© Josh Sager – May 2013
Man-made global climate change is a very real and very dangerous phenomenon that will eventually lead to dire consequences for humanity as a whole. If you would like more information as to the consequences and causes of global climate change, please go to this link and read my simplified overview of the global climate change situation: https://theprogressivecynic.com/2012/12/05/an-introduction-to-global-climate-change/
The purpose of this article is not to argue the existence of climate change—that is simply the settled scientific consensus—but to address a very specific assertion by those who would deny the reality that our current climate change issue is man-made.
Many on the right who concede that the scientific evidence shows that our planet is warming will say that what we are seeing is simply a natural warming period, unrelated to human action. These people claim that, because global climate change occurs naturally, it cannot be man-made now and that there is no reason for humans to alter our behavior to stop climate change.
Those who claim that climate change is natural are correct, to a point, but they make a fundamental misassumption as to the possibility of natural processes being accelerated to a dangerous and unnaturally fast speed. Climate change occurs naturally and the global climate is almost always in a state of long-term flux. Unfortunately, human action has sped up this flux to the point where it occurs on a generational time-scale (decades), rather than a geologic one (millennia).
As shown by this graph, the natural processes model parallels the observed temperatures line until the mid-20th Century when fossil fuels use exploded—before this point, humans didn’t cause significant deviations from what a natural model for climate change would predict. After this point, the red line of the anthropogenic (man-made) climate change model takes off and the observed temperature follows. This simply indicates the transition from when the climate was controlled by natural processes to when human action began having a significant influence on global temperatures.
If you are having a hard time conceptualizing this concept, you can simply think about climate change as a form of cancer for the earth.
Cancer is a result of the natural process of cellular replication gone haywire and accelerated to the point where it harms the afflicted organism. Cellular replication is natural and necessary for life, but it is possible for an external force (ex. toxins or radiation) to unnaturally accelerate and distort this natural process by damaging DNA strands. It is well settled that man-made carcinogens are dangerous and capable of causing cancer in animals and humans alike.
Just as humanity’s release of toxins into our environment can cause cancer in organisms, our release of the products of combustion can cause disruptions in the earth’s climate. The earth may not be alive, but there is a climate equilibrium that is upset when human action effects the composition of the atmosphere and changes the heat balance (amount of heat energy trapped inside earth’s atmosphere).
Saying that global climate change cannot be man-made because our climate is always naturally changing is functionally identical to claiming that cancer isn’t real because cells always replicate.
Yes, the climate is always changing and cells are always replicating, but human action has the potential to accelerate both of these natural processes so that they occur many times faster than is natural—in fact, recent studies have indicated that our current rate of climate change are 50X faster than the average rate since the last ice age, and they are accelerating as multiplier effects compound the damage that humans have already done.
Ignoring climate change is dangerous and will result in similar consequences to ignoring a cancer. Eventually, both climate change and cancer become too serious to cure, leaving the only possible course of treatment to be a management of the symptoms. We are currently reaching the point where climate change is becoming too severe to reverse and we very well may be stuck with climate change’s consequences for centuries if we fail to act quickly.