Heroes

We can't wait 4 years: 800 climate scientists have united for immediate action.

The scientific community is in agreement: Climate change is real.

President-elect Donald Trump has a very complicated history with climate change.

He's referred to the issue as a "hoax," one of his advisers claims the president-elect plans to scrap NASA's climate research, and Trump has even gone on record against the historic Paris climate agreement. At the same time, he's acknowledged that climate change poses a threat to his golf courses, he met earlier this week to discuss the issue with Al Gore, and in an interview last month, he told the New York Times that he's going into his presidency with an open mind on the topic.

President-elect Trump visits his golf course in Aberdeen, Scotland. Photo by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images.


In the hopes of convincing the president-elect to take the actions needed to save the planet, 800 scientists joined forces to send him an open letter.

Published in full at Scientific American, the letter outlines six clear steps these members of the scientific community hope to see from a Trump administration.

What Trump chooses to do, the authors of the letter warn, will determine whether his presidency will be "defined by denial and disaster, or acceptance and action."

Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

Photo by Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images.

The group also launched a public petition urging Trump to take action on climate.

Misinformation and disbelief have the potential to lead to irreversible disaster. That's why these scientists are urging action now. This can't wait four years.

Dr. Geoffrey Supran, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University and MIT working on energy system planning, and Ploy Achakulwisut, a doctoral candidate in atmospheric science at Harvard, helped organize the effort behind the letter. For them, the message extends beyond Trump's beliefs to the larger issue of climate change denial facing the country.

"As scientists and as citizens, Donald Trump’s anti-science climate denial scares us to the point that sitting on the sidelines is not an option," Supran and Achakulwisut explain in a joint e-mail to Upworthy.

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

The letter comes less than a week after the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology tweeted out a link to a factually dubious article from a right-wing media outlet.

Citing Breitbart.com, the Congressional committee's tweet refers to the roughly 97% of climate scientists who believe that climate change is real and manmade as "climate alarmists," a term the site has used on other occasions and one that does not sit well with Supran and Achakulwisut.

Seeing a Twitter account representing members of Congress responsible for crafting science policy promote false, anti-science views made Supran and Achakulwisut feel "angry, terrified, and more determined than ever to hold our leaders accountable," calling the committee's decision to share the article "a reckless abuse of power."

Michael Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University and director of the Earth System Science Center, shares a similar opinion about what it means that Congress would share such a reckless article.

"As a climate expert, I'm horrified at the ignorance and antipathy toward science that now pervades our highest levels of our government," Mann, who also signed onto the letter, writes in an e-mail. His recent book, "The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy," tackles this very challenge.

The Iguacu Falls between Brazil and Argentina. Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images.

Atmospheric scientist Kait Parker of The Weather Channel even stepped in to ask both Breitbart and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee to stop using a video of her to promote misleading information.

While it's great to see climate scientists step up in defense of their work, what is there for those of us who aren't experts in the field to do?

Here's some advice from the letter's signatories: Take it upon yourself to stay educated. Don't take everything you see on the news or social media at face value. Supran and Achakulwisut recommend checking out Skeptical Science and Climate Feedback if you need to fact-check something related to climate change.

"But then we need to get out from behind our computers, speak to our friends and families, lobby elected officials, and get involved with local advocacy groups," they write. "Our own e-newsletter, Tip of the Iceberg, is one way to stay up-to-date on climate news and ways to take action."

Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America. Photo by Lance King/Getty Images.

Mann says it's important not only to stay informed, but to actively fight back against misinformation when it appears online, in the media, and in conversations with people in our everyday lives. He believes it's important that discussion be focused on what to do about climate change, not whether it exists.

The Grand Canyon. Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images.

Others, like Jonathan Petters, data management consultant at Virginia Tech, stress the importance of thinking about how we push back and counter misinformation. Petters suggests focusing on the potential impact of human-caused climate change.

"Even if policymakers or citizens think this global warming/climate change thing is all a bunch of hooey (which it is not), there's no reason we shouldn't understand and be better prepared for impacts of extreme weather events, changes in disease and vegetation ranges, changes in agricultural potential. etc.," he writes.

We only have one planet — one spectacular, wonderful, amazing planet — and we all have a responsibility to make sure that it'll still be here for generations to come.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash
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