We Live In 1938

“You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war," Winston Churchill, on Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler in 1938.

Chuchill's generation, which lived through the horrors of World War I, faced an agonizing choice. Our generation, in contrast, faced with a simple choice between investment in the future and dishonor, has chosen dishonor. Out of fear that measures to fight climate change will cause economic pain, we are refusing to invest money now in reducing our use of fossil fuels. But even the most dire predictions of climate skeptics are dwarfed by the costs we have already incurred from climate change, not to mention the costs that the future holds in store. And like the British, we will have war. While we wait for Hitler to invade Poland, for climate change body bags to convince us that the change is real, irreparable damage is being done to the environment. Damage that we will have to pay for, in addition to the feared costs of reducing fossil fuel consumption.

We have been presented with clear evidence of climate change caused by human activity and threatening our way of life. This evidence is not hidden in the heavens or beyond the sea—the basic science can be explained clearly to a high school student, and the underlying mechanism is not disputed by any climate scientist. Even those few climate scientists who still maintain that the situation is not urgent accept the basic mechanism by which carbon in the atmosphere absorbs energy and prevents it from being radiated back into space, providing us with a livable environment. Is it complicated to understand every interaction between all the different feedback loops? Of course. But that doesn't change the basic mechanism of the greenhouse effect; the only question open to debate is the rate at which the climate will change as we double and triple the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

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