It’s time we move on from a 0% & 100% climate change debate.

There is no more a cringe-worthy question that I get than this.

“Do you believe in Climate Change/Global Warming?”

I’m always like here we go, the answer is simple. No, I do not believe in climate change, I know there is climate change. It’s a silly question actually because there is no belief system involved. What you believe doesn’t always requires facts, it requires faith. So for climate change, beliefs don’t really work when you are presented with facts.

There is ample and conclusive evident that the climate is changing and in fact warming over the past 100 years plus. The recent past few decades the acceleration of this warming is unprecedented in the record books we keep. Even without getting into the cause of this warming or if it’s alarming, good or bad. We know it’s happening and it will impact the way we live. For some it might be good for others, it will be really bad. I know whatever the cause it will impact the weather I forecast. It’s like when we get a severe thunderstorm with straight line wind damage around here everyone immediately says tornado. I got news for you; your house doesn’t care if it was a tornado or straight-line winds it just cares that it was hit with 80-100 mph winds.

The problem we really have is how we talk about this topic. The loudest voices seem to fall into two categories. Both of which do little to help figure out what is going on and both very unscientific in their stances. Those are who I like to call the 0% and 100% crowd.

0% Crowd:

On one hand you have people who think this is a hoax and there is nothing going on. They think there is no way humans have any impact on their environment. Even though they live in houses or cities that were once forests or prairies and now are full of concrete & steel. I mean we all learned the water cycle in elementary school. Do you honestly think that a town, city or subdivision built where there use to be a forest doesn’t have some change or influence on that cycle? I’m not even talking CO2 here yet either just simple Urban Heat island and storm water issues. Water Vapor is actually a bigger Greenhouse gas than CO2 by the way. Somehow with all our technology and advancement which most has been good, these people see no influence on our environment. Just look at this Google Earth Image of Charlotte from 1984 to now. You think this has had no impacts on our local climate? None at all?

100% Crowd:

This crowd at times seems like their heart is in the right place. They know we are having an influence on our climate and environment. The problem is they think that’s the only influence. Literally, everything that has or ever will happen is because of human influence. This like the 0% crowd is based on un scientific principles that we know to be true. Not all bad weather or every cloud in the sky is caused by climate change and always saying so before the facts are revealed doesn’t do much better than those thinking it’s all a hoax. Like home runs in the steroid era of Baseball, there were more, but not all the home runs were steroid based. Some were just regular home runs!

The reality:

If we can move on from the 0% and 100% stances, we can start to look at what’s going on and have better discussions. Mankind is havening an influence on our climate; it’s okay if right now you think it’s small or you think it’s large. Just don’t fall into a 0% or 100% mentality. Though the evidence would suggest, it’s large, at least recognize what is going on.

Politics messes everything up:

You are shocked it took me this long to get to this topic, right? Well, this is why we can’t have nice things. People view so many things through a political lens. Climate change is dominated by this. We can’t deny that but here’s the thing. Even in politics, we argue ideas and solutions to problems with our political viewpoints. Why when it comes to climate change, do we argue the problem first? I mean we all know poverty, terrorism, childhood obesity, the economy, unemployment are problems right? We may vary on how bad or how high a priority each one is, but we know they exist. Don’t we? We just argue for solutions that fit with our political leaning. In the end usually, a comprise of both ends up working best for all of us. If I’m on the right or left in this country, it’s okay to argue for solutions from that standpoint. That’s a debate worth having.

Sometimes I think politics are like sports fans. You root against bad guys when they are on the other team. Then your team trades for them or signs them as a free agent and then you are okay with the bad guy.  Be consistent, be a fan of the truth, not a side.

In the end:

I’m a science guy and when looking at science I try to take my inherent bias out of it. It’s like with snow forecasts, I like snow but I learned long ago I like getting the forecast right more than I like snow. So don’t fall for the echo chambers we build around us on information. Look for the truth look for facts based on evidence not cherry picked. Trust me there is way too much of that going on. If you think climate change is a big deal it’s okay to call someone out who jumps to false claims even if it supports that idea. If if you think climate change isn’t all that big of deal you need to call people out when they say nothing is going at all. Like in many things is life there are no sure things, so stop arguing from a 0% or 100% position which pretends there are.




  • Scott Werts

    Exactly! Thank you for writing this. I teach this kind of stuff at a university and try to explain to the students exactly what you said here. Keep up the great work!

  • jimmyc

    Brad, while I agree on the idea that it is political, it is not the driver here. Money… MONEY… The driver for both extreme views. You own real estate on the coast.. Money.. You want to mine coal… Money.. You want cheap gas.. Money… They overlap. It is an odd phenomenon because people will really only argue a point when it does not cost them anything. It is why boycotts are usually unsuccessful.. They are done when convenient. Great arguments could rage on this subject. How about instead of claiming the extremes we look at what we can do to be practical and help the environment. If you get to extreme positions the driver for promoting the extreme is going to come down to your savings account. Climate is changing. I am curious of the money being spent on how we could actually be helped by it.. Notice the change is always considered doomsday.. Is it? Are there actually positives? And be careful with the doomsday tipping point speculation and exaggeration.. The planet has been hotter than we are today.. Balance is needed and responsible actions, but extremes often are not scientific.. They are fear driven which means 2 things… Money and control.. Scare people and threaten their bank account, and you have the two extremes.. Just my 2 cents..

    • wxbrad

      Oh I agree but there is also money to be made and saved by addressing climate. In some cases the mitigation costs are too high right now and adaptation is better. In fact the non carbon energy of the future is going to be huge business. China is already working faster and harder at this than any one. Not that they are big time environmentalist it’s because their air quality is bad for business. Makes me sad we are letting other countries out innovate us, because of flawed thinking.

      • jimmyc

        I think the challenge is also the tainting of the science by the need or want of money. I cannot help but think of the Ozone hole scare back in the early 90s that was created to get money.. This biased data manipulation has really made it hard to trust anyone.. And why is it manipulated.. Again for money.. Unfortunately Climate control is also being used as a tool to take control of money flowing from country to country. So can we trust the data? Some things are easily observed and the fact we are warming is obvious. I liked your point that humans think we are the cause… Says who? It is a deduction that is assumed. Last point, micro climate control obviously works and we see it from coast to coast in the US and what happens when people do not take obvious measures to help.. China is a great example.. You will have to do some corrections to say man is the cause of the warming. There are weather stations in rural areas where trees temperatures cool because of opposite heat island effects. Fortunately we have the satellite data now that can help smooth the picture better but I would still argue that the best data from actual measurement still comes from your urban developed regions.. These will obviously see heat rises on a micro climate basis.

  • carolfowler1

    Love this, Brad. Thanks for the insight that you – unlike most people who speak on this subject – are qualified to give.

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  • Roy Abspoel

    The thing is: whether humans are 100% or 50% or whatever, humans are the only thing we could possibly have an impact on, therefore it doesn’t matter whether it is 100% caused by humans or 80 or 70 or whatever other number, humankind has to react and the rich parts of the world have more ability to react, because we don’t suddenly die of hunger if our economies decline slightly, therefore the rich world has to act first and firmly.