For decades, yes decades, scientists have been talking about the coming threat of global warming.  They have told us that soon, we will begin to see the impacts in our everyday lives… just outside of our windows.

Well, that day has arrived.  Actually, it arrived a while ago.  We have warmed our planet enough so that all of the weather patterns we are now experiencing are impacted by the extra carbon we have put into the atmosphere.

What are we seeing?  Aside from globally rising temperatures, we can now see local impacts that would be extraordinarily rare if not for our carbon emissions.  Recently, there have been extensive droughts in Texas, heat waves in Oklahoma, flooding in the Missouri river valley, Montana, Duluth and other locations.  That doesn’t even count the incredible temperatures and low precipitation that we’ve had this year throughout the nation, leading to fires in Colorado and extensive agricultural losses across the country that may total as much as $100 billion.

Americans are starting to make the connection; we are partly responsible for this change.  In addition, there are real costs to climate change.  We are not merely talking about polar bears…. We are talking about economic damage across the United States.

It is not all bad news.  While we are seeing climate change before our eyes, we also have a clear path to solve the problem.  We don’t need to wait for some magical technology to come to our rescue; we can use today’s technology to address the problem today.

What does a solution look like?  First, it is a wiser use of energy.  We can use energy more efficiently to accomplish our daily tasks.  As a result, we would save money; the only thing we would feel is a fatter pocketbook.  Some people, particularly our conservative brothers and sisters decry conservation.  They talk as though wasting energy is a mark of patriotism.  What a far cry from my grandparents who were true conservatives.  They would conserve everything from pennies and loose buttons to old shirts and socks.  Using our resources wisely should be a mark of pride, whether you are a conservative or a progressive.

The second part of the solution is a maximization of clean and renewable energy production here in the U.S.  We can replace dirty coal and oil by clean wind and solar power.  We can send our money to the farmers in our country rather than oil tycoons in the Middle East.

This isn’t hard, if we work together to solve our climate problem, we can also develop the industries to lead our country into the future.  We can create jobs, diversify our energy supply, improve our national security, and improve the climate.  This is a common sense approach that no rational person can be against.

What if we don’t take action?  What if we listen to the oil and gas industries that tell us everything will be okay?  What if we allow the fossil fuel companies and lobbying groups to continue to harass scientists, subject them to legal threat, post their contact information online so anti-science readers can send hate mail and threats?  What if we allow the anti-science organizations to hijack our country?  We can be assured that the weather we’ve experienced these past twelve months becomes the usual for the future.  

History will write a sorry legacy for the anti-science crowd.  Around their neck will be the stigma of fighting against the solutions that could have preserved our country’s future.  That will be a hollow victory where everyone loses.  Let’s imagine a real victory where we come together to solve this problem for the betterment of all of us.  Because, “when we all do better, we all do better”.

Dr. John Abraham
University of St. Thomas