Images from Australia this week have underscored the devastating effects of climate change in many parts of the world. Less often are we hearing the skepticism that today’s climate change is the result of human activity. Perhaps now, scientists and governments around the globe can begin to make headway in the effort to halt or mitigate what’s to come. At least, they can if they have the support of an informed public.
Any way you look at it, there’s a lot to take in when it comes to climate change. What’s different now, and what do we anticipate in the future? Can we halt further global warming? If so, who is working on how to do it? And if we can’t halt it, when will it stop? How will we adapt?
Underlying most of these questions is who can we trust? There’s an awful lot of spin out there, from climate deniers who claim fires like those we’ve seen in the last year in California, Brazil and now Australia are not any different than fires in years past, to groups who claim cattle production is to blame for climate change and to halt it we should stop eating beef. The answer lies somewhere in the middle, and it will take more than glancing at memes in our social media feeds to educate ourselves on the matters at hand.
Nailing down scientific, research based information takes time, and it is costly. Keep this in mind when considering reports that become viral. Take the time to consider who sent it, who wrote it, who published it, and who will benefit when you accept the information provided.
On Jan. 7, news reports from a number of network stations stated two dozen people deliberately started fires and were responsible for the national tragedy underway in Australia. Days later, further reporting revealed fires started by those individuals were small and contained. The raging bush “mega-blazes” were instead caused by lighting, an act of nature, not man. The fact there is so much fuel speaks to severe drought, as well as higher than average heat experienced for longer than normal periods of time. These are symptoms of climate change. It took days for reporters to make contact with the people on the ground with the data to confirm this. It takes only moments to make up a story and create a meme and hit send.
Websites that specialize in debunking shoddy reporting and made-up stories can be found with a simple search, “fact checking.” We owe it to ourselves and to each other to make sure the information we pass on is factual, and not designed to foster distrust or fear.