Natural Disasters Challenge Climate Change Deniers

Climate change has been an ongoing debate in American politics, splitting sides into those who believe in the existence of human-caused climate change and those who do not, otherwise known as “climate change deniers.” Climate change deniers are considered those who believe that the changing weather patterns are caused by the Earth’s natural fluctuating cycle or that the environment is not changing at all; deniers account for nearly 50% of the American population, according to a study released by the Pew Research Center in 2016.

While almost half of all Americans do not believe humans have impacted the environment enough to cause significant climate effects, it has been definitively proven to be the opposite. In fact, 97% or more of scientists agree: earth’s climate is changing, and it’s almost all to blame on humans. Many deniers state that scientists are not all in agreement about the existence of climate change, but it is important to understand that the scientific community is almost never in complete and total agreement about anything. To have an overwhelming majority of scientists and over 200 major scientific communities worldwide agree that climate change exists is staggering.

Scientists attribute the later timing of seasons and more extreme temperatures of the winter and summer, along with a sharp uptick in natural disasters, to global warming. Within the past two weeks alone, the world has seen more natural disasters than ever before – Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and Florida, Hurricane Jose, Tropical Storm Katia in the Gulf of Mexico, the 8.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico and the following tsunami, the wildfires across the west coast of the U.S. and Canada, the bad bushfires in Australia, the flooding in Italy, and the extreme flooding in India during their usual drought season.

Yet, U.S. Environmental Chief Scott Pruitt has stated that now is not the time to discuss climate change, “To discuss the cause and effect of these storms, there’s the […] place (and time) to do that, and it’s not now.” To a certain effect, Pruitt is correct – the loss of life and property due to the storms has been horrifying and the government must be focused on relief; however, that does not mean that a discussion on why the storms are escalating cannot begin. Pruitt has been a climate change denier from the beginning, stating that increasing carbon dioxide levels are not caused by humans and have not contributed to global warming – refuting a fact accepted by 97% of scientists, according to NASA. If Pruitt wants to delay the discussion on climate change for a short period while he directs the Environmental Protection Agency in recovery efforts that is fine, but he must be willing to have an open-minded discussion on climate change and its effects afterwards. No longer can the head of the EPA oppose statements that are considered scientific fact.

Although the United States claims to be scientifically advanced, it is the only major country in the world whose administration denies climate change. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, Director of the CIA Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, among others, have all spoken out against climate change and frequently vote against policies to diminish the United States’ environmental footprint. President Trump himself regularly signs executive orders removing significant Obama-era environmental regulations and removed the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord in June.

A significant portion of Trump’s foreign policy revolves around maintaining the U.S. as a formidable world power – militarily, economically, technologically, scientifically, etc. Yet, the U.S. cannot be considered a formidable scientific power if it consistently denies scientific facts. In removing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, Trump removed the country from the edge of climate change action and breakthrough. The U.S. seems infantile in comparison to the rest of the first-world countries attempting to take action against climate change. Instead of removing the country from the Accord entirely, Trump could have renegotiated the terms of the accord, demonstrating some diplomatic ability and maintaining the U.S. as a scientific world leader. The U.S. is the second largest greenhouse gas emissions producer in the world, behind only China. According to the scientific journal Rhodium Group, Trump’s removal from Paris alone will cause emission levels of the U.S. to end up 10% higher and could lead the U.S. to miss worldwide investment opportunities in clean energy and new job markets.

If the Trump administration truly wants to help Americans – not just in natural disaster relief, but in the long-run – it must accept climate change as a fact, and can no longer choose big corporations over the planet. The past two weeks of extreme natural disasters are just the beginning: Mother Nature has issued her warning and Americans can no longer ignore her. If we do not attempt to change for the better now, the next round of disasters and the blood spilled because of them are on our hands.

Danielle Iacovelli
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