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You can’t fight science

You can’t fight science
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Recently, I was joking around with my 8-year-old grandson. I cannot remember exactly what I said, or even the topic, other than we were having fun. But when I made a statement, he quickly disagreed, lecturing me, “You can’t fight science.” Unfortunately, many of the individuals who hold public office in our country today either don’t know or refuse to believe what my grandson has learned in only eight years of life.  

Many in leadership positions, including President TrumpDonald TrumpMaria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back Republicans eye Nashville crack-up to gain House seat MORE, much of his cabinet and many Republican leaders in Congress, argue that climate change isn’t occurring at all, that it is naturally occurring, or that it actually is good for civilization. But this belies the science.

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Based on the work of others before him, Nobel laureate Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish scientist, posited that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would affect the temperature of  Earth. That is, it would act as a greenhouse gas. While Arrhenius’s theory was controversial when introduced in the late 1800s, as explained in a paper published by the American Institute of Physics that details the history of how science uncovered climate change, today this largely has been accepted as fact by most in the scientific community.  

 

Indeed, as NASA and other scientific bodies report, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by about 40 percent since the start of the Industrial Revolution to its current level of over 400 ppm. Ice core samples prove that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has not been this high for at least 800,000 years. As expected, Earth’s temperature has been rising. It has increased by about 1.1 degree Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 19th century. Seventeen of the hottest 18 years on record (since about 1880) have occurred in this century, with 2016, 2017 and 2015 the hottest ever, in that order.    

Also as predicted, the oceans, a major source of food for humanity, have absorbed a significant amount of the CO2 we have emitted into the atmosphere. As a result, their temperatures have risen by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880,  and as the CO2 combines with water it forms carbonic acid, making our oceans increasingly acidic and endangering both the oceanic food chain and our food supply. This, of course, is in addition to rising sea levels that might well destroy huge portions of our coastal cities and the Florida peninsula.

Against this backdrop, nearly every climate scientist has warned of significant dangers facing humanity and the planet from climate change, and they have implored us to take substantial action over the next few decades to avoid the disastrous scenarios. While this is doable, at our current rate of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, an article published by MIT concludes we will need a Manhattan Project-type effort to transform our energy system in time to avoid disaster.  

The Trump administration’s response to the science of climate change is to fight back. It has deleted documents and data from a variety of government websites and discourages scientists from publishing articles on climate change. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the EPA recently disclosed email communications with the Heritage Foundation in an attempt to rally climate change-deniers.  

Some leaders deny climate change entirely, without credible scientific explanation for our warming planet and melting ice caps. Still others argue that the changing climate is naturally occurring, but they can point to no historical or non-anthropologic basis for the rapid changes we are all witnessing. They make spurious arguments, such as correlation doesn’t prove causation — which is true as a general statement, but the supporting evidence here so clearly proves causation.  

Finally, others contend that climate change might be beneficial for humanity, not catastrophic.   Yet, this planet has been unquestionably good to homo sapiens. It is foolish indeed to roll the dice against the great weight of the scientific community on the hope that the world’s scientists are wrong about climate change and we are actually improving upon Earth’s delicate balance that has allowed man to flourish. This is particularly foolhardy because, by all accounts, climate change likely will last for about a thousand years, causing vast devastation to humanity in the process. And, of course, we have no other planet to go.   

At the end of the day, neither ignorance, denial, nor sophistry will change what some 97 percent of qualified scientists in the world know to be true. That is, climate change is real, it is largely man made, and it will be devastating. The sad truth is that our leaders who are attempting to fight science on this most crucial of issues will not live to the end of this century to see the devastation their fight against science, and with it, the lack of policies to manage climate change, will have wrought on our country, humanity and our planet. Ironically, and unfortunately, my 8-year-old grandson who knows you can’t fight science likely will.  

Gary A. Garfield is the retired chairman, president and CEO of Bridgestone Americas Inc. He practiced law for 29 years and was the general counsel and chief compliance officer before leading the company. As a former board member of the Rubber Manufacturers Association, he and others successfully convinced Congress to adopt legislation on climate change, establishing standards for rolling resistance of tires to improve automobile fuel efficiency. He currently advises several environmental organizations on the issue of climate change.