Earth is warming. Slowly, and not noticeably so to most people, but nevertheless it is happening. More ways to see this are available in this Washington Post titled “Red hot planet: This summer’s punishing and historic heat in 7 maps and charts” and published Friday. I expect some people will read this and have something of a “OK, the planet is getting warmer, but we aren’t causing it to happen.” I really can’t do any more to convince those people than post Skeptoid’s “The Simple Proof of Man-Made Global Warming” for their reading or listening pleasure.
You might think that carbon is carbon, and that if we find there’s more CO2 in the atmosphere, its source can’t easily be proven. But chemistry is a bit more complicated than that; there are different kinds of carbon, as there are of most elements. They’re called isotopes. One isotope of carbon is carbon-14.
The science involved isn’t really that difficult to understand. The knowledge that we are doing this and possibly making the planet uninhabitable for ourselves isn’t hard to gain. But getting some people to believe it sure seems tough. As denialists become fewer in the United States, we are hopefully moving to a period where we can make progress on reducing our effect on the planet, but we still have a way to go before we become part of the solution. But the general population is catching up to the scientific consensus, I think, which is a good thing.
The most frustrating thing, though, is that some folks knew 40 years ago, and rather than work to prevent this and make sure everyone knew about the potential harm, they kept it silent and made sure to profit from the ignorance of others. I know that this is just how big corporations work, but it still sucks. And I realize they did do research on the topic, but they could have brought humanity’s knowledge of the problem much further along than it is know if they had made a big deal of it in the 70s. That’s just me being a hopeless romantic, though.
They found that the company’s knowledge of climate change dates back to July 1977, when its senior scientist James Black delivered a sobering message on the topic. “In the first place, 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,” Black told Exxon’s management committee. A year later he warned Exxon that doubling CO2 gases in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by two or three degrees—a number that is consistent with the scientific consensus today.