Climate Change: A Humble Plea to Deniers and Skeptics, From a Fierce Critic of the Left

Dear Climate Change Skeptics,

I understand your frustration. I understand your skepticism. You've made many valid criticisms against leftists and climate activists. Your charges, which state that many of them engage in hyperbole and empower fearmongers are correct. Your assessments of their unrealistic and economically disastrous proposals to combat climate change are correct. I'm not one of them and their tactics alarm me as much as they alarm you. I am keenly aware of the dangers of socialism and the radical left - I criticize them on a daily basis. With that being said, please HEAR ME.

I want to speak to people that consider themselves climate change skeptics, climate change deniers, conservatives, Republicans, libertarians, or any other group of people that believe that climate change is a hoax or is a socialist Trojan horse, masquerading as a benevolent environmental movement.

It’s terribly unfortunate that radical leftists have claimed climate change as THEIR issue. For decades, the left and environmental activists have used climate change as a political weapon to propagate far-left economic policy. It’s unfortunate that mainstream politicians, such as Al Gore, have also claimed the issue as THEIR issue. When climate change mitigation is seen as part of a leftist, liberal, Democratic or progressive agenda, anyone who disagrees with those ideologies will view any mitigation of climate change as a threat to freedom. The left has wielded the issue of climate change like a proverbial gun to the head. And yet they act surprised when their political opponents aren’t eager to jump on board. 

You always attract more bees with honey than vinegar. Climate activists have always articulated climate change concerns to their opponents as either a threat or an insult. As someone who makes a living by initiating change in environments that are intrinsically resistant to change, I can tell you with certainty that this tactic has come back to bite the left in the ass. But, many on the right have used deceptive tactics to thwart leftists’ climate change agenda, in response to their demagoguery and condescension. Unfortunately, this has led to the suppression and denial of objective, scientific facts.

We must separate the science from the politics. We must dispel this notion of tribal loyalty, which states that if anyone acknowledges the evidence of climate change, then they are somehow subscribing to or endorsing all of the left’s absurd policy proposals. This is NOT true. If you acknowledge the evidence of climate change, you’re not somehow complacent in the left’s crusade to augment the size of the federal government. You’re not sliding down the slippery slope of socialist totalitarianism. We must surgically remove the political cancer that has metastasized throughout society and obscured the massive body of scientific evidence that confirms the existence of climate change. 

The Left and the Environmental Movement has CLAIMED climate change as THEIR issue. This is unfortunate.
Historically, climate change activists have been VERY BAD at change management. They're better at hyperbole and fearmongering.
For decades, climate activists have used threats and insults to convince libertarians, centrists and conservatives that climate change is real. That's been counterproducitve.

Time to cut out the cancer

So, let’s try to separate the science (which is actually fairly simple) from political ideology. Sadly, these two have become inextricably linked. Let’s assume that all of the recommendations of the far-left Democrats, such as the Green New Deal and the fear of nuclear power, are ridiculous (which they are).

I also need to point out that the majority of Democratic politicians don’t take the Green New Deal seriously. They know it’s preposterous, but they also know that since the Democratic base has shifted so far to the left, the penalty for publicly condemning it would cost far too much political capital.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) said “there’s no way to pay for” the Green New Deal. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) praised the Green New Deal’s goal to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels but acknowledged it’s far too ambitious. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) blasted the plan, calling it a “dream” that would hurt American communities that count on reliable, affordable energy. 

The Green New Deal is not about solutions to climate change. It’s about virtue-signaling, political correctness and the codification of a far-left ideology, which lacks the support of serious intellectuals, policy-makers and politicians. It’s closer, in terms of substance, to religious dogma than to government policy. It has a spiritual appeal, not an intellectual appeal. Sadly, the younger generations of Americans are quite fond of emotional reasoning.

Few serious people, including the majority of Democratic politicians, support the Green New Deal, which is an incoherent hodgepodge of economically disastrous policies, leftist social justice ideology and vilification of nuclear power (the world's cleanest and most powerful source of energy).
With the exception of "the Squad," the only Democrats that have endorsed the Green New Deal have done so to incur favor with the progressive Democratic base. They were well aware that the proposal would never become a reality.
"Kids are stupid." - Marv (Home Alone)

Climate Change was apolitical before the left "Claimed" it.

Climate change, as a scientific concept, grew out of NASA’s (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) study of Venus as a result of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which required that NASA develop technology for “space observations.” NASA developed the technology but NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) actually conducted the scientific research.

The collaboration between these agencies discovered that Venus is extremely hot, due to the planet’s atmosphere’s unique gas composition, which consists of large amounts of CO2. Compared to Earth, Venus has 300 times more CO2 in its atmosphere. NASA, NOAA and USGS scientists recognized the phenomenon that we now call the “Greenhouse Effect” on Venus.

Venus’ dense, CO2-packed atmosphere roasts the planet to the point that its surface can melt lead. So, the Greenhouse Effect is a scientific phenomenon that’s been observed on another planet. NASA, NOAA and the USGS were not, and are not, left-wing socialist organizations, especially during the height of the Cold War – when communism and socialism were viewed with fierce hostility.

Venus is extremely hot. Its atmosphere has 300x as much CO2 as Earth's atmosphere.
The "Greenhouse" effect is what causes Venus' surface to be hot enough to melt lead.
NASA, NOAA and USGS, especially during the height of the Cold War, are not (and were not) left-wing or socialist organizations.

What does Venus have to do with Earth?

So, we know that certain gasses, such as carbon dioxide and methane, in the atmosphere can trap heat from the sun. Many climate change skeptics have said it’s ridiculous to suggest “that only a 100 years of emissions caused by us could affect the Earth.”  It’s actually somewhere between 200 and 250 years.

The Industrial Revolution, which started in the 18th century, saw titanic technological improvements in manufacturing processes. This was when mankind started to pump massive levels of CO2 into the atmosphere. It also lifted multitudes of people out of poverty as well. Leftists love to hate capitalism, which, ironically, has been the greatest weapon against poverty that the world has ever known. Population growth also exploded, which meant more waste and more pollution. 

Gradually, the atmosphere’s CO2 levels rose and, so did the temperatures. As CO2 levels rose, the average global temperature rose. The same phenomenon observed on Venus began to occur on Earth. The laws of physics and chemistry are not beholden to any political ideology (or planet, for that matter).  

How do we know this happened? Detailed temperature records go back many years, so that information is easily verifiable. There are many ways to measure atmospheric CO2 levels, but one simple way is to travel to the polar ice caps.

The Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) took place in Europe and the U.S. and involved the widespread adoption of new manufacturing processes, such as steam power and chemical manufacturing.
Source: NASA | https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/ | The evidence is overwhelming - the average global temperature HAS been increasing since the Industrial Revolution.
The massive improvements in human welfare that occurred as a result of the Industrial Revolution came at a price. While new production techniques were exponentially more efficient than the methods that preceded them, they were also much more damaging to the environment.

Frozen in time

Homo sapiens, in their present form, emerged from Africa about 200,000 years ago. The CO2 levels of past climates provide us with an incredibly detailed record of climate history, which sheds light on the different conditions that humans can survive and evolve in. It is not possible to ascertain the range of environments that humans can live in without examining this information.

One of the most reliable ways to study the composition of the atmosphere, and its varying CO2 levels throughout earth’s history, is the analysis of ice cores.

Ice cores are critical to our modern understanding of natural history.

Ice cores provide a precise and highly-detailed view of key climate variables that have affected earth’s temperatures for millions of years. Scientists have taken samples from ice sheets in both poles, most frequently from Greenland and Antarctica. These areas have been cold for a very long time and, as a result, snow has been accumulating at these locations for eons.

As we all know, snow eventually turns to ice. Millions of time capsules are housed within ice sheets across the world. The ice contains air bubbles that have preserved samples (essentially mini test tubes) of the world’s past atmospheres. It’s similar to how Jurassic Park’s plot involved mosquitoes (with dinosaur DNA housed inside of them) that were preserved in fossilized amber.

Ice cores provide pieces of physical evidence for scientists to measure the temperature and the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at different periods in time. Scientists can measure the level of greenhouse gases directly and can determine temperature by analyzing the isotopic composition of the water molecules that are released when the ice cores are melted. While the temperature measurement is indirect, it’s no less precise. 

The dark ring in this ice core is from a large volcanic eruption that occurred over 21,000 years ago.
Earth's past atmospheres are preserved in ice in the same way that dino DNA was preserved in mosquitoes in "Jurassic Park."

What does the evidence tell us?

Check out this graph from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science (definitely not a left-wing source). As you can see, CO2 levels tick up around 1760, which is when the Industrial Revolution began.

Ironically, the drastic increase in CO2 is a consequence of economic development and prosperity. As economic opportunity and mobility increased, populations increased too. Nation after nation became developed and industrialized, which meant more use of fossil fuels and more deforestation, along with damage to many other natural resources that decrease carbon footprints.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Energy | Office of Science | https://cdiac.ess-dive.lbl.gov/trends/co2/lawdome-graphics.html

Scientists have analyzed ice cores that housed samples of the earth’s atmosphere from the 1980s and compared the results to standard measurements conducted by the USGS and NOAA. The numbers matched up, which confirmed the validity of ice core analysis as a measurement technique.

As you can see from this graph (taken from a different Antarctic ice core), CO2 levels were stable over the last thousand years until the 18th century, when they started to tick up. Today, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is over 40% greater than it was before the Industrial Revolution. However, a thousand years is a tiny fraction of time compared to the age of the planet. We need to examine a longer timeline.

Source: British Antarctic Survey | Natural Environment Research Council | https://www.bas.ac.uk/data/our-data/publication/ice-cores-and-climate-change/
Source: British Antarctic Survey | Natural Environment Research Council | https://www.bas.ac.uk/data/our-data/publication/ice-cores-and-climate-change/

This next graph (above) clearly shows the strong causal relationship between CO2 levels in the atmosphere and average global temperature. The magnitude and rate of the current CO2 and current temperature increases are more severe than those of any other increases in the last 800,000 years.

The important thing to consider is the slope (rate of change) of the lines, not the height (amplitude) of the lines. The fastest natural increase took place over roughly 1000 years and involved a CO2 increase of roughly 20ppmv (parts per million by volume). To put that into perspective, there was an atmospheric CO2 increase of 20ppmv between 2004 and 2014. The current atmospheric levels of methane, an even more insulating greenhouse gas, are more than twice as high as they were before the Industrial Revolution. 

As you can see, in the last 800,000 years, Earth was, on average, pretty cold. But, about every 100,000 years or so, it warmed up. 

The same principles of chemistry that allow a pool boy to check the acidity of your pool allow scientists to determine the temperature of past eras.
It's absolutely true that Earth has ALWAYS gone through warming and cooling periods. However, the speed of the warming that we're currently seeing is unprecedented.

By analyzing the different levels of water isotopes in the ice cores, scientists can construct a continuous picture of natural temperature fluctuations across oceans of time. 

This graph shows the most recent “warming” period, which took place roughly 11,000 years ago. The relationship between temperature and CO2 is undeniable. A positive feedback loop exists between the two, in that increases in CO2 lead to increases in temperature AND vice versa. There is NO evidence in the ice record of an instance where CO2 rose without an increase in temperature. 

However, the rises in CO2 and temperature aren’t random. Earth’s orbit around the sun changes roughly every hundred thousand years and these changes increase both CO2 and temperature.

While these shifts in Earth’s orbit lead to fairly mild changes initially,  the positive feedback loop that exists between temperature and C02 exacerbates the mild increases (due to alterations in the earth’s orbit around the sun). Increased temperatures melt sheet ice, which leads to less light being reflected away from earth, which further raises temperatures.

Source: British Antarctic Survey | Natural Environment Research Council | https://www.bas.ac.uk/data/our-data/publication/ice-cores-and-climate-change/
The Sun has often "kickstarted" a domino effect, where temperature and CO2 feed off of one another.

It is also true that ice cores have shown evidence of rapid changes in the Earth’s temperature. During the last glacial period (roughly 37,500 years ago), the temperature increased by 11 degrees Celsius in only 40 years. 

At the time that this major shift occurred, North America was completely covered by a giant ice sheet. The ice sheet disrupted the flow of tropical heat from the ocean so that temperature increases were irregular and sudden. However, it increased from -45 degrees Celsius to -34 degrees Celsius – not exactly a heat wave. This change happened at the height of an ice age. The climate and physical composition of the earth today make this particular mechanism of rapid temperature shift impossible. 

Source: British Antarctic Survey | Natural Environment Research Council | https://www.bas.ac.uk/data/our-data/publication/ice-cores-and-climate-change/

Climate has changed in the past. That is true, but there has never been an instance in the earth’s natural history THAT WE KNOW ABOUT where global temperatures changed this quickly. The ice cores can’t predict the future for us, because we have never found a sample of Earth’s atmosphere that has levels of CO2 comparable to what we’re seeing today.  Ice ages and other major climate change events in the past took place over long periods of time, not in the small space of a few hundred years. 

I challenge you to find a single credible scientific paper that states that climate change is a hoax. You will not find one.

Source: British Antarctic Survey | Natural Environment Research Council | https://www.bas.ac.uk/data/our-data/publication/ice-cores-and-climate-change/

The Scientific Consensus is real

Don't allow the left to "claim" the climate change cause and control the narrative.

I’m not saying that we should go for the Green New Deal. I’m not saying that some climate models have NOT produced inaccurate results. I’m not saying that proposals to combat climate change by the progressive left are realistic. I’m not saying that their solutions would be effective.  I’m not saying that the world is going to end in 12 years. I’m not saying that we need to cave in and allow the progressive left to further augment the size of the federal government. I’m not saying that successful mitigation of climate change won’t require a global effort, including major polluters like India and China (it will). I’m not saying that the solutions to climate change won’t include nuclear power (it will). I’m not saying that the left’s proposed solutions to climate change don’t require economically disastrous actions (they do). I’m not saying that government can solve this problem (because it can’t). 

I am saying that temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels are rising at an unprecedented rate and the slope of that increase is a direct function of the amount of pollution that was released into the air as a result of the Industrial Revolution and further technological innovation. I am saying that while climate warming and cooling ARE normal, the current levels of C02 in the atmosphere are increasing the warming of our planet at an artificially high rate that drastically dwarfs any previous speed of change. I’m saying that the temperature records that we’re seeing are also unprecedented. I’m saying that it’s not just that we’re getting hotter faster than ever before, it’s also never been this hot, in terms of average global temperature. I’m saying that the totality of the evidence is so comprehensive and so convincing that it’s simply not possible for climate change to be considered a hoax. I’m saying that in order for a person to consider climate change to be a hoax, they either have to be willfully ignorant of the facts or they have to rely on conspiracy theory websites and pseudo-scientific fake news. 

Acknowledging that climate change exists doesn’t mean that we have to sell our souls to the radical left. It means that libertarians, conservatives and centrists can “claim” part of the narrative and help to develop realistic solutions to climate change. It means that the left won’t be able to use climate change as a weapon to threaten, or to insult people that disagree with them about policy. It means that the issue of climate change will no longer be about political ideology, social justice narratives or the concept of socialism. It means that the discussion around the issue of climate change will be about solutions, not tribalism. 

Climate change was originally discovered and studied in an apolitical environment. We need to purge climate change of its political toxicity. Let’s separate the politics from the science and come up with some realistic solutions together. 

Thank you so much for hearing what I have to say.

Sources Used:
  1. Ritchie, Earl. (2016). “Fact Checking The Claim of 97% Consensus On Anthropogenic Climate Change.” Forbes.
  2.  Stoller-Conrad, Jessica. (2017). “Core Questions: An Introduction to ice cores.” NASA. https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2616/core-questions-an-introduction-to-ice-cores/
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  4.  NASA. (2019). “Scientific Consensus: Earth’s Climate is Warming. NASA. https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/
  5. Mulvaney, Robert. (2004). “How are past temperatures determined from an ice core?” Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-are-past-temperatures/
  6. King, Ledyard. (2019). “Green New Deal too ambitious for some Democrats, even those who say Congress must ‘do something.'” USA Today.
  7. Revkin, Andrew. (2018). “Climate Change First Became News 30 Years Ago. Why Haven’t We Fixed It?” National Geographic.
  8. NASA. (2019). “Taking a Global Perspective on Earth’s Climate.” NASA. https://climate.nasa.gov/nasa_science/history/
  9. Horn, Jeff; Rosenband, Leonard; Smith, Merritt (2010). “Reconceptualizing the Industrial Revolution.” Cambridge MA, London: MIT Press.
  10. Wrigley, Anthony. (2018). “Reconsidering the Industrial Revolution: England and Wales.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 49.01: 9–42.
  11. Reisman, George (1998). “Capitalism: A complete understanding of the nature and value of human economic life.” Jameson Books.
  12. Pinker, Stephen. (2018). “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism & Progress.” Viking.
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