To the SUNY Cortland student newspaper, The Dragon Chronicle: (Published in 12/10/09 edition)
In the December 3 edition of the Dragon Chronicle, Matt Taormino wrote an opinion article that ignorantly claimed climate change, or “global warming,” as Taormino put it, is a “hoax.” Being extensively involved with the topic since the beginning of my college career, and being a person who is concerned with climate and social justice, I feel obliged to respond to Taormino’s article.
Before going through his article, it’s worth noting that beginning on December 7 the largest and most important international conference on climate change is being held in Copenhagen, Denmark for two weeks in an attempt to establish international guidelines to combat the future and current toll that climate change has already begun to take, resulting in a major food and water crisis in much of the world.
In the spring of 2008, I studied abroad in India, where I backpacked and whitewater rafted throughout the Himalaya mountain range. The Himalaya has the third largest glacier system on the planet, and is the premier source of freshwater for over a billion people in India and neighboring countries. As the G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development (PIHED) points out, because this is a mountain glacier system, it is “very sensitive to changes in temperature and its various components are sensitive monitors of climate change.” They go on to show how this glacier system, which supplies water to some of the world’s largest rivers (Indus, Brahmaputra, and Ganges), allowing hundreds of millions of people to get drinking and irrigation water, have been “melting rapidly under present climatic conditions.” The most respected scientific body in the world on climate change and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has also reported on the rapid recession of Himalayan glaciers and its devastating effects. Personally, I witnessed the Milam Glacier, which is melting at around 13 meters per year, and learned about its immediate effects from villages, families, and NGO’s throughout Milam Valley. As the PIHED makes clear, the glaciers’ “future in the current century will depend on the condition, whether climate stabilizes or continues to warm in the near future.” Unfortunately, this is just one effect that India and many other peoples in the world face as a result of climate change.
Taormino’s article focuses on leaked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit in Britain that was a result of illegal hacking, and doesn’t prove anything. The emails, according to Taormino and climate change skeptics, supposedly show how a few scientists may have shaped some data, although there is no official proof of this, and it is likely the content of the emails were taken out of context. As the major British Newspaper, The Guardian, reported “the revelations did not alter the huge body of evidence from a variety of scientific fields that supports the conclusion that modern climate change is caused largely by human activity.”
Taormino goes on to try to argue that “someone very powerful wants us to keep believing that global warming is a real issue, and this is obviously for one good reason: money.” As anybody who is actively involved with the issue knows, climate change is not only “a real issue,” but, in fact, there are major corporate (“money”) and political interests that are doing quite the opposite than what Taormino argues. These interests are attempting to stop and shift climate change solutions by opposing emission reductions, which causes a host of other problems, and adding corporate-friendly proposals into the debate. In fact, the epitome of big-money interests, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has routinely uttered similar rhetoric as Taormino. If Taormino or anyone else wants a kind of conspiracy theory, you may want to inquire into the release of the hacked emails shortly before the most important conference on climate change in history began in Copenhagen.
I would like everyone to imagine Taormino, for a moment, telling the hundreds of millions of people who are feeling the beginning effects of climate change in India and elsewhere in the developing regions of the world facing increasing severity of drought, deforestation, and disruptions in water and food supplies, as he says at the end of his article, “this no longer should concern us because global warming was indeed a false assumption.”