exist primarily in faulty computer models that underlie the massive government interventions, now enriching well-organized groups who benefit from the vast sums being spent to deal with a non-problem.
Peter Holle – President and CEO at Frontier Centre for Public Policy
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No, But Climate Change Is (And It’s Not Bad)
- There is strong evidence that the Earth was warmer than now during the Medieval Climate Optimum, around the year 1000, when Vikings settled Greenland. There have been many - even earlier - warm periods during past 10,000 years of our current interglacial. None of these warmings and coolings had anything to do with burning fossil fuels.
William Happer, Ph.D – Director of CO2 Coalition and Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University
- The real danger to agriculture, and therefore to humanity, comes not from global warming but from episodes of global cooling, like ice ages and similar natural events, usually controlled by the sun, or by factors related to the motion of the Earth. There may be ways whereby we can ameliorate such cold periods; it behooves us to test various methods before disaster strikes.
S. Fred Singer, Ph.D – Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia and Chairman of the Science & Environmental Policy Project and Author of Climate Change Reconsidered
- Fossil-fuel use makes us wealthier, and wealthier societies are better able to anticipate, mitigate, adapt to, and respond to the vagaries of climate change, regardless of the cause, or type of change.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D - Research Fellow on Energy and the Environment at Heartland Institute
- High-profile environmentalists feed the narrative that we are on the cusp of environmental catastrophe, and fossil fuels and their greenhouse gas emissions are to blame. This decades-long talking point has fueled a furious debate among politicians, policymakers and special interest groups, who largely ignore the body of science that has yet to confirm the climate change disaster prophecy.
Kathy Hoekstra – Regulatory Policy Reporter at Watchdog.org
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