Climate change is not a hoax.
You can ask the overwhelming majority of leading scientists who study the problems created by a changing planet.
You can ask the leaders of the industrial giants accused of being the largest man-made contributors to the problem.
And you can ask the leaders of tomorrow, the children, who turned out by the tens of thousands in places around the world Friday for a climate strike to raise awareness of the need for action.
Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, called for action during a three-minute speech Monday to the United Nations repeatedly punctuated by the phrase, “How dare you.”
“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here,” said Thunberg, who began a lone protest outside the Swedish Parliament more than a year ago. “I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you have come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
She later added, “We will not let you get away with this. Right now is where we draw the line.”
Their admonitions for change are being heard. The United Nations, as it starts its new general session this week, is pushing member nations to provide concrete solutions — no more empty promises or calls for more study. Action is required.
Sixty-six countries have promised to have more ambitious climate goals, and 30 swore to be carbon neutral by midcentury, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera Echenique said Monday. The leaders of Finland and Germany promise to ban coal within a decade. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is pushing to make Earth carbon neutral within 30 years.
All of the promises being made will not bring the planet’s changes to a standstill. Some are naturally occurring, part of the evolution of every planet. But some of the changes caused or accelerated by man can be reduced for the benefit of future generations — maybe not our children or grandchildren, but their offspring long after we have departed this life.
Climate change naysayers like to point to the belief back in the 1970s that Earth at the time actually was cooling as evidence science is little more than an alarmist guessing game. But go back to that era and the concerns climate scientists raised about the depletion of the ozone layer. That is a protective barrier that reduces the ultraviolet radiation that makes it from the sun to Earth.
Two researchers at the University of California-Irvine determined the widespread use of chlorofluorocarbon gases, then commonly used in aerosol sprays and as coolants in many refrigerators, were a major contributor to ozone depletion. A decade after publishing their study, a team of scientists in England found the depletion had caused a hole in the protective layer over Antarctica. It was then the world began taking the problem seriously.
In 1987, almost 200 countries came together to sign the Montreal Protocol addressing the chemicals causing ozone layer depletion. Because of that agreement, ozone depletion over the southern poles has fallen 20 percent. A U.N.-commissioned study last year found the ozone layer has begun to replenish itself.
The success in eliminating the widespread use of chlorofluorocarbons and replenishing the ozone layer demonstrates man-made solutions can have a positive effect on Earth’s evolution. The same success is possible in confronting the current conditions from a changing climate.
It is an issue of such undeniable importance, even a child can see it. We should consider the words of those with open minds who do not base their findings on politics or economics, but the consequences inaction will cause on their own lives.