The primary talking point of global warming denial essentially boils down to little more than a reminder that the global climate has always existed. Self-described skeptics tend to use the world “cyclical” with monotonous regularity when describing the overall character of climatic changes. Weather patterns, they say, have always changed in every time and every place, and if the climate is warming here and now, it will cool later or somewhere else. Of course, it is distinctly faulty reasoning to draw conclusions about what will happen simply from one’s understanding of what always has happened before. Our planet has always kept the world at a livable temperature. But odds are that your refrigerator has always kept your food cool; that doesn’t mean the motor can never break down.
Global warming deniers have many true things to say about the history of the global climate. Most of those correct observations should actually lead one toward acknowledging the scientific consensus, because an awareness of global warming relies on understanding that the situation now is different from what the planet has faced historically. We’re not asking you to be concerned about climate change simply on the basis that the climate is actually changing. The problem is that it’s changing in one direction. Yes, it has gotten warmer during other planetary periods since the dawn of man, but those changes have been more gradual and generally more localized. Global warming is dangerous because it truly is a global phenomenon affecting the entire planet in unnatural ways. New research now helps to make clearer the distinction between the current reality and the trend that have been lost to time.
Professor Svante Björck of Lund University in Sweden has investigated the climate record of the last 20,000 years and has determined that simultaneous warming events in the northern and southern hemispheres have simply not occurred prior to the modern day. Every reference that global warming deniers make to the Little Ice Age or the Medieval Warm Period as proof that this sort of thing has happened before really do the opposite at a closer level of scrutiny, because events like these describe periods during which the change in one hemisphere contributed to a significant global net gain or loss, given the stability or modest change in the opposite direction occurring in the other hemisphere. This is neither global warming nor global cooling. It is not what we are facing now.
Professor Björck draws the further conclusion that only factors external to the natural cycles of the climate have led to simultaneous warming of both hemispheres. “This could be, for example, at the time of a meteorite crash, when an asteroid hits the earth or after a violent volcanic eruption when ash is spread across the globe,” he says.
In other words, the Earth’s thermostat compensates when natural forces cause spikes in particular regions. Warming and cooling events can occur on a localized basis without severe global effects, but true global warming occurs when the thermostat begins to break down altogether. Pointing that out, however, will likely not sway anyone against global warming denial, as much of the skeptics’ resistance to the scientific consensus seems to be couched in the belief that such a breakdown can never happen. They apparently believe that the world decides for itself how the climate will change, and that nothing mankind does can influence this decision.
It is plainly ignorant to think that we do not change the face of our world in dramatic ways, or that those changes cannot influence ecological processes. An Earth speckled with large cities is much different from an Earth untouched by industrialization. A post-industrialized world in which we allow the effects of our growth to go unchecked is powerfully different from one in which we recognize the reality of the changes we have lived to see and strive to safeguard the effects of those changes.
The threat of global warming is one that confronts every geographic region, both north and south of the equator, and one that will remain present for the foreseeable future, especially if nothing is done. But in the same sense that the problem is present universally, so is the potential for a solution. Technological innovation is not limited to northern or southern hemisphere or to any regions within them. Trees grow most everywhere, and better still bamboo can be grown in all of those places and more, opening the way for widespread carbon sequestration programs.
The entire world must be willing to contribute to the changes and safeguards that will help the world to reset its natural thermostat. The warning sounds that we’re hearing from it are not the sorts of things that we can respond to by simply waiting and seeing if they stop over time. Some of us may wish to believe that we’ve heard it all before and that nothing’s broken down so far, but the fact is that the situation we face now is different from everything that has come before. The difference is subtle to a layman’s observation, but we’ve heard the input of professionals, and we should know by now that we face a problem that cannot be ignored.