In a recent study, climate researchers evaluated the degree to which climate scientists agree that global warming is anthropogenic, or human-caused. That study, titled, “Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming,” evaluated 12,000 pieces of research and data on climate science over the last 30 years. Only 4,000 of those studies took a position on the cause of global warming, and of those, 97% of the authors agreed that human activity was the primary, if not the sole cause of global warming. The remaining studies provide various pieces of evidence about the nature of global warming, but do not make assertions about the causes. An example of such a study would be this one, in which scientists found that global warming is causing sea levels to rise three times faster than predicted, while trying to provide explanations as to why previous estimates missed their mark.
This study was a response to increased claims that the science on global warming is not settled, as well as increased doubt and denial about the human impact on the environment. Many have pointed out that the strategies to cast doubt on global warming mimic the strategies employed by the tobacco industry to cast doubt on the harmful effects of tobacco use, as well as other misleading propaganda campaigns.
For instance, Exxon Mobile’s own records show that Exxon has been conducting climate research since the 1970’s, finding that global warming is human caused, while at the same time they have deceived the public by making contrary arguments. In 1977, eleven years before global warming became a public issue, Exxon’s lead scientist, James Black stated to company leadership, “There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.” He told leadership that CO2 levels would increase average global temperatures by two or three degrees—a number that is consistent with what research shows today. Their research also showed that sea levels would rise as a result of human-caused global warming, which led the company to build off shore oil drilling rigs that would accommodate sea level rises. Yet, at the same time, Exxon helped create and fund propaganda campaigns to cast doubt on global warming, such as the Global Climate Coalition, which has since been disbanded. That organization presented itself to the public as a legitimate scientific institution, while promoting false information about climate change. After internal documents about Exxon's deception were recently leaked, an Exxon spokesperson said that the company has long acknowledged that global warming is human caused. There is an archive of Exxon documents here, showing how the company knew global warming was human caused, while at the same time they waged propaganda campaigns to deceive the public.
Currently, public debate about global warming has intensified as the current US Administration has routinely casted doubt on climate change, even removing the terms “climate change,” and “global warming” from its agency websites and documents. In past weeks, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt (a past fossil fuel industry lawyer who is now charged with protecting human health and the public from adverse human-caused environmental impacts) recently said, “There is tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree that [CO2] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” and that recently global warming "has leveled off over the last two decades." This prompted scientists to publish a paper providing scientific evidence demonstrating that Pruitt was either seriously misinformed, or lying. Also, recently, Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry stated he doesn't think CO2 or human activity is the primary cause of global warming, asserting instead that he thinks "the oceans" are the cause (I don't know about you, but I've yet to see a pot of water boil without another source of heat causing the temperature to rise). Perry and Pruitt have both called for a "red-team, blue-team" approach to debating climate change - yet, that is exactly what scientists have been doing for over 40 years, as they attempt to use evidence to poke holes in one another's arguments and explain potential factors contributing to an issue.
If you read the "consensus" study, you'll see that the consensus has only grown stronger over time, as additional research puts more and more puzzles pieces together, making the picture more clear. The evidence, at this point, is overwhelming.
But, in terms of Pruitt and Perry's desire for a scientific "red-team" argument against global warming, the Koch Brothers did exactly that when they helped fund a 2012 study led by Berkeley climate change skeptic, Richard Muller. After Muller's team of 12-climate skeptics completed the study, these were his words: "Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause." You can read the rest of his response about the evidence that changed his mind here.
Apart from the overwhelming evidence that human activity, largely in the form of CO2 emissions, is dangerously and rapidly changing Earth's environment - resulting in dangerous storms, floods, droughts, food shortages and famines, dangerous and deadly temperatures, increased spreading of infectious diseases, sea-level rises, and other concerning impacts, we also need to be concerned with the extremely dangerous effects of destabilization of life itself through mass extinctions and through ocean acidification as the ocean absorbs CO2. The web of life, which we are apart of, is more delicate than most realize - mostly because our society is so disconnected from nature and as a result most lack familiarity with its processes. Ecosystem imbalances can quickly result in mass extinctions, and we are not immune from the scientific reality of our biological needs as a species. A study on the causes of mass extinctions shows that most mass extinctions have been caused by global warming and other results of human activity, and this is expected to get worse. This is a concern even without considering ocean acidification, but when we also consider this, it becomes even more worrisome. If this isn't a topic you're familiar with, please consider watching the Lethal Seas documentary below.
In sum, if you consider the evidence about the potential of negative effects of human impacts on the environment (and ultimately humanity itself), it is difficult to construct an argument that not addressing our negative impacts is somehow in our best interest. Cleaner renewables are already a viable alternative that are competitive from practical energy production and economic vantage points, while renewables are predicted to become cheaper than coal by 2021. We have the power to address this problem right now, by reducing fossil fuel production and consumption, while also sequestering carbon through practices like organic farming that improve rather than deplete soil conditions that store carbon. You can watch a short video on this below.
The scientific consensus is clear, as are the paths to address this issue. The only barrier is willpower, which is being usurped by powers that do not have our collective best interests in mind. At Exploring Roots, our goal is to help humanity and the Earth heal, and these two things are inextricably connected. The human species is an inherent part of nature, just like a bear or squirrel, and like any other species, we begin to exhibit signs of distress when our habitat is at risk. Psychologists and therapists are encountering more and more patients who carry anxieties related to the threats against our one and only home, and while we can grieve the great sense of loss, we cannot reverse these impacts unless we act together. We have a collective responsibility to educate ourselves, and to educate others about the scientific reality about the threats we face. Also, it is important for all of us to connect and reconnect with nature, and to see that we too are a part of the Earth. We are not separate from it, or above it. The fate of the Earth is our fate, and to develop a consciousness that we are a part of nature - and a key steward of it - is to recognize the reality of our place in the world.
It is worthwhile to reflect on something John Seed once said: “I am part of the rainforest protecting myself. I am that part of the rainforest recently emerged into thinking.” The sooner that we realize environmentalism is not some politicized aim that exists for its own sake, but is a fundamental responsibility of humanity, the sooner we can create societies which protect rather than neglect the conditions for us all to enjoy life on this planet. Please join us in making a difference.