Re-evaluating climate change: Does your carbon footprint matter?


Photo by Cody Cook

The negative effects of humans on the environment are undeniable. From deforestation, to air and ocean pollution, we are failing at maintaining a sustainable lifestyle.

To some degree, most people are concerned about their personal effect on the world. With all of the lifestyle changes and eco-friendly choices possible, it can be hard to determine which are most worthwhile.

“Carbon footprint” is a term that refers to the overall carbon dioxide emissions of a person, organization or nation. Many politicians and mainstream media outlets stress the importance of carbon footprints and urge consumers to use energy responsibly, claiming that humans’ carbon dioxide emissions are causing the Earth’s climate to fluctuate. There are several misconceptions surrounding this theory that deserve attention.

During President Obama’s State of the Union Address, he stated that, “[T]he debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.” He is not simply referring to the process of climate change in general being a fact, but instead the idea that humans are altering it. The argument that there is no debate among scientists is simply not true.

Sustainability Manager at CSUSM, Juliana Goodlaw-Morris said, “98% or 99% of all scientists- climate scientists agree that climate change is happening and that it is human induced.”

The idea that the vast majority of scientists agree on the issue is common among advocates of human induced climate change.

In reality, this concept is hotly debated among the scientific community. A recent survey by Purdue University Professor of Natural Resource Social Science Linda Prokopy found that 90 percent of scientists, including climatologists, agreed climate change was occurring, but only 50 percent agreed that it was caused by humans.

According to Wall Street Journal writers Joseph Bast and Roy Spencer , one of the studies that claimed 97 percent of scientists agree that humans cause climate change, was carried out by Australian blogger, John Cook. The findings were peer reviewed in Science and Education by former director of the Center for Climate Research at the University of Delaware, David R. Legates, and several other co-authors. They found that only one percent of the sources reviewed by Cook that voiced any opinion on the subject, supported the idea of man made global warming. The article also states that several scientists have expressed the concern that Mr. Cook misrepresented or ignored their work.

Another topic of confusion is the idea that 2014 was the hottest year in the history of the planet.

“Yes, the Earth goes through natural cycles, but there has never been a period of time in the Earth’s history that we have had multiple years of the warmest – every year getting warmer and warmer and warmer.” Goodlaw-Morris said. “It’s been like five, six [or] seven years in a row we’ve had the hottest years on record.”

Unfortunately the evidence in support of this claim is unconvincing.

The idea that a recent pattern of perpetual heating is unique to the modern era is incorrect as periods in history such as the Medieval Warming Period showed a consistent rise in global temperature over several years. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the organization that stated 2014 was the hottest year since 1880, has recently expressed some doubt over their previous statement, expressing that they are only 38 percent sure the finding is accurate. Even NASA’s own records shows Earth has only warmed 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 35 years. The Earth’s overall temperature has actually, on average, lowered by 1.08 degrees since 1998.

Many organizations which support the theory of man-made climate change have been caught manipulating data charts to reflect their stance. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a history of replacing real temperature values with those fabricated by computers in order to “adjust” records. Whistleblower Professor Robert Stavins went on record to Breitbart News stating that politicians forced him to change parts of the 2014 United Nations Climate Report.

If scientists are so polarized over the theory, why frame the issue as completely one-sided? The answer is money. The federal government spends roughly $22 billion annually to supposedly combat climate change. According to Forbes, this figure reaches upwards of $1.75 trillion in costs once compliance to EPA regulations are taken into account. Several key political supporters of anthropogenic climate change (change brought about by man) have seen significant personal benefits from the spread of the theory.

One of the most well-known advocates of human-induced global warming is Al Gore. Gore produced a film pushing the global warming scare called The Inconvenient Truth and made several investments in “green tech” companies that have boosted his net worth from $2 million in 2001, to $100 million. The former vice president is not the only political figure to benefit financially from the climate change issue. President Obama has received large sums of money for his election campaign from companies like Solyndra. When the solar tech company started failing, it was given a $500 million government bailout. The new investors in Solyndra contributed roughly $1.25 million to Obama’s election campaigns. It is clear that boosting taxes for green energy has directly benefited Pres. Obama. Both politicians and private interests benefit in this highly corrupt fashion. Legislation that directs taxpayer money to corporations results in the company financially backing a given politician.

Those who do not adhere to the idea of anthropogenic climate change look to naturally occurring phenomenon for an explanation. The Milankovitch Cycles are proven to cause changes in Earth’s climate. The Earth does not revolve around the sun in a perfect circle. It has a fluctuating eccentricity or rotation. Additionally, the earth wobbles and tilts on its axis. These three elements in addition to the sun’s solar cycle determine shifts in global climate.

In order to understand the big picture regarding humanity’s carbon dioxide output, it is important to know how our levels compare to nature’s. If all of the carbon emissions from the entire planet were represented by the length of a 100 yard football field, humanity’s contribution would add up to 4.21 inches or 0.117 percent of the field. Considering that there are 3,600 inches in a football field, this is an insignificant amount.

Whether or not you subscribe to the theory that climate change can be attributed to humans, everyone can agree there is more we can do to limit our negative impact on the environment. Juliana Goodlaw-Morris reminds students of this and the school’s contribution.

“Whether or not you believe in climate change, think it’s human induced or what have you, these are the impacts we are having right now. Water scarcity is like oil now… Here on this campus we are doing a phenomenal job with water conservation measures and we’re trying to make it even better,” she said.

Lifestyle decisions like using refillable water bottles and taking alternative methods of transportation might not save the Earth from changing temperatures, but it still contributes to a cleaner Earth.

The Cougar Chronicle The independent student news site of California