Climate Change: Just the Facts, Ma’am

NASA's "Temperature of Earth Changing over 131 Years" video thumbnail 1It is easy in today’s political and business environment for even the most objective observer to question climate change, its origins and its impacts, today and in the future. There are so many agendas supported by so many misstatements and outright falsehoods that it is easy to doubt just about anything.

So, forget the fact that—literally—nearly 100% of climate scientists worldwide have studied it and concluded that climate change is occurring and that it is anthropogenic. Forget the inches or feet of sea level change that have occurred or are anticipated. I will even try to forget that, in the last week of March, Colorado’s Rockies—eerily bare of snow—are supposed to receive rain in the high mountains tonight.

NASA's "Temperature of Earth Changing over 131 Years" video thumbnail 2Instead, take a look at the video, prepared by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies: a visual representation of the simple facts of Earth’s temperatures. Focus on the colors: blues are cooler than average,  warm colors (yellow, orange, red) warmer than average.

As the video progresses through about 130 years, there are no broad swings from deep blues to deep reds and back; variations, yes—especially in the first 90 years—but generally a steady progression from deep blues and whites to gold, orange and off-the-charts red, especially from 1970 on. And, that “off-the-charts red” means temperatures today are typically 2°C or more higher than they use to be. That translates to 3.6°F higher.

Now, in science and in business, we train to use our minds not our hearts. But, I think we should each pause to consider our visceral reaction to that video. Did your chest tighten? Did you laugh? Cry? Like me, did you nod and think, “Yep, we’re screwed”?

Colorado isn’t “off-the-charts red,” yet. But, Denver’s average daily temperatures for December and January are 30.3°F and 29.2°F, respectively, with Colorado Springs and Grand Junction coming in slightly cooler. That’s only 1.7°F and 2.8°F below freezing, and within range of the temperature changes we are already experiencing. If snow doesn’t stay—well, snow—during the day, then we don’t have snow pack for a season.

I hear a chorus of, “Sounds great for Denver!” (If you are serious in your huzzah, feel free to romp over to the “Warmer is Better” party at the Heartland Institute.) But temperature increase translates to skiing that is farther away, for an increasingly shorter time—meaning fewer jobs in the ski industry. It also has the potential to end the Front Range’s water storage mechanism: snow pack. Goodbye lush green lawns, hello hardcore Xeriscape—and not the pretty kind (okay, that’s subjective).

All of these concerns for Colorado may seem fairly trivial. Of course, there are equally or more important considerations such as agriculture and ranching, energy resources and access, and to name a few. And, that’s just for my little slice of heaven here on Earth. For other heavens, the impacts have already been felt harder.

So, watch the video again. Focus on your little slice changing color. Check your gut. Then, decide what you are going to do about it.

I think that I had better get a job saving the world. No, seriously. Contact me if you would like to work together on it.

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