#ClimateChange is happening and the U.S. needs to #KeepParis @protectwinters

As a scientist, it's hard to advocate for an environmental outcome.

"Be the fair and just arbiter of information..." is a common sentiment expressed by senior scientists to junior scientists and students.

If I were asked to give my thoughts on if a riparian forest thinning treatment might increase stream temperature, whether a wetland was jurisdictional under the Army Corps of Engineers, or if the current grazing regime has changed rangeland condition, I would take a deep breath, consult with the data, literature, and other scientists, and present my scientific opinion.

In some instances though, a sufficient body of evidence leads to a scientific consensus. One such consensus is that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased since humans undertook the industrial-scale burning of fossil fuels, cleared historic landcover to make way for developed land use, and grew massively in population (because more people doing those things is a positive feedback loop).

For example, NOAA's Earth System Research Lab at the Mauna Loa observatory shows that concentrations have been rising over the last half century:

Note that Mauna Loa is in Hawaii, on a mountain top, on an island in the middle of the massive Pacific Ocean, and isn't influenced by local factors like land conversion, factory emissions, etc. 

When you take this time-series out over a hundred years, recording atmospheric chemistry from ice cores in far awaya places like Greenland and Antarctica, you see a more pronounced upward trend in carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. These are the three most common, potent "greenhouse gases," or gases that absorb and emit radiation within the thermal infrared range. In short, as atmospheric concentrations of these gases. This figure is from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2014 summary report

So, what this means is that as greenhouse gases increase, the atmosphere warms, and the planet changes too. It gets warmer than it used to (a), earth surface temperatures change (b), sea ice extent declines (c), sea level rises as oceans expand, (d) and the timing and magnitude rain and snowfall change (e).


Because these observations and many, many others have built a mass of evidence that is undeniable, 195 countries have joined the IPCC, which, as I mentioned, is the organization whose figures I present above. The IPCC is "policy relevant, yet policy neutral," which means it, like any good scientist presents information as an honest arbiter. It is not prescriptive.

Governments, and the individuals that run them however, are policy prescriptive. In theory, they synthesize information, identify social and economic priorities, and then make decisions in the public interest using the policy tools at their disposal. Enough governments have identified the threat of climate change to human health, economies, and general well-being, that hundreds of nations have met numerous times to discuss climate. These talks include the earlier Kyoto talks, and most recently the Paris climate talks, Just over a year ago, in December 2015, an agreement was reached in which member countries agreed to work toward keeping global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius. Each country gets to decide how it wants to reduce emissions, and what actions it will take to implement that reduction.

This is important because, in the U.S. alone, climate change has increased the length of wildfire season, exacerbated droughts, and put cities at risk from sea level rise. If you want more details, I will gladly send papers and data, but for now, there are the news briefs from the Union of Concerned Scientists. In short, we have put our country's citizens (and the world's) at risk with runaway climate change, and how it is likely to affect economies and human health and well-being. It will be easier to prevent runaway climate change than to reverse it.

Recently, the U.S. elected a new president, one who has limited political experience, and no international or environmental policy experience. He has appointed business people and oil executives to his cabinet, and vowed to undo what limited political progress has been made on halting and eventually reversing climate change. This includes opting out of Paris.

Today, Protect our Winters, which originated from the winter sports community and works to raise climate awareness, has catalyzed a Twitter blast (lobbying effort?) using #KeepParis. In a rather impartial move, I'm suggesting, nope, I'm requesting, that you take to the ol' Twitter, and drop a tweet to our president elect, your representative in the House and your senators and ask them to honor the Paris climate agreement. While this request may make me an advocate rather than an impartial scientist, the scientific consensus is already in, climate change is real, it will be bad if it goes unchecked. We can work to reduce its effects if we honor existing international agreements, and this starts by asking politicians to act in our country, planet and species' best interests.