This essay first appeared in the August 2021 issue of Choice (volume 58 | issue 12)
Four-inch-diameter hail, fifty inches of rain from one hurricane, four feet of snow from one blizzard, 250-mile-an-hour wind gusts from one tornado, a foot of snow in Texas, a thaw on the same day in Alaska, and even a new type of disaster—a “firenado”—in Australia. These days, the international news looks like one very dangerous weather report.
Debate about climate change has exploded in the past decade, along with accompanying studies, in line with an abundance of evidence that it is an existential threat to the future of the Earth and its inhabitants. The issue, barely considered a major problem by much of the general public ten to twenty years ago, was a staple of debate between presidential candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump during the 2020 US election, with both candidates holding starkly different positions. Biden’s position stressed reducing fossil fuel emissions with an emphasis on generating wind, solar, and other renewable sources of energy, along with a phase-out of oil, coal, and methane, among other nonrenewable sources. Biden agrees with the scientific consensus that climate change is a worsening, destructive force, evidenced by intensifying storms (especially cyclonic storms such as hurricanes and typhoons), droughts alternating with deluges, and wildfires (as witnessed in Australia, Brazil, Siberia, the western US, and other places). These catastrophic events clearly indicate that climate change is no longer solely a prospective issue up for discussion. It is a very real, everyday reality worldwide.
Despite these extreme indicators, Trump, by contrast, continually referred to climate change as a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, Democrats, and other “radical leftists” to harm industries, such as coal and oil, and destroy jobs—essentially, a politically motivated myth, or an outright lie. In fact, while president, Trump’s standard stump speech included references to his belief that climate change was a Democratic Party conspiracy to destroy jobs in the coal-mining industry, although by 2020 wind and solar power were employing four times as many people.Climate change, which should be considered undisputable fact, has instead become a highly contentious topic of debate. What follows is an overview of the most important sources from roughly the past decade that unquestionably elucidate the reality and severity of climate change.
Bruce E. Johansen is emeritus professor of Communication and Native American Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He has published 52 books in fields spanning history, anthropology, law, and Earth sciences.