Published: mic (December 23, 2013)
Millions of people have been tricked into believing a terrible myth that’s endangering Santa Claus’ very livelihood. Those doing the tricking stand to make a lot of money from this fiction and promote it in the most devious and unscrupulous ways imaginable.
I refer, of course, to the movement that denies global warming, and see nothing wrong with rapidly melting polar ice caps.
We can start with those who are guilty of cherry picking — the logical fallacy in which they only include evidence that supports their opinion and ignore the larger body of relevant work that contradicts their conclusions. For example, while you can distort the scientific record if you only study temperature increases over random decades, Slate recently compared the misleading data peddled by deniers like the Daily Mail‘s David Rose with the findings supported by the majority of the scientific community.
There is also a much more comprehensive analysis at SkepticalScience.com.
Next we can look at the data pertaining to carbon dioxide emissions (as illustrated in the chart below from NASA’s website). Using atmospheric samples contained in ice cores as well as recent direct measurements, it shows how atmospheric CO2 has dramatically increased since the advent of industrialism.
Unfortunately, as a recent study discovered, most people don’t fully understand how global warming works, even those who believe in it. Berkeley University psychologist Dr. Michael Ranney has written an excellent paper about not only why Americans are less culturally less inclined to understand and/or believe in global warming, but how concise mechanistic explanations can help fix this. He was kind enough to work with climatologists on the website howglobalwarmingworks.org that breaks down the process of global warming in videos varying from 52 seconds to five minutes in length. If you don’t have the patience to visit this site, however, the 35-word explanation is, “Earth transforms sunlight’s visible light energy into infrared light energy, which leaves Earth slowly because it is absorbed by greenhouse gases. When people produce greenhouse gases, energy leaves Earth even more slowly — raising Earth’s temperature.”
Over the past 25 years the Arctic has lost roughly two million square kilometers of sea ice. If it continues losing ice at that rate, there won’t be any left at all by the end of the century. And that isn’t even considering the hundred billion tons of ice being lost in the Antarctic every year. All of this will result in rising sea levels, changes in currents brought on by fresh polar water being infused into salty ocean patterns, and altered ocean temperatures. It has already caused drastic weather changes, from megastorms like supertyphoon Haiyan to the Alaskan heat wave.
In case you still think this is a myth, remember that 97% of climate scientists agree with the prevailing conclusion that man-made global warming is altering our planet’s climate. Already there have been consequences that stretch far beyond Santa’s home at the North Pole. My wish this season is that people will learn from these mistakes before it reaches our doorsteps as well.