In all of the recent news about climate change, leaked emails, complex negotiations, and watered-down agreements in Copenhagen, one fact has’t received enough attention. The climate “hoax” is real. The only problem is that the real hoax is the effort by climate change deniers who argue that the climate isn’t changing, or that it isn’t because of human actions. It is, and it is. The science is unambiguous. The climate is changing, rapidly, and it is doing so because of our emissions of greenhouse gases.
I know many people have said this. I’ve been saying it for twenty-five years in my research and writings. But if the phrase “climate hoax” is going to enter the public vernacular, it should do so in the right way. So from now on, I intend to use it to refer to the efforts of climate change deniers to misinform the public and our policy makers. Some, like Senator James Inhofe (of Oklahoma), love the phrase “climate hoax.” Fine, but since he is a major elected official perpetrating this hoax (actually, I think he is probably both a hoax-er and a hoax-ee), let the words represent his own actions.
He and the other deniers are foisting a hoax on the American people by misusing and abusing science and by misrepresenting facts for narrow ideological purposes. If he and the other climate hoaxers don’t think we ought to do anything about climate change because they fear it will hurt the economy, or they just can’t bear for the government to do anything at all, fine, they should make that argument. But instead they pretend the science isn’t firm.
It is. There are plenty of uncertainties about how bad climate change is going to get, and how fast, and how the impacts will be distributed. But not about whether the climate is changing or whether humans are driving those changes.
Water Number: Because my blog is called “Water Numbers,” here is the number for today’s post. 20%. This is the expected decrease in recharge of the vitally important Ogallala Aquifer under the Great Plains of the United States (including important parts of Oklahoma, Senator Inhofe), if temperatures increase by 2.5 degrees C, which they almost certainly will. (“Climate Change: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability,” IPCC Working Group II, 4th Assessment, 2007).
But there is more bad news for Oklahoma. As temperature and rainfall patterns begin to rapidly change from climate change, the yields of two of the most important crops in the United States, corn and soybeans, are expected to be severely damaged (including in Oklahoma, Senator Inhofe), according a 2009 scientific paper by Schlenker and Roberts from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This study suggests that average yields could decrease by 30 to 46% before the end of the century under the slowest warming scenario and decrease by 63 to 82% under the most rapid warming scenario. And the recent lack of action in Copenhagen pretty much ensures we’re going to see the most rapid warming scenario. The warming the planet is already experiencing already exceeds that worst scenario.
So it is time to call what the climate deniers are doing by its real name: the climate hoax: denying the reality of climate change.
Dr. Gleick’s blog posts are provided in cooperation with the SFGate. Previous posts can be found here.