As predictable as the sun coming up, environmental news peaks near April 22, commonly known as Earth Day. In combination with pollen counts, gardening tips and cravings for fresh vegetables and farmer's markets, it is appropriate that people focus on that which sustains them in more ways than one.
Alas, like any news item, the validity of news (how accurate or truthful it is) becomes tainted by the desire for Twitter followers, website clicks and political leverage in an upcoming elections. Nevertheless, spotting questionable climate information is not a difficult skill to learn. Like fresh produce, there are clear signs that the story you are about to buy may look good at first glance but is less than satisfying after a second look.
1. The atmosphere changes constantly
Studies that claim to accurately test or predict the composition of the atmosphere are fundamentally flawed. There are dozens of factors that come into play (location, weather, population density, manufacturing, season, even time of day, etc) when describing what is in the air we breathe. The mindset that recommends restricting, capturing, or increasing any one gas fails to understand how the atmospher works as a collective to keep all plants and creatures healthy.
2. Trends are not the same as proof.
While people enjoy being part of an ever changing social experience science, by definition, does not change based on a single study or viewpoint. When people substitute computer generated trending information for painstaking observation and research, they are accepting opinion or preferences as fact. It is safe to say most people want an environment that works well 100% of the time but it is dangerous to say the trend to plant trees will make it happen for all eternity.
3. The Earth has more than one climate so one solution will not work for all.
According to the SciJinks website supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), climate scientists agree there are five major climates across the planet. Each has its own weather patterns and common elements. Any news that tells you that blizzards in Alaska and hurricanes in Florida are both because of climate change miss the mark by ignoring well documented but typical climate patterns.
4. History and social differences matter.
Because the atmosphere changes with what happens in it, good climate science takes into consideration the differences between life today and life decades ago. One example is the knowledge that fossil fuels have provided many different types of energy over the last thousand years without the Earth imploding. Why then is converting to solar, nuclear, or wind power so very important?
5. Just because the study is flawed, it doesn't mean there isn't a problem.
Nature operates as a system of checks and balance. Plants grow, Deer eat plants, Wolves eat deer. Wolves die out if they eat all the deer. Its a good system that self corrects itself. The problem is that for the first time in 5000 years, mankind has had the ability to alter the atmosphere without the consequences. So far man has been able to use agriculture and healthcare to side step the sickness and illness that comes with a too clean air mass. That leaves Nature to repair the damage with volcanic eruptions and global wildfires. How much longer that can happen is anyone's guess.
Stay Informed. Stay active. Be aware and someday, mankind and all its stubbornness with realize it is the cause of this thing we know as climate change.