The Sacramento Bee has a feature called Sidetracks that appears on its weekend Teen News page. The January 20, 2007, installment of Sidetracks presented a variety of student comments on the phenomenon of climate change. One young woman knows exactly what she thinks about all that nonsense:
What global warming?Our young scholar is confident that the historical record bears out her contention that the earth is immune to humanity's excesses. In a way, she does have history on her side. In the past there were never enough people doing enough things to have more than a locale impact on the environment. Human-induced global change would indeed be an entirely new phenomenon. Since it's never occurred in the past, why should we believe it could occur today?
All this talk about the hot-button issue of global warming is a complete crock. Global warming is a theory that has never been proved, and I have yet to believe it.
Global warming is simply a natural phenomenon and is the natural process Earth goes through over time. I don't deny that the temperature is rising and that it is causing the polar ice caps to melt and the sea levels to rise, but this is not the result of humans; this is the result of the ebb and flow of the Earth.
There is a widespread fluctuation in temperature over time, and there are scientific graphs to prove it. People are making way too big of a deal about global warming and are thinking that changing their lifestyle habits will reverse this process, but it won't, and that is shown through history.
The Earth goes through periods of change in temperature and will return to normal eventually. There is no way for us to stop it.
—CC, Horizon Charter School
Perhaps because today's circumstances are new, never having occurred in the past. New circumstances produce new results. More people than ever inhabit the globe. More nations than ever are burning fossil fuels at prodigious rates. Climatologists, who know more about these things than your average high schooler (or your average blogger), understand that the composition of the atmosphere has changed in recent decades in ways never seen before (as documented in thousands of years of ice-core records). Since the fraction of carbon dioxide is a significant factor in global temperatures, and since the evident source of the extra CO2 is human activity, we have reached the unprecedented status of being able to mess with the earth's environment.
This is not an appeal to authority. It's a reference to carefully compiled evidence produced by scientists, a trove of data that grows every year. What we need is a chart showing the steady growth in the percentage of climatologists who perceive global warming as representing a human-induced environmental crisis. The consensus is real among those who have worked hard to understand how we arrived at today's circumstances.
When CC blithely says it's merely natural variation, she is parroting something she heard from others—like the Competitive Enterprise Institute or Senator Inhofe—not something that she knows for herself.
I don't want to spend too much time berating naïve youngsters for foolishly accepting the excuses and rationalizations that they might hear from equally misinformed adults (or from shills in the pay of the energy companies). I did enough of that already with the young creationists who won the Answers in Genesis essay contest. However, we have here yet another example of how the anti-environmentalist noise machine reaches down even into our high school population, where young people who don't know any better soak up the message that we may as well give up and enjoy our sunny future. CC gets to live in the future that we conjure up today, and I'm afraid she's decided to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
Thank you, Little Miss Sunshine.