The Climate Change Controversy

July 5, 2014 0 By Erin Kilgore

Climate change

A changing climate is not a comfortable subject

Climate change is a hot topic, but not because everyone thinks it’s important. For the past few decades, people have been hearing about global warming and its potential side effects, but the issue has been steeped in controversy for nearly as long. Global warming is still referred to today, but it is more commonly linked to the overarching matter of climate change as one of the most prominent side effects of this phenomenon. Climate change itself is more controversial than global warming ever was, but why it’s so controversial is somewhat convoluted.

Climate change, quite simply, is a natural process that has occurred many times in the world’s history, but never to the extent that is being seen today. Despite being a natural process, it can be influenced by human actions. The industrial revolution, for instance, was a point wherein humanity began using fossil-fuels at an accelerated rate, releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and, quite effectively, expediting the climate change process. Heavy use of fossil-fuels has continued, adding further momentum to the phenomenon.

Climate change has its own philosophy

Now, the reason why climate change is so controversial is because it is often touted as a “doomsday” event for the human species. This controversy has been augmented by blaming climate change on humanity as a whole. Essentially, the concept behind the controversy is that humanity stands on the verge of extinction and there is no one else to blame but itself. Indeed, the problems people have with the concept of a changing climate are almost entirely philosophical. As such, this controversy is quite malleable, heavily influenced by opinion.

Beyond the philosophical aspects of climate change, however, there is science. Science has the benefit of being free from matters of opinion. In many cases, science has shown that climate change is, indeed, a natural phenomenon and something that would happen with or without human action. It has also shown that humans have played a major role in the acceleration of climate change. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that the abundance of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere ensure that heat does not escape the planet. These greenhouse gases have been on the rise for several years, largely due to the abundant use of fossil-fuels. The EPA notes that human activity has introduced more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than ever before in the past. This began during the industrial revolution, carrying on from 1750 onward.

Despite the empirical nature of science, many people still choose not to believe that climate change is actually an issue, favoring their philosophical viewpoint over any scientific findings. This is one of the reasons why climate change has become a heavily politicized issue. In the world of politics, those promising to address monumental problems, whether to solve these problems or not, are often the ones that get the most attention. In the U.S. government, climate change has become a platform upon which politicians can appeal to voters based on the controversy surrounding climate change. Many people want climate change to go away, and so politicians suggest that it does not exist or that its effects will not be significant enough to cause any concern. The problem, however, is that this isn’t true.

Climate change is real

Climate change is real, but it isn’t the doomsday event that some people are claiming it to be. Regardless of whether or not the matter is addressed directly, the world will continue to exist through climatic cycles again and again, well beyond the existence of humans. The phenomenon will have a major impact on society, however, and this impact may not be something that people are ready to deal with. That is why climate change is a scary notion: Society itself will be changed and some parts of its may disappear forever because it can’t adapt.

Higher temperatures are causing ice caps to melt and this will cause a rise in the world’s oceans. The sea level won’t rise by a few inches or feet, but by tens of feet. Most of the world’s influencial cities are coastal, having been built during a period before climate change to take advantage of ocean-based trade. These cities can’t simply move further inland, so when seas begin to rise, will they claim these cities as new terriroty?

Climate change will have an effect on agriculture, leading to long lasting drought in some parts of the world and allowing botanical life to thrive in others. Where will people go when crops begin to fail or high temperatures make their old homes inhospitable?

A changing climate means an increased frequency of devastating natural disasters, such as hurricanes. There are no protections against these disasters currently, so what happens when they become more powerful?

Climate change is uncomfortable and not something that people want to confront  outright. It is easier to imagine climate change as a myth, or simply something that happens to the world as it ages; to believe that the effects of climate change will not be felt for generations and that everyone living at this very moment will be spared of any climatic hardship. Whatever the case may be, the science and philosophy of climate change don’t have to be at odds with one another. Just because climate change is unsettling doesn’t mean it has to be mired in controversy. Climate change is scary, after all. It’s supposed to be.