Student guest column: Climate change is real

By Laura McKenzie - Contributing columist

Climate change is the biggest crisis humans are currently facing, yet some still argue that it isn’t real as nothing humans do could ever influence the climate. Unfortunately, this isn’t true and was pushed into the minds of many as fact by fossil fuel companies releasing false research and studies, through misinformation campaigns, for years now. If fossil fuel companies continue winning due to their release of false research and studies along with using money to bribe others to prevent policy changes the climate will continue to change and the planet will face mass devastation due to it.

Since the ancient Greeks it has been long suspected that humans could influence the local climate, however, it was not believed that they could influence the climate on a global scale. In 1896 Svante Arrhenius discovered the greenhouse effect in the earth’s atmosphere and suggested that the burning of fossil fuels with the releasing of extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would raise the average temperature of the planet. However, his ideas grabbed little attention and was deemed unlikely that humans could release enough greenhouse gases to change the global climate. Due to increased funding and research in the 1950’s, it was concluded that carbon dioxide build-up in the atmosphere could be warming the planet. As the research continued, concerns grew, and in 1985 there was a conference of climate experts. According to A Hyperlinked History of Climate Change Science there were experts from 29 nations there who agreed to work with the world’s governments to get them to work together to forge international agreements restricting the release of greenhouse gases.

Once fossil fuel companies realized their bottom lines were in trouble, they launched massive misinformation campaigns, like cigarette companies had done just a few years before. Exxon Mobile even had an internal report confirming that carbon emissions were warming the planet, according to Climate Denial Machine: How the Fossil Fuel Industry Blocks Climate Action. With these campaigns they not only downplay the crisis, but they also fund think tanks to produce false data to convince the public the crisis is false. According to the October 2015 article Climate Change Deniers and Advocacy: A Situational Theory of Publics Approach by Jordi Xifra “90% of skeptical or denialist climate change papers in the United States originate from right-wing think tanks” as they conceal their sources constantly and are mostly funded by fossil fuel companies like Exxon, BP, and Chevron. With these false research papers, they can start attacking the scientists alerting the public to the climate crisis as “alarmists” that shouldn’t be trusted. This allows fossil fuel companies to swing voters into keeping climate denial politicians in office, one such politician is Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma according to Before the Floods Top 10 Climate Deniers, he has received over $2 million dollars from the fossil fuel industry as “political contributions”. These climate denial politicians do not allow for the passing of policy changes to promote the change to renewable energy and limit the emission of greenhouse gases.

Former Vice President Al Gore states in his 2019 New York Times Article Al Gore: The Climate Crisis Is the Battle of Our Time, and We Can Win, that due to the lack of policy change switching over to renewable energy may be too late. Without policy changes allowing taxes on emissions of greenhouse gases, people are not encouraged to use alternative energy resources. With the lack of policy change due to the climate denial due to fossil fuel companies producing false research they are able to continue making money and greenhouse emissions continue to be released into the atmosphere leading the planet down a dangerous path it may not be able change. While it is true that the earth has had an “inherently unstable” climate history like Roger Sedjo said in his 2019 book Surviving Global Warming: Why Eliminating Greenhouse Gases Isn’t Enough, the earth warmed at vastly slower paces than it is today. In the past the earth’s climate changed due to changes in the sun’s activity, changes in the earth’s position with the sun, volcanic activity, ocean current changes, and tectonic plates. Those changes allowed the planet to raise 4 to 7 degrees Celsius in around 5,000 years where now it is predicted to raise 2 to 6 degrees Celsius in just the next century.

The current computer models are predicting that without rapid change to renewable energy and decrease in the release of greenhouse gas emission the planet is headed toward disaster, and potential mass extinction. However, according to Robert Wilkes on Divided We Falls’ Climate Change: Views from an Environmentalist and a Skeptic from January of 2020, the computer models that are predicting these changes “reflect bias and limited knowledge of their creators”. Unfortunately, even the leaked results from the models inside fossil fuel companies say the same thing: the climate is changing, and humans are causing it. With the fact that the models made by those in the fossil fuel industry agreeing with the models made by top climate change scientists it is clear the human race needs to change its habits before it destroys the only planet in the Solar System that can support life.

If humans want to save the planet they need to buckle down and change the way they do things to, hopefully, slow down the warming and eventually allow the Earth to return to “normal”. To do this countries will need to work together and sign treaties promising to individually do better by passing laws putting taxes on the emissions of greenhouse gases, make recycling more readily available, give tax breaks to those who switch over to renewable energy, protect and restore ecosystems, and listen to those like Sedjo in his 2019 book, Surviving Global Warming: Why Eliminating Greenhouse Gases Isn’t Enough, adapt to the expected and unexpected changes that are coming. With these in place showing that all the governments of the world are not only working together, but independently to improve the planet, individuals and companies will be more inclined to change their ways to save the planet. The evidence is clear, fossil fuel companies have run great misinformation campaigns and payed the correct people to try and persuade the public into not believing what the ancient Greeks knew, humans can change the climate, but insiders are leaking that even their models are showing that climate scientists are right. It might be too late for some things, but humans are still able to save their planet if they work together.

By Laura McKenzie

Contributing columist

Laura McKenzie of Urbana is a student in Composition II at Edison State Community College. Her assignment was to submit an opinion column to her local newspaper.

Laura McKenzie of Urbana is a student in Composition II at Edison State Community College. Her assignment was to submit an opinion column to her local newspaper.