In an article published in The Northside Sun on March 12, Kelley Williams asserted that the concern over global warming is a “hoax” and a “scam.” Mr. Williams sees the whole subject of climate change as a conspiracy between big government and Green Energy. He probably does not include big business in his conspiracy allegations since several of the largest oil companies, including BP, Exxon Mobile, Shell and Chevron, all officially acknowledge that burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change, even though they clearly have a vested interest in fossil fuels.
According to Mr. Williams, part of the conspiracy involves “scammers in colleges and universities.” I assume that he alleges this because about 97 percent of scientists (presumably the “scammers” he is talking about) agree that the climate is changing, and humans are responsible for it. In most areas of our life, 97 percent agreement represents reality, while support for the 3 percent is typically the scam.
Mr. Williams provides some curious “scientific evidence.” He builds his argument by alleging that those who believe the world is warming as a result of human activity also believe there is a “natural rate” of temperature changes and “an optimum earth temperature that all can agree on.” However, the scientific community, which agrees that the earth is warming from human causes, has not made this assertion.
Data from Antarctic ice cores show atmospheric CO2 fluctuating over the last 800,000 years between about 180 ppm during ice ages and 280 ppm during interglacial warm periods with peaks never exceeding 300 ppm. Currently, we have over 400 ppm in the air, while average temperatures keep increasing. This is a serious anomaly. Also, temperature data from the past 100 years (since the beginning of the industrial revolution which caused CO2 emissions to increase) shows recent acceleration with 19 out of the 20 warmest years occurring since 2001. This is definitely not evidence of rising temperatures slowing down, as Mr. Williams claims.
Mr. Williams also argues that increases in temperature cannot be attributed to increases in carbon dioxide, because “CO2 is only 0.04 percent of the atmosphere.” Well, science shows us that small quantities can be powerful. As a parallel example, air concentrations with 0.04 percent carbon monoxide can be life threatening with just a few hours of exposure.
After presenting his argument against human rendered climate change, Mr. Williams shares his frustration about the failed Kemper project to produce “clean coal” energy. He calls it a failed experiment and a scam. Most people concerned about climate change agree with him. The idea of producing clean coal was promoted by the fossil fuel industry desperately wanting to stay in the coal business. The project ended up failing while being incredibly expensive. This only provides a stronger argument against fossil fuels and in favor of investment in renewable energy. However, failing to build a “cleaner” approach to fossil fuels, which wasn’t expected to work, doesn’t mean that using renewable energies (already proven to work) will follow the same path. In fact, clean energy is becoming more and more price competitive even without government intervention.
Mr. Williams refers to anybody and everybody who acknowledges anthropogenic climate change as alarmists who, “hype climate change and equate it with weather events like hurricanes, tornados, rainfall, droughts, heat waves, cold spells and natural disasters like locust swarms, plagues and contagions real or hyped.” Statements such as this attempt to undermine the credibility of those concerned about climate change by exaggerating their claims. However, these exaggerations contain elements of truth.
Recently we have been observing an increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events, and that increase is related to global warming. For example, climate change does not cause hurricanes, but warmer waters and increased evaporation make them more likely and more powerful. This is a topic covered these days in seventh- and eighth-grade science.
It is unfortunate that the climate change debate has been drawn to a great extent along the political divide in our country. Like the coronavirus threat, the concern over climate change should be a non-partisan issue. Hopefully, that is changing. A recent Pew Research Center survey shows that more than half of Republicans age 38 and younger are not only concerned about climate change but want the federal government to act on it.
Clearly, they are more concerned about the 40 percent of U.S. population that lives near a shoreline and is threatened by rising sea levels, the increased severity and range of tropical diseases, and massive migration of climate refugees than they are about the intrusion of “big government.” They are concerned because this is the world in which they will be living.
So, we ask a similar question to the ones Mr. Williams asked in his article. Who benefits from accepting the consensus of the scientific community about climate change and from taking comprehensive action to slow the warming of the earth’s climate? I believe the answer is our grandchildren and those who come after them.
Thankfully, citizens are coming together to help present the urgent case for actions to slow the rise in the earth’s temperature. In Mississippi, Dominika Parry, a Madison County resident with a PhD in environmental economics serves as the president of 2C Mississippi, a non-profit organization committed to informing Mississippians about climate change. This organization, and others like it, are bringing science to our students and adults so they understand the threat of climate change, and will be willing to support public policies which work to slow, and even reverse, the warming of the earth’s climate.
Kane Ditto is a Northsider and former mayor of Jackson.