Argument

The Word From a Climate Change Scientist

Whatever the main issues of 2019 end up being, climate change will make them worse.

Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe speaks at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, on April 3, 2012. (Nellie Doneva/Abilene Reporter-News via AP)
Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe speaks at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, on April 3, 2012. (Nellie Doneva/Abilene Reporter-News via AP)

A thermometer isn’t Democratic or Republican. It doesn’t give us a different number depending on how we vote. And climate change isn’t a liberal or conservative issue. It is a human issue. We care about a changing climate because it affects every single one of us who share this planet—the only home we have.

That’s why we have to present every option. We need to hear libertarian solutions, free market solutions, bipartisan solutions. But by hiding from the problem and pretending as if their opinion were somehow able to alter reality, Republicans today are counting themselves out of the game. The longer they ignore climate change, the more difficult and expensive it’s going to be to fix—and the more suffering there will be.

It can be difficult to explain how a 1- or 2-degree change in the average temperature of the planet has a direct impact on our lives. But climate change becomes more relevant when you look at it as a threat multiplier. It amplifies nearly every issue we already care about: energy and food security, immigration, refugee crises, international conflict, as well as the very real and costly risks of droughts, floods, hurricanes, heat waves, and wildfires. Whatever the main issues of 2019 end up being, I can tell you one thing for sure: Climate change will make them worse.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of Foreign Policy magazine.

Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist. She has conducted climate impact assessments for organizations, cities, and regions, from Boston Logan Airport to the state of California. @KHayhoe

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