Paul E. Robinson Ph.D.
A unique perspective on climate change. Exploring the crisis not only from a scientific perspective, but also the substrates of the problem in human terms both psychologically and ethically.
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About The Book
The problem of global warming will not be solved until we the people demand it be solved. This book encourages people to demand a solution by making a compelling case to why we must act and act now; presenting the facts in a non-technical way so the non-scientists can understand them; explaining why and how people are confused or deny the facts; casting climate change not just a physical phenomenon but also as a moral and spiritual issue; promoting a love of the Earth and an appreciation of its uniqueness; and, enumerating what people can do alone and collectively to help save the Earth for future generations.
A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song (Chinese proverb). My “song” in the waning years of my life is a “song” for all humanity.
Climate change is fundamentally a moral issue. Any action to ameliorate climate change involves politics and economics to be sure, but until we accept that it is immoral for us to endanger the health and wellbeing of others, we will make little progress in combating climate change.
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I am one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing.”
“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of future generations are upon you. And if you chose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.”
-Greta Thunberg, Swedish activist
Before we focus on Greta’s speech to the United Nations, allow me to admit that perhaps 2020 is not the best time to think about global warming/climate change. Americans, as well as the rest of the world, are preoccupied with the coronavirus or COVID- 19 pandemic. In addition, in the US we have a critical election coming this Fall when we decide to stick with the current occupant of the Whitehouse or elect a new person to guide our country through these difficult times. This election promises to be a highly contentious one. It may take months for the results to be finalized. Even then it is highly likely the country will be bitterly divided. Moreover, due to the coronavirus, many are deathly sick or dying while others are also unemployed or under-employed. Some have lost their homes or apartments while others are in danger of losing their homes or of not being able to pay their rent. Many struggle to provide for their basic needs such as health care, medicines, and food. To make matters even worse, we have to deny ourselves many of the pleasures of our former lives, including avoiding contact with loved ones and friends. In addition, racial and economic injustices continue to plague our nation as we have witnessed throughout this summer.
Meanwhile, people in other parts of the world are experiencing their own challenges and crises. Chronic hunger, starvation, droughts, floods, economic and political chaos, homelessness, wars and conflicts, displacement, death and destruction, lack of medical care, and so much more plague the lives of billions of people around the globe. In addition to all these challenges, they too are under threat of climate change.
The point of this entire litany of woes is that there is always a challenge or a crisis brewing somewhere in the world. We cannot wait, however, to address global warming/climate change until we have solved all the other problems facing humanity. There will never be an ideal, crisis-free, time to address the impending crisis of climate change. The world will never be free of problems and crises. Climate change must be addressed now. Just as the novel coronavirus required quick, decisive action, global warming demands the same response. If we delay our response to global warming (which by the way we are) the problem of climate change will only get worse as we discovered with our response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In short, these are difficult and, for many, perilous times. As the old saying goes, we have more problems than we can shake a stick at. Global warming is yet another challenge, one of the most important ones I would argue, that needs our immediate attention. As a psychologist, I am well aware that, as a group, our stress levels are quite high and that we have a limit to how much stress we can deal with at one time. The American Psychological Association has coined a new term, “ecoanxiety,” to capture what the Association calls, “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” We don’t need to have a chronic fear of environmental doom, but we must be deeply concerned about the future health of our planet and, by extension, the health and wellbeing of every human being on this planet including, perhaps even more importantly, those yet unborn.
Meanwhile, as we fret about so many other things, the Earth continues to get hotter. Global warming is not going away even as we struggle with the many other challenges facing us and try to regain some semblance of a normal life. The coronavirus will probably be gone someday; not so global warming. Global warming is here to stay and will arguably be more enduring and damaging than the coronavirus in the long run. It will affect all humanity and its effects will be quite serious as well as life-threatening. Because global warming is seen more as a distance threat, it seems less urgent than our other stressors.
This book will make the case that it is not less urgent and that it is a problem we must face now. Decades ago scientists were warning about what was termed an “emerging virus” by a young virologist named Stephen Morse. Morse and other scientists were identifying climate change, massive urbanization, the proximity of farm and forest animals (virtual virus reservoirs) to humans, unrestricted international travel, and the movement of refugees due to famines and war as conditions that would make viral growth a certainty. If we had listened to these early warnings, perhaps we would not have been so affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. If we will only heed the warnings of climate scientists now, the effects of climate change can be mitigated.
If we listen to our climate scientists now who are warning about the dangers of global warming, we stand a good chance of arresting global warming before it creates more disruptions and dangers in our lives. Unlike SARS and MERS, virulent viral infections which were mostly confined to Asia and the Middle East, respectively, global warming is and will continue to affect every human being on this planet, much as COVID-19 is. There are at least three compelling reasons global warming is a problem that requires our immediate attention: national security, health, and economics.
In September 2009, the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, launched a center called The Center on Climate Change and National Security. Its focus was to assess the national security impact of climate change phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population shifts, and heightened competition for natural resources. The CIA recognized two realities: climate change is the number one threat to our national security and global warming is a problem we must deal with now. In 2019, the Pentagon reaffirmed climate change as a national security threat a year after the President removed it from the administration’s list of national threats (D’Angelo and Kaufman, 2019).
In addition, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, climate change is a serious threat to our health. “Human health is vulnerable to climate change. The changing environment is expected to cause more heat stress, an increase in waterborne diseases, poor air quality, and diseases transmitted by insects and rodents. Extreme weather events can compound many of these health threats.” Moreover, our food supply is threatened by increased temperatures, water stress, diseases, and weather extremes, all of which presents a major challenge to our farmers.
Climate change not only represents a danger to our national security and health and wellbeing, but it is also a drain on our national, state, and local budgets. For example, according to NOAA there were fourteen billion-dollar weather and climate events in 2018 and 2019. Losses were estimated to be $91 billion for 2018 and $45 billion for 2019. There has been nine consecutive years of eight or more billion-dollar disasters. According to NOAA, 2019 “was the fifth consecutive year in which 10 or more billion-dollar weather and climate events affected the United States.” According to the government’s own national climate assessment, continued warming “is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts (italics mine).” It just makes good common sense as well as economic sense to address climate change as quickly as we can.
If we do not accept climate change as an urgent issue and address it effectively, we will have to pay the price in terms of increasing threats to our national security, health, and economy. We are already seeing the human toll of climate change as its life-changing effects are revealed through extreme weather events such as unprecedented heat waves, floods, droughts, and hurricane frequency and strength. Farmers struggle each year with planting and harvesting their crops due to unusual weather patterns. In addition, in terms of population shifts, Europe especially is experiencing the effects of mass migration, some of which is climate related. The same is happening in the U.S. as many migrate from Central America not only to escape rape, murder, and unemployment, but also to escape an increasingly hostile environment. Climate change as a critical issue can no longer be rationally denied or avoided.
We must ask if there will ever be a good time to address the emerging problem of climate change? And, if not now, when? Climate change is not going to go away just because we deny or ignore it. The health of our little planet, in fact, will only get worse as we delay taking effective action on it. We have seen this already in our delay in responding to the coronavirus. Our ignoring it only made matters worse. We must address climate change even as we struggle with other urgent matters too. We cannot wait until there is a good or better time. This is the exact time we should be addressing the problem of global warming.
We possess the intelligence and resources to deal with this urgent problem now. The real question is, do we have the will and wisdom to address this problem before it is “too late?” Scientists tell us we ignore the growing problem at our own peril. Our changing climate demands a robust and effective response on the part of all of us. After all, given that we all share the same little planet, we will have to work together to solve this mounting problem. This book is an attempt to inform people about the mounting problem of global warming and to motivate people to do something about it. It is not a book for academia, but for common, ordinary people who want to leave their children and grandchildren a healthy planet like the one we inherited from our ancestors. It’s not too late for us to assure our loved ones have a planet that remains friendly to life. To paraphrase noted author and activist James Baldwin, not everything that is faced can be solved, but nothing can be solved until it is faced.
Therefore, let us start our examination of the critical issue of climate change/global warming by reflecting on the words of Greta. Greta has passion equaled only by her concerns for this planet and her generation. Sixteen year-old, Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg spoke the words above to the United Nations Action Summit in September 2019. Those who felt threatened or condemned by her words called her crazy and misguided. Others hailed her as an environmental hero, a champion for future generations as well as her own. Time magazine honored her by selecting her as 2019 Person of the Year. Her passion, commitment, and her willingness and ability to take a forceful stand inspire me to be a better steward and spokesperson for our planetary home. I appreciate Greta and believe she understands the seriousness of the impending climate crisis. Greta captures the true essence of the climate crisis by casting the debate as fundamentally a moral issue not a political or economic one.
It is courageous young people like Greta and a concern for future generations that prompted me to write about global warming. This book will make the case for human-caused or anthropogenic global warming. I am not a climatologist. I am, however, a student of science and one who has done his homework on this subject. I am a behavioral scientist which I believe uniquely qualifies me to write about the global warming crisis. So much of what drives the debate on global warming is psychology not physics or chemistry. It is beliefs, attitudes and even personality traits that make it a difficult subject for people. Much of the physics and chemistry of global warming are clear, some even indisputable. It is the psychological as well as religious factors that fuel the debate.
Unlike physical scientists, my laboratory is not in a confined space or the physical world, but the field of human behavior. I have always been curious about the how and why of things whether it be human behavior or the physical world. As a child I wanted to know about electricity, for example, so I tried an experiment that I definitely do not recommend anyone else try. I stuck a metal object into an electrical outlet! Oh, I found out about the nature and power of electricity really quick, and fortunately lived to tell about it.
I am drawn to all things science. I am curious. I want to know the how and why of things. The shape and color of leaves fascinates me. I have a passion for sea shells, rocks, and rock formations. Nothing is more pleasing to my eyes than the seemingly endless variety of shapes and colors of flowers. Is there a more awe-inspiring experience than to stand under the stars on a clear, dark night? Then there is our inner world- our fantastic and mysterious brain. I want to understand how that great inner space works, the workings of the human mind.
All this led me to major in teaching with a concentration in the sciences. As an undergraduate I studied many branches of science: astronomy, botany, chemistry, physics, geology, and zoology. Human behavior became my primary area of interest later which resulted in my becoming a psychologist. But over the years I continued to read about all things science.
Global warming and climate change captured my attention when it became clear that we were ruining our wonderful planet. I am writing because I actually do love our planet and all its inhabitants. I feel a moral responsibility as an inhabitant of this Earth and as a part of the human family to speak out about the way we are treating our celestial home and jeopardizing the future of our children and grandchildren- my children, and my grandchildren.
We are all part of the first generation of humans that have the power to alter Earth’s environment forever. Our collective moral duty, therefore, is to save the Earth for future generations. When the industrial age started back in the late eighteenth century people did not know how the burning of fossil fuels would damage the Earth; but now we know and there is no excuse for not taking corrective action.
I take no comfort in the fact that at my age I am not likely to experience the worst of climate change. Nonetheless, my moral duty is to speak out and do all I can to save Earth from our collective neglect and abuse. I am convinced that it is morally wrong to continue to pollute our air, soil and water thus making generations to come pay the high price for our greed and neglect. We have no right to make them victims of our abuse of this planet anymore than a man has a right to abuse a woman making her the victim of his bad day or life or his drinking. Some day we will have to answer to our children. For me that day is today.
Because I care deeply about humanity, those born and not yet born, I devoted myself to learning more about climate change. I have researched the subject extensively. I am certainly not an expert in the field of climatology, but I have learned quite a bit through my study and have a working knowledge of the science behind it. I am confident that this book is an important addition to this issue of climate change as it not only addresses the science behind global warming, but also the relevance of psychology, religion, and spirituality to the issue.
This book is important and hopefully will be read not only by those already convinced of the anthropogenic nature of global warming but also by those who simply do not know what to believe and especially those who deny anthropogenic climate change. This book is important because critical decisions must be made regarding our response to global warming. These decisions need to be made now before the problem of global warming becomes worse. As with COVID 19, the sooner action is taken, the less harm and damage will be done to our Earth and, by extension, to humanity.
If we are to avoid the worst of climate change, it will depend on the actions of our legislators. They make the big decisions, governmental decisions, nation- and global-wide decisions, regarding global warming. They and they alone have the authority to enact legislation that can make a difference beyond what any one person or group of people can do. They can either pass laws that will help heal and prevent further damage to our environment or fail to do so thereby putting all of us at further risk of climate change. A public informed about the issues of climate change can bring pressure to bear on our legislators to do the right thing for our Earth and generations to come.
Not much will get done, as much is not currently getting done, to preserve our environment if the public sits on the fence uninformed and uninvolved. A well-informed public is our best offense and defense against a disinterested or even hostile legislative body as some legislators, doing the bidding of the fossil fuel industry, are. Scientists alone cannot convince legislators to make the right decisions regarding our environment. Change will come only when citizens join the efforts of scientists to press for legislation that will protect our planet from further harm. Information based on scientific facts, hence this book, is critical to informing the public and empowering the public to convince legislators to enact legislation to protect our planet.
Just how well informed is the American public about climate change? The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication conducted a scientific survey (2019) of a representative sample of the American people. Among its most relevant findings were these:
*69% think global warming is happening while 16 % think it is not.
*55% understand that global warming is mostly human caused, but 32% think it is due to natural changes in the earth’s cycles.
*62% say they are at least somewhat worried while23% are very worried.
*38% say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming.
*36% say it is not personally important to them!
*63% report that they rarely or never discuss global warming with family and friends.
*9% consider it a religious issue while 38% consider it a moral issue.
Let’s examine a few of these findings further. Still in this day and age one in approximately six Americans does not believe global warming is happening. That is disturbing. Equally disturbing is that about one in three do not consider it important to them personally. What, are they not thinking? Further, about one in three deny it is due to human activity. Fortunately, but also sadly, the vast majority are worried about it. As the data shows, however, most of us do not talk about it with those close to us. Like sex once was (believe it or not), it is a taboo subject, like politics and religion.
Yale and George Mason Universities have identified six Americas based on the level of concern for global warming. Those six Americas are: Dismissive (10%), Doubtful (10%), Disengaged (7%), Cautious (16%), Concerned (26%) and Alarmed (31%). These numbers show an increase in the number of Alarmed from 11% in 2014. Overall the level of Alarmed and Concerned rose from 45% to 57% in that same time period. Whereas, more and more Americans are expressing concern, still a large number are not showing realistic concern. Though the attitudes of Americans are changing, there is still much work to be done by all of us concerned about the growing threat of global warming.
Bishop John Shelby Spong (2000) writes about his background in the Southern culture of the 1940s and 1950s. He speaks of a time when the differences between races were obvious in so many ways–use of drinking fountains, toilets, public hotels, department stores, and in so many obvious and subtle ways. He writes: “It was a cruel system, and I was one of the unknown beneficiaries of it. Once again, I profited from this evil, though at that point in my life I remained blissfully ignorant of it” (italics mine).
Many of us are like Bishop Spong in that we, too, have profited from a system where fossil fuel use was just taken for granted. We did not know the damage we were inflicting on the environment. But now we know. Science has stripped us of our ignorance. If you read on, you will become convinced that we cannot go on as if burning fossil fuels does not matter anymore. We know better, and because we know better, we must do better. I hope this book will help us accomplish that.
I appeal to you the reader, for the sake of our children, grandchildren, and for the countless generations to come, to take this subject seriously. In global warming time, it is almost midnight. Time is of the essence. Scientists tell us we must act now before it is too late. There is no turning back the clock on global warming. Global warming is happening now and will only get worse the more we delay taking effective action. This book represents my attempt to speak for our children and grandchildren whose voice needs to be heard. I am also speaking for our planet that keeps sending us signals which we are largely ignoring.
If we all become informed and work together, we can preserve this wonderful planet for future generations. My firm belief is that we can turn the tide on global warming. Human beings have an amazing capacity for great achievements. We are the ones who have traveled distances our ancestors would never have dreamed possible. Whereas it would take months for our ancestors to travel from coast to coast, we can do it in a few hours. Very few of our ancestors ever envisioned us traveling to the moon and back. We are the people who have put the world’s greatest libraries in the hands of anyone with a smart phone where data can be retrieved almost instantly. We have conquered diseases our ancestors never even understood. We have built tall buildings that put the Tower of Babel to shame.
As our mothers have said, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” I believe that. I know we can accomplish almost anything when we really want to. My hope is that this book will inspire you to become a better steward of this wonderful, unique planet. My fondest desire is that all of humanity will have the will to correct the destructive course we are on and preserve the health of this planet for all grandchildren.
Allow me to close by quoting Anderson Cooper (2020), CNN Anchor, who spoke so eloquently about the recent birth of his son. He said: “I feel invested in the future in a way I hadn’t really before. There’s something about having a child that makes you feel connected to what is happening, and you want to make sure that the world this child is growing up in is a better one. You suddenly worry more about the future of all of us.” It is my hope and prayer that every parent and grandparent, as well as every citizen of this Earth, shares the same concern for the future of our offspring and this amazing planet. Anderson said in a few words what I am trying to say about the reason I wrote this book.
- What are your thoughts and feelings about Greta Thunberg’s comments? Do her concern and opinions represent the youth you know? Your own? You can hear her speech on YouTube.
- How concerned are you about global warming and climate change for yourself personally and for your children and their children?
- Do you consider yourself sufficiently informed about the subjects of global warming and climate change? Do you know the difference between the two terms?
- What is your reaction to the Yale survey?
- Do you think we can and will prevent irreparable harm to our planet? How long will it take? What kind of Earth will our children inherit?
- As you live your daily life do you think much about the affects of your activities on the planet and future generations?
- What are your thoughts about Anderson Cooper’s words regarding the future of his son?
There is a war going on
The Hard Facts
Not All Beliefs Are Equal
Why Facts Don’t Matter
Where Are Abraham’s Children?
There Is No Place Like Home
For The Love of Our Mother Earth
Can Global Warming Be Stopped?
The Beginning of the End?
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About the author.
Paul Robinson, Ph.D., is. a former science teacher and has been a psychologist for fifty years–and a student of science even longer. He cares deeply about the future of the Earth and the quality of life for future generations. As a psychologist and former science teacher, he brings a different perspective to the issues of global warming and climate change.
“We possess the intelligence and resources to deal with this urgent problem now.
The real question is, do we have the will and wisdom to address this problem before it is too late?”
Paul Robinson Ph.D.
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