Recently, my wife, Felicia, and I returned to South Carolina from travels in Peru. In the past two years, we have visited Central Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Iberian Peninsula. During each of these trips, we had the opportunity to talk at length with locals. A common point of discussion, brought up by the locals in each of these widely geographically dispersed countries, was the devastating effects they are experiencing due to climate change.
Every day they wake up and see the detrimental impacts that climate change is having in their lives.
We have seen the loss of rice growing areas in Vietnam due to seawater encroachment into formerly freshwater farming areas; the shrinking of Southeast Asia’s largest lake, Lake Tonlé, in Cambodia, significantly reducing fishing and shortening growing seasons; the loss of arable land and the resulting increase of forest fires in Portugal and Morocco; and disappearing glaciers in Peru that have fed the Urubamba River and provided drinking water to tens of thousands of indigenous people in the Sacred Valley for thousands of years.
These are all effects we witnessed firsthand and learned about from local people who have no political agendas, but who are gravely concerned for their families and their futures. Climate change and its devastating effects are not a hoax; they are very real and bring dire consequences.
While we sit in our comfortable homes, we cannot look out our windows and see shrinking glaciers, rising ocean levels, or arid fields, so it is easy to be oblivious to climate change and the disastrous effects that are currently being experienced across the globe.
However, it is hubris to ignore the problem and unconscionable to deny it exists in the face of such evidence. Climate change deniers are either ill-informed, or worse, disingenuous.
The fact that the global climate is changing dramatically is undeniable. And it is inevitable that the impacts of climate change will affect our society in more dramatic ways in the near future.
Only slightly less obvious are the causes of climate change. The preponderance of data support consensus among scientists that human activity is causing climate change; quibbling about whether the number is 97 percent or 90 percent is counterproductive.
Research on climate change has been going on for many years by a wide array of unbiased sources who have no agenda other than to simply save their cultures. The science on this is overwhelming. Review the massive amounts of data yourself.
Once we understand that man is at least contributing to climate change, what can we do to reduce our impact? Every little bit helps.
Buy fuel-efficient vehicles. Reuse and recycle. Eat less meat. Most importantly, we should communicate directly with our elected representatives, and challenge them to overcome their reticence to publicly recognize the facts.
Knowing what we now know, we cannot allow climate science to be a partisan issue; it is an existential issue. Conservative or liberal – each of us must understand that whether or not mankind and our activities are the primary causative factor, or just a contributor to a cyclical natural phenomenon, we should be doing everything within our abilities to reduce and mitigate our impacts.
There are right-minded conservatives, as well as liberals, who understand and appreciate these undeniable facts and are committed to action, without compromising their fundamental philosophies. We should seek out these leaders, regardless of political party, and ensure they are entrusted with our future, and the future of the earth that our children will inherit from us.
Mark G. Dykes recently retired from the S.C. National Guard as a brigadier general, during which he served as the environmental programs manager. He has a master of science from Clemson University, a master of military science from the U.S. Army War College, and a certificate in environmental policy from Duke University.