Steve Singleton ended his Dec. 18 letter with a challenge: Prove that "anthropogenic global warming" is real. I could take on that challenge, but plenty of experts have confirmed more succinctly than I can that global climate change is happening and is principally caused by human output of greenhouse gases.
Instead, I have a challenge for Singleton. He needs to explain his pathological denial of climate change.
Two aspects of climate change still require more explanation: how exactly it will affect the Earth and why so many people react with denial or apathy. Perhaps Mr. Singleton can shed light on why he denies climate change. In the meantime, here are my ideas on climate denial and apathy.
The denial arises from inability to comprehend the scale of climate change. Climate change is caused by the collective actions of over 7 billion people, making it difficult to see how each of us as individuals play into the larger phenomenon.
Since the vast majority of greenhouse gases are linked to other people's activities, it's hard to see how our actions make a difference in emissions. It's even harder to imagine economic and political changes which would significantly cut back on carbon emissions. When we don't see ourselves as a part of the problem or capable of a solution, apathy is easier than acknowledging our role or working toward change.
Denial also stems from the fear that global climate change threatens economic and social life as we know it. Singleton writes in his Jan. 8 letter that if warming is not happening, then "crippling economies and dramatically raising energy costs is definitely wrong." Well, the planet is warming thanks to humans. To ignore global warming is wrong. The dramatic changes required to drastically reduce carbon output are daunting, but what's even scarier is what will happen if we do not restructure our economies and societies.
Apathy and denial are easy routes to take when considering the changes required of the actions of billions and to the global economic infrastructure. Postponing these changes with denial and apathy will only make the transition to a warmer planet worse. Hopefully I have hit on why Singleton fears change, but if I haven't please correct me.
Understanding apathy and denial are some of the last pieces left in the climate-change puzzle.