What We Do Best

David K. Smith, 9 April 2018

Now that we're recovering from a nasty winter, it's time to look at why this happened. Perhaps understandably, it has people claiming that "global warming" is a hoax. But most people don't realize that "global warming" doesn't mean all of a sudden it gets hotter everywhere; it means that a tiny increase in average global temperature will give rise to more drastic changes in weather. This in fact has been accurately predicted since the 1970s.

Hence we have four nor'easters in a row, and snow in April. Meanwhile, hot places get hotter: the southeast US and Australia are setting high-temperature records. Europe has suffered multiple deaths from scorching heat waves the likes of which they've never experienced. The tundra of Russia is melting for the first time. Parts of Africa are out of fresh water. Polar wildlife, such as polar bears and penguins, are dying off. Coral reefs are bleaching faster than they can recover. Ocean levels are rising faster than predicted. And we're seeing more hurricanes than ever.

Although "global warming" is technically a correct term, it creates a false impression in too many minds, particularly for those seeing more extreme winters. "Climate change" has been used as an alternative, and while it too is technically correct, it's too ambiguous. There's really no succinct way to impart exactly what's going on; the closest I could conjure is "Koyaanisqatsi," a Hopi word meaning "unbalanced life." But that would leave virtually everyone scratching their heads.

My point is that all humans need to learn more—much more. Deniers will make reference to the fact that, at one time, the vast majority of humans asserted the world was flat—and some still do today. Thus I equate deniers to flat earthers, who might say that just because a vast majority of present-day scientists claim the world is burning up doesn't mean it's right. Right? But that's a false equivalency: there's an enormous difference between the two cited epochs; today we've taken all of our collective mistakes and learned how to make infinitely better assertions.

For instance, you would not have the computer you're using to read this were it not for our understanding of quantum physics, a field far stranger than some of the weirdest religions. Yet, for all of its strangeness, it still behaves in predictable ways, just like light and gravity and a myriad other things we've come to understand intimately. And while we may not be able to predict tomorrow's weather accurately, we can predict how weather works on a much grander scale.

Indeed, since the 1970s, the majority of our climate models have been predicting the very things we're experiencing now—that is, extreme weather patterns. More recent models have been refined and have been predicting more specific weather patterns, such as increased hurricane activity, which has also come to pass. And perhaps the scariest thing of all is that some of our "worst case" models are proving to be the most accurate. In other words, global warming is more extreme than many models have predicted. That doesn't make the more conservative models invalid; instead, it verifies virtually all of them, because they all point to a trend that is now taking place.

Some climatologists warn that we're at a cusp, or tipping point: we must act now to prevent catastrophe. Others lament that we've passed it. The critical factor to consider is latency: the time difference between action and reaction. If every single human on the planet answered the call to act right now, we might have a chance of delaying our doom. But those who understand human nature realize there's no hope of convincing everyone to act—not when some still believe the world is flat, and a great majority of the remainder simply do not care.

Bottom line: we've doomed ourselves. It will likely take centuries for the end to arrive, but there's very little doubt our own undoing will come to pass; the best we could hope to do is delay it a little more. In the meantime, the deniers will continue to insist it's all bogus. Only when we're literally going up in flames will they see the truth of it. By then it will be far, far too late to do anything—even escape to another planet is pointless, for we'll simply repeat our mistakes. It's what we do best.

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