We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.
Just to set the record straight on sea-level rise. The IPCC’s worst-case scenario forecasts a sea-level rise of 26 to 59 centimeters (10 to 23 inches) by the end of this century. But that is based on a temperature rise of 5.2 degrees Celsius—whereas the IPCC itself said that temperatures might rise 6.4 degrees Celsius. By lowballing the possible temperature increase, the IPCC reduced the estimate of sea-level rise by six inches.
Second, the IPCC chose a date of 2095, not 2100. Picking a date five years sooner reduced the projected sea rise by another two inches.
Worst of all, over the last 40 years seas have risen50 percent more than predicted by the models the IPCC uses. Yet the IPCC did nothing to correct for the gap between model and reality. Can you imagine the outcry if, instead, over the last 40 years seas had risen only one half of what models forecast, but the IPCC had stubbornly stuck to the models that overstate the seas’ rise by a factor of two? By sticking with models that have underestimated actual sea-level rise so far, there is a real possibility that the IPCC forecasts underestimate how much more the waters will rise in this century.
There is less backlash against climate science in Europe and Japan, and the U.S. is 33rd out of 34 developed countries in the percentage of adults who agree that species, including humans, evolved. That suggests there is something peculiarly American about the rejection of science. Charles Harper, a devout Christian who for years ran the program bridging science and faith at the Templeton Foundation and who has had more than his share of arguments with people who view science as the Devil’s spawn, has some hypotheses about why that is. “In America, people do not bow to authority the way they do in England,” he says. “When the lumpenproletariat are told they have to think in a certain way, there is a backlash,” as with climate science now and, never-endingly, with evolution.