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Let’s stop pretending climate change is not real

I walked downtown and back in a T-shirt Tuesday.

A friend says he’s never seen his garden soil so warm at this time of year.

The Twitterverse is alive with photos of farmers doing fieldwork.

And suddenly, birds are chirping VERY LOUDLY.

Does this mean we are experiencing climate change? No, these are anecdotes, and most likely they’re signs of an early or false spring.

But lately, there’s a tendency to overreact to everything, including extreme weather events, particularly when they involve a climbing thermometer. Climate change deniers point to such reactions as a sign of hysteria and use them to justify their position.  

As time goes by, though, I don’t think society is overreacting to climate change. And people who believe it shouldn’t be cast aside.  

The evidence is there. To begin with, NASA, which keeps tabs on the temperature on every planet in our solar system, including Earth, says climate change is real. If we are to believe any climate change authority, NASA’s a good one to side with. 

NASA says multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 per cent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are happening. Further, it says, they are likely due to human activities.

Most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide, including the American Medical Association, have issued public statements endorsing this position. This is one of my favourites, from an organization representing physicists, the American Physical (yes, physical) Society:

“Earth’s changing climate is a critical issue and poses the risk of significant environmental, social and economic disruptions around the globe,” it says. “While natural sources of climate variability are significant, multiple lines of evidence indicate that human influences have had an increasingly dominant effect on global climate warming observed since the mid-twentieth century.”

Back to NASA. It says Earth’s average surface temperature has risen about 2.12 degrees F (1.18 degrees C) since the late 19th century. Most of the warming occurred in the past 40 years, with the seven most recent years being the warmest.The years 2016 and 2020 are tied for the warmest year on record.

Many journalists, particularly those who consider academics and researchers the best information sources (as a recent survey showed more than 85 per cent do), are believers. Institutions like one called Nordic Bridges, supported by the embassies of the Nordic countries and Canada, have created a fellowship for young journalists to explore the issue and learn more, so they’ll have a foundation for reporting on climate change.

“There has never been a more urgent time to document how climate change is affecting communities, culture and our planet – and what we can do to stop it,” it says.

Against this backdrop, I was proud of Conservative leader Erin O’Toole for saying climate change is important to him as a father of young children, and for trying to get his party to buy into it. Even those who deny it must be concerned about the statistics. Odds are they too have some skin in the game, like O’Toole, and care how climate change will affect their kids, and their kids’ kids.

Farming, which depends so much on weather, is a good barometer for climate change. A report this week out of Michigan, where most of the U.S. chipping potatoes come from, noted how potato producers there are having to buy new and more powerful refrigeration units for the crops they harvest and store, because the warmer climate is making storage harder.

The report says annual period with outdoor air cool enough to store potatoes in Michigan’s primary production area will likely shrink by up to 17 days by mid-century and up to a month by the late 2100s. The parallel is not exact for Ontario, but similar.

So if farmers see the change, and much of the Conservative party’s support is rural based, why isn’t the party (other than O’Toole and his entourage) listening to its supporters?

Denial must stop. Climate change is real.

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