The Biscayne Times

Jun 19th
Climate Change Gaslighters PDF Print E-mail
Written by Blanca Mesa, BT Contributor   
December 2016

It’s time to take a stand against deniers

PPix_GoingGreen_12-16residential election results matter. But not to science.

To science, the waters are still rising at an accelerating pace, the Earth is still warming to record temperatures, and species are still facing extinction levels unparalleled since the last great extinction.

“Climate Trumps Everything, No Matter Who Is President” reads a headline in Scientific American. In the article, climatologist Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, writes about the dangers of Trump’s plan to scuttle the Clean Power Plan and promote dirty fossil fuels over clean energy alternatives. Mann argues that if these proposals are implemented, they will prove disastrous for the climate (and all living things on the planet).

Make no mistake: Everything people have worked toward to slow global disaster is in jeopardy with the election of the man dubbed our first “anti-science” president.

To Trump, climate change is a hoax. His administration vows not to abide by the Paris Agreement that sets the broad goal of keeping global average temps to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius, the “tipping point” for a livable planet. Under Trump, tax incentives for clean energy, including wind and solar, could disappear.

Coastal cities like Miami -- and all of Florida, with its vulnerable coastline -- would be the first casualties. More than half of Florida’s 663 miles of beaches are already eroded. How much more damage could now occur under Trump? A potentially irreversible amount, considering that our state government was far ahead of Trump in denialism, going so far as to ban state employees from even mentioning the words “climate change.”

The denial of reality -- and the manipulation, falsification, and omission of facts intended to make you doubt yourself -- is called “gaslighting,” and it’s a form of mental abuse. Climate change matters. Extinction matters. Water contamination matters. Facts matter. On the science of climate change, we can’t afford to let anyone gaslight us.

Climate-smart cities like Miami Beach and Charleston have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to keep the rising waters back (for as long as they can). The City of Miami recently hired a sustainability officer. Waiting for the feds to act is not an option.

In the coming year, it will be our full-time time job to distinguish fact from fiction. And we have some serious catching up to do.

“As a society, we are not scientifically literate enough,” says Albert Hine, a professor of geological oceanography at the University of South Florida. Hines is the co-author of a new book written specifically for non-scientists called Sea Level Rise in Florida: Science, Impacts, and Options.

Speaking last month at the Miami Book Fair, he lamented how climate change has been politicized. “Florida is ground zero for sea level rise,” Hine said. “You don’t have to have much of it to have the whole state underwater.”

We do have some tools in Miami to shore up our scientific knowledge. In 2017, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science will open in downtown Miami. It will play a critical role in educating our community and providing the resources and support for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professionals. The Museum’s Science Communication Program includes an early childhood science curriculum and hands-on science exploration for afterschool programs.

ZooMiami will delve into the sciences with its new exhibit “Florida: Mission Everglades,” opening December 10. This 4.5-acre exhibit will help our community connect with more than 60 species of native wildlife, many now endangered or threatened. Roseate spoonbills, river otters, crocodiles, alligators, and even rehabilitated bald eagles will be deftly placed among a sampling of Everglades’ ecosystems -- from oak hammocks and cypress domes to pine flatwoods and coastal estuaries. Here a new generation can connect with extraordinary wilderness and be inspired to take a more enlightened stewardship of the environment and our planet.

Then there’s the science that surrounds us: the outdoors. Explore our aquatic preserve, Biscayne Bay, the botanical gardens, and the vestiges of nature in our public parks.

These places are our centers of both science and sanity. They house the lesson plans that will be needed when the Trump administration rolls out proposals to open Florida’s coastal waters to oil drilling and federal lands to hydraulic fracking. In them lie the core competencies in science, ecology, and understanding our place within nature and our responsibility to protect it. In them beats the heart of resistance.

“Climate change does not care about the law of the land in the U.S. It cares about the laws of physics,” wrote Brian Kahn, a senior science writer for Climate Central, an organization that researches and reports on climate change, after the election. “Trump can change laws in the U.S. He can’t change them in the atmosphere.”

While a climate-denier may live in our White House, science doesn’t bend to disbelief. Neither should we.


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