The existence of climate change

As a freshman in high school, I sat in a room full of quietly working students when someone finally broke the silence, turned to our teacher and asked, “What’s global warming?”

I’d been hearing the term off-and-on for the past year or so, but didn’t quite understand what it meant. I was glad when someone finally asked the same question I’d been thinking.

More often referred to as climate change than global warming, concern about the heating and cooling of the planet is one of the most debated topics of our time.

According to a Washington Post article on the recent findings of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, November 2015 marked Earth’s warmest overall temperatures ever recorded.

On Dec. 12, 2015, representatives from many nations met in Paris for the UN climate talks. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change included 195 parties, which made an historic agreement along the issue of climate change.

The agreement focused on strategies to prevent the average global temperature from increasing more than two degrees Celsius.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, recently said he considers this to be a new era of global cooperation, as participating countries will also work to provide 100 billion dollars by 2020 to finance the deterrence of climate change. This is the first sign of international reconciliation that I have seen in my lifetime, but whether or not these goals will hold true is another long-term question.

A friend once said to me, “If you don’t believe in climate change, you have to be blind, deaf, and live in the middle of the woods.” But the key word in that statement is “believe.”

Another article by the Washington Post asserted that the Paris Climate Talks could be the potential end to climate change skepticism.

America has long been a trendsetter. Obama’s Clean Power Plan is an important element in shifting public opinion regarding climate change on an international level, because many GOP candidates have ignored or completely denied the existence of climate change until now.

With the United States on board, the long-standing efforts by smaller, developing nations can be recognized as imperative to the shift in opinion. With nearly 200 countries making emission reductions promises, most of the world is in agreement about human responsibility toward maintaining our environment.

Once the U.S. is on board, it will be much easier for climate change to become an international goal, but Americans don’t like change.

A recent study from Yale University titled “Climate Change in the American Mind” states that “two in three Americans (67 percent) think global warming is happening. By contrast, only about one in six Americans (16 percent) thinks global warming is not happening,” while only “4 percent say they have changed their opinion about global warming in the past year.”

It’s not happening all at once, but public opinion is starting to change.

Whether or not the UN Climate Talks have impacted attitudes about the existence of global warming is yet to be seen, but a clear shift in opinion has been needed for a long time. Now, I think my friend could have a point.

If 195 countries across the globe are in agreement about the importance of deterring climate change and the real human impact we have upon our environment, living in the woods would be about the only way to avoid hearing about it.