In 1988, James Hansen, a leading climate scientist and former director of NASA's Institute for Space Studies, testified before Congress on the scientific data showing human interference with the climate system. Since that time, according the Climate Accountability Institute, as reported by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), over half of all industrial emissions of carbon dioxide released since the start of the industrial revolution has occurred. We have done little to heed the warnings.
As the scientific and empirical evidence mounts, this global experiment on the Earth's atmosphere and biosphere continues. Unfortunately, the response from the world's carbon producers has been a steady campaign of deception and misinformation. This story of misinformation is not new. It goes back to the 1950's when Big Tobacco faced the growing realization that the product they sold killed people. Today, the same tactics are used to cast doubt on science and question the motivation of the scientists who continue to warn the public of the dangers posed to modern civilization by continued and accelerating climate change.
We all share a burden of responsibility for our collective future. But a critical first step is for fossil fuel companies to stop promoting disinformation about climate change, either directly or through the mouthpiece of trade organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Recently, BP announced it will cut its ties with ALEC. This is an opportunity to encourage other fossil fuel companies like Shell Oil to do the same.
As much as many would like to wish it away, or deny its existence, or cast doubt on those warning us of the dangers, climate change is not going away. The sooner we face the facts and hold accountable those that promote misinformation, the sooner we will meet this growing challenge.
This infographic from UCS illustrates the gap between climate science and fossil fuel fiction.
Graphic courtesy of Union of Concerned Scientists