Shorts on Christmas? Flip flops for New Years? Pittsburghers joke about a love of climate change this past winter, but scientists insist it is not something to take lightly. According to NASA, 2015 was recorded as the hottest year ever, breaking the record set previously in 2014.
Joylette Portlock, president of Communitopia, a Pittsburgh-based non-profit focusing on climate change, says although there is fluctuation from year to year, there has been an overall trend of temperature increase since the Industrial Revolution. The cause of this trend, Portlock says, is no secret: human activity.
“People who refuse to accept the scientific evidence about climate change, they often cherry pick the data,” Portlock says. “They often misrepresent the science to confirm their own position and spread the doubt.”
Besides global effects of climate change like rising sea level and species extinction, Portlock says there are harmful health impacts that will ultimately harm the human race. The spread of infectious diseases, air pollution, heat-related mortality and mental health illnesses all increase with warmer temperatures.
“There isn’t a system on the planet that isn’t impacted by climate change,” Portlock explains.
Portlock elates the dangers of both distrust of science and climate change as a partisan issue, saying that debates about science should be handled by scientists.
“As a culture, we’re not going to make it that far if we abandon our efforts to learn about things through evidence and observations and deal with our problems from an evidence-based place,” Portlock says.
Worldwide efforts for renewable energy, especially involving the United Nations climate change meeting in Paris this past December, have been commendable. However, more must be done to make a difference in saving our planet, according to Portlock.
Still, steps have been taken in the right direction. Portlock reports that in 2014, there was a major decoupling of worldwide economic growth and carbon emissions.
“There are ways to have economic success and actually make good on some of these commitments,” Portlock says.
In the meantime, Portlock encourages Pittsburghers to enjoy the warm weather, but realize that the future of our planet lies in our hands.
More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.