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How can I know if climate change is a real threat?

Let me start this week's mostly incoherent collection of letters, punctuation marks, and white spaces with the statement that I am an average human being and thus I am inherently unequipped to comprehend the larger forces of the universe. Where did it all begin? I don't know. Is there a divine being that created all of this? You asking me? I get most of my information from YouTube videos of guys gettin' hit in their private parts with baseballs.

I bring up my agnosticism this week because I was having a recent debate with a friend over the alleged threat of climate change. I know, you're still trying to wrap your arms around that idea that I have a friend, but the larger point here is that this person and myself have rather differing views on what changing macro-atmospheric conditions might mean for the planet and mankind. You know, basically, I believe what I do, and he's wrong. These things don't have to be that difficult.

Of course, I kid, because I don't know if my views about climate change are any more accurate than my ideas on the role of compression ratios and heat transfer in the solving of basic thermodynamic equations. I have read quite a bit about the climate change topic, but in today's era of intentional misinformation and manipulation, how do I know if I'm ingesting good data or fraudulent propaganda? I suppose, I would have some time on Saturday mornings to accompany a scientific exploration team to Antarctica to extract ice core samples to see what pollen counts from 10,000 years ago can explain about ancient climactic conditions, but the truth is, well, I'd rather sleep in. Yeah, I know, it's a lazy approach to becoming a better planetary citizen, but hey, I haven't used a plastic straw since I read that the oceans are filling up with them. I'm doing my part.

Sadly, much of the debate around climate change is divided along political fronts. Those on the right side of the divide think it's a farce, and humans can pump as much carbon dioxide into the air as we'd like, because it's the Dow Jones Industrial Average reading that matters, not the one on the thermometer. Those on the left, meanwhile, strongly believe that human activity has driven global temperatures already past the point where all life on the planet will perish before Easter. That's on April 12 this year, by the way, if you want to say goodbye to anybody before the rising seas swallow you.

I think it's common sense that the climate is changing, and quite possibly for the worse. The bubble of air that surrounds this planet is hardly a static thing, it mixes and boils and swirls every second of every day. That might mean a decade of drought in Australia to the point where the continent is ablaze, yet elsewhere, record snows are falling. I also would tend to believe, however, that such alterations have been occurring far longer than we people have been around. I mean, think about the time of the dinosaurs, when scientists theorize that a giant meteor struck the planet and threw so much dirt and smoke into the sky that sunshine was blocked and the earth plunged into an ice age. Nothing the New Green Deal could have done to stop that.

Whether or not man is causing recent upswings in global temperatures is one of those concepts that's way beyond my pay grade. With my limited knowledge, I can't know for sure if jet engine exhaust and coal-fired power plant emissions are responsible for sea levels on the Pacific coast rising 1.5 centimeters every 12 years, or if that's just a cyclical phenomena that will happen even if we all switch to electric cars and heat our homes with wind turbines. Seems to me that we peon people have had some impact, but are not wholly responsible for the climactic catastrophe that some folks predict. That said, even if we can't take all the blame, if the dire warnings are anywhere near true, it might not be a bad idea to do something to fix things before the mountaintops are the only dry land we have left. Geez, can you imagine what real estate values would be worth then?

I do like to think that even though I wear a size 13 shoe, I'm leaving a fairly small carbon footprint. It's just small things -- I keep my home thermostat set low in winter (mostly because I'm cheap), I drive a car that gets decent mileage, and I try to buy products with minimal packaging to conserve resources -- and while that might not sound like much, if everyone did at least a little, we might be able to slow this global warming thing down just enough so that mankind will cease to exist because Iran figures out how to build a nuclear bomb and not due to melting polar ice caps and widespread planetary fires. That said, while we probably ought to pay some attention to initiatives that limit atmospheric warming, there are probably more imminent threats to our survival as a species. For example, if we put all of our energy into capping carbon emissions but nobody does anything to prepare for the inevitable day that a mutant strain of virulent influenza spreads across the globe faster than a Tweet, we ain't gonna have enough cemetery space regardless of the cause. That's why I'm goin' with cremation. You can flush me for all I'll care. Engaging in a discussion of climate change did remind me of my natural inclination to look at such issues with a hopefully open-minded wonderment. In accepting that the true answers to such predicaments are so far beyond my potential to know, I can listen to anyone else's opinions and think, 'Hmm. That could make sense.' I will argue a point on occasion just to hear what response it generates, but I refrain from ever becoming obstinate enough to think that my view is absolute and irrefutable.

Well, most of the time. I mean, c'mon, the Packers are better than the Vikings. You can't argue with that.

As far as my recent debate, my friend doesn't really believe climate change is a dire threat and that we ought not to worry much about it, while I tend to think it is real, although perhaps not as human-caused as some suggest. His and my opinions, interestingly, are both generated from things we've heard and read, so we are either hearing and reading quite different things, or we just have opposite ways of interpreting them, probably based on the way we were raised, the political views to which we ascribe, and perhaps even varying blends of optimism/pessimism.

Bottom line, again, I believe what I do, and he's wrong. Sure glad we got that settled.