| Daily Comet
Talk about an understatement.
“America’s worsening climate change problem is as polarized as its politics.”
So begins an Associated Press news story posted to The Courier and Daily Comet’s websites Saturday about the wildfires torching swaths of the western U.S. while hurricanes and heavy rains pummel the East and Gulf coasts.
As the story’s first sentence suggests, your political beliefs will likely determine how you receive that news. Conservatives may have already written it off completely, especially those who side with President and climate change denier in chief Donald Trump. If you’re among the minority of liberals around here, you’ve already made up your mind too.
The scientific consensus has long been clear. NASA, an agency of the federal government now run by the Trump administration — cites data and lists its sources in making this statement:
“Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.”
But you already knew about that consensus, right? And you have already chosen to believe or disbelieve.
Editor’s opinion: Repeat after me: It’s sinking land AND climate change
Scientists may pursue evidence-based truths, but history shows they’ve sometimes had a difficult time persuading the masses. Just ask Pythagoras, who in the 6th century BC declared the world was round and not flat. Or Galileo, who was famously arrested for positing, in the early 17th century, that the Earth revolves around the sun. Or Charles Darwin, whose 19th century theory of evolution still conflicts with religious beliefs.
All of these historical figures, and many others, are now widely viewed as pivotal thinkers and fathers of their fields, but their scientific findings and theories still spark debate.
Sure, scientific debate is healthy, but that assumes it’s grounded in fact over emotion, evidence over myth, open-mindedness over prejudice.
Trump, Calif. officials clash over climate change
At a wildfires briefing in California Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials urged President Donald Trump to accept that “climate change is real.” Trump replied: “It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch.” (Sept. 14)
I admit, my observation is anecdotal here, but a lot of the public debate I read and hear on these issues lately isn’t scientific at all. It’s more likely tribal — you’re either with us or against us — and based on membership to what former New Orleans TV and radio personality Garland Robinette referred to aptly as membership in one of the “fear clubs” — Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.
Anyway, scientists in the latest story heap more evidence onto what the Trump administration’s NASA and the Trump administration’s National Climate Assessment say is established, consensus theory.
“The story in the West is really going to be … these hot dry summers getting worse and the fire compounded by decreasing precipitation,’’ Columbia University climate scientist Richard Seager is quoted as saying. “But in the eastern part more of the climate change impact story is going to be more intense precipitation. We see it in Sally.”
Opinion: Americans start adapting to climate change; they’re doing it wrong
More: Rise in sea levels is accelerating along U.S. coasts, report warns
And we see it in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, where scientists, including some with federal agencies now run by the Trump administration, have for years measured the effects of rising seas due to global warming.
The most optimistic projections in the state’s master plan to deal with coastal erosion and hurricane threats estimates seas will rise by nearly three feet over the next 50 years. About half of that will come from rising seas caused or exacerbated by global warming, the rest from sinking land. And the worst-case scenario projects those combined forces will push seas nearly five feet higher. Under any scenario, the plan says, a substantial portion of Terrebonne and Lafourche will sink beneath the Gulf of Mexico, regardless of the actions taken to stop it.
One strategy the plan fails to consider is disbelief. Maybe the rising tide will swamp only those who believe it will happen. A little disbelief might at least lessen the damage, right? Or maybe the problem will just vanish altogether. Want to give it a try?
— Executive Editor Keith Magill can be reached at 857-2201 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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