Are you a smoker or a former smoker? Chances are, you have been pressured to quit by people who love you. Or maybe you’re someone who has tried to get a loved one to quit—a spouse, a parent, a friend.
Whether you quit, attempted to quit, or tried to get someone to quit, it is almost certainly because you know that smoking is bad for your health. We know this because of the first Surgeon General’s report in 1964, and extensive and continuing work in the nation’s leading medical schools showing the linkage between smoking and lung cancer.
In a generation, we went from accepting smoking as a social norm to understanding its dangers, and trying to devise solutions—social pressure, medical approaches to quitting, and public policy aimed at protecting people from secondhand smoke.
Not that the tobacco industry didn’t go down swinging; they made all kinds of attempts to discredit the science, and when that was a lost cause, they protested the loss of farm income in the South, and the size and frequency of the required official statements linking smoking to poor health.
It’s much the same way with climate change. No matter what you hear from the deniers, the science is clear, and the consensus amongst scientists is extraordinary. Don’t let recent reports quibbling with the number of scientists who concur on climate change distract you. The fact is that the consensus on climate change is stronger than the consensus that led to the Surgeon General’s report on smoking.
It will be just as hard to kick our addiction to fossil fuels as it is to kick an addiction to cigarettes. Carbon dioxide is not just an odorless, colorless, non-toxic gas. Rapid changes in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have real effects on this planet, including sea level rise and threats to our agriculture and health. It’s time to acknowledge the scientific consensus and stop denying the changes that global warming is already bringing.
It’s time for us to move forward to solutions, which will come from science, government regulations, and international agreements.
(Lisa Dellwo collaborated in the writing of this piece)