Climate Change: The Burden of Proof

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We are still far from agreement or unanimity when it comes to climate change. For years, scientists and environmental groups have been bringing to important light information regarding the changes that will take place in the future if we continue on our current trajectory.

This information is commonly treated as a prophecy, not something based in fact, but an idea of what could happen. The latest reports have brought the effects of climate change to the near future rather than a date off in the distance. By 2030, we can expect temperatures to have risen by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

Despite this alarming news, you will find that many governments and businesses have targets to reduce carbon emissions and implement green policies by 2050. The public is also quite calm about this fact. It means facing the question of whether we are ignoring the issue, or whether we don’t believe it is coming.

The Burden of Proof

In a court of law, when trying a case, there is a burden of proof. A case without sufficient evidence can be thrown out of court. As the defense attorneys at point out, they begin a trail by having “irrelevant or illegally obtained evidence thrown out.” In this case, one party is making allegations, and it is up to them to provide enough evidence to warrant their position. 

When someone is convicted of a crime, it has a dramatic impact on their life at that moment, and their future is moving forward. Here is where the analogy to climate change breaks down. The possibility of climate change being real will have the most severe and dramatic impact. Instead, the implications of taking action are less dramatic. It would cost money and mean changing our way of living.

It brings about the question do we need proof beyond a reasonable doubt to take action against climate change. One of the main issues is that it seems unlikely that we could present more convincing arguments without relying on the evidence that is already causing substantial changes to our environment. Where, then, should we look for the proof?


Signs of Climate Change

Evidence for climate change often comes in scrutinizing changes in the weather. Since global warming is a large focus of the impact on the environment, anomalies in the weather are studied, and skeptics lay the burden of proof at the door of scientists to explain how these events correlate with their theories. 

Naturally, scientists are hesitant to engage in this search for proof. It isn’t easy to take every storm or heatwave and attribute it to the impact of human activity on the planet. A display of reticence in this area feeds the doubt among the public. It leaves non-scientists in a difficult position. For anyone who wants to deny climate change, it is a weapon to use, much like a defense attorney looking to have evidence thrown out. 

It has led to advances in the study of this field. Environmental scientists can now focus on single weather events and use advanced models and statistical analysis to review the role and impact of global warming. Even though the burden of proof was quite a considerable burden, this new method gave us some concrete answers to show just how much of a role global warming is playing.


Ignoring the Issue

Talk of climate change has now moved onto the uncomfortable subject of whether we are too late. This question inevitably raises a second question, why have we wasted so much time? As many of us know from personal experience, dealing with something in the early stages is much better than trying to handle a crisis.

Although ignoring the issue is common, the silver lining seems to be that we haven’t accepted climate change as an inevitable disaster just yet. As people see the places around them changing, and not for the better, we see communities, activists, and organizations aiming to make a difference.

The next step is for world leaders to shift their focus and wake up to the immediacy of the situation. Like anything worth having, there might be some short-term sacrifices required to bring about long term gain for the planet. Since short-term sacrifices aren’t popular with the voting public, you could conclude that this has an impact on how much attention is given to the issue.

The Bottom Line

The proof has been provided, and the situation is more alarming than we thought. It is time for the conversation to move on from extreme weather events and the evidence of climate change. The burden now sits with the corporations and policymakers to act in our and the planet’s best interest. 

When the focus shifts to implementing measures this year and making changes almost as dramatic as the effects of climate change, only then will we be on the right track.

Like everyone else, I am a child of the earth. I love my animals, and I love the environment. As modernization pushes us forward and introduces us to an exciting new world filled with advanced technology, it is easy to forget about.

1 Comment

  1. Working in exploration, appraisal, development and production of oil and gas fields on four continents for more than 50 years, I remained blithely unaware of global warming and probable causes. It was an exciting and rewarding time in the oil industry, The usual excesses of investment were followed by corrections, but the innovations and successes in all phases of the industry were breath taking.

    Peak Oil became a concern before global warming. The move to produce oil remaining in source rocks with improved and new techniques dragged out the peak oil discussion which obscured the alarm about global warming. Absorbed with finding and producing oil, I remained on the fence about global warming until 2000. Reading and research of literature on global warming left me puzzled that the scientists who knew most about this were not able to get us to focus more on this looming catastrophe. Was it: the reliability of data, the reluctance to take and aggressive stance on completed studies and interpretations, effective lobbying by vested interests, our inability to project trends in the present into the the future and the consequences of those trends?

    I was able to see the danger of global warming but felt uneasy in explaining this danger to others in a simple and convincing manner. This is of course my failing, but I feel that the science of global warming and the scientists who have dedicated their life to this subject could have provided us with more concise, convincing arguments for and against global warming, the causes and consequences and enable us be better prepared to help others understand the danger and urgency.

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