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Why I don’t 'believe' in climate change

Carbon emissions are a fact, not a faith system

By Alanna Mitchell

At the beginning of the climate meetings in Durban, South Africa, there seems to be a lot of talk about belief. People are talking, writing, arguing, making policy and even demonstrating in the streets about their “belief” in climate change — or lack of it.

Even professional polls conducted in the United States and Australia have asked people whether they “believe” in climate change, as if climate change is a faith system that people can either choose to accept or not — a personal choice with no big consequences, like believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.

It casts the whole issue in a misleading light.

I don’t “believe” in climate change. I am convinced by the evidence that climate change exists.

I’ve looked at data, helped with experiments and read hundreds of scientific papers. I’ve interviewed dozens of the world’s top scientists about the presence of ancient carbon in our atmosphere and oceans. They’ve shown me the results of experiments, computer models, data collected on land and in the deep sea that document the effect all that extra carbon is already having on the creatures who live here now and those who will live here in the future.

It’s a compelling body of meticulously compiled evidence that points overwhelmingly in one direction: Life on the planet is in danger from the carbon we’ve already put into the atmosphere. The more we burn fossilized plants and animals, the more danger life is in.

Thus, the urgency of the talks in Durban to reduce emissions.

Here’s an experiment: try replacing the phrase “climate change” with the word “cancer.” Do you believe in cancer?

When I do this experiment, here’s what I get: I know that there are abnormal cells that exist within the human body that make tumours that interfere with the normal functioning of a healthy body. Doctors can surgically remove some of those tumours and use chemicals and radiation to kill others. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve known people who have died from cancer and others who have survived.

I’m also aware that there’s a whole body of highly trained medical professionals who are investigating ways to identify, prevent and treat cancer.

Do I believe in cancer? No. But I understand from the evidence I’ve read and experienced that it exists and that there are ways to try to make it less deadly. I don’t think you can be a rational, informed person and not know that. But there are huge consequences for failing to understand.

Same goes for climate change.




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