Don’t dismiss global warming

To the editor:

In response to the recent letter to the editor on climate change that cites little data: While I know the author and love her dearly as a person, I feel compelled to speak out to try to foster a better understanding of our situation. Let me be very clear: Climate change is real. It is no longer a prediction, but a reality. I know it can be difficult to think about what that means and how it can impact our lives — especially when there could be very dire consequences for our life on this beautiful planet.

Let’s talk facts: The earth’s temperature has risen 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century. Sixteen of the hottest years on record have occurred since 2000 with 2016 being the 3rd consecutive hottest year recorded. The temperature is expected to keep rising 0.5-8.6 degrees F. While these may seem like small jumps, these jumps can make large shifts in our climate and weather — including, but not limited to extreme weather events, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, declining arctic sea ice, glacial retreat, ocean acidification, and decreased snow cover.

These changes have real and significant impacts for our local community. The 2016 Lac qui Parle area drought, for example, hit farmers hard while floods in late August of 2016 threatened residents across southern and central Minnesota. Severe changes in weather matter. Take the past four years of major drought that California has experienced. Well, we may say, “oh well I don’t live in California so that doesn’t affect me.” Let me ask you this: do you like almonds, strawberries, grapes, broccoli? The state produces nearly half of US grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables and so their drought becomes a little more personal when we think of a long Minnesota winter without even a strawberry to look forward to because a dry and shriveled California hasn’t had its typical winter snows to replenish its water supply.

Now, to speak to the author’s claim that we have little data to support climate change. I believe she uses a source that cites merely a century’s worth. Both of these statements are inaccurate and incorrect. Climate change cites the direct rise in temperature that has occurred over the past hundred years (with the most significant changes occurring in the last 35 years alone), which coincides with humans’ increased carbon emissions. The data about the climate is not limited to 100 years. By using atmospheric samples found in ice cores compared to recent direct measurements, we can track how much carbon is in the atmosphere dating back to over 400,000 years ago! With this and other methods, what we see is that the planet has experienced a stable climate with minor fluctuations until the last 100 years where we began to see significant jumps. (https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/)

Pope Francis sums it up beautifully: “Global warming continues, due in part to human activity: 2015 was the warmest year on record, and 2016 will likely be warmer still. This is leading to ever more severe droughts, floods, fires and extreme weather events. The world’s poor, though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact. … For human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life — these are sins.”

Whether you believe these facts or agree about whether or not it’s a sin, if you care about people and you care about our home (this planet) why wouldn’t we step up and take care of our land, water, and air? Very simply: Without them, we die.

Megan M. Benage

New Ulm

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