American author Upton Sinclair once wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
And, it’s not just money. Most of us have a hard time respecting the people who dwell on the other side of the political divide. Trust is a hard thing to earn, and we don’t usually listen to people who view America through a completely different lens.
Take climate change.
There are folks who tell us that climate change is real, and that it’s a huge problem. Then, instead of focusing on wildfires and beetle kill, they hold up photos of glaciers and polar bears. Here’s a newsflash. We’re not very impressed when somebody shouts, “Imminent threat!” and then points toward the North Pole.
Then there are all those East coast politicians who’ve been beating the climate drum. How many people, especially here in the Rockies, take them seriously? They don’t act like us, they don’t sound like us, they don’t think like us… so why should we trust them? It’s not like they always have our best interests at heart.
As for the scientists — well, who really knows where they stand? Some say one thing, some say another, and who can tell which group is right?
Why should we worry about something that may not even be a problem — especially if it could cost us jobs and money?
But, here’s the thing. If you’re a sportsman — and I am; I’ve been a hunter and angler my whole life — you know something is going on.
On average, our snows come later and leave earlier. Our winter temperatures are warmer. Runoff comes earlier. Our streams run lower and warmer in the summer. Our droughts are worse.
The wildfire season is longer, and our fires are more extreme. Our storms are more extreme, too, and we’re seeing flooding like we’ve never seen before. And, to top it all off, our forests are dying. It almost seems as if our weather patterns are shifting.
If you spend time up in the mountains, or out on the water, you know exactly what I mean. We’re seeing these changes ourselves. It’s not like our eyes are playing tricks on us.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting.
A couple of paragraphs ago, I mentioned our scientists. I wrote: “Who knows where they stand?” Well, I do.
Approximately 97 percent of our climate scientists believe our greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet and putting our future at risk. That’s right, 97 percent of our climate scientists believe that we’re changing the world around us, that our CO2 emissions are raising the global temperature and messing with our weather.
Can I back that up? Yes I can. Four different peer-reviewed scientific studies — Oreskes (2004), Doran (2009), Anderegg (2010) and Cook (2013) — put the scientific consensus on climate change at about 97 percent.
You want more proof?
According to researcher and geochemist James Lawrence Powell, there were 10,885 climate papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals in 2013. Only two of those 10,885 papers dispute human-caused global warming.
10,883 to 2. That’s as close to 100 percent as we’re ever going to get.
It’s time to face the facts. Our scientific experts believe that our fossil fuel emissions are overheating the planet, while the empirical evidence right out our front door confirms what our scientists are telling us.
Which means we have a decision to make.
We can either accept the threat to our sporting heritage and our outdoor traditions — a threat poised to slam our hunting and fishing, as well as our kids and grandkids — or we can ignore it. It’s that simple.
I know this isn’t what most of you want to hear. But, as the father of a 9-year-old boy, I have a moral obligation to speak out; to give my son a shot at healthy landscapes, a healthy economy and the same great hunting and fishing that I’ve experienced.
So it’s time to decide.
Either we deal with climate change, or we don’t. Either we shift from fossil fuels to clean energy, or we don’t.
Either we defend our outdoor heritage, or we don’t. Either we give our kids and grandkids a shot at a decent future, or we don’t.
It’s our choice, and we’re going to have to live with it.
Todd Tanner is a lifelong hunter and angler, a former fly-fishing and big game guide and a nationally recognized outdoor writer. He is also the president of Conservation Hawks, an organization focused on defending our hunting and fishing. He and his family live in northwestern Montana.