100 years from now when our grandchildren survey the wreckage, they may look back on October 28, 2016 as the darkest day in the history of human civilization. When the children of the future contemplate going back in time it will not be Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin that they fantasize about killing to save the world, it will be James Comey, because there is now good evidence that his October surprise swung the election in favor of Donald Trump. And unless we somehow manage to persuade a man who has never in his life seen reason, who believes that making money is the only virtue, who is about to appoint a young-earth creationist as secretary of education and a climate-change denialist to head the EPA -- unless we somehow manage to persuade this person that climate change is real, then future generations are going to learn it the hard way.
I know that there are climate skeptics among my readers. A few of you even seem to have come to your views in good faith (as opposed to those who just bury their heads in the sand because they can't stand to face reality) and with a fair amount of thought and research. It has been on my to-do list for a long time to do a deep dive into this issue to find out whether skepticism is warranted. But in the meantime here are a few facts that, it seems to me, no sane person can deny:
1. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is rising dramatically. We're over 400PPM now, up from pre-industrial levels well below 300.
2. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. If we put enough of it in the atmosphere, we will heat the planet to the point where civilization can no longer be sustained. The only question is how much is enough.
3. These processes play themselves out over very long periods of time: decades to centuries. By the time it becomes evident that we've crossed the Rubicon it will most likely be too late to do anything about it.
4. The planet is warming. The 15 hottest years on record have all been in the last 20 years. The last time we had a coldest year on record was 1909.
5. The vast majority of the people who study this stuff say that the most likely explanation (indeed, the only plausible explanation) is that the planet is warming because of the CO2 we're adding to the atmosphere.
Now, maybe all of those people are wrong. Maybe the denialists are right and the warming trend is just a natural phenomenon. Maybe civilization is more resilient than we think and it can survive more than 2 degree rise in temperature. Maybe we can relocate all of our coastal cities, or come up with some technological solution that will prevent disaster. But here's the question we really need to ask ourselves: is this an experiment we really want to do? Because what if the scientists are right. Is that really something you want to find out the hard way? Do you really want to put your children and grandchildren through that?