Seven Reasons Climate Change is a Fact, Not a Belief

Dec 14, 2011Nick Santos

Information is most trusted when it comes from a credible source, so there's no time like the present to talk to family and friends about the science behind climate change.

Anyone paying attention to the debate around climate change understands how difficult it is to even talk about it. People feel the need to reject the credible science on climate change in order to reject policies they disagree with -- often with valid concerns that must be addressed. The U.S. public understands that climate change is a hot topic, but the knowledge mostly doesn't go deeper than that due to misinformation and "belief." One of the primary changes we need in order for our polluting country to take action on climate change is to foster the knowledge that climate change is a fact -- not a belief. This requires credible information to be delivered by the credible sources.

Here are seven reasons that climate change is a fact and not a belief:

1. Over 98 percent of the most respected scientists studying climate change say that it is occurring and it is caused by human activities like burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

2. The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is attributable to human sources such as fossil fuel burning. Across multiple studies, the ratio of different isotopes of carbon in the atmosphere -- slightly different versions of the same element -- has changed in a direction consistent with burning more fossil fuels. (1,2)

3. Far from being something that "might" happen, hundreds of studies have shown that climate change is already occurring and damaging our economy and ecosystems.

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4. Satellite data verifies that as we increase concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere, less heat escapes to space (and thus, more is trapped in our atmosphere, warming the planet).

5. While energy output from the sun has decreased over the past few decades, the climate has warmed significantly.

6. Temperatures today are significantly warmer than at any time over the last 100 years -- or even the last 1,000 years.

7. Models of the Earth's climate that don't include greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide fail to align with experienced temperature, but once greenhouse gas emissions from human sources are factored in models match known temperatures.

Ultimately, it matters who delivers this information. Research has continually shown that it matters more who says something than what they say, and the best messengers are family, friends, and trusted organizations. We need those messengers now more than ever. In a 2010 Yale study, 52 percent of Americans sampled would have failed a climate change exam, with another 40 percent receiving a C or D. So, if you know someone who disagrees with climate science, ask them to talk to you about their specific concerns so that we can move this debate into the realm of viable solutions.

Nick Santos is a Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow working on climate change education. He runs Environmental Consumer, a nonprofit, and works with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

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